Friday, June 6, 2014
Here’s a blue, smoky, gorgeous R&B-tinged ballad from Cathedrals, with a XX-y guitar line that sings along with the melody: major shades of Sinead O’Connor and Jessie Ware throughout.
I remember my childhood summers in three separate periods: the failed swimming lessons (ages 8-10), the Harriet the Spy tape-recorder years (age 11-12), and the era of Dairy Queen (ages 15-20). The DQ I worked at was idyllic. We sold only ice cream, so we never had to deal with fryers or meat, and for most of those summers only girls worked there: this provided critical opportunities for discussing breasts, scrunchies, and sexual intercourse, a subject about which I knew nothing for a long time. Dense with life lessons, my DQ summers taught me everything. Here are a few things that have stuck with me.
1. A smile doesn’t mean no one spat in your Blizzard.
We were good girls, and under the watchful eye of our manager Rick, we would never dream of tainting ice cream. However, sometimes Rick stepped out to buy bananas and we found the occasional justified vengeance ready to be served cold. I remember one unsuspecting girl who had hooked up with the ex of one of my esteemed colleagues: she came through the drive-thru on one such unattended evening. I don’t remember how we pinpointed her identity way back in the drive-thru lane, but by the time she got to the window, her Reese’s Cup Blizzard had a substantial amount of adolescent saliva added to it. The girls handed it to her, smiling. I was like, damn. Remind me not to blow Kelli’s ex.
2. You can always do better, masturbation-wise.
Jeni, one of my favorite coworkers over the years, was about 5 years older than most of us and so committed to the DQ life that she continued to take a weekly shift each summer even after securing her master’s degree. Jeni was the first woman I had ever met who openly talked about masturbating. We younger girls would sit on the stainless steel counter in our red polos, a wide-eyed captive audience as Jeni flipped her long blonde hair over her shoulder and drawled, “I loooove masturbating.” This was the 90s, and Midwest teens were far more repressed in the art of self-love than they are today; we did it but would never, ever have admitted to it. It was from Jeni that I learned about vibrators, thank god, because I had been masturbating unsuccessfully with a Conair curling iron for about 2 years. READ MORE
Cecily Hintzen is in her 50s, an age where many start casting longing glances at the idea of retirement. But earlier this year she left the job she’d held for a decade, at a hospital pathology lab, and started her own business, Pathfinders Memorial Planning. Her new gig is twofold: She guides grieving families in organizing loved ones’ memorial services (doing as much as full-on event planning, or as little as producing remembrance slideshows) and she works with not-dead-yet people to make their own end-of-life wishes known before it’s too late.
In the few months Hintzen’s shop has been up and running, most of her clients have been the former rather than the latter, something she hopes will change over time—but she knows very well how tough it can be to get people to plan for (or even just talk about) their own eventual death when it’s (probably/hopefully) many years away.
I spoke with Hintzen in early May, and I had some fresh personal experience that made me especially appreciative of her work. My grandfather died in late April, and at the time of our interview I was witnessing my mom and her brothers planning his memorial service. He’d made his final wishes known, right down to a poem he wanted included in his memorial. This made a hard time a bit easier, but it was still hard—emotionally and logistically. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if it was just like, "Welp, he’s gone and we have no clue what he would have wanted."
If you live in the Santa Barbara, California area and need help planning a memorial service or doing your own end-of-life planning, she may be your gal. For everyone else, find your town’s own Cecily Hintzen equivalent, or do it yourself (the National Institute on Aging has some good resources). It might be hard and weird, but you’ll probably feel more than a small bit of relief. And one day—hopefully years and years and years from now—your family will be grateful that you did it. Unless they’re all heartless cyborgs. In which case, oof, good thing you’re dead.
"Sway says that while West Coast audiences were familiar with the idea of an Asian-American hip-hop expert, in 2003 New York, putting Oh on air still felt like a risk. 'After she started, I would always try to get her to come out. But it took her a second before she was ready to show the world, "This is who I am, this is what I look like." ‘Cause mentally there was maybe a small concern that people might react because she was Asian.'"
—BuzzFeed's Naomi Zeichner profiled Minya Oh, a.k.a. Hot 97's Miss Info, who, 20-some years in, is "used to being the only Asian person in the room." Go read it, and while you're there, do pay a visit to our dear old friend Anne Helen Petersen.
A completely serious list.
"Whose Line Is It Anyway?": Improvisational Speech Acts
How To Talk About The Death Drive At Cocktail Parties
Girl, Interrupted: In Gothic fiction, only heroines seem to faint
Two Is The Loneliest Number
Driving Out of Time
Pathos and Pathology
Creepily Benevolent Masculinites: Caspar Goodwood versus Casper the Friendly Ghost
"I'm Pregnant" and The Periperformative
Hangry and Other Food Feelings
A Will To Irrationality
Freud's Penis Envy in Beyond The Pleasure Principle READ MORE
In real life, in all but the fanciest boutiques, there is no booze available. At the mall the most you can hope for is an Auntie Anne’s pretzel wolfed down between depressing department stores and the Ann Taylor sale rack. Online, you can shop at several different stores at once with the beverage of your choice, and if you window shop and creep around for hours, no one’s the wiser. Here’s what to drink while you contribute to the demise of local businesses.
Usually, I’m kind of a snob about Pinot Noir and only like it if it’s French and semi-obscure, like Sancerre Rouge. But Pinot from Sonoma’s Russian River Valley has a certain plushness and rose aroma reminiscent of the floral, plasticky smell of expensive lipstick and face powder. For someone who doesn’t wear a ton of makeup, I love looking at it and buying it. While fiddling with my cart at Sephora or Ulta’s sites, I keep wanting to pull the trigger on some crazy blue nail polish from Illamasqua, or that Nars blush that looks neon red in the pan, or whatever weird, off-brand miracle face creams are on clearance, but all I ever buy are my tried and true favorites: Urban Decay Primer Potion (the original, please), Clinique’s Moisture Surge tinted moisturizer, and Lolita Lempicka, because it reminds me of being 17. Sometimes safe and reliable is just fine.
I like to window shop at Aedes de Venusta, an incredible perfume boutique in New York, whenever I’m there. Their online store (aedes.com) is almost as luxe as the shop itself, although when you visit the website you don’t have to be buzzed in, which always makes me feel special. I’ve only ever ordered samples there, because as much as I love perfume, I’m committment-phobic, except when it comes to Lolita Lempicka and Bulgari Black. However, I have put Un Bateau Pour Capri and the new Heeley scents in and out of my shopping cart a few dozen times. What? I’m not hurting anyone!
Of course, there are many grape varietals in the ‘aromatic’ category—boozy, over-the-top Viognier, saucy, pungent Sauvignon Blanc, and my favorite aromatic Piedmont oddballs like Ruché and Freisa. But I think the thing to sip while looking at gorgeous bottles and $100 jars of body cream (someday!) is a delicate little Vermouth aperitif. I like Dolin’s White vermouth—it’s a little softer than the dry version that you’d use in martinis, and not as heady as the red. I like it with a splash of soda water and an orange twist. The citrus oils and the botanicals combine to create something that’s not overwhelming, but just as fun to smell as it is to taste, which is something I think most of the best beverages have in common. READ MORE
For me, the issue of feminism is just not an interesting concept. I’m more interested in, you know, SpaceX and Tesla, what’s going to happen with our intergalactic possibilities. Whenever people bring up feminism, I’m like, god. I’m just not really that interested... My idea of a true feminist is a woman who feels free enough to do whatever she wants.
Note from Jeanie: Oh, hello there. It's me, Jeanie. 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 past few months, I've been introducing some of my favorite bloggers from around the web to provide you with quick, easy ways to entertain for every occasion. Next up in our amazing Guides to Entertaining for Various Occasions series, Mallika Rao gives you some real talk (and real recipes) for creating a graduation party to remember. Okay, start reading and get yourself some knowledge!
Graduation parties are the purest kinds of parties there are, in that many of the guests are often fresh graduates too. There’s no star of the show, no birthday girl wearing a special birthday dress. These bashes are about celebrating together!
They also happen to fall at the start of summer, when there’s still a breeze in the air. If you’ve got a workable backyard, this is the time to string up globe lights and put out the citronella candles. Outdoor speakers of some sort are a plus too (that one Green Day song must be played). And to keep the mood fun and collaborative, I recommend serving consumables that can be made-to-order. READ MORE
Season 2 of Inside Amy Schumer came to a close Tuesday night, with the episode "Slut Shaming," and the highlights are now available online. Here's "Sex Prep," in which Schumer reacts to a layover booty call by throwing a meatball across the room, quitting her job, and getting approximately 10 different waxing procedures, including something called the "Sphynx Cat." The headlines that haunt her throughout ("Is Your Pussy Too Loose to Hang Out With the Perfect Guy?") are perfect. I also loved The Gab, a parody of The View, and Bridgett Everett's NSFW cabaret number. Amy, we miss you already.
If there’s a genre of song more insidious than the Song For Women, it’s something like the Song For Men About Women. The Song For Men About Women is a song that tells men what is wrong with female behavior, in language that the majority of men, one would hope, would never dream of using in front of the woman whose behavior is being criticized.
In this week’s New York Times, music critic Jon Caramanica takes on The Song For Men About Women, in a piece that admittedly tries to go beyond the Man Explains trope, but ultimately falls victim to it. (Criticism of The Song For Men About Women is important no matter the perspective, of course.) Caramanica dissects both “Loyal,” the inescapable Chris Brown single, and “Cut Her Off,” a track by Atlanta rapper K Camp. The “Loyal” hook, which Grace Gordon mentioned on this site not too long ago, goes like so: “When a rich nigga want ya/ And your nigga can't do nothing for ya/ These hoes ain't loyal/ These hoes ain’t loyal.” On “Cut Her Off,” K Camp sings, “It ain't nothing to cut that bitch off/ So what you saying, ho?/ You know I'm the man, ho.”
“Plenty of pop is corrosive in one way or another,” writes Caramanica, “and hip-hop and R&B radio is a cornucopia of tough sex talk, aggressive seductions and more. But outright five-alarm misogyny has become increasingly rare. In the Drake era, especially, emotional accountability is at a premium and not a sign of outsiderness.
“So there’s something dishearteningly retrograde about these songs, and how they diminish women with lack of imagination and ease.
“The savvy and grotesque twist is that while you see the women screaming,” he explains, earlier in the piece, “you can’t hear them — they’re on mute.”
To a certain extent, sure: the screaming women in K Camp’s music video are on mute. And when you hear this song, or “Loyal,” on the radio, it's not likely you'll hear a follow-up response from a female voice. In fact, you’re more likely to hear “Cut Her Off” follow “Loyal” than you are anything remotely like a rebuttal. And I appreciate Caramanica’s prominent response to a topic that not only usually gets glossed over in rap criticism, but that at this point even gets blandly name-checked. That is, acknowledging an awareness of misogyny in hip hop is often treated as just another mark in The Responsible Critic’s notebook, like referencing the “correct” musical influences, or acknowledging the right producer’s vinyl collection, as guided by the specific mentor so-and-so, who was raised in the school of—trails off into jerkoff motion. But rap, and most popular music across genres, has long adopted, and continues to take on, a misogynistic narrative. There is nothing “retrograde” or “rare” about this inclination, in hip hop or elsewhere.
This isn’t a critical failing, it simply underscores the importance of perspective: women who listen to hip hop are generally not surprised by the “disheartening” nature of songs like “Loyal” and “Cut Her Off,” by their willingness to “diminish women” with a “lack of imagination and ease.” Women who listen to hip hop are “disheartened” by the nature of hip hop’s narrative as a consistent, ongoing arc that diminishes us not only with ease, but also with a seemingly willful tendency toward callousness and a total lack of ingenuity.
But even with that fatigue, most women who listen to rap would concede that the music has long sustained and even nurtured a dialogic approach to its perceived moral failings. Think Yo-Yo combatting Ice Cube on “It’s A Man’s World,” Lil’ Kim flipping the R&B seduction standard on its head in “Dreams,” Trina taking Trick Daddy down a notch in “I Don’t Need U,” La Chat getting in her words on Project Pat’s “Chickenhead,” Nicki Minaj going on Hot 97 to engage with Peter Rosenberg’s criticism, and so on: this is a music constantly in conversation with itself, and always open to the other side’s dis. The critical feminist response to “Loyal,” for that matter, was sudden and emphatic—a fact that Caramanica doesn’t acknowledge. READ MORE