Friday, September 12, 2014


Stipulations for a Contemporary Will

4462208505_0f971ac692_o Dearly beloved, you are gathered here today to divvy up my stuff. To cry (possibly), to laugh (hopefully), and to respect my last wish: that I be buried in a seapunk coffin engraved with the words "only god can judge me, lol."

While I am, for the most part, happy to let you take my funeral in whatever direction you choose (as a starting point, consider: group dance), I have a few conditions in addition to the standard business of my will that I hope you will (ha ha) (bit of clerical humor for you there) respect. To that end: READ MORE


Disrupters, Disconnectionists, and Dicks

On Tuesday, Nev Schulman took a selfie in an elevator. The photo shows him standing with his hand over his heart, staring all serious straight into his iPhone. In the corner, a bag of groceries and a water bottle rest against the door to block it from closing. The light in a closed elevator is rarely flattering; when you have upwards of 740K followers, there’s not much room to fuck around.

“Cowards make me sick,” read his accompanying tweet. “Real men show strength through patience & honor. This elevator is abuse free. #RESPECT.” READ MORE


Bad Boy Records: An Oral History

Nothing excites me more than a great "Who's Better?" pop culture argument, where there are two major sides, only one correct answer, and everybody has an opinion. In the early 90s, only one question like this reigned: Bad Boy or Death Row?

We'll never be at a dearth for information about hip-hop's golden era, but every so often someone writes an article with even more information to fuel our debates, and the excitement starts all over again. "Aint Nothing Shine Brighter Than That Bad Boy," an oral history published this week on GQ, mostly focuses on Sean Combs (fka Puffy, Puff Daddy, Puff and Diddy), founder of Bad Boy Records and easily the "Gordon Gecko" of golden-era hip-hop. After college, he took an internship with Uptown Records and was one of the pioneers in popularizing New Jack Swing; soon, he had his own catalogue of artists (Mary J! Jodeci!), and was producing their songs, his process soon becoming an industry standard.

Combs: I got an opportunity one night when [mega-successful R&B producer] Teddy Riley didn't show up to the studio. He had a session at Chung King, this famous studio downtown. So I said, I'm just gonna utilize this time. I had this idea, which was influenced by the mixtapes of Brucie B. and Kid Capri: They would blend hip-hop beats with R&B a cappellas. I took one of Jodeci's a cappellas and put an EPMD beat underneath it, and it was the first record I produced: "Come and Talk to Me," the remix.

Cheo Coker: Blending an R&B record with a hip-hop beat seems so elementary. It seems like peanut butter and jelly. But when you're the first to figure out PB&J tastes good together, it's going to propel your career, and that's what Puffy did.

But Combs' biggest success, of course, is finding rap icon Biggie Smalls, who, almost overnight, re-legitimized the East Coast in the face of California's—and Tupac Shakur's—growing dominance. On the first time he heard Big: "My mind was blown. I knew instantly that Big was the greatest rapper I ever heard. It was like witnessing a miracle or something." Combs instantly got him out of his contract at MCA, signed him to Bad Boy, and, well, you know the rest.

In the collected anecdotes, Combs comes off as, in his words, "dramatic", and in others', "a nightmare," but it was impossible to question his importance to the game. And, what's worse, we learn, is that he knew it:

Jayson Jackson: [Combs] steps off the elevator with his bodyguards. He's got on a mink coat, dripping jewels, sunglasses. Looks at everybody. Goes to his office. Gets something to drink. I don't know, some juice. He's an apple-juice fiend. Keeps us waiting another five minutes, comes back, sits down, and looks at the room and says, "Y'all are mad as fuck, ain't you?"

Sean Combs: producer extraordinaire, fur enthusiast, and apple-juice fiend. We wouldn't be anywhere without him. And if you didn't know, then now you know.


Notes from a Liar

The temptation is to define lying, mortalize the monster by excavating its heart as evidence, but even then we cannot find it in us to absolve it. This is not how the story goes: we want the snake to live. if it survives, then we are not the snake. That is, in fact, what we need the most. READ MORE

A Brand Remembers 9/11

Where was I? It was a clear morning on the conceptual plane where all brands exist, and I was staring into the blue, repeating my own name. It was like any other day. I don't remember who told me. Probably one of the people who constantly manifests me into media for a living.

They all seemed upset. So I mirrored their emotions back at them, with some added optimism and aspirational imagery, which seemed like the right thing to do.



The 50/50 "We Be Jammin" Tee: A Beloved Children's Fairy Tale

title card_we be jammin READ MORE


4 Easy Exercises for Busy Jellyfish

jellyfish workout
I know you probably don’t have much spare time for exercise anymore. Who does? One trick is to start small. This 10-minute body-toning workout can easily fit into your languid life. Try it a few mornings a week and soon you'll feel ready to take on/over the world. READ MORE


Ask Baba Yaga: How Do I Commit to the Life I Have Instead of the Life I Could Have?

Baba Walking Away
Transcript after the jump. READ MORE


I Mounted a Fox: An Interview with Allis Markham

There is more than one way to skin a cat, or so I’ve been told. My cat-skinning skills are surprisingly limited, but if anybody could speak to the truth behind that old adage, it would be professional taxidermist Allis Markham.

Allis’s work can be seen all over the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, where she is a staff member, and in at least one Disney ad starring Taylor Swift shot by Annie Liebowitz, because Hollywood.

When not at the museum, Allis works from her private studio, Prey, where she practices ethical taxidermy, meaning: her work is created with the belief that no part of an animal should go to waste. Her specimens are sourced only from natural or unavoidable deaths. No kittens were intentionally harmed in the building of this business.

At Prey, she also teaches classes with titles like “Birds 101,” “Mammal Skinning & Tanning,” and “BYOB – Bring Your Own Bird.” Her Instagram feed is way cooler than any of ours, but really, that was to be expected.

Taxidermy! How does one get started in that?
Like most little girls, I grew up wanting to be a taxidermist. READ MORE


9/11/01: A Set of Impressions

On a typical day, New York City streets register more than 70 decibels, enough to cause progressive hearing loss. The quiet that enveloped the city after the Towers fell was overwhelming. Manhattan-bound traffic was closed off to nonemergency vehicles for two days, and all commercial flights coming in and out of JFK, La Guardia, and Newark were canceled. Subways ran off and on because of power problems caused by the destruction at Chambers Street. Major League Baseball games were postponed until the seventeenth; the Stock Exchange reopened the same day. That wasn’t the half of it. Whole parts of the city seemed mute—most strikingly, its typically loquacious residents, who walked the streets speechless.

Three years ago, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, New York magazine released a tribute issue, and it's still so, so good (full disclosure, I worked on the issue as an intern, and it makes me cry every time I read it). Titled The Encyclopedia of 9/11, the project is breathtaking in its scope and raw in its intimacy. The above entry is under "Q", for quiet.

Other entries include "blue," as the crystal-clear sky soon became the first thing we talked about when we talked about that day; "missing persons posters" as a new, harrowing form of street art that populated the city for weeks; and "paper," the floating sea of documents, contracts, and agreements that covered Manhattan after the crash. Give it a read.

How One of America's Best Colleges Is Destroying Itself

Whitman College, the gem of a small private liberal arts school in Walla Walla, Washington, has long been a mainstay of the Colleges That Change Lives lineup, along with schools like Antioch, Cornell and Marlboro. Whitman is an excellent, beautiful, and fairly safe college that students are lucky to attend. If you are applying there now, it just might be the right fit for you.

The school is also now in the middle of a search for a new president. At the same time, the college is being strangled by a long-serving, insular and controlling board of trustees, a weak and poorly rated president who inspired a faculty revolt, and an intentionally toothless alumni board of overseers. The school has turned its back on needs-blind admissions and on any reasonable commitment to diversity. Because of this, the school has gotten its comeuppance in a New York Times analysis of private schools that places the college absolutely dead last in terms of economic diversity.

This ranking was no accident. This was Whitman's goal. An analysis of the school's common data set from 2001 to 2013 shows how they did it.

You can see two things here. In blue is the number of incoming freshmen that applied for need-based financial aid and were also judged to be in need each year. Back in the previous decade, the school was attempting to join the club of colleges that practiced "need-blind" admissions. In 2010, the school moved to describe itself as "need-sensitive." The number of students who required financial aid was, on the whole, steadily growing. In 2011 and 2012, the school admitted fewer students who needed financial aid to attend college—and increased aid to students without need.

In red is the number of those students who had their need met at 100 percent. (The other students had their need met partially—often substantially.) In 2007, 81 percent of students with financial need had their need fully met. In 2013, only 53 percent did. READ MORE


A Song of Spice and Fire


The night's chill lingered into the early morning, coming through my window, rustling my curtains in their wake. Birds hooted from their branches: It's time, it's time. Bodega cats crawled from beneath their milk crates and yowled at the rising sun. In the distance, like on Coney Island where there's space, a tumbleweed rolled through a yard.

I awoke instantly, and I knew my call had come: Today I would drink my first Pumpkin Spice Latte. READ MORE


The Best Time I Watched My Doctor Examine My Stool Sample

You would think four days of lying on the couch, in the same flimsy nightgown, cracker crumbs clinging to your constant film of sweat, moving only to deal with your nearly-continuous flow of diarrhea, would strip all your dignity from you.

But no. It can get worse than that. READ MORE


A Wishlist From The Pit of Despair

Have you ever heard of “the pit of despair?” It’s the device noted psychologist/monkey sadist Harry Harlow invented; he put baby rhesus macaques in said pit of despair as an attempt to manufacture clinical depression. They were dark, isolated chambers, and after a few days inside, the monkeys stopped moving. Monkeys removed from the pit of despair after one month were deeply disturbed and anti-social.

Ever since learning about the pit of despair, that’s what I’ve called the worst of my depression. I am basically an immobile baby monkey alone in the dark. Simple, forward progress, like going outside or calling my mother, seems impossible. Instead, I spend my time in the pit thinking of new solutions to my inertia, sadness, and disdain for hygiene. To wit: READ MORE


Big Lesbian Feelings, Fearful Mothers, and Proper Pronouns


I went through a big deal breakup a month ago and am now attempting casual dating/hooking up. How/when should I tell people I'm not looking for an actual relationship? Any other casual dating advice you might have would be very welcome.

If you’re only interested in casual dating, you simply cannot disclose too early. Like, bring it up before you order drinks on your first date. Include it in your online dating profile. Screen-print it on a hoodie that you wear anywhere you might meet romantic prospects.

Casual dating/hooking up is not a bad thing at all, but since it might be a dealbreaker for the people you want to date, it’s best to get it out in the open as soon as possible. That way, if you’re looking for different things, you can both move on with no hard feelings.

This doesn’t need to be a Big Lesbian Feelings Talk; simply say, “Just so you know, I’m only interested in dating casually right now,” and then continue with your awkward first-date small talk. You have a cat? What a weird coincidence, I totally follow someone on Twitter who has a cat!"