7.31.2002

Oooo! AOL is starting to slip down the slope! Good-bye, media conglomerants! Hellooooo, independent news sources!
Oh, if only it were that simple.....
I've put it off for as long as I can, but I have to address this freaky-ass medium (you like that?). Blogging, or "web-logging," has been a world-wide occurrence for about four years and continues to appear in all different forms. Some blogs are a confessional style that can either be unbelievably boring or remarkably thoughtful and good. Some blogs are more informational and some are principally sets of interesting links (Textism is right, btw; this link is good). Even Blogger's founders (1 and 2) are bloggers themselves.

I'm not sure what my Style is, or even if I have a Style. Reading what I've written so far, I'd have to say that my style seems overwhelmingly Preachy. I don't particularly like Preachy, which I suppose is too bad for me. I can't do the daily-sets-of-interesting-links thing; I just have too much work at work to do much surfing. My favorite kind of web writing is more the essay and less the blog, in the end, although I return to good blogs. Reading the below, I can see that I obviously want to write about media/culture products, and I want to analyze --oh god, so unhip-- their class and gender content. In the end, I guess that's a subject that's inherently preachy. Tough.

7.30.2002

Blueberry and I watched "Crossroads" over the weekend, on DVD, on our new, malfunctioning, always-emits-a-high-pitch flat-screen TV. That Britney is some little princess. David Denby of the New Yorker described her face in this movie as unnervingly smooth, almost like rubber, with eyes set so wide apart it was as if they floated off the screen. He writes, "What it's really about, of course, is the very delicate marketing problem of turning a super-bland pop star into an acceptable human being onscreen." I couldn't agree more. Blue. thinks she's pretty, but I think even he was a little let down by the end of the movie. In it, Britney Spears plays a hard-working high school senior who is on her way to med school before she tags along on her pregnant best friend's road trip. She quickly steals her friend's dream (lead singer in a talent audition) and beds the man driving them across country, all before her pregnant best friend falls down the stairs and [WARNING! SPOILER!] conveniently loses the baby, putting her own life back on track by the end of the film.

This is a remarkably un-feminist movie. It could have taken a tip or two from "Bring it On," the awesome cheerleader film powered by girls, half-naked as they were. That was a film that succeeded in delivering young women who were sexy and powerful and compassionate, if not always smart.

But this...this didn't get anywhere near any of those attributes. "Crossroads" offers up girls who appear to be property that is passed off from boyfriend to father and back again, and whose lives are ruled by the whims and desires of men. When Britney calls her father after her friend's little tumble down the stairs, he flies to LA to pick her up, and exchanges a cordial glance 'n' nod with the boy responsible for deflowering her. It's just depressing. And then there's the bizarro makeover. She has a few unsexy underwear scenes in the beginning, and it's hard not to notice that her stomach appears synthetic, much like Barbie's stomach. Perhaps she's wearing foundation on every inch of her body, or maybe they did some serious airbrushing in post-production. Or perhaps, perhaps, they used a life-size rubber doll as a stunt double. Think about it.

From the Village Voice (Jane Dark):
"You spend a lot of time wondering, "Better or worse than Glitter?""



7.29.2002

Not to be missed: The History of the Dot-Com Economy and the History of the War on Terror, all in one comic strip!!
Tom Tomorrow is a god.
MINERS alive! I'm sure most people expected the worst, but I was much happier than I thought I'd be to hear that they were out. This is a story about class, and about what can happen to you when you do hard work. We think of people digging rock in the earth as an out-of-date occupation, but people put their lives on the line everyday for money. Soon after the accident occurred, the Times carried a picture of relatives waiting during the rescue operation, and they were sitting on a granite curb, bracing themselves against a cool night wind. They looked hard-bitten, with denim shirts and numb downward gazes. They didn't have any of the glamorous grief that tragedies sometimes appear to produce in those captured by the media; people who have been cheated out of their dreams and expectations. Instead, they looked resigned, as though this trouble wasn't far off from what they already thought might happen.

The workers had wishes, too, ones that aren't endorsed by today's media-friendly mainstream. When they were finally lifted from the mine, many of them asked for chewing tobacco. The hospital reported being flooded with donations of chewing tobacco, and went against hospital policy to allow them to have it. They did not get the beer that they requested, however.

These men put their lives second to the need to make an income to support themselves and their families, and when that happens, health concerns are not all that important. Thousands of people spend each day underground, blasting rock and chewing tobacco. What was striking to me was how novel the desires and fears of blue-collar workers seemed to appear when framed by CNN and the New York Times. "Around here, if you're not farming, you're mining," said a neighbor at the rescue scene.


7.26.2002

Acres of deep green
surround ribbons of traffic
bullfrog in the sun

7.25.2002

"Thinking Outside the Box." Ever since I have entered a world substantially more corporate than what I am used to, I hear this phrase used with increasing frequency. I loathe the expression. One of my co-workers was recently lecturing a few of us on a game he plays by connecting 9 dots with 4 lines, and insisting that we do it ourselves so that we "learn to think outside the box." I imagine that this phrase was first floated by big-wigs, who, in a crisis of faith, realized that people who were slightly outside the mainstream might actually do substantially better work. Might this fact validate the Freaks in the eyes of the powerful? Well, in the 90s, it validated the Geeks, and a lot of Freaks went along for the ride. My alma mater praised itself to would-be donors as an institution that encourages its students to "draw outside the lines." I say: What lines? What box?

Talking to a neurology professor over dinner one evening, I explained that I try to think creatively and freely, with as little structure as possible, about the next five years in technology. He noted that my approach was very unscientific...and I concurred. He asked if I place that kind of thinking in a particular structure: do I do it at a particular time of day, for example, or for a regulated timespan? I told him I couldn't think in an unstructured way within a structure, or at least not very well; in fact, I wasn't sure how to think otherwise. I sense, though, that if I could, that would be much more marketable than what I actually do (thinking chaotically). And what's more, I suspect the big-wigs of seeking to place unstructured thinking within a structure...and presumably for profit. Which is what, I guess, I have always suspected the box of being.

The kindly professor may have been asking about this for any number of reasons; perhaps he was further analyzing the brain, or perhaps he was intrigued by what alternative education can produce; then again, he might simply have been interested in the potential of my romance with his son (as he also happened to be my boyfriend's father). But his question gave me the opportunity to become curious about the upsurge of thought about thought, which for some culminates on the maximum capitalization on one's approach to problem-solving. It's a strange thing.

News today:
http://www.blastitude.com/10/pg11.htm That's me, showing up in a record review from last fall (not sure how I missed it until now!). I don't really play drums...it's just that my friend Chris was making an LP, but I'm very happy to be mentioned in the same breath as Thurston Moore!!! Hey, I'm in McSweeney's Issue #8 this month too, if you're looking for more me.
And lastly, a Public Service Announcement:
Horoscopes for August are up.

7.24.2002

In case you want more. In a response to an inquisitive email from Donna regarding the theory behind the wrestling match described earlier, I wrote: In college we read wonderful papers on wrestling. The fantasy that it was your boss who was getting the crap beaten out of him made fans go wild and wrestlers rich. That's why it never is what it appears (an athletic match), and instead is always staged acting; large masses of people get very excited about one (mass of) person getting another, as long as they are iconic. Here, in the midst of corporate scandal, these two men played out the snobby white-collar intellectual getting utterly destroyed by the penultimate manly working class. And it was satisfying....even for me, a 'Harvard graduate.' No one wants to see Harvard win, because it seems like that's all they ever do. And a lot of times, it's by cheating.
Incidentally, the clock on this page is exactly 3 hours behind. That's what you get for free server space, I guess. I'm not complaining.
One entry is not enough for today. What I'm listening to: "Within Your Reach" by The Replacements (off of Hootenany). This song was on in the background during a scene in Say Anything and I never forgot it. A great guitar riff: roaming, unreachable, easy, the edge of cool. Can't get it out of my head.
Another cultural bit: on TV the other day, in some meta-world between channels, a wrestling match. A muscular blond American marches out, in crimson silk shorts with a gigantic "H" on his butt. "The only Harvard graduate in the WWE!" screams the announcer by way of introduction. The wrestler steps into the ring and throws his fists into the air, pumping them until the crowd boos. He grabs the microphone. "Why should I, a Harvard graduate, have to stand here and listen to you?" he bellows. The crowd boos louder. "I'm a HARVARD GRADUATE. Don't you think I'm too smart to listen to this? Don't you think I have better things to do?" This goes on for another minute or so, until a "blue-collar biker" wrestler tears through a nearby wall, grabs the Harvard graduate, and as the crowd goes wild, pummels him until he writhes on the ground.
It was awesome.
This waking-up-at-6:30am thing hasn't been an easy pill to swallow. I've been doing it for three full weeks now, ever since I started my new job. I love mornings spent zipping down the expressway listening to NPR, being at work at 8:00, and being home by 4:30, but OH! The bed is SO comfortable, the sheets so soft, my boyfriend so god-awful cute. Why leave?
Yesterday morning, though, I had a pleasant surprise. Lickey had left at 6 for an early bikeride, so I found myself, at 7:15, sitting on the couch, bored, not ready to leave for work yet. I turned on the TV using at least five high-tech remotes (we are so high-tech now that neither of us can really turn on our own television) and managed to navigate my way to FX, my old favorite channel. Sure enough, they're showing Beverly Hills 90210 from 7-8 in the morning. What a lovely surprise! A fifteen-minute dose isn't quite enough, mind you, to really get a sense of the full scope of that episode's plot, but the rich emotional architecture of each character was profoundly portrayed in that fleeting amount of time. David was mad at Valerie for suggesting he go to a film audition that turned out to be a deodorant commercial, Kelly was mad at Brandon for ignoring her journalism-story idea about her mentally-challenged co-worker (the suggestion of which caused a visiting Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer to look down his nose at Kelly and harrumph about human-interest stories while stifling a yawn). Kelly appeared to be working in a clinic, although it's not clear how or why.
Every time I watch 90210, I miss Brenda. What fire! What spunk! What 80s hair!

7.23.2002

Alone on my bicycle last night I heard a loud honk, as usual, and turned my head to see a large SUV stream past me. I felt a surge of anger at the driver, the vehicle, the road, the nearby drivers. I was pedaling quietly on the side of the road, unable to honk back and in no one's way. But there are drivers who will blast their horn simply because you are on a bike, and they are in a car. And inevitably that driver is behind the wheel of an SUV.
I love my car. I drive my car to work everyday, and during that time I observe (with gratitude) that almost no one honks. It's true; I see people miss a green light entirely because the person behind them hesitated to tap a horn, or bad drivers of all ilk pulling onto the street badly, moving perpendicularly to the traffic without a single beep from the tired masses trying to come home.
But if 95% of drivers don't lean on their horn, the ones who do are usually in SUVs, and they seem to do it gratuitiously, simply announcing their presence to the world, as if we couldn't miss it already. I think SUVs are too big for cities. I hate not being able to see a traffic light because of the hulking monstrosity in front of me. I can't believe that people are selfish enough to adhere to emissions standards like that, especially when SUVs are driven overwhelmingly by single drivers.
But most of all, I loathe the mindset of the owners, who bear an aggression that SUVs seem to cultivate. "I wish I had a tank," says my SUV-driving co-worker, "so that I could run over the traffic on the highway." I gently remind her that having a tank would not help matters. She repeats it again the next day.
As much as I fantasize about vandalizing SUVs, I don't think anonymous activism is ever OK. That's why I'm going to sticker MY car. Which one should I pick? Lemme know.

7.22.2002

My kitten viciously attacked the imitation Tevas in my hallway this morning. This was after she body-slammed my leg, and after she flung herself into the bathroom sink with a low and angry growl as my boyfriend tried to shave. When I found her with the Tevas, she was rolling on top of them, each shoe a little bigger than her body, knawing in rage at the flimsy rubber sandals. I bought them for $5 in Costa Rica last March during my first exploration of the rainforest, and I would fumble with the velcro strap in the dark mornings as, high in the trees above me, howler monkeys would first start screaming at the sun. At the time I thought that was the wildest sound I'd ever heard, but my kitten's threatening rumbles are always startling, as if something wild has overtaken her body and is on its way to overtake ours. Sometimes, when we're washing dishes, or arguing, or folding laundry, we look at each other with a little fear when we hear her growls and I wonder with joy if I am in the jungle again.