Archive for October, 2016


October 29, 2016

One of the funniest things I saw in one of the many museums we visited in our time away: this cheeky butt-grabbing angel in Lucas van Leyden’s triptych “The Last Judgment.”


Lower left hand corner (your left)




October 26, 2016

Sorry, sorry, sorry, I KNOW, but I was on vacation!  And I’m sure there are some things I need to recount from that, but I’m about to hit the hay, so I figured I’d recycle a topic I meant to bring up a while back: dreaming!  I think thinking about dreams is coming back into fashion again; in fact, I was semi-recently interviewed by a writer who is working on a book about the science of dreams.  Does this mean the taboo against telling other people about your dreams will soon end?!  Pity, because my dreams have gotten really boring in the past three years or so.  Maybe this means I’m content?  The horror!

Anyway, I was reminded of the dream thing because I stumbled across an old email exchange with my friend KC, in which we discussed starting a blog or something (?) in which we published people’s dreams.  We even had a pitch and our own email address!  I don’t remember the passwords, but I believe the address was  Catchy, no?

Turns out, someone at the New Yorker thought this was ripe for satire.  The opening rejection note:

Dear Mr. Smith,

A dream in which you “do something nasty with a family member”—and particularly a “distant cousin,” which, frankly, we hear about all the time—in no way merits inclusion in our magazine, no matter how arousing you may have found it.

Please see the Frequently Recorded Dreams page on our Web site to determine whether your dream is worthy of submission.


Donald Wembly
Submissions Editor
Dreams Quarterly
American Academy of Dreams

Perhaps even funnier than that, there IS actually an academic publication dedicated to the study of dreams, called Dreaming, published by the International Association for the Study of Dreams.  I would consider becoming a research psychologist just to join the IASD!

Annie Pootoogook

October 13, 2016

Almost a year ago, I interviewed a woman who had spent fourteen years living as an Amish person in an Amish community in Ohio; when she left, she began painting scenes from her time there.  The results were a little unpolished, a little creepy (inexplicably, because the scenes were very bucolic), and yet utterly beguiling.  They reminded me of the work of Annie Pootoogook, a Canadian Inuit artist whose paintings of modern First Nations life (domestic abuse, food shopping, watching Dr. Phil–no accounting for taste) ring similar bells.

Pootoogook drowned tragically last month at the age of forty-seven.  Some salient facts: her mother was an artist, and Pootoogook met with some early career success (a prestigious show at Documenta 12, a hefty grant).  After her death, a Canadian police officer made heinous comments about Inuit peoples (basically, they prefer to drink rather than contribute so why should we investigate her death?) on an online message board.  I hope he was fired.  You can learn more about Pootogook here (among other places).  I considered writing about her for a moment, but then I realized I didn’t have much to say other than “more people should know about her.”


Time to Update Again

October 9, 2016

Do you remember that baby naming book from the eighties and nineties (they released updated editions because it was quite popular) called Beyond Jennifer and Jason? I was obsessed with it when I was a kid; whenever someone we knew was pregnant and they’d whip out that book, I’d get all excited. I don’t know, I just like names! Anyway, a few years ago I nabbed an old copy––I don’t remember how, either from a box of free books on the street or I stole it from someone––and I kept it around as a kind of funny gag and also if I needed help creating a pseudonym. The other day I idly took it off the shelf and was flipping through it, and then my husband saw it (what the fuck is this?!) and was looking through later, and came across a section called “Wimpy Names.” So already this is feeling embarrassingly Dated, because can you imagine an author including that in a name book now?  But it gets better. There’s a subsection of Wimpy Names that reads: “A wimpy name does not necessarily a wimpy boy make…. Maybe these guys become supermacho in reaction to their anemic names, or maybe they would have overdeveloped biceps even if their names were Brawley or Flint. Here, a list of famous tough guys with anything but tough names.” And it goes on to list Arnold Schwarzenegger, Charlton Heston, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvester Stallone, and, among others,… Bruce Jenner.

Bar Luce

October 8, 2016

I know it’s kind of obvious but I love the aesthetic of Bar Luce.  I’m going to Milan in a few weeks and maybe I’ll the guts to steal me a little one of these!

The Joys of Dissent

October 5, 2016

Shit, it’s been a while.  Since I last posted, Elena Ferrante’s been unmasked, Kim Kardashian’s been robbed, and Brangelina has been pronounced dead on arrival (little airplane joke there).  When I came to look at the date of my last post just now, I felt so guilty that I decided I simply must put something up now.  But the problem is I don’t have a ton to say.  Well, here’s one thing: everyone knows I’m something of a contrarian, right?  Maybe this was a personality trait that excited me in the past, but in recent years, it’s proven more annoying than anything else.  If only I could get on board the zeitgeist train, I could write anodyne personal essays about ending the stigma (surrounding anything) and not worry that I’m harsh!

I don’t know if that’s going to happen anytime soon, though.  In the meantime, I’ll just have to find a little joy in reading negative reviews of books everyone else in the world adored.  Case in point: a review of When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanathi in the London Review of Books.  WBBA was gushed over by basically every literary critic and human in the United States, but writer Thomas Laqueur was meh on the whole thing.

“It’s time to confess the obvious: I wasn’t deeply moved by this book.  But it isn’t easy to explain why.  the first thing that comes to mind is that I find the author pompous, and, whether a true or a faux naif, egomaniacally self-conscious in his search for meaning… A larger problem is that Kalanathi isn’t very good at writing.  Having done so little of it, why should he be?  As Julian Barnes wrote in his introduction to Daudet’s memoir, dying doesn’t make someone a better writer, or a worse one for that matter.”

This made a lot of sense to me because of my longstanding aversion to our immediate embrace of suffering narrators (because pain doesn’t make you smarter, necessarily, but it does mean people feel less justified in critiquing you, even when that criticism is deserved, which results in a lot of thoughtless applause).  But it also reminded me of the extended period of time I spent in my mid-twenties working with someone terminally ill (who is now deceased), I was always half-anticipating a big life epiphany, courtesy of the Sick Person, every day, but most of the time it was just the usual drudgery and the Sick Person remained their flawed, human self, right up to the very end.