New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday. We get dressed up and drink champagne. Except for every single publication’s “LOOK AT WHAT WE DID THIS YEAR” list of links, the internet is really fun to read. I am not taking a much-needed nap because the internet is so interesting! What the fuck? Everyone is selfish and hopeful and joyful.
I had a pretty good year, a rockstar year, but 11 is my lucky number, so I’m being the worst fucking optimist.
And then we all listen to this song and kiss and think great great things.
“My New Year’s Eve Toast: to all the devils, lusts, passions, greeds, envies, loves, hates, strange desires, enemies ghostly and real, the army of memories, with which I do battle — may they never give me peace.”—
On Black Swan, Immediately after Seeing Black Swan
1. Winona Ryder needs to be in every movie.
2. I agree with the critique that Black Swan is a bad movie, made very well. That is what Darren Aronofsky does! I have no problem with it!
3. I am not stupid enough to apply any kind of feminist critique to this movie other than “Well, that was gazey” but wouldn’t it have been a lot more interesting if Nina had lived in a normal apartment and just talked to her mom with the scary paintings every now and then? Clearly, someone sleeping in a pink room stuffed with dolls is going to be crazy. That story was written in the yellow wallpaper.
4. I liked it a lot!
5. But Natalie Portman was wayyyy too skinny.
6. Mila Kunis’s character was fantastic.
7. Seeing Vincent Cassel in any movie always just makes me wish I were on my couch, watching Ocean’s Twelve.
8. Ocean’s Twelve and Black Swan are movies of equal caliber.
My favorite song in 2010: Joanna Newsom - “Good Intentions Paving Company”
Joanna Newsom is the voice of California folk reason. Listening to Have One On Me changes whatever conversation I was having with myself to one where I’m calm and feminine and productive and creative. If you can’t apply something in “Good Intentions Paving Company” to your relationship, then it might be a failed relationship, y’know? Or this song just might be a folktale, and I’m fine with that.
Everyone already mentioned this, but this song is probably at least a little bit about Andy Samberg, and that makes me gleeful.
Before I am about to work on something very seriously, very hard, I tend to write a blog post, or think about writing a blog post. I have actually been meaning to write this particular post for several days, but it was Christmas and all and I was only working semi-seriously, semi-hard, and then there’s the fact that no one really wants to read or write about internet feminism on Christmas. It’s true.
Last week I became mildly obsessed with Sady Doyle’s #mooreandme Twitter campaign. There are so many words about it, and you can read them all, but Doyle et al protested “left”ist media’s coverage of the women accusing Julian Assange of rape, largely because major news personalities linked to articles that published the names of the accusers1 and minimized their accusations because evidently we all know exactly what rape means.2
I became really obsessed with this protest, although I didn’t participate except for a few brief emails to people and being angry about things. I didn’t participate because I was working on other stuff and I actually didn’t know that donating to RAINN was the best idea and, like a friend said, yelling at Michael Moore is like yelling at Glenn Beck. BUT. I became really obsessed with it anyway because media coverage of the women accusing Assange of rape made me angry. I’d read about it in the morning and get all distracted during the day because progressives were not acting progressive. People shied away from talking about it because talking about it is frightening. It made me so fucking angry. It turned out that it was an effective protest and #mooreandme was picked up and made headway and everyone had a merry Christmas, kindof.
Then I read that interview with Fran Lebowitz, and she talks about writing during the 1970s and being a woman but not being a feminist activist. I don’t have the interview with me, but basically she said: I’m a feminist. I believe in feminist things. But I wasn’t an activist because I was out doing other things. The women who were activists did great things, but I did different things.
It was like Fran Lebowitz was saying, “It’s okay, Deborah. Don’t let every little thing about the mainstream narrative upset you.” Which is, actually, why I stopped reading all of the activist blogs regularly: because I can critique the mainstream all I want, but I would be one of many voices yelling at it, yelling forever. I am still upset by it, but I have other things to do right now, and there are plenty of other people doing a great job at the big picture.
I have other things to do right now. I have this fucking magazine, and it’s amazing. And our job is to make real progressive media, instead of just critiquing it. The whole point in the first place was that I was so tired of reading one story, reading about people writing about their friends, reading about this group of “cool” local media people who I could really give a fuck about, and actually making some change in the way we think about how we think about. The whole point was that I was tired of reading old newsmen’s take on how we see things, and that was repeated and reiterated through every single local publication. I was bored with reading repurposed press releases. I was pissed when I saw a local magazine story about Twin Cities bike culture that included exactly one picture of a woman, who was portrayed as being completely flippant and moronic, so our fantastic writers wrote a much better story and we published it as our premiere story.
I don’t critique local media on every sexist, racist sentence or story because yes, editors are trying and they aren’t Keith Olbermann, but there are sexist and racist sentences in every single local magazine, in every issue, in addition to all the stuff that gets left out. And I know it’s hard to produce the amount that editors are producing in the time that they are producing it with budgets and regulations, but every single one of those mildly ignorant sentences that have nothing to do with advertisers could be rewritten into something funnier, deeper, smarter, and cleverer (say it like “Harder Better Faster Stronger”).
And If something’s really egregious, I’llsaysomething, and please, friends, editors, whoever, let me know if you agree or disagree or what you think and I’ll be happy to talk.
But my goal this year is to put all that anger, all that activist energy into production. The best thing that I can do right now is to give examples of how to do it right. Because this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done by leaps and bounds, and I don’t flatter myself thinking that the Runoff is the only magazine that could ever do this. Like really really really parts of it are really hard, but it’s also not that hard.
New Year’s Resolution Number One: Stop getting angry and just do it better. The old models are broken; let’s make new ones. Use your brain, not your brand; cut the bullshit, do it better. And try not to be so smug about it, but do it better. Make something new.
1 This is legal (First Amendment!) but not at all ethical as it endangers the safety of women. For an amazing feminist critique of the First Amendment (they don’t always go together as nicely as progressives would like), read Susan H. Williams’ Truth, Autonomy, and Speech. Let’s talk about autonomy sometime!
2 I thought that all progressive people and feminists knew what rape meant but they don’t, Naomi Wolf. Here’s the deal: Withdrawing consent means withdrawing consent and when someone withdraws consent at any time or aren’t conscious to be consenting it’s rape. Evidently not everyone understands this. So they write phrases like “gray area” or use the word rape in quotation marks to show how complex they are as thinkers because the idea of two consenting adults all the time really frustrates some people, I guess. But it’s actually not a difficult concept. There are a lot more difficult concepts in the world, and in feminism.
“Young girls are always showing me their diamond engagement rings. “Look, Fran!” It’s so old-fashioned. I think that I am too old to feel that people who are kids remind me of my parents. Someone my age is supposed to be angered by kids. You’re supposed to say, “These crazy kids— what will they think of next?” You’re not supposed to say, “These kids are so boring. These kids are so regressive.” It’s like the 1950s. The 1950s weren’t just about great suits. That time was really suffocating. So it seems to me that people, especially women who have all these choices, are now looking for things that aren’t oppressive exactly but are pretty suffocating. What used to be called middle-class respectability looked like it was going to disappear, but it didn’t. It’s returned. It just returned in a different costume. If you do it in a loft instead of a split-level in the suburbs, it’s still the same. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be allowed to do it; I’m saying it’s suburban.”—The interview with Fran Lebowitz was the best part of the December Bust. It’s full of ridiculously good quotables and convinced me to put her essays on my immediate reading list. (The rest of Bust was a little too crafty for me, except for the interview of Sofia Coppola by Kim Gordon, which was exactly what you think it was. (I hate when people Q&A their friends.))
Songs I really Liked in 2010: The Decemberists - “Down by the Water”
Yes, every Decemberists song sounds like a Decemberists song, but this one is everything I like about them! I haven’t liked a Decemberists song this much in years! And here in Minnesota, it’s on the radio all the time, so that’s good for me, I suppose.
There are a lot of things I like and a lot of things I don’t like. For the most part, I can articulate why people like certain cultural things that I don’t like. But sometimes there are mysteries, phenomena that are extremely popular the leave me scratching my head.
Please explain why you like these things.
Instagram, Hipstamatic. Your cell phone pictures already look crappy enough.
Salem. It’s like 300: it’s too stupid and awful to even rate as offensive.
Glee. Ok, I get liking Glee. But why do you psychotically love it?
Contra and The Suburbs. I really liked the other records from Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire, but I found both of these uninspiring. Except for “Giving Up the Gun” and “Cousins” and “The Suburbs” and “Sprawl II.” But only those.
Rape tv shows like SVU, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
The Why Do You Like This Still list:
Hipster Runoff. I assure you that this site wasn’t even a thought when I named TCR. But I’m still confused when smart people read this because it’s still around and it’s still sophomoric!
If you can explain to me any of the above phenomena (and I need a really convincing, detailed explanation) I will give you a hug and maybe a mix cd. Why do you like these things?
Let’s see what happens if I don’t drink for a long time. Let’s see what happens when I don’t waste weeks of my life waking up hung over.
Sure, I’m able to control it, but not all the time. It’s evident that a lot of the time I can’t drink like a normal person. I’m too old for this shit. I have too many things to do. I vomited in my sleep last weekend. That is the most horrifying, disgusting thing. I am a rockstar, but I don’t feel like dying like one.
I have no idea what my social life will look like if I remove alcohol, but I’m grown up enough that I can actually socialize without it. And I can’t remove booze from my life entirely because I work at a cocktail bar, but I can certainly reduce it to almost nil.
Nothing’s been fucked up, yet, but I don’t want it to be. I have too many things to do.
“I’d be in pitch meetings, and I’d say, ‘Did you notice that there was only one female character in that whole movie?’” she recalled. “And they would say: ‘No, I didn’t notice, but I don’t think it’s really an industry problem anymore. I think it’s been fixed.’ Then they would mention a movie that had a strong female character, and I would point out that she was the ONLY female character in the whole movie.”—Geena Davis and her Institute on Gender in Media have done some fantastic research and activism highlighting the need for more girls in children’s movies.
Songs I Really Liked in 2010: Phosphorescent - “Los Angeles”
I knew a lot of dudes this year. For a while I was actively trying to date outside my type, seeing what it was like to date men who didn’t believe in global warming or who really thought Inception was deep or who honestly believed that double standards for men and women exist for a reason. They were dudes who told me things like “You sound like a 9/11 conspiracy theorist ” or “No, but if you really think about it, Inception is really good” and “You think too much about that.” Pretty much my whole dating criteria for 2010 was Do you like True Blood?
In those dark times, I forgot how much I loved Here’s to Taking It Easy, which came out in the spring. And I forgot how much I like my type, which is Smart Hippies with a Dark Side.
Eric Northman brings us all together, yes, but not as gracefully as Matthew Houck.
“Joel set a motorcycle-scooter helmet down next to his brother’s bicycle helmet, but that was about the extent of the observable differences between the noggins of the movie business’s most famous two-headed director.”—The good copy is almost negated by the use of the word “spinster” in the next paragraph, but not quite.
Wednesday Early Afternoon Dance Party 2010: Liz Phair - “And He Slayed Her”
This song will never be on karaoke, but I wish it were, although I don’t really have the range for it. (Liz Phair has such a crazy strange range!)
Instead of smoking a ton of cigarettes while I work— and man how I wish that smoking didn’t make me feel like absolute shit because there is no doubt I would prefer to turn this office into a den of smoke where you come over and I wheeze at you to tighten your lede—I crank up Liz Phair.
If this isn’t on your “top 2010 songs” list, then we don’t have that much in common.
“More importantly, however, he probably also knows that if he gets rid of the red beard, then he will no longer be identifiable in the writing of observers as Beardy. How will I be identified? he wonders. But he knows already. He will be Red-Haired Guy, or Guy With Bright Red Hair. If he’s lucky.”—As a woman who has had an affinity (and a corollary that approaches disgust) for several red beards over her short life, today’s Morning News essay got me all giggly and ecstatic here in South Minneapolis.
Songs I liked from 2010: Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan - “You Won’t Let Me Down Again”
Hawk is a solid record, and “You Won’t Let Me Down Again” outsexes any other song that was released this year. It’s a movie trailer filled with dust and trenchcoats and gunshots and lace. There’s probably a Cadillac in there too, but I might just be referencing the album cover.
I recommended Hawk to a folk rock and Belle & Sebastian-loving friend and he said that he had a hard time dealing with Isobel Campbell’s voice because “she just sounds so motherfucking twee.” And she does, a lot of the time, but on this track in particular her voice is thick and menacing and rich and complements Mark Lanegan’s growl perfectly.
Compare it to her vocals on “Sleep the Clock Around,” which is a fucking amazing song, but her vocals are a bit thin. With Belle & Sebastian, she always sounded like the characters she was narrating, aspirational librarians singing to themselves in the shower. (“Legal Man” and “Waiting for the Moon to Rise” are exceptions.) With Mark Lanegan, she completely controls the song, even though she’s not the primary vocalist.
My favorite story in today’s New York Times was not about how men will not like me if I make more money than them (although the best part of that story was how they suggested dating artists and academics because they would be less shallow hahaha), nor was it the story on port (not my favorite). It was not even the recipe for the Chinaski, which looks as delicious to the seasoned classic cocktail waitress as a Ferneti Pot (read: I want to go to there).
My favorite story was about why I am not a bartender and have absolutely no desire to be one.
Janelle Monáe - "Come Alive (The War of the Roses)"
So this month I am going to post some songs that I liked this year because it was my favorite year for music since maybe 2007, maybe ever. It is what people do in December! Every single band I liked released a record, pretty much! I was only disappointed in, like, two of them!
I like The ArchAndroid quite a bit, although it doesn’t get that much play because it reminds me a little too much of the terrible default music at my bar. The record is not terrible— it is very good— but it is not different enough that I am able to listen to it a lot. Sorry, Janelle.
But I love this song because it is a crazy fucking freakout and who else could put together such an artfully orchestrated crazy fucking freakout? Even I don’t quite know how to dance to it (and I know how to dance, especially when it comes to freaking out).
Here you are: Wednesday Afternoon Freakout Dance Party.