desk lunch – 2015-12-03

A very short desk lunch!

The Offing: Trans Issue 2015

The link above introduces the trans issue of The Offing, and the links below are some of the exceptional pieces published:

The girl in her nightdress the cold the girl
in her cold across the cliff
the cliff’s nightdress causing cold
the cold of the nightdress the girl walking
along the cliff the walk easing her cold across…
as its gusty               living/moved but its only by
forces          forces/laws/magic     chew/kiss
               living/result of a chain reaction     result of a chain
reaction/naught
A half-sunk ship offers its captain to the sea. The sea sneers at such gifts, but cannot resist. The lungs offer their resistance, but cannot last.
according to science we are all made of
strings. this is a theory that i often test
on myself. let’s see how many ties i can cut.
Just read them all, because they’re all strikingly beautiful.
Isn’t it nice that dim-witted humans in search of elaborate rationalizations for their vilest, most violently sociopathic selves can always find an evolutionary psychologist unintelligent enough to back their play? Forget that practitioners of this field of study have an unfortunate habit of analyzing a relative millisecond or two of modern human behavior as if it’d been slowly evolving over hundreds of thousands of years. No, just suspend your disbelief, and evolutionary psychology can explain every anecdotal observation that’s ever tumbled through your thrashing gray matter!
Heather Havrilesky of Ask Polly reviews a Tucker Max book and it is the most beautiful indictment of toxic masculinity, way better than the book itself deserves.

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desk lunch – 2015-11-05

A short desk lunch because things are busy, between my day job and my month-long NaNoWriMo project (not a novel, but just a time when I write and complete something every day for 30 days). Fun times! Is it Thanksgiving yet!


From Vaudeville To Hamilton: Racial Minorities In Musicals

The runaway success of Hamilton has shown that this sort of “race-blind” casting can become an astounding success—and also how far we’ve come from the musicals of the 1940s.

Two things: ONE: I appreciate this piece because it makes the point that the days of Old Hollywood were lose-lose in their portrayals of POC and how they utilized non-white actors once they had them. Roles for minorities offered either deeply uncomfortable stereotypical portrayals, or POCs (and the roles they played) were whitewashed, such as my honorary grandmother Rita Moreno. I didn’t realize she was Zelda in Singin’ in the Rain until I had seen the movie roughly 16,000 times because she looked nooooooothiiiiiing like the way she’s looked the rest of her life. TWO: Hamilton is NOT a RACE-BLIND or COLOR-BLIND musical, and people need to stop calling it that. Race/color-blind implies (“implies”)* that the performers were chosen without considering their ethnic backgrounds, and this is not the case w/r/t Hamilton, where casting POC in every role (except King George) was an active priority because, in the writer’s words: “This is a story about America then, told by America now, and we want to eliminate any distance — our story should look the way our country looks.” The word you’re looking for (actively casting POCs in historically/traditionally white roles to create a double conscious performance) might be racebending, but to the best of my knowledge, there’s no theater-specific term for this sort of thing. However: the term is NOT “race-blind” or “color-blind.”

*Ironic quotation marks because I doubt anyone, literally anyone’s ability to conduct truly “blind” evaluations of any work. For more on this issue (but from a different field) see this piece from Apogee Journal about blind submissions at literary magazines. Readers, especially, often think that “the work” will speak for itself in a pure and objective manner, and that taking the name off a submission will also rid their own brains of implicit bias, and that’s absolutely not the case, ever.

Oh, MAN, do I love anything more than giant compilations of primary sources? NO, I DON’T. I got this book used for about $10 and so far it’s WONDERFUL. It works from the compelling, strangely radical thesis: maybe people have always been people, and maybe same-sex attraction/romance/intimacy/sexuality isn’t an invention of the past 10 minutes, and here are 400 pages of historical documents that can be viewed in that light! Maybe we, the inheritors of this legacy, can take people of the past at their word when they wrote things like: “I have certainly never loved [a] man as I love you—and never shall” and “If I could have lived along side of you all the days of my life, I should have been happier.” (full excerpt) It’s a better solution than superimposing a century of institutionalized homophobia on legitimate emotional relationships that don’t suit an “idealized” concept of the past. (Ironic quotations ABOUND today—no regrets!)

Have you ever heard of the Omura whale? ….There’s a pretty simple explanation for why you probably haven’t; they didn’t technically exist until 2003. You see, until then they were not thought to be a distinct spacies of whale, merely a dwarf version of another species. But in 2003, after a team of Japanese researchers spent a good deal of time studying their DNA and bodily chracteristics decided they were distinct enough to be their own species, and named them after the deceased cetologist Hideo Omura.

THERE’S A NEW WHALE? THERE’S A NEW WHALE!


desk lunch – 2015-10-29

Brought to you this week by the new One Direction song, Perfect, and its beautifully strange music video. Wait, by strange I don’t mean weird, I mean completely perfect in embracing this very particular adult life that only appears in romcoms as the Goofus to the Gallant happy ending?? Like: right here right now this is all I can give and if that’s all you want then that’s great and if it’s not well then I’ll be here kicking soccer balls and killing time between interviews and living my life instead of having sex with you. Also I love that it responds to Taylor Swift’s Style, of all songs.

In like, actual news, Atlas and Alice has just released their spring/fall issue 4 and it’s BEAUTIFUL. My flash fiction, Me and Bradley Cooper and the True Dimensions of a Love Triangle, appears in this issue and I’m so glad to be in such good company.

This comprehensive arrogance is captured in one of Thoreau’s most famous lines: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” It is a mystery to me how a claim so simultaneously insufferable and absurd ever entered the canon of popular quotations. Had Thoreau broadened it to include himself, it would be less obnoxious; had he broadened it to include everyone (à la Sartre), it would be more defensible. As it stands, however, Thoreau’s declaration is at once off-putting and empirically dubious. By what method, one wonders, could a man so disinclined to get to know other people substantiate an allegation about the majority of humanity?

Kathryn Schulz went after Thoreau and his legacy and I WEEP that it has taken this long. On the upside, it’s very long and detailed and persuasive as hell, so it was well worth waiting my entire life.

Public Domain Review doing that amazing Public Domain work by presenting us with illustrations of comets from throughout history, throughout the world. Did you know Halley’s Comet is on the Bayeaux Tapestry?? COMETS ARE AWESOME.
And this, argues Illouz, is precisely why 21st-century love still hurts. First, we lack the legitimacy of those love-torn duelists and suicides of the previous centuries. They at least enjoyed social recognition based on the general understanding of love as a mad, inexplicable force that not even the strongest minds can resist. Nowadays, yearning for a specific pair of eyes (or legs, for that matter) is no longer a valid occupation, and so one’s love pangs are exacerbated by the consciousness of one’s social and psychological inadequacy. From the perspective of the Regime of Choice, the heart-broken Emmas, Werthers and Annas of the 19th century are not simply inept lovers – they are psychologically illiterate, if not evolutionarily passé.

I also blogged about this Aeon article briefly for The Rumpus. It does such an excellent job exploring romantic love in other cultures, specifically in Russia where so much of how romance is portrayed/perceived still comes out of Tolstoy and the 19th century. I would read a book-length version of this, really.

Does it matter that she always seems to be thinking and laughing and envisioning internally, but carries herself like the protagonist of a book we’re all just living in? The answer to that depends on whether or not you think that being a tough-girl is complicated and important, or not. I think it is, and never more so than now.

Full Stop published this piece on performances of gender with HarperCollins republishing Eileen Myles’s Chelsea Girls. (Which I am STILL WAITING to read because the Free Library of Philadelphia only has ONE COPY.)


Jurassic World: Drink up that toxic masculinity

I love good action movies because they blend in-your-face spectacle with whisper-quiet subtext in between all the explosions. Good action movies call back to Western culture’s urtext action movie, Homer’s Iliad; they perform a similar balancing act between subtlety and a spear literally breaking a guy’s head apart from the inside out. It’s the subtlety that sticks with me because it takes longer to sink in and then lingers much longer.

Enter Jurassic World and its lack of feminism in that overt Katniss-branded sense. (Never mind that Bryce Dallas Howard did everything Chris Pratt did while wearing ivory pumps that he deemed impractical.) Jurassic Park had Laura Dern and Hacker Girl while Jurassic World had four speaking roles for women (Howard, Judy Greer, Control Room Girl, and Morgana from Merlin) compared to three times as many speaking roles for men. That’s not reflective of the world I live in, but the world I live in also doesn’t have a dinosaur theme park.

Those gendered choices represent the reality of Jurassic World. Bryce Dallas Howard doesn’t use a rocket launcher against Indominus Rex (THE UNTAMED KING!!! NOTHING IS CHILL ABOUT THIS MOVIE!!!), but there’s more to feminism than portraying women as ultra-violent monsters at the same rate that men are portrayed ultra-violent monsters. That’s the subtext of Jurassic World: a disaster movie that predominantly features men messing up and served with Action Movie Justice. We can use feminism as a lens on Jurassic World that allows us to identify toxic masculinity for what it is and call it out.

So, in order of appearance, here’s an incomplete list that examines the men in Jurassic World and their experience in this culture of toxic masculinity. All movie-canon errors are my own because, at the time of writing, I saw the movie less than 48 hours ago and IMDb can only supply so much. SPOILERS BELOW, OBVIOUSLY.

Continue reading Jurassic World: Drink up that toxic masculinity