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.
br />

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.

Thursday, August 2, 2012