In the first two months of 2010, I’ve been excited about more new records than I was in the whole of 2009. The sleeper hit in all these— the one I didn’t expect to like nearly as much as I do— is IRM. Charlotte Gainsbourg generally gives me tepid feelings in all of her endeavors, and I haven’t listened to much Beck since the turn of the century, but together they made a record that I like to play while I’m working, and that’s kinda rare.
Records I like to play while I’m working are generally relaxing and dreamy, yet surprisingly catchy in bits and pieces, and they’re usually by Canadian musicians (Caribou, the Besnard Lakes). Teen Dream approaches this aesthetic, but I find myself sitting and listening in awe to that one, saying, “This music!" instead of accomplishing anything. IRM is slightly more ignorable, but I might be listening to it more. I have to check my play counts.
…until it got really obvious. Also, I haven’t seen Precious, but is there actually soul food in that movie? Or did they just include soul food because it’s a movie about black people?
The Up in the Air continental breakfast kinda wins, though, and I’m a sucker for anything with pimiento cheese, even though I have no interest in The Blind Side. Oh, and muscovy duck with blueberries: let’s eat that this spring.
“His deceptively straightforward songs embody timeless qualities of humanity, optimism, emotional insight and a boundless sense of humor, untainted by cynicism or transient notions of hipness.”—This record company description of Jonathan Richman is the best thing I’ve read all day, but I haven’t picked up The Blind Assassin yet.
As per my new year’s resolutions, I’ve decided to get my metadata for this blog into gear. This gives me an excuse to revisit my early tumblr days, when there were no “likes,” only reblogs, and when I was still figuring out how to use the medium. Oh, summer 2008!
Prominent tags have emerged! Here are a few, which contain recent posts, as well as very very early “I’m still not even a second-year grad student” writings.
It feels as if I am swimming when I walk (convincing myself this isn’t a real head cold), and I’ve had the Blow stuck in my head all week. This will continue until after I return home with Have One On Me.
Beauty rituals confuse me. I wear makeup, yes, and quite a bit of it on occasion, but I’m still not entirely sure how to put eyeliner on well or make “the smoky eye.” I didn’t get a pedicure until I was 24, and I approach that yearly rite with much trepidation. I’ve never had a non-boyfriend-oriented massage. Even with the rise of Bath and Body Works, I never got into lotions for anything but their scent (yeah, country apple is sexy), and as a teenager I never rubbed much on my face unless it was my prescription acne medication that smelled like sickness. The beauty pages of ladymags bore me, mostly because I know they are supersponsored. Where is the real beauty journalism? I ask, knowing that anything I purchase in the skin-care realm probably either turns the menfish into ladyfish, or I’ll find out later that “actually, that robs your face of its essential oils” or something like that.
In recent years, I’ve been taking better care of my face, or at least applying substances to it to even out its tone, since that’s something I need to be concerned about, maybe. The company from which I buy my skin products— recommended by my mother, from whom I take all of my beauty advice— sent me a free “skin balancing carbon mask,” which I decided to use, even though it’s improperly hyphenated.
I’ve never used a beauty mask before, let alone a “carbon mask.” I wasn’t sure what a “thick layer” was— if my whole face was supposed to be super grey, or just shaded grey, but I used what felt like a lot and suddenly I looked like I was in a black-and-white photo.
And then the mask started burning. It was like that one episode of Nip/Tuck I saw where the girl tries to use bleach for her face but really it just burns her face off, but I decided to keep it on, because after a few seconds, the burning calmed down.
I let it dry for fifteen minutes, like the instructions said. I watched the best part of Reds: what a heartbreaker you are. The carbon mask dried and felt like my skin was all compressed together, or like I had been crying a lot and my skin finally dried, which is a feeling I termed “the macaroni-and-cheese feeling” when I was much younger.
After the part where the guy says “this one even pisses red!” I washed the mask off. And I suppose I understand why people do these things: my skin has never felt so clean. It was like years of my life were washed away and I was a taut teenager once more.
Post-wash I looked at the ingredients: Sea Whip Extract, Silt (Sea Mud) (or, you know, silt), Salix Alba (Willow Bark), and Fuscus Vesiculosus (Bladderwrack) were all included. So I put that all on my face, and then I washed it off. Now I am a real woman once more, and I understand this, almost.
Especially since my voice has started regaining its biennial huskiness from too many late nights, I wish I could find more opportunities to memorize and recite poetry, specifically others’ poetry. I’m sure I could find opportunities to recite my own poetry, if I still wrote poems, but I want to read Donne, not any crap I’d write. I imagine that if I were a salon lady in the late eighteenth century, or even a rather entertaining flapper, I would be able to exercise this skill, but there is no use for it in my everyday life since I turned 20.
I could be the waitress who says, “Would you like a poem with your cocktail?” and then immediately launch into a particularly marvelous portion of “Song of Myself,” but I don’t know that my employers or my customers would be into that.
So yeah, I’d like to spend part of my Sunday memorizing the rest of “The Second Coming”— it’s the only poem I know well enough to memorize that’s not “Jabberwocky”—but I’m trying to devote my free time to developing useful skills, and poetry recitation is not useful. I will, however, clean my living room spotlessly (where does all this dirt come from?) except that I will leave The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats as my coffee table selection for the month.
Attentive readers may have noticed a decreasing number of Wednesday Morning Dance Parties and an increasing number of Friday and Saturday Pre-shift Whines. I’m becoming less and less 9-to-5 every day, friends. I can’t stand by that schedule anymore.
Nevertheless, the dance parties will return, someday. For now, I haven’t been feeling too dancey when I get home on Tuesdays. When the inspiration comes, when I hear a song that makes my feet move, I’ll post one.
In the meantime, here’s a song that was on a mixtape from my high school boyfriend, along with “Beer” by Reel Big Fish, “New York City” by The Might Be Giants, some Genesis, and some Pink Floyd. The whistling still makes me think that Axl understands me on some level.
If I ever reach the point in my internet career where I am recognized at my job or on the street for being a witty blogger called “Fight with Knives,” I’ll probably say something clever and then respond with “Can’t you feel the knife? POW!”
Also, I’m about to go to work, and I need a catchy song to sing in my head for the weekend.
A fire has destroyed the roof of a building that contains some of the best local businesses in the city, and two firefighters have been reported injured.
I’ve never eaten at Heidi’s, but Blackbird has been one of my favorites for a while. Shoppe Local, the inspiration for "Twee as Minnesota" is also in that building. Seeing a group of local, independent businesses so heavily damaged makes me sick to my stomach, and even though it’s a “natural” cause like a fire, it hurts when it’s the good ones that go down.
In the glorious, sprawling American West, the streets are not marked by numbers alone. A few named main streets (Chestnut, Pine, Market, MLK Blvd, East Bay) don’t quite cut it when the city is growing in every direction, so city planners here in the Midwest like to keep it orderly. In the southwesterly direction, as well as in several suburbs, Minneapolis streets are alphabetized, which always gets amusing when you get up to the Xs. Xerxes Avenue? How about Xylon? Those are great, unarbitrary names for streets!
Here on the other side of the river, we like to keep it American historical. In Northeast Minneapolis, the streets are named after all of the presidents, in order, as they go progressively eastward.
I live on Washington Street, so whenever I drive east to run errands I get a quick review of the order of my American presidents. It’s like I live back in the colonies, except without winding old cow paths! Polk! Tyler! Buchanan! I can now recite the first twenty presidents in order, quickly, without the help of a sheet of paper or the Google, and that’s something I haven’t been able to do since I took AP US history when I was 15.
However, one thing about this situation bothers me, slightly: most of the streets are residential, but there is a small business district on Johnson Street. Johnson? And I’m referring to Mr. Reconstruction Impeached Mofo, not LBJ (bless his conflicted soul!) It always slightly bothers me that Lincoln Street didn’t get the water park or the sewing store or the supercool vintage shop. No, that’s all found on Johnson Street, one of the Great Northeast Throughfares.
Because Grant Street is the name of another street downtown, the next street east after Johnson is Ulysses Street, which is the raddest street name in Minneapolis. To live there would be an everyday celebration of old drunk generals and also Greeks and also modernists.
So goes city planning! At least I don’t have an apartment on Jackson Street. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.
Happy Presidents’ Day, from the street named for Ol’ Sterile Wood-jaw #1!
The Perfect Ode: A Valentine’s Day Special Sunday Night Screed
Most of the men in my life tend to be artsy-fartsy, or band boys, or writers, or all three in some capacity. They all make things from their heads. I could write memoirs about them all, how they are all ridiculous—but I won’t because of respect, or because of something one of them told me when I was twenty:
“I won’t write any songs about you because you’re way too complex for that.”
Until a couple of years ago, I took that as the Most Important Thing that Anyone Would Ever Say. Even after our very bad falling out, he never wrote any songs about me, I don’t think, and I never wrote about him, mostly because I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. Now it all seems silly. Time!
If I think about that sentence now, I wonder if it’s helped me avoid acknowledging my own feelings. Recently I tried oversharey blogging as a coping mechanism, and it helped in some capacity, but I’m usually pretty cryptic about my personal life in all of my writing. Maybe I should write about my friends and lovers more often. After all, love stories and break up ballads are the stuff upon which all great art is based, but I still don’t find it satisfactory to do it that often. I’m working on repurposing that pain for greater things.
Nevertheless, I’ve never wanted to be a subject. “You can be my muse,” people have said to me. No fucking way. “If you write about me, I don’t want to hear about it,” I’ve told some of the lesser boyfriends. It’s probably shitty writing anyway, I finish in my head. (It’s at that moment when I realize we should probably break up immediately.)
This all sounds quite wine drunk, but I’m sober and thinking about the actual valentines I’ve received—the things I know that are About Me out there. Some boy put some whiny lyrics about me on his MySpace page, and there are a couple of other drawings or short pieces out there that I suspect might have something to do with me, but I avoid feeling important enough to be the inspiration for anything good. And anyway, the only one that matters is the one song that a boy wrote about me in high school.
This is “Apocalyptic Boyfriend” by A Year to Forget from sometime around the year 2000, and it’s more or less the only thing that I need about me that I didn’t write myself. There’s “ba ba ba”s, obscure artistic references, a poppy beat, and a pun on my name! (At the time the song was written, I had another boyfriend, and I had no idea the songwriter had a crush on me. We later became friends, and he’s really cool and writes pretty great music now.)
So yeah, I listen to this about once every six months. No song will ever quite eclipse it in my heart. Happy Valentine’s Day, Deborah. It’s a good day to think about yourself if there is no one else to think about.
Do you remember the afternoon when I accidentally changed my Tumblr theme 20 minutes before I had to go to work?
I do! And now I’ve lost all my customization and my comments and all these themes are not exactly what I want and I don’t have time to fix them. Ugh, I hate having an ugly blog. It is like acne before a big date.
(Actually, this theme isn’t bad, but I’m still angry about it.)
Never having worked in textbook publishing, it never occurred to me that Big States with Lots of People can determine how textbooks are published for the rest of the country. Conservative school boards in Texas can determine that the U.S. was founded as a “Christian nation,” and that can leak into textbooks in other states because why would you print a Texas-only version?
Since I’m from the First State, rewriting all this history bothers me because Texas wasn’t even a colony! Conservatives in Texas don’t know what colonial history even means. (Yes, this is a silly rationale, but growing up in a tiny state with tons of colonial history makes me a bit touchy about how people in Big States do things. And that’s why I love the Senate: it’s the only place where a Delawarean can become Vice President.) History textbook writing needs to be reevaluated and discussed and modified, sure, but it’s nice if it’s done be actual historians.
My favorite thing about this article, though, is it demonstrates the fucking amazing thing about the First Amendment: it can be used by anybody, to say pretty much anything. It can be used as a rationale to promote an ultraconservative point of view—from the same people who kick someone off the school board for using the word “Marxism” in an email—or it can be used by liberals like me, who just want to give a little protest.
A difficult part of being a feminist—something that I know I struggle with—is realizing that others don’t perceive the world exactly how you do. I’ve been at this for over ten years, and it’s easy for me to point out sexism, to look at a commercial and see that it’s degrading to women, to distinguish what I should be laughing at and what I should be disgusted by. At this point, I’ve lost a lot of my desire to keep up the education and explanation. Often when I feel like I’m fighting too much or like I’ll be too condescending, I tend to roll my eyes and say, “You just don’t understand.” It’s very hard to stop, realize why you’re angry, and explain rationally what’s wrong and how you would like to fix it. It’s the liberal problem, and it’s why we all seem like elitists a lot of the time.
Or, when a reporter insists on focusing on a female athlete’s “aggressive” characteristics and ascribing them to her father, it’s easy to feel the need to explain exactly why that’s sexist. There are subtle differences in the way men and women are covered, and pointing those out is part of the goal of feminist media criticism.
However, when the local newspaper posts bikini photos and salivates all over a female athlete’s body instead of her athletic ability like a bunch of pathetic bro dudes, it’s pretty much my natural reaction to flip off the screen and curse a lot. No one should have to explain why that’s unacceptable in 2010. It’s pretty obvious why anyone would be upset, and everyone at the Star Tribune should know better than to publish that sexist fucking tripe.
Below is the letter I wrote to the Strib yesterday:
“Over the past eight years, Vonn has become as familiar a Minnesota legend as Paul Bunyan,” Rachel Blount wrote in her profile of Olympic skiing hopeful Lindsey Vonn, which was published online February 10. If only this were true! Except for the occasional brief story on the World Cup, Vonn’s face has been strangely absent from the Star Tribune, whether due to the Vikings or other obscure Minnesota connections.
That is, of course, until yesterday, with the Star Tribune’s Internet dude-friendly headline, “Lindsey Vonn barely keeps it on for SI swimsuit issue” and subsequent Newsbreak segments that feature James Lileks drooling over the skiing superstar. Yes, posting women in bikinis gets hits. Way to figure that out. But why is this the first substantial story on Vonn—a talented, well-known, and extremely qualified athlete—that the Star Tribune has published in months?
Vonn’s pictures are not controversial or new—plenty of female athletes have graced the pages of the swimsuit issue, or of Playboy. Nor is Lindsey Vonn doing anything wrong. It’s her choice to participate in those photos, and if she looks good doing it, then more power to her.
However, the level of taste with which the Star Tribune has covered this story makes me think that all those with any kind of sense have all been laid off and the newsroom is entirely staffed by dirty old men. I don’t want to read about anyone “barely keeping it on” in my newspaper; leave that for Spike TV, Maxim, and the swimsuit issue.
Vonn is a talented athlete, and Blount’s excellent profile describes that. Unfortunately, this profile now seems to be too little, too late. The Star Tribune has more or less ignored Vonn’s prowess as a skiier and focused instead on her sexuality—with descriptions that show little class or tact. It’s not 1974. “Celebrating” a female athlete for her body and not her immense professional accomplishments is disrespectful and disgusting.
Between Frontline and this kinda crap AP story, with a healthy dose of inspiration from my volunteer meeting last night, I’ve been considering how I used the Internet as a teenager, which is pretty much how I use it now.
Like many of you, I’ve been blogging since before there were blogs— I built my own websites and found my own online communities— and then joined platforms where those communities were built in. I moved from Geocities to Diaryland to LiveJournal and Vox and then, two years ago, to Tumblr. Maybe there was some Angelfire or some Tripod in there somewhere. I know for sure there was Xoom.com.
Never having been one for video games, I’ve always used the Internet as a way to make things. Creative expression is what the internet is for, no? And although social networks—from MakeOutClub.com on to the monstrous rise of Facebook—have enhanced my interactions with the friends I know from school, family, and work, the communities that have sprung up around blogging and diary-style websites have definitely supplemented my other relationships since I was a teenager.
So, basically, all you former fiends of Geocities, Tripod, Angelfire, Xanga, Diaryland—knowers of all the goodness that having your own website had to bring— I’d like to hear from you for a project I’m putting together.
Please email or leave a comment if you’d like to participate. I don’t need any details just yet, but let me know if you have a story or some history you’d like to share. Let’s talk more.