Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Top 50 Essential Non-Fiction Books for Weirdos

The Top 50 Essential Non-Fiction Books for Weirdos

I was looking for a nonfiction recommendation about rap/hip-hop online and stumbled on this. My library holds list / amazon wish list has exploded. It seems like this guy has great taste, I've loved the books he recommended that I've read.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky!: Shrink Plastic Geometric Pendants Tutorial!

Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky!: Shrink Plastic Geometric Pendants Tutorial!: I recently became obsessed with the idea of layered, geometric necklaces. I wanted to make some for myself, but I don't have the supplies an...

YES! this is awesome. My niece and I tried to make something similar recently and it went all wrong.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

Unilever has your back ladies

I just read about these two videos in a book I just finished, "Feminism and Pop Culture" by Andi Zeisler. I guess they've been out a while (since 2007 or so?) but I had never seen them. I was aware of the Dove "Real Beauty" campaign, this is another opportunity to reflect on how I hate it when advertisers try to sell us back what was ours in the first place (our own bodies for example via this fucking stupid campaign).

I don't know, I guess this type of stuff is great for people who have never thought about it before, or people who are really vulnerable to images in ads or 'women's media'. That is not to say "all women", either. I'm very interested in style and beauty but also extremely critical and suspicious of any industry whose raison d'etre is to make me feel insecure, fat, old and ugly in order to separate me from my money.

But let's not forget this is not an act of empowerment or civic responsibility. It's not like fucking Unilever wants us all to reject advertising claims and embrace our naturalness. So I do actually get pissed off when something like this Dove campaign is meant to be brave or trailblazing or whatever. It's like, I guess by advertisers standards, the women of the Dove campaign were all fat hideous monsters, but the fact remains that by real life standards/cultural beauty norms they're all still fucking beautiful. And the public is supposed to get all excited because this company is brave enough to show us women that are STILL conforming more to cultural standards of beauty than most "real" women on the street; or that this ONE advertisement, or this ONE campaign is supposed to undo hundreds of years of straight up misogyny?

I mean, how naive/stupid do they think you are?

All that said, I liked the videos. Obviously I'm a mixed up hypocrite, and there are no surprises in the ads, but I guess it's good that people see this kind of stuff, regardless of who produces it.

I saw Jean Killbourne's "Killing Us Softly" at a time in my life when it made a big impression. The original one version came out in 1979 and it's been updated at least 4 times I think.

I still look at ads through a lens I first understood from that documentary which I probably saw around age 12 or so. To this day, I often look at ads on TV, the subway, and magazines and transpose the genders. It's always interesting and instructive, and usually depressing.

This is the idea.  It's funny but also kind of not funny at all.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Literally the Best Thing Ever":

I bought the Rookie yearbook a while back from an independent retailer  (ok what). Reading it is terrific, it's kind of a time capsule of the website's first year.
I can't even be sheepish about reading it at my elderly age because truly it is 'literally the best thing ever'. And it got me ruminating on my own version of Rookie, namely, of course, Sassy magazine.

And, it has to be said (maybe by me alone) that the two don't compare at all. I know every woman my age who was into Sassy seems to think it's the holy grail of teen magazines, or a beacon of sanity in a wilderness of the commercialized teenaged girl experience. But for me, the thing that doesn't make sense to me is the fact that I didn't have a "Sassy magazine" adolescence. Nor did I have a "Seventeen", a "Teen" magazine, or a "Tiger Beat" adolescence. I had a typical angst ridden period between the ages of 12-17 or so, that wasn't neatly reflected in any media enterprise. Like everyone else.
So when I read stuff like this book: How Sassy Saved My Life, from 2007, I"m kind of like, rilly? And I know Tavi Gevinson has been vocal about giving tributes to the long shadow cast by Sassy, and has been really gracious about being seen as producing an online magazine that follows in Sassy's footsteps. But I don't feel like anyone really states the fucking obvious: Rookie is WAY better than Sassy ever was!

Don't get me wrong, I loved Sassy, I subscribed, pored over every issue and compared notes with my one other girlfriend in highschool who was a believer. But the thing about Sassy that made it good (not GREAT), was that it had some relationship to real youth culture. As I learned in the book "How Sassy Saved my Life", there was a real effort and a huge struggle to produce content by YOUNG writers who actually knew something about being young. It wasn't strictly about pushing advertising and editorial content, co-opting consumers early or anything overtly cynical like that. In the years I was obsessed with Sassy, I was obsessed with many magazines. I was a magazine junky. Even more than Sassy, I loved the old Details magazine when it was published in B+W and was basically a scandal sheet of New York nightlife, and Andy Warhol's Interview magazine--those were WAY more influential on me as a suburban teen dreaming of something beyond my backyard. The options weren't "Sassy" or "Seventeen"--there was a whole world of cool stuff to read about. I never read Seventeen, so to pit Sassy against another teen magazine like that is sort of an artificial comparison. It wasn't like you HAD to read one or the other.

In my mid-thirties, after reading so much rhapsodizing about Sassy, I bought a bunch of issues on Ebay and settled into the bathtub to try to reclaim the glory of the magazine. I didn't recall it in those glorious terms, it wasn't a life raft for me as a teen; but I knew it must have been completely bomb or people wouldn't still be going on about it, right? Man, what a letdown! It's just not that progressive, radical or interesting.

But Rookie now, Rookie is truly different. Maybe as a result of being an online magazine, maybe in part because stuff like Sassy came before; maybe this Tavi is here to save us all from mediocrity--it's fucking awesome. I keep trying to get my niece to read it, to no avail. She's too busy busting into swimming pools and the Riverdale Farm in the middle of the night to read a website. I understand. I was a (bookish, nerdy, yearbook editing, day-/night-dreaming) teenager myself once. If my aunt had recommended a website I would have ignored it on principle.

I still don't really understand how Tavi can idolize Dan Clowes and Enid Coleslaw, John Waters, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan; or the site can reference stuff like Strawberry Switchblade, Nancy Spungen, Advanced Style, JT Leroy, Heathers, Bruce Springsteen, the Golden Girls, Hollywood memoirs, Francesca Lia Block and Joan Didion. It's hard for my brain to process how this team of writers has distilled the coolest of the coolest of the coolest stuff and manages to take a feminist take on everything without even using the word....? It truly gives me hope for the future. I do not know what is in this water, but if teenagers are drinking it, it's literally the best thing ever.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Canzine 2012

I love Canzine. I've been going for a long time, since it was at the old Big Bop at Queen at Bathurst. I like Broken Pencil a lot too, and subscribe. This year was no different, I went with $70 doll hairs and came home with $10. In terms of alt press stuff and regular Toronto events, I like Canzine the best, then Toronto Comics Art Festival (both are amazing, both will empty your wallet), and I also like the OCAD small press book fair and have not yet been to the Toronto Anarchist Book Fair. I like the whole thing, the way you can find total gems and silly perzines that are still engaging somehow. It's sort of a gentle world where the most mundane observational or haphazard writings can share the spotlight with meticulously crafted literary art (like Liz Worth).
So....I picked up a bunch of stuff. And took a terrible picture of it all. Starting at the top left, there are two Detour guides--written accounts by Kelly Dessaint about being tour guide/tourist trade worker in NOLA. Having been to NOLA fairly recently, I am fascinated with these. The tour guides there are amazing, if you're there for a short time it's a great way to see a lot of stuff quickly, or in the case of the 'Ghost Tour' type things, a great way to be entertained for cheap. 
The next thing is an account of how to stop washing your hair, which still fascinates me. I tried it years ago with good results but just kind of missed the ritual of shampoo, or the smell or whatever. I like the idea of DIY health and hygiene products. I already read this and it's nothing new per se, but this woman's goal is to actually only wash her hair with water alone, which I never attempted. Most techniques use baking sode and apple cider vinegar. My issue is that if it wasn't for dirty hair I would stop showering altogether, because, meh, it's a lot of fuss and bother, right? Right? Anyway. 
The next one was an impulse purchase, Small Talk a compilation from a lecture series that the writer conducted. The topics are wide ranging and looked interesting. Next is '7 Sisters of the Storm, and 'Crooked Teeth' which I bought from a nice guy that seemed shocked that someone was buying their shit. Which brings me to the other thing I love/hate about Canzine--the wrenchingly awkward exchanges with writers/artists/zinesters/artstars that are even more socially stunted than me. It's the stuff of a hundred Portlandia-type sketches, the averted eyes, crossed arms, awkward exchanges, uncomfortable fumblings with that dirty money: Eeeeek. 
Every time I have occasion to interact with the producers of my stuff, to look into the eyes of the producers, I always find it excruciating. I have no idea why. I'm uncomfortable to pick someone's stuff up, I imagine they are very invested in how it's absorbed, enjoyed, consumed. Inevitably I am rejecting more stuff than I'm enjoying or consuming, I find that hopelessly awkward too. A friend of a friend today said "yeah, it's one of the few places where you can make someone's day for $10". It's true and funny but I understand the discomfort--the typical artist is not the typical sales(wo)man, de facto. And yet, these types of events thrust the producer and consumer into the same space, to confront each others taste and temperment, for better and worse. And it can be awkward as shit. There was one really nice, outgoing (which is unusual) girl, who explained the humour of her work to me. I was forced to engage, smile and nod, accept a business card, about work that hinges on a type of humour I don't give a fuck about. She explained to me that "It's funny"--clearly I was missing the point, possibly due to a total lack of good humour. And she was nice, adding another layer of painful. 
Terribly photographed below is "Licking the Beaters 2: Vegan Chocolate and Candy" by Siue (please let that be a diminuitive of 'Siouxie') Moffat. She wrote 'Licking the Beaters', a great compilation of low fat vegan desserts. She was super nice and gave me a free pumpkin chocolate truffle for buying her last zine (which seemed backwards to me, but hey). She wrote another great short piece my partner bought about how she left the punk/hardcore scene because of rampant sexism. I can't recall the title. 
'Misfit Matriarch" seems to be a perzine about being a young punk mom. The authors kid was there, and asked repeated if I "had 2 dollars" which was incredibly fucking cute and sold the zine. I love the idea that she was prescreening the browsers, basically if you didn't have the 2 bucks, move on Clyde. 
The last thing I'm stoked on is the Liz Worth Eleven: Eleven. I had bought her chapbook "Arik's Dream" last year, and it was awesome. I guess she's also a poet, she wrote "Treat Me Like Dirt", and oral history of TOronto punk and hardcore music. But Arik's Dream is sort of a horror story that truly creates a sense of dread, apprehension and fear in the reader. She is super talented. 

The last thing I got was stuff for my partner, the comic about '500 years of resistance', basically colonialism thru the ages, plus a couple of screen printed kerchiefs, a wolf for him and a beaver for me; then the free goat head/baphomet/pentagram/silly satanic mask. 

And that was Canzine. Another amazing year. It was even catered by a vegan company which I didn't realize was vegan until after I'd left. So, yeah. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


So, I guess this #sorryfeminists hashtag was burning up twitter yesterday. I gather it started as a tongue in cheek joke made by Debbie Needles with regard to her descriptor of Katie Roiphe as sexy.

I feel like it became the cool 'sexy' 'funny' feminists getting flak from the dour unfunny ones. Because feminists are homogenous, and we're all in high school.

I love Amanda Marcotte. I discovered her podcast, Opinionated, (with Samita Mukhopadhyay)when I started having to drive to commute for work, and devoured every episode in a week. They're on hiatus now, sadly due to lack of funding.

But I was surprised to see how her Tweets all day were calling out other feminists for being humourless when people questioned the value of the #sorryfeminists meme.

I thought it was stupid too. Busting on stereotypes by repeating the same stereotypes all day? If the issue is about humour (which is clearly isn't since this meme wasn't that funny), it's even weirder.

It reminded me of another tweet from Emily McCombs (of xojane) who responded to the whole bruhaha recently about how women are unfunny by saying something like "When someone accuses you of being unfunny, you don't have to respond by saying something funny. You can just be mad" --and I"ve thought of that many times since then. And again yesterday....

It also reminds me of calling yourself out on something negative before someone else has a chance to do it. And at the end of the day, saying feminists aren't funny/sexy/don't get irony/whatever is just too stupid to even warrant ANY kind of response. We can just be mad. Or we can just fucking ignore it.

And, having said that, this piece made sense to me.

Monday, October 8, 2012

I sound like Camille Paglia

I read this piece last week with very mixed feelings. On the one hand, yes of course women are free to wear whatever they please, and should be free from public censure including but not limited to sexual harassment. (When I say 'not limited to' I'm thinking of entreaties to smile, or like, hollering that you look bad or whatever. No good, any of it.)

The conflicted part comes when I think about the many reasons why I would never wear the outfit that Emily is talking about. The reasons I"m thinking of are:
-I don't want to get stared at more than usual on the street;
-I don't want to have men staring at my body;
-I don't need the attention.
Ok, those boil down to one reason I guess, I don't need or want the attention.

Emily has told us in the past that she is being treated for sex addiction, and that she is a self described attention seeker. I'm not making any assumptions about her past or her motivations, she is very forthright about these things.

And, I don't think you can really analyze the outfit and the reactions to it in a vacuum that doesn't take these things into consideration. And I get that this may be perceived as gross sexism.

The thing I can't get my mind around is--is the point of this piece (and a million others like it) that women will wear what they want when they want, and wish to take no heed of the cultural climate in which they make their sartorial choices? Like, are we saying that we want to behave AS THOUGH all fashion choices are equal, that none of them have any cultural or sexual implications?

It would be great to think that way: I dress the way I do to speed the revolution toward egalitarianism, in spite of the fact that I know I will be objectified all day long. It's a brave choice. Dressing for utopia.

But the sad fact is, we don't live in that utopia. We live in a time and place where our clothes and bodies and sexual presence will be commented on. Sometimes loudly, and on the street. For myself, I prefer to dress and present myself defensively, because I can't deal with the unpleasant repercussions of wearing the type of (really pretty/cute etc) outfit that Emily got so much flak for.

And I feel like to ignore the reality that there are consequences for these kinds of choices, is to say, de facto, that you're willing to deal with them. Emily knows that the fashion/publishing/women's magazine audience for whom she dresses (and for herself, obviously), is not the ONLY audience that will pass judgement on the clothes. I'm sure she's well aware that her therapist, and bicycle couriers and many random assorted sexist pigs, will also provide an eager audience.

And I hate that thinking this, or writing this, sounds like victim blaming. At the same time, while street harassers need to take responsibility for their actions, unfortunately most women are forced to either dress defensively, or assume the responsibility that these men seem to have abjured. And it does worry me a little that I sound like Camille Paglia.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Elizabeth Wurtzel wants you to look your best

I think this article was published on the Harper's Bazaar website a couple weeks ago. I'd seen the link via Jezebel. I'm interested in anything about Wurtzel because I get a big kick out of her. I like when people are really intelligent and simultaneously crazy and I think she fits the bill admirably. I remember reading Prozac Nation a long time ago and feeling like her story was really anyone's if a person chose to just let themselves become unhinged. If you gave in to every bad instinct, said everything you thought out loud, and were generally pretty narcissistic, I imagine as a woman your story would sound like hers. And in a way there is something sort of admirable about that lack of filters. It's a strange blend of self regard and oblivousness; well  maybe more like unchecked ego.

But after reading the article from Harper's, I kind of agree with her. (I'm making myself cringe a little here). I'm not talking about her disdain for ungroomed twentysomething women (who don't seem to know or appreciate what the sexy third wavers did for them, nor wish to demonstrate their gratitude by wearing a little lipgloss!), that's not it. I just kind of take (minor, barely interested) umbrage with the way convenience culture has eroded people's sense of decorum. At least that's how it seems. What you choose to wear or how you groom yourself is clearly your business; but wouldn't it be great if everyone put in a modicum of effort? I feel like that's part of what's so great about something like Advanced Style--far from 'giving up', these women answer to their own muses every day and choose to participate in the language of aesthetics. The fact that Advanced Style comes to mind sort of points to the idea that maybe this is a disease of the modern age. I'm sure everyone has looked at old family pictures or old photos on tumblr or somewhere and thought that people just looked better before the Vietnam War (I name that time arbitrarily, but maybe since the 1970s or something). You can't really argue that people look sloppier now.

What does it say when vintage mugshots look incredibly glamourous by today's standards? I think it says the standard has fallen.

I can understand what Wurtzel is saying, I too, had a mom who wouldn't leave the house without makeup on for many years, who always had her hair done in a salon, who believed in the value of showing up looking good. And while I would never claim that slovenliness lets down feminism--I don't leave the house either if I don't think I look good. I don't own sweatpants, wouldn't go out in yoga pants, wear running shoes only for running, and a day without makeup is a sick day for me. To each her own.

But back to Wurtzel: I fervently loved Prozac Nation, Bitch, More, Now Again: A Memoir of Addiction, and this gem below. She's awesome. I'll always love her.

Apparently she shot the film of her book Prozac Nation in the foot with her interview response about 9/11 (to Toronto's Globe and Mail):

"I had not the slightest emotional reaction. I thought, 'This is a really strange art project.' It was the most amazing sight in terms of sheer elegance. It fell like water. It just slid, like a turtleneck going over someone's head."

I even kind of love her for that. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

“Pretty soon they’ll have you chipped”: The cult of busy

**this gem was solicited but never ran in an online mag.....

A recent piece in the New York Times perfectly articulates my distaste for the cult of busy. I’ve been gas lighting on this for a while, it always sits wrong with me when the response to “How are you?” is any variation on “Busy!” Clearly the word stands on for a host of virtues, martyrdoms, false advertising and smugness.

For me, busy-ness equates with some level of anxiety. When I think about it, the culprit of that anxious busy feeling is my smartphone. It’s become a constant companion, balancing communication and scheduling with entertainment. But it is a tyrant. It demands to be checked within 5 minutes of awakening, and again at 10 minutes intervals throughout the day. Along with the smartphone came a host of social networking responsibilities that I embraced enthusiastically. Now and forevermore it seems a fraction--sometimes small, sometimes large--of my attention is always elsewhere—on tumblr, blogger, twitter or facebook. Email and text are a constant, minor distraction, like a mosquito always buzzing, just out of reach of the swatter.

The irony of this S+M phone love is that I have always hated the phone. I always looked at my landline as a necessary evil of sorts; I was not one who loved a lengthy chat or welcomed lots of aimless phone chatter. A phone was to report an emergency or arrange a meeting in person. Now, my brain is part wired to a constant unrelenting stream of trivial information. It does suck up a certain about of time that could be spent reading on the couch, but worse is the feeling that it’s sucking up a great deal of not only time, but psychic energy.

not a captain of industry over here

Facebook is a perfect example of a sort of mindless busywork, it must be checked at regular intervals, to learn the most mundane things that I would resent listening to in person. I would say a third of my FB friends are people I would not bother to acknowledge on the street. I know I am not unique in this regard.  There is a kind of low grade mania attached to this perpetual distraction, as this piece explains well.  To quote, “The computer is electronic cocaine for many people,” says Whybrow. “Our brains are wired for finding immediate reward. With technology, novelty is the reward. You essentially become addicted to novelty.”  What could be more novel, or more distracting than twitter or tumblr?

The other day my cray sister tweeted to me a beautiful prophecy for the future: ‘your whole life won’t be controlled by twitter. Pretty soon they’ll have u chipped and u’l see the screen inside yr eyelids’. The good news is I saw this today on the Guardian website. Let’s all never have a quiet, private thought again shall we? I thank all the saints that technology is here to prevent us from having to dwell in the quiet of our own minds.

I’ve always been one to embrace leisure. For me, a big part of a life well lived is free time in abundance. The minute I feel overbooked, overworked, anxious and beholden to the expectations of others, I start to shut down. A big part of water cooler conversation involves weekend plans; my perfect weekend has NO plans. It seems people find that a little odd. To proclaim idleness, with pride, is something of an anomaly. The cultural messaging is perfectly clear on this point—the goal is perpetual motion, your time and energy must be tapped to the nth degree. If it is not, you might be flawed.

I’ve developed a Pavlovian response to proclamations of busy-ness. It has started to irritate me. Notice if you offer to help someone who claims the busy burden, often you simply can’t. When you work, live and play in a state of constant distraction, it’s not a simple matter to focus.

I have always had the radical idea that the measure of success was leisure. The picture of success is Beyoncé (and Blue Ivy, preferably) on a yacht, not Gordon Gecko screaming into a phone, forehead veins bulging ominously. Or do I have it wrong? The old “work hard, play hard” maxim seems to work for some; personally I’d rather work a little and relax a lot. I’ve constructed my life to have the perfect balance of work (rewarding, meaningful to me, ever changing often taxing) and the kind of ‘play’ that suits me (long evenings watching horror movies, long hours reading books that absorb me). It’s a luxury, I guess but maybe not unique among childless adults. Still, the state of doing nothing, of leisure, of relaxing into an expanse of time with no pressing responsibilities or deadlines—it’s heaven to me.

this guy HATES being busy
 If there is a particular kind of brain wave that sustains people and makes them feel good, it’s not the one engaged in social networking, and it’s not the one that goes by the term “busy”. The one that recharges and relaxes you is the same one that’s engaged when you spend time with friends/family, pet a dog, walk through a park (NOT looking at your phone dammit!), eat something awesome, do something creative, read in a warm bathtub. That’s the brain I want, not the busy anxious one.  

I will never complain to you about being “busy”. Busy does not interest me at all; I will do everything possible to elude busy-ness, just short of throwing my phone under a subway.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Vegan Pumpkin Pie Tarts with Vanilla Glaze

Vegan Pumpkin Pie Tarts with Vanilla Glaze

Real Men Don't....wait, what?

I just saw a 'Real Men don't X' thing on Tumblr which got me thinking again about these campaigns.

I hate this 'Real Men' meme. Apparently real men don't do all kinds of asshole shit, which makes me wonder about these....half men? fake men?....running around fucking everything up for the rest of us, real men and women alike.

A particular favourite spotted on a bumper sticker a few weeks ago: Real Men Love Jesus.

Clearly, these real men aren't just defined by what they DON'T do, they also love jesus, and probably treat real women like gold. UGH.

I know I'm a complete pedant but it seems like this stuff just reinforces the same gender stereotypes in a way. I guess the assumption is that rapists will get so angry at not being perceived as 'real men' that they'll just stop raping? That would be nice.

I presume the point is that men are making an effort to socialize other men into acceptable behaviour which doesn't include rape. Not that rape is sissy or ungentlemanly in some way. I think this effort is laudable, but the language bothers me in that it's prescriptive about what "men" do or don't do. So the issue isn't that rape is a crime, or that rape affects huge numbers of women (and men); it's also the issue that according to the campaign, these behaviours don't transgress a code of decency or of lawfulness, they transgress a code of manliness.

It just seems evasive of the crucial core reasons of why rape (buying girls, whatever) is wrong. It's not wrong because it's not manly.

On the upside, at least this is one campaign that has nothing to do with women's conduct, behaviour or chosen attire (SlutWalk).

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Teenage TV Wasteland

I was talking about the X Files with a friend yesterday. I loved that show in the 90s . I recall watching it in like 1996-7, it was a Sunday night thing. Once it got heavily into government conspiracies it just lost me. I always liked the story of the week episodes the best.
My partner and I tried revisiting it last year with dismal results, I can't remember if it took a few seasons to hit it's stride. Or maybe it was a case of a show that pioneered a style that's been aped to death such that the progenitor seems quaint and...dull.

It got me thinking about the shows I loved as a teenager.

Among them were such gems as Thirtysomething.  I recently saw it again on netflix and I was surprised again by how boring I find it. It seems ironic given that it was now so much more age appropriate then when I was a fan.

Then there was Murder She Wrote. In fairness I was fully aware of the narcoticizing effect of the show as a teen....but man oh man. It's sort of in the tradition of a show like Columbo, where Peter Falk sort of stumbled around, dumb like the proverbial fox until he nailed the killer. I just loved Angela Lansbury.
the gumshoe of Cabot Cove, Jessica Fletcher

I loved the way she was always doing something improbable like infiltrating a community theatre, or going to masquerade ball.

The opening sequence is completely evocative of my youth. There, I said it.

The other completely tedious show I was obsessed with was Northern Exposure. This one had legs, I remember even watching it as an adult after working night shift, it was on at like 8am or something. Of course, in the hunk triumvirate on the show, I fell on the side of Ed Chigliak (played by Darren Burrows). 

Behold. I still think he's hot as hell. 
I really loved this show. I guess all these programs had good writing, character development and some thematic depth. It just seems funny that I loved all these kind of dull shows....
Of course there was also Twin Peaks, Golden Girls and I held a torch for Three's Company for a long, long time. I maintain that it was really funny. 
I do notice as I've gotten older that my attention span has shortened. I guess everyone's has, but I know I have a hard time sitting through an hour TV show at all these days. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

vagina at the wheel

so painful to buy a used car as a lifelong non-car-owner. The whole thing has been a real anxiety fest. To begin with, I don't give a fuck about cars. I learned to drive when I was about 27 yo, in New York City, where I had no intention of driving but knew they had just introduced the graduated licensing in my home province in Canada and thought I'd save myself some aggravation. Getting the license was no problem. Using it has been great, occasional renter and autoshare champ.
I recently was compelled to purchase a car by a new job. Que the horror movie strings.
I have pored over consumer reports (did you know you can peruse them free with a Toronto Public Library card, online?); talked to everyone I know with a car (there are about 3 people I know who own a vehicle); sent up a flare on facebook (where i got some good advice actually); pored over MoneySense magazine; and tried to play nice with some sexist dumbshit.

Even the ads on autotrader + kijiji--the first time a friend mentioned the term "lady driven", I thought she was joking. But no, it's a common used car descriptor.
Today I mentioned it to the salesman from whom I finally bought, and was informed that it is ironic because "women are actually more destructive". He was in the rear seat of the car during my test drive, I gave him a quick look and the phrase "bitter divorced dude" went through my head. I guess we all have our own gender based stereotypes?

This was the same guy who told me that concern about the colour of a car is a 'women' thing. The whole process is death by a thousand papercuts actually, as you pick your way through a minefield of gender essentialism, where I have to pretend to understand things I don't understand; plus muster up interest and enthusiasm for things I have absolutely no interest in (emissions testing, what is certification?, do i need to worry about tires?, i don't know what transmission is, what is the warranty supposed to cover.....and on, and on, and on until you are fast asleep with your eyes open).

The annoying part is, you find yourself biting your tongue repeatedly, simply because I have no desire to repeat this hostile performance with another short dick dimwit. (Ok, that DID sound a little hostile.)
I'm inclined to try to forget the whole thing now, blessed amnesia will kick in as I'm driving into the sunset.

One more 'destructive' woman will be on the road, hopefully by tomorrow!

Monday, September 3, 2012

E-reader DIY cover + Gone Girl

Because I love accessories, my recent Kobo purchase was an excuse to bust out the sewing machine. I looked at a couple tutorials below and then just winged it.
I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. The purchase of the Kobo was kind of ludicrous at this point as I have about 25 books right here that I need to get started on.
It did take time to figure out how to get books from the library, and the selection is sadly not great.
I'm also bummed to see how expensive books are on the Kobo site via Indigo. Like mostly $10-13 or so. It's fucking crazy. Especially for a book fetishist like myself. I guess I'll use this thing for travelling, or for reading stuff I have no desire to have in 'analog' form.
I bought the ereader through a gift certificate that the workplace I just left gave me. I do really like it, I had wanted one for a long time.

The first book I read on this was 'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn. I truly hated it. Good grief. It went from 'whatever', to mildly interesting, to stupid, idiotic and finally utter nonsense. Quite a story arc. I can't even say it was a 'fun' read, because I found it boring. There is something about the writing that completely takes you out of the story. It's just sort of affected or something. It's probably not a good sign when you read fiction and just find yourself critiquing the writing the whole way through. I felt like she had to assume narrative voices that were just too far beyond her experience or imagination. And other times I thought "Oh, good phrasing" even when passages were well handed you were still anticipating a goose egg.
I read another book by her "Dark Places" which I actually liked a lot. My sister had recommended it with the caveat that the ending was terrible, I didn't even mind the ending.

DIY ereader covers:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

travel anxiety

i'm so lucky to have been able to go a few places this past year including NYC twice, Mexico City, San Diego twice, New Orleans and upcoming to Detroit. Paradoxically all this meandering makes me want to go away more, got my sights set on Netherlands, Iceland, Japan and San Francisco.
I just saw this post on a favourite blog:
....and can totally relate.

We went to Mexico City in April, it was amazing. I thought I had enough rudimentary Spanish to get along, alas, no. The irony of the phrase book as I discovered, is that if you need it, basically it means you are f*cked. If you are relying on it to communicate, the likliehood is that you aren't able to interpret any of the responses you get from Mexicans.
I found the same thing in every non-English place I've visited: communicating basic needs is actually super stressful. Which also means that getting those needs met is super satisfying--ie; getting a cup of coffee the way you want it in Berlin, riding the subway in Mexico City, getting lost--and finding your way back--in Athens.

 MC: Basilica de Guadalupe: Here we learned about how the native Aztec supplicants sought refuge in the Catholic church! Hair raising colonialist revisionist history.  
Kind of makes you appreciate North American travel, where the only real concern is not getting killed on the SoCal freeway and not maxing out your credit card at Target.

San Diego: this is the view near La Jolla cove, just beautiful everywhere. 
The best thing about travelling is how it rewires your brain. I guess foreign language type travel just rewires it more quickly and painfully. The net effect is still great.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

NYC reads

Great visit to NYC last week. One of my favourite things to do there is shop for Bluestockings, St. Mark's Books and the Strand. There are other amazing places but I never fail to find something I've never seen before at those three.

We also spent time in Brooklyn and found this comic book shop:

I was super excited to pick this up.

It's got Richard Kern, Beth/Scott B, Nick Zedd, Lydia Lunch et all. Looks amazing.

Above is the namesake film, also fantastic starring David Wojnarowicz and Karen Finley as the parents of Lung Leg, 'celebrating' a traumatic Thanksgiving. EYE POPPING

And....another gem from Bluestockings:

I first heard of him at a retrospective at the New Museum on Lower Broadway in 1999. He did an amazing breadth of work in a short period and was an outspoken influential AIDS activist when ACT UP was prominent in NY. I'd never seen this before either. I like him a lot.

this is one of his more famous pieces


I'm stoked for this too, it's sort of Arsenault's gender/plastic surgery journey as performance art. I don't know much about her, she's from Toronto. I gathered her transformation has been about art as well as her own gender issues, using the body as a canvas for commentary like Orlan. (that video is preceded by an ad, which i hate. anyhoo). 

This kind of combines my interests in body transmogrification, and performance art via mortification of the flesh, combined with always interesting gender performance issues! 

I got two other books at Bluestockings, one is a compilation of a zine about yard sales, another a treatise against equal marriage. I like reading about gay perspectives on equal marriage, and the idea that Proposition 8 is sort of a bait and switch for more meaningful reforms and inequities affecting LGBTT communities. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mutante: Virginie Despentes

This was a great documentary. I bought it at Kim's Video in NYC. I'm not a shill for Kim's but I really love it there. I always see stuff I didn't know about, or stuff I couldn't find elsewhere. I'm a big fan of Virginie Despentes, based on her film Baise Moi and her book King Kong Theory.

This documentary seems to be from 2008. It sort of covers a lot of territory from women's traditional role in porn as subjects, instances of women/feminists taking up production and how that's subverted traditional porn tropes, some gender stuff and some interesting feminist porn collectives in Europe. 
The gender stuff was what got me thinking a lot, and stimulated a big debate at home. I know the doc is a little dated and I'm sure any updates would look quite different. I guess de facto the genderfuck stuff is informed by queer culture. The thing that stood out for me was how in purporting to subvert the gender binary the women (actually I don't how the actors/producers identify in terms of gender) seemed to adhere to the most rigid, simplistic signifiers of male and female. I know drag performance is by nature a reinterpretation of gender codes that are traditionally rigid. But there was a whole scene with an actor explaining how to get into a male vs female headspace. She describes squaring her shoulders, making direct eye contact, lowering her voice and emphatically not smiling to get into the masculine headspace; for the feminine, one should stick their tits out, smile, and flip their hair, feeling their soft curves. 
WOW. That is some next level gender fuckery. 

Thankfully the last 20 min or so are about this mad Spanish feminist porn collective,
I loved this book. 
“I am writing as an ugly one for the ugly ones: the old hags, the dykes, the frigid, the unfucked, the unfuckables, the neurotics, the psychos, for all those girls that don’t get a look-in in the universal market of the consumable chick.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Reading Crazy: the Tween Diaries

I grew up in a reading household. As the youngest of 4 kids I wanted to be reading what the older girls were reading, and in many cases, that was pure smut. The good thing about this is that I read voraciously as a kid, and got shitty books out of my system pretty early. The bad side is that these crazy stupid books introduced me to a world of smut that muddled my tween mind and imprinted some deeply effed up stuff at a young age.  From Judith Krantz I got multiple age inappropriate couplings, molestations and cousin on cousin rape! All written in her lavishly over the top, x rated lavender prose. 
It didn't end there, Harold Robbins, Sidney Sheldon, Jackie Collins and other one off books littered my nascent prepubescent reading. I have to applaud my mom for being so open minded about our reading material. I'm sure she was thrilled to see us reading. Beyond Judy Blume, Norma Klein, SE Hinton and Lois Duncan, I can't recall reading any YA novels with enthusiasm. My sister recalls my mom telling her she could read whatever she wanted at home, but couldn't bring the books to school. No dummy my mother. 
I still love to read, and while my idea of smut has changed a lot, I still have a huge appreciation for reading depravity. There is nothing I like better than a first person account of a head first dive into the trashcan of life....give me sordid sex, trauma, minds stripmined by drugs and alcohol, families twisted beyond recognition, I'm all in. 

But it really all started with these pulp paperbacks. There is no way I could read this particular type of drivel now, but man it was fun while it lasted. Seeing all these covers again reminds me of a sort of golden age of reading crazy. I have to thank my mom for starting me off by making reading fun. This is some real reading rainbow shit, right here. Not to mention a fond walk down memory lane. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Wobisobi: No Sew Triangle Tee-Shirt, DIY

Wobisobi: No Sew Triangle Tee-Shirt, DIY: In the Mountains, on a little break from everyday life and  Crafting with my Sister in-law Anne. We decided that she needed to...

Joy killing vegan feminist attends comedic theatre

I went and saw the Soulpepper production of The Sunshine Boys this weekend. I have a very short memory for things I fucking hate in theatre, hence why I would attend a comedy or (eegads) a musical (hate hate hate hate).
The acting was great, I'm sure the play is amazing, it's Neil Simon, I get that he's a touchstone for modern comedy from the 60s/70s. Probably not a bad thing to go see....except it was long, annoying, and the humour is totally lowbrow.

The joy killing feminist in me became particularly incensed in the scenes with the sexy nurse. Not because I myself am a nurse and bristle at the stereotype of the sexualized nurse (although I'm sick of it for sure and feel like the trope is convenient shorthand for not only sexism but a grinding lack of imagination). No, this was annoying to me because it finally crystallized something I find totally annoying in comedy.

This convention is where the white man takes credit for the joke that was laboriously set up by the (usually female) "straight (wo)man" who has to feign a lack of understanding of both the set up and the joke.

There are allusions to mildly racist jokes but clearly sexism is still totally fine in modern theatre, especially when it's a re-production of a comedy gem like "The Sunshine Boys".
It kind of makes me long for new material.

you already know from this picture who the comedic genius is, right?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lady trouble in used car land

I've been in touch with a broker about helping me buy a used car. I spoke to him yesterday about specifications and told him what make/model/years I was interested in. This was the culmination of many hours poring over consumer reports/insurance tables etc. I had done research.

Finally he mentioned a car that a woman had been considering trading in, which was one of the models etc that I wanted.

And I guess that's when I outed myself as an owner of a vagina by asking "What colour is it?"

I was told that 'women are usually interested in that, but men are more interested in (presumably more important) features like anti lock brakes, keyless entry, stereo, mileage etc.
I'm still angry that I didn't tell him that as a customer, aesthetics are very important to me. That assuming you can get all the features you want in a car that is NOT white, grey, silver, beige, greige, taupe or any of those ugly bullshit non-colours, I want the fucking colour I want!

I emailed him today to clarify which colours I was interested in, given the other variables--the make is the make, the model is the model--the colour you can fucking pick!

Just another way to establish that women's concerns are trivial. Or maybe it's some sales technique, to make you feel like a moron so you'll pay more to seem smart? I don't fucking know.

I do know I'm not being embarrassed into buying a greige, silver, or grey car.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Terror in the Great Outdoors, or, Woman against nature

I’m afraid of the great outdoors, or, please don’t invite me to your cottage.
I’d like to save you some energy and me some embarrassment, by respectfully asking you not to invite me to your cottage. I live in Ontario. People here are cottage crazy. Come spring suddenly it’s all anyone talks about.  Every weekend, friends and coworkers flee to my idea of purgatory:  on a slimy lake, under a hot sun, swarming with flies up north, eating barbequed meat, miles from civilization, surrounded by family, often without indoor plumbing or electricity.
I have lived in cities all my life. I spent my twenties in New York City, where people fantasize about going away for the weekend, but for the most part we just sweated it out in the city. The surreal heat emanating off the pavement, the trickling of sweat down the back of your leg a steaming hot subway, now that was summer.
I’m still amazed when friends, coworkers and acquaintances rhapsodize about camping, cottaging and portaging in the wilderness. I’m giving them the side-eye—is this like when everyone goes on about colonics, juice cleanses and yoga? Fun through torture? Woman against nature?
My entire family is people who get nervous around bugs, heat, wilderness and most sporting activiites. Don’t get me wrong, I had a childhood! I have amazing memoires of my dad taking my sisters and me camping at KOA (“Kampgrounds of America”) in upper New York State. It was heaven. Pop cooked our hotdogs on a fork over an open fire, made us processed cheese sandwiches on white bread on top of the steaming roof of the car, I ate a whole bag of marshmallows and threw up. There was bingo every night, and even a swimming pool for when you just couldn’t face the dingy communal showers.  That, my friends, is camping to me.  
In New York my friends were mostly die hard city types. When I returned to Toronto I started working in a small non-profit health clinic for homeless people. Suddenly, rapturous tales of camping filled the water cooler chitchat. It sounded awful, like punishment.
A few years ago I was able to reassess my outdoor hardiness when a dear friend took me along on a camping road trip which terminated with a week in a cottage at a bluegrass festival. (I feel compelled to add: Every element of that last sentence sounds wrong to me.)
Finally, I was going to have the great Canadian camping experience. My friend was and is such a diehard camper and enthusiastic outdoors woman. The packing of the car is an all day affair.
We spent the first night in a provincial park. It was pretty. We pitched the tent in the setting sun in an isolated spot, near a beautiful unswimmable lake (I think there were leeches?). And awoke to a balls-out party in the neighbouring spot in the morning. No matter, we were en route to a music festival and another campground. The next one turned out to be the type where the flicker of televisions light up the night, not fireflies. We were almost arm’s reach from the next campsite, and regaled with teenagers shrieking the night away. I groped for alcohol’s soothing embrace. In the morning, a 20 minutes ordeal preceded the coffee preparation. A fire had to be started, then a Bunsen burner set up. Starbucks was a five minute drive away. I remember pleading with my friend to take me, and her laughing uproariously, assuming I was joking.
But I’m not kidding around when I say I’m a city mouse. I need concrete, I need public libraries, I need diners, coffee shops, bars, subways, art galleries,  restaurants, and goddamnit, a mall—I need them all at my disposal, every weekend. I want to see urban people, I want to see people of colour, I get very nervous when the environs start to resemble something I last saw in a horror movie—dirt roads, patchy cellphone reception, corn fields, no electric lights—doesn’t everyone associate this stuff with cannibal children, dueling banjos and buried nuclear waste?
If you invite me to your cottage I will have to politely decline. Trust that you don’t want me around, making faces at the slimy lake, whinging about the blackflies, sulking in the dark because I can’t read my book, suffering stoically through the lumpy mattress on the creepy bed, nerves jangling at every foreign ‘wilderness’ sound I hear. I don’t want to put you through seeing me hide from the sun under a hoodie, nose in a book, while you gambol about on a lake, waterski, speedboat, fish, wakeboard. Whatever it is, it’s probably not for me. 
No, it’s the city life for me. I need a pillow, a hair dryer, coffee within 10 minutes of waking; I need to put on my makeup in a mirror, every day. I need to wear a skirt; I do not wish to cover myself in insect repellent. I am afraid of most every animal we might encounter there.  That includes bugs.
It all seems horribly expensive too—how is it that so many people seem to have TWO homes, one in Toronto and one in the outer reaches of my nightmare conceived of by a madman?
Why are camping, cottaging, portaging and stumbling around in the woods so popular? Didn’t the industrial revolution save us from this nightmare 200 years ago? Please help me understand. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Literary Brat Pack: sex! drugs! books! best hair ever!

I just started reading Lunar Park by Brett Easton Ellis. He talks a bit at the start about the 'literary brat pack'. These authors made a huge impression on me at a point in my cultural development where my neuroplasticity was high. That's to say I devoured their books, and the whole media hype around them just captured my imagination. I guess I was 13 when Less than Zero came out. And 12 when Bright Lights Big City came out. And.....14 when I read Slaves of New York. Actually now when I think about that, these books sort of opened up another world to me, made me obsessed with New York, and kind of showed me a new way to be an adult (which is to say to remain a perpetual adolescent). 

fucking glamour
Brett Easton Ellis always seemed sort of more dangerous to me, I think Less Than Zero had some extreme violence/sex/drug abuse that, combined with nihilism, made a compelling combination. Plus the movie had Robert Downey Jr., not Michael J Fox.....
more glamour! 
this is still the living end of extreme cool
and the film adaptation of Slaves had Bernadette Peters. Who I still love!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sister of the Road gets run over by Hollywood *SOB*

Just watched Martin Scorsese's Boxcar Bertha. What a let down. It watches like an object lesson in how Hollywood can fuck up a great story, and how the idea of a strong independent woman being the focus of a film is clearly anathema to the sexist movie industry. They completely neutered the Bertha character, simulataneously sexualizing her in a passive, stupid way. They gave her 3 male sidekicks and a love interest whose story eclipses hers.

I was really stoked to see this movie so I'm bummed it was such a let down. Needless to say it completely fails even the Bechdel test (below), give that it has one female character (ok, there were glimpses of a few of her fellow sex workers).

Bechdel test


The Bechdel test or Bechdel/Wallace test was developed by Liz Wallace and became widely known after Alison Bechdel featured it in her comic Dykes to Watch Out For.
The Bechdel test is a test of female characterisation in movies. Passing the Bechdel test requires that:
  1. the movie [media] has at least two women characters;
  2. who talk to each other;
  3. about something other than a man.
Passing or failing the test is not an ironclad guarantee of well-rounded, feminist, characterisation but it is indicative of the problems of token women characters. A vast amount of geeky media fails the test.

Master of her own domain. 

The movie was supposedly based on the book, which I read a few years ago. It was amazing. It's a nonfiction memoir of Boxcar Bertha. She comes of age during the depression and is basically a complete radical who rides the rails, stands in solidarity with unions and wobblies, and eventually tells her story to the doctor who writes the story. She's on the move through the whole book, she believes in free love, works in a whorehouse, befriends all kinds of intellectuals and street people. She comes across as a really intelligent, uneducated woman who kind of epitomizes the notion of the free spirit. Her actions are motivated by survival and also by an innate moral compass. It's a great book.

I'd never even heard of the Scorsese movie until a couple of years ago. I really wish someone else would take on an adaptation of it for film, and let the character speak for herself. Fuck, I'm actually depressed by how stupid and passive they made her character. The film industry thinks so little of viewers, or maybe just has so little capacity for creating progressive work due to financial issues that I don't know or care about.

Well I guess the movie got terrible reviews. It's kind of cold comfort but I'll take it.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Last Days Here Official Trailer - HD Movie (2012)

Saw this documentary the other night and immediately regretted not listening to Pentagram for a long time....I never knew anything about the lead singer. It's a great documentary, total emotional comeback territory. There are a lot of crazy elements to it. Bobby Liebling is the subject, has major struggles with drugs and just functioning at all basically. It's an interesting story about one guy, and in a way helped me see again that people can come back from serious substance use disorders (I mean he looked almost dead at the start)--in my line of work I kind of need to be reminded about that now and then.
This guy had unbelievable support and co-dependence from his parents who are incredibly loving and supportive. You really don't see this much, at least I don't. I'm glad I remembered that there are parents and families like that.
There's also interesting stuff about the music industry, and one of those strange cases where a band just missed one opportunity after another, some by chance, some by stupidity/ego etc. There is also an insane love story that made me want another updated doc about his wife and family.

Halcoholic video #1 from Hallie Liebling on Vimeo.
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It's hard to really get a sense of either of their personalities from the documentary. It's hard to be really cynical about them (well why would you?) aside from the age difference/looks disparity, and as she says in the doc she has nothing financial to gain from the relationship. I guess we're so used to the money for youth/beauty exchange that it's hard to see beyond that.
Let's just say it makes AMAZING video!
And, she has a style blog!  I guess Pentagram lovers hate her. OBVS.