Wednesday, July 30, 2014
I found the pheasants accidentally. I’d gone looking for the avenue of shoes on Brush Street, a new art installation in Detroit, and got a bit lost. When I stopped to orient myself, I saw a single pheasant through a thicket of tall grass in a vacant lot next to a sagging two-story. The house had an old Ford F150 parked in front. I saw an empty kiddie pool, a plastic circle in turquoise with green fish printed on the bottom. I heard soft crowing, and walked stealthily towards the sound
As I approached, I saw more pheasants through the tall grass. I wanted to make out details, but the brush blocked my view, and I saw only the shapes of bird bodies. I tried to take their picture. I snapped off a few shots, but all I got were brown blurs against the bright blue sky.
Months later, when I finally went to see pheasants specifically, it snowed six inches. I walked around near the corner of Gilbo and Leander as my boyfriend tried to get his Ford Focus out of middle of the road. His tires spun against the hard-packed snow, and I walked toward the tree line, because I heard a noise that sounded a bit like pheasant crowing. Male pheasants crow. They have long tails and iridescent feathers and, it seems, harems too. Pheasants practice polyamory. Males have two or three mates. John throws the car into reverse. The tires can't get purchase. I walk farther from the car, snapping pictures of marks in the snow I will later swear are bird tracks.
People love thinking of pheasants as mascots of urban decay, or the new apocalypse, or Detroit-as-frontier. They think of the city as desolate urban prairie, uninhabited, free of people. This idea has legs: I see it play out in books about Detroit's decline. But in practice, wherever I go in Detroit, I see signs of human habitation. I see houses and people. Even at Gilbo and Leader, despite the emptiness by the street sign, I'm not far from inhabited homes. I see a red two-story with a wide front porch, power lines and fire hydrants. John throws his car into reverse. It moves slightly backwards. I walk away from the car, following the street towards the red house.
In a field covered in tall grass, I see a chair upended, legs pointed skyward. Snow covers the seat. I hear a noise, like birds, or like wind in bare trees. I decide "pheasants" and walk towards the sound. I see more tracks, but can't find birds. I want to see them to prove to myself that I didn't imagine them this summer. I know hunters have flushed hundreds of pheasants in Detroit and I wonder where I might borrow a hunting dog.
I’d like to eat a pheasant, but the only restaurant in town that serves them is pricey, and John is broke. During my last trip up to see him, I cried in the hotel because he told me he couldn't afford a Christmas gift for me. He makes ten times my income, but has debts.
I know I'm ridiculous to care about gifts. I know I can't keep him. Polyamory may work for pheasants, but I know it’s failing me. John has a wife, and I want more than he ever offered me. READ MORE
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I'm trying to figure out how to get the gist of this across without writing a novel, but here goes. I am a 30-year-old woman who is really hitting her stride. I bought a home with my boyfriend who recently became my fiancé, I have a great job and live a great life in Southern California. It's a dream, and I can't wait to start a family blah blah blah.
Obviously these are the types of joys in life that you want to share with family, but I only have one family member left, my mother, and right now I have such anger toward her that I feel like it would be therapeutic for me to tell her she can't be in my wedding, or have anything to do with me for that matter.
Choices she made throughout her life basically made my childhood chaos and my life a living hell. She divorced my father, and remarried an asshole with three sons who pretty much tortured me for four years straight. She used to forget me at school until dark, and then she would send one of her employees, often a grizzled contractor in a smelly truck, to pick me up. I grew out of my clothes, and she didn't notice when I wore the same (too short) pants to school every day for weeks. Sometimes I wouldn't see her for days at a time, because I would take the bus to school, and she would work through my bedtime. When I tried to tell her about my unhappiness, she said things like, "Stop feeling sorry for yourself." or "Who ever told you that people are supposed to be happy? No one is happy. That's the way life is.” It’s sad, in hindsight, because that must be how she really felt.
As an adult, I can see that she had her own problems with her husband, and their failing business put her in a tough spot financially, so I know she was working to make ends meet during those times that I didn't see her. And I can't be mad about being poor, you know? I just tried to make things easier and not make waves. I was a perfect student in high school, got straight As and over thirty thousand dollars in scholarships. My mother looks back on these as the "glory days," unaware even today how often I crouched in the bathtub crying with a razor blade to my wrist, wondering if I had the guts.
At my freshman orientation for college, I was drugged, raped, and left in a field outside the dormitory where we were staying. (I didn't tell anyone for many years; I thought that's how college was and I was a silly amateur.) After that, I completely lost control. I drank heavily and started using a LOT of cocaine. I was extremely promiscuous. I was disrespectful to my mother, getting wasted at family gatherings and smoking cigarettes outside of church. My mother reacted by being completely disgusted. By now, she had a new husband and had recovered financially, so now she was in a position to criticize, apparently. She constantly made unkind jokes about my drinking and partying to other people. She seemed embarrassed of me and openly told me she was many times. She acted like I was a criminal, although I still graduated from the (pretty prestigious) university I attended in four years with a 3.0. I sometimes reminded her of how my step-brothers would lock me in a closets all day and yell taunts at me through the door, or held me down and shove dirt-filled socks in my mouth or snap me with rubber bands until I cried, and she would say, "What? They did NOT. No, you guys just played." Okay.
Finally, after about six years of self-destruction, I picked myself up, saved some money, left the small town we were in and moved to a big city. Four years later, here I am, a shiny new penny. Because my improvements were made here, and not in front of my mother's face, she can't stop rubbing those days in my face every time that I see her. I've told her I don't like it, but it seems like it's some kind of reflex for her. I'm in therapy now (when your mother tells you no one is supposed to be happy, it's hard to feel deserving when happiness finds you), and on one visit I asked if she might consider going herself. She said something like "If I open that door, I'll never close it again."
I want to repair things with her, because I have no one else, but when I am around her I am filled with so much anger that sometimes I have to leave the room. She has cried and told me she wants our relationship to be better, and I am surprised at how ice cold I feel toward her. I feel like she contributed to my decline and then mocked me for it. I don't want to have holidays with her, and since my fiancé has a lovely, large family who will soon be my in-laws, I feel like I shouldn't have to, at least until I'm ready. My question is, do I HAVE to forgive her? Can I just tell her that I don't want to see her until I've made more progress with my therapy? Or is that… evil? Should I push myself harder to be civil and put up with it because she's old and all I have that's left of my blood, and that's what people do? Because I genuinely don't know if I even can. How do I fix this?
Mad at Mom
You don't have to forgive your mother, and it's certainly not evil to make your own choices about this. I don't think anyone else can understand how fundamental her betrayal of you feels, so taking other people's advice in the matter is tough. There are people who will ALWAYS say, "You must honor your mother and be good to her, simply because she's your mother." There are also people who will ALWAYS say, "Seriously, fuck her. Do whatever you want. I cut my family off and it feels great." READ MORE
Recently I was thinking about books from my childhood like Go Ask Alice, Harriet the Spy, and Dracula. In retrospect, these books made outlandish claims to authenticity, but I bought them literally and figuratively because they included supposedly non-fictional diary pages. As a kid, books like Go Ask Alice seem like a curio, but it turns out they belong to a multi-century line of diary novels for girls that awkwardly straddle patriarchy and feminism.
Diary novels are a product of the Victorian era, with their own fully stocked canon and historically specific conventions; it’s an under-attended but significant genre. Most early diary novels were written by clergy who didn't actually read girls' diaries: the diary novel developed under a tradition of older, usually religious people condemning diaries while also taking advantage of their cultural cachet. The irony of more contemporary diary novels like Go Ask Alice is this: ostensibly progressive, fun-loving diary novels feature a girl’s voice but are often bent on silencing women or at least quelling experimentation, while explicitly conservative diaries by women (real and fictive) must also justify why a woman was ostentatious enough to write and publish in the first place.
“Diary novel” is a term coined by scholar Gerald Prince, and they’ve been so criminally understudied that we didn’t identify them as a genre until his 1989 essay, but they’re cross-cultural and about as old as the epistolary novel. The modern canon of diary novels include Hjalmar Söderberg’s Doctor Glas (Swedish), Evan S. Connell’s The Diary of a Rapist (American), Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook (British), Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea (French), Ivan Turgenev’s The Diary of a Superfluous Man (Russian), and Junichiro Tanizaki’s The Key (Japanese). You’ll also find snippets of fictive diaries in books like Dracula and Robinson Crusoe.
Prince identifies three key features of the diary novel: besides having structured plot, (1) the narrator must be first-person, (2) the mode of narration is intercalated (Gérard Genette’s term; it means the narrative is fragmented, with events that occur since the previous entry), and (3) the intended audience is also the writer. Valerie Raoul has added an additional condition, that the diary novel begins in medias res. None of the three elements is a full definition of the diary novel, but Prince’s last criterion is particularly scurrilous, since the narrators of many diary novels (like The Journal of Salavin) explicitly assume among their potential readers spouses, parents, coworkers, and supervisors. The insistence that diaries be private is an invention of the 20th century. To solve these problems, Prince specifies further: the defining element of the diary novel is the theme of writing in a diary. All diary novels identify themselves as diaries with specific questions like, Why have I begun keeping a diary? or How, materially, is this diary being written? This is why so many diary novels feature winking publisher prefaces or ironic nods to the diary-novel’s constructedness, like Diary of a Nobody, whose eponymous “author” is a nobody both in terms of his small stature and real-world nonexistence.
How is it that the same people who condemn diaries as “unwholesome, a genre that is usually chosen by people who can’t write anything else” (Ernest Renan), “worthless” (Maurice Blanchot), “perversions…orgies of secret literature” (George Duhamel), and “soft” (Béatrice Didier) could also publish diaries and diary novels? For almost as long as diaries have existed—about 400 years—women have had a powerful and controversial relationship with them. Summarizing the work of feminists like Valerie Sanders and Linda Peterson, Catherine Delafield argues that diaries are associated with women because they share domestic and quotidian connotations. Diaries emerged out of a tradition of family records, which women wrote uncontroversially. Diaries are also one of the few places women could write without bucking the expectation that women remain quiet. READ MORE
It seems to me that the best possible way we could spend our lives would be trying to emulate these vibes. Watch for the cameos, which start mostly with Samsung products but get much better from there.
The book is called Ideal Marriage: Its Physiology and Technique, and a librarian named (delightfully) Billy Parrott wrote about its late return at the NYPL's blog; the copy of Ideal Marriage was due August 1959, and was mailed from Arizona last year with an note:
We found this book amongst my late brother-in-law's things. Funny thing is the book didn't support his efforts with his first (and only) marriage... it failed! No wonder he hid the book! So sorry!!
A shocked in-law
After the jump, the Ideal Marriage Google Books word cloud, which includes my least favorite word of all time. READ MORE
Transcript after the jump. READ MORE
Via the AV Club, here is some Cheeto art: this one is titled "18 Weeks into the Gestational Age, this Fetus has Developed More Muscle and Bones have Begun to Harden, However, his Mother Will not Feel Fluttering in her Lower Abdomen for Another Couple Weeks." I also enjoyed "The Execution-Style Killing of a Man for Being Different" and "In an Adult Film, Peter North Takes his Role as a French Professor Seriously by Wearing a Beret While Performing in a Scene with a "Failing Female Student Earning Extra Credit", and after he Finishes, he Points to the Director Because he Knows he Nailed it" (NSFW, though Cheeto).
FKA Twigs' LP1 comes out August 12, which is soon, but not soon enough: the recurring major chord outline is like a bright steel rope that draws you through the tangled haze of the track.
Hello, recent graduate. As you begin to progress in your career, you will likely begin to be invited to various “networking” and “schmoozing” events. Some will occur after film screenings, book launches, or discussion panels. Others will be designated “networking cocktail hours” for “young professionals.” Whatever the context, such events are very important for your launch into the wider world, and your own upward trajectory! So how do you maximize your time at these shindigs? How do you “work the room”? I’m happy to say that after 10 years of attending such events in person, I can offer you some hard-earned advice that will help you really get every crumb and morsel of worthwhile interaction out of these events. So get your pen or your iPhone ready, and be prepared to memorize a simple checklist for networking success.
1. When you enter the space, scan the room.
Ask yourself two questions: The first is whom do I know here, and the second is where is the cheese table? Good. Now combine these two questions: whom do I know here who is closest to the cheese table? After you approach that person and begin to chit-chat, slowly position yourself, shifting your angle while you talk, until you’re within arm’s range of the cheese. Then put that arm to work. Eating cheese.
2. Now, define your goals.
At a certain point in the evening, you will have to commit. Are there hot passed hors d'oeuvres (if so, lucky you—you must be in a lucrative field). Do you want to be first to access such tidbits as they emerge from the kitchen, or would you rather maintain fidelity to the cheese table (or can you find a spot equidistant from both, in which case you are living the dream)? Or finally, would you rather be swizzling chardonnay than gobbling gouda, in which case bar proximity is crucial? These are all valid options, but whatever your personal aspirations are, make your choice and stick to it. No one rewards indecision.
3. Keep your elevator pitch in mind before you arrive at the event.
By elevator pitch, of course, I mean: how are you going to explain your cheese proclivity to your newfound conversation partners? “I didn’t have lunch today, I was so busy!” is the obvious, apologetic way to go. But why not project inner strength? “You have to understand that I’m something of a fromageophile,” creates a more powerful effect. Sounds fancy, right? Now you try it! READ MORE
Jamelle Bouie at Slate responds to the (still-drug-testin') New York Times Legalize It Project with the proposal that pot legalization is an important opportunity to economically remedy the racist social costs of the drug war:
From 2001 to 2010, according to a 2013 report from the American Civil Liberties Union, blacks and whites had roughly equal rates of marijuana use, with small variations from year to year. Among young people ages 18 to 25, usage rates were higher for whites, and overall, more blacks than whites say they’ve never tried marijuana.
Nevertheless, blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.
What follows is an extremely reasonable proposal:
In Colorado, voters have earmarked weed revenue for school improvements and other local services. Let’s say America follows suit and adopts the state’s model for legalization and commercialization. What should we, as a country, do with our marijuana windfall? The easy answers are the usual services and benefits: food stamps, unemployment insurance, medical benefits, and tax cuts.
But we should think deeper. If we legalize marijuana, it won’t just be for new revenues and savings. In part, it will be because we recognize the tremendous injury we’ve done to countless young men and women over decades of unfair enforcement of the law.
I was talking to someone who is in that "wanting to quit" phase of work and wanted to remember what it felt like so I did a search in my journal (YEP) from a few years back for the words "work" and "job." What follows is a nice, horrifying portrait of someone on the edge of sanity who really needs to quit her job. May I never be this angry again! Or may I um, emotionally detach from work and just put my head down and do my work? That always sounds like the right idea.
Work was hell again today. Some of it was fun. Some of it was creative. I had some decent ideas. I had hopeful, uplifting, reasonable conversations with people I like and respect. Had bitching, hilarious conversations with people I love. Made jokes with people who drive me crazy. Complained about people who are bothering me. The drama of the workplace absolutely consumes me. It's all I care about. Who is frustrated and why. Who wants to quit. Who is threatened by whom. Who feels territorial. Who is powerless. Who is wielding their power with too much brute force.
Had a few rages. A prolonged back and forth or two. Dustin told me to go get a snack and I did. And I did feel better. One Fudge Stripe, 1/4 of a cupcake and a handful of almonds later. :( READ MORE