Fuck it. I’m moving to the Bywater.
Summer’s here, and I’m checking out a little more each day, trading the observable world for some kind of Technicolor hyper-reality where everything pulses and sparks. I’ve lost touch with what’s expected of me and it doesn’t matter. All those unwritten social cues and nuances, the things holding the interpersonal framework in place—they’re bright scarves fluttering away from me in the wind. I let them fly. I start to answer someone’s question mid-sip. I wander away from group conversations to crane up at towering cumulous clouds. I unsettle acquaintances with overlong stares. I inhabit it all, drown in the now-ness.
I’m too dizzy-in-awe of the world, too happy, too earnest, too too.
I’ve felt this excessive joy before, back when I was starting my senior year of college and finally recovering from getting my heart good and broken for the first time. I was coming to realize, as all brokenhearted people eventually do, that the hurt will never be undone, that short of lobotomy or amnesia there is no road back to innocence, that the most we can hope for is a kind of dignified, battle-scarred awareness of the mettle we’re made of. But sometimes that knowledge leads to an even deeper peace. After a summer of lifting boxes in the walk-in freezer of the local country grocery, I was all sinew and muscle. I rose with the dawn and listened to the wind in the trees. I painted the sunsets. I was alive and golden, every single cell of me.
That fall semester I took a kayaking class on Cayuga Lake. The instructor was this semi-retired, semi-enlightened, grizzled old man who wore Hawaiian shirts and called everyone by the wrong names, as though he had just stopped bothering to learn them. I think his was Gary, but I can’t be sure. Three times a week in the cool mornings he watched me tear through the water, pivot sportily around the buoys, and finally drag my boat to shore, panting and grinning, before I ran to my Romantic Poetry class. I came every Sunday when the boathouse was open, too, where he signed me in and handed me a life jacket and told me to have at it. We regarded each other with an unspoken understanding. And one day when he caught me beaming, staring out across the lake, he said, “Janet,”—I had long since stopped correcting him—“you seem too happy to be a college student.” I knew what he meant. It was a different kind of happiness, the deep-rooted kind, the promise on the other end of a dark tunnel.
I have so much of it now that I’m almost suspicious of it. How long can euphoria sustain itself? But I guess somewhere near its core, there’s a single, thick ring of lonesomeness. For the longest time, my singledom didn’t bother me—I even inwardly applauded my ability to be alone without being lonely. Other people were settling, I told myself. Settling or co-dependent or incomplete or just filling the silence, scared to be alone with themselves. Now it’s different because I actually have something to offer. After all these years, I’m finally at home in this body, this skin. I walk with my shoulders back. I meet men’s gazes. I’m carrying all this love around and there’s no place to put it: it’s an electric current that, without an outlet, loops and loops on itself until the charge is unbearable. I don’t want much, don’t need forever, just a meeting of minds and a laying-on of hands; just to share the strange cicada-song dusk with someone, nested like parentheses. Just love that reaches, one long muscle.
Ahhhhhhhhhh ahhhh ahhhh oh my God you guys.
That’s the most I can muster right now.
Gettin’ out my bud-nippers.
My friend Riki, whose partner Jeff works the political beat in the capitol, just called me and asked me if I’d read the paper today. I said I hadn’t, and she said, “They’re shutting down The Times-Picayune.”
Not exactly, but it will no longer be a daily. The emphasis will be on blogging instead of reporting. All the current employees have been invited to reapply for their jobs, but they’re still facing a 45% pay cut.
In the 175-year history of the paper, it’s only missed publication twice: once during wartime when the city was under siege, and for three days after Katrina. That’s it.
thistleburr replied to your video: I have been writing songs like a mofo lately. Here…
thistleburr replied to your video: I have been writing songs like a mofo lately. Here…
Thanks so much for posting this :) I love your music :) :) :)
Hey, it’s my awesome artist fan! No problemo dear.
Why do all my songs come out bitter and sarcastic? I am not bitter and sarcastic, generally. I don’t even have anyone to direct the biting cynicism at anymore—I have to invent fictional people who have wronged me. Really need to expand my repertoire of emotional impeti. Okay, I guess when I write the quiet solemn songs they’re not all spiteful, but the rockers aaaaaalways are.
I mean, it’s weird, because if you were somehow able to monitor my emotions they would be like 15% self-loathing, 15% wistful nostalgia, 15% hunger for Juan’s Flying Burritos, 5% pure unadulterated joy, and whatever percent is left middle-of-the-road happiness. I DUN GET IT.
sea-of-joy replied to your post: missbhavens replied to your post: Why Taylor Swift…
sea-of-joy replied to your post: missbhavens replied to your post: Why Taylor Swift…
Joni Michell was not a strong personality. In many interviews I’ve read, she was very shy and unassuming. I think Taylor Swift for one would bring too much presence to the role, no? Two, there’s no way she could sing those songs and do it any justice
Definitely. In addition to the shyness thing, I just see Joni Mitchell as wise and insightful and complex and MATURE—even early on when she still had a bit of her baby fat in her face, she made you think, okay, that is a woman. Taylor Swift is very girlish. It’s kind of her thing.
Taylor Swift playing Joni Mitchell is as stupid as that old idea where Pink would play Janis Joplin. Thank god it’ll never take.
Oh, God. That was a thing? Blehh. I heard about the Robert-Pattinson-as-Kurt-Cobain possibility, too, which is just bizarre. But hey, I’m no casting director.
You’re right; it’s not strictly necessary and that’s a hole I think I would have caught had I not written this rather hastily at midnight. Her songwriting ability would have no effect on her performance, but I still think that if you’re going to cast a non-actor in the role of an icon mainly because she has the same job as that icon, their talents should at least be somewhat comparable. But it’s true that she could surprise everyone and be a brilliant actress. I have no way of knowing.
So apparently I’m a little late to hear the news that Taylor Swift is in talks to play Joni Mitchell in the onscreen adaptation of Girls Like Us.
I found out about it while listening to a three-week old episode of Julie Klausner’s hilarious How Was Your Week? podcast. Here was her take:
I feel like if Taylor Swift plays Joni Mitchell they’ll have to reshoot that scene in ‘The Kids Are All Right’ where Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo bond over Joni Mitchell—and instead they’ll just throw up into each other’s mouths.
Okay, so, I don’t hate Taylor Swift. I think she writes good pop songs, and she seems about as sweet and down-to-earth as a millionaire with no visible pores and an ever-rotating cast of famous suitors can realistically be expected to be.
I’m actually not being condescending here. It isn’t easy to write good pop songs. You have to have an innate sense of what will make the masses’ collective hearts swell, drawing from tried-and-true formulas while still retaining your own fresh, distinctive voice. I certainly don’t underestimate the value of pop entertainment; it both informs and reflects the cultural dialogue, so clearly it has great worth. In other words, this is not a snobbiness thing. Whether you prefer a minimalist Philip Glass sonata or a great Tom Petty hook, the point is that both those works have the power to get your blood moving.
Even if her material is overproduced and glossy, Taylor Swift is a good pop songwriter. Joni Mitchell, on the other hand, is a fucking legendary one. And in this case “pop songwriter” means the following things: 1) was signed to a major label pre-internet/-Long Tail/-file-sharing; 2) on popular radio; 3) wrote bestselling albums that had a huge cultural impact; and 4) wrote some seriously infectious songs.
I am (I hope) preaching to the choir here when I say that she’s just in a league of her own, but have you ever listened to her albums from the late sixties and early seventies, before her voice was ravaged by a pack-a-day American Spirits habit and age? She had some serious pipes. Her voice could dive and flit like a bird to wherever she wanted it to on the scale, and it sounded like unrestrained, boundless joy. She didn’t need to do any of the showoff melisma that you hear from singers today (or during the end credits of a 90’s animated Disney movie). Plus, she could do the other side of the coin, too: whenever she goes dark and simple, it’s terrifically moving.
There were plenty of celebrated female singers in her heyday, but Joni could play,and her style was totally fresh. Basically untrained, she went on instinct and messed around with tunings in new and inventive ways. Not only does that make the timbre of her music different from most things you’ll hear, but many of her chords are ambiguous from a music theory standpoint, creating an ill-defined sonic space in which the listener can bounce around in a number of different ways. It’s so complex and fascinating and subtle.
And we haven’t even talked about her songwriting yet! GUYS. Joni Mitchell could write a damn song. She once said that she always felt she was really a painter “derailed by circumstance,” and I think that that visual acuity did wonders for her lyrics, because no one can set a scene or show you an image as viscerally as she can. She was able to adopt a whole range of personas. She told stories about men and women and drugs and suicide and sex and the human freaking condition.
Taylor Swift writes about boys. And the way they make her feel.
I’m not saying that’s inherently a bad thing; I mean, I write songs about boys, and those boys have ever been on the cover of Ok! magazine, and I still feel like I can justify my existence on most days. Plus, thank God, from what I’ve heard of her most recent album it seems like she has dropped most of the juvenile fairy tale/Prince Charming crap. But she has a long way to go, and I think it is safe to say that 22-year-old Joni Mitchell blows 22-year-old Taylor Swift out of the water.
Now, I am not a filmmaker, and I can’t imagine how hard it must be to cast a musical biopic and find the right balance between acting chops and music chops in your lead. But if you’re going go the route of casting a musician and putting the emphasis on that, why would you cast someone who has no discernible similarities to the person (legend!) she’s playing other than her hair color? Taylor Swift plays cowboy chords on a shiny custom guitar. (And it’s a Taylor guitar! Get it?? Haaaaaa.) Her processed studio voice sounds pleasant enough, but she still doesn’t have anything close to Joni’s emotional range or vocal dexterity, not to mention the fact that she’s always really shaky live.
I don’t want to beat a dead horse, or a live one, really, but if the only substantial acting Taylor Swift has done is in that animated Lorax movie, then … why?? What makes her a good choice? I would much rather see a good actor with just serviceable musical talents, a la Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line, than an inexperienced actor with a musical style/ability that’s basically irrelevant for the role. Even a good actor voiced by a Joni Mitchell sound-a-like for the music scenes would make a hell of a lot more sense.
Please, Taytay, don’t do it. You are cute even though you seem to think you invented that whole making-a-heart-with-your-hands thing, but you’re smart enough to know that Joni Mitchell’s music runs laps around yours. And most people’s, so don’t feel too bad.
Say, “I’m sorry if I’ve offended you.”
Because no one wants to seem like they’re a sniveling, easily offended person!
It sounds horrible, but I’ve done this quite knowingly, although I think it was justified in my case. At my last job, I was editing a freelancer’s work and it was just ridiculously sloppy and a total waste of my time. At one point, exasperated, I wrote in bold, “Come on, dude,” or “Seriously?” or something like that.
After he received my feedback, he sent me an email telling me that “comments like that come off as snarky.”
Of course, I was furious. Who talks to their boss that way? What a prick.
I responded by saying something like, “If I’ve offended you, I apologize. Really, I was just teasing. But please do devote more time to editing your work.” Essentially turning the tables and making him look like a humorless crybaby.
And as expected he responded by saying (paraphrasing), “It takes more than that to offend me, I have a thick skin and I’m a tough manly man I swear, sorry I misinterpreted that,” or something. Muahahaha.
But yeah, I ended up firing him after two weeks.
I am currently tits-deep in the application process for what can only be described as a “real person job” at a local weekly, and it is serious. Here’s a timeline:
- Two weeks ago I had to do a phone interview. That lasted about two hours.
- I was asked to submit a “feature” writing clip that week.
- I was called in for an interview and performed an editing test (which was good; put a red pen in my hand and I’m happy).
- All told, the managing editor interviewed me for about three hours.
- I sent him my thank-you email last week and just heard back—the next step is a 400-word writing test, which is due tomorrow.
- Also, he mentioned during my interview that there could be two more interviews left in the process.
Wow, right? I mean, if I were a smallish paper hiring a new editor, I’d want to make sure she had her chops down too. My would-be supervisor said as he shook my hand before I left, “Well, congratulations on making it this far.” And I’m proud of making it this far, I guess, although if/when I do get the boot I wish I could either just regenerate at the latest checkpoint or, you know, have ANYTHING to show for it. I kind of feel like I’m on a reality TV show and each week is a matter of biting my nails and waiting for whatever’s on the other side of that excruciating dramatic pause: am I off the island yet?
I don’t know when this happened, but I’m pretty sure something has destroyed the fear center in my brain, like in a 1960s spy novel. If this happened last year or two years ago I would have been sick with anticipation and worry. I would have gone to that interview and sweated out a Redbull through my lady power suit and tried to convey my passion for the position despite new, inexplicable facial tics. That’s not to say I’m a suave interviewee now, but I can at least get past the fear enough to not get sidetracked by second-guessing my own answers while they’re still coming out of my mouth. Yeesh.
I would love to land this job, but if it doesn’t happen, life will go on. I’ll keep on being a penniless movie extra, and maybe that’ll give me a chance to continue this creative writing/songwriting kick I’ve been on. It’s just not worth staying up every night and worrying about things you have no control over. After your share of the work is done, the most you can do is go with the flow and be an okay person.
bradleywarshauer replied to your post: bradleywarshauer replied to your post: Sooooo your…
bradleywarshauer replied to your post: bradleywarshauer replied to your post: Sooooo your…
I’m working up to saying if you write it, I wanna publish it ha
I would be honored. Thank you Bradley!
well and I also think there’s more to it than just the hipster thing. There’s real vitriol. People get craycray over shit.
Definitely. It’s less of a specific subculture thing and more just…the way people are now. I would love to investigate why. But without sounding too much like a self-important artiste moaning, “Oh, I suffer,” this whatever-this-is, this spirit of the way people consume art now, does make things harder. I know a lot of talented people who don’t bother to do anything because they don’t think it’s worth it unless their stuff will be genius or something that’s never been done before. Which is sad. You can be a not-genius and still have something compelling to say. I do think there’s a certain amount of toughness you should be expected to achieve, but the vitriol is just counterproductive for everyone.
Challenge accepted! And thank you for reading/reblogging. I feel like saying “I hate hipsters” is nothing new, but their passivity in this regard and their compulsion to tell everyone just how underwhelmed they are drives me freaking bonkers.
So, okay, I don’t normally indulge in cryptic social media posts, but my phone was dying and I was on the streetcar and I just needed to throw something out there into the sea of 0s and 1s that is the internet, and “Everyone has a fucking opinion” was the meat of what I was dying to say. I was riding home to meet my friend for dinner. Something had set me off and all of this anger was just stewing, but it was the kind of anger that brings on a strange clarity and makes you feel fucking unstoppable. My friend caught up with me on the sidewalk and I hugged her and said, “I AM SEETHING AND I NEED TO RANT,” and she said, “Yay, go!”
(Actually, my words may have included, “I FEEL LIKE I SHOULD EITHER FUCK OR PUNCH SOMEONE.”) And I launched into this comically furious, strongly worded diatribe, and my friend was like, “Should I be recording this?” and I kind of wish she had because it was epic.
The rant is my preferred literary genre.
But here is the central idea of my tirade, just to put on the blog to make up for the cryptic post.
I am so sick of members of my generation who think they have some kind of amazing aesthetic sensibility even though they don’t produce anything creatively themselves. I am sick of hipsters. I am sick of people who, for whatever reason, feel entitled to spout their amateur criticism about things. I am sick, essentially, of everyone having a fucking opinion.
Look, I know this stems from my being sensitive. I am whining because some people bring up niggling points about what they don’t like about what I make and that should be fine because you can’t please everyone and blah blah blah. I know I’m being defensive and I don’t care. Also, I’m addressing a larger issue.
Here is the thing: there is a difference between genuine constructive criticism from a fellow artist and criticism that is designed to make someone who has no idea what they’re talking about seem knowledgeable.
But more to the point, here is why that is inherently bad: because if you are faced with the choice of either nitpicking other people’s work or creating things yourself, and you choose the former, you are a coward.
I am not one of those “art is hard, ooh look at me, I’m so serious, I own lots of black turtlenecks and if I was a male actor I would have a beard” people. But I do believe that it requires some serious cajones to put yourself out there in front of everyone with something that is really meaningful to you. If I was in an ironic 80’s synth/keytar band, maybe none of this would matter, but the fact is that I care a lot about what I make.
My generation is all about the snark, and the thesis of this rant, really, is “fuck the snark.” Snark is easy. It’s cowardly. Taking creative risks, letting your art take you somewhere unexpected, being earnest about what you create—that is a fuck of a lot harder.
I don’t think everyone should walk around like zombies without any opinions in their heads other than “GLAAAGH BRAINS.” Quite the opposite! But I do think that trendy keffiyeh-wearing jerks who go to shows and are like, “Yeah, I don’t know, it was okay, nothing special,” should get the fuck over their hip fatigue, for one thing, and analyze their motivations, for another. I am really fucking tired of the audience that goes in thinking, “I’ve seen it all, so go ahead and try to impress me.” It’s lazy! If those people sat down to create something that wasn’t ironic, what would happen? I have a feeling they would find themselves plagued by chronic uncertainty as a result of their own pretentious high standards.
I don’t want art that is careful. I don’t want art that watches its back. I want art that’s imperfect, that’s messy, that’s strange and flawed. Because that’s the kind of art that thrills and confounds us. The kind that takes risks. The kind that has no idea where it’s going to end up.
Everyone has a fucking opinion.
bradleywarshauer replied to your photo: New Orleanian followers, you are cordially invited…
bradleywarshauer replied to your photo: New Orleanian followers, you are cordially invited…
Tumblr geekcrush: initiate!
Dean Dan Van Vechten (via life-before-aesthetics)
Love my alma mater.
What they don’t tell you is that if you tend toward the introverted, if you’re reticent and guarded and have a hard time connecting with people right off the bat, you will almost inevitably encounter the most debilitating loneliness after you graduate and begin to make your way in the so-called real world. I guess this seems intuitive enough, but it’s a new kind of loneliness, a truly terrifying kind that will make the loneliness you knew before seem insignificant.
In high school I was by all accounts a loner, your typical overlooked kid in the back of the class hiding in her hoodie. I read voraciously and wrote stories. I envied the ease with which my female peers flirted with boys, their air of teasing inconsequentiality I could only attempt to mimic. I didn’t know how the game was played; it was a foreign language. When someone spoke to me, I retracted, shrank like those underwater plants that close up when you touch them.
But still, I was surrounded. Even the shyest person is bound to open up and make friends given enough time and proximity to other people. Because that’s the thing about introverts: we’re all there under the surface even when we’re unreachable; we’re just as whole and nuanced and real as the people who lay their personalities right on the table. It’s just the initial contact, the reaching out, that feels insurmountable. I sat next to the same kids in homeroom for four years, and by the end we were all pals who goaded and guarded each other. I was in the choir, I fronted a couple of corny high school bands—I had a schedule, a framework that forced me to interact with people. And the same thing went for college.
I left collegiate life and Upstate New York in my rearview mirror in 2010, set out for the sun-drenched desert of Southern California to find my first adult job. One of my early leads brought me to a depressing technical school in Culver City, which, if you don’t know, is Hollywood’s butthole. After my interview, a Human Resources girl decked out in a silk blouse, a pencil skirt, and uncomfortable-looking heels (attire that repelled the artist in me [that was self-deprecating sarcasm fyi]) looked over my paperwork and said, “You just graduated, huh? And just moved here? You know, for the longest time after I graduated I just didn’t know what to do with myself after work. I didn’t have any hobbies.”
And there I was, dumb and young and still coasting on whatever confidence I’d garnered by having a serviceable social life for the past few years, thinking, “Wow, what a dull loser. That girl is like a year older than me. And I have played music in rock bands. She must just have no character.”
I became acquainted with unbearable, bottomless loneliness soon after that (I didn’t know anyone in California, and my instinct has never been to go and seek out friends), but the full weight of her meaning only settled years later. And, for what it’s worth, I felt like a total douche for inwardly calling her a loser. Because here’s the truth: if you are shy and don’t have any school-imposed extracurricular requirements to meet, if the only people you interact with are the people in your office/workplace, with whom you have a genial but reserved relationship, you might very well find yourself going home every night to eat a Lean Pocket and watch some 30 Rock and hit the hay. That’s fine and comfortable and enjoyable at first, but after a while you feel like you’re being erased at the edges. We introverts are not naturally compelled to sign up for a yoga class or join a book club or converse with strangers at a coffee shop, and our proclivity for being homebodies lapses into resigned despondence. Whether we blame our friendlessness on ourselves or feel forsaken by the world, we come face-to-face with an aloneness we never knew existed—a yawning, staggering emptiness that erodes who we are.
My best friend from college, Jess, still lives in the tiny Upstate NY city that knew me when, and her eager participation in endless social events both confounds me and makes me jealous. See, she and I have this weird bond; we’ve been through all of it, from passive-aggressive “I’m just going to leave this food to rot in the sink because you never do the dishes” wars, to getting matching tattoos on a whim, to staying up all night listening to Dar Williams and telling each other that we’re both just figuring our shit out, and that’s okay. She’s one of those lifelong friends for me, the person you call after a random Mardi Gras hookup so you can giggle and groan and say what the fuck was I thinking, and you know she’ll validate your actions because she’s awesome and she’s ultimately rooting for you like nobody else is. But we couldn’t be more different. Every time I call her, she’s on her way to some tragically hip venue to see a friend’s band perform, or preparing for a wine-and-cheese party at her apartment, or meeting her nerdy friends at the local comic books store for Free Comic Book Day, or whatever. She has the rare talent of being able to fit in with any social group or subculture, and she keeps her schedule completely booked. “I haven’t been to my apartment for four days,” she tells me. “All my girlfriends keep saying I need to take a nap already.”
I said I’m jealous of her, and it’s true. It’s not her jam-packed social calendar I envy, though; it’s her compulsion to line all these things up. That’s what I lack. The initiative to do something other than order Chinese delivery and watch Netflix on my weeknights.
When I was young, I thought I’d be married by the age of 23. I thought I’d have it together by now. I thought I’d circumvent this confusion, this narrowing of opportunities. I thought I’d be charmed.
Look, I’m not saying it’s hopeless by any means. I have a hard-won, solid group of friends here in New Orleans, and I don’t feel invisible anymore. I’m not that post-grad poor soul or even that behoodied high school kid.
But I’m saying that it’s sobering. I’m saying that things change drastically in a way you never would have expected them to. I’m saying that you and I and every Netflix-and-Chinese-food-inclined homebody should be more like my best friend and seek out adventure even if our bodies reject it. When it comes right down to it, it’s not a matter of being courageous or ambitious or even conformist. It’s a matter of going against our instincts and diving into the fray of human complexity. Because in the end, what is more fucked up and beautiful and worthwhile?
How did you start doing this?? It’s so cool. Please keep writing about it so I can continue being jealous. I WOULD try something like that in Cairo, but the Egyptian TV shows are so bad I wouldn’t want to be associated with them.
Ha, thanks for making me feel cool! And you should totally do it if the opportunity arises. I was able to get into it because New Orleans plays a big part in TV/film production these days—thus these jobs are easy to find down here. Those in “the industry” (here is me making a finger-down-throat gesture) call us Hollywood South. I heard recently that as of now the city of NOLA makes more revenue on movies than L.A., and I don’t know if that’s true but it feels like it is.
So essentially it’s just a quick way to make money here without any real commitment. You find the gigs on Craigslist and email them a photo and your height and phone number, and they pay you around $100 for nibbling on excellent snacks for 10 hours and possibly walking around on cue or “pantomiming” various things, e.g. talking or dancing without any sound because they need it quiet to record the dialogue. Which is really awkward. I can no longer watch How I Met Your Mother without noticing the extras who are pretending (convincingly!) to talk in the background. Now you’re probably going to notice that. Sorry.
As for today, I sat around reading/mingling for six hours until they beckoned me to come out to the set across the street. They were shooting in The Spotted Cat, one of the jazz clubs here, and they positioned me outside the front window along with three other people. They gave us beer props, which are always disappointing because they’re warm and have been sitting out all day and I generally always almost accidentally drink them. And then one of the Production Assistants asked, “Do any of y’all smoke?” (by the way, you can always tell who is a PA by who looks incredibly stressed out and is dressed like they’re about to lead a wilderness tour), and I said, “Sort of, yeah, fuck it, give me cancer sticks,” and the guy handed me a pack of cigarettes. So I smoked a cigarette and pretended to chill out and drink beer in front of the Spotted Cat for 30 seconds, and then it started raining and they wrapped production. In the end I made $120 (+ sandwiches + pack o’ smokes) for waiting around a lot and then “working” for all of 30 seconds. Can’t beat it.
I’m sitting in a Frenchmen Street bar waiting for a Treme shoot to start. We’ve been here for two hours, mingling and snacking on free sandwiches and cookies. So it goes.
This job is the weirdest. Extras are unequivocally hated by production people (and with good reason—the PAs, especially, are insanely overworked and don’t have time to deal with obnoxious background people), and we’re sort of treated like second class citizens. Which I don’t actually mind; sometimes the view from the bottom of the food chain is pretty interesting.
I guess the strangest part is the type of people who are attracted to these grueling, relatively okay-paying gigs. I still can’t fully wrap my head around it, but I feel compelled to split them into stereotypes:
-Broke twentysomethings between jobs (hi)
-Bored suburban moms
-People who want to see stars in person or who are fans of the project/director and just want to be part of it
-Eccentric older men who talk too loudly at everyone around them without listening to people’s responses; they are presumably independently wealthy; there is one next to me right now talking about how you should add Tang to powdered eggs to make them taste better and guys, I don’t know what I’d have done without that info
-Aspiring actors and bitchy prima donnas
90% of the job is sitting around and waiting and talking, or in my case, reading the same sentence of your Joan Didion book over and over again because the weird guy next to you is talking about powdered eggs too loudly for you to concentrate. When you do finally get on-set, you’re basically just human furniture. You pass the time by marveling at the clarity of the actors’ skin and allow the PAs to suddenly push you into the shot when they feel like it.
And that’s about it.
2 Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
3 Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
4 Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
5 Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
6 Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
7 Laugh at your own jokes.
8 The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.
de Diane di Prima
I have just realized that the stakes are myself
I have no other
ransom money, nothing to break or barter but my life
my spirit measured out, in bits, spread over
the roulette table, I recoup what I can
nothing else to shove under the nose of the maitre de jeu
nothing to thrust out the window, no white flag
this flesh all I have to offer, to make the play with
this immediate head, what it comes up with, my move
as we slither over this go board, stepping always
(we hope) between the lines
Many of you may have seen the articles today about the awesome fourteen year-old who took a petition to Seventeen Magazine requesting that they do one non Photoshopped spread a month. Seventeen, to their credit, heard her out. They ultimately turned her down.
Now, Seventeen Magazine can do whatever it likes. And it should be said that Seventeen is hardly the only magazine guilty of this, and they might not even be the worst offender out there. Photoshopping is standard industry practice.
Because this kind of thing eats at my brain, which certainly cannot abide any more NIBBLING, I decide to write a bit about this. Much of what I have to say will be obvious to some of you, and not obvious at all to some of you, and somewhat obvious to some of you. Some of you will avoid the whole thing and are already driving away at a high speed, probably heading for some kind of lighthouse or other secluded spot. I APPLAUD YOU FOR YOUR CUNNING.
But for those who want to read my thoughts, here they are.
1. Most fashion/lifestyle magazines make their A LOT of their money from ads.
Ever notice how those glossy mags are made up of lots of ads? (Ever notice how a bridal magazine is pretty much ALL ADS? There’s a story in itself.) There’s not really a lot of actual magazine content in there. Because the ads are of primary importance, the content must not be offensive to/wildly contradict the aims of the advertisers.
This, in and of itself, is not an evil thing. It’s just the simple fact of the matter. Glossy mags are often advertisement collections with thin wafers of story nestled between them.
2. The point of advertising is to make you buy something. Which means you must create a perceived need.
Hey, did you know how you HAVE to buy an engagement diamond? How that has always been the thing, since all of time? Oh, except, no it hasn’t. The whole “diamond engagement ring” thing was made up by DeBeers with the help of an advertising firm in the 1930s. They made up the phrase “A diamond is forever” in 1947. They wanted to sell diamonds, so they made up a need. You HAVE to have a diamond for your engagement! It’s the DONE THING!
Advertisers make up all kinds of needs! You need a bigger/smaller television/computer/phone/car. You need this diet to be thinner. You need this pizza with actual cheeze deposits in the sides. YOU NEED IT. LACK OF IT MEANS FAILURE.
3. Ads create an (often/usually) fictitious worldspace in which whatever product being advertised is the answer to a problem or a deficit. Sometimes, a deficit you had NO IDEA YOU HAD.
You’re just wrong! Didn’t you know your hair is wrong? You eyelashes are too short! Your white, glinting teeth cannot be seen from the moon. Your phone is a source of shame and embarrassment to your family. Frankly, everyone hates you and your sandwich. Loser.
4. This means that the actual point of an ad may be very counterintuitive. You may think ads are there to make you feel good. In fact, many ads are designed to make you feel BAD, and then propose the solution to this BADNESS.
Which brings us to Photoshop. The ads generally found in something like Seventeen or any similar magazine are usually for things like clothes, makeup, skin care, and hair care.
So a common example is something like this …
[Image of more or less normal looking girl—except she is a model and she probably looks fine, if not much more than fine. Better than you on pretty much any given day. And this is the BEFORE picture!]
Caption: Is your skin dull and lifeless?
Your thought: She looks … good?
[Another image of the same gorgeous girl, looking unhappily at her chin.]
Caption: Are your pores oversized?
You: Wait, what? What’s wrong? What does she see? *run to mirror* OH GOD. You can see a pore. Is that a pore? If you can see them, that’s bad, right?
[That girl again, still sad, now examining her cheek with a look of disgust.]
Caption: Have you lost your glow? Are dead skin cells holding back the real you?
You: OH GOD IT’S SO MUCH WORSE THAT YOU THOUGHT. EVERYONE HAS PROBABLY BEEN STARING AT YOUR PORES AND YOUR DEAD, DEAD SKIN. YOU ARE SO SCREWED, because you know an AFTER picture is coming. WHY NOT JUST GIVE UP NOW?
[Image of same girl, now with smoother/bigger/smaller/in some way better hair and skin that emanates a glow that is not quite of this world. Just touching this skin would probably cure all known disease. Angels would weep for such skin.]
Caption: TRY NEW BIOZOID SMOOTHENATING MOISTURE FOUNDATION, now with vitamin Q and FRUIBITROL, derived from the TEARS OF BATS.
Your thought: I don’t know what that stuff is BUT I CLEARLY NEED IT. TO SAVE THE WORLD FROM MY PORES.
[Girl bounces off smiling with guy/dog/best friends you will never have.]
Caption: BIOZOID SMOOTHENATING MOISTURE FOUNDATION … because your face is dead and full of holes.
You: Are already hiding under the table nervously eating staples right out of the box.
Fact: Model is quite stunning, but her face has also been digitally altered. Because NO ONE EMITS LIGHT LIKE THAT. Skin does have pores. The skin is the largest organ of the body and it is COMPLEX and awesome, and it goes through all kinds of moods. Making up skin/hair/makeup issues is the entire engine of the skincare/haircare/makeup industry. Which is how they get you to buy the new thing, which is very much like the old thing. Except now with the TEARS OF BATS, which have been “clinically proven” in their hired labs to do something or other at INTENSELY HIGH CONCENTRATIONS not normally found in the product. So cheer up, get out from under the table, and stop eating staples!
A lot of the more egregious Photoshop happens in the more full-body photos, in which actual human are whittled away into humanoid hanger-objects. Often the models look into the camera miserably, pouting. At you. It’s like they are looking at you and HATE WHAT THEY SEE. They might be appeased if you dressed better. But as it stands now, THINGS ARE NOT GOING WELL BETWEEN YOU.
Or maybe it hurts not having floating ribs and a head that must weigh twice as much as your torso.
But why change the body? Why DO that? What purpose can it serve? Here’s my best guess.
Altering the image creates something truly and profoundly OTHER. It creates the unattainable, which means you have the endless carrot and stick.
And the fashion shoots are often not about the fashion, but about a lifestyle, a picture of some life you COULD HAVE if you just EMBRACED THOSE WHITE JEANS. YOU TOO would spend your time in a field with twenty-nine of your equally angry-looking, plaid-clad friends, in a group photo of well-curated collective misery that might as well be captioned, “SUCK IT, POORS.”
Yes, you have been kept from finding yourself ALL THIS TIME by lack of the perfect dress. Those thigh-high socks. The right belt!
YOU HAVE BEEN SO CLOSE. IT HAS JUST ELUDED YOU. TRY A BIT HARDER.
Which is not to say that there is anything wrong with fashion photos. I love a dress, myself. (Though ideally I would never take off my pajamas and once did a signing event in a hotel bathrobe, because that thing was FLUFFY.) Fashion is an art, and fashion photography is also an art. Some of it is, anyway. The best photos are often very intriguing. There’s a reason they interest us. There’s a reason we look at all kinds of manipulated images of humans. We look at sculptures and paintings and drawings and we see things that have been re-imagined, altered, idealized, made more grotesque.
The only difference now is, we have a simple technology that enables photographs of actual humans to be changed into something that’s supposed to pass as real, or something achievable. And it gets into your head and messes around with your perception of how things are supposed to be.
A heavily photoshopped ad shows dissatisfaction with the way people are. When you look through any glossy mag, or at any commercial or ad, KNOW THAT THAT IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE YOU. Know that it’s a game. Step back, and don’t worry.
I invite your comments. In fact, I LONG for them.
How much of a BAMF is Maureen Johnson?