Wednesday, July 29, 2009

there's a machine

if you feel like you're missing your daily dose of sexism, go here, start at 00:20:30, and watch for about a minute.

And if you think that's not propaganda for the patriarchy, then I'll give you 79 cents for your dollar.

how do you say

Forvo is both soothing and charming. Write my name in the 'fan' column.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I have no problem

with shamelessly plugging this movie. Because it's excellent:

the moon

Someday I hope I succeed in tracking down the full version of the "Encyclop├ędie capricieuse du tout et du rien" (in English, of course) an excerpt of which I recently read in the May 2009 Harper's (Vol. 138, No. 1908). According to Harper's, the encyclopedia "explains the world in a series of 800 lists." This is part of the list about Americans:

"Americans consider themselves polite, but they stick their hands in their pockets, drink from the bottle, speak in raised voices. Someone ought to train them how to behave in museums. Not only do they converse as if they were in their own houses; they do so in order to give educational lectures. With all their terrible goodwill, they wish to learn and to make all things serve this purpose. It is an American vice to believe that a work of art must teach something. In the same way, they were persuaded to drink red wine because they were told that wine was good for them, without consideration of pleasure. Their passion for learning is naive and honorable...

In the end, what we forget about countries is everything banal that we want to call characteristic. Isn't that what goes by the name of sociology?

They are overly fond of brown.

They eat all the time. What anguish must be theirs!

...It is the only country in the world where no one remains a foreigner. A person can go by the name of Zgrabenalidongsteinloff and no one will raise an eyebrow. 'In New York there are no impossible names,' as I was told by a novelist whose name raised the eyebrows of elegant racists in Paris. This is what makes everything possible. They walked on the moon because they are the moon."

- Charles Danzig, trans. by Lorin Stein

Sunday, July 26, 2009


I do hate men, unequivocally, as a group. Only for a brief flash of time. But the feeling is real.

Sitting on the bus alone, reading, after midnight. As my section clears out, a man gets up from his seat, several away from me, to sit directly across from me. These things are deliberate. I don't look up. He says something I don't hear and I ignore him. He says "I like your shrimp pin. Is it a shrimp?" He's leaning in. He's not crazy or even particularly drunk, at least as far as I can tell. "No." I say. "Is it a cockatoo?" I don't say anything. "Nice neighborhood," he says as we pass through the Tenderloin. Meanwhile, I think to myself, I could move to another seat. He might follow me. What if he follows me off the bus? What then? I have pepper spray. He's bigger than me. He gets off the bus before me.

The wash of anger I felt then. This never happens if you're with a man. It almost never happens, and never in the same way, if you're with another woman. No. It is preying upon your aloneness. I thought, I could have said to him "Women don't like this." But it is the fear: keep still, keep silent, don't provoke them. This is what you are told, and told again, and told again. Don't provoke them. My existence as a woman alone provokes them. It has nothing to do with me.

The feeling flares up, despite everything. Despite the unfairness of it. It goes away quickly. But I feel it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

it's a shame

Crossing Van Ness two days ago, I walked past a man with a crutch under one arm. "You don't have anybody to hold your hand on a Sunday?" he called out to me. "Somebody needs to get their ass whupped! You tell him I said that." By this point I was laughing. "You tell him. You tell him you met a nice black man who wasn't hitting on you or nothing and he said that was a shame, and he needs to get his ass whupped. And if he wants to talk about that, he can come right down here to Pronto Pizza and I'll tell him about it. Somebody needs to get his ass whupped. You tell him."

"I will." I said, "I'll do that." But I didn't.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

auf weidersehen, Deutschland

My route back to San Francisco was Munich to Dublin to Boston, (one week stop-over of seeing friends, odd gadding about, and art & architectural fun), to San Francisco.

Having just gotten off the plane in Dublin, I bump into a woman accidentally. "Entschuldigung," I say, automatically. "Entschuldigung," she replies, then goes back to speaking Spanish with her friend.

Meanwhile I try to cosy up to the notion that I may never truly feel I "belong" anywhere. (not as angsty as it sounds)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

out of sync with synecdoche

For the most part, I enjoyed watching Synecdoche, New York. When it was over, however, I found myself wondering why Charlie Kaufman hasn't bothered to write a female protagonist. Can't be that hard. Just like a man, but without a reason and accountability, right? Generally speaking, I'm a Kaufman fan. Great dialogue, fantastical plots, madcap antics and unusual characters. Right? Except it's starting to get a bit samey. The male lead. Uncertain, somehow emasculated, often surrounded by wildly sexy, seemingly fearless, dominant and/or dominating women. Who are all somehow slightly...inhuman. Without emotion. Or at the very least, without any apparent empathy for our (sympathetic?) and overwhelmed leading man. I am weary of the liberated modern woman who wildly outpaces the more sensitive, artistic, hesitant man. The regularity with which these gendered tropes occur in Kaufman's films suggests to me that he does not feel these characteristics as specific to individuals, but rather as larger truths about modern life. If this continues, I predict I will enjoy each of his future films exponentially less. I hope this is not the case. I used to really like him.

Charlie Kaufman, I'm placing you on probation.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

three cheers for frivolity!

I came across the following intriguing theory in a New Yorker article about multi-blade razors (among other things, of course):

"Ever since the Wilkinson Sword company started mass-producing stainless-steel blades, in 1961, every man with whiskers to cut has had no trouble cutting his whiskers without cutting himself. Nevertheless, every possible variation was unleashed, pointing toward a strange but basic truth of life and marketing alike: that it is after a problem has already been solved that ever more varied and splendid solutions start to appear. I have come to think of this as the Devil's Theory of Innovation; cutthroat (or scrape-cheek) competition tends to produce mere stasis. Only complacency drives change. A baseline of comfort, not a sudden stress of desperation, is what lets innovation happen...Scarcity encourages people to hold the rites of scarcity sacred. What encourages novelty is the confidence that the new things...aren't really necessary. Frivolity is the real mother of invention."
- Adam Gopnik, "The Fifth Blade," The New Yorker, May 11, 2009

I am less interested in the defensibility of this thesis than I am in its capacity to entertain me. Which is huge. Also, doesn't this ring the Maslowian-hierarchy-of-needs bell? Alternately and additionally, how does all of this coordinate with Orson Welles' not-entirely-accurate observation in The Third Man: "You know what the fellow said—in Italy for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace—and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

Fact check: cuckoo clocks come from Germany; the Borgias didn't control Italy, just parts of it, and not Florence, which typically gets credit for kick-starting the Renaissance. But it is the spirit, rather than the exact accuracy of the above quote that intrugues (sensing a pattern?). Jesus and I agree: people learn best from parables.
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