Friday, December 6, 2013


This Friday belongs to Nelson Mandela. Here's Desmond Tutu's remembrance ("When he went to Britain on his farewell state visit, the police had to protect him from the crowds, which might have crushed him out of love"), a history of the anti-apartheid movement through its posters, a 2008 report from when the Nobel Peace Prize-winner was taken off America's terror watch list, Elizabeth Alexander's poem for the leader ("my life is black and filled with fortune/ Nelson Mandela is with me because I believe/ in symbols; symbols bear power; symbols demand/ power; and that is how a nation/ follows a man who leads from prison. and cannot speak to them"), Mandela's 1994 essay for Granta called "African Renaissance" ("In the distant days of antiquity, a Roman sentenced this African city to 
death"), and lastly, his incredible, resolute, all-powerful speech from 1964, delivered at his trial for sabotage, which begins, "My Lord, I am the first accused," lays out a case for violent resistance as an avenue for justice ("A government which uses force to maintain its rule teaches the oppressed to use force to oppose it"), and ends with those famous lines:

During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realized. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
| December 6, 2013


Hozier, "Take Me to Church"

Via our Hairpin pals at Neon Gold, here's a massive, brilliant song by a new Irish singer-songwriter called Hozier. "Take Me to Church" was released in the fall, and is so hook-heavy and powerfully broad, dark and bluesy that it should by rights be all over the place in 2014. The video, directly referencing the growth of anti-LGBT violence in Russia, brings this song's metaphor (Take me to church, I'll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies/ I'll tell you my sins so you can sharpen your knife/ Offer me that deathless death/ Good god, let me give you my life) into alignment with Frank Ocean's "Bad Religion," and it's beautiful.


Great Escapes from Women’s Prisons: A Brief History

Last week, I got sucked into a Wikipedia-wormhole on the subject of History’s great prison breaks. This led to some interesting reads, but turned up little to nothing on female escapees. It’s time we give some credit where it’s due.


The most screenplay-ready escape story is that of Samantha Lopez, who was whisked out of a California Federal Correctional Institution in November 1986 by her husband in a hijacked helicopter. The Helicopter Escape, it turns out, is a relatively common strategy among prison breakers, both male and female. (Wikipedia has a whole article on the subject.) It works as such: your accomplice steals a helicopter, dives it into the prison yard, scoops you up, and flies out before the guards have finished lacing up their shoes. But Samantha Lopez’s was not any regular helicopter prison break. It was a helicopter prison break of love.

Samantha Lopez met Ronald McIntosh in the prison business office, where they both worked as convicts. The couple first began dabbling in insubordination together by sneaking a kiss when the guards had their heads turned. McIntosh proposed within a year, but was soon afterwards transferred out of the prison; he left Lopez with the seemingly heart-wrenching request that she spend the next five afternoons sitting in the recreation yard, thinking of him. On day five, McIntosh appeared from above.

He had chartered the helicopter by posing as a property developer. Once in the air, he pulled a gun on the pilot; having flown helicopters in Vietnam, he was able to take control and guide it to the prison. He touched down on the prison yard for no more than 10 seconds, enough time to scoop Lopez up while her fellow inmates screamed and cheered. They ditched the helicopter a few miles away and headed to an apartment that McIntosh had rented in Sacramento.

Ultimately, it wasn’t any flaw in their escape plan that doomed them; it was their impatient love, suddenly unchaperoned and unrestrained: they used a bank account that the police were monitoring, and were nabbed at the mall on their way to pick up wedding rings.

If any of you work for the Lifetime Network, here’s some real-life imagery you would get to exploit in the made-for-TV-movie Hot and Heavy and Helicopters: The Samantha Lopez Story (…or whatever title you come up with. Honestly, it’s sort of incredible that this doesn’t already exist, anyway.):

A prison-yard full of women celebrating Lopez’s escape by waving their shirts and throwing napkins at the receding helicopter;

• Lopez and McIntosh leaning out of separate police cars after their recapture, being driven in opposite directions, calling out, “I love you!”

• Lopez identifying McIntosh, in a sentence hearing, as "the man that I know and that I love deeply."

• Their courthouse marriage in matching prison uniforms.



A prison break doesn’t need to be sensational to be great, though, as proved by five women at the Niantic Correctional Institution in Connecticut in 1984. These convicts pulled off the prison’s first maximum-security break in 10 years, and its single largest break-out of the time, simply by pushing a screen off a window, squeezing through the gaps between the window bars, and strolling off the grounds.

To me, slipping out of a prison window like some kind of Zen Houdini is more incredible than an audacious helicopter escape. The window bar gaps at Niantic Correctional were seven-and-thee-quarters inches, a little less than the length of a drinking straw, and there was no evidence of tampering other than the removed screen. The escape was made easier in that Niantic Correctional Institution is “open-campus,” which means it’s not walled or fenced in (not that walled perimeters pose much of an obstacle for any of the other escapees covered here), and a Niantic Correctional spokeswoman stated vaguely that guards “were not in the immediate area, if any were there.” READ MORE


A Few of Their Favorite Things

Tonight, NBC will air The Sound of Music Live!, a three-hour rendition starring Carrie Underwood as Maria. In preparation, some favorite things.

Teenage abandon and bobbing on TV,
Snapchats from girlfriends and outselling Britney,
Trying my best not to see diamond rings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Buying newspapers and squeezing my dollars,
Next-day delivery, efficiency scholars,
Not drones at all are you fucking kidding,
These are a few of my favorite things.

When you take photos or look my direction,
Gossip and rumors and general attention,
Unhappy daughters and press that they bring,
These are a few of my favorite things.  READ MORE

The Seven Millennial Varieties Of Modern Humanoids

If you’re anything like me—a neon-blooded selfie-taking party slug with an APPetite for Disruption and Media Diets—you’re probably flailing in an ever-spinning maelstrom of opening and closing tabs, like, all the goddamn time. (While also struggling to maintain the appearance of being human!) One oft-encountered problem we NetLords run into as the tabs careen into our fat faces with a squawking, Hitchcockian fury, is whether or not we fall into the wide chasm of the term “millennial.” It’s a classification as broad as fellow alien Metta World Peace’s shoulders—Certified Journalists have calculated the birth year of millennials to fall anywhere between 1980 and 2000. So where on this fabricated, niche spectrum of dizzying asininity should we align our portrayals? I’ve broken the category into seven simple sub-classifications to ease the process of assimilation. And remember! Your traits are generational and handpicked by a select, microscopic amount of Humans just as lost as you are pretending to be! READ MORE


The Acceptance Pie

Previously: The Gratitude Pie

Ann Friedman is doing some end-of-year reckoning.


Benedict Cumberbatch Does Thing

Jimmy Kimmel got Benedict Cumberbatch to recite lyrics from R. Kelly's "Genius" (lyrics here, song here),  dramatically, and I think if I don't acknowledge it here some sort of hatch will open up below and I will be banished to a basement somewhere. ENJOY.


Get This Look: Citrus Fruits

1. Lemons

Despite their varied uses and singularly acidic flavor, lemons weren’t widely enjoyed as a fruit for well into their storied past. One of its first recorded uses was as a pelting agent, hurled at a wayward high priest during a festival in the 90s BC. If no high priest was available, anyone who had crossed you would also suffice. When not being used as a weapon, these tough suckers were employed to cure scurvy-riddled sailors with vitamin C. Drink up that sour juice, y’all; rub it all up in your wounds while screaming in a vain attempt to prove yourself a titan. Lemons ain’t got time for your frailty.

Get The Look:

GTL – Lemons


2. Limes  READ MORE


30 Minutes of Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey released a 30-minute soft-focus short film called Tropico today. Here it is. I got to the part where she recites "Howl"; if you make it through the entire thing, please report back with highlights. (NSFW.) [Vevo]


According to Sensoree, the top makes use of Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) – the way in which the conductance of human skin changes in response to stimuli. When you are calm and at rest, skin GSR is lower than when you are anxious. While GSR has previously been exploited in lie-detectors, Sensoree has harnessed it to turn a funnel-shaped LED collar a range of colours. These are designed to indicate different levels of arousal that the firm has extrapolated to different emotional states ranging from "tranquil – Zen" (green) to "nirvana – ecstatic, blissful" (yellow). Sensoree says the technology works by attaching sensors to the wearer's hands that are then hooked up to the collar creating what it calls a Galvanic Extimacy Responder. But beware, the mood sweater will turn you red-faced if you meet the love of your life – it should glow crimson when you are "nervous – in love".
 A company has developed a sweater that *actually* broadcasts your feelings to the world. They're on sale in March, likely for the cost of 3,000 of those mood rings you bought in middle school. [Guardian]
| December 5, 2013


A 41-Step Guide to Giving Yourself a Heart Attack

1. Arrive at your parents' house in the Berkshires from Brooklyn. Your parents are not home. Your parents are at the ballet.

2. So, better make sure it’s nighttime.

3. And make sure it’s rainy.

4. Be alone (because you have no boyfriend, as you are “too picky, especially for someone your age.” –Mom)

5. Be a generally skittish person to begin with.

6. Enter the house.

7. Go back outside to get your stuff.

8. Notice that the garage door is open and you're pretty sure it wasn't before.

9. Stop and think about this for a second.

10. Go back inside.

11. Become convinced you are entering an episode of Dateline or Law & Order: SVU.

12. Realize you don’t mind that actually, then remember that neither Olivia Benson nor Elliot Stabler will come find you because you are out of their jurisdiction.

13. And because they are fictional.

14. Wonder if you’re having a psychotic break.

15. Google “psychotic break + symptoms + 36-year-old woman.”  READ MORE

Ask Polly: My Life Is A Beige Pointless Hellscape!


I don't seem to want anything all that badly. Well, I do and I don't... You talk about having a compelling vision for your life. Well, I can't seem to come up with much of one. At best everything is fuzzy. I've always wanted one of those careers where you're paid to be yourself—one where you can be funny and show off on a stage and make people laugh and be entertained. To be someone's muse and inspiration rather than the service lackey I am now. Except I took acting classes and auditioned for plays and never got in. I'm not stereotypically good looking and female, plus in the end, I can't really pull off portraying anyone but me. I suck at musical instruments, my voice is flat, and I have no flexibility so I can't dance. The closest thing I can come up with to be a stage showoff is being one of those storytelling folks, like on The Moth or NPR. This sounds very nice to me and I am entertaining at it, though I used to be more excited at the idea than I'm feeling these days. On the very few occasions when I've gotten to talk at people or show off, I've felt like THIS IS MY THING. But I have maybe one opportunity a year to do that (teaching a class or having to do a speech at work), and this year's opportunities to do that have come and gone and somehow I didn't get as much buzz from it as I remember having in the past. READ MORE


The Great Grand Canyon Cloud Inversion

This happened about a week ago.

Photo via Grand Canyon NPS/Flickr


Interview with a Santeria Priestess

Caridad is a 33-year-old teacher who lives in Los Angeles.

Were you raised in a religious tradition?

Not really. If anything, Buddhist. My grandma was a white Jewish lady who converted to Buddhism when she married my grandpa, a Japanese guy. She actually became a Zen priest herself later in life. In the Kalama Sutta, the Buddha discouraged blind dogma to any tradition—including Buddhism—so my family is very supportive of my religious choice.

When and how did you get interested in Santeria?

My late teens. I learned about it because of a project I did in community college in Oakland, a class called “Art and Thought in African American Culture.” I had a ridiculously open-ended term project, and my young ass was like, “I’ll do it on this Afro-Cuban divinatory system.”

I ended up feeling that there was a rightness to it, this non-linear, both/and worldview to replace all the either/or. I valued its emphasis on respect for your ancestors. Here, you don’t give up your history—if you were raised Muslim or Jewish or Catholic, you still honor those practices as a way of honoring the people who came before you.

But this is not a tradition that can be practiced without community, which is one of the most crucial things to understand in the age of Tumblr shamans and indigenous practices appropriated with no context. I needed a spiritual mentor to move forward with my practice, and I didn't meet my godmother until I was 21. In those intervening years I read a lot, and I’d go talk to orishas in nature and have my moments with them, but I didn’t learn the true traditional practices until later.

Let me ask you about exactly what you believe?

So, Lucumi is a better term for my practice than Santeria, and it is actually, at the core, a monotheistic tradition. We believe that there is a supreme creator, an energy force, who’s called Olodumare, Olorun or Olofi. But we also believe that we're at a level where we might not be able to understand or hold the immensity of what it means to be the creator of the universe. I personally feel like I couldn't understand God at the rawest levels of creative or destructive force. I don't think God can fit in my little peanut head!

The energies we interact with more are orishas, personified forces of nature. I am personally initiated to the river deity, who shows up in our lives as the energy of community and love, self-love, self-respect, survival and empowered femininity. She’s also the deity of blood, she’s in animals like the peacock and vulture—she's both a symbol of beauty and the thing that comes for dead bodies. And our orishas have a lot of this multiplicity.

How are you initiated to an orisha?

We don't get to choose. READ MORE


HAIM, "Forever" (Giorgio Moroder Remix)

Forgive me, this is turning out to be sort of a music-heavy day, but this remix is incredible and Giorgio Moroder is goddamn 73 and he's gone from "Love to Love You Baby" with Donna Summer in 1975 all the way to a better HAIM remix than anyone's managed to turn out this year? Salute. Don't stop before 1:20, where it starts to sound like a chorus of robots going MEOW MEOW MEOW MEOW.