Wednesday, December 31, 2008

So My Mom Was All, "Why Don't You Come Home Any More?" And I Was All, MOTHERRRR...

... it is because Ohio is so hugely, cartoonishly fucked up

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio state employee whose job is to prevent discrimination repeatedly sent racist and sexist [and homophobic!] e-mails from his government account, an investigation found, but kept his job. 

The same man was reprimanded a year ago for sending an e-mail joking about giving jobs to women with large breasts. 

Jokes about men kissing and a woman's genitalia, as well as a racial joke and a caricature of President-elect Barack Obama, were in the latest e-mails sent by the Transportation Department worker, according to an agency report obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.

Robert Habern, 55, is the department's equal employment opportunity contracts coordinator. 
God bless Robert Habern: providing a punchline for the "our nation can finally fulfill its great promise, but also it turns out people suck" zeitgeist of 2008 so that we don't have to. 2008: The Year Everything Changed Forever, Except for Everything that Didn't. 

Now, ladies and gentlemen, for an unparalleled example of the widely renowned - and rightfully feared - Midwestern Nice!
Department officials defended keeping Habern in his position despite the repeated violations, calling October's unpaid suspension [which was ten days long!] "pretty harsh." 

"We followed the appropriate disciplinary process," said spokesman Scott Varner. "He's been well aware that another infraction could lead to his dismissal." 

Oh, yeah, you can't be too harsh on Bob Habern. He's just kind of a joker, y'know, sometimes he maybe takes it too far, but he means well by it. He's a nice guy, plays golf with Sherry's husband. You know Sherry. She just had another kid, can you believe it, real pretty little girl. I think they named her Kayla? Anyway, I don't see why you can't make an honest joke about the gays or the blacks, you know, they're real sensitive, always thinking that somebody's out to get 'em. Anyway, we're gonna give Bob another chance, he'll come through. I know him, he's a real good guy. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

111,111,117th Meeting of Sisterhood of Sluts, loc. in Foul Caves of Wantonry: Presentation Notes

My fellow sluts: for years, we have feared this day. Since time immemorial, we have practiced our dark arts in secrecy, confident that we could continue to drain the vital fluids of this world's puny males while keeping our true natures hidden. To all appearances, we are human women, not foul succubi suckled at Lilith's teat, sent to besmirch men with our whoredom, to crush their proud faith in having slept with more people than their girlfriends and therefore being macho manly masculine men, and, ultimately, to deliver their quivering, emasculated souls to Satan, who will call them pussies and laugh at them in the locker room before snapping their asses with his dampened Hell Towel. (Ah, the Hell Towel. Most feared of all the Dark Lord's punishments, exceeding even the Wedgie of Fire!) The large, slow-witted, betesticled ones could never guess our master plan.

Or so we thought. For, against all odds, one of them has done just that. He has even exerted his wrinkly organ-sack (the one in his skull!) to write the blog post entitled "It's Easy To Identify a Slut," the blog post that, it is whispered, may at last foil our glorious scheme. His name - ah, that accursed name! - is Roissy!

We need not despair, sisters in harlotry! We have thwarted the hairy, lumbering sausage-creatures before, easily lulled as they are by our most diabolical creation, that which they call "anal." All will be well - so long as we do not reveal the existence of the Doomsday Device.

Awwwwww, CRAP.

ANYWAY, there's a dude named Roissy on the Internet, and he has apparently paid for a lot of phone sex in his time, because he has composed a blog post written entirely in the idiom of professional dirty talk about why dudes shouldn't date sluts and which behaviors are signals of slutdom.

You may be tempted to get all, "whoa, why is a dude who is so hugely into porn also so opposed to women who have sex?" Then you will realize that it totally makes sense, because mainstream porn language, if you've ever paid attention to it, is always like, "Watch this Stupid Slut Get Slammed/Pounded/Torn Up/Banged/Some Other Word Which Signifies Violence but Is Used in this Context to Connote Fucking, Because Fucking is Totally Awesome for Dudes, but She is Stupid and a Bad Person for Doing It Anyway, Hence Our Sexy Beating-Up Talk." It's gross and creepy, and can screw with your head, especially if you are inexperienced or sheltered or a little crazy in the first place. If you want an example... well, have you met Roissy?

Observe, sisters, his knowledge of our demonic ways! 


Acknowledging the Existence... of SEX!

Truly, as Roissy observes, a woman who "broaches the subject of sex first" is no more than a common slattern! Any mention of it, such as "my husband of twenty years and I are having more sex lately," or, "since I entered a convent and took a vow of celibacy, I no longer have sex," is an admission of whoredom most depraved.  

Having Preferences... in Regard to SEX!

Ladies so heartless as not to bask in "the glow of bedroom missionary sex," preferring instead the vile French arts of maybe changing positions every once in a while or giving a beej or something, anything, rather than doing the same thing over and over and then over again: 'tis pity you're all whores! Because you totally are, because Roissy says so. 

Knowing How... to have SEX!

"Hey man, nothing like getting a BJ from a chick who knows how to hit the underside with her tongue, but it does make you wonder how much dick it required for her to reach that level of professionalism," quoth Roissy. Yo brah, one learns that particular tactic by skimming any given issue of Cosmo. In his quest to find and despoil all the virgins in the land, it appears that Roissy has been getting himself some half-assed, unenthusiastic blowjobs. I, for one, am shocked!

Masturbating... while thinking of SEX!

Yes, it's true: women who own vibrators or watch porn are "high testosterone sex fiends!" One can spot such creatures by looking for "forearm hair, narrow hips, broad shoulders, a penchant for cursing, a flat ass (adjusted for race), career ambition, and status whoring." 

You know, it occurs to me that my thoughts on masturbation are pretty fucking personal, and probably none of your goddamn business. Unless you'd like to schedule some sort of high-profile panel conference on the subject, in which case you can reach me at tigerbeatdown@gmail.com!

Not Wearing Underwear All the Time, Because Underwear Covers the Genitals, and the Genitals Are Used... for SEX!

I told you, they are all in the laundry right now! Oh, AND WHAT.

Being Black. 

No jokes on this one. He just says that all black women are sluts. To be honest, I was kind of used to the vehement, disturbing misogyny at this point, so the vehement disturbing racism came as a surprise. He's complex, that Roissy. 



But wait! You are saying. (I have a bug installed in your computer. By the way, who pays to download Southland Tales from iTunes? Well, you, apparently.) Aren't all of these qualifications completely useless, applying as they do to pretty much every female person on the face of the planet at one point or another? I have asked myself the same. Those were the dark ages, before I read the final qualification on his list. For would a non-slut ever go so low as to

Imply or State Outright that Roissy Has a Small Penis, Unsuitable... for SEX?

Oh, no, wait; from the look of things (the "look" of things being that Roissy is either coming out of a bad divorce or has never touched a woman, and allays whatever insecurities he might have by creating a fantasy blog world where he is an undisputed master of poonani and gets to reject women, rather than be rejected by them, which - it is heartbreakingly obvious - is what happens in the real world) they totally would do that. 

"When I feel humongous with a girl, I know she has a normal sized snatch," Roissy writes. This means, of course, that the women he hasn't felt "humongous" with must have had huge vaginas, and must therefore be sluts, and must therefore be bad people, and that it must therefore be All Their Fault, and in no way indicative of his (huge, he swears!) dick size. 

Which is what it's about, really: looking for ways to blame us, the vile floozies of this Sisterhood (all hail the silicone vibrator attachments of Satan!) rather than allowing himself to realize that the problem is him, always has been him, and he is alone in this world, and unloved, and unlovable, and very very lonely. 

Oh, and remember our earlier talk, about encoded violence in porn language? 

"The more I feel like I’m ripping her insides to shreds, the likelier I am to move her to the front of my cherished girlfriend queue," he continues.

On a completely unrelated note, Roissy has this post about how he tested his Mystery-style seduction tactics on his three-year-old niece!

On a very much related note, EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

-- AND NOW, THE SECRET PRIZE --

You know, after dealing with something so unpleasant, it's nice to hear a song with a message. Open your heart and your mind!

Monday, December 29, 2008

OK, I Know I Should Be Making Fun of This...


... but Number Eight is just really fucking hot.

The rest of them are pretty grody ("I love your [fill in body part here]"), except for Number Six, which is totally understandable if the lady just spilled the burrito all over herself, which is of course what I would do.

[30 Hottest Things to Say to a Naked Woman]

&

[Burrito Lovers at Feministe]

The Sad Ballad of Phyllis and Betty

You know, reader, when I want well-informed, thought-provoking, responsible essays on gender as it pertains to literature (or literature as it pertains to gender) there is one publication to which I turn: the New York Times Book Review. KIDDING! Ha ha ha, woo boy, sometimes I crack myself up.

I read Bitch, of course, which published an article roughly nine billion years ago about NYTBR's tendency to ignore major new feminist works or assign them to obviously hostile reviewers, and its tendency to assign more space to writers who embrace feminist backlash (because that's "edgy" now; think of it as the old-people version of Vice) than to writers who embrace actual feminism. Bitch will no doubt be pleased to note that its article, despite being nine billion years old, is still totally true! For what did NYTBR publish, in this week's edition, but an essay on the life and work of Phyllis McGinley?

They published several other things, actually, some of which might have been good. I couldn't tell! I was unable to read them, because I had been blinded by the terrible, terrible essay on Phyllis McGinley!

Who is Phyllis McGinley? Why is there an essay about her in the New York Times Book Review? Why are she, and the essay, and the essay's author, all so crazy? I will let the essay's crazy author, noted television critic Ginia Bellafante, explain it in her own creepily approving words:
[McGinley lived] contentedly for a number of years as a wife, mother and well-known poet in Larchmont, N.Y., writing reverentially of lush lawns and country-club Sundays in The New Yorker, Harper’s and elsewhere... McGinley’s light verse sought to convey the ecstatic peace of suburban ritual, the delight in greeting a husband, in appointing a room, in going to the butcher. Anticipation pervades her work, the feeling of something quietly joyful about to happen — beloved friends coming for dessert, perhaps.
Have you barfed yet? Get it out of the way now, because this essay ("Suburban Rapture!" Is its title!) is dead set on sickening you, being as it is about how mind-blowingly great it was to be a suburban housewife in the 1950s. History students among you may recall the 1950s, along with most of the 20th century, as a time when women had precious few viable options other than becoming housewives, and even the ones that did work (or had to work, due to social marginalization and corresponding poverty - I'm not discounting that) were relegated to menial, low-paying positions with little to no hope of advancement, due to pervasive, unchecked, institutionalized sexism and racism, which were of course inextricably bound to each other and also to class! Ginia Bellafante, apparently not into this whole "history and also actual well-documented fact" thing, seems to recall the 1950s differently: as a blissful Eden, from which women were expelled when they ate from the Tree of Wanting an Actual Freaking Choice. To demonstrate how very lovely it all was (we grow good people in our small towns!) and how the elitist lib'rul media (referred to here as the "contemptuous... literary and intellectual class") just doesn't get it, she has chosen to utilize the marginal and deservedly forgotten McGinley.

The facts of McGinley's career are as such: the lady churned out a lot of crap. It was extremely commercial crap, mind you - so very commercial, in fact, that some of it was used in actual commercials, as in her many catchy jingles. She was your basic ladyhack (not to be confused with your basic Ladyhawke) and, as a ladyhack myself, I cannot judge her for cranking out women's magazine articles, children's books, and light verse that was... well, about what you would expect from a writer of commercial jingles. I can, however, judge the Pulitzer committee for awarding her a prize in 1961, a gesture which I can only interpret as proof that the nascent second wave was making a great deal of gentlemen very uncomfortable, and that they felt the need to placate the bevaginad masses by rewarding a token female who knew her place and stuck to it - er, I mean, "exhibited a uniquely feminine sensibility." For here is a sampling of the timeless, Pulitzer-worthy verse of Phyllis McGinley:

A lady is smarter than a gentleman, maybe,
She can sew a fine seam, she can have a baby,
She can use her intuition instead of her brain


... She can write sexist poems that drive you insane!

Ginia Bellafante insists (and insists, and insists) Phyllis McGinley loved being a suburban housewife, and so did lots of people, so it's just plain silly that people keep insisting that women who became housewives when it was the only economically rewarding, unstigmatized choice for women did so because it was the only economically rewarding, unstigmatized choice for women. Ginia Bellafante just doesn't understand why Betty Friedan "dismissed" McGinley as "one of the housewife writers." I mean, as Ginia Bellafante points out in her own piece, her entire career and aesthetic was about being a housewife, so you can see why that was a completely unmerited attack!

This piece is really miraculous, in that any given line has the capacity to inspire epileptic rage fits, as in, "Having married happily at 33, she loved domesticity the way a woman can only when it has come late to find her," which manages to imply within a mere 22 words that (a) "domesticity," meaning marriage and babies, is the only thing that can make a woman complete and happy, (b) women who don't have it are failures, and women who get it should be simperingly grateful, (c) THIRTY-FUCKING-THREE is late to find it, or, I'm sorry, to be found by it, since we obviously don't have any choice in the matter and can only hope to be chosen by that one very special boy, who can evaluate and reject women as if we were avocados he were squeezing for ripeness in the fucking supermarket, for he is Man, Master of All Things. Jesus, and they wonder why we drink. However, I would rather skip right over most of the piece, and deliver to you its creamy, poisonous center, which goes like this:

“A liberal arts education is not a tool like a hoe . . . or an electric mixer,” McGinley wrote, dismayed at a world she thought was conspiring to make women feel as though any acquired erudition would be wasted in a life of riffling through recipe cards. “It is a true and precious stone which can glow as wholesomely on a kitchen table as when it is put on exhibition in a jeweler’s window or bartered for bread and butter.” She went on to dismiss the already benighted suggestion that Bryn Mawr was a threat to what ought to get done in a kitchen. “Surely the ability to enjoy Heine’s exquisite melancholy in the original German,” she wrote, “will not cripple a girl’s talent for making chocolate brownies.”

McGinley’s point, an eternally divisive one, was clear: a woman who enjoyed herself as a wife and mother should not submit to imposed ambitions.
Fair enough! If you have absolutely no goals in life other than to get married and have babies, no-one should force you to discover a cure for cancer, or to make any use whatsoever of your education. However, if you do have other goals, a life spent doing nothing but making chocolate brownies would be pretty goddamn tragic. That, one suspects - and hears, from women who survived the era - was the more common scenario. And, hey, good news for ladies whose brains are capable of comprehending something other than the fine points of selecting lawn furniture: it turns out that having ambition does not automatically make you barren or unlovable! You can, in fact, have a career, a marriage, and a baby, or a career and marriage with no baby, or a baby and career with no marriage, or whatever else your heart desires. It's just strange that the women who tell us otherwise, the women who insist and insist and insist that being a wife and mother to the exclusion of all other things is an honorable and beautiful route that is not in any way limiting or likely to drive you out of your mind - women like Phyllis Schlafly, Phyllis McGinley, Caitlyn Flanagan, and the woman who seems to just love them all, or at least to be unable to frame an incisive and well-merited critique of their message, TV critic Ginia Bellafante - are only able to reach us with this message because they have, well, jobs.


--- AND NOW, THE SECRET PRIZE ---

I know, right? This post was freaking huge! I've decided that whenever I write a bonkers nutso long-winded thing like this, I should reward people who make it all the way through, as with the Cracker Jack prizes which are maybe the only reason on Earth to eat Cracker Jack, which is sticky and gross. Therefore, I present to you: women's education in the McGinley Age. Strangely, none of them seems to be studying Heine!




Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Marshmallow, A Twinkie

Sometimes I have this beautiful dream wherein my father is Steven Colbert and my mother is PJ Harvey and I am their loving child, Veronica Mars. 

Veronica Mars! She is so great! She is played by Kristin Bell, who also happens to be The Voice of Gossip Girl, and while Gossip Girl is fun - kind of like Cruel Intentions, if Cruel Intentions were a TV show, and also if its costume designer had some sort of serious mental illness that made her believe a teen Lothario should dress like The Joker going to a country club - Veronica Mars, Bell's finest work, is a teen drama about 9,000 times more implausible and entertaining. Should you be suffering from post-holiday malaise, a general lack of faith in humanity, and/or a bank account surplus of about $60, I can think of no better cure for your condition than purchasing its first season on DVD. 

We live in tough times, my friends - and no-one has it tougher than teenage girls. (Note: this is not true. I am making a point.) They cry out for role models - girls, cynical girls, tough girls, girls who are practiced in the art of the snappy comeback - and are answered with nothing more than Katy Perry's faux-rebellious misogyny and the nude (or nude-like) photos of virginal Disney stars. Girls of America, I am telling you: Veronica Mars is the model of roles you seek. Here is her very first line in her very first scene: 


I know, right? She's so grumpy! And also, a teen detective! It's totally unrealistic: in real life, detectives have to be grown-ups, and girls are all big muffin baskets full of sunshine and puppies who see the best in everyone. Oh, no, wait, only one of those things is true! 

So, anyway, at this point you are no doubt asking, "why so glum, Veronica?" The answer is complicated, including as it does (a) her best friend's murder, (b) her dad losing his job as the result of said murder, and (c) her transformation into a high school pariah, but here is maybe one of the biggest pieces of that answer, which also happens to be the precise point at which I became a fan of the show: 




Okay, here are two things: first, DO NOT LOOK AT THE RELATED LINKS. DO NOT READ THE COMMENTS. Or, if your stomach is strong, do. Because if there is one thing they will teach you, it is that rape is an ongoing and huge presence in our society, an epidemic, in fact, and there are people - lots of people, too many people - who think that is just fine and dandy, and in fact really hot. 

Which leads us straight to the second point: given the cultural climate, it is in fact incredible, and moving, and great, that Veronica Mars dared in its very first episode to introduce us to a strong, smart, identifiable female character whose personality and views on life are based in no small way on the fact that she is a rape survivor, and that they bypassed the "weepy victim" and "hysterical revenge-seeker" stereotypes to make her damaged yet determined, flawed yet admirable, likable yet never too worried about being liked - you know, kind of like a real live girl. I mean, how great is it that they never blame her for having a drink? And how sad is it that not blaming her is so unusual? Yes, the show drops the ball later, in some very major ways, but I will always be grateful for the fact that, rather than spending the entire series curled up in a fetal ball or castrating men with rusty scissors, Veronica moves ahead from being "that girl" to being this one: 



Okay, so that was a little castratey. However, it was also totally fun, and relatable, and also exactly what all of my Friday nights used to look like, which is why I don't go to that many bars any more. 

Veronica Mars is a teen drama. Its music is terrible, its premises are unrealistic, and its overall aesthetic is at times unbearably cheesy, as evidenced by the fact that I am currently watching an episode in which JTT plays a federal agent. However, as a gay rights activist whose name I cannot track down once asked, "aren't we entitled to the same mediocrity as everyone else?" The answer, say I, is yes - and the "we" of whom I speak, this time around, is girls. Cynical girls, tough girls, girls who are (or who aspire to be) practiced in the art of the snappy comeback. Girls who have a surprise hidden under that angry young woman shell: 




Twinkies, yum. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

All I Want for Christmas Is a Few New Dads

How much do I love these guys? Answer: very much. They are featured in this month's New York Magazine, which I purchased in the hopes that it would continue to cover the "women! They get drunk now!" beat. (Women Who Drink are the new Women Who Don't Always Wear Dresses, yall.) I was disappointed - sorely - but did read an interview with these guys, who, as previously mentioned, I now love. Their story is about the long and often bitter struggle for GLBT rights in America, and is therefore educative and relevant, but perhaps of equal importance is the fact that it contains several jokes:

Dietz: Although we hope whatever we do will benefit the community at large. To know a couple who have been together so long can be inspiring, especially because we look so marvelous. If we looked haggard, it wouldn’t be so inspiring.

Madson:
We got married at the Pilgrim-landing site—so much for the Puritans.

Dietz:
We were stunned and happy.

Madson:
And then it was over. We’re married. It’s two in the afternoon. What now?

Dietz:
Now we just wait for death.

Okay, dudes, here is the thing: I have had two stepfathers and a biological father, so I am neither shy nor inexperienced when it comes to investing in the Father Figures market, and having reviewed your thirty-eight-year relationship and total awesomeness re: jokes about it, I can state with some assurance that it is quite desirable. I guess what I am saying is: this Christmas, how do you feel about adopting a twenty-six-year-old child? Keep in mind that I come with my own bourbon!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Good Afternoon! I Am Your Fan.

In response to this comment thread, I have but three questions:
1: WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE.
2: WHY ARE YOU AWESOME.
3: HOW CAN I GET KIDNAPPED.
If I have omitted question marks from this series of questions, it is only to demonstrate that I AM SERIOUS ABOUT THIS YOU GUYS.

Anyway! I think it is nice to point out when people are awesome, because in my experience such people tend to go through life making things more rocking for everyone whilst sometimes secretly thinking, "is this awesome enough? Have I reached my true awesome potential? I doubt it. Perhaps I am not awesome! Not at all!"

You're wrong, awesome people. You are dead wrong. Here, I shall demonstrate, by posting several things about people of whom I am a fan. A fan... ON THE INTERNET!

Jacob A. Clifton writes about TV on the Internet. That is a very simple description of his career that in no way reflects the actual complexity and strangeness of his work. He might be of the most consistently surprising, audacious pop-culture critics working right now, and his work is worth tracking down even if you have no intention of watching the things he covers, which is a good thing for me in particular since our tastes (Gossip Girl, Battlestar Galactica, yes and yes; Farscape, really?) tend to be either perfectly on-point or wildly divergent: his work has less to do with recommending things than it does with subjecting them to rigorous, demanding analysis, which flies in the face of the received wisdom about what can or cannot be taken seriously, and which enumerates the many facets of a very specifically Cliftonian worldview. He has a different voice for every show he covers, but for accessible Clifton with lots of jokes you will maybe want to read his Gossip Girl stuff, although even that can go into weird ("Sent you a letter unto my home? To my wife, at the DUMBO loft where we make our primary residence? Where my children do even now bend and tremble with the extent of their mother's whoredom?") or mind-blowing ("we devalue, as a culture, those artifacts which are gendered specifically feminine") places. Advanced students should look into his Battlestar Galactica recaps, which are, to be blunt, some of the weirdest things being published today. Weird in a totally rewarding way, mind you! He will, for example, introduce each segment of an admittedly sub-par episode with a quote from a Stephen Crane poem, or conclude a piece with a lengthy meditation concerning redemption, forgiveness, perfection, Jungian psychology and God, which is notable both for being true and beautiful ("I think you have to look in the grossest, sweatiest, scariest angriest places to tease out any piece of God at all... I believe that only in fearless self-examination can we find understanding of others, much less the capability of loving them... Our hate, and what enrages it, tell us where we're small") and for being included in a review of a show about killer robots from space. Not bad, considering that all anyone else on that site does is to recount the plots of the TV shows in question while adding a few jokes.


Jacob A. Clifton writes about TV on the Internet, but Mindy Kaling is actually on both the TV and the Internet, seeing as how she plays Kelly Kapoor on The Office and also maintains this totally awesome blog about shopping entitled Things That I've Bought That I Love. It was recently redesigned, and I do not like it! I fear change, you guys. However, you have got to respect and love the blog that introduced the Sunday Morning Fantasy to the world, like so:

These underwear play an important role in my Sunday Morning Fantasy #27 (most women I know ages 21-31 have several dozen Sunday Morning Fantasies. I have discovered an extremely vulnerable and weirdly creative side of most women I know, that plan, cast, and set design how our Sunday mornings look in our futures. Like, somehow if a photographer where to surprise me at my house Sunday morning, I am doing something completely cool and photographable).

Sunday Morning Fantasy #27 looks like this: Park Slope, Brooklyn. I am reading the Times Book Review and eating granola and fruit in these underwear and a tank top at my kitchen table with Pharell, my boyfriend
.



These have all been really lengthy, so let's just say: This Recording would not be even half of what it is without the tireless awesomeness of Molly Lambert. She is always original, never obvious, yet never obnoxious or contrarian just for the sake of it, either. That is a hard, hard line to walk, especially if you plan to be funny at all, and yet she does it. Go read what she writes now.



Then, there is Amanda Hess of The Sexist. If you have been reading this blog long enough, you know my deal with Amanda Hess of The Sexist, namely how she is who I want to be when I grow up and all, but I feel I would be remiss if I did not point out the fact that this piece is exquisite. Is it too much to ask that everything ever published (a) adhere to list format and (c) conclude with the phrase "vagina, baby?" I do not think it is! I think we all just have to TRY HARDER.** Let Amanda Hess of The Sexist lead the way!


* I keep getting suckered into these very pretentious conversations of the cocktail-party variety about New Media and Old Media and the relative merits of each, and while generally I take a pro-Internet stance (namely: it is not print, but text itself which is dying, or at least becoming the province of amateurs; however, this will not be achieved until some time after New Media kills Old Media and feasts on its corpse, because New Media has a greater capacity to adapt and incorporate new stuff) I also sympathize with the Old Media viewpoint, which causes me to only ever say the phrase "on the internet" with what I would like to believe is a comically menacing intonation, and (in my own mind) a fanfare of trumpets. However, it's pretty hard to convey all that in mere print, let alone... ON THE INTERNET!!!!!!!!! I guess I recommend caps lock?

**It could be a term of approval, or a cunning nom de plume (has vaginababy.blogspot.com been registered? If not, be aware that THIS DESCRIPTION FITS BASICALLY EVERYBODY, as in Macbeth) or even a c'est-la-vie-esque expression of life's eternal mystery, as in "this list of links is pretty disorganized and weird. What criteria did you use to select it?" "I dunno. Vagina, baby."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tales of Overcompensation! Or: Ur So Hemingway

So, long ago and far away, in a mystical land known only as This Monday, I wound up having a conversation about Katy Perry's landmark! first! single! "Ur So Gay" and its success or failure in identifying the telling signs of a certain sort of semi-hip urban male"effeminacy" that mostly consists of not being a fratty dumbfuck with an IQ of 73, a sneering sense of entitlement, and an emotional unavailability that may or may not be due to not having any actual feelings. ("Hungry" and "boner," for the record, do not count.) Our conversation went like this:
DUDE: "Wish you were in the rain reading Hemingway?"

ME: I know! She doesn't even know what people read! Like, if you wanted him to be a "sensitive dude" cliche, why not Leonard Cohen? But she was like, "People who read are pussies, so.... Hemingway! That's, um, an author! An author who rhymes with 'gay', no less! God, Katy, you are GOOD."

DUDE: I mean, Hemingway. Yeah, that's an author I identify with gay people!

ME: Right? Like, he's so into this cartoonish overcompensatey traditional masculinity...

DUDE: Like, yeah, hunting and sports and war... not that there's anything wrong with that! I respect people who are into that! But it's totally, like...

ME: Uber-straight, uber-male, uber-ultra-traditional-masculine. The last dude you'd name-check in your "I have severely limited expectations so you are a Nancy" hit single.
So, um, in related news? Hemingway's mom used to dress him like a lady. Just want us all to be clear on that.

Welcome to the 1st Annual Do Not Want Festival! Starring: Bush! Obama! And Caffeine!

So, does everyone remember that time that I needed emergency contraception when I was eighteen, and I asked for it at a local clinic, and the doctor told me that (a) according to her faith, it was a "form of abortion," (b) that she therefore refused to give it to me, and (c) that I "should have kept my legs together?"

What? No-one remembers that? That is just the horribly scarring incident that turned me into the frothingly sex-positive pro-choice militant that I am today? Well, darn.

The good news is that, even though it would have been possible to fire Dr. McJudgey for this behavior back in the day, starting today it is totally legal and she can do it to whomever she likes with zero repercussions! And by "the good news," of course, I mean "the news that makes me want to staple my eyelids shut so that I do not have to see one more depressing piece of news today!"

Yes, George Bush has signed into effect "a sweeping new regulation that protects a broad range of health-care workers—from doctors to janitors—who refuse to participate in providing services that they believe violate their personal, moral or religious beliefs." Meaning, basically, that if it is your doctor's personal, moral belief that you are a scumbag who doesn't deserve medical treatment, or that Tuesdays are "me time" days during which patients cannot be treated even if their heads will otherwise explode, you will end up with an exploded head and the hospital can lose its funding if it fires the doctor responsible. Not to worry, though: people's heads don't explode all that often, and there's no real cultural weight on "me-time Tuesdays," so the only people this will affect are women in need of contraception or abortions! Women like Eighteen-Year-Old-Me (hey there, lady! Your outfit is atrocious) and thousands if not millions of others every year! PHEW.

So, let's sum up the day in Do Not Want:

(1) Doctors don't have to be doctors any more.
(2) This dumbfuckery is still going on.
(3) They are taking the caffeine out of Sparks.

Now I can write all day about the first two items on the list. But about that last one, I can only say: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.




Dear Mr. President Barack H. "Stands for 'Hope!'" Obama,

What's happening to us?

You and I have been involved for about a year. I'd eyed you from afar at the DNC in '04, and hoped that something might happen. Then there was that crazy, intense period last spring, when we were definitely doing something, but neither of us knew exactly what - I mean, should I commit to you, or keep my options open for the first female president? Was what I was thinking, and I know you felt that - but, by June, we seemed to have it all figured out. I was committed, and not just in some bullshit "you'll do for now" way, which (I hate to admit) is how I've been with most other candidates. I could see a real future with you. 

That's why these past months have been so rough. I mean, I guess what I'm saying is that my mental picture of your campaign was like this:


Whereas the actual pictures of your campaign have been like this:


Now, Jon Favreau may have many great qualities as a speechwriter, chief among which seems to be an ability to utilize the progressive rhetoric specific to his generation (it is mine as well, so I recognize it!) which Bush's disastrous presidency made popular even among people with no real commitment to social justice issues, while skillfully blending said rhetoric with some lyrical passages and some crowd-pleasing ambiguities, managing to convey a take on social issues and that particular subset thereof which we call "identity politics" which far outstrips that presented by any other President in terms of its intelligence, depth, and nuance, while cleverly distracting the reader or listener from the fact that nothing has been promised or even said outright. I know you like that. However, I always thought that you were more than just talk. Together, you and Jon convinced me that you knew what you were talking about - that you got it. If this photo is any indication, then Jon, at least, does not.

I get the feeling that I don't really know your gender politics any more, Mr. President. Maybe I never did. However, it says something that you kept Jon around, knowing - as you must have known - about these, shall we say, tendencies of his. What it says is not good.

That's not the end of it, either. The Larry Summers thing really hurt. I mean, it was such a betrayal. I tried to convince myself that you didn't know about his "girls are dumb" thing, but it didn't work. I mean, my mom knew about that, and she's hardly the type to spend 50% of her day surveying the feminist blogosphere like I do. You're clearly smart - my smartest President ever, I think - which means that, when you do things like this, I can't really convince myself that you "just don't know any better." You always know better. The question is whether you care.

Rick Warren, Mr. President? RICK WARREN?! Be honest: how little respect do you actually have for me? The worst, most humiliating part of it all is that I blame myself. I finally go ahead and trust a President - something I've never really done - and the next thing I know my friends are coming at me with news like this. Then you have the gall to defend yourself by saying that you "[disagree] with Pastor Warren on issues that affect the LGBT community." Um, great, me too, but what about issues that affect my community? You know: the one comprised of women? Women, whom your new BFF Rick believes should be in submission to their husbands (they will all have husbands in Rick's ideal world - even the Ls! - just as the Gs will have wives and the Bs and Ts will not exist), and to whom he would like to deny access to safe and legal abortion? Or does that not merit a mention - is that just one of those "other issues" you disagree on even though you don't apparently disagree so much that you can refrain from giving this man a crucial role in your inauguration (and your tacit approval thereby) because it's "bringing together all sides of the faith discussion in search of common ground?"

Mr. President, I'm tempted to say that you have found your common ground with Rick Warren, and it consists of being utterly dismissive and clueless re: women's issues, which at this moment both of you seem to be.

You know about my last Democratic Presidency, of course. Everyone knows about that shitshow. It was long, and intense, and although Bill and I had some good times - I'll always be grateful for the deficit - for the most part it was just scandal, scandal, scandal, all the way through. I had to overlook Paula Jones. I had to overlook Gennifer Flowers. It was fucking impossible to overlook Monica Lewinsky, although (sick to say) I tried. I was the very picture of an abused, codependent feminist voter. "I mean, I guess if you looked at these things from an outsider's perspective," I would say, "it might seem like my President is a misogynist with severe impulse control issues who exploits his institutional power in order to seduce or sexually coerce young women, engaging in sexist, demeaning, belittling cigar-in-the-pussy behavior verging on sexual assault, which I would find utterly revolting and unacceptable from any other man on the face of the planet. But you don't know him like I do. He really tries. And he's better than some of the other guys out there." Looking back at myself, all I can say is: YIKES.

I do not intend ever to get back into that place, Barack. I certainly don't intend to go there with you. As far as our Presidency goes, there will be a zero-overlooking policy.

So, Mr. President, here's the sand. I want you to watch me very carefully while I draw this here line in it. I'm going to be generous and say that you haven't crossed it yet, but you are close, very, very close, so close that the outermost grains of it are brushing against your shoe. You need to back away from this line, this line you have not quite crossed, at a speed so great it could break the sound barrier, if my support for you is to continue. Do something to show me you care. Lifting the Global Gag Rule would be a good start. I know this comes across as "needy" and "demanding" and all those other things us chicks are always being warned against - it creates a division in your party! people will be reluctant to ally themselves with you! blah! blah! blah! - but frankly, I'm a little tired of being ignored.

You do not want to cross that line, Mr. President. Hell, as they say, hath no fury like a voter base scorned. You think you had a tough time with Hillary? Just you wait.


Love,

A Lady Voter


UPDATE: Again! "Accidentally unoriginal posts" are the new "terrible sex puns" of this blog. Next week it will be "jokes that were old four years ago" and all the posts will be about Zach Braff. In summary, I guess what I am saying is: do not hire me, or consider me a person worthy of your respect. Also, read this. It's good. I guess she broke up with him before I did, but: don't all of your exes sooner or later sound the same? 

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jim Henson's Racist Babies PRESENTS: Where Are They Now?

For those familiar with the littlest Hitler, Adolf H. Campbell, who seems to exemplify the absolute worst case scenario for every adorable child you have secretly wanted to rescue from his terrifying parents after observing them in a grocery store and just knowing that whatever's going on there can't be any good, the question of whether you should name your child after a genocidal dictator and what the ramifications of that might be are obvious. (Answers: no, killing spree and/or lifelong virgin.) For those familiar with human evil as a whole, however, it also raises the question of whatever happened to those former child stars of white power, Prussian Blue

After extensive research, which comprised up to five seconds of heavy Googling, we have the answer: they became the off-brand, racist version of the Olsen twins. Observe!
 

Of course, one pair promotes a white nationalist ideology modeled on Nazism and works to exploit and strengthen an undercurrent of violent racism in American society, whereas the other pair is in a band called Prussian Blue. KIDDING. The Olsens never did anything worse than "Full House," and maybe murdering the Joker. Still, it's hard to say which pair is worse. (HINT: it is the racists.)  

UPDATE: Okay, so one thing I hate - apart from the racism - is when I write something and then immediately think, "that seemed easy; surely no-one has made that particular point before, but perhaps I'd better check...?

So, yes, okay, other people may have compared Prussian Blue to the Olsen Twins, but I'll bet none of those people have linked you to Prussian Blue Fan, a blog that appears to be maintained by Prussian Blue itself (themselves?) and contains photos of them hanging out at Natural History museums and getting ready for Homecoming that are somehow even more creepy than the band's official photos because the girls look so very normal and are not even wearing the Smiley Hitler t-shirts to signify that they are the Devil's own spawn. I, unlike those people, will link you to that blog. They don't love you like I love you. 

Articles Soon To Be Rejected by New Health & Wellness Website:

1. Yoga for people who are drunk all of the time.

2. Narcissism: personality disorder or Self-Esteem Plus?

3. Which natural herbal remedy can get you totally baked? (Hint: it's not what you think.) (Hint: oh, okay, it is.)

4. Why all of my adult relationships are apparently modeled on this clip:





(Oh, and I am writing for some new folks. If you're nice, I might link to my articles here. OR NOT. Just letting you know.)

What Do Steven D. Levitt and Summer's Eve Have In Common?


Answer: they are both douches.

Today, as you may be aware, is the Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. In a culture where it's cool to play a game that has a "fuck prostitute then beat her to get your money back" option (yeah, I know, you can kill anyone in GTA, and maybe you can even rob anyone in GTA - the prostitutes, however, are the only ones that you basically get to rape by retroactively removing the grounds for consent) that is mighty necessary.

I've known a lot of women who have worked in the sex industry - phone sex operators, dancers, pin-up girls, escorts - and they tend to have several things in common, among which are (a) amazing senses of humor, (b) a very low tolerance for any variety of bullshit, and (c) stories about being treated like subhuman trash by bosses, clients, and even friends or lovers who had "moral" objections to their jobs. The abuse they take can be emotional, financial (just ask a dancer about how club owners work - they can charge you for working in their establishment, then take a percentage of the money that you make there, meaning basically that you pay a fee for making them a profit) or, yes, all too often, physical; what matters is that sex workers can't really fight back. When you enter the industry, it seems, you're stripped of both your voice and your right to defend yourself. The other person always has a superior weapon: I may be an asshole, a con man, an abuser, or a rapist, they can say, but you're a whore. The legal system, along with most of the American public, will agree.

Sex workers are considered expendable - and, because of that fact, they're all too often targets of violence. Because of that fact, it's also not considered necessary to treat their deaths with any pretense of respect or compassion.

Look at this. Now look at this. Now, tell me that I'm wrong.

Because sex workers aren't considered fully human, it's completely acceptable to form strong opinions of them or use them as fodder for your career-making journalistic think-pieces without soliciting their input, representing their (diverse, obviously) perspectives, or even speaking to one of them. Even DFW's piece on the AVN Awards had an unfortunate "look at the freaks/what if I get a boner?" tone, but the worst example of it, in recent memory, is Female Chauvinist Pigs, a Defense-of-the-One-True-Feminism type deal by journalist Ariel Levy. Female Chauvinist Pigs contends that (a) more women these days are modeling their sexuality on that which is presented by sex workers, specifically that of porn stars and strippers - which is true, (b) it has become culturally acceptable to visit strip clubs or watch porn, even if you are a lady - which is true, and (c) all sex workers hate their jobs and are exploited and sad and never experience "authentic" arousal, which could be true (although it's, you know, not, because you can never begin a sentence with "all sex workers" and have any hope of its being accurate) although Levy would have no way of knowing that, because in her little opus on the fakeness and sadness of sex workers she does not interview a single goddamn one of them. She seems never to have considered that they might have a perspective on the matter, or that they could say anything she could not say for them.

Which, all things considered, is still a step up from writing an article in which sex workers - people, who happen to do sex work- are referred to, repeatedly, as "goods." As objects. As inhuman, removed from any discussion of human opinions, or experiences, or rights.

Just in time for the Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

Wow, what a fucking douche.

[Via and via.]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

SCIENCE FACT: People Who Take Dumb Things Seriously Maybe Kind of Dumb

In what is undoubtedly the most important and revelatory study of Scientific Matters released to date, "relationship experts" at an Edinburgh university have proclaimed that romantic comedies are guilty of - wait for it - "promoting unrealistic expectations when it comes to love."

I know! I can hear your cries of shock and denial! But es one hundred percent verdad, ladies: people who watch - and consider themselves fans of - such high quality cinematic entertainments as "Runaway Bride," "Maid in Manhattan," and "The Wedding Planner" do, in fact, tend to have crappy relationships, due to the fact that they believe in "predestined love," immediate commitment, and the idea that "if someone is meant to be with you, then they should know what you want without you telling them."

Now, I know what you are saying: this, along with your mean-spirited photo pick, is pretty sexist, Tiger Beatdown! I totally agree. These films are undeniably gendered, and so is the fact that we are reading a study of their deleterious effects on their (female, duh) audience, rather than a study of how dudes are affected by comedies that promote insidious, relationship-destroying ideas such as "your fart and poop jokes are totally sexy" or "your fear of growing up and having a committed relationship is not at all annoying or crazy," or "insanely beautiful blonde girls with high-paying, enviable media careers naturally want to end up with dudes who look and act like this."

And yet.

Romantic comedies are infantile and gross. That much, regrettably, is true; they take one of the most fascinating topics of all time, the question of how we imperfect human beings can achieve or maintain intimate relationships, and they reduce it to a set of signifiers so limited, self-referential and hollow that they leave you feeling cynical, not only about movies, but about love itself. I mean, is that really it?

"I have to write a magazine article about how to make a guy dump you - I hope I don't find lasting love in the process!"


"I have to make this totally free-spirited guy into less of a loser than usual - jeez, I hope he doesn't make me less uptight and teach me to love!"



"I plan the weddings of others, yet my own romantic life is a shambles - I hope I don't meet Matthew McConaughey! Or maybe I hope that I DO.*"

Which is not to say that I have not watched two of these three movies (with my mother, on Thanksgiving or Christmas weekends, because I was oh so very bored) or that they were not, in and of themselves, completely adequate diversions. You don't have to believe in the particular myth of love put forth by romantic comedies just because you've seen one or two of them. In the above-quoted article, there is no real differentiation made between people who watch the romantic comedies referenced within it (all of which are dumb enough to frustrate a mildly retarded hamster, should said hamster take them seriously) as entertainments and people who watch them as Works of Art. In an article that is full of mildly insulting statements, that is more insulting than anything else.


*I DO. Get it? I DO?? For the WEDDING PLANNER?????? Oh, my god, help me.

[Via.]

Monday, December 15, 2008

GREAT MOMENTS IN SMACK TALK Presents: I Say, Your Vagina Smells Atrocious!

FAIR WARNING: This post is dirty. Dirty, dirty, dirty. If your best interests are served by not reading my tasteless jokes about oral sex (ha, tasteless), or if you feel that hearing my thoughts on these matters could well scar you for life, please feel free to skip it. This will soon be followed by a post on very serious matters, such as the economy, or stabbings.

Via Renee, via the Guardian:
Napoli [football] president Aurelio De Laurentiis says English women 'do not wash their genitalia'. De Laurentiis was reacting to four Napoli players being linked with moves to England. 'If these players piss me off then, OK, they can piss off to England. But they need to understand this: the English live badly, eat badly and their women do not wash their genitalia. To them, a bidet is a mystery.'
Now, a bidet is a mystery to me too, mostly because I don't understand how squirting water up your cha-cha is supposed to make it cleaner than, I don't know, taking a bath might, but a greater mystery than that is this: why are girls the only gender whose genital stink is ever discussed?

I mean, if you were ever in high school, you remember this: girls are supposed to smell and taste like seafood, and boys were supposed to be so grossed out about this that they would actually brag about not giving head. As they grew up, they began to realize that they had better stop badmouthing vaginas, and start, you know, mouthing* them, if they wanted to get dates. So, then followed Freshman Year, during which every boy on my college campus bragged about how much he liked to give head - it was the best! it was their favorite! few guys liked to give head as much as they! was what they all said - and rather spectacularly failed to follow through on those few occasions when girls actually did call their various bluffs. OR SO I HAVE HEARD. This is not the point! The point is this: I think there are so many discussions of and "remedies" for female genital smell because dudes run the world, and most (straight) dudes have NO IDEA WHAT THEY SMELL OR TASTE LIKE in that region. Because I can assure you, boys, it's not any less offensive than what we're dishing out. Here, for the record, is how I would simulate the flavor:
  1. Get some very earthy mushrooms, such as Shiitake, and put them in a bowl.
  2. Sprinkle generously with cumin.
  3. Cover with Saran Wrap, and put in a warm, damp place, such as a moldy basement storage room with a strong steam heater.
  4. Go lick a dude's balls.
There! Smelly vaginas don't seem that bad now, do they?

Yes, as Renee points out, it is a little obnoxious that Aurelio needs to insult women in order to insult men. ("You will soon miss the high-quality vaginas of our homeland!") Yet, ultimately, on the dual fronts of Italian ball-licking and British vagina smell, I'm forced to acknowledge that maybe I just don't understand sports. For example:
In April ex-Juve general manager Luciano Moggi told Italian TV there are 'no gays in football'. 'A gay cannot play football, obviously. How could players stand naked under the showers if one was a gay? I would never sign a gay.'
This is the stirring conclusion to a news flash which begins:
Unnamed Serie C player tells Italian TV that he regularly gets paid for sex by Serie A players. 'I get €1,500 each time. They enjoy my discretion: they have clean images so can never admit they're gay. But I am discreet: they like me. I've had at least a dozen from Serie A, some from the national team, and sometimes several of them at once.'
Ha ha, Luciano Moggi is a bigot, and is therefore doomed to have his name forever associated with pro soccer gang bangs, as in "this most recent pro soccer gang bang, thought to be one of the biggest gang bangs in professional soccer, inevitably brought to mind Luciano Moggi." More importantly, however: I'll bet Unnamed Serie C player knows what I'm saying about the mushrooms. After a dude's been competing in the World Cup, that shit has got to be RIPE.


*What is this, Sex & the City? "I had to wonder: should I stop bad-mouthing vaginas and start mouthing them?" I KNOW, I KNOW, I'll stop.

What Kind of Douches Drink In Midtown?: A Scientific Article

Ladies, gentlemen: pity the office workers of Lower Midtown. They report, every day, to one of the least interesting, most tourist-heavy sections of New York. They have been accidentally included in at least 5,000 digital photos of the Empire State building. They cannot walk for more than ten feet without encountering (a) an out-of-towner in need of directions or (b) a table arrayed with knock-off handbags and/or perfume. They get home by forcing their way, inch by bloody inch, through the wall of human flesh which invariably surrounds the 34th Street - Herald Square subway station, and which, in the dark days of the Macy's Christmas window display ("look at Santa! No, seriously, stand immobile in the middle of the sidewalk with your mouth wide open, blocking all traffic, and just look!") achieves a density and force that causes one invariably to recall both salmon struggling upstream to spawn and the last moments of this guy.

Pity them, gentle readers - but, in particular, pity me. For I am just such a Lower Midtown office worker, and, last Friday night, upon finding myself with several hours to kill (I was going uptown to see someone, but it would probably be a few hours before he would be free to see me, and anyway it was entirely possible that if it took too long for him to get out of work, we wouldn't meet up at all, but given the fact that I would be meeting him in Manhattan if and when I did meet him it seemed really not at all practical to go home to Queens or even to leave Midtown, so) I found myself in need of a work-adjacent bar. Here, a few capsule reviews.

The Zipper Tavern

The Zipper Tavern is a truly superior Midtown bar. If you are have the misfortune to be sober and also stuck in Midtown, the Zipper Tavern is there to help you. This is because they have a fine selection of endrunkening beverages, and also a bartender named Andrew who is from New Zealand and loves PJ Harvey (why are Peej B-sides not continually playing everywhere? This would improve my life) and occupies some hithertofore undiscovered space on the friendly/grizzled spectrum. Oh, and also, there is an upper deck where you can (ssshhhhh) smoke while you drink, and if you appreciate the double-headed self-destruction of smoking con alcohol (my favorite scenes in Mad Men are always those wherein somebody casually lights a cigarette and pours out a Scotch on the rocks and then, like, performs brain surgery) that is just about perfect. Also, if you are me - and why aren't you, already? - Andrew will buy back lots of your drinks. This is because a year ago at this time, the Zipper Tavern was pretty much empty pretty much every night, and I and my friends were the only people who drank there, chiefly because of the whole "no Midtown douches present" factor. Then they underwent some bullshit retooling to make it more "accessible," and it promptly filled up with Normal People - I swear, I once heard one of them ask for a "cran-tini" at the bar as if that were an actual drink - with the end result being that if you do not get there early there are no good seats and the douches have taken over and you end up being a total asshole and complaining loudly to your friends that "before these tools showed up, we pretty much paid rent on this place, and now we can barely get a drink."

In related news, I was unable to go to the Zipper Tavern on Friday because it had been rented out for a private party. BALLS.

Concrete

Quick question: how misogynist is Katy Perry? Very, I am thinking; all of her Super Fun Empowering Girls Versus Boys ballads seem to hinge on hating girls and/or femininity and/or queers, usually queer dudes, because they are (in the cramped, enclosed world of Katy Perry's mind) girly. There is, of course, "I Kissed a Girl," in which other girls are tools she uses to turn on a guy, because she has no sexuality that is not a performance for the male gaze, and that's so totes empowering, obvs. There is the current single, which opens with "you change your mind / like a girl changes clothes / you PMS like a chick," because obviously the worst thing you can do to a man is compare him to a woman, because we are all awful! Then, of course, there was the trailblazing first single, "Ur So Gay," which goes something like, "you listen to indie rock and read, therefore I suspect you are a homosexual." (No one "reads in the rain," Katy. The pages get wet. Had you ever opened a book, or acquainted yourself with the physical properties of one, you would know this.)

At times, it seems that my entire life comes down to Katy Perry. I used to work for folks who shared a publicist with her, meaning that I was requested to write about 9,000 articles regarding her clothes, concerts, singles, and Feminist Impact on Pop Culture (which is, as we've established, ridiculous, AND YET: like Sex & the City or Camilla Paglia or Sarah Palin, she adheres to an anti-feminism that sells itself by yelling "girl power" a lot, and this fools many people, which is why I fear her). Not wanting to screw over my editors, whose relationship with said publicist would, I then feared, be disrupted by my agreeing to write a post on Katy Perry and turning in something that began, "Katy Perry is a festering sore on the labia of humanity," I politely requested that the assignments be turned over to other, less rageful girls. I did write one article on her eventually and it was so divided between hatred and the need to be polite about it that I now believe it to be the worst thing I have ever been paid $10 for. Now, of course, I know that I might as well have written a hit piece, since one of the Katy Perry Brand's qualities is "controversy," and bad reviews only feed the beast. I thought, after that whole thing, that I would be done with her, aside from the inevitable, "ha ha, why don't you write something about Katy Perry, ha ha ha?" ribbing that has characterized my life since she first rose to prominence. Then this popped up in my hometown. Then a friend of mine was asked to write songs for her next album. I can't wait for the breakout single, "I H8 U Because U Don't Uphold Traditional Gender Roles In Which I Am Subordinate 2 U," or, as it is alternately known, "R U a Homo?"

Anyway, guys: I could say a lot of bad things about Concrete, the bar directly next to the Zipper. I could say, for example, that it is so aggressively Normal I suspect it attracts people who think the newly Normalized Zipper is too "weird." I could say that they have a $14 cheese plate, yet the bartender doesn't know how to make a whiskey sour. I could say that I would bet they serve "cran-tinis" there. It would all be true. Yet, of all the terrible things I have to say about Concrete, the worst is this: in the time that it took me to finish one gin and tonic, I heard all three Katy Perry singles. In a row.

The Distinguished Wakamba Lounge

Oh, my God.

Oh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God.

This is the best bar I have ever been to in my life.

So, it's right next to a peep show, right, and also right next to a Gray's Papaya, which means that, at any point during your visit, you could step out for a hot dog... OR A WEINER. These are the sorts of amazing pun opportunities The Distinguished Wakamba Lounge provides. Then there is the fact that "The Distinguished" is part of its name, as if the bar were in Congress. (You know who else is "in congress?" Probably some dudes at the peep show! KAPOW. Thank you, thank you!) There is also the fact that it is decorated in the kind of kitschy plastic Hawaiian exotica that I had despaired of ever again seeing in my life, and that it is at present further augmented by being draped head-to-toe in seasonal Christmas tinsel and blinking lights, so that, when I entered, I stood dazed for several seconds, wondering, where the hell am I? like the heroine of one of those children's stories in which a lucky girl stumbles into a closet or a rabbit hole or a tornado and ends up in a surreal dreamscape.

They can make you a whiskey sour at The Distinguished Wakamba Lounge. That much is easy. What is not easy, in my experience, is trying not to stare at the bartender, who was, at the time of my visit, wearing cut-off denim hot pants and a rhinestone-encrusted leotard that was precisely the same color as her skin and was cut out around her abdomen like a particularly newfangled late '80s/early '90s swimsuit. If one got the sense that this outfit were required, one would of course be greatly offended and skeeved out, but after looking at the other bartenders, it would seem that this was not the case: like most women working food or drink service (yours truly, at one point in time, included) they were a little tarted up for tips, but not at the naked-rhinestone-swimsuit level; it would simply seem that, upon waking up that day, this particular bartender thought, "whatever shall I wear to work?" and answered her own question with, "why, a glittery leotard and some hot pants, of course." There was not a shred of irony to this outfit, yet it was ridiculous in ways Dov Charney could only ever crudely approximate and/or dream of, and when she approached me I was so viscerally struck by it that my head wobbled a little on my neck and I gained a new sympathy for the old perverts who used to steal glimpses down my shirt back when I waitressed. (Not that much sympathy. They were old perverts.) So I meekly ordered my drink and retreated to a table, where I promptly began texting everyone I knew about this AMAZING BAR.

At which point the person I had been waiting to hear from called me, and I left the bar with such speed that I actually injured myself on the door frame. Yet it is an enduring testament to the beauty and charm of the Wakamba Lounge that, for the first time in my life, I was sorry to be leaving Midtown.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Linking Time: Had I a Tumblr, I Would Tumbl Thus

I do not, so let me say: I am so glad this blog exists. Also, its latest post. I'd always known that Modern Love was iffy, but seeing all of this at once? I mean, do you all remember the woman who complained that her (convicted rapist) boyfriend was too much of a pussy? ("I found it harder to love an emasculated boyfriend than one accused of rape." Oh, and also: "During sex, any sound I made alarmed him, and he’d recoil, so I learned to stay silent." FREAKSHOW FREAKSHOW FREAKSHOW.)

Anyway, Ashley "What the Hell Happened There" Cross and her rapey boyfriend aside (oh, OK, one more: "I believe he was a boy who endeavored for hours in the dark to express his drunken, fumbling desire in a way that, fair or not, ended up unraveling his life. I wish he had found me first." AUUUUGHHHHHHHHHHH) there is one portion of the post that, had I a Tumblr, I would Tumbl so:

perfectratio:

Due to my unshakable professionalism and/or the laws of human and/or Internet decency, I will restrict my comments to: well, that explains a lot.

Wait a Second...

WHAT.


So, for those keeping track, that's Marilyn, Jayne, and Betty (the most shameless, and therefore most lovable one - you've got to like a girl who can fondle a riding crop while smiling like she's in a Sears family portrait) gone. It's weird that people think of '50s porn as cute, harmless "vintage erotica" - like, yeah, right, the porn industry was much less exploitative back when it was RUN BY MOBSTERS - while condemning sex workers who are alive and active today. However, there's no denying that pretty people were prettier back then. There's a reason that Madonna will never be Marilyn, and that Chloe will never be Betty Page. Thank God Mamie van Doren is still around and selling boob prints. When she passes, it will be the end of an age.


Sense and Sensibility: It Is Not Everyone Who Has Your Passion For Dead Leaves

Anyone who takes it upon herself to write lady business book reviews must, sooner or later, file a piece on Jane Austen. (It is a truth universally acknowledged! Ha, NO.) Austen seems to be the ultimate Chick Writer: canonical, virtuosic, indisputably important in terms of both technique and influence, yet widely mocked or ignored outside her circle of avid fans, simply because she wrote about, well, girly stuff. When I tell people that the three writers I admire most, as Voices, are (a) Joan Didion, (b) David Foster Wallace, and (c) Jane Austen, people who know Didion and Wallace tend to agree, or at least to respect the sentiment, but Austen... she's some sort of proto-chick-lit writer, isn't she? And: I'm surprised to know you read her. I always thought that she wrote sappy romance stuff.

Yikes.

***

Austen's fans, it must be said, have not helped her case: the sheer amount of sentimental crap "based on" or "inspired by" Jane would be enough to scare away any serious reader. Even worse, Austen has been accused of inventing chick lit itself. Better clear this up now: like Shakespeare, Jane Austen wrote plots that people felt comfortable "adapting" to suit their own tastes, with mixed results. Shakespeare has Ten Things I Hate About You and She's the Man, amongst others; Austen has Bridget Jones' Diary and Clueless. BJ did, in fact, spawn the current mass of chick lit, but Austen is no more responsible for that than Shakespeare is for Amanda Bynes. In my experience, people don't tend to denigrate or avoid Shakespeare because of She's the Man. They do, however, feel perfectly justified in avoiding Jane Austen because of Bridget Jones.

The saddest thing about this is that the people who are most appalled by contemporary representations of Austen - people who shudder at the cozy, syrupy, suburban, anti-intellectual horseshit on display here,* let's say - are the people who might most enjoy her work. The woman was anything but cozy. Here, for example, is a passage from one of her personal letters:
Mrs. Hall of Sherbourn was brought to bed yesterday of a dead child, some weeks before she expected, owing to a fright -- I suppose she happened unawares to look at her husband.
This sentence demonstrates everything that made Jane Austen great. Note, for example, how carefully it's plotted: there is a lengthy, twenty-eight word set-up, during which Austen lulls us into a false sense of security with her proper, subdued, nearly journalistic language ("Mrs. Hall of Sherbourn was brought to bed yesterday," who what where when), followed by a shockingly brutal four word punch line, the full impact of which is not felt until the final word. See how effortlessly she shifts between the three voices in the sentence: restrained and declarative ("Mrs. Hall of Sherbourn," etc.), breezily conversational ("I suppose she happened"), and stone-cold cruel ("husband"). Note, too, the role of punctuation: the quiet, steady rhythm of the commas, followed by the dash -- like a comedian pausing for a beat before the laugh line -- and then the quick, unresisted rhythm of the payoff. Even at her most casual, Austen was never less than totally in control of her technique.

Also, careful readers will note that this is a dead baby joke. About an actual dead baby. At its father's expense. So, there's that.

***

So, where to start?
Pride and Prejudice is Austen's most charming book; Emma represents the perfect balance between her early, goofy work and her later, more serious endeavors. Still, my favorite Austen book has always been Sense & Sensibility. Since it is, among other things, a book about the liabilities of good taste, it seems like a good introduction for a skeptic.

The book opens with a scene that would not be out-of-place in a fairy tale: a father, on his deathbed, makes his son promise to provide for his stepmother and three half-sisters. The son, deeply moved by his father's dying words, pauses only to consort with his wife ("To be sure... [an annuity] is better than parting with fifteen hundred pounds at once. But, then, if Mrs. Dashwood should live fifteen years we shall be completely taken in") before obligingly taking all of their money and kicking them out of their house. Thus disinherited, the mother and daughters move to a dismal little cottage in the middle of nowhere. The four women have only one hope of escape or financial betterment: someone's got to marry a rich dude, quick.

The plot centers, therefore, on the two daughters of marriageable age, Marianne and Elinor. Marianne is passionate, gorgeous, and deeply in thrall to the fashionable Romantic sensibility of her age. Elinor, on the other hand, is smart and funny, and a substantial amount of her time is spent mocking Marianne's exquisite taste. Here are the sisters:
"How does dear, dear Norland look?" cried Marianne.

"Dear, dear Norland," said Elinor, "probably looks much as it always does at this time of the year. The woods and walks thickly covered with dead leaves."

"Oh," cried Marianne, "with what transporting sensation have I formerly seen them fall! How have I delighted, as I walked, to see them driven in showers about me by the wind! What feelings have they, the season, the air altogether inspired! Now there is no one to regard them. They are seen only as a nuisance, swept hastily off, and driven as much as possible from the sight."

"It is not every one," said Elinor, "who has your passion for dead leaves."

"No," Marianne replies, "my feelings are not often shared, not often understood." It is this statement, infuriating as it may be, which provides a key to the novel. Marianne, like every teenager, hipster, and/or LiveJournal user who ever walked the earth, believes that her feelings are unique and special, though they are anything but; because she's not polite enough to conceal or control them, she assumes that those who do have no feelings at all.

On to the marrying. Elinor falls for the dependable, kind-hearted, deeply boring Edward Ferrars, whereas Marianne falls for the not-at-all-boring Willoughby, whom she meets when he arrives in the rain (!) on a stallion (!!) after she has taken a fall (!!!) and carries her in his arms (!!!!!!infinity!) back to her house. After a promising start with Elinor, Ferrars becomes unaccountably cold and distant, which is just oh so much fun for Elinor, especially considering the fact that Willoughby and Marianne are by that point so passionately, demonstratively in love they might as well be fucking in the town square. It gets even better when Elinor learns the reason for Edward's coolness: he is, in fact, secretly engaged to someone else. But while Elinor is forging bravely ahead with her broken heart, like the good little soldier that she is, Marianne learns that Willoughby is - you guessed it - secretly engaged to someone else. At this point, Marianne loses her shit entirely, and the novel's true theme comes to the forefront.

Sense & Sensibility is not a comedy about marriage, although marriage is involved. It is not even a comedy about money, although money, as always, has a lot to do with it. It is simply this: a comedy about sadness, and how to get through it intact.

***

By this point, I have written some words that may freak you out: marrying, in love, secretly engaged. This, you are thinking, is that sappy romance stuff! Fear not, good reader: Austen's characters, much like actual humans, do in fact care for each other, struggle to find committed relationships, and fuck up as much or more than they succeed. However, Austen - that lifelong virgin - never takes a particularly sentimental view.

Austen was a comic genius precisely because she combined a freakishly keen understanding of human nature with an icy detachment. Unrestrained passion, in Austen's work, is always either a moral failing or a lapse in judgment. Like Shakespeare, she wrote happy engagements, but no happy marriages; her novels end, tellingly, with her protagonists' weddings, and one always gets the sense that, if her protagonists stay happy together, it will be an exceptional accomplishment. Witness this charming little scene from Sense & Sensibility, between husband, wife, and mother-in-law:

"You and I, Sir John," said Mrs. Jennings, "should not stand upon such ceremony."

"Then you would be very ill-bred," cried Mr. Palmer.

"My love you contradict every body," said his wife with her usual laugh. "Do you know that you are quite rude?"

"I did not know I contradicted any body in calling your mother ill-bred."**

"Ay, you may abuse me as you please," said the good-natured old lady, "you have taken Charlotte off my hands, and cannot give her back again. So there I have the whip hand of you."

Charlotte laughed heartily to think that her husband could not get rid of her; and exultingly said, she did not care how cross he was to her, as they must live together.
So that's marriage. What about babies - dear, sweet little babies? Well, as we've established, if they're dead, they're fair game. On the living-baby front, the Dashwoods are initially disinherited, through a baroque, typically Austenian system of entailments and endowments, due to their great-uncle's fondness for just such a creature, who possessed "such attractions as are by no means unusual in children of two or three years old; an imperfect articulation, an earnest desire of having his own way, many cunning tricks, and a great deal of noise." The affection of mothers for small children is also a frequent object of derision. One gets the sense that Austen had no patience for anyone who couldn't keep up a steady stream of sparkling banter, and that children were therefore beneath her notice.

So, marriage, out; babies, out likewise. How did she feel about puppies?

Oh, dear God, let's not even get into how she felt about puppies.

SPOILER: It wasn't good.


***

So, as the men fade out of the picture, to be regained or replaced as necessary, we are left with the two sisters - Elinor and Marianne, Sense and Sensibility - and their ongoing argument about the nature of sorrow.

This dialogue has been going on since the first pages of the book, actually, ever since that weirdly bracing passage in which Marianne and her mother respond to Mr. Dashwood's death by "[giving] themselves up wholly to their sorrow, seeking increase of wretchedness in every reflection that could afford it, and resolv[ing] against ever admitting consolation in future." You have a choice, Austen is saying. Master your grief, or else it will master you.

Elinor, who believes there is honor in fighting through the pain, conceals not only her sadness, but its cause: she tells no-one about Edward's engagement, and befriends his loathsome fiance. Marianne, faced with the same problems, stops eating, sleeping, and even speaking. Here, Elinor finally confronts her:
Elinor could no longer witness this torrent of unresisted grief in silence.

"Exert yourself, dear Marianne," she cried, "if you would not kill yourself and all who love you. Think of your mother; think of her misery while YOU suffer: for her sake you must exert yourself."

"I cannot, I cannot," cried Marianne; "leave me, leave me, if I distress you; leave me, hate me, forget me! but do not torture me so. Oh! how easy for those, who have no sorrow of their own to talk of exertion! Happy, happy Elinor, YOU cannot have an idea of what I suffer."
But, of course, she does. Everyone, in fact, has some idea of suffering: Elinor, obviously, but also Mrs. Palmer, whose husband cannot get rid of her, and Mr. Palmer, who cannot get rid of his wife, and Mrs. Dashwood, who is allowed about three pages to grieve for her husband, and even Edward and Willoughby, engaged to women they don't love, out of duty (in Edward's case) or for money (in Willoughby's). For most of the book, in fact, Marianne scorns the advances of one Colonel Brandon, who turns out to have survived not only the forced severance of his first engagement, but his first love's pregnancy by another man, her early death, and her daughter's subsequent seduction and impregnation by Willoughby, who of course also happens to be dating the girl he has a crush on, all of which he is too much of a gentleman to mention. In this context, what stands out is not Marianne's pain, but her selfishness. This, however, is something you can never communicate to Marianne, or to anyone like her. This is also the reason that, as the book winds to a close, Elinor is in a sickroom, tending to Marianne, whereas Marianne is in a coma, nearing death.
***

At this point, there are the obvious questions: whether Marianne lives, whether Edward is ever loosed from the clutches of his dread fiance, whether Willoughby is punished for his actions (which are really the same as Edward's, but we the readers historically do not care - Willoughby is a dick!), and whether the surprisingly attractive Brandon ever gets his rocks off with a lady half his age. To these, I say: THIS IS JANE AUSTEN, DUH. Comedies are tragedies that don't happen. Jane Austen wrote comedies. This, I trust, you know. But here, in one of the most delicate and quietly devastating conclusions of any novel I've read, she revisits Willoughby - and all the blind youthful love he represents - shortly after Marianne marries someone else:
That he was for ever inconsolable, that he fled from society, or contracted an habitual gloom of temper, or died of a broken heart, must not be depended on—for he did neither. He lived to exert, and frequently to enjoy himself. His wife was not always out of humour, nor his home always uncomfortable; and in his breed of horses and dogs, and in sporting of every kind, he found no inconsiderable degree of domestic felicity.

For Marianne, however—in spite of his incivility in surviving her loss—he always retained that decided regard which interested him in every thing that befell her...

And among the merits and the happiness of Elinor and Marianne, let it not be ranked as the least considerable, that though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands.

So, there you have it. Love fades, or you learn to live without it, and everyone - villains, heroines, stoics and Romantics - ends up sort of, kind of happy, or at least not that sad. There is the real beauty: Jane Austen, notorious writer of sappy, girly, sticky romance, ends her novel, not with a wedding, but by saying, basically, You can get over anything - and, hey, it could be worse.

* Oh, God, don't click on that link. I have to include it, if only to address the fact that it exists, but I fear anyone who sees it will be forced, as I have been, to scream, cry, or vomit up his or her intestines.


**So, for the record, Austen can pull off not only a dead baby joke, but also a "yo momma" joke, when called upon to do so. And, okay, Jane Austen film adaptations invariably suck, because the actors overplay everything (it's deadpan humor, people, DEADPAN!) and the writers sap and sex the books up beyond recognition, but there is one golden exception to that rule, which is that Mr. "Your Mother Can Suck My Ass, Dear" Palmer is played in Emma Thompson's S&S by... Hugh Laurie. Fucking House. He's unsurprisingly perfect in the role. Probably not so very perfect that you should actually watch the movie, which does tend to blow, but hey: want to see a picture of Hugh Laurie wearing a silly hat? I know you do! Here goes: