Tuesday, June 26, 2012

wrote this....


the comments are crazy again, some attack my tattoo, some my straight privilege! some are great, i did think a fair bit about it before i wrote it and got some ideas from lesbian friends.
it's true that you can't please all the people all the time but it's also true that you're probably starting off in hot water anytime you talk about any marginalized group from outside that group.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hierarchy of suffering and indignant omnivores

Recently another omnivore lectured me about the plight of ducks prepared for foie gras. And once again I managed to stop myself from going into a harangue about my feelings about what I've come to term the 'hierarchy of suffering'.

For some reason people love to talk to vegans about foie gras, thinking, I imagine that this is an issue we can get together on. And, it give me no pleasure to say NO WE CAN'T, because I don't reserve a special place in hell for people who create and eat foie gras. When the vegan appears insufficiently alarmed at the thought of foie gras, the process must be described to them. It must be that they are ignorant of this abuse, or perhaps they didn't hear you the first time. After all, foie gras is such a common staple of so many cultures' diets. 

The first time it came up, I just felt annoyed and didn't know why. After thinking about it a while I realized it pisses me off that some people feel moved to try to prevent only the most egregious of animal abuses, as though all the others were still on the part of the cruelty continuum that they're still pretty comfortable with. As a price for another creature to pay, for a hamburger, or an egg, or milk or whatever. 

Frankly I don't give a shit about the particulars of foie gras. I've read enough about what goes on in factory farms and slaughterhouses to understand it is very, very bad. When the narrative of animal agriculture includes stuff like sadistic slaughterhouse workers, downer cows, faulty kill mechanisms, grinding up baby chicks, farrowing crates, enforcing totally unnatural and cruel practices on animals that have been caring for themselves for millenia....I don't know how or why one would suddenly get indignant about ducks being force fed fat. I mean, really? 

These indignant omnivores also like to sing the blues for the veal calf, who seems to be getting off light in some regards, being slaughtered before his spirit can be completely broken, his intelligence strip mined and body used and discarded. 

There is also the thorny issue of other cultures eating cats and dogs...who are sacred to these people WHY? Because they are cuter, or you know them better, or they're 'man's best friend'? This just seems simplistic, almost naively touching. 

an upskirt shot at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen NY
Obviously people have come up with some schemata that helps them navigate diet and nutrition via issues of cruelty and suffering. This kind of fascinates me in a way. I came to vegetarianism and veganism very late in life. Honestly it's the main reason I didn't permit myself to think much about the issues of animal cruelty or speciesism, because I knew if I spent any time thinking about that stuff I would have to make big changes in my life. And I was just too lazy. But these indignant omnis clearly aren't lazy! They seem to have thought this through, I guess it's the conclusions that baffle me. 

I finally saw the movie Babe a while ago. It was cute, a well done movie for kids. But there is a pretty radical animal liberation message in that movie! I know lots of kids loved it and I guess it's still a kid's classic. I kind of couldn't help but think, I'd be a little worried about any kid of mine who watched that movie and then didn't want to have a hard conversation with me about vegetarianism or something along those lines. 

NOT a veal calf but still pretty fucking cute
I don't mind talking about veganism with people. I just don't want to talk about foie gras, or veal, or eating cats and dogs. Thanks. 
If you loved Babe and hate foie gras, you might be up for a trip to Farm Sanctury--i went last summer and it was amazing. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

My Boyfriend, Crispin Glover

Childishly, it still annoys me when people refer to Crispin Glover's supposed meltdown on the Letterman show. When you watch it, it seems so obvious that he's goofing around.

 I guess that kind of humour doesn't translate well or something, people need a laugh track to know when to laugh.
But Crispin and I have been together since River's Edge, I don't know why he was so loyal to ?Ricky? back then after he killed his girlfriend and all, but he's grown up a lot.

And I'm really bummed I missed his speaking tour date in both Toronto and Chicago.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

What it is + Cruddy

Not sure what took me so long to read Cruddy. 

I guess I'd seen it about a million times and finally bought it after reading Lynda Barry's other book about writing called What it is.
(Apropos of nothing I need to also make mention of Crispin Glover's film project called What is it)

Anyway, Cruddy was fantastic. One of the best books I ever read. It has a roadtrip, surreal passages, magical realism, teenagers acting like teenagers, and really great sensitive, smart writing.

I had picked up her other book What it is shortly before. I liked it but I couldn't really understand it as a book about writing. I realized later that what she's getting at is more a meditation on creativity. It got me thinking about how good it is to have a creative outlet and how that can really sustain a person through all manner of discomforts and hardships. She obviously has a real affinity for children and kids, talks about how her own writing and drawing created an alternate headspace to be in.

She articulates well that sort of absent minded absorption you can achieve through doing something creative, and how losing track of time and doing something (i was going to say "productive", but "creative" really is a more appropriate word) can recharge you. It made me think about how sometimes when I surf the web or online window shop or read celebrity gossip, you're supposed to find it relaxing but it can really drain you psychically. Lynda Barry seems to think you should get rid of your TV, or at least recognize it as a narcotic of sorts. You lose time watching TV and surfing the web too, but it doesn't recharge you, it can do the opposite. Don't get me wrong, I love watching certain shows and I love crappy movies. But I definitely have fallen prey to the glazed eyes, prone on the sofa type of watching too.....

She doesn't even really get into the writing exercises until about 1/2-2/3 of the way in. The book is pretty, it's all collages and drawings by her. 

She talks a lot about memories and images. How you can escape into books and drawing and writing etc. I think anyone who loves reading and loves books can relate to many of the things she said. I do remember lying in my bed in my suburban home as a teenager and specifically reading the Edie Sedgewick oral history biography, and just being so completely absorbed and fascinated that this world even existed somewhere. And losing myself in a book is still such a pleasure, the reason I keep reading all the time is for that feeling. 

There's a fantastic quote in it:

 We don't create a fanasy world to escape reality, we create it to be able to stay. 

I wasn't a huge Marlys fan, nor did I really like Ernie's Pook Comeek that much. I just loved Cruddy though. Highly recommend. 

YouTube Intervention Request

Who knows exactly when it became a problem, somewhere along the line the switch flipped from casual interest to full 'monkey on the back' addiction. My name is Sarah and I'm addicted to YouTube makeup tutorials. Let me clarify, tutorials were the gateway drug. I had to figure out that winged eyeliner. False eyelashes, leopard print nails, after that it was contouring with powder, then with foundation. A haul video snuck in there, suddenly I needed those too. It went beyond makeup--the fishtail braid, the fat hipster bun, the amazing rookie 2 minute beehive.
I needed my own YouTube account and subscriptions. I know I'm not alone--some of these videos have hundreds of thousands of views! And there is not one cat playing piano to be seen!
Once upon a time I was a womens' magazine junkie. Throughout high school and university I read about 10 magazines monthly. I still love them.  Over time though, I came to feel I was wasting time and money reading them. I started feeling guilty about loving something so superficial and wasteful, and for spending hard earned cash on the beauty myth. All those hours spent poring over fashion spreads--couldn't an educated woman think of better things to do? In the interval between fashion magazine obsession and online video obsession I came to a conclusion--I like what I like. I like fashion, I like makeup, I love a big fat September issue with insane pictorials. And apparently I like watching strangers execute the smoky eye with surgical precision using a particular Wet'n'Wild palette that was limited edition last fall.
The beauty of online makeup videos is that 1) the women are real, not airbrushed and often not professional; and 2) most of the time they aren't getting anything from their endorsement. On occasion there is an endorsement arrangement and the vlogger tells you upfront. These women actually use and like the products they demonstrate, and often have an encyclopedic knowledge of what else is available. What is worth spending money on and what to avoid. This is where I`ve learned what products to spend money on (foundation) and what to get on the cheap (most everything else).
The best videos are probably those by actual makeup artists, but those aren't my favourites. My favourites are the amateurs with encyclopedic knowledge. The girls and women, mostly from all over North America who live and breathe makeup. I love that they`re all different types of real women and you kind of get a sense of their personalities after watching a few vids. They`ve done a lot of work and research so I don`t have to, once you get to `know`them, they can save you time and money. They know the best products, the best techniques. The amateurs aren`t often pretentious, they`re funny, self deprecating even....real.
Makeup ads lie all the time, I kind of like the hyperbole. But in makeup vlogs, there is usually no incentive to mislead you.
I also love the `haul`videos, especially hauls from drugstores and fast fashion retailers. You kind of get a shopper`s high without spending money. If something looks really amazing, you can get it yourself and you haven`t spent that much money. I like the way the women talk through their purchases, explaining why they like this or that thing. I don`t know why I find it entertaining.
For some I like the personality of the vlogger, others share my taste, still more are totally taste divergent but still interesting for some reason, and then there are a handful that I might watch because I dislike the vlogger or her taste (hate-watching in other words). The tutorial videos with tens of thousands of view might be amazing, the ones with a handful of views might be amazing in a different way.
I'm the kind of person who wants to look into your makeup bag. I love that feature in US magazine where the starlet opens her purse for the readers, but even more fascinating to me would be the handbag of the woman sitting next to me on the bus. I know I"m not alone here, I remember a ski trip in my twenties where the first evening was spent not at the chalet, but with 5 women swilling wine and excavating our makeup bags. I love hearing what products other people swear by.
 I don`t even care that much if the video production is poor (it`s usually not even that bad), the vlogger awkward, the products useless to me--something about the amateur makeup tutorial is just riveting mindlessly riveting. The comments on the videos aren`t usually that scathing, which is nice--most people watching are doing so because they like the vlogger. There seems to be fewer trolls on the comments. The piece de resistance? I get to see someone else's bathroom.
Do you like fashion or beauty video blogs? Which ones are your favourite?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Yarn Bombing and other crimes against crafts

Worldwide Knit in Public Day was last week. There are events all over North America to promote and encourage the fibre arts, mostly relating to, as you might guess, knitting in public--on the subway, at the library, in a park, en masse. I like this idea fine.
I love knitting, I love crochet and embroidery too. But mostly knitting. I always have something on the needles, usually two or three things. Summer creates a bit of anxiety as I'm not sure how I'm going to get through it without succumbing and suffering the horror of sweat dampened yarn and some furtive knit 'n' purling.
But I'm not a public knitter, never have been. I guess I'm excited enough about knitting that I feel like there is something braggarty about doing it in public. Plus, people like to talk to you when you knit on public transportation, and I already have earplugs and a book in use to make sure that doesn't happen. There are often also too many little fumbly accoutrements to knitting, the stitch markers, stitch holders, scissors, tape measure, you have to count, concentrate--it's not bus stuff in my mind, unless i'm on a long trip.
WWKIP day also seems to incorporate one of my many pet peeves--yarn bombing. I can't bring myself to describe it, please use the link to familiarize yourself. Basically it's knit graffiti. The other day I asked my partner rhetorically why it irritated me so much--his answer was perfect 'It's meaningless misappropriation.' Yeah, that's it.
To clarify, something like Olek is fantastic. I saw her crocheted room in New York last year. It's all tailor made, she's covered everything in the room in crochet including the plumbing under the sink.

I also love this knit tank from Marianne Jorgenson, which I have seen lots of places. There are great examples of knit art that takes knitting out of the usual context and makes it interesting in a new way.

What I DON"T like is just making a huge blanket out of hand knit squares draped over something like a car, meaning....WHAT?

The story in particular that raised my hackles was about a regular local yarn donation spot. Every month they accept donations of unwanted yarn. I thought they donated it to school knitting projects or to long term care facilities, for teaching knitting or doing occupational therapy or what have you. Nope. This is what was done with the donations. I'm not linking anywhere because it's possibly I'm being a little bitchy.
do you see the difference? it's just a bunch of mismatched squares draped willy nilly on a car.
Ok, whatever. The amazing thing about these kinds of fibre art is the akill and attention to detail. Both absent in the care above. 

Cultural misappropriation. I don't get the purpose of a knit 'tag', which is basically a sock on a lamp post. I like graffiti or even street art, I don't ask for Banksy level skill or social commentary. I think it's nice when communities promote murals, even to combat graffiti (much of which is ugly and or dumb). But something about this knit/crochet graffiti just seems like stupid white people tricks to me. 

I joined StreetKnit when I first started working with homeless populations. They've done some yarn bomb/knit graffiti type stuff that was intended to bring attention to homelessness. I also took a sculpture class years ago with Janet Morton, a Canadian artist who is great. She did this piece. It was an installation in downtown Toronto about homelessness, home and warmth. It's not draped over a house, it's an armature as far as I know. 

Anyway I remember tabling for StreetKnit at a City of Craft event in Toronto, where we were accepting knit donations for homeless organizations. A woman dropped off a pair of handknit mohair mittens in WHITE. Just what a homeless woman needs. I've worked with homeless people for years--I can say with confidence that they do NOT want to wear handmade delicates, or wacky mismatched knit stuff. They want thinsulate hats and gloves in navy and black. Anything you donate that deviates from this will probably be a warmer of absolute last resort. You would be MUCH better off to knit the stuff, sell it to your pals and donate the cash to your favourite non profit. The thought is admirable, the sentiment beautiful, but NO ONE wants to wear a yellow handkinit tam when they're homeless. Sorry. 

What's cute about my handknit scarves, hats and mittens, is that they are intentionally mismatched. You wear the handmade stuff proudly, it's the DIY third wave feminist aesthetic. If I was living on the street, the last thing in the world I would want to wear is a hodge podge of mismatched stuff that possibly make me look poor. On middle class me, with my tailored overcoat and kitschy handbag, sure, it's cute. On someone who has to wear a donated ski jacket, who is outside in all manner of precipitation and cold, who truly has very little choice about what styles of clothes and accessories they might have access to, I feel like it's almost RUDE to want them to wear your olive and orange striped toque! 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lorna Doom, age 19 weeks and 5 days

When I agreed to adopt a 'potcake' puppy in April, honestly I had totally forgotten what it was like to have a really young dog. Our other dog, Crowley, is just over 4 years. For the most part the aggravation is over, it's just a pleasure to have her.

My partner and I had talIked in the abstract about getting another dog, the operative word being DOG. I don't think either of us thought of a puppy. We were really lucky to get Crowley from the Toronto Humane Society but I think both of us had a notion that puppies are a lot of work.

My boss was getting a 'potcake' dog from a rescue society in the Bahamas. There is a diaspora of mutts who live on the beach in the Bahamas and Turks + Caicos. Evidently they need to be culled periodically and hence these rescue societies (the one that brought ours over was 'Baark Bahamas'). I would never have adopted a mutt from the Bahamas (knowing there are lots right here in Ontario that need homes), but my boss was adopting one through a contact at Baark. Turned out the dog she adopted had a sister who would be able to come as well, which is how we got Lorna Doom.

Toronto is a really dog friendly (crazy?) city. When you have a dog, especially a puppy, people love to talk to you and ask about her. People love to tell you their dogs are 'rescues' and that any behavioural issues are because of that. It alwyays makes me want to tell them I got my dogs through a puppy mill for some reason. I find it a little odd. I know dogs aren't kids but I can't imagine a parent announcing to anyone who'd listen taht their kid was adopted, or preferably 'rescued'. I'm not someone who could ever imagine going to a breeder for a dog, I just would never care about that. Knowing that mutts are usually healthier and better tempered it seems crazy to me, not even considering the likeliehood of mistreatment or other ethical concerns relating to dog breeding.

Anyway, April 24, of this year, we were out at Pearson airport to pick up our new puppy. She was fucking cute. She has an incredibly endearing way of completely relaxing into the arms of whomever is holding her. It can take you by surprise if you're expecting her to support anypart of her own weight. She loves being picked up and cuddled, she loves curling up with you on the sofa or bed. She likes to wedge herself between you and the sofa cushion. I imagine she would be fond of Temple Grandin's hug machine.

This puppy is incredibly cute and smart. She even helps keep her older sister in line.

She's 95% housetrained, accidents are now ascribed to our lack of discipline in taking her out, it's a work in progress. She still gets us up every night between 3-5am. Usually if your alarm is set for 6:30a; she'll choose 5am. I would never claim she's as much work as a human baby, however friends with kids have said it sounds way worse. Which is funny, I would never think I could manage a newborn. Then again they don't move around and they shit in a diaper. Unlike Doom who is content to shit under a coffee table if the fancy strikes.

She also has those 'sundowning' moments where she's just a blur of teeth, fur and flashing eyes. Kind of annoying.

We have to start going to the dog parks again. Both myself and my partner aren't that fond of going. The other owners, for the most part, are annoying. They either ignore their dogs completely, leaving you the awkward task of notifying them when their beast turds. Or they're wanting to talk to you. Among the memorable inanities are 'Don't you love dog park culture?', asked with no irony at all; or another woman asked my partner 'Have you read all the Harry Potter books?'--mysteriously assuming he'd read any. Pretty much torture. My other pet peeve is the wrong headed misinterpretation of dog behaviour--'Oh look, she's so proud of her new haircut!', 'He's trying to protect the little dog from all the others', or 'She's getting jealous!'--so irritating. They're fucking dogs people, if you could read their thoughts you wouldn't understand them anyway. They're operating on a series of evolutionary cues and sensory stimuli that you and I couldn't begin to understand or interpret.

Monday, June 4, 2012


I'm really excited about the Advanced Style book that just came out last week. I love that women in their 70s and (way) older are being taken seriously as fashion innovators. The book and coming film aren't not kitsch or condescending, it's an actual celebration of personal style (and of the persons behind the style). These women look avant garde, they look completely modern. It's not pearls and wool pencil skirts or houndstooth collarless fitted jackets, necessarily. It's got major elements of DIY--the film trailer features a woman who fashions her own false eyelashes, another who does her own sewing despite arthritis.

Granny fashion has been having a moment since about the mid nineties. Enid Coleslaw's 'old lady fashion', the endless moment of the granny boot, cat's eye glasses, pencil skirts, fall capes, ladylike heels, depression era dresses, grey and mauve hair from last season--many times these things signify counterculture awareness, a nod to pin-up style, rockabilly, Harold and Maude, Little Edie from Grey Gardens....on and on it goes. The look is impeccable, meticulous and hip at the same time. The difference is that 'Advanced Style' as introduced to us by Ari Seth Cohen and his model muses is actually worn by the elderly.

Why is it so wonderful to see? Why do I feel happy and even reassured by the denizens of advanced style? I think it's because it's about hope, beauty and aesthetics, three things there are way too little of. I stopped reading fashion blogsfor a while because it felt like an DIY alternative to mainstream fashion publications--but the exclusivity is still palpable in lots of popular blogs. You get the sense that everyone got the same notes for the each season--everyone in fishtail braids, or straw boaters, or the same muted greys, muted peach, the same soft focus pictures of skinny unsmiling young white girls.

Things like Advanced Style, fatshion blogs, Tavi Gevinson's blog--are the antidote to all that. There is a core element of true expression there--of using clothes to say something about yourself or your obsessions. These are places where aesthetics are valued as ethics, and the ethics are punk rock, DIY, a celebration of one's self.

And that is where Advanced Style will step in and blow ya mind--these women are not up for the competition. They are dressing for themselves, they are proud of looking so bangin'--and they are (possibly older than) your grandparents! I like that many of the women featured on the site are totally iconoclastic, the 'rule book' doesn't apply to them because the rule book the rest of us are being sold ages you out after about age 35! Like other fashion rebels (fatshion bloggers for example), they have liberated themselves from the tyranny of commercial fashion.

They've also honed their style over many years, it's unlikely that any of these women are new to fashion and style aspirations. What makes them so remarkable is they dare to express the narcissism of the truly stylish--you have to really like yourself to go to this much effort, don't you? In the end I think advanced style is so awesome for the simple reason that these women do not seem to give a fuck. Existing in a blissful world free from the oppressive male gaze (I'm being a little tongue in cheek here), they are free to create a sartorial language and expression that is totally unique to them. This type of expressive fashion requires commitment, time, an eye for detail. In a time where juicy couture sweats and flip flops are considered appropriate clothes for public view, it's totally refreshing to see people put the effort in. And to put the effort in for the love of fashion, the love of clothes, the need to create a unique self expression, to stand out. It cheers me, it truly does.

Do you think fashion blogs have been co-opted? What's your favourite source of insane eye-style-candy?

Our right to bare boobs

Now that the weather is warming up, I have a burning issue on my mind. It concerns women and equal rights. Sounds pretty serious right? It definitely is:

Top That...Or Not: A Topless Woman Speaks Out

I guess I'm happy that someone is exercising a woman's right to bare breasts. I guess as far as equal rights goes, all rights must be equal, regardless of how they apply to me. Topfreedom on Wikipedia helps to explain the struggle for this right and to delineate where a gal can feel free to whip 'em out.

I can't understand why this issue gets such play in the popular press. The cynic in me (well, that's actually all of me) sees that it would provide an excellent opportunity place a picture of a half nekkid woman in your newspaper. I'm not trying to be obtuse but--is this a right women actually want? If the answer is, 'we want ALL the rights so we can decide for ourselves which to exercise'--that's fantastic.

I just feel like this is a bit of a bait and switch--'"You ladies want equal rights? Here's one for ya!" Except I know it didn't go down like that. A good friend of mine was arrested in Guelph Ontario in the 90s, supporting my right to bare boobs. To the extent that the issue is about equal rights and breastfeeding, I salute all the activists who fought for this right. For the right to strip off on a hot day, not so much.

And here's the rub: We have the right to go topless but not the culture that would support that right or keep us safe were we to exercise that right. For most of us, going topless would be a nightmare. Men still seem to find an exposed ankle to be stimulating on occasion, I cannot imagine the hell they would make life for bare breasted sunbathers. When we live in a culture that continues to debate the rights of women, the same culture that made Slutwalk necessary--how is legal support for toplessness a victory?

I understand the issue for breastfeeding moms, that makes perfect sense. I understand too that it's not up to me, the state, or anyone else to decide whether breasts should be bared, or for what purpose. Frankly if I needed to breastfeed in public, there is no way I would do so without a nursing blanket. Not because I need to shield people from the sight of an infant receiving nutrition in the best and healthiest manner, or because I need to shield anyone from the sight of a lactating breast--for a much better reason. I don't want the aggravation of people gawking at my boobs. I'm not saying I'm happy that women are relegated to breastfeeding or breastpumping in public toilets, or beneath huge "shame covers"---I"m just expressing an awareness of the actual culture in which I live, one in which I would simply not consider baring my breasts in public. Breast feeding has become a political issue, and quite right. Only recently Facebook censored photos of breastfeeding mothers on its site. It still gets people very upset. (In talking about this issue with a friend on the weekend, she clarified that when she was breastfeeding, she used a napkin to cover herself and the baby. "It's not the visuals," she told me, "it's the UNGODLY SLURPING that gets people staring!")

To the women who would be comfortable bra- and top-less, I say more power to them. Equality is equality after all, and I would never stand in the way of progress. But as a proud A-cup woman, I hate to go without a bra, never mind shirtless to boot. The thought of parading around a major North American city bare breasted fills me with anxiety.

Am I way out on a limb here? And if you intend to exercise your right will you please use extra SPF on those things?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Amelia Jones + the female narcissist

…the female narcissist is dangerous to patriarchy because she obviates the desiring male subject (loving herself, she needs no confirmation of her desirability from him). in the case of an artistic practice that performs female narcissism (such as wilke’s), the threat lies in its making superfluous the arbiters of artistic value. already presuming her desirability, wilke obviates the modernist critical system; loving herself, she needs no confirmation of her artistic “value.” 
Amelia Jones, Body Art: Performing the Subject

I haven't read Amelia Jones, I came upon this quote on another blog. But I think it articulates why artists like Cindy Sherman, Marina Abramovic, Orlan are fascinating to me and a lot of people. This level of self regard is kind of riveting, especially when the culture considers self involvement or 'selfish'ness to be a character flaw. What then do you make of prolific female artists who make huge bodies of work which at it's essence is about self regard?

Fashion Pirate: some notes on napkins.

Fashion Pirate: some notes on napkins.: Visionaire / Comme des Garcons via  rifles @ tumblr “ …the female narcissist is dangerous to patriarchy because she obviates the desirin...

This is a great post from Fashion Pirate--I agree completely. I mean, I don't necessarily want people to stare questioningly at ME, but I am tired of seeing the same old same old. Somehow fashion blogs can be as stale and boring as print fashion media, or as stilted and seemingly constrained by unknown forces ($, loyalty to advertisers, sold space, groupthink). That's why I love stuff like rookie or some fatshion blogs.

I also like this notion of the dangerous female narcissist, it makes superficiality seem deep and meaningful!