Archive for the ‘Conspiracy Theories’ Category

Curmudgeons I Love

June 15, 2018

Two brief anecdotes, to begin:

1. When I was in high school, my French horn teacher (I know, I know), a sweet but wan young woman who lived with her mother, often wore latex gloves just like, around.  I was always very curious about this: was she OCD?  Was she trying to protect her precious instrument-playing fingers?

2. Right before the release of my book, my editor, my agent, the publicist at my agent’s office, and I went out for coffee to discuss pre-book buzz.  One of the things that came up was potential blurbers––you know, people who provide one or two lines of praise you can slap on the book jacket.  Because Lionel Shriver had recently written a book about her brother’s obesity (my book was about weight issues, to put it broadly), someone suggested her.  My agent got a grave look on her face, and silently and slowly shook her head, “No.”

The reason she did that, I later learned, is because Lionel Shriver is fucking terrifying!  She’s also at the moment (and maybe just generally?) loathed, for lots of un-zeitgeist-y views and what appears to be a broad disdain for people.  At times in interviews, she refutes that, but mostly the impression she gives off is that of a reed thin, slightly eccentric battle-ax.

Recently I was reading old profiles of her because I find her whole persona mesmerizing, and I noticed that she’s often photographed wearing cheap knit gloves.  She reminds me immediately of a strict Muslim who just forgot to wear a burqa but remember to cover her hands.  One article I read said she wears them because she refuses to pay for heating in her house; another said she had a circulation disease.  Is it possible she just wears them to bolster the “weirdo” image?  I get the sense she thinks of herself as very authentic, and not that she isn’t, but there is also a delight evident in knowing that she is very different from the rest of us bare-handed mite brains.

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Eulogy for an Essay

May 9, 2018
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Contact Siobhan for framing options.

A Tweet

May 4, 2018

I’m about three minutes into the Rachel Dolezal Netflix doc and I’ve already learned a lot.  For example, no one knows how to pronounce the last name “Dolezal.”

Spare Me the Hallelujahs

May 3, 2018

You guys probably saw that there was a “Beyonce mass” at a church in, I believe, San Francisco.  I could Google it and confirm, but I find it too depressing, so I won’t.

Why do I find it depressing?  This is yet another example––perhaps the most damning one of all––of our culture ceding morality and expertise to celebrities.

Listen, as far as celebrities go, Beyonce is a fine one.  She donated all that money to historical black colleges for scholarships, she donates money for clean water in Burundi, she preaches female empowerment (although interestingly, often single female empowerment, over a period of time when she was coupled).  But this is also an individual who likes to symbolically claim that high fashion is radicalism (it can be radical, but it isn’t principled), and who dresses her six-year-old in Gucci.  This not someone who is qualified for the position of saint.

To be clear, I think Beyonce would dig the idea of the mass, but I don’t think she wants to be a saint.  I think in this case, a lot of it is because we project onto her.  A lot of celebrities-turned-something-elses actively portray themselves as fit for their other roles.  Cases in point: Jenny McCarthy, whose medical advice people actually took (it still boggles the mind.). Less egregiously, Tom Hanks and Sean Penn, who offer up mediocre literary offerings and then are deemed “authors.”  Of course, who could forget the leader of free world?  Celebrities are now our pediatricians, politicians, clothing designers, childcare experts, and UN ambassadors.

“You should read this great new book about the true cause of depression,” my friend texts me.  “Elton John gave it a fantastic blurb.”  My first thought: why on earth would I care what Elton John has to say on a book about depression?  When I think about who should be vetting a book on depression, the people who come to mind are doctors or cultural critics or sometimes both––Gary Greenberg, Allen Frances, Peter Kramer, Andrew Solomon, Daphne Merkin, and so on.  When I say I’m not particularly interested in what Elton has to say on the subject, she responds, “If you don’t like him, Emma Thompson also gave it a blurb.”  I don’t think she was getting my point.

Now, they are also our moral guides and our prophetic proxies.  This is truly disturbing.

Shout out to a few people who saw this coming and said DOOM: Jarrett Kobek, author of I Hate the Internet.  Here’s an excellent interview with him in which he sounds off on this topic for a long time.  My favorite part is when he says to cure ourselves of this problem, we need to start thinking of celebrity as a disease: “If we think about the conflation of celebrity and politics, we start to understand this disease’s socially debilitating effects. We’re trying to use entities which are no longer human and thus no longer contained by our social constructs to have long and pointless discussions about major social issues defined, primarily, by those constructs.”

DFW also foresaw this, in Infinite Jest among other places.

And of course, my main squeeze, George W. S. Trow: “Celebrities have an intimate life and a life in the grid of two hundred million.  For them, there is no distance between the two grids in American life.  Of all Americans, they are the most complete.”

My fellow Americans (and everyone, because let’s be honest, many other societies are following us toward certain cultural oblivion): we can do better than this.  We can see past the sheen and choose instead to look to the possibly unsexy but still better educated experts in their chosen fields.  We can elect politicians (or the otherwise qualified!, read books by writers, trust in the medical advice of our doctors, and venerate our saints.  Join me.

Who Wore It Better

April 25, 2018

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All thanks to my brilliant husband for pointing this out.  Also this gave me an excuse to re-watch The Holy Mountain trailer and may I just say, *raises gathered fingers to puckered lips* mwah.  Exquisite.

Huh

April 20, 2018

It occurred to me this morning while playing Bobby McFerrin’s song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” for my son that some of the things he suggests brushing off are actually totally worth worrying over.

Ain’t got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don’t worry, be happy
The landlord say your rent is late
He may have to litigate
Don’t worry, be happy
Oh, ooh ooh ooh oo-ooh ooh oo-ooh don’t worry, be happy
Here I give you my phone number, when you worry, call me, I make you happy, don’t worry, be happy)
Don’t worry, be happy
Ain’t got no cash, ain’t got no style
Ain’t got no gal to make you smile
Don’t worry, be happy
‘Cause when you worry your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down
So don’t worry, be happy
Except for being single, which is not necessarily worrisome (depending on the context), you really should be concerned about being homeless, unstylish and poor!  (Somehow this theoretical person in need of cheering up manages to be both homeless and behind on his rent, though.)  At the end of the song, Bobby sings something like, “I’m not worried, I’m happy!”  Of course you’re not worried, Bobby!  You’ve got all those nice top ten hit royalties!

Utterly Confused

April 10, 2018

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This was on Netflix’s home page.  Is Netflix just… buying whole people now?  What does it mean that they’re “all-in”?  Is anyone else thoroughly creeped out by this?!

Very Important Dispatch

April 5, 2018

This man––a firefighter who tended to the 1983 bombing of the Hotel Rajneesh, and who was featured briefly in the Netflix doc Wild, Wild Country––looks a lot like Ron Swanson.    #superrecognizers unite.  End message.

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Trigger Warning

April 2, 2018

TRIGGER WARNING: Beyond this point, there will be mentions of “trigger warnings.”  If the idea of “safe spaces”, prefaces for potentially difficult content, or considering people’s emotions when engaged in academic discourse upsets you, you are advised not to continue reading.

A Very Brief History of Women Marrying Inanimate Objects

March 29, 2018

Recently I was browsing the web and I saw a news item about two women in Fort Myers, Florida, who married a ficus tree.  Now, this wasn’t (probably) a case of objectophilia, as the women mostly had the wedding in order to prevent the tree from getting chopped down, which the town planned to do as its roots were encroaching on a neighboring property.  Still, it has echoes of object love: an affinity for a thing, a wedding ceremony with white gowns and cakes, and even, somewhat miraculously, an acknowledgment from the public (city officials are now working to save the tree).  It reminds me of how whenever these kinds of stories come up in the news, I always want to write a listicle of sorts, with the above title.

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So, herewith, my favorite ladies marrying things:

Eija-Riita Berliner-Mauer: I’ve written about her before.  Apparently she died in 2015.  Still waiting on someone to translate her documentary for me.  The only information I would like to add to my original piece on her is this quote:

“I find long, slim things with horizontal lines very sexy.  The Great Wall of China’s attractive, but he’s too thick – my husband is sexier.”

And this poem, which she allegedly wrote:

I Dream About You

You beautiful Berlin Wall.
You are so very sexy, my Darling.
I will always be here for you. My love for you is
so strong as the concrete blocks which
holds you standing.
I often think of the times when you in my loneliness
has made me so happy.
My kisses will warm you, when the night comes.
My life begins and ends with you.

Finally you should all know she observes a yahrzeit of sorts on the anniversary of the fall of the wall.

Erika Eiffel: In 2007, Erika Eiffel observed a commitment ceremony with the Eiffel Tower, whose curves she admired.  I’ve always thought the Eiffel Tower to be a bit cliched but I wouldn’t want to yuck someone’s yum, so get it, Erika!  Eiffel says that prior to her union with the Tower, she had an affair with an F-15, with whom she was besotted she ended up becoming an expert on it and earned a $250,000 scholarship to the United States Air Force Academy.

Jodi Rose: Also in France, Jodi Rose married Le Pont du Diable, but I kind of call bullshit because she spoke (for her bridge lover!) and said that “he understands that I love other bridges––and men.”

I found a few others but there isn’t really enough information on them (a woman who fell in love with a metal processor, a woman who married a fairground ride) to make it into my Very Brief History.  And thus we come to my favorite of the bunch: artist Tracey Emin marries a rock!  Emin, the famous wild child of British art, decided to marry a rock in the garden of her summer home in France.  She wore her father’s funeral shroud as her wedding dress.  “Somewhere on a hill facing the sea, there is a very beautiful ancient stone, and it’s not going anywhere,” she told the press, which is just about the gosh darn most romantic thing I’ve ever heard.  More than you can say for many partners, anyway.

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A field of eligible bachelors, in Brittany