Thursday, May 22, 2014


An Open Letter to Summer Fashion Trends

Every year fashion magazines come out with lists of the newest “hot summer trends.” This year (as usual) I’m disappointed. Summer trends, you can do better. Here are a few open letters to the top offenders.

Dear Crop Tops,

You might remember me from the scathing note I sent to your sister, the shrug sweater, in 1997. To recap, it said something like: “Why do you parade around like you are a real sweater when you are so obviously just a PART of a sweater?” This was a dark time for teen girls in general: we had to wear unflattering turtlenecks and light-denim jeans and anything else the sadistic costumers on Friends could come up with. But the shrug was the worst. The shrug acted like it could keep you warm or complement any ensemble, when really it just bunched up in your armpits and neglected your core. At best, a shrug sweater made you look like you were borrowing clothes from your baby-aged cousin; at worst, it made you look like style-hating dogs had maliciously eaten the bottom part of your cardigan. My point is, the shrug got the message and resigned itself to the bargain bin at Goodwill for all of eternity. You are the same as the shrug sweater, but worse, because as far as I can tell, you don’t even pretend to serve a function. You’re so “free and loose” that I still have to wear a bra, but you cover up nothing the bra doesn't. You’re a glorified napkin bib, and you should be ashamed of yourself.


Dear Beach Hair,

I used to think you were annoying. When I was 8 and I went to the beach in the summer, it bugged me how you insisted on hanging around, even after I’d spent the morning making VERY tight braids to avoid you. I didn’t like that you made it impossible to run a comb through anything, and the idea of having to spend time with you made me want to wear a hat. Now, though, fashion magazines and the hair care section of Walgreens has me believing that you’re some kind of sexy, desirable thing. You’re apparently so sexy and desirable that if I can’t get to a beach (and who can?!), I should spray hundreds of dollars worth of product into my hair to achieve a sort of replica effect. You remind me of Dennis Johnstone from eighth grade. He was super annoying and naggy too, but then in high school his parents bought him a Lamborghini and suddenly everyone thought he was hot and dateable. But I saw right through it. You can’t just dress something up and expect it to be better. You are the Dennis Johnstone of hairstyles, and Chelsea Kincaid is going to dump you. You’ll see.



How to Plan a Memorial Day Picnic

Note from Jeanie: Oh, hello there. Jeanie here. I'm here to show you how to stress less and party more. I tried the whole perfection thing and frankly, I'm over it. Over the coming weeks I'll be introducing some of my favorite bloggers from around the web to give you quick, easy ways to entertain for every occasion. Next up in our amazing Guides to Entertaining for Various Occasions series: Logan Sachon from TheBillfold.com. Logan will give you some real talk (and real recipes) for creating the not-quite-perfect-but-very-excellent Memorial Day get together. Okay, start reading and get yourself some knowledge!

Memorial Day is: a day to honor fallen heroes; the beginning of summer; a good time to buy large appliances; a very nice time to have a picnic.


I love a picnic. It's the only entertaining I do, really, indoor and outdoor picnics. A spread of purchased food, looking sort of nice, definitely like you tried a tiny bit but not too hard, a few good friends, some flowers — perfect.

Bring a blanket. A floral quilt would look nice against the grass, wouldn't it? But goodness, don't go out and buy one, a white sheet is just fine. So is a purple one. If you're having more than a few people, bring two. No need to leave anyone alone on the grass.

You won't be bringing that many things with you to the park, but may I suggest putting some of them in a basket or a crate? One made of wood would be nice, or a basket with a boxy shape. Picture it: A tote bag over your shoulder filled with little Aladdin mason jars, a baguette sticking out, you carrying a wood crate filled with cups, tea towels for napkins, cutting boards for cheese and bread and apples, a small flower arrangement.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  READ MORE


The World's Greatest Used Volvo

Castor, an art director from Sweden, is selling his rig, a '93 Volvo 245GL, which has both an inside and an outside. If this is the next frontier of Craigslist ads, I am all for it. [via]


Mice Just Looove to Run

Two researchers in the Netherlands found that when it comes to exercise, field mice are a lot like humans: some of them love to run and do it every day and post their post-half-marathon photos on Facebook before noon on Saturdays, and some of them are planning on getting started soon but for now are just gonna "Like" your photo on Facebook, I mean how nice for you, I'm really happy for you, that's great you're, like, A Runner now—

Two researchers in the Netherlands did an experiment that it seems nobody had tried before. They placed exercise wheels outdoors in a yard and in an area of dunes, and monitored the wheels with motion detectors and automatic cameras.

They were inspired by questions from animal welfare committees at universities about whether mice were really enjoying wheel-running, an activity used in all sorts of studies, or were instead like bears pacing in a cage, stressed and neurotic. Would they run on a wheel if they were free?

Now there is no doubt. Mice came to the wheels like human beings to a health club holding a spring membership sale. They made the wheels spin. They hopped on, hopped off and hopped back on.

Very happy for these mice. [NYT, Proceedings of the Royal Society B]

Photo via zebrapares/flickr.


Jungle, "Time"

Jungle's new single is a nice complement to Chromeo's new album (Spotify link), which I've been listening to and enjoying more than I would've guessed this week ("Lost On the Way Home," David Macklovitch's duet with Solange, is especially nice). "Time" doesn't have a music video featuring b-girl Terra yet, but let the petition for a reprise start here.


Let's Have a Cocktail or 7

This interactive cocktail menu from the Rosie Schaap of the New York Times will both make you thirsty and make you realize the inadequacy of your home ice cube situation, but it's 5 p.m., and you deserve a gin fizz. [NYT]


"Put the feminists in their place": A Q&A With Armina Etminan, Parliamentary Candidate and Member of Sweden's Feminist Party

There’s not much that can be lost in translation from the video footage. Gudrun Schyman, leader of Sweden's feminist party, talks to a crowd of reporters next to a small, black grill—the exact kind you imagine if you close your eyes and picture a backyard barbeque. But Schyman stands in front of a bright pink backdrop as she slowly tosses handfuls of colorful money from a plastic bag onto the coals. The bills shrivel into ash as a screen of white smoke blankets her face and she reaches into the bag for more. “I think a lot of people will be provoked,” she says to a reporter in Swedish. “I am provoked myself by standing here, burning money.” This was part of a media stunt in 2010, during which she burned a total of 100,000 Swedish kronor, or nearly $15,000, to represent the amount of money Swedish women lose every minute due to unequal pay between the genders.

Schyman is both the founder and leader of Sweden’s feminist party, Feministiskt Initiativ (FI). Support for FI has grown exponentially in the polls just in the last few months, and, with the upcoming European Union election, FI could see the first feminist party members elected into EU parliament. In Sweden, parties need 4 percent of votes to gain representation in parliament, and FI is en route to break that threshold. I recently spoke to Armina Etminan, a current FI candidate, about the party’s current platforms, the upcoming election, gender equality, pink chairs, Sweden’s music scene, political Tupperware parties, and the “man tax.”

Armina, tell me a little about your background.

I was six years old when my family and I came to Sweden from Iran due to the Iran-Iraq war. During my childhood in Sweden, I always wanted to be part of the norm, be a white girl with blue eyes and blonde hair. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I gained the knowledge that it’s not actually something wrong with me—it’s something wrong with society that creates this kind of feeling, that there are norms and structures that exclude and discriminate people that don’t fit into the norm.

How did you originally get involved with FI?

I work in the municipality of Stockholm with newly-arrived immigrants and, in the last couple of years, I’ve been active in Interfem, an organization that works against sexism and racism. I was headhunted by FI: they asked me if I was interested in being nominated as a candidate, and I immediately said yes. I had longed to be part of a party where human rights, gender equality and social justice are at the top of the agenda. Now I’m an FI candidate for the municipality of Stockholm.

What has the campaign been like for you so far?

It’s been crazy and lots of fun. Since we don’t have any financial resources, our party came up with the concept of “home parties.” Anyone who gathers at least 15 people can invite us to the party, and a representative from FI comes to their place to talk politics, instead of plastics.

From paid paternal leave to the percentage of women in parliament—Sweden is often seen as leading the charge for gender equality. So why, in your opinion, does Sweden need a Feminist party?

FI challenges the image of Sweden and Europe as the paradise of gender equality. This is a false image that diminishes the existing problems and stands in the way of genuine change. READ MORE


Tove Styrke, "Even If I'm Loud It Doesn't Mean I'm Talking to You"

All fans of the Ting Tings' flawlessly stupid (and six years old!) "That's Not My Name" will fall hard for this new, raucous track and future summer mainstay from Swedish artist Tove Styrke: with that percussive melody and sass-mouth beat, it's so catchy that I have been dancing all over my apartment for hours and might be ready to crack open a beer. Big year for Toves all around! Via Neon Gold.

Ask Polly: I Survived a Hard Life, But I Never Learned How to Be Normal

IMG_3577Hello Polly!

I'm 23 and I feel like I've come a pretty long way already. I grew up in an abusive and poor-as-hell home; went to live on my own when I was fifteen; struggled with depression and a terrible relationship; and made (and paid off) a huge amount of debt. All the terrible things happened. ALL OF THEM.

However, I think I did a lot of cool things as well: I raised my sister to be a happy, normal person, and I finished school with really good grades even though I did not know at the time where food would come from and I had to sleep on the smelly couch of the local pot dealer. When the schizophrenic father from hell returned (he had been missing for years) I told him to fuck off. I made peace with my tired, overworked, shy mum and we glued the family back together and we're all pretty damn happy about it. Since I was kind of a stoner, I pretty much got along with everybody and I made some cool friends who made my hard life way easier and who I loved very much. So, that was my teens, basically.

After I finished school, I moved to a new city to be with my cynical asshole boyfriend who somehow had realized that I was smart and funny and routinely used lines I said in his shitty standup comedy act. I started training to be a nurse. All of my coworkers were boring, or way older then me—plus, asshole boyfriend pretty much scared away anyone I tried to make a connection with—so I went friendless in a big city with a really hard job that I hated. My old friends all moved to new cities and started university, moved in with friends, threw giant insane parties—I couldn't relate at all. I felt boring, grey, poor. Every time one of them asked me, "So, what's happening?" I could only say "hard work, stupid boyfriend,” so I stopped saying much and eventually the calls stopped. This part of my life lasted almost three years.

I decided to blow up the whole damn thing because I was super unhappy and found myself staring at the wall in my bedroom smoking cigarettes and crying one too many times.

During all of this, I had been drawing things whenever I could. I drew and I painted and I glued things together, and even though asshole boyfriend told me all the things that could be improved, I mostly loved the things I made. I got pretty good at it. One day in spring, I told the boyfriend he had to go; he told me that he had wanted to break up anyway, since I was just a sad shadow of a person and also I never did the dishes.

I got a tiny, cheap apartment, stopped going to the hospital to wash sick people and instead started working behind the bar at a cool club. I drew all the time, every day. I got so good I finally decided to do the thing I never thought I could do: I packed together my best work and applied to Very Prestigious Art School for its Very Famous and Good Costume Design Program, which has been my dream since I was 15 years old. They get bazillions of applicants and you have to go there and do two days of creative tests and studio time and intense talks and stuff and I never thought I could do it but I did and they chose me.

I talked to a lot of cool people who are all starting with me this September. I live in Germany, so it's not unusual to start university at 23 or 24; I clicked with a lot of the other applicants. Now I'm not a poor dirty stoner or an overworked sad nurse's assistant anymore, but a cool bartender who can draw better than most people, with good taste in movies and music and style and a nice apartment where the dishes are always done and I look fine and—well I don't know how to be a friend anymore?

It seems since everything has always been on fire, now that things are good I don't know how to be normal? I have a lot of people I talk to casually once a week or something, but how do I get from that to developing a friendship? READ MORE


BLAH Magazine's Spring Issue: Let's Get Equi-Noxious

Dear BLAH Girls,

The response to our first issue was overwhelming. And not in a good way! See, this is why we usually avoid doing stuff: doing nothing ensures a perfect record of non-failure.

But anyway, we’ve gone and done a thing, so it’s all downhill from here. If you do read on, I recommend opening a tutorial on how to make your hair do beachy waves in a separate browser window and toggling back and forth—at least that way you’ll learn something.

Or not. Do what you want. If you need me I’ll be searching for errant Teddy Grahams lodged between the couch cushions.

—Your editor

Sunlight and Other Horrors

Haven’t you been through enough? Waking up every day, breathing in and out, sometimes interacting with others, and now the sun is shining? Don’t worry: maintaining your BLAH attitude on a sunny afternoon will be no problem with just a little planning. If you have a job, quit. This will dramatically reduce the amount of time you have to be outdoors. If your job does not require you to leave your home, maybe also consider quitting. If you have no job, nice work! Tell your mom to buy blackout shades or move into the basement. In the event of no basement, berate your mom. She knows what she did.

Spring Fashion: The Nautical Look

Your white pants and horizontal stripes can spring right up my butt. READ MORE


Stressed? These Giant, Deadly Pythons Are Here to Massage You

"There is no escape once the 'treatment' starts," warns the Daily Mail.


The May 1, 1955 issue of American Weekly explained that a small town in Germany was experiencing a shortage of men. This had led them to experimenting with a more mechanical form of matchmaking — a special contraption for "slot machine sweethearts."

Women would approach a machine that looked a bit like an old school automat. The machine had photos of different men, each with a short description. She would put her coins in a slot and out would pop a more detailed note, describing just what kind of guy her potential suitor was. The woman would then take her letter to a love-agent who was able to make an introduction.

-I'm picturing these like the temporary tattoo vending machines I used to rock so hard after loading up at Cici's Pizza, but the pictures scanned up at Gizmodo make the process look a bit more subdued. | May 21, 2014


Ask Baba Yaga: What Even Is The Fucking Point?

Transcript after the jump.  READ MORE


Yesterday, a tractor-trailer carrying 16 to 20 million bees crashed on 95 and released its cargo. A million bees swarmed an accessory store in Kentucky on Monday. Last week tens of thousands of bees casually swarmed this guy's car, this statue's crotch, a Topshop in London, a flower stall in an outdoor market; earlier in May a bunch of bees hijacked someone's Mother's Day, swarmed Astoria, killed a roofer in Texas.

Is this normal bee stuff? Is this just what happens with them every spring? How many highway rigs are full of bees, ready to explode? | May 21, 2014


On California's Only Inmate-Produced Newspaper

From the New York Times:

Founded in 1940 and then revived as a serious journalistic enterprise six years ago, the monthly News, which bills itself as “The Pulse of San Quentin,” is the state’s only inmate-produced newspaper and one of the few in the world. The paper’s 15 staff members, all of them male felons, write from the unusual perspective of having served an estimated 297 ½ years collectively for burglary, murder, home invasion, conspiracy and, in one case, a Ponzi scheme.

In a notorious prison best known for its death row, the men are committed to what Juan Haines, the 56-year-old managing editor, who is serving 55 years to life for that 1996 bank robbery, calls “boots on the ground” journalism, accomplished without cellphones or direct Internet access. “It’s about being heard in a place that’s literally shut off from the world,” he said.

The magazine's editors, who produce the paper on grant money, donations and subscriptions and work under other unique constraints ("This year, the news operation was suspended for 45 days after a photograph of a Shakespearean play performance was swapped without approval"), are hoping to expand their current circulation of 11,500; the April issue is sort of hard-boiled and folksy, with a Spanish-language excerpt, extensive policy coverage, a Sudoku corner, and an editor-in-chief's column starting "Letters, letters, and more letters!"

The Times piece cites the paper's founding in 1940, but the San Quentin News website has an archived copy of an 1930 copy of its predecessor, the Wall City News, which is almost slapstick (or maybe that's just the '30s). The picture here is from that issue, and so is this:

Keep yu’re shirt on, and remember, I’m for what’s left of yu,


P.S. I asked Capt. Ackley if it would be all rite of you sent me a money order and he said sure.