Archive for the ‘Really Awesome Insults’ Category

Women Are Better Than Men, Part A Million and One

December 14, 2015

“The language of conversion can be abrupt.”  With these words Karl F. Morrison approaches an account by Snorri Sturluson (1178/9-1241) of the Christian king of Norway, Olav Tryggvason (969-1000) and the non-Christian Queen Sigrid of Sweden, whom the king wished to marry.  “Marriage negotiations progressed well until the queen refused to abandon the religion that she held, as her kinsmen before her had done.  Olav, she said, could, without hindrance or reproach, worship whatever god pleased him.

“King Olav was very wroth and answered hastily, ‘Why should I wed you, you heathen bitch?’, and he struck her in the face with the glove he was holding in his hand.”  This was no way to win the heart of Queen Sigrid the Strong-minded.  Her response was instant: “This may be your death,” she said.  Turned into Olav’s staunchest enemy, she married the king of Denmark, whom she incited to the battle in which Olav died.

Varieties of Religious Conversion in the Middle Ages, from the chapter “Gender and Conversion in the Merovingian Era” by Cordula Nolte

Bergman is a Bitch

July 31, 2015

Wow, I am so glad I never had to interview Ingmar Bergman.

Torsten Manns: This time we’ve agreed to discuss some general motifs, not one particular film, but motifs which recur in many of them.  Among other things, we’ve agreed on the child motif, sex, and censorship.  How about taking the child-motif first?  The fact is, we’ve one little film left; and that’s Daniel––a little scrap of a film from Stimulantia, 1966.

So I’ve arranged the child-motif in four types.  First, as a catalyst for subconscious phobias, the trauma and the archetypes––here The Hour of the Wolf is a good example: the little boy there goes straight back to the old man in the cupboard who appeared in that play, ‘the little folk.’

The second is the child as an object of violence: The Devil’s Wanton, where a baby is murdered, The Virgin Spring where the raped girl is herself almost a child, The Shame––this little dead girl found by Liv and also the dream of children, where it’s smashed to pieces––and even the boy in Frenzy who arrives too late at the beginning and is told off by Gunnar Bjornstrand (of all people)––he too is a little exposed fellow.

The third––in dreams of continuation, of togetherness, as the rescuer of relationships––a patent solution, one might say, not peculiar to yourself, but implicit in the whole of this The Joy-Eva-Journey Into Autumn complex, where the woman begs to have a child with Ulf Palme, and he says: ‘I don’t want to have some poor little chap somewhere I can’t reach.’  In The Silence it’s less clear; but there the boy is definitely a means of communication between the two women.  In So Close to Life, the motif is completely patent––it’s virtually a clinical film about children; about the three women’s attributes to childbirth.

Finally the fourth, the dwarf motif––we’ve pretty well exhausted that.  In The Rite, Hans speaks of his children, but no child is actually seen.  I should very much like to know what your attitude to children is, from every point of view.

Ingmar Bergman: My first reaction to all you’re saying is a dreadful feeling of oppression.  Not specially aimed at myself, but a feeling of powerlessness.  I can’t explain it.  A feeling that it’s all so dull, that it will get duller, and what I’ve made, suddenly, is all dull and uninteresting too.  I can’t explain it.  I don’t know why it is, but as I sit here listening to you I feel furious––don’t misunderstand this, Torsten.  I’ve nothing against you personally.  That’s just how it is.

When someone pulls out a thread like this and says: ‘Yes, well, surely it’s this way?  Aren’t things like this?  It’s like this and it’s like that,’ I feel completely paralyzed.  I can’t utter a word.  Well, it’s possible, things may be that way, I don’t know.  I’m not being cagey.  It’s simply with me things don’t work that way.

I can’t discuss any leitmotif running through my films.  Obviously I could hold a lecture on the humiliation motif––I even fancy we’ve gone through it rather thoroughly.  But all this about children… I’ve eight children myself, so I’ve had a certain amount of experience of children and react according to certain patterns, which have changed over the years.  But I don’t think it’s of any consequence, nor do I feel it has any place in this document.

(From Bergman on Bergman: Interviews with Ingmar Bergman by Stig Bjorkman, Torsten Manns and Jonas Sima)

Targeted Ads Are Mean

November 11, 2014

My Gmail tells me that the word of the day is “crapehanger: someone who sees the gloomy side of things.”  WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY GMAIL.


October 31, 2014

Dear Paul Rudnick,

Some years ago, a former colleague gave me your email address. I don’t remember why he had your email address, but he thought that somehow you could help me, in a mentor-y way. I put off emailing for lack of anything to say, really––”can you help me be famous?” seems like a bad choice of opener. Back then, some-years-ago, I was working at a publishing company as the assistant to a cantankerous but smart independent publisher, and I wanted to reach a point where I could write full-time. Perhaps my former colleague thought that: Paul Rudnick (your last name autocorrects to “Redneck”) writes for a living, so he can tell you how to do that!

But years later, here I am, writing for a living (if you want to call it that) and I realized, gee that’s pretty stupid. It’s not possible to give someone a map that charts how to reach the kingdom of freelance. Even if you could, why would you? It’s a small country with extremely limited resources, and you wouldn’t want to share them!

But maybe the ex-colleague thought: well, Paul Redneck (I’m leaving it) is funny, and ID is funny, so they’ll get along. Lots of people are funny, though, and that doesn’t mean they’re deserving of career advice, or that they’re likable in any way. And I happen to be hysterical in real life, but my writing career has been built on pretty melancholy topics: psychiatric disturbance, suicidal poets, Ingmar Bergman’s novels (which are maybe unintentionally funny.) So then that entree––let’s be friends because we’re both funny!––started to seem even dumber than the original one.

All this to say: Addams Family Values is the best movie of all time. That is all.

With admiration,



A Bad Way to Start a Personal Essay

September 2, 2013

In my late teens, when the Air Supply song “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All,” was popular, I developed an allergy to wheat flour and white flour.

Terry Castle Says “Fuck You” to Iconic Feminine Suffering

August 9, 2013

“It will come as no surprise that I”m one of those who will always be turning away from Plath.  Or trying to.  I find her tasteless, grisly––unbearable, in fact––precisely because, even five decades after her suicide, she and her corpse-infected verses hold on with such ghoulish tenacity.  She seems never to tire of creating tragic inhuman mischief from beyond the grave.  That the infant ‘Nick’ addressed in those final poems from Devon, the very poems cited as ‘nature poems’ by the kindly Boland, hanged himself in 2009 seems only the latest malignant turn of the Plathian screw.  A respected fisheries biologist––he taught at a university in Alaska––Nicholas Hughes had apparently done everything possible to distance himself geographically and psychologically from his parents’ cursed history.  (Most of the people who worked with him knew nothing of his family story.)  Yet Lady Lazarus caught up with him at last.  He was said afterward to have been ‘lonely’ much of his life and depressed by his failure to find love.  His mother was by then long dead––he had never had any memory of her––yet even so I couldn’t help wanting to kill her.”


In the NYRB.

Fuck You, Woody Allen

June 5, 2013

After falling in love with Annie Hall in college, as college sophomores living in NYC are wont to do, I remained a die-hard Woody fan for a good stretch of time, until finally, over the course of the past four years, I’ve sunk into the realization that I fucking hate Woody Allen.  My reasons for coming to loathe Woody are so cliched and varied that I won’t list them here; instead, I will quote from Joan Didion’s 1979 dissent in The New York Review of Books:

“‘Overeducation’ is something Woody Allen seems to discern more often than the rest of us might. ‘I know so many people who are well-educated and super-educated,’ he told an interviewer for Time recently. ‘Their common problem is that they have no understanding and no wisdom; without that, their education can only take them so far.’ In other words they have problems with their ‘relationships,’ they have failed to ‘work through’ the material of their lives with a trained evaluator, they have yet to perfect the quality of their emotional consumption. Wisdom is hard to find. Happiness takes research. The message that large numbers of people are getting from Manhattan and Interiors and Annie Hall is that this kind of emotional shopping around is the proper business of life’s better students, that adolescence can now extend to middle age. Not long ago I shared, for three nights, a hospital room with a young woman named Linda. I was being watched for appendicitis and was captive to Linda’s telephone conversations, which were constant. Linda had two problems, only one of which, her ‘relationship,’ had her attention. Linda spoke constantly about this relationship, about her ‘needs,’ about her ‘partner,’ about the ‘quality of his nurturance,’ about the ‘low frequency of his interaction.’ Linda’s other problem, one which tried her patience because it was preventing her from working on her relationship, was acute and unexplained renal failure. ‘I’m not relating to this just now,’ she said to her doctor when he tried to discuss continuing dialysis.

“You could call that ‘overeducation,’ or you could call it one more instance of ‘people constantly creating these real unnecessary neurotic problems for themselves that keep them from dealing with more terrifying unsolvable problems about the universe,’ or you could call it something else. Woody Allen often tells interviewers that his original title for Annie Hall was ‘Anhedonia,’ which is a psychoanalytic term meaning the inability to experience pleasure. Wanting to call a picture ‘Anhedonia’ is ‘cute,’ and implies that the auteur and his audience share a superiority to those jocks who need to ask what it means. Superior people suffer. ‘My emptiness set in a year ago,’ Diane Keaton is made to say in Interiors. ‘What do I care if a handful of my poems are read after I’m dead…is that supposed to be some compensation?’ (The notion of compensation for dying is novel.)

“Most of us remember very well these secret signals and sighs of adolescence, remember the dramatic apprehension of our own mortality and other ‘more terrifying unsolvable problems about the universe,’ but eventually we realize that we are not the first to notice that people die. ‘Even with all the distractions of my work and my life,’ Woody Allen was quoted as saying in a cover story (the cover line was ‘Woody Allen Comes of Age’) in Time, ‘I spend a lot of time face to face with my own mortality.’ This is actually the first time I have ever heard anyone speak of his own life as a ‘distraction.'”

Upon Hearing of the Website “Idealist.Org”

October 29, 2012

NG: i very nearly said something to the effect that i had no ideals and was there a job site called “cynic”?


October 9, 2012

So I had to tell Joyce Wadler, who wrote the genius NY Times article that started the whole thing, and here is her response:


What a great idea!! So often people who are dead to us are long gone before we have the pleasure of telling them. These cards would take care of that. Hope you sell a million. And congratulations on getting the go ahead from The New Yorker, a magazine I could not do without.


That last little NYER reference is a secret, that you will perhaps know of soon :).


October 8, 2012

My brother IS sent me the most hilarious article in the Times the other day entitled “Unfriending Someone, Before Facebook.”  Below is an excerpt:

Nor were your choices in those days only friend or unfriend. There were levels of unfriending culminating in that magnificent big gun, “dead to me,” a phrase my family wrapped their mouths around with a relish other people saved for steak.

Dead to me was not achieved with a cowardly little click on the keyboard under cover of night. Dead to me took nerve, it took strength. It also wasn’t for children. You had to be an adult with a house and a job. You cleared a space in the conversation when a certain name came up – let’s use Marvin; waited three beats to make sure you had the attention of the house, and then, and only then, did you say, “He is dead to me.”

I have no choice here but to return to the master of the form, my mother. There came a time when she and her younger brother came to a fork in the road regarding religion, hers being our ancestral one, which eschews pork and enables us to write television comedy, my uncle’s newly adopted religion involving ringing doorbells and giving people pamphlets on Sundays. As he had moved to Los Angeles, this switch might have gone unnoticed but regrettably, one of his converts, returning home after visiting, was 13-year-old me.

My mother’s screams on the phone after she made this discovery are still remembered in Greene County. It remains one of the most powerful denunciations I have heard in my life.

“Aaron,” my mother said, “I never want to hear another word from you. You are dead to me.”

He remained dead to my mother for the rest of life, about 40 years, and from what I could see, she took great satisfaction from it. This was another reason unfriending someone before Facebook was so much better. You didn’t dispatch someone once and move on; you had a lifetime of satisfying moments in which you could unfriend them over and over again.

“So, Milli, what do you hear from your brother Aaron?”

“Dead to me.”

“Your brother still married to that nice woman?”

“Dead to me.”

“I was going out to L.A. and I thought maybe I would look up Aaron, you know we were in the Army together –”

“Dead to me.”

I enjoyed it so heartily that I began to imagine what weird, profile-less hermits like IS and I could do in lieu of “unfriending” and my mind turned to a company called Set Editions, which makes the beloved “Stop Talking” business cards, among other funny things.

I hand out at least once a day.

So I’ve written to Set Editions to ask them to consider making a DEAD TO ME card.  Here is my email pitch:

To Whomever Receives This Email:

I’m an enormous fan of your merchandise –– at the moment, I’m coveting just about everything on the site –– and a proud owner of the “Stop Talking” cards, which it seems are quite popular.  I have a small idea for you based on the below article, which is hilarious and short and should go down easy:

(I put the link here but I’m not going to do it again because that just seems excessive.)

I think it would be great to create a little card that says “YOU ARE DEAD TO ME” or, more succinctly, “DEAD TO ME.”  There also could be something in the idea of unfriending –– i.e. THIS IS ME UNFRIENDING YOU –– but I myself am partial to the “dead to me.”

Anyway, if this idea appeals to you at all, what I’d ask for in return is just one set of cards!

Again, big props.  You guys are hilarious.


Itinerant Daughter

Oh my, oh my, I DO hope they like the idea!

UPDATE:  They did!  The woman behind Set Editions wrote me the below:


Thank you so much for taking the time to write with your idea. I get to hear many ideas in the course of doing business, most of which are categorically not hilarious, but “Dead to me” is right up my alley. I will work on it and I promise to let you know if it comes to pass. I suspect it might. You’ll be the first to effectively kill off your friends if it does.

Thanks again. Set Editions is really just me at the end if the day and it still gives me huge pleasure that other people even notice.



Yay!  I’m off now to inform Joyce Wadler of the Times.  While you’re waiting for these cards to come out, everybody support Set Editions and buy me these good grief glasses!

Get it?