Archive for the ‘Things I Love That I Go to Inappropriate Lengths to Track Down’ Category

Food, Huh, Yeah What Is It Good For? Absolutely Nothing.

July 28, 2020

“Then she’d smelled spaghetti.  Byron had a tincture of this artificial odor on his desk, for sniffing when he ate his meals, which were flavorless nutritional shakes (the shakes were weird enough, but Hazel also couldn’t understand how the only food smell he used was spaghetti.  “Don’t you want to smell something else, for variety?” she used to ask him.  “A cinnamon roll?  A bucket of chicken?”  He’d blink once, twice, then shake his head no.)  Aside from these shakes he really didn’t eat, preferring to get weekly transdermal supplements via pneumatic injection guns.  Eating grossed him out; he felt it was antiquated and menial.  He’d want to get a implanted in his abdomen where he could delivery daily sustenance to his stomach via a gel or blended material, some texture just bulky enough that his digestive organs wouldn’t atrophy, but he’d decided against it since eating is such a metaphorical act across all cultures.  Byron worried that it might affect his business dealings if others, particularly foreign partners from European countries that didn’t romanticize efficiency, found out he did not participate in calorie swallowing and traditional digestion.”

Made for Love, by Alissa Nutting (which you should definitely read right now)

So anyone who knows me knows I have a knee-jerk horror of all the ways Big Tech attempts to hack human’s essential animalness.  Eliminating death, freezing your eggs and implanting them when you’re 80 and unable to put in 15 hours a day at Google so you can give birth to your grandchild: that kind of stuff gives me the willies.  And yet, and YET, I think I maybe coming around on the whole let’s-get-rid-of-food thing.

This is undoubtedly due to the fact that I’ve been home with all three other members of my family, responsible for 97% of meals (save the breakfasts my husband makes––that’s the easiest meal of the day, though––and the very occasional evening we order out for dinner) since March 9th, when schools closed and life as we knew it ceased.  That’s a lot of meals.  Particularly for someone who from the word go, finds food pretty dull.

I mean look, it’s fine.  It’s just a whole lot of work (and time! and money!) for fine.  If I could eat 1-2 enormous meals of my favorite food every day, I probably would basically like it (3 meals is a bit of a to-do for me).  If someone brought me a bagel sandwich or a plate of sushi or a steak with French fries and spinach whenever I was ravenous, that would be cool.  But given where we are right now in the world, it’s taking all my creativity to pour cereal into a bowl.  I think the other day I gave each of my kids half of a stale bagel with a pat of cold butter smushed into it and a cut up cucumbers and told them to get lost.

So the other day I was wondering if there are any times in human history other than Soylent when people––scientists, wackos, wacko scientists––tried to eliminate food.  I don’t mean anorexics.  Even Gandhi or that chick Naveena Shine, who tried to go 100 days living on sunlight (she made it 47), aren’t really embodying what I’m looking for.  I’m not into eliminating food for either destructive or transcendent reasons: it’s solely just to avoid constant drudgery of deciding what to eat, procuring it, cooking it, cleaning up after it.  It’s just a bit much!  I’m hoping for a neat little pill, or that brown (but apparently tasty?) mush from Defending Your Life.  (Feel free to throw other cinematic or literary references my way.)  Unfortunately at the moment Soylent is really the only option out there, but it’s a little too corporate for my tastes.  There’s a whole DIY Soylent movement (hahahahaha people are so weird!) apparently, but now we’re asking for more of a time commitment than I’m comfortable with (it also has a whole “get healthy” agenda and again, I don’t care about that––I’m not out to optimize anything, just eliminate one more thing to do).

When I was a young anorexic, in my second hospital program, they gave us Boost, commonly marketed toward the elderly, as replacement calories when we declined to finish a meal or snack.  This was not a unique feature of the program: the previous program I’d been in did the same with Ensure, and the one I went to after this one actually put you on an all-liquid diet if you came in below a certain BMI.  At this particular program I’m talking about, the Boost was meant to act as a punishment: even if you didn’t finish, say, one pretzel from a bag of pretzels, you’d still get an entire can of Boost, so obviously the calorie intake doesn’t at all even out there.  And yet at some point, for whatever reason, all the girls in our program decided that Boost was by far the easier way to go.  Forget the anxiety inherent in slicing your meant, the awkwardness of trying not to eat as fast as your neighbor, all those intrusive textures and flavors and temperatures, the occasional time we had to actually choose what to eat (the horror)!  Just make it all the same and get rid of

Eventually a therapist caught on to the fact that we had stopped thinking of Boost as something to be avoided and had started actively replacing our food with it (I think they overhead one of the girls saying offhandedly that it “tasted like cake”).  The main therapist, who probably smoked three packs a day and had the voice to prove it, gave us all a big lecture, but honestly, she should have just saluted us: we were the way of the future!

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Or now.

Long Post

July 19, 2020

I’ve really been hoping to do a longer post for a while now, but you know, pandemic living has got me (and basically everyone else) down.  So I’m just posting this dumb thing in hopes of looking like as diligent a blogger as Jason Kottke––better a stopgap measure to save face than nothing at all!

Here’s my thought: I saw a think piece on why Twister is the best 90s disaster movie the other day.  I say “saw” because I didn’t actually read the think piece––who has that kind of time?!––but instead just nodded in bemused agreement.  Sure, that seems reasonable to me.  (Also, what else qualifies as a 90s disaster movie?  I guess I was thinking “natural disaster,” although when you Google the phrase it suggests films like Titanic and Independence Day.)  So I put it on when I was cleaning the other day, was mildly amused for the first fifteen or so, and then just started doing something else and didn’t bother to finish it.  But what those first fifteen minutes made me realize is that I am really missing something from my life: the thrill of the chase!  Not romantic chase, of course.  More like, that feeling when you’re with your pals and you all want a glimpse of something mighty and ephemeral and then someone says, “It’s close!” and you all race to jump in your cars and you’re radioing to each other, “Make a left!” and “Don’t let it get away!”  You know, the chase.

I think maybe I just want to be a storm chaser, although I don’t love tornadoes.  A monsoon could be cool.

Good talk eh?

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Tehching Hsieh’s Lessons for Quarantine

June 2, 2020

Earlier on in #quarantinelife, I was a virtual ideas machine.  Seriously golden nuggets were just falling out of my mouth every time I spoke.  I actually was a little annoyed, because I had more ideas in the span of eight weeks than I had in the previous three years, when I actually had at least a little free time to execute them.  Now that time is basically over, which is sad but also perhaps freeing, in its way.

One of the ideas I had during the brief moment of intellectual fertility was to interview the performance artist Tehching Hsieh about what he has to say about how to live under quarantine.  Hsieh is famous for his series of One Year Performances: for one year each, he punched a time clock every hour on the hour (sometimes called Time Clock Piece), never went indoors, lived in an 11’6″ x 9′ x 8′ cell (Cage Piece) and remained tied by an 8-foot rope to fellow performance artist Linda Montano (Rope Piece), with whom he was not romantically linked at the time and actually didn’t know before the piece began (this feels important to point out).

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The one I thought spoke to the most to our current moment was the performance where he lived in the cell, because of the obvious comparison that while we were all feeling cooped up, he was quite literally cooped up: no Netflix, no sourdough starters, no Times digital subscription or Quarantine Chat or anything at all.  He didn’t even make eye contact with the visitors who were allowed in every three weeks (totaling nineteen times a year).  This is how he described his life during that year:

Thinking was the focus of this piece and was also my way of survival.  While doing this piece, thinking was my major job.  It doesn’t matter what I was thinking about, but I had to continue thinking, otherwise I would lose control not only of myself but also of the ability to handle the whole situation.  It was difficult to pass time.  I scratched 365 marks on the wall, one for each day.  I had to calculate time; although I may have broken the rule of no writing, it helped me to know how many days I had passed, how many more days I had to go.  

More:

What I needed was the use of my confined body to carry out the work, while at the same time, my mind, detached from the confinement, was free to think and to advance. I am as free in the cage as outside.  My work here is not focusing on political imprisonment or on the self-cultivation of Zen retreats, but on freedom of thinking and on letting time go by. 

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He also talked about dividing his cell into different “rooms” in his mind, and breaking up his day by going on a walk “outside” (aka around the cell) and then returning “home” (his bed).

But then the more I thought about this, the more I realized that for me, actually the most analogous situation was the piece he did with Linda Montano.  I am, after all, not alone in my quarantine, but inside a decently-sized-for-NYC-but-not-big apartment 99% of my time with two small children and my husband (so actually, my version of this would be being tied to another artist and two young monkeys).  I’m sure some young-and-in-love types would hear about this piece and be like, “Oh, that sounds so lovely, being with someone all the time!”  But my response is: OMG no.  And it turns out that actually, Hsieh and Montano ended up really disliking each other.  Hsieh puts it diplomatically (“Linda and I were exposed to each other.  That brought complexity.”) but Marina Abramovic, in supplementary material provided for the publication of the book Out of Now, which chronicles Hsieh’s work, provides more insight:

But with Tehching and Linda there was no love.  I was really puzzled by scratches above their two separate beds where they slept.  Later on, I heard that they didn’t get along and in frustration they scratched the walls with their nails.  They had made this promise and they are both very fatalistic in their work so they didn’t want to break it.  

Interestingly, my husband felt like the piece that best mirrored our current times is the Time Clock Piece.  Why?  Because he is being asked to “clock in” without any sort of actual supervision and without actually going anywhere, I think was the gist.  Not to say that Hsieh didn’t have people to whom he was accountable––usually lawyers or other third parties were in charge of making sure he was doing what he agreed to.  And my husband also pointed out, intelligently, that the homeless populations in cities affected by COVID-19 might be represented by the piece where Hsieh stays outdoors entirely for a year, as many might be trying to actively avoid shelters, where crowding makes contagion even more likely.

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So I wrote to Hsieh, asking him if maybe he’d be willing to be interviewed and tell me a bit about how he feels his art relates to this moment, etc.  And he responded quickly!  And nicely!  And said no.

The beginning of his email read: I’m open to the connection you are building between the current situation and my work, at the meantime my work is about passing time, rather than how to pass time, I’m afraid it won’t the best for me to talk about my work in relation to the current situation.

Which reads a little like fancy art world speak for, “You obviously didn’t get my point, plebeian” to me.  But yes, of course I do understand that allowing time to continue on passively is not the same thing as figuring out what to do with your time (eye roll emoji).  That doesn’t negate the obvious question here: what on earth did you think about for an entire year?!

Hope you are doing well, although we all feel constrained in a way, at least we still have free thinking.

Said a person living with two toddlers… never.

My Introvert Paradise

December 18, 2019

When I read the 2011 obituary of 104-year-old Huguette Clark, the reclusive heiress who had spent nearly two decades in luxury hospital suites by choice before she died, naturally my first thought was, “This bitch is my hero.”  Okay, so maybe I have no interest in collecting dolls, as the eccentric Clark did well into adulthood, and maybe I didn’t grow up in a 121-room mansion, but dreamers gotta dream!

When Clark died, she left behind three enormous properties, estates in Santa Barbara and New Canaan, Connecticut, and a palatial apartment on 5th Avenue, that she hadn’t set foot in since her hospital admission.  She kept people on staff at all three houses to ensure they would be in perfect shape lest she decide (?) to pay a visit.  (Side note: have considered writing a short story about the house manager at the Santa Barbara estate, a real Remains-of-the-Day type, who squashes a new hire’s mission to find out more about their mysterious employer.  Or something like that.)

Anyway, her properties were put up for sale after her death, including her apartment at 907 5th Avenue, which was originally two apartments combined so she could live with her mother.  Naturally I want to live there.  When the realtor put a floor plan up on the listing site back in the day, I printed a copy and marked what the layout would be if justice were real and I got to live in a mansion.  Herewith, my introvert paradise!

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From top left around in a clockwise circle moving closer to the compass:

Kitchen
Informal breakfast nook: no idea why I put breakfast in quotation marks but I’ve grown a lot in the last eight years
Dining room
Bathroom with clawfoot tub: basically all I want in life, other than a $22.5 million apartment, is a clawfoot tub
Bedroom: mine
Closet: not sure where I’ll be getting the money to buy clothes in this scenario but it’s my fantasy
Nonfiction library: where I store my collection of nonfiction books
Bathroom
Cozy TV/movie watching room: big couches, plush blankets, etc.
Closet
Nap closet: for when you’re on the other side of the house and you’re too lazy to walk back to your own bed to nap
Hisbodedut room: when you want to daven Breslov style
Craft room: a room for doing projects, a la Amy Sedaris
Billiards room: not sure why I chose this, because I don’t play pool, but maybe I was just running out of ideas?
Sculptor-in-residence’s room: this is where the sculptor-residence will live and, well, sculpt
SIR’s bathroom
Office: this is the only room in the apartment with WiFi
Fiction library: where I store my novels
Group therapy room: where I get together with a bunch of people and do some guerrilla group therapy
Soundproof destruction room: when you’re really angry you can come in here and break things
Pantry
Empty room with waxed floor for skateboarding, toy car riding and sliding around on your butt: self-explanatory
Phone booth #2: phone booth #1 is on the other side
Psychopath room: a padded room for when you want to lose your shit a little
Room I forgot to name: thoughts, anyone?
Ping pong and game room: foosball as well
Is this a room or a hallway?: I genuinely cannot tell
Knick knack closet: this is where I keep my knick-knacks
Crying closet: this is a room with a couch and lots of tissues in case you feel like crying in private
Art gallery: this is where I keep my pictures and display the SIR’s work
Phone booth
Supply closet: for paper towels and such

So!  That’s the goal, folks.  Let’s make it happen.  Coming up soon, the link to my GoFundMe––aiming for a cool $25 mill here, people, so don’t be shy!  Oh and I’m auctioning off the original of the above.  Just reach out to Siobhan: she’s lazy, but she knows how to cash a check.

SAD!

December 4, 2019

Not gonna lie, pretty bummed these ceramic peanuts are sold out.  (PS: having a bit of a consumerist moment over here!  Send help!). (PPS: I love fake food you can scatter around your house a laAmy Sedaris!)

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Ruin Porn

August 8, 2019

I’ve been wanting for ages to make a prototype for a cover of my magazine, Ruin Porn, which will be a high-end glossy for those of us who love abandoned buildings, architectural decay, and eerie interiors.  Unfortunately for us all, my Photoshop skills are zilch.  So I’ve done this, which is kiiiinda close but a) the font of the contents isn’t perfect and b) I want the background to be Baker-Miller/Millennial Pink or another shade of pink TBD, which feels like it SHOULD be easy to accomplish but is… not.

By the way if anyone wants to team up with me and make this magazine, I would toooootally do it.  I’m leaning toward it being a biannual journal but I’ll sign on for a quarterly if my financial backers absolutely insist.

By the way, in case you can’t read it, the features in this issue are: The Abandoned Villas of Italy by Photographer Thomas Jorian, The Stalkers of Pripyat, Ukraine, and A Visit to Poveglio Island.

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Put Me in Your Will, Mr. Waters

June 3, 2019

There’s a new article out about John Waters, which focuses on his art collection, one of my favorite topics.  You’ll recall, I’m sure, that many years ago I wrote him a note offering to be caretaker of his art collection when he dies.  I would probably strike a different tone now, but what’s done is done.

The new piece features a number of pictures of Waters’s pieces from my favorite “genre” of art, trompe l’oeil!  The toilet paper dispenser, light switch, olives, playing cards and pencil in these pictures are fake!  Basically my dream is to have an apartment riddled with fake things just to confuse my guests.

Additions to List

April 28, 2019

Back in this post, I said there should be names for films that use either regular people to play characters much like themselves/non-professional actors exclusively or a mix of professional and non-professional actors.  Kind of like, filmic auto-fiction?  Anyway, I named a few movies that fall into this category, but I have some more to add: La Pointe Court (Agnes Varda) and Man of Aran.  I’m sure there must be a name for this type of cinema, so please, by all means, can some snobby first year film MFA student school me on this?

True Crime

March 21, 2019

You know how true crime is big?  Of course you do!  And true crime podcasts are the BIGGEST!  You are definitely plugged in enough to know that.  Well, while researching an article about an Amish thing, I came across this old news story, and I’m convinced it’s the next big true crime podcast subject (it’s basically a solved murder, but they’ve made well-reviewed podcasts about Charles Manson, so I don’t think knowing who did it is that much of a deterrent).  I would love to do some of the work on this, but the thing is, only some of it: pitching it, organizing interviews and travel, arranging for advertising, etc., I’d prefer someone else do.  Do you think Sarah Koenig is free?

A trailer:

The break came in 1987, when Reader’s Digest published an article about Little Boy Blue. A woman in northern Ohio, a member of an Amish community, read the story and wondered whether the mystery boy was a relative who had not been seen for several years. She contacted authorities, who, in the days before forensic DNA testing, used a fingerprint to confirm the identification.

Little Boy Blue was Danny Stutzman, a 9-year-old from Dalton, Ohio. The sheriff and Nebraska State Patrol investigator Jack Wyant furiously searched for the boy’s father, Eli Stutzman. They found him in Azle, Texas, almost two years from the date of Danny’s discovery in Nebraska.

I mean, it’s a gay Amish murder story.  Gold, Jerry!

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Chapter Titles From The Favourite

January 10, 2019

 

  1.  This Mud Stinks
  2. I Do Fear Confusion and Accidents
  3. What an Outfit
  4. A Minor Hitch
  5. What if I Should Fall asleep and Slip Under
  6. Stop Infection
  7. Leave That I Like It
  8. I Dreamt I Stabbed You in the Eye