Thursday, April 17, 2014


Peep Art

The Washington Post has a 14-slide gallery of Miley Cyrus-inspired Peep Art. Above: "'Goodbye, Hannah Buntana' re-creates the scene at MTV’s Video Music Awards. Katrina Britt, 33, of Arlington, Va." Look at the mini iPhone. Gotta respect that attention to detail. (More non-Miley submissions here.) This is what Easter is for.


The Return of Orange Is the New Black

The girls are back June 6. What will be Natasha Lyonne's personal tagline after this season?


Lykke Li Made a Website For Her New Song

Swedish singer-songwriter Lykke Li's debuts her new song, "Gunshot," in a format I've never really seen before: with a standalone website. (The Awl is like, whatever, been there.) Stereogum's Tom Breihan calls this track, off of her forthcoming album I Never Learn, "the [other] best Phil Collins song I’ve heard this week," after Twin Shadow's "To the Top." I guess The Post was onto something. [Gunshot.co]

Edit: I've been advised that this format has been used before, by Lykke Li herself. Thanks, Jess.


Ingrid Michaelson, "Girls Chase Boys"

Maybe you're like Bobby and you've been aware of this very catchy lead single off of Ingrid Michaelson's new album, Lights Out (released yesterday) for a couple months now, or maybe you're like me and you had no idea. Either way, close out your humpday con Ingrid (and Robert, if you need the refresher).


You Are Not a Descendant

“You don’t have to know what you’re looking for. You just have to start looking."

I'd been hearing this siren song from an attractive soccer mom from an Ancestry.com commercial throughout months of late-night TV, and anyway, I needed a reason to hole up in the local library: it was an unreasonably hot summer, and we didn’t have air conditioning. I gave in and charged the $299.40 “World Explorer Membership” to my VISA card. I would give up my couch potato habits to “meet my ancestors, learn their stories, and journey into the past.”

Like many recent grads, I was jobless and had a lot of time and energy on my hands at the time. I’d been through the requisite stages of grief about my job-hunt, and I was hovering just outside acceptance when an idea came to me: what if I have Famous Ancestors? I became obsessed with the idea of finding someone to look up to and lean on in times of stress. My plan was simple. First: find these Famous Ancestors. Then: get my mojo back and land my dream job. What could go wrong?

For several weeks, I spent three to six hours a day on Ancestry.com. Once I built my initial family tree, I waited on tenterhooks for the all-knowing green leaf to appear, signifying that there was some lead out there. Most often, it was an old census or something else that I already had, but occasionally I struck gold: a record that gave me a precious nugget of new information, like a parent’s name. Soon I'd developed an all-consuming lust for names. Each one felt like a fix in this new addiction, bringing me closer to my Famous Ancestors, the golden apples of my family tree. I skipped over trivial details like birthdays and marriage dates. All I wanted were the names.

One night I found something: a large boat icon on a tree that shared several family members with mine, meaning that someone in the family was a Mayflower descendant. My heart started racing. I struggled to remain calm, reminding myself that this person could be on a branch unconnected to my own, and I clicked up the tree hesitantly. I took my time. I double-checked names, trying to be ultra-careful; if I found what I’d been dreaming of, I wanted there to be no mistake that it was really mine.

Click by click, I watched the years reverse. I was getting closer and closer to the early 1600s, and finally, I found him: William Brewster, born 1566 in England, died 1644 in Plymouth, MA. Religious Elder of the colonists and passenger on the Mayflower. He was my 11th-great grandfather.

The lineage was clear. I couldn’t believe it: William Brewster, not just a passenger, but a leader. I bellowed for my husband and broke the good news. I showed him the steps I had taken, the lines I’d traced. His eyes lit up and he compared me to a beachcomber with a metal detector who’d turned up a treasure chest. Then I called my dad, who was overjoyed, and proud that this had come through his family.

For me, I was thrilled to have finally set out to do something, and done it. What else might I be able to do, armed with the knowledge of my impressive pedigree? I felt like a new job and a better apartment and everything else I’d ever wanted was imminently in my grasp.

I made my appointment at the Mayflower Society. I climbed the stairs to the second floor office and spoke to its sole inhabitant: a large, shoeless, polo-shirted man who looked annoyed that I’d interrupted his computer solitaire game.

“You brought your family tree?” he asked, reaching for it without looking at me. I handed it to him and stood with my heart in my throat as he perused it.

“This is wrong, right here. Eunice Meech. She’s not a part of the family line.”

“What do you mean?” I mumbled.

“You’ve got it all right down to here. William Meech and Hannah Freeman never had a daughter named Eunice. So you’re not connected to them. You’re not a descendant.”  READ MORE


"All roads lead to good intentions": Meet the Crossed Proverb, or "Perverb"

The Paris Review has a little teaser up about perverbs, a term invented by Maxine Groffsky for the result of split-and-crossed proverbs. Harry Mathews makes terrific use of the exercise:

All roads lead to good intentions;
East is east and west is west and God disposes;
Time and tide in a storm.
All roads, sailor’s delight.
(Many are called, sailors take warning:
All roads wait for no man.)

All roads are soon parted.
East is east and west is west: twice shy.
Time and tide bury their dead.
A rolling stone, sailor’s delight.
“Any port”—sailor take warning:
All roads are another man’s poison.

I love this. [Paris Review]

Sailing Around the World And Getting By Without Cash

Sixty-five mangos, 12 coconuts, and three rubber-banded baggies of coffee slide across the deck in two large plastic bins. There’s a broad-built man in a little boat called COUNTRY staring at me. I have no money and it’s 600 miles to the nearest ATM.

For four years, I've been traveling the high seas, alone aboard my sailboat BOBBIE long enough to know that being cashless doesn’t have to be a problem. For centuries, explorers have ploughed all corners of our watery world, armed with little more than improvised currencies. From the Portuguese pursuits of exotic spices in the Moluccas, to the movement of molasses across the West Indies, the sea has always remained the most flexible of marketplaces.

And so, in much the same way, today on this tiny island in the middle of the Java Sea, we shall improvise. I duck inside, grab a half-full bottle of rum and toss it to Romy, my new bounty-bearing friend. It’s a solid deal: I don’t drink at sea, and he hasn’t seen commercial grade liquor in the better part of a decade.



Fantasy On Wheels: My Roller Rink Sexual Awakening

When I was thirteen, I participated in an after-school activity ambiguously—and generously—named “Lifetime Sports.” At my North Carolina private school, a place particularly dedicated to social hierarchy, your position on a team was determined as much by popularity as athletic ability, and as I was fundamentally lacking in both coolness and hand-eye coordination, I thought I might as well try life-sporting. Participation would involve periodic trips to a local roller rink.

This was 1998, when roller rinks were just becoming passé. My friends no longer held their birthday parties at the local rinks, and, generally, they smelled kind of funny (the roller rinks, that is). But the activity seemed to have immediate perks. I already owned a kickin’ pair of plastic teal roller blades. I imagined perfecting the dance routine from Will Smith’s “Men In Black” music video, gossiping with my friends as we attempted to maintain both our sick grooves and our balance. And maybe, with dedicated practice, we would even dominate those limbo competitions (it was such injustice that toddlers were allowed to compete with those of us taller than three feet, skates included).

It was more than okay, though. Though I never triumphed at limbo or lived up to Will Smith’s slick moves, I quickly discovered that the roller rink was the absolute best place to think about sex.

I can’t articulate exactly what it was that turned the roller rink into fantasy-on-wheels for me. It certainly wasn’t the act of skating, as I discovered when I tried ice-skating too, hoping for similar physiological results. Between the cold, the unwieldy weapons strapped to my feet, and, most critically, the absence of music, I found myself completely unfulfilled and with a damp, sore butt to boot. No, the feelings I sought only came from visits to those dingy rinks—their smell of ashtrays, sweat, and desolation.

In retrospect, part of what I craved was the roller rink’s ability to detach me from the everyday. Because I frequented roller rinks as they were on their way “out,” they seemed to exist apart from the regular world. It wasn’t cool to go to the roller rink, per se, but it also wasn’t exactly a trip to yesteryear. Because the rinks had slipped into that ambiguous space of almost-nostalgia, they made me feel comfortingly removed from the world of “cool,” from my everyday existence as a hapless, flat-chested cluster of insecurities. Every time I visited the roller rink with my fellow life-sporters, I could beg the disc jockey to play the Goo Goo Dolls’s “Slide” and, as Johnny Rzeznik sang with abandon about running away to marry the beautiful May, I could—with Johnny’s biceps in my mind’s eye—be May, be beautiful. I could slip into my own, reimagined music video. I was the tragic girl in the white prom dress, running tragically through town, moping tragically at the diner counter where Johnny-with-his-biceps would croon in my ear. I could contemplate the exhilaration of being wanted so much that someone wrote a half-decent song about me. READ MORE


You Can Now Enroll at Hogwarts Via MOOC

Meet Hogwarts Is Here, a fan-run online wizard education, in which you can "enroll at Hogwarts, collect your textbooks and begin taking our 9-week courses online. You can now progress through all seven years of schooling and be assigned a professor, homework assignments, quizzes and more." The most popular course is Defense of the Dark Arts, naturally, and here is the answer to the most important question: you have to sort yourself. [Via AV Club]


Jennifer Aniston and AVEENO® Celebrate the Beauty of Nature

Did you know that there are special properties within a grain of oat that give it an ability to absorb moisture and relieve dry, itchy, irritated skin? Oats contain five vital elements that are also found in healthy skin: proteins, anti-oxidants, enzymes, vitamins and lipids. In this video from AVEENO®, Jennifer Aniston traces the journey of the oats that go into its skincare products such as the best-selling AVEENO® Daily Moisturizing Lotion. Jennifer guides us along the oat's path from family farms, to grain mills, to the AVEENO® laboratory where scientists unlock the ingredient’s natural healing powers that keep skin feeling healthy and naturally beautiful.

Learn more about the Beauty of Nature from AVEENO® at AVEENO.com and Facebook.com/AVEENO.


Researchers put plastic backpacks on cows, then inserted tubes into their rumens (their biggest digestive tract). They extracted the methane–about 300 liters a day. That's enough to run a car, or a fridge for 24 hours. [Fast Company] | April 16, 2014


A Curated Selection of Wonderfully Gruesome Sentences from Wikipedia

Welcome to mid-April; or, that dark chasm of working days that stretches on with no holidays until Memorial Day. Joy! In that spirit, I've been hitting the Wikipedia hard lately, and these are the most gruesome sentences I could find. I consider it a public service to share them. I'm sorry.

Anencephaly. “The most common type of anencephaly, in which the brain is completely absent.”

(Even if you can stomach the first photo, don’t scroll down. Seriously, don’t. I screamed out loud at work. Similar precautions go for the following 25 entries.)

Belle Gunness. “Hack driver Clyde Sturgis delivered many such trunks to her from La Porte and later remarked how the heavyset woman would lift these enormous trunks ‘like boxes of marshmallows,’ tossing them onto her wide shoulders and carrying them into the house.”

(runner-up: Botfly. “Squeezing the larvae out is not recommended, as it can cause the larvae to rupture; their bodily fluids have been known to cause severe anaphylactic shock.”)

Carlos II. “The physician who practiced his autopsy stated that his body ‘did not contain a single drop of blood; his heart was the size of a peppercorn; his lungs corroded; his intestines rotten and gangrenous; he had a single testicle, black as coal, and his head was full of water.’”

Dyatlov Pass incident. “Some were found wrapped in snips of ripped clothes that seemed to have been cut from those who were already dead.” (In sum, this is possibly the best Wikipedia entry of all time, not to get all superlative or anything.)

(runner-up: Danny Lyons. “As Lizzie the Dove lay dying she was said to have told Gentle Maggie that she would ‘meet you in hell and there scratch your eyes out.’”)

Elizabeth Báthory. “Before being burned at the stake, Semtész and Jó had their fingers ripped off their hands with hot pincers, while Ficko, who was deemed less culpable, was beheaded, and his body burned.”

Flaying. “Generally, an attempt is made to keep the removed portion of skin intact.”

Gangrene. “The affected part is edematous, soft, putrid, rotten and dark.”

Helios Airways Flight 522. “They intercepted the passenger jet at 11:24 and observed that the first officer was slumped motionless at the controls and the captain's seat was empty.”

Iron Maiden (torture device). “It was anthropomorphic, probably styled after primitive ‘Gothic’ representations of Mary, the mother of Jesus, with a cast likeness of her on the face.”

Jellied Eel. “The eel is a naturally gelatinous fish so the cooking process releases proteins, like collagen, into the liquid which solidify on cooling to form a jelly, though gelatin may be added in order to aid this process.” READ MORE


India Recognizes Third Gender

From NPR:

India now has a third gender. The Supreme Court has recognized the country's transgender community as being in a third neutral category — neither male nor female.

In handing down the ruling, Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan said, "Transgenders are citizens of this country ... and recognition as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue."

Progressive legislation! Always awesome—2 to 3 million people identify as transgender in India—and always uneven, contextual, fascinating. From the Washington Post:

The progressive ruling applies only to eunuchs – or hijras as they are called in Hindi — in India and not to gays, lesbians and bisexuals. In many ways, expanding the rights to transgendered people is far easier than legalizing homosexuality in India. For centuries, eunuchs – called hijras in Hindi — were given a special place in Indian religious epics and parables.

"Granting rights to transgenders is more acceptable to our psyche because we find many transgender characters in our religious, cultural mythologies and literature. Some of our Hindu Gods were of third-gender, some Gods changed their gender seamlessly to perform specific roles and rituals," said Rose Venkatesan, who transitioned from being a man to a woman four years ago and is a former television host and an independent filmmaker in the southern city of Chennai.

Photo via Nagarjun Kandukuru/Flickr


On Ashol-Pan, the 13-Year-Old Eagle Huntress

You guys have likely read the BBC story about the 13-year-old Kazakh girl who hunts with eagles in western Mongolia; if you haven't, you must; the Ashol-Pan Lifetime Admiration Society starts now and ends never. ("I will endeavor to make myself worthy of you for the rest of my life, you eagle-wielding teen who strides the narrow world," wrote Mallory Ortberg yesterday.) It's a tough fucking life being a young girl in Central Asia, let alone one who is challenging gender norms, let alone one who is doing so by hunting with eagles: after a year of being harassed out of my skull in Kyrgyzstan I'd still barely seen things my female students already counted unremarkable. In a couple of those beautiful photos Ashol-Pan (off-duty) wears the same space-maid schoolgirl aprons they did, sits in one of those meticulous unheated schoolrooms with the blue-green walls and the white mountain light filtering in from the side. She looks, actually, a lot like an eighth-grade girl I taught once: READ MORE


There was no transition at all, no sense of approaching danger. It was as if I had suddenly gone blind and deaf. I was aware that my legs were surrounded by water, but my top half was almost dry. I seemed to be trapped in something slimy. There was a terrible, sulphurous smell, like rotten eggs, and a tremendous pressure against my chest. My arms were trapped but I managed to free one hand and felt around – my palm passed through the wiry bristles of the hippo's snout. It was only then that I realised I was underwater, trapped up to my waist in his mouth.

-There is no way I would have survived this hippo attack, but this man did, and wrote about it at the Guardian. | April 16, 2014