Monday, July 26, 2010

On Popularity and Assless Chaps

"I wasn't very cool in high school, so sometimes I abuse this part. Do you think I'm sexy?"
-Lady Gaga

I was totally on board with Lady Gaga at the beginning. It's fun music--poppy and dirty and even funny, good to dance to and even better to yell-sing after just enough jungle juice. I actually thought the "Telephone" video was awesome--I mean, if you're going to go crazy, you should go balls-to-the-wall cracked-out batshit insane, right? And undeniably, preaching safe sex, AIDS prevention and embracing your own weirdness to an audience of millions is a good thing. But I think I've finally fallen off the Gaga wagon.

Here's the thing. I'm really, really tired of her blabbing around about how she wasn't popular in high school, and how that somehow makes her special, and I'm tired of people saying she's some kind of saint for anyone who was ever uncool. (First of all, no matter what weird Frank-Gehry-meets-David-Bowie getup she parades around in, she's still conventionally attractive. She's skinny and pretty, with nice boobs and a boatload of genuine talent. Cry me a fucking river.)

My high school years weren't terrible, but I think that was because I kept a fairly healthy perspective that it was, well, just high school. Yes, I had friends, played a sport, got a prom date...all the things that equal social success in high school, but I was uncool. I was homeschooled until eighth grade. I played the viola. (Playing an instrument-besides the guitar, of course- is social suicide enough, but any instrument that you have to explain is doubly so.) I went to exactly one football game. Sure, high school slights can feel like the end of the world when they're happening to you--but most of us graduate, grow up and move the fuck on.

Having been unpopular in high school is simply not the basis for an artistic career, despite the sucess of Johns Hughes and Cusack. True, no good art ever came from kids who sat at the right lunch table. But do you remember how many people sat at the right lunch table? About twelve. The rest of us were frizzy-haired, brace-faced, pimply, awkward kids who played the bassoon and wore the wrong brand of jeans and were too smart or too dumb or too fat or too skinny--and you know what? We survived. Some creative people like to cling to some of that adolescent angst, talking about how misunderstood they are. However, there's a very important distinction between talking about how misunderstood you are and actually making art that is misunderstood. And I'm sorry, but "Love Games" is not Nude Descending a Staircase.

Gaga can really sing, and she's a breath of fresh air in a world of Britneys and Jessicas. But if life is high school, she's not the real outcast. That kid--in this analogy maybe David Foster Wallace, or Steve McQueen--is quietly sitting in the back of the classroom. Meanwhile Lady Gaga is trying--obviously, desperately--to look like that outcast, only with more sparkles and pleather and a set list of good but decidedly conventional pop songs about getting drunk and making out with boys. She's trying to style herself as a misfit, because she thinks "real artists" are supposed to be outcasts. But bitching about how nobody thought you were pretty in high school is not art--and it's pretty damn boring.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I Blog Like...

I started blogging because I wanted to make myself write something, if not every day then at least several times a week. When I write creatively--i.e. not something like the 1500 word piece de resistance on lobster that I'm procrastinating on as we speak--I tend to get an idea (usually in the shower, for some reason) and then spend the rest of the day or night getting it out onto paper. I find that working full time and holding down even a few reasonably normal human relationships tends to put a damper on said late night crazy writer binges, so I wanted to stay sharp with some shorter stuff. Somebody (I think it was Billy Collins but I could be making that up) once said that the muse visits you while you're writing, not before. Because inspiration is almost never a muse whispering in your ear--it's more like a vague, uncatchable mosquito buzzing around your head. Sometimes you have to sit at the desk, start putting words on the page and give that sucker somewhere to land. Hence, a blog. (Admittedly, it's pretty much the most narcissistic thing in the world to be blabbing all over the place about your blog and your "process" or whatever. But guess what--it's my blog!)

Which brings me to I Write Like , the peculiar web app that's puzzling professional writers and, I suspect, delighting quite a few fanboy types by telling them that they write like Chuck Palahniuk or David Foster Wallace. (You know the ones...they're the English majors who call themselves writers but really major in smoking outside Ham Smith and almost never actually write anything) It's pretty much an algorithmical ego-stroking machine for English majors, and it's one of those epic time wasters that keeps writers from actually sitting down and doing the dirty work of writing. It's also pretty much full of shit.

First of all, it tells pretty much everyone-- including Margaret Atwood, Herman Melville and me--that they write like Stephen King. I was pretty curious, and feeling about as desperate for affirmation as a fourteen-year-old writing a Facebook status about how fat she is, I pasted in a few different passages and waited nervously. What if I got Danielle Steele? Or Elizabeth Gilbert? Or Lauren Weisberger?

Turns out, I shouldn't have worried for my oh-so-delicate self-esteem. I've gotten King, Gertrude Stein, David Foster Wallace, and Margaret Atwood--the literary equivalent of exclaiming over how thin I am. Compliments, sure. True, no. Obviously, I'm not as good as them, but...well, I just don't write like them. Of course, when DFW came back for my Sarah Palin post I felt pretty good about myself--which is exactly the point. Interestingly enough, Wallace is also the answer you get when you paste in the lyrics to Kesha's (I am not typing that dollar sign) "Blah Blah Blah," which includes the immortal lyric "don't be a little bitch with your chit chat/just show me where your dick's at", so take that into consideration.

Sure, it feels nice to have some software program tell you you're the next Hemingway. You can even get a "badge" to put on your blog saying so:

Ke$ha writes like
David Foster Wallace

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

But guess what? We already had a Hemingway, and he was better. Skip this doohickey--although I know if you're a writer you're already trying it out because the idea is irresistible--and instead sit down, stop putzing around on the Internet, and write.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Important Thing of the Day

This Scottish PSA (down at the bottom because I'm terrible at formatting) showed up on Broadsheet today, and although I know I've got approximately 3 people who read this blog I wanted to share it because I think it's really pertinent for college students. Something that really, really bugs me-- and not the way American Apparel or even Sarah Palin bugs me--is the attitude that college students, male and female, have towards rape. Because the fact is that even girls have an insanely blase attitude about it. Sure, not about armed, violent, To Catch a Predator stuff--everybody knows that's wrong. But--and this is just my perception as a college-age woman--there's a disgustingly passive feeling about date rape.

I'm not going to lay into fraternities...we all know that they're not exactly the safest place in the world for a drunk girl. The group I want to address is my peers: the nice girls. We are nice. We come from nice families, nice neighborhoods, nice high schools. We have nice friends and maybe nice boyfriends. And some of us are the worst rape apologists since everyone who signed that bullshit Roman Polanski petition. It has to stop. Here's the way the thinking goes. Those girls who get raped get too wasted, dress too slutty, do stupid things, get themselves into bad situations and probably deserve it. If they let themselves get too drunk to say no, they probably deserve it. If they walk home alone, they probably deserve it. We are nice girls, so we're smart. We walk in groups, don't get too drunk, don't dress too slutty. So that could never happen to us.

Yeah, right.

It can happen to anyone, chickadees. Sure, don't be a moron. But don't go around saying that a woman who's gone through one of the most traumatic things the human psyche can experience was asking for it. Have a little goddamn empathy. I mean, whatever happened to sisterhood?
The idea that anyone "deserves" or is "asking for" rape is so disgusting, so morally out-of-whack that I have a hard time even writing something coherent about it--and the notion that women are talking this way about other women is even worse. The idea that women have to dress a behave a certain way in order to avoid rape basically excuses all the dudes who are actually, uh, going around raping people. This nice girl is calling bullshit.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Scoring Sarah's "Mama Grizzly" Video

Sarah. Oh, Sarah. You have your reality show, your designer clothes and your sexy spread in Runner's World. Bristol is even getting a cameo on the Secret Life of the American Teenager, that bastion of right-wing sexual politics masquerading as an after-school special. Isn't that enough? You've achieved the American dream: you've capitalized on being a quitter. Sure, you were a successful pageant queen, but you switched colleges approximately 17 times, brought down any hope McCain had of earning moderate votes, and then quit being governor of a state where your pet project was slaughtering wolves from helicopters. But apparently your cushy speaking engagements and the book deals, which induce hysterical sobbing fits in rejection-ragged writers, are not enough. You are shooting higher. You aren't saying that you're running for president, but you are hinting that you are both a Mama Grizzly and a pink elephant, and I think we all know what that means.

You've created something called Sarah PAC, which is kicking off its fundraising efforts with this video. Inevitably, you're going to quit this too and use the money to buy more Barbie-goes-to-Washington outfits and maybe a new jogging stroller for Tripod and Tripplehorn, but you're going to milk this thing for all it's worth. Here you are giving flowers to little girls! Here you are taking photos with working class citizens of the "real America"--who despite all their bootstrappyness are of course sufficiently clean-cut and white! Here you are blathering about being a grizzly bear!

OK ready?

Video Scorecard
Times Sarah says "women" : 6
Hugs: 3
Babies: 4
Black people: 1
Grammatical mistakes on Tea Party signs: 3
Instances where Sarah stares dreamily into soft flattering light: 2

Grizzly bears are defensive, irrational, somewhat dim animals. So are you, Sarah. It's not that I begrudge you the comparison. It's just that suggesting that we want one running the country is kind of insulting, even to people who can't operate quotation marks. See, I don't really want any sort of bear--polar, kodiak, gummi--running my country. I'm pretty okay with the fact that we've got a Harvard law professor in the White House. But then again, I live in fake America, where we want actual smart people running the country. Real America seems to be eating this shit up-- so snaps for you, Sarahcuda.

My real problem is your insinuation that so-called "women's issues" are also Conservative issues. Because you know what I'm a grizzly bear about? Accessible health care, reproductive rights, human rights, conservation, education, gay marriage...and I don't know, not killing everything. In your world it's cool to kill almost anything--wolves, polar bears, illegal immigrants--but if you want a morning after pill you're shit out of luck. In your world, it's fine for your daughter to (almost) marry into a family of meth dealers, but a couple of tax-paying law-abiding citizens, both of whom happen to have penises, can't get married. You envision a world where we all drive to hockey practice in military grade vehicles called things like "Denali" and "Tundra", conveniently named after the places we raped to get the oil to run them. That's not the world I want to live in, Sarah--and as a woman I'd appreciate it if you stopped speaking for me.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Recession Busting

I am pretty tired of seeing articles about how to be a “recessionista.” They just refuse to go away. For those of you who have not lately been skulking around a Rite Aid reading Cosmopolitan (tucked inside a copy of the New Yorker, obviously...I have cred to maintain), a recessionista is a woman who is finding creative ways to beat the recession while still being fabulous. Or something. Setting aside the sheer stupidity of the word, a recessionista is really just someone who paints her toenails at home instead of getting a pedicure at a salon. Apparently Ming at Lucky Nail is in league with Goldman Sachs now. Yes, that's how we're going to beat the recession, ladies. Home pedicures.

Now, bleeding heart liberal that I am, I'm offended that anyone's whining about not being able to afford a pedicure when there are people in this country who don't have enough to eat, but I'm not going to go there because I'll get really worked up and it won't be pretty. (One of these days I'm going to scrape together five dollars and actually buy a copy of Cosmo for the express purpose of ripping it apart here, but I had to buy lunch today so you're out of luck.) What I really find ridiculous about these articles is that the tips aren't even that great—and so I came up with a few of my own. These are not Suze Orman tips, and they're not tips from my crush Paul Krugman. (What?! He looks like Clooney and he can explain the federal deficit to you in entertaining yet informative prose!)
So this is not the New Deal--these are starving intern tips. But being a college student, I figure I know a hell of a lot more about saving money than some hack at Cosmo. (who presumably has a job at a magazine in this economy. Bitch.) So here we go.
1.Live at home. It's not fun, I know, to be in your twenties and still sharing a room with your sister and her stank-ass field hockey equipment and God knows what else, but it's the world we live in. If you're a student and serious about saving money--and they'll still take you--you're better off living with the rents whenever it's geographically feasible.

2.Get a library card. Now, my library sucks and all they stock is Twilight knock-offs and various romance novels about sexually repressed middle aged women (sometimes they're Mormons, sometimes they're Upper East siders, sometimes they're even vampires!) BUT they actually have a pretty awesome CD collection, a sizable portion of which I've ripped onto my computer. For someone like me who pours a good chunk of her paycheck straight into the pockets of Bullmoose Music, this is huge. Not legal, per se, but it's a recession!

3.Pack your lunch. Actually, I won't lie--my awesome mother usually packs my lunch. But this is the biggest money-saving tip I can give you. I walked half a mile to pay ten dollars for a goddamn salad and Diet Coke today (I don't usually eat like Posh Spice, today was a fluke)—but that'd be sixty bucks a week if I did it every day. Do you realize how much peanut butter and bread sixty dollars buys??

4.Save your pennies. I'm not even joking. Save them up in a coffee can and in six months or so dump them in one of those Coinstar machines. I usually come up with forty or fifty bucks—and when you're operating on a college student's budget, a spare $50 is a fortune. (That's like three thirty racks...four if you can stomach Keystone) I bought all my spring clothes this way. (Do get it in cash form first...although I've paid for stuff with loose change too. Michelle from Walgreens, I'm sorry. I really needed that had a date with some raspberry Smirnoff.)

5. Stop smoking so much weed, you guys. I don't have anything against it and I think it should be legal and that it's no biggie if you do it once in awhile and blah blah blah, but that shit is
expensive. You, with the drug rug and the vape and the wake and bake habit? Trust me, your friends are tired of driving you around because you spent all your gas money on weed. Or else they think you're an entitled douche because you spend your parents' money on weed. Either way, no one likes you.
6.Just stop buying so much shit. It's bad for the Earth, it's bad for the Southeast Asian preschoolers who are making it, and it's bad for your wallet. Plus it's bad for you on a spiritual level, if you believe in that—we have a way of thinking we'll be happy if we just have more stuff. Did you learn nothing from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood? Jesus Christ. My point is, just think a little harder before you head to the register. Buy a little less. Try it, you'll like it.

Monday, July 5, 2010


So my grandfather died this week. I don’t mean to be insensitive, but...well, no biggie. I didn’t know him, and he caused a lot of grief for the whole family that way too twisted to get into here. This post isn’t about him…although if we want to get super Freudian it probably is. Just being real with you.

My mom asked if I wanted to read at the funeral, and my knee-jerk reaction was to say no. My relationship with the Catholic Church is really only surpassed in fucked-uped-ness by my late grandfather’s relationship with his kids. I didn’t really want to get up in a Church that doesn’t want me, and give a reading at the funeral of a man who didn’t want to know me.

I went through all eight years of CCD and two years of Confirmation classes. I got baptized, first communioned, and confirmed. I know the prayers and the songs and the order of the Mass. But then I see the pope on TV pope-ing around Africa telling people that they’re sinners if they use condoms to, you know, prevent AIDS and I have to pause. Some radical pro-lifer blows up a Planned Parenthood clinic and kills two nurses, and I have to pause. I read the stories of women who truly feel called to the priesthood and are basically told that having ovaries makes you unfit to preach the word of God---and I have to pause again.

Now, some of you—who are obviously not veterans of the CCD program of St. Mark’s Parish—may be reading this and thinking, hey, screw it. Go find another church, or skip it altogether. Go join an ashram if that floats your boat. To which I say: it’s not that simple. They get you early—I mean, seriously, I gave these nutjobs my youth. The Catholic tradition is ingrained on me as deeply as looking both ways before you cross the street. I feel conflicted as hell about it, sure, but just try to keep me away from a Catholic church on Ash Wednesday. Can’t be done.

So I’m still figuring that one out. But if you’re not still figuring questions like that out, you’re either dead or I don’t want to know you. For now, the best sort of philosophy I can think of doesn’t come from Jesus or Buddha or Confucius, but from Kurt Vonnegut:

"Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind."

I thought about my mom’s request all day. Driving home from work, I decided I was going to do it after all. I don’t want to make it out as though the heavens opened up and I had some epiphany while the Hallelujah chorus swelled through the shitty speakers of my Subaru—but I did have a sort of moment of clarity. It was far, far more important to put aside all the hurt and mixed feelings I have towards the Church and my grandfather and just stand up there and read the passage from St. Paul than it was to hang onto all that shit.

So I did it--got up there in my funeral duds and blew that second letter to the Corinthians out of the water--and I think in doing it I let go of how angry I felt at my grandfather for making everyone so sad for so many years. It clogs you up, hanging on to all that pain--and I was hanging onto it, hard. He didn't hurt me, but he hurt a lot of people I love, and for that I was angry. But I'm making up my mind to let it go.

Because God damn it, babies, you've got to be kind.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I'm Not Your Buddy, Guy

Ah, Canada. What can I say. I love you. You have the friendliest people, the best beer, some truly awesome cities and Neil Young. There may be those among you who commit atrocities like clubbing baby seals or starring in The Love Guru, but the vast majority of you seem remarkably chill. Thanks, James, the cute Quebecois who gave me a Keith’s Red at a campground once. Thanks, St. Catherine’s Street, for making thirteen-year-old me ask my mom what a dildo is. Thanks, one-armed dude in Niagara Falls who let us park for free.

And let’s pay tribute to Niagara Falls, for just a moment. The natural wonder is…well, Niagara Falls. You have to see it for yourself. But the actual town of Niagara Falls, Ontario, is the most insanely kitchsy, schlocky place I have ever seen. We counted at least five different wax museums, three different “four-dimensional experiences” and at least two places to buy “erotic gifts”. It is also home of the most expensive Denny’s anywhere. It is packed with American teenagers, huge Indian families, and Eastern European couples who walk around with their hands in each other’s back pockets. It’s awful, and yet wonderful. If it were in America, I would probably get all worked up about the desecration of a natural wonder, but I just can’t. It’s Canada. I have a cold Keith’s and a pizza and I’m about to go buy a vibrating cock ring and a bong. Life is good.

I’d especially like to thank the customs agent who let my boyfriend and me back into the country from Nigara Falls even though we couldn’t prove we owned the BMW convertible we were driving (it’s his parents’) and he was pretty sure we were drug dealers. Terrified, stammering drug dealers. You had a choice man, and you let us go. That Montreal-blend coke is selling like gangbusters. We couldn’t have done it without you.

So Canada, enjoy your day. I don’t know why this is your day, but enjoy it.