Thursday, August 1, 2013
Startlingly, it's been almost a decade since Norwegian pop singer Annie released her flawless single (and Royksopp co-write) "Heartbeat," but she's back in business and really letting her sense of humor come through on this new, very true-to-form EP (one of her new songs is called "Ralph Macchio," as in the Karate Kid). Her video for "Back Together" is worth a watch even if sugary dance tracks aren't your jam: it's an early-90's throwback to music video countdown shows, in which Annie comes out on top over a list of contenders that include "Deejay Jesu" with his hit single "This Ol' House," "Utrecht Amiga Squad" with the classic chart-topper "Punishment Dance," and my favorite, "Mannie."
And the dancing. The dancing.
Other new stuff: the video for Wise Blood's "Alarm," this ambitious, lovely, weird noise-pop track that I sometimes play for two hours straight, and this very Destiny's Child-esque collaboration between Mad Decent singer Liz and reliably delightful producer Ryan Hemsworth, called "Day 'N Nite."
Over at The Atlantic, Jessica Gentile revisits Ella Cheever Thayer's Wired Love: A Romance of Dots and Dashes, a novel published in either 1879 or 1880 about a love affair between two telegraph operators, Nettie and Clem, who work in different towns. "Their conversations," writes Gentile, "and the emotional attachment that ensues, may feel eerily familiar to those who have embarked on an online relationship in the modern world."
From a conversation between Nettie and two friends, as excerpted by Gentile:
"It must be very romantic and fascinating to talk with some one so far away, a mysterious stranger too, that one has never seen," Miss Archer said, her black eyes sparkling. "I should get up a nice little sentimental affair immediately, I know I should, there is something so nice about anything with a mystery to it."
"Yes, telegraphy has its romantic side — it would be dreadfully dull if it did not," Nattie answered.
"But — now really," said Quimby, who sat on the extreme edge of the chair, with his feet some two yards apart from each other; "really, you know, now suppose — just suppose, your mysterious invisible shouldn't be — just what you think, you know. You see, I remember one or two young men in telegraph offices, whose collars and cuffs are always soiled, you know!"
"I have great faith in my 'C,'" laughed Nattie.
(Girl, if Cassie could have some words with you now.)
Gentile argues that "mystique is inherent to any mediated relationship," whether on Gchat or in telegrams. And it's somewhat of a relief to know that we've enjoyed their unraveling in public narrative form for more than a century.
This is the third installment in a series about summer camp.
There was a certain way that the old floating dock looked—the blue stubbled water carpet gradually unraveling, the well-algaed, oil-slick sides, the cracked plastic at its corners—that told me that it was a.) super dangerous and b.) the best, most important thing. You weren’t allowed to go on the floating dock, which the underpaid and overworked lifeguards tethered to the dock with a 50-foot piece of rope, without a counselor until you were 13. I mean, you weren’t allowed to do a lot of things at camp until you were 13—but once you were, it became a flirtfest of epic proportions.
And by flirtfest, I mean EVERYONE TRY AND RUN TO ONE SIDE so that lots and lots of shrieking and near-falling-off occurred. If you did fall off, you can’t imagine how awkward it was to be hoisted back up or—hell of hells—have to swim back to the main dock and its swarm of less-cools, silently wishing for their own tenure on the floating dock.
The cool boys were skinny and wore long, dripping shorts; the cool girls were well-breasted and wore flattering one pieces. No bikinis: they weren’t allowed. Neither were spaghetti strapped tank tops (“lasagna straps” = OK) midriffs, visible bras, shorts shorter than where your fingers tips naturally fell when placed at your side. Because all of those were “temptations to our Christian Brothers,” who were, if our counselors were to be believed, pulsing lumps of potential masturbation, just waiting to use our bikini-ed, spaghetti-strapped figures as objects of furtive, furious masturbation. They would be sinning, and it would be our fault. Or so the unspoken narrative went. READ MORE
Appearing here Wednesdays, Turning The Screw provides existential crisis counseling for the faint of heart. Because you can't always do who you want.
I am catnip for guys with girlfriends. Six times a guy I really felt a connection with has informed me that he has a girlfriend after we've flirted/kissed/went on incredible dates, etc. Last weekend, I met Number 6 through a friend at a music festival. We totally bonded, hung out casually all night, flirted while he walked me home and then he kissed me. Like, a "holy shit I feel like a damn woman" kiss. A feel it to your toes kiss. And I want him. He messaged me saying he wants to see me again, that he's not going to be able to get me out of his head.
The next day, when I gushed about it to our mutual friend, she was all, "Holy shit! You mean Number 6? He totally has a gf!" We checked and it was true. I haven't brought it up with him, and he's going to be in town again next weekend? I feel like his relationship problems are his own to deal with. I just want this beautiful man on my pillow, stat. I want an affair to exist in its own self-contained universe, where we can just have an awesome moment and explore this connection without anyone getting hurt, but I recognize that that's not the reality. Talk some sense into me? I am sick of missing out on incredible experiences because of my moral compass, and I'm thinking of going ahead with it.
The Maybe Other Woman?
Missing out on incredible experiences like fucking some dude with a girlfriend?
I suggest you set your sights a little higher. You sound a little proud of your status as catnip for guys with girlfriends. Serving as an intoxicant for a deeply fickle animal is not exactly an honor. One minute he's rolling around, relishing your specialness. The next minute he sees something shiny glinting across the room, or a fly batting against the window pane, and he's gone. I mean, look: he told you that he's not going to be able to get you out of his head until he sleeps with you. So fucking what? He makes you sound less like an incredible person and more like some kind of bacterial infection.
Since being posted early Monday morning, the "Camp Gyno" video advertisement for the period-supply subscription service Hello Flo has racked up almost 2 1/2 million views and been called the "funniest period commercial ever" by ABC News, the "best tampon ad in the history of the world" by HuffPo, and the "ad of the year" by Buzzfeed.
The fuss around the video has done a lot to highlight the retrograde stagnation of tampon ads at large, as well as the fact that anything related to woman's reproduction is an instant, wheel-spinning controversy magnet. You might remember this "Are Tampons Anti-Feminist?" piece from earlier this month ("The problem with invisibility is just that."), and after watching "Camp Gyno," editors at the Atlantic questioned the invisibility-friendly business model of Hello Flo as well as suggested that the company's marketing technique is infantilizing ("Don't try to make me buy into this hip lifestyle brand represented by a precocious 11-year-old").
But: "If I felt that women were supposed to be embarrassed to buy tampons, I wouldn't have called the company Hello Flo," says Naama Bloom, the founder. "I'm absolutely a feminist, and I want to use this business to create a locus of girls and women being empowered, owning themselves, having lots of information. Still, honestly, when we set out to make the video, aside from wanting to keep the irreverent tone of the brand in our heads, we were not setting out to make a girl-power manifesto. I just wanted to talk about a true thing that happens—to make an ad that women would actually recognize themselves in, to show that the reality of periods is not this hidden, sanitized thing where girls are wearing white pants and riding horses in a meadow."
Last night I talked to Bloom, as well as the ad's writers and directors Pete Marquis and Jamie McCelland, about how Camp Gyno came to be.
Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to have an unusual ad campaign?
Naama: Oh, yeah. That was one of the things I knew I could do that a bigger company couldn't—and I was glad to have that license, and to be able to do something different. And I'm going up against Proctor & Gamble and Kimberly Clarke, and doing this all on personal money, so I knew there was no other way to go. I can't buy advertising yet.
So I sat down with Pete and said, "Okay, here are the universals." Every adult remembers the one girl who got her period at school and bled through her pants. It's this inevitably social thing. Every woman remembers having, or being, that friend who just has all the information—who's somehow more advanced, and educates everyone else. That was really the genesis of Camp Gyno.
Pete: Basically, with other tampon commercials, you either mute it or change the channel. We were wondering how we could get past that barrier. Women in comedy have taken these issues to different levels recently, and tampon advertising hasn't really caught up with the times.
Flaubert to Maupassant in an 1878 letter: "You complain about fucking being ‘monotonous’. There’s a simple remedy: cut it out for a bit"
There's a long, great Guy de Maupassant review by Julian Barnes up at the London Review of Books that starts with this tidbit: "Fucking women," wrote Maupassant in a letter to his mentor Gustave Flaubert, two days before his 28th birthday, "is as monotonous as listening to male wit. I find that the news in the papers is always the same, that the vices are trivial, and that there aren’t enough different ways to compose a sentence."
Already amazing, and then Flaubert's reply:
You complain about fucking being ‘monotonous’. There’s a simple remedy: cut it out for a bit. ‘The news in the papers is always the same’? That’s the complaint of a realist – and besides, what do you know about it? You should look at things more carefully … ‘The vices are trivial’? – but everything is trivial. ‘There aren’t enough different ways to compose a sentence’? – seek and ye shall find … You must – do you hear me, my young friend? – you must work harder than you do. I suspect you of being a bit of a loafer. Too many whores! Too much rowing! Too much exercise! A civilised person needs much less locomotion than the doctors claim. You were born to be a poet: be one. Everything else is pointless – starting with your pleasures and your health: get that much into your thick skull. Besides, your health will be all the better if you follow your calling … What you lack are ‘principles’. There’s no getting over it – that’s what you have to have; it’s just a matter of finding out which ones. For an artist there is only one: everything must be sacrificed to Art … To sum up, my dear Guy, you must beware of melancholy: it’s a vice.
I need a Flaubert to set me straight like that ASAP. Also: "In 1884 [Maupassant] published more than a story a week; in 1886 three every two weeks." A blogger before his time.
I have summer fever. To me, this seasonal state involves the desire to sit poolside, a book next to me opened to damply thumbed pages, the scent of chlorine and coconut sunscreen in the air, and a cold lemonade within reach creating a puddle of condensation where it rests. Maybe it’s not a pool. I could be lying upon the sand with an ocean view, or reclining on a hammock hung on a porch, or even indoors in the comfort of air-conditioning on the hottest of summer days. Wherever I am I’m eating a popsicle, and, most likely, I’m reading a book.
There are a great many excellent summer reads, but to me, some of the most moving books of summer are the ones we read way back when we were kids on summer vacation. These stories may be five or 10 or 20 years old, or more, yet they still manage to take us right back to that childhood sense of summer, and wonder, when the days stretched out long and full of possibility, when the sun didn’t go down until 9 p.m. and we could roam free in our neighborhoods, ruling our small worlds, until then. Anything could happen by day, but by night, I'd be tucked in bed with a good book, which I could read with impunity into the wee hours because there was no school the next day. I’m a big believer in re-reading, particularly books we experienced at some long-ago time in our lives, because the power of those stories is not just in their words. They are transportive, letting us remember, re-live, and compare who we were then with who we are now.
Those of us who were avid readers in childhood—a lot of us here, I’m willing to bet—surely have at least one of such book in the deepest darkest caverns of memory (where in my imagination it smells a bit like summer camp). At the Hairpin, we have several. For Emma, it’s a tie: “I reread books a lot as a kid, and I think I made it through Maniac Magee five or six times,” she says. “It's absolutely mythical and over-the-top, and it involves a made-up baseball pitch called the ‘stop-ball,’ in which the ball just stops moving before it hits the plate. I think Maniac lives for a while in a buffalo range.” She also “repeatedly devoured the Betsy-Tacy (& Tib) series,” which she calls “VERY summer. I wanted to live on Hill Street.” So did I, and I wanted the Rays to adopt me, if only temporarily, so I could eat Mr. Ray’s onion sandwiches and go to Murmuring Lake for the summer.
Dream date: Feb. 23, 2013
Dream: There’s a stage, lit in blue and slowly revolving above a multitude of smiling angels. There’s a piano, and I’m suddenly beside it. A song finds its way into my throat, and as I wail, I stare down at the angels’ faces. One of them beams up at me. She looks like Gwyneth Paltrow, but sleek and pale and small. Hi, Gwyneth! Diamonds glitter on my neck and my hand lifts itself, queen-like. Me, just a poor West London gal with a broken heart, waving and singing to a crowd of clamoring angels?
Analysis: “Adele, I think that was the Oscars.”
Dream date: July 13, 2013
Dream: A dark glen. Babbling brook. Men in plaid. Doing work that matters. Telling stories! A woman! She was carrying cider. She smiled at me and then spilled some cider on my shoes and tried to speak and I hushed her with my mouth. Hush, girl. The other men were restless, needing cider; the woman clung to me and wept. Distantly, I heard the sound of the Internet and was terrified.
Analysis: Have to remember to get wine for The Newsroom premiere party. (Have to remember to tell Emily, Alison, and Olivia that there “isn’t a party.”)
Dream date: June 14, 2013 (*~B-DAY!!~*)
Dream: We’re upstairs. I hear Khloe and Kim fighting at the dinner table. Kanye is naked. I’m naked. We’re naked. “Black Skinhead” is playing and it sounds like Kenny G.
Analysis: Really #excited to be a #grandma!!!!!!
Photo via cwagsphoto/flickr.
Queue this movie up now to start watching at SnagFilms.
At NPR, a series of mesmerizing pictures of this very specific phenomenon—sand crystals in Afghanistan + helicopter blades = electrostatic fields that spark as they discharge—as well as the story behind why this is coming to be known as the "Kopp-Etchells Effect." War photographer Michael Yon, after taking these photos, heard of two soldiers who died in the same week: 21-year-old Benjamin Kopp, an American, and 22-year-old British fusilier Joseph Etchells. Yon attended Etchells' battlefield funeral, and was told that Etchells' dream was to be cremated and launched into the air via firework; Yon saw Kopp and Etchells listed next to each other in a roster, decided their fates were "already linked up," and started labeling his photographs with their names.
Photo credit Michael Yon.
Electric Literature's latest Recommended Reading pick, like Lindsay Hunter's Peggy Paula story of a few weeks ago, is a short and staggering piece of new fiction. "At the Fairmont" by Peter Orner details five days of thrilling, unstuck autonomy in a woman's life as she waits from her husband to come back from the war—and, upon his return, the resulting sense of thick physical finality that decouples love from expectation, and sets both ideas off at sharp angles, forever askew.
His voice echoing, booming off all that shiny porcelain. “What a life, what a life.” And what surprised her most was how unvoracious he was. She’d prepared herself for him to be voracious, to leap on her with his usual frenzy, burrowing his head into her neck like an excited gopher, and jabbing, jabbing. She’d been ready to do her part for the war effort. Out of appreciation and gratitude and patriotism. All those hours on that terrible ship. Now what Seymour wanted was love, and she couldn’t possibly give that to him. After two years away he was lean, tan, and wanting to be held—held?—and that first morning after that first endless night of his tenderly cooing (My darling, my precious darling), she’d kept inching away from him across the sheets, his fingers gently kneading her upper arm, until, sometime after dawn, she dropped off the bed.
The story is recommended, and described with rare thoughtfulness, by the great short story writer Ann Beattie:
No, we won’t last. But the stories we tell ourselves sustain us in ways we never would have suspected. Mere anecdote rarely achieves profundity, yet it does here: we’re implicated, because whether or not we want to know certain things, the revelation is indelible. It is for the character, and it is for the reader. Private moments have been exposed so that the story is no longer merely personal. When the light “leaked from beneath those heavy drapes,” the moment is almost Shakespearian, as in the moment when Polonius was discovered behind the curtains. In Orner’s story, the light—that almost deathly light—portends the illumination of the present. Once lit up, the present can only flicker and eventually fade, as life does... the prop becomes the focal point for our understanding that there is no power, no one possesses it, that hovering cherubs and pseudo-thrones aside, we are mortals with the most ordinary aspirations, and even those are compromised, more or less impossible to attain.
I don't want to spoil the plot's single surprise, but "At the Fairmont" is a damn good example of a male author writing a woman not just believably but pretty spot-on, and one of the few stories I can think of where a female character enacts a specific transgression in a way—detached even when it's resonant—that is often reserved for men.
Photo via Alden Jewel/flickr
The Capital Children's Choir, a group of 120 angels aged 7 to 18, have performed for the Pope and with the Spice Girls; they record at Abbey Road Studios, and if you haven't seen their standout cover of Florence and the Machine's "Shake It Out," I highly recommend an immediate, day-transforming time-out to do so. These kids are awesome! Now they've covered Crystal Castles' basement-hallucination breakout electro track "Untrust Us," which takes its single eerie sample ("la cocaina no es buena para su salud/ la cocaina is not good for you") from Death from Above 1979's "Dead Womb," and their ghostly, thickly layered acapella will give you chills.
The summer between high school and college I worked at a clothing store in San Francisco, taking polyester tube tops out of boxes, steaming them on hangers and carrying them across the earthquake-dinted floorboards, which glowed golden in the midday-light, to the rounders for the shop’s wealthy patrons to admire. My boss, K-, lived in a studio above a flower shop and frequently aired her romantic woes. K- had recently had sex with the bartender at the restaurant down the street from the boutique–right behind the bar, no less!–and now she had to walk three blocks out of her way just to get home at night to avoid the bartender’s gaze through the window. He wouldn’t dare come into the store.
I was 17, and K- had recently turned 25. Over the hill, she said. She chain-smoked Parliaments, pacing back and forth in front of the shop in her gleaming black heels. Men called my boss on the store phone. We had caller ID, and depending on the number that flashed across the screen when it rang, she would signal for me to run to the front to answer the phone with the tepid shop greeting and say I knew no one by K-’s name, or sometimes, when that didn’t work, she would unplug it for a few hours. K- was on a no-carb diet, Atkins, and scoffed at the burritos I gobbled in the break room. Empty carbs, she said. I brought a bagel in a paper bag on a morning I opened up the store, and hours later, I found a tremendous bite removed from the bagel’s side, a crevasse perilously near the hole at the bagel’s center; such a center cannot hold. I put my nose to the bagel’s desperate void and whiffed Parliament ash.
An older woman came into the shop one day, and my sense of time and balance shifted in her presence. She was sixty-ish and stunning: tiny and fit, with a rich olive complexion and long hair dyed a crimsony-black. I attended to her in the dressing room, filling the room with new sizes and colors as she called out to me. Sweeeeeetheart! The woman tried on jeans that clung low over her narrow hips, and then, appraising her body with satisfaction, she slapped her own ass. She promenaded in front of the three-way mirror in a silk halter-top gown that grazed her thighs. A suitor was taking her on a cruise; she needed a wardrobe.