Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My favorite tweets of all time, part 3

I haven't compiled one of these in a while, and I'm in need of cheering up, so let's do this! It's my favorite tweets of all time, part 3, this time with better embedding, featuring tweets from the past couple of months. (Here's Part 1 and Part 2.)
I was thinking that in order to be more believably "personalized," stock rejections should include oddly specific details, like horoscopes. Mark's version is more realistic than mine, but still not very realistic, because what editors actually read to the end of the story?!
Gun control humor. I like it. Reminds me of this classic:
It's like the rabbit-duck illusion: funny/awful/funny/awful.
Ha ha! Matter of time.
This, of course, was in the wake of that ridiculous WashPo piece about poetry being dead, written by someone who also inexplicably thinks we don't need mail anymore. Alex Dimitrov is the whole reason I tweeted "I'm resistant to poetry about how sexy we are and what a good time we're having." Still, I enjoy his grouchy-sexy persona and love the texts in this e-chapbook from Floating Wolf Quarterly.

Referencing one of the only poems I read in a high school English textbook and actually liked. Why did I never think to use this as a general joke/tweet template? Thanks Lemon Hound.
You've read this tweet, so now you don't need to buy an MFA. (Nice use of detail, I like how Yvette is a crab.)
I wish I had written this poem.
Self-deprecating fat humor doesn't usually work for me, but it's not usually this adorable.

I'm betting right now that we are going to see this anecdote in an upcoming episode of Girls.

I too have felt my Gulf Coast virginity to be a burden. With Verse Daily, though, I've been denied for so long I think I'd just be annoyed if they ever put up a poem by me. I'm rejecting YOU Verse Daily! That's right! I'M rejecting YOU!

Patty Lockwood's best sext ever? I think so. Also reminds me fondly of Dan Brown Book Club.
A theory of drama, the whole sweep of human history, in one tweet. Kinda blew my mind.
All my favorite tweets are theories, see?
In one of the possible worlds, everything isn't about sex all time. Sometimes I wish I could winter there.
Yet another way into my heart: the vocab of video games.

Two Remy's in a row?! Included because this is the only tweet in the list that actually made me full-on LOL again, and I don't even want to try to explain it. Carry on, lovers.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lifehack: Squint

At some point in the last six months or so, I ran across this article that suggests squinting slightly for better portraits, among other facial gymnastics. The squinting tip stuck out to me because years/decades earlier, I'd heard the opposite, that you should open your eyes really wide. (Either way, you're supposed to stick your chin out, which I always forget.) I have the sense that wide eyes make you look cute/young, whereas the squint makes you look intense/penetrating, i.e more C-level, or at least more promoteable! So I asked my boss, Larry, who is pretty handy with a camera, to take a new headshot for my work blog and LinkedIn profile. (Yes, I have a LinkedIn profile! I work in an office! I'm an office douche!) Anyway, I tried out the squint, and here are the results:

It kind of works, right?! Doesn't it seem like I'm having thoughts? Intelligent, important ones? Or do I just look kind of mean? Is there a difference?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Movie Challenge Game, 10 years later

Around 2003, I played a little game with my brother, Adam; Allen, my boyfriend at the time; and our friend and fellow Rice alum Shreyas. Basically we each had to pick a movie that we thought the others would not necessarily watch on their own, but would enjoy. It was an "expand your horizons" challenge. Everyone had to watch all the movies by a certain deadline and report back with thoughts. Whoever picked the movie that everyone agreed was the best would "win" the challenge.

For some reason I thought about the movie challenge yesterday. 10 years later, this is how I would rank the movies we watched:

Best: Donnie Darko (Shrey's pick)

I have the sense that Shreyas assigned this movie while it was still a bit underground, an underrated sleeper and not yet a cult classic. But maybe not, maybe he was just hipper than us back then, living in SF, spinning tracks and whatnot. I loved it at the time and still think it's great -- I rewatched it within the past six months. I love this kind of creepy, soft sci-fi, philosophy-of-mind movie, and it's rare to find one that's not too bro'ed out, you know? I love the female characters in this movie (Jena Malone as the girlfriend, Drew Barrymore as the teacher, Maggie Gyllenhall as the cool sister, Mary McDonnell as the intense, unflappable mom, "Roberta Sparrow"...)

Tie for Medium: Grave of the Fireflies (Adam's pick) and The Company (mine)

Grave of the Fireflies is an anime movie about the atomic bombings in Japan. It's horrifically sad (especially so because it's about children, a brother taking care of his little sister, a setup that gets me every time) and I would never want to see it again. One or two particular sequences have haunted me for years. I wish there were more war movies that focus on civilians, families, wives (not just soldiers, generals, men!).

The Company is a Robert Altman movie about a ballet company. It's fictional but done in a documentary style, sort of inconsequential but lovely to watch. I haven't watched it again since the challenge, but I would like to. There is one particularly amazing scene, a duet between Neve Campbell (who is professionally trained as a dancer) and another guy (is a dance for two called a duet?) on an outdoor stage, and a storm blows in as it's happening, so there's this tension where you think someone's going to fall as the leaves blow up and the stage gets wet, and in the audience all these people are popping umbrellas open, holding their breath(s). Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure James Franco plays Neve's boyfriend, a chef.

Worst: The Limey (Allen's pick)

It was a struggle to even remember the name of this movie. I don't remember anything else about it, except a male lead with an accent. Maybe it's good and I just wasn't paying attention. If so I failed to live up to my part of the game. Sorry, guys.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Things I called "awesome" or "the best" via email in 2009

  • Martin
  • "I Want it That Way" ("the best song of the '90s")
  • The Dark Crystal
  • being "on the list"
  • rum cake
  • an Amy Hempel reading
  • a free They Might Be Giants show at a casino in Connecticut
  • a review of a steering wheel laptop desk on Amazon
  • Jon Woodward and Oni Buchanan's Halloween costumes

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mini-reviews: Vanilla Fields Forever

Remember Vanilla Fields? It came out when I was 13 or so, but the market at Lincoln Junior High was already pretty much cornered by Sunflowers. Sunflowers was so ubiquitous than I hated it at the time, but now I remember the smell fondly  it was so blindingly bright and really far more distinctive than the drugstore options now. Anyway, I didn't wear either of them, but my best friend Amanda definitely wore Vanilla Fields. I understood that vanilla was something you were supposed to like, but I didn't find it very compelling even then, and I still don't care for most vanilla perfumes I smell. I guess it's because they smell more like vanillin (imitation vanilla extract) than vanilla, more like white soft-serve than Haagen-Dazs with its boozy hit at the back of your throat and visible seeds. In taste tests, most people actually prefer the imitation stuff, which is lucky for corporations because it's much cheaper. But I don't care what the masses prefer! I like real bourbon vanilla and I like Coca-Cola more than Pepsi too.

Anyway, when it's not the star of the show, I get along with vanilla in perfumes just fine. Here are a few I've worn recently with vanilla in the mix.

Cacharel Loulou  LOULOU! This perfume makes me really, really happy. I love the name, I love the blue bottle, I love the font on the box, I love the low low price, I love the smell. It's a super-raspy, powdery jasmine oriental, with a sweet cherry-almond-vanilla, ice-cream-soda accord (mimosa and heliotrope) held in check by the indolic florals and a slightly funky musk. I love that it's sort of deceptively simple, i.e., just complex enough to remain interesting even after you understand it. It doesn't change a lot as you wear it, but each whiff seems to have a little arc of its own, as though you can smell the top notes, heart and base in extremely quick succession every time you sniff your arm, like a GIF you watch over and over, a little infinitely recurring show. By the way, when florals are described as "raspy," we mean they have the olfactory "texture" of raw silk or a surface covered in fine glitter; the scent "catches" in the same way that your hand catches when you run your hand over a slightly rough material. Visually, it reminds me of the prickly spots you see when you stand up too fast and your blood pressure doesn't quite get the memo, a bit of pointillist action at the edges of your vision. White flowers like jasmine and orange blossom have this "raspy" effect naturally, and my understanding is that it's the indoles that create this impression, though indoles are often talked about casually as though they were simply animalic (like civet or castoreum). A recent and entirely welcome addition to my collection.

M. Micallef Ylang in Gold  I worried that Ylang in Gold would be another Vanille Fleur, my least favorite in M. Micallef's recent vanilla collection. In fact, Vanille Fleur should have been more like this: a floral vanilla (more vanilla, really, than creamy ylang) rather than a fruitastrophe. Initially I liked YiG, but on subsequent wears  without fear on my side  I found it tediously single-minded and not complex enough to justify its sweetness level. I kept wanting it to be either fresher or dirtier, and ideally both, with more complicating factors on either end. It's essentially a heart note looking for its top and bottom. How about some lemon and wood up in here? I love the idea of a floral vanilla, but in practice they rarely work for me. So far my favorites in this category are Annick Goutal Songes and By Kilian Sweet Redemption; both amp up the oily, even metallic aspects of natural white floral absolutes so you get plenty of laide with your jolie. (Try Lush Lust to see this idea pushed to its logical extreme.) Note that I seem to be the only person who didn't like this. The Non-Blonde, Patty at Perfume Posse, the Muse in Wooden Shoes, and Victoria at EauMG all found it quite pretty, even glamorous. Carrie at Eyeliner on a Cat, who agreed with me on the Vanille collection, calls YiG "absolutely delicious." (Angela at Now Smell This calls it pretty too, but seems fairly bored by pretty.) So I guess it's just me.

Soivohle’ A Rose for Beacon Free  I'm a sucker for roses, and a sucker for gourmands, so A Rose for Beacon Free, a gourmand rose that sounds oddly like a YA book, is sidling up to me with an angle. Like Rosa sur Reuse, ARFBF is very complex and a little unsettling. There's a very rich caramel accord  I picture a sauce so thick that it layers in ribbons when you pour it  but it's also truly floral, not just "pink" the way so many "rose" perfumes can be. (Tocade, in particular, smells like pink, soapy vanilla to me, not like a Tea Rose with vanilla on the side, as I'd hoped.) And the florals are slightly animalic, in a retro way  there's a hissy green hint of blackcurrant bud as well as a quiet undercurrent of oakmoss, so it's almost a gourmand-chypre hybrid. As it dries down, a surprising jasmine note, with jasmine's metallic edge, comes to the fore. Given its density and richness, A Rose for Beacon Free is definitely a floral gourmand for winter, along the lines of the even sweeter and more baroque Mahjoun from DSH, whereas Dawn's Pretty & Pink and Rose Praline from Parfums de Rosine are more sheer and peppy, so that I crave them most in warmer weather.

Annick Goutal Ambre Fetiche  Of all the supposedly smoky perfumes I've smelled (smoky smells and flavors are pretty much my favorite  woodsmoke, leather, tobacco, bacon, smoked paprika, etc.), Ambre Fetiche is the only one that truly smells like something burning, to an almost disconcerting degree. The top notes smell less like amber and more like a rubber glove near a lit butane torch. It's hard to tell if this is entirely on purpose or partly an effect of the woody amber materials that often pop up in the AG line. In any case, it's impressively raw and lives up to its fetish-referencing name, except that it's more of a leather, to my nose, than an amber. So does it belong in this category? Sorta  a custardy vanilla comes out to play in the drydown. Part of me really likes it, especially as it eases down into the skin  oily, leathery smells always take me back to my childhood, running out to the garage in the dark to tell my dad that dinner was ready. (He was a car hobbyist in those days  he rebuilt the engine of the big old Jeep Cherokee I drove in high school, dubbed "Tiger" by the aforementioned Amanda.) But it's a bit rough around the edges, and even though it seems strong when you first spray it on, it ends up thin compared to similar offerings from, say, Liz Zorn or Andy Tauer. Some lines I enjoy for their roughness, but Annick Goutal doesn't seem quite charming enough to pull it off  or maybe it's just that the bottles lead me to expect more elegance.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I did a quick little interview with the Collagist about the poem they published a couple months back, "After the Piano," and about poetry in general. Here's an excerpt:

What role does absence play in your poetry, in your titles? A whole piano seems removed from the room in this piece, grooves in the carpet, chord held and diminishing : “hanging suspended on the chord//like a blade,” before the piece even begins. Does absence play a different kind of white-space-role for you? How do you hope your readers grapple with vacancy? 
“A whole piano seems removed” is a beautiful way to think about writing. Mention a piano in a poem and the reader is forced to confront the absence of piano! I don’t believe in “No ideas but in things” (ideas are things!), but things in poems create things in your mind and those stand in contrast to the “actual” things outside your mind, and I like that doubling/shadowing. (Poetry makes nothing happen my ass.) I don’t think of this absence as white space. Thought space is clear and in color at the same time. Anyway, you’ve discovered something in the poem I didn’t realize was there – the poem ends up being about absence (“the difference between something and nothing,” the missing brother), but I wasn’t conscious of the way the missing piano sort of primes you to the idea of vacancy.

Thanks to Melissa Goodrich for her smart questions!

And now for some totally unrelated complaints and random thoughts:

* This is a sentence I read today (in Esquire): "Lena Dunham and Adele and Lady Gaga and Amy Adams are all perfectly plain, and they are all at the top of their field." Wha? Lena Dunham may be "plain," but Adele and Amy Adams are both pretty beautiful, no? Even if Adele is more plus-sized than the ladies who usually grace magazine covers, she totally looks like a star. (I don't actually know what Lady Gaga looks like under all the makeup and costuming, but "plain" is a weird way to describe her given the givens.) The sentence before that one was "And women no longer need to be beautiful in order to express their talent." Um, women never needed to be beautiful to "express their talent." But yeah, if you're talented and beautiful, it's much more likely that you'll get stupid famous.

* I saw about ten (non-consecutive) minutes of You've Got Mail at the gym yesterday evening, and in three (non-consecutive) scenes, there was prominent placement of a box of Kleenex (not just any store-brand tissues but the classic brown swirly box, brand name visible). In at least one of these scenes "Kleenex" was mentioned by name. This is part of why I hate movies. The product placement isn't even incidental, it's often the driving force of the whole movie. That said, I saw Life of Pi this weekend and aside from the (dumb) present-day framing narrative, it mostly took place on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and as such was free of product placement, and visually super-stimulating. Also, tigers are sublime.

* Apparently Sterling Pierce, the company that usually prints Tyrant Books' titles, is refusing to print Marie Calloway's novel on the basis of its content. I mean, what?! Do printers usually read the books before they print them? I can only imagine this means it contains pornographic pictures, diagrams, videos ... is it a pop-up book? What is going on?!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Outfits I wore in high school

A black dress from Delia's with a butterfly pattern and yellow piping on the collar. Life-changing. I wore it with a black headband and black slide sandals with a heel shortly after getting my braces off, and this is the prettiest I can remember feeling in high school.

A gray Hanes t-shirt under a burgundy wool v-neck sweater vest, both pinched from my dad's bureau, with thrift-store Levi's and a ball-style chain as a necklace, like the chain that connects a pen to a desk in a bank. Round-toe brown shoes.

A lavender off-brand polo shirt with pink stripes from a thrift-store, with above Levi's. Blue skater Van's. Possible additions: baby barrettes, a bubble necklace. Not this kind of bubble necklace, but a little bottle of viscous soapy water from which to blow bubbles, on a cord.

Same as above but with a baby blue men's Izod (alligator) shirt, worn to trash, and a necklace with tiny rainbow-colored beads.

Sage-green men's swim trunks (again, salvaged from my dad) with a drawstring, notches at the side of the leg, and white piping on the bottom, the lining torn out. Gray Hanes t-shirt. White flip-flops or tan two-strap Birkenstocks. (These were my favorite shorts for years.)

Denim overalls over a bodysuit with brown and green stripes and a row of henley buttons on the scoopneck. Round-toe brown shoes.

A white guayabera with rainbow-colored fruit embroidered on the front panel. Levi's and Vans.

A loose, sheer white maternity blouse (my mother's from the late '70s) with a split Mandarin collar and pastel embroidery (flowers) on the front panel. Levi's. Hair up in a bun with wooden chopsticks. Jelly shoes!

A pink plaid pencil skirt with a little matching belt and a short-sleeve, ribbed black turtleneck sweater. I think this skirt might still be in my closet. Same black slide sandals as above.

Blue and black plaid trousers with a flare at the ankle and a tab waist. Same black turtleneck as above. Round-toe black shoes that looked like Mary Jane's without the strap. Again, these might still be in my closet.

A vintage black button-front blouse with slim vertical rainbow stripes, salvaged from my paternal grandmother's closet (still in my closet though I haven't worn it in years). Black boot-cut pants, black high-heeled boots.

A sage-green cardigan from the Gap with mother-of-pearl buttons, worn as a pullover, buttoned up, nothing underneath. Thrift-store Levi's. Moccasins, no socks.

Vintage Levi's, off-white t-shirt, and a turquoise beaded necklace and I un-threaded and re-threaded so I could put two pennies that my brother had pressed at the top of the Empire State Building on the thread, worn and reworn until the thread snapped. Moccasins.

Cropped white pants, a mauve crewneck sleeveless shell (one-half of a "Jackie" twinset, without the cardigan), white flip-flops. (You won't believe me but I was the first person at my high school to wear flip-flops as shoes. Revolution!)

A turtleneck sweater with wide navy and gray stripes, with fitted, stretchy, flat front navy pants (boot-cut of course, not skinny-legged) and brown loafers. The pants had a hidden zipper on the side and no pockets, front or back.

An off-white v-neck cable sweater from J. Crew (probably one of my all-time most worn items) with ugly light blue J. Crew jeans (boot-cut!) and moccasins or brown loafers. Silver hoop earrings. (I didn't like gold in high school, now I rarely wear silver.)

A long-sleeve, fitted cream-colored crewneck tee under a light pink, chunky wool crewneck sweater vest and a gray kilt (solid gray, no plaid; still in my closet but too small to wear). Strapless Mary Janes, sometimes with cream-colored knee socks.

As you can see I vacillated between grunge and preppy. I'd probably still wear about half of these outfits today, with adjustments made for fit and footwear. I could do a whole other post about outfits I remember my friends wearing.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Trust in the experts: A theory. (AKA, There are two kinds of people...)

I tend to loosely categorize people into "science types" and "non-science types." Like all binary distinctions, it's a bullshit overgeneralization, but I do it anyway. "Science types" are people whose academic backgrounds and careers have largely focused in math and/or the hard sciences. My ex, sometimes-commenter Allen, is a classic science type. "Non-science types" are people whose academic backgrounds and careers have focused on soft/social sciences or liberal arts. (See me, John, and most of our friends.) They're not perfect categories, but I find them useful to my outlook on the world nonetheless.

So, I have a theory, and here it is: Non-science types tend to place too much confidence/trust in the opinions of "expert" science types, and science types tend to place too little trust in the opinions of "expert" non-science types. Another way of putting this: Scientific expertise is overvalued in our culture, relative to its actual value and relative to the value of other types of expertise.

This is on my mind because of a quasi-debate I just had with a Twitter friend I know only by his pseudonym, @rotatingskull. I don't know his life story (or, indeed, if he's a he), but for whatever reason, I have always mentally categorized him as a science type, or more science than non-science anyway. The argument was about the capitalization of "web":

I assume this was a subtweet, because I had just used "the web" in a tweet, uncapped. I pointed out that this is a style issue, not a hard and fast rule, and most style guides now advocate lowercase "web." (Non-experts in the glories of copy often confuse grammar and style.) Rotating Skull insisted the style guides are "wrong," and then suggested that "web" is exactly as wrong as "mona lisa." I find this to be a silly strawman of a counterexample; no one anywhere questions the fact that the Mona Lisa is a singular artwork and as such must be capitalized. "Web" on the other hand is morphing into a common noun because in popular usage, it functions more like a generic than a proper noun. It's an unusual case; the closest analog I can think of is referring to Europe as "the continent." It's almost metonymical.

The conversation reminded me of a heated Wikipedia debate that has gotten some media attention lately, over the capitalization of "the" in "the Beatles." One side maintained that consensus among all major style guides and editors (the experts!) is that the "the" before most proper nouns is not capitalized when used in the flow of a sentence. (I say most because this applies to band names, organizations, and newspapers, but not necessarily works of art with "the" in the title.) The other side stubbornly rejected this expertise and insisted that the band itself had the final say in whether or not the "the" was capitalized.

When I mentioned this, Rotating Skull agreed with the naysayers: You have to write it the way that the band writes it. But this is a crazy principle. 99% of the time, the band wouldn't be self-consistent, and anyway you'll have no idea how a band refers to themselves in writing (what, in their correspondence? in their memoirs?) except for how it appears on album covers and posters and T-shirts, but in those cases the "the" will almost always be capitalized because it is functioning as a title or heading, and therefore follows the rules of title case (first word always capped). But capitalization, much like punctuation, is fluid; it depends on context. Just because it appears as "The New York Times" on the front of the paper (title case!) doesn't mean that you can't refer to it in a sentence as "the New York Times" (and NYT editors would agree).

What sticks out to me is this willful ignorance of the fact that the people who create and maintain style guides, and work as copyeditors (or have in the past, ahem!) have thought about this more than you. Science types tend to think that if something non-sciencey "feels wrong" intuitively it must be wrong, and they are not interested in the opinions of those with more expertise on the matter. (See the guy on Wikipedia arguing that the Encyclopedia Britannica is incorrect.) Whereas, it seems to me, non-science types are far more likely to give science types the benefit of the doubt, to trust that they've "done the math."

What do y'all think?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Apropos of zilch

I find food trends somehow more abhorrent than any other kind of trend. The new Bon Appetit says "tea is new coffee." You've gotta be kidding! People will always drink tea and people will always drink coffee. It's like saying salt is the new pepper, which I'm positive some food writer actually wrote this year.

Anyway. I love this scene in Charade: