Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Dear Shailene Woodley

TO: Shailene Woodley

FROM: Feminism

SUBJ: An apology

Dear Shailene Woodley,

Okay, we give up. You have sniffed us out, you brilliant little Divergent, you. You too, country singer Sara Evans. You too, Marissa Mayer, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, Bjork, early-career Lady Gaga and every other female celebrity who has declared, when prompted, “I’m not a feminist. I love men.” (Or in Gaga's case, "I hail men.")

We’re sorry.

Yes, we have have protested vocally every time one of you powerful celebrity ladies utters this phrase. Sometimes we’ve even protested the protesting! But the reality is, we were so upset because you nailed us, dammit. All these years, we, The Feminists have been trying to “repackage” ourselves, rebrand ourselves if you will, with a new friendly face. Equality, we cry out! Education access! Social, political and sexual equality! Healthcare for all! Family leave! No more rape! Common-sense stuff like that. Stuff you actually support, right? And for a while, it seemed like we were really getting somewhere. Our fake ideas about egalitarianism and gender normativity were catching on! People were embracing us.

But then you, Shailene Woodley, curse your brilliant heart, pulled back the curtain and revealed the truth. All that “equality” talk is an elaborately constructed facade. Equal pay? Reproductive autonomy? Ha! We really exist for one reason only: to insinuate ourselves into the world of men, enslave, and conquer. Our movement’s name isn’t actually Feminism but in truth, the League of Bitter Misandrist Hags Who Burn Phalluses in Effigy Nightly and Wake Ourselves Up With a Fresh Vial of Male Tears in the morning. LOBMHWBPIENWOUWFVMT is a doozy of an acronym. You can see why we changed it to feminism to begin with.  READ MORE


Carrot-Coconut Macaroons

I thought we’d attempt to celebrate Passover with my little ones for the first time this year, but it didn’t go as planned. There was illness, a storm, 10 devastating plagues. It was a rough week. At least we talked about the holiday a bit. My daughter insisted on telling me EXACTLY where to hide the afikomen, and was repeatedly delighted when she found it (although we used a cloth napkin instead, because repeatedly hiding matzos among her socks and underwear and pajamas somehow didn’t feel right).

And, I made these macaroons. They’re raw/vegan/paleo/delicious, and I think I can safely say they’re pretty healthy, too. I adapted the recipe from these beauties, and they’re basically homemade larabars with tons of raw carrot (instead of just nuts and dried fruit), rolled into balls and dipped in chocolate. So easy, and SO good—they’re weirdly perfect macaroons. I hope they join you in your celebrations, whatever they may be. READ MORE

My Time on the Assembly Line Working Alongside the Robots That Would Replace Us

The small town I grew up in was surrounded by factories and existed for the sole reason of supporting the local paper mill, which employed most of our residents and brought people in from outside cities. In the surrounding areas there were numerous paper mills and medical supply factories. Everyone in my immediate family worked in a factory at one time or another; some still do.

Factory jobs—when available—are relatively stable, and provide good wages and benefits. Some are in clean environments and don't require much manual labor. As far as jobs that don’t require higher education go, working in a factory can be quite a good option.

One summer during college, I took a position at a local factory working the night shift at a medical supply factory in upstate New York that produced medical equipment and tubing used in hospitals. The factor environment was sterile and clean, and there was air conditioning. The factory employed workers year-round and assembly line workers got to sit for some of their shift. The demographic was mostly women because of the working conditions, and for the time, the wages were very good. We were also paid extra for working night shifts.



Reviews, Then and Now

Old reviews excerpted and tweaked from my college newspaper, my college internship, my post-college journal and my post-college non-paying newspaper job, 1999-2002.

“New in Local Music,” Spring 2001

Worth more than its name would imply, Fydolla Ho tired me out with their head-banging riffs and naughty whispers in the studio this week, but didn’t leave me reaching for a tube of itch relief in the morning…. Punk princesses and veterans of the L.A. rock scene, the Eyeshadows channeled their fiery godmothers to play their hearts out well past two in the morning at the tiny Hollywood den Three Clubs yesterday…. Surfacing amidst the recent renaissance of the funky female songwriter, Patricia Mann soulfully delivers tales of lust and regret on the best of the dozens EPs I’ve heard this week, Lady Lothario….

“Stale in my iTunes Playlist,” Spring 2014

Aptly named for its lack of inspiration, “iPhone Playlist” is nothing but a getting-from-A-to-B soundtrack, packed with predictability, even on shuffle. You’ll hear songs gifted to me in a mix last year, like Schoolboy Q’s “Collard Greens” (a bouncy ode to weed, perfect for head-nodding while passing people on the street), followed by a song from Beck’s Guero because Guero (stacked with jaunty beats that are great for both working out and city walks) has been a staple in all my playlists since 2005, followed by one of the hundreds of songs I once owned on CD, like Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” (keeps a dancy pace while brooding in my eardrums on the elevator ride up to work) because my musical tastes have been solidified since the ’90s. The most recent addition to “iPhone” is Beck’s new album, Morning Phase, which was purchased because I already knew I liked him and I’m a lazy, 35-plus Caucasian who falls in a certain quadrant of the education-income matrix that causes her to purchase music streaming on NPR. Overall, “iPhone” might be comforting in its familiarity, but it’s in dire need of an update. ★★ 1/2



Cruel Intentions Brings Sophistication to Teen Genre,” April 1999

Out of the rash of trendy teen flicks that have taken over movie screens in recent months (I Know What You Did Last Summer, She’s All That), there is only one that stands a chance at becoming a modern classic: Cruel Intentions.

In fact, it is the talent of Ryan Phillippe and Sarah Michelle Gellar that make the audience forget that most high school kids are insecure and lame, as they carry their cockiness with sophistication. This may not be realistic, but their calculated delivery is much more amusing than watching lovesick young people play out their regular problems.

“TV’s Young Slobs Bring the Real,” April 2014

When the next generation blinks into their Google Glass to see what the hell we were watching in the second decade of the 21st century, they will note that it was a great time to be a young, hapless asshole. Which is absolutely true! Because that’s what being young is for! And in 2014, the women finally participated. On Broad City, Abbi and Illana don’t even bother trying to grow up past paying for their own bag of weed, while the girls of Girls are a lot more self-serious but remain equally as half-ass about putting any effort toward getting their shit together. But if you’re looking for the biggest narcissistic shlubs, look no further than reality TV. I could probably name hundreds of cast members to demonstrate this, but the best or, dare I say, the realest of the worst are the Real Worlders. In this latest Ex-plosion version, every single roommate is so tortured by their prowess, ego and general restlessness that when their exes unexpectedly move in, they don’t know what to do with them other than hook up. Ha! People in their thirties would just ignore them and continue fucking off on their computer. And that is why people in their twenties will always be fascinating: They have no idea how sloppy their everyday shit is, nor should they.  READ MORE


The Beygency Is Coming For Monica Lewinsky

Alert The Beygency. [Vanity Fair]


Tales of Post-Graduate Love, Turmoil, and Friendship: A Conversation with Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Graduates in Wonderland: The International Misadventures of Two (Almost) Adults is an epistolary memoir by Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale that’s out today. You may already know Jessica from The Hairpin; she writes the Baking from a Bygone Era column and often enlists Rachel when she embarks “on disgusting culinary adventures from the past," she says. The two friends and co-authors met at Brown. Before they graduated and Rachel headed to New York and Jessica to Beijing, they promised to stay in touch with honest, tell-it-like-it-is, regular emails to each other. Those emails, which they returned to years later after reuniting in London, became the basis for their book.

It’s a great, heartfelt memoir, incorporating the raw feelings and confusing experiences of newly post-graduate life and the aching desire we all have to finally, given the freedom of adulthood, really do something, something that we may not be able to quiet identify yet. The book is full of witty descriptions and cultural observations, capturing not just a picture of twentysomething life but also a sense of the time: Jobs weren't a guarantee after graduation, blogging was a bit different then, but best friends who lived as far apart as Beijing and New York could, luckily, communicate fully about their experiences via email.

I talked with Rachel and Jessica recently about what it’s like to put together a memoir with a best friend.

Tell me how the book began.

Rachel: It started with our pact to stay in touch, before we graduated from Brown. We really didn’t realize it would end up this way at the time, though. We were on the back steps at our house in Providence, and it was really late. We were talking about how much we’d been through in the past four years. Both of our moms had so much love for their college friends, and now they’re just on their Christmas card lists. Jess knew she was going to Beijing; I knew I was going to New York. We knew it had to be brutally honest emails we were writing to each other. It’s so easy to fall into just being like, hey, whatever…

Jessica: We’d been emailing each other for about 5 years and then we both ended up in London and were meeting up for coffee every day again. (The timeline is compressed in the book; we don’t include just being unemployed eating crackers and doing nothing.) We were in London and trying to remember something, so started searching our inboxes, and all these strange weird emails were popping up.

Rachel: We felt how shocking that raw emotion was. It’s so weird with men, jobs, things you no longer care about. Some of the emails were like, “Jess, I think I’m in love with him,” and she was like, “No, you’re not.”

Jessica: At the beginning, we thought this was a fun friend project, and then we were like, maybe other women would want to read this. There are so many growing pains included, things women all go through. We decided to email some literary agents.

What was the process like to turn it from emails into a book?

Rachel: We had so much material! At the beginning we were like, this could be 120,000 words, we have so much material. The main process was to find out the most important moments, to think about ourselves now and figure out what had been the turning points, what’s changed and shaped us, and to show those moments where that happened. We went and copied and pasted our emails into several enormous documents, and we were looking over them, taking out chunks.

Jessica: We cut out so many inside jokes that don’t even make sense to us anymore. We kept in the important moments. The details of me in China. We often say that, honestly, our emails were like journals.  READ MORE


Emily King, "Distance"

Emily King's been quiet for a few years now, ever since 2011's Seven; she's back now with characteristic breezy soul on "Distance" and a really lovely Taylor McFerrin track, "Decisions." [via]



The Cut has a slideshow featuring 122 looks from last night's Met Ball (sheer seems to be IN), and the annual gala's celebrity selfie game was on point (behold Bey-Monae-Badu, for example), but this shot of the lady's room is the best one I've seen. [Instagram]


Have You Had Your Naked Window Hang Today?


This is also called vapor-bathing, which is a different kind of vapor than the aforementioned ammonia soak, and one more likely to bring the attention of unwanted suitors. To take a proper vapor bath, "the lady denudes herself, takes a seat near the window, and takes in the warm rays of the sun." If you're a lady of the restless sort, dancing is advised. A good vapor bath is at least an hour long.

Mental Floss dug up 11 beauty tips from the Encyclopaedia of Astounding Facts and Useful Information (1889), a publication that helpfully suggests that "If women are to govern, control, manage, influence and retain the adoration of husbands, fathers, brothers, lovers or even cousins, they must look their prettiest at all times." If naked window hangs are a part of this pretty plan, I might be on board. [Mental Floss]


Launching today: The Nightlight, which is like a Wirecutter/Sweethome for babies and the people who have them. Here is, for example, 2,300 words on The World's Best Bottle Drying Rack, a thing I didn't even know existed! Babies are gonna love this blog. [The Nightlight] | May 5, 2014


The Peculiar, Complicated, Blissful Rituals of the Kentucky Derby

“I saw it, in my head, as the mask of the whiskey gentrya pretentious mix of booze, failed dreams and a terminal identity crisis; the inevitable result of too much inbreeding in a closed and ignorant culture,” wrote Hunter S. Thompson in 1970 of the quintessential Kentucky Derby goer; the character he and his partner-in-crime, illustrator Ralph Steadman, had hoped to find but instead became, at the tracks in Louisville, Kentucky.

I am fundamentally conflicted about Derby Day. I was born in Kentucky and my childhood landmark for spring was the Derby party, thrown by my parents or my parents’ friends. I got to wear a pretty dress and run around on a green lawn after months of slushy winter. I’d overeat deviled eggs or Benedictine or whatever else was available and watch the adults get tipsy. (Actually, that last part isn’t true: I don’t think I paid any attention to the inebriation level of the grown-ups. Point is, at Derby, you drink.) But Derby, like most things, also has a darker side.

The first Saturday in May marked the 140th “Run for the Roses,” as the Kentucky Derby has always been known. The name refers to the blanket of 554 roses draped over the winning horse and is just one of the many atavistic traditions accompanying this rite of spring. What began in 1875 as (reputedly) a distraction for the bummed, post-Civil War masses has continued into the 21st century as the longest-running sporting event in the United States. READ MORE


Amy Schumer's Appreciation for Sam Cooke, Among Other Things

Amy Schumer's speech at the Gloria Awards and Gala last Thursday night got some deserved pickup over the weekend, because in the space of about 1,900 words the comedian managed to hit on a unique element of female shame that tends to accompany particularly awful adolescent sexual experiences, and to expertly flip the whole thing into a power ballad about learning self-worth and confidence. Oh, and Sam Cooke:

I could feel I was losing myself to this girl in this bed. He stood up and put a new CD on. "Darling, you send me, I know you send me, honest, you do ..." I'm thinking, "What is this?" He crawled back into bed, and tried to mash at this point his third ball into my vagina. On his fourth thrust, he gave up and fell asleep on my breast. His head was heavy and his breath was so sour, I had to turn my head so my eyes didn't water. But they were watering anyway, because of this song. Who is this? This is so beautiful. I've never heard these songs before. They're gutting me.

Vulture has the rest of the transcript here, and the transcript from Gabourey Sidibe's speech from the evening ("I live my life, because I dare. I dare to show up when everyone else might hide their faces and hide their bodies in shame. I show up because I'm an asshole, and I want to have a good time.") is here. [Vulture]

How to Write

a writer, writingI teach a Popular Criticism class to MFA students. I don't actually have an MFA, but I am a professional, full-time writer who has been in this business for almost two decades, and I've written for a wide range of impressive print and online publications, the names of which you will hear and think, "Oh fuck, she's the real deal." Because I am the real deal. I tell my students that a lot, like when they interrupt me or roll their eyes at something I say because they're young and only listen when old hippies are digressing about Gilles Deleuze's notions of high capitalism's infantilizing commodifications or some such horse shit.

Anyway, since Friday is our last class, and since I'm one of the only writers my students know who earns actual legal tender from her writing—instead of say, free copies of Ploughshares—they’re all dying to know how I do it. In fact, one of my students just sent me an email to that effect: "For the last class, I was wondering if you could give us a breakdown of your day-to-day schedule. How do you juggle all of your contracted assignments with your freelance stuff and everything else you do?"

Now, I'm not going to lie. It's annoying, to have to take time out of my incredibly busy writing schedule in order to spell it all out for young people, just because they spend most of their daylight hours being urged by hoary old theorists in threadbare sweaters to write experimental fiction that will never sell. But I care deeply about the young—all of them, the world's young—so of course I am humbled and honored to share the trade secrets embedded in my rigorous daily work schedule. Here we go: READ MORE


Mad Men: In the Land of the Lost

One of the recurring themes in Mad Men involves lost children, children who have lost their parents, parents who have lost their kids. We see characters who were abandoned, orphaned, or simply didn’t get enough love (Don Draper included) who go on to pathologically treat their own offspring the own way, often without much awareness or self-reflection about doing so. Don was a lost kid who became a lost adult, though he's kept it covered it up with bravado and a good sell over the years, albeit with a few cracks emerging.

This “lost” storyline goes well beyond Don, though. Pete lost his mother, in part because of Bob Benson. Roger’s lost baby with Joan is a little boy he’s not permitted to spend time with. Peggy’s lost child (with Pete) is out there somewhere in the world, though for now that fact is deeply suppressed from Peggy’s day-to-day consciousness. Betty once ventured to Greenwich Village in an attempt to retrieve Sally’s friend, lost on purpose and headed to California. Megan, now, is sort of lost in California. Earlier this season, Sally attended a funeral for a classmate’s mother, which brought to the forefront issues with her father, who she, too, sees at times as lost—a parallel to how she often feels herself. And in this episode, we find out that Roger’s daughter Margaret, now going by the name “Marigold,” has run off to live in a hippie commune in upstate New York, leaving behind her husband and another lost child, her four-year-old son.

The episode begins with Pete, at dinner with his real estate agent girlfriend Bonnie, who notices a man staring at her. It’s a connection from the past: George, who used to work with Pete’s father-in-law and is now scouting Disneyland for his client Burger Chef. There’s a pang when Pete learns his estranged father-in-law, who I believe he last ran into in a brothel, has had a heart attack, but this is swept away with the possibility of new work for the agency. Bonnie is complimentary: “I love watching you work,” she says, and Pete brushes it off, sort of uncharacteristically, perhaps thinking of Trudie.

Don is back at Sterling Cooper and he’s the odd man out. Meetings—including an office-wide gathering announcing a new computer that the agency has purchased (Harry Crane has finally had his day)—happen without him being informed. He’s been put in the office of a dead man, highlighting his diminished status at the firm. The installation of the new office computer brings a bunch of “men being replaced by machines” conversation, progress vs. posterity. “These machines can be a metaphor for whatever’s on people’s minds,” says the head computer guy. The creatives lose their lounge, and Ginsberg loses it and shouts, “They’re trying to erase us, but they can’t erase this couch,” which he tries to get Don to help him move. Don is ultimately disgusted by the display, and maybe overcome by all the symbolism of replacement, and returns to his office, where he loses a cigarette under a file cabinet and finds a New York Mets pennant, which he hangs on his wall. I had to research the importance of this Mets pennant, because obviously it’s symbolic. The Mets had never had a winning season until 1969, the year we’re living in on Mad Men, when they won the World Series. All is not necessarily lost.  READ MORE


Definitely Going to Watch the Miss Cleo Documentary

Okay, Hotline is not actually a Miss Cleo documentary: it's a "look at the extensive world of phone hotlines — from sex to suicide prevention to Ms. Cleo herself," of which the first part is certainly interesting enough. But Miss Cleo! I would consume any amount of material about the Psychic Friends Network and their public disgrace, and Miss Cleo is so very Miss Cleo in this Indiewire interview in advance of the documentary, in which she reminds the journalist that she came out in 2006 as a way of taking control of her public image. "I'm as gay as a two dollar bill, same as you," she says. [IW]