I came home this evening and nothing felt like how it should be
I feel like writing you a letter but that’s not me…you know me
Feel so fucking angry; don’t wanna be reminded of you
But when I left my shit in your kitchen, I said goodbye to your bedroom
It smelled of you

Mr False Pretence, you don’t make sense
I just don’t know you
But you make me cry, where’s my kiss goodbye?
I think I love you

— “Take The Box,” Frank (2003)


Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Women

“Apply Lipstick, Tell Your Joke About Ghosts.”

I really love my friend Christie’s “The Rules Of” series she’s doing for GOOD magazine.

Leave a comment

Filed under Journalism

So #2000andLate

Having learned an important lesson in 2003 when The Da Vinci Code was released, I rarely read books while they’re at the height of their popularity. Sometimes this is good, because they’re not time-sensitive and they’ll likely be satisfying whenever I get around to them (The Warmth of Other Suns). Admittedly, sometimes it’s contrarian (Game of Thrones, Harry Potter). Mostly, though, it’s a way of saving myself from reading books that are bad but aren’t recognized as such until the backlash arrives (The Da Vinci Code; Eat Pray Love). The books I’ve read in the last two months illustrate to me why I should remain intractable on this point.

Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010) hits all three of these points to varying degrees. The chatter around it oversold the book a bit for me. It wasn’t as good as that one episode of RadioLab promised, or as the five star reviews from friends would have me believe. It was longer than it needed to be, and Skloot’s personal interactions with the Lacks family weren’t as compelling to me as a reader as they clearly were to her as a writer. (Funny enough, in the intro, she mentions an editor who was “mysteriously injured” after asking her to take Henrietta’s family out of the book — the implication being that the spirit of Henrietta did it. I think that editor was onto something.)

Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential (2000) is another book that didn’t live up to the hype. It was heavy on the seediness Bourdain participated in and observed, and light on cooking. Unfortunately, he managed to make days-long coke benders sound boring. Kitchen Confidential is also an example of a book of the moment — there hadn’t really been anything like it, which was why readers were so impressed. I read it 11 years after it came out, and in the meantime, Bourdain has become a bad boy celebrity chef (ugh, stupid phrase, but) and hopefully a more interesting writer.

Tina Fey’s Bossypants (2011) was not good. Fey writes exactly how she delivers jokes, and that only works for so long before becoming a tired device. Clearly, the Da Vinci Code rule holds here. Bossypants is a book that I read only a month after it came out, and I wish I’d just read some comics instead.

Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay (2008-2010) add up to a series I’m both sad I didn’t read until now (because it’s so good), and glad that I didn’t read until now (because I didn’t have to wait between books). I devoured them, reading all three in the span of a week. The trilogy isn’t great art by any means, but it is tightly paced and plotted, with plenty of satisfying foreshadowing. For the kind of story Collins is writing — YA novel about a teenage girl (sure, a teenage girl literally fighting for her life) — she really avoids treading old ground.

Despite enjoying The Hunger Games trilogy, it feels like I’m making bad choices. Perhaps I should go back to my old method of reading books: Anything as long as it was written more than 30 years ago. The only choice in that category I wish I could take back was the wretched Jude the Obscure, after the publication of which, Thomas Hardy correctly stopped writing novels.


Filed under Books

In Defense of A Certain Celebrity Profile

I could not disagree with Alyssa more about her take on Edith Zimmerman’s brilliant GQ profile of Chris Evans. She found it “disconcerting” and writes:

It’s not so much this profile, which is really not so much a profile as a chronicle of hanging out with an action star, that read as odd to me. It’s that Zimmerman’s piece comes on the heels of the March issue, in which GQ published Jessica Pressler’s account of spending the night with Channing Tatum, a couple of Snuggies, and a bottle of tequila. For GQ, sending out a female reporter to get tipsy and a little frisky with an otherwise indistinguishable slab of beef appears to be their stab at creating a novel and enduring journalistic form, akin to the New Yorker’s revealing anecdote, followed by a statement of a larger problem, followed by an origin story. At this rate, I’ll be making it rain in strip clubs with Ryan Reynolds by November.

Her point about Jessica Pressler’s night with Channing Tatum is somewhat well-met. But it’s also fairly common for GQ profiles to boil down to a few hundred words of “I hung out with this person.”

Still, I think Alyssa is missing what made the story so wonderful. Chris Evans is essentially a nobody (an up-and-coming nobody, sure) in Hollywood — he’s not a great actor, and he’s not even playing a great hero (sorry, Captain America fans). If Edith did this with a person who was important or particularly interesting, like Barack Obama or even Robert Downey, Jr. that would be one thing. But Evans is exactly what Alyssa describes him to be: an indistinguishable slab of beef (who is apparently much loved by his mother, as all boys should be).

So, what do you do when faced with an assignment to profile of a handsome movie star whose credits include “Harvard Hottie” in the Nanny Diaries and the lead in Push, a movie I think I was the only person in America to see?

I guess you could dig around and try to find out what makes him interesting. Or you could take this opportunity to explore the absolutely bizarre experience of writing a celebrity profile. Edith writes:

Despite his publicist specifically telling him not to, he invited me to come to his going-away party. “My poor publicist,” he said. “She knows I like to drink. She was like, ‘Please don’t drink too much, please just don’t drink too much—you’re gonna take this person out, and they’re going to ruin you.’ ”

We were heading our separate ways for dinner first. I said I was going to call a cab, but Chris laughed and insisted on his driver taking me back to my hotel. In the vast backseat, Chris was even more flirtatious than before, touching my arm and my knee. At this point, which was a…number of drinks in, it was easy to forget that it really was an interview, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t cross my mind that something might happen (and that we’d go to the Oscars and get married and have babies forever until we died?). But there was always the question of how much of it was truly Chris Evans, and whom I should pretend to be in response.

Let’s face it: most celebrity profiles are completely worthless. Either you suffer through Hirschbergesque atmospherics like what the weather is like and if the person has a purple couch (for 95-lb female stars, it’s all about how much pasta, or burgers, or beers they consumed), or you get long, winding profiles that will ultimately conclude that so-and-so is “complicated.”

Maybe it’s because I’m a journalist, but I’d much rather read a story about what it’s like to try and interview a handsome, charming celebrity and spend time in fancy places and fall a little bit in love with one’s subject. In divulging the ethical roadbumps all journos in these situations are sure to face, Edith is telling us more than we would ever learn by reading what Evans’ workout routine is. And that is writing by a woman that I can get behind.


Filed under Journalism, Sexism, Women

Some Writing I’ve Been Doing

I’ve got two pieces out today that I’m pretty proud of, in different ways. First there’s the first post in a series I’m beginning for Colorlines that explores the jobs crisis, and why it’s so hard to get things done in Washington. I talked to a couple of economists who have some theories:

“If you go back to that time, I think we were worried that the unemployment could get up to 6, or maybe 7 percent,” says economist Lawrence Mishel, president of the liberal Economic Policy Institute. “There was bipartisan effort to stimulate the economy when we were worried about 7 percent. Now we’re at 9 percent,” he adds—but now no one cares.

Chad Stone, an economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, argues that unemployment has fallen away as a real priority because Washington politicians are now caught up in a short-sighted argument over the budget deficit.

“The idea has caught on in this town that we have to cut spending really quickly to address a perceived budget crisis,” Stone says, but “cutting spending immediately goes in the wrong direction for solving the jobs crisis.”

Read the rest at Colorlines.

Second, I did a post for The Hairpin that I’m pretty excited about because I love The Hairpin/Awl. Thanks to Edith for running it! I wrote about the ridiculous Psychology Today post that postulated theories for why black women are objectively less attractive than all other women.

I know, right?

The problem with race-based assessments of attractiveness or intelligence — particularly when it comes to black people — is that it completely ignores a couple of things. First, that black people can be Paul Robeson or Anatole Broyard or Butterfly McQueen or Lena Horne. There’s no one kind of blackness. This leads directly to point number two, which is that most black Americans have varying degrees of white genetic material, and, traditionally, fairer skinned black women — those who are closer to white — have been considered most beautiful.

That means that you could conclude that a) the blacker a lady is, the less attractive she is, that or b) in order for racism to work, people have to believe irrational, crazy things about other races — like that black women are less attractive and less feminine than other ladies.

Read the rest at The Hairpin.

Leave a comment

Filed under Race, Sexism, Women

“You pretty much do whatever men want you to do?” “Yes…yes, that’s what I’m trying to tell you.”

Based on this interview, I’ve decided that Aubrey Plaza — aka April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation — is kind of a genius. She plays it almost completely straight, and with her blank face and monotone, she makes Steven Tyler and Jay Leno look like the total creepers they’re being.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Leave a comment

Filed under TV, Women

Bait and Switch

I expected there to be rapping at the Donald Glover / Childish Gambino show, of course. Gambino is Glover’s musical alter-ego and the IAMDONALD tour announcement made no bones about it: this was a comedy-rap show.

But I didn’t expect it to be so heavy on the rap. Glover’s comedic intro was pretty funny, but after about 15 minutes he switched over to music and didn’t quit for another hour. Which is fine, I guess, but as I haven’t really listened to the EP, it wasn’t really getting it for me. Still, it was clear he was loving what he was doing on stage, and I don’t blame him for using his fame to do what he loves.

However, it should be noted that Glover raps most frequently about having a large penis and how he uses it to have sex with women of various races.

Update: My friend Amina quickly schooled me after seeing this post: “it was a concert. not a standup routine. he has 2 eps out. that he very excitedly distributed on the innanet.” Fine.

1 Comment

Filed under Music