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: