Friday, December 31, 2010

That's so '00s!

What are the cultural cliches of the 2000s? I don't know if it's the fact that we only just emerged from them or what, but the last decade seemed so much less distinctive than the '80s or '90s. What characterizes the '00s style, if the '80s were all about big hair and bright, flashy excess, and the '90s were dark and droopy and gloomy (grunge and brown lipstick)? I think the decade was defined by 9/11, but what were the ramifications of that, aside from fear and jingoism?

I've taken a stab at forming a list of phenomena we'll look back at as "so '00s":
  • Douchebag comedies (Wedding Crashers, Knocked Up, The Hangover, etc.)
  • Recessionomics
  • Climate change
  • "Hope"
  • Hipsterism/Anti-hipsterism (Williamsburg was our Haight-Ashbury)
  • iPods
  • Folky-twee indie rock
  • Spray tans
  • Fruity florals
  • MySpace
  • Chipotle
  • Mojitos
  • Food trucks
  • Grandpa/shawl-collar/belted cardigans and ugly-chic in general
  • Knitting
  • Competition-based reality shows
  • "Good TV"
  • Lord of the Rings
  • "Fail"
  • "I'm all set"
What else?

I just made a big bowl of Texas caviar, which is like a salad or dip made with black-eyed peas, diced onions and peppers and cilantro in a vinaigrette. Luckily, I really like black-eyed peas. Are there other foods that people eat on Jan. 1 for luck? In El Paso we always ate tamales.

Happy new year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Recent acquisitions

I asked for three perfumes for Christmas (Teo Cabanel Alahine, Ormonde Jayne Woman, and Sonoma Scent Studio Voile de Violette), thinking I'd get one, maybe two, but probably just one, since one is only available in the UK and SSS has been temporarily closed for a while, as its mastermind, Laurie Erickson, nurses a wrist injury. In fact, my smart cookie of a mom managed to get me all three; she discovered The Perfumed Court and ordered large decants of both Alahine and OJW, and she wrote to Laurie requesting a favor, so I have a full bottle of the VdV extrait, small but mighty. She (my mother, not Laurie) also found a body scrub from a spa in Arizona that contains creosote! It doesn't smell exactly like rain in the desert, but it definitely smells like the desert. My pre-Christmas gift from John was a bottle of Bulgari Black, which we will be sharing. I gave my grandmother a jar of White Linen body cream (I couldn't find the lotion in the glass pump bottle; did they stop making it?) and my brother a roll-on of MCMC Hunter oil. And since I've been self-gifting all year, this didn't seem like the season to stop: I bought myself a bottle of A*Men Pure Malt at the duty-free shop in Dallas during my three-hour layover, bringing the number of patchouli gourmands I own up to silly.

Anybody else get or give the fifth sense?

The most depressing time of the year

  • Don't you hate the week or so following Christmas? The going back to work and having to take down your sad-ass decorations, the finding out your health insurance costs have gone up, etc. It seems like it always snows a lot while I'm in Texas, so I miss the first prettiness and just get the disgusting aftermath.
  • Men are really polite in El Paso. They say "sir" and "ma'am" sincerely. They also stare at me in a way that no one does up here. I guess I pass for exotic in Texas. At my brother's wedding, all the Austinites said I looked like a Boston native. When did that happen?
  • Things I did in El Paso: Went on gasping, tearful runs (so sunny and dusty and altitudinous), ate lots of tacos, hung out with high school friends, watched Eclipse and old House episodes with my mom, found out my real bra size. I also dabbled in meat eating, since I'd been thinking about it for a while and it was there for the taking. Specifically I ate some of the green beans with bacon that my cousin's wife brought for Christmas dinner, and after Christmas my mom made this Cajun dish I used to love, basically red beans and rice but with white beans, using the ham bone, and I ate that too. Observations: Meat doesn't taste any different than it ever did, not more or less delicious, but I still can't imagine eating a big hunk of it in isolation. I still don't want to buy it. I don't know when I'll eat it again. It didn't make me sick, which was my main worry.
  • Don't hump my leg and tell me it's an earthquake. Is that a saying? It should be.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Mystique of the Desert

  • I really like Liz Hildreth's blog. Today she wrote about sex and smell. That's a double whammy right there.
  • A lot of the street names around where I grew up would make good names for people. For example: Doniphan (which, I believe, is a Blvd.). It's close to Donovan, which is already tres sexy, but with a twist, plus the visual resemblance to Daphne would make it a good name for a woman too.
  • I always thought it would be cool if my middle name started with an O, because then my monogram could be EGO, you know, with the big G in the middle. Except there aren't really any good names that start with O, are there? I've never liked Olivia (sorry, Olivias of the world, I once had a math teacher named Olivia with a bad haircut). I'd have to make something up: O'Fallon? Onyx? I'd gladly trade out my real middle name; I like "Ann" as a first name but not a middle name, it's so dull and pronounceable compared to the rest of my moniker.
  • What is it with the people who work at the gate always saying in threatening tones that the flight is very full? First of all, there's a finite number of available seats. The flight is either full or it's not. It's not like they ever start packing people into the aisles. Secondly, it's full almost every time I fly. Why do they always act like it's a rare disaster and somehow our fault?
  • This morning I found my old bottle of Egoiste "Cologne Concentree" in my childhood dresser. OMG! I feel like I won a prize, I had no idea this still existed. There is only about 8-10 ml left, sadly. It's easily 15 years old, and still smells fantastabulous. Don't throw away your old perfume people! It's not as fragile as it looks. Send it to me.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I get emotive on planes

  • What exactly is the criterion for making it into the Criterion Collection? (Apparently there's only one.) We watched The Night of the Hunter last night, the only film actor Charles Laughton ever directed. This isn't really surprising because, aside from one awesome sequence in which two children float down a river in a skiff under the starlight, with impassive fauna looking on from the banks, it's pure amateur hour. It meets my youth & malice criterion, but not my "worth two hours of my life" criterion.

  • I promised I'd remind you to vote for The French Exit in the Goodreads Choice Awards. How can you say no to this face?

    The French Exit
  • I'm flying to Texas tomorrow. I don't know about you, but I always feel sad on planes. Once I cried during a Cameron Diaz movie. Aside from any trashy magazines I buy at the airport, I'll be reading Indecision.

  • There's a radio station in Boston with the call letters WODS. When they say it on the air it sounds like "Odious."
  • Friday, December 17, 2010

    Do women know how attractive they are?

    Conversation in a bar tonight among one man and two women: Do women know how attractive they are? The man argued no, both women (one of them being me, natch) said yes, they absolutely do, but are conditioned to pretend they don't. I've mentioned before how taken aback I was when my friend Jessica identified herself publicly as "beautiful." It wasn't that I was surprised she knew it, just that she was willing to say it. (I suppose the game of pretending not to know is applicable to both genders. Actors, in interviews, always pretend they don't know they're gorgeous.)

    Eventually I conceded that no one really knows how attractive they are objectively. I'd define "objectively" "thusly": Ask a large number of people to rank a head-on face shot on a scale of 1 to 10, then take the average. (I know relevant studies use similar methodology.) But what's more important is knowing how attractive you are in context, in the contexts that matter. For example, I don't think I'm particularly attractive to douchebags, but I do pretty well with the type of men I'd tend be interested in, and occasionally well with the type of men I'm only interested in physically. Basically, I feel confident in contexts where I know I can be myself, and everyone knows confidence is attractive, especially if you're in the 70% percentile anyway.

    Other topics included: If you could be more rational or more emotional, which would you choose? I chose more rational, even though some people probably think I'm already too rational (is that possible?), but only on the condition that it's not zero-sum, i.e., I don't have to get less emotional to do so.

    Incidentally, while searching for links for this post, I got all wistful re-reading this one; I haven't had a day that eventful in some time.

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    Mess with Texas and I'll Mess with Your Face

    When asked what they think "Don't Mess with Texas" means, people I meet "up north" generally translate it into something along the lines of: "Texans are haahhd, so don't fuck with us, or we will mess you up." AKA, I'm talkin' about steppin' off.

    They're usually shocked when I tell them it comes from an anti-litter campaign. I even saw someone with a shirt that said "Let's Mess with Texas!" It's true: northern hipsters have started a pro-littering campaign.

    Why would you want to make this Indian cry?

    Sunday, December 12, 2010

    Prepare for OMS burn

    After all this talk of Lea Thompson, I had an uncontrollable urge to watch SpaceCamp. It's widely agreed to be a terrible movie, so why do I like it so much? What's the problem exactly, that it's implausible? Well, duh. It's essentially science fiction; the entire plot hinges on Jinx, the talking robot who wants to be Max's friend (Max being played by a young Joaquin Phoenix, then known as Leaf). Aside from that you can basically go along with it, assuming you don't know too much about space travel. I didn't remember that Scott Coffey has a small part in this; he's also in Some Kind of Wonderful. (And have you all seen Shag? Not a proper '80s movie, since it takes place in the '60s, but it was my favorite movie for a while in jr. high.)

    Also, there's a scene that has Thompson saying a line she will later repeat exactly in SKOW: "We were just talking." The circumstances were exactly the same too, she got caught breaking the rules (in one case skipping gym class, in the other being out after camp curfew) with a studmuffin, and then has to answer to a curly-haired female superior. I wonder if Hughes unconsciously plagiarized the line from SpaceCamp? Or if Thompson ad-libbed it in in SKOW? It got me thinking about movie lines as memes--like I swear the line "First rule is, there are no rules" has been in at least five or six movies. ("You mess with the bull, you get the horns" is in two Hughes movies, but I don't know if that counts since it's just a thing people say anyway, though I'd never heard it before I saw it in The Breakfast Club.) What other lines appeared in multiple '80s movies?

    Speaking of '80s cliches: I recently saw Wall Street for the first time, and was surprised how lousy it is, when you get right down to it. I think they spent about five minutes doing research on how Wall Street works. What's amazing is that it's so full of '80s cliches, it's hard to believe it was actually made in the '80s, as opposed to by people who heard about the '80s second-hand and then tried to cram in every reference for good measure. I'd rather watch The Secret of My Success any day (the soundtrack of which contains that ultimate '80s movie soundtrack cliche, "Oh Yeah" by Yello).

    Thursday, December 9, 2010

    Why names?

    Sometimes it seems weird that we have names, like, separate from words. I mean, some names are also words (e.g., Summer or April) (which are also times). But some names are just names, like Shania (don't tell me that means something, because I don't care). So who came up with this crap? Like why don't we follow the Dances with Wolves model? Who decided "Dwight" is a good thing to call someone?

    I mean, man. Stuff is weird.

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Black Swan, holy crap. What a weird movie. I think it marks the birth of a new genre: Eczema Horror. Or maybe Eczemacore.

    Anybody seen it yet? I need to talk to someone about this movie. Or join a support group.

    Saturday, December 4, 2010

    Some Notes on Flirtation

    • Flirtation works best between two available parties or two unavailable ones, not mixed company.
    • The "neg" is overrated, and arguably can't even be classed as flirtation. Apparent indifference is more effective than outright insults. Apparent indifference followed by an unexpected compliment is highly effective.
    • Negs made in jest, however -- self-aware negs? negative negs? -- are fair game.
    • Homosexual men are often excellent at flirting with women, proving that the pleasure of flirtation is not based in potential for sex.
    • When you're accustomed to harmless flirtation, it's easy to forget that flirtation can be harmful.
    • It is possible to skip flirtation altogether and simply begin dating. However, for some it is nearly impossible to evaluate compatibility and attraction in the absence of preliminary flirtation, and this is one of the major flaws of the Internet dating model.
    • The problem with ambiguous messages is that innocent bystanders may think the message is intended for them, and vice versa: the person for whom the message is intended may assume it's directed elsewhere. Of course, this is also a benefit.

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    A passage from In the Cut, as requested

    Here's a passage I found amusing, which contains no spoilers:
    The waitress brought the food. Mr. Reilly's dinner looked delicious. It really was Thanksgiving on a roll. I don't know why I doubted it would be -- two slices of white bread piled with stuffing, cranberry sauce, candied yams and gravy topped with a breast of turkey and two wings. I didn't want to watch him eat it. I'd once eaten crabs with him at a restaurant at the South Street Seaport and I haven't eaten crabs since. I don't begrudge erotic pleasure, whatever its source. I don't even begrudge Reilly his crunching and chewing and slicing and gnawing, but I didn't want to watch it.

    "I'm booking, man," Cornelius said abruptly. Before I could say anything, he was in the street.

    Reilly frowned at me, wiping his hands delicately on his napkin. "Never a good idea," he said.

    "What's that?" I asked, knowing very well what he was going to say.

    "Mingling," he said. "It makes a mess of things." He picked up a wing of the turkey and sucked the joint.

    "Oh," I said, furious. "That argument. Too bad there isn't a Kentucky Fried Chicken nearby."

    "There is," he said, lifting a tiny stem of a cranberry from the rim of his platter and flicking it to the table. "On Fourteenth Street."

    "Would you like to try some of my meatloaf?" Pauline asked him. He would.

    No wonder she ends up with marks on her ass from the sink, I thought. I ate the tuna fish sandwich that was so conventional that I began to feel sorry for it, so sorry for it that I ate it all, even eating what one of my students calls the garnage. We divided the check evenly and Reilly and Pauline made a date to go to the new restaurant in Chelsea where the waiters wear gaucho chaps and hats with dangling felt balls.

    We left Mr. Reilly at his car and Pauline walked with me as far as Waverly Place, where we kissed goodbye.

    As I walked home, I thought about the new poem in the Number Four subway. I have become so paranoid in the last month that I believe that the Poetry in Motion placards are messages for me. Not in a metaphorical sense, but literally selected for me by someone who has managed to gain influence over the Transit Authority Selection Committee. The new poem is a tanka by Akiko Yosano. "Now/Thinking back/On the course of my passion,/I was like one blind,/Unafraid of the dark." For me, right?

    Lead sling bullets with a winged thunderbolt

    • Um, so, somehow my book is among the nominees for the GoodReads' Choice Awards in the Poetry category. Seems weird -- suspicious, even! -- but if you're on GoodReads, you could vote for me! Theoretically.
    • I can be kind of an aggressive jerk, sure. That doesn't mean being an aggressive jerk is a good way to flirt with me. Not that flirting with me well would get one anywhere, given my "relationship status," but I mean, geez. Some people can't even go through the motions correctly. You know?

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    One more variation on the whale joke

    A whale and a muffin are in the oven. The muffin turns to the whale and says, "It's getting hot in here!" The whale looks at the muffin and goes, "You can talk?"

    And another thing ...

    Just yesterday I read an interview with a literary agent who was asked to name her favorite book; she said she couldn't name just one but her "favorite classic" is The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Look, people, that book was written in 1984. If you're going to bother creating separate categories for "classics" and contemporary books, shouldn't classics be older than, I don't know, me? Today I saw the same thing, coming from Amber Tamblyn, the actress-poet I love to hate (via the PoFo):
    I always recommend one classic and one modern poet. For classics, I would go with John Ashbery or Anne Sexton – read the greats and see why they’re considered greats. In terms of contemporary writers, there’s Jeffrey McDaniel – who is my favorite living contemporary writer.
    Ashbery is a living contemporary writer! Jesus!

    Also, she's apparently "gearing up for 'Comedy Does Poetry … Does Comedy!,' a benefit for Bowery Arts & Sciences which will also include David Cross, Fred Armisen, Kristen Schaal and 'other respected writers.'" Way to rip off my idea.

    Sapphire bullets, bullets of pure love

    • My latest On the Scent column is up, on an auteur theory of perfume. Excerpt:
      The first lie may be more damaging on the whole to perfume’s reputation. Unlike the others, which simply wave the marketing wand to make the juice seem more valuable than it is, the first lie degrades a perfume’s status as art in several ways—first, by hiding the real “designers” behind the curtain. Fashion is taken more seriously as an art in part because designers are celebrated as singular artists. Perfumers, no matter how talented, work in secret, like ghost writers—imagine if celebrity memoirs were written by award-winning authors rather than nameless hacks. Secondly it makes perfumery look easy, since designers apparently need no specialized training to do it. And finally, by lumping perfume in with fashion, the industry has created the perception of perfume as outwardly directed, as decoration—a tool to improve how you smell to others, the way cosmetics are a tool to improve how you look. This attitude neglects the potential enjoyment for the wearer. You can’t see your own face with make-up on, but you can smell your own wrist.
      SOTD, BTW, is Miller Harris Geranium Bourbon.

    • There's something mesmerizing about side-scrolling video games. They're fun to watch, even just videos of games, where nothing is at stake. I used to love watching my brother play Nintendo. The current style, where your avatar can wander freely in a 3D-ish world, may be fun to play, but they're boring to watch, especially if you come in in medias res. You lose that simple visual indication of continual progress. Also, it seems like games don't have music anymore, just sound effects. Am I making this up?

    • I'm reading a book that was made into a movie (In the Cut). I haven't seen the movie, but it's difficult, anyway, not to picture the characters as the actors cast in those roles. This is aggravating. The main character really shouldn't look like Meg Ryan.

    • Do you always picture the events in fiction taking place in your own house? I do, even though my own place of residence rarely matches the setting in the book. On occasion I force myself to picture a different house, but it's almost always one in the real world. I don't, however, cast my friends in the roles of the characters.