So, I’m currently at the office, curled up on my leather bean bag, with the shades drawn, wondering why I’m not working from home today as I chug DayQuil and praise our Production Coordinator for picking me up some Matzoh Ball Soup, sneezing while simultaneously praying that I don’t get my editor sick so we can make our deadline next week.
HOWEVER, mentally, I’m actually here, in a luxury suite in Santorini, with an agenda that consists entirely of reading outside, soaking in these pristine waters, dunking flatbread in olive oil, sipping wine al fresco, napping on hammocks, all intercut with me repeatedly getting naked with a gorgeous man.
I sometimes, therefore, wish I was Evie from Small Wonder so I could pause everything, jump on a plane, fly to Greece, do ALL of the above and still come back in time to shoot on Friday.
In some parallel universe, or in some variation of string theory, this is ENTIRELY possible, right?
Few things in life are as exciting as getting back a roll of negatives and loving the images you’ve shot. When I got this roll back, I was so fucking excited that I couldn’t WAIT to get home to look at it. I ripped the film out of the box immediately to review in my car as the sun set off in the distance.
I love being behind a camera.
In college, even with a packed schedule of classes and extra curriculars and date parties, I’d skip school to shoot. I’d walk toward campus, my camera in my bookbag anyway, and I’d just stop at the BART station and would head into San Francisco and take pictures all day. Completely alone with my CD player blasting Pixies and Radiohead and Beatles. When I wasn’t signed up for 8 am Saturday (SATURDAY!) darkroom classes, I’d go to this tiny little place on Shattuck to develop and print on Pearl paper (high school was matte and college was Pearl), my CD player blasting, my hands and clothes reeking of developer fluid, bathed in crimson light.
I put extra emphasis on the photo stuff starting in my Junior year in college to prep for film school application portfolios, thinking about how, when I grew up, I’d be behind a camera for a living.
And guess what? I grew up to be behind a camera for a living. (Well, that, and behind a computer screen blaring Final Draft at me).
Moral of the story: life’s pretty sweet when you end up where you always wanted to belong. Good stuff.
The other night, I was working with a student on the foundations of poetry. Though I had spent weeks teaching rhetorical device after rhetorical device (because, really, distinguishing metonymy from synecdoche and trochaic from didactic meter is of the upmost importance), I felt it best to show technique and emotion in action.
After a couple passes through Bukowski and some Beats and Sylvia Plath left us both a little worse for wear, I pulled out this oldie but goodie: Wordsworth’s “Lines Written A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey.”
Backstory: When I was 16, I had the good fortune to take an Honors English class with an amazing bey
My bloggy-ness has been a little tardy to the party as of late, due to some autumnal traveling, some newfound walking, driving, and moving back into my place after 5 1/2 months of being away.
In any case, I’m trying to make up for it…
Here’s a little shout out to the Occupiers in Downtown LA, who, today, are facing eviction and trying to stand their ground.
A couple of weeks ago, I slid into Manhattan at the tail end of Occupy Wall Street, with the intention of hitting up Zuccotti Park for a “30 Before 30” adventure. However, I woke that morning to the news of the OWS eviction during the wee hours of the morning and had, as has happened before, narrowly missed my chance to be part of something epic and possibly find my true love somewhere in the crazy. (After, you know, I got him to shower, and we’d discuss The Communist Manifesto at length over a romantic dinner of Ready to Eat military meals in his tent.)
Bummed that we had missed the crazy, my friends picked me up in Brooklyn that morning carrying this here bird cage, housing two Zebra Finches. Love Birds. We named them after our friends who had just gotten married a few days before and took them around Manhattan (the details of which will be revealed in a short film I’m editing about them).
In any case, after we drank a bottle of wine before noon, we headed to Zuccotti with the birds, slapped this sign I wrote on the cage, and became wildly popular with the protesting crew and the press.
I think the second photo, in which we got the NYPD to crack up, is my fave.
So much about Kermit the Frog is intrinsically lovable: his sense of humor, his loyalty to his friends, his charm and confidence in who he is despite the challenges of being green. But at the same time, Kermit has a distinct indifference to the overtures of Piggy that I came to expect from the boys who crossed my path from grade school on. I think watching Piggy chase Kermit gave me an odd sense of what men and women do in real life, when they’re adults. I figured that if you — glamorous, hilarious, fabulous you — find a boy who’s funny and popular and charming and adorable and shy and you want him, you just go out and “Hi-Ya” yourself into his favor. Piggy and Kermit represented the quintessential romance to me. And I don’t know how healthy that was.
Also, this is probably the most accurate depiction of my love life ever. (And this Jezebel post couldn’t come at a better time, judging how I’ve eaten so much peanut butter while listening to the song “When Will I Be Loved?” by the Everly Brothers in the last two hours.)
Now if I can just get over my hard-core crushes on popular, sensitive, sometimes shy, felt-decked, reasonably confident, altruistic amphibious banjo players…
Yesterday I had myriad profound moments, mainly due to the appearance of a shoe on my right foot for the first time in over 10 weeks. I decided to walk, Grandpa-style, up the street, really focusing on how I was walking so as to not limp, but WALK. You know, walk hard.
It was totally existential.
I pondered the whole process of this whole foot thing - how I went from being broken and dependent, how I rolled with it all, embraced it, and challenging myself every day to be stronger in more ways than one, and how ultimately I had built the strength to walk across the room with a different style of purpose than I did when I was a toddler. Healing is simply symbolic like that - I was leaning on people, on crutches, and then on my own weight, ever so slowly - especially the part about relearning how to be independent right before turning 30. This shit means something cosmic, you guys.
Anyway. After I spent twenty minutes inching up the block in my zen-like walking meditation, random epiphanies started flooding in…and, much like when I’m totally quiet and in a legit meditation, who jumps into my head?
I started meditating (kind of) when I was in grade school, and have always had teachers and gurus and too-tan yoga instructors tell me to look out for “visions” when my Chakras were open and what not. But THIS, this was different. This was awesome. This was all I could see in my mind’s eye:
This shit means something cosmic, you guys. For reals.
Anyway, after that, naturally, I couldn’t get Jeff Daniels out of my head for the rest of the day. I then proceeded to have a “How fucking underestimated is Jeff Daniels OR Is Jeff Daniels really fucking OVERESTIMATED OR Is Jeff Daniels just estimated ENOUGH?” dilema. I mean, seriously? Let’s consider this for a moment.
Jeff Daniels has done SO FUCKING MUCH in his career: Speed, Terms of Endearment, Dumb and Dumber, The Squid and the Whale, and that Anna Paquin geese movie from the 90’s…plus the fact that he played Anna Paquin’s dad in that geese movie and then fucked her in The Squid in the Whale. He totally blew me away earlier this year when I saw him perform onstage in God of Carnage. Plus, he was at one time considered for the role of Uncle Joey on Full House. Talk about an actor’s body of work, guys!
Oh, also, he’s gotten fat gracefully, and is still working on important things, so that’s really a plus as well.
Anyway, my inexplicably-cosmic Jeff Daniel’s quasi-epiphany spiraled into a vortex of YouTube clip watching. And I think that I decided that THIS is most definitely my favorite Jeff Daniels Jeff Danielsness…
PS: If anyone wants me, I’ll be in Reel Six! What a day!
I wanna preface this post by saying a couple of things:
1) My posting this presupposes that you know my feelings about Gwyneth Paltrow. If not, start here, then see below for further clarification*.
2) At some point, this post EXPLODED in length. But let’s just go with it.
3) Maurice Sendak is a fucking rockstar.
I love him.
I grew up completely mesmerized by his aesthetic and the fog of subtle creepiness that he casts over his work. The things he creates are magical, archetypal even, and yet so gently subversive. But he has finesse; he’s not like Tim Burton clobbering you over the head to remind you how fiercely he hates reality or, like, sunlight.
4) Maurice Sendak becomes even more of a fucking rockstar after you read this little interview, entitled “I Refuse To Lie To Children" (even though it should be titled, "You Know What, Yeah, One of My Books is Banned in Places Because of Extensive Baby Penis”).
This man has been so broken, so angry, so devastated by how visceral life can be. He has a profound awareness of the moments when life cracks us open, when we bear witness to how terrifying the truth about other people is, and when we ourselves are terrifying. That is the pathos behind Max in Where The Wild Things Are: the shit “out there” and the people in your life can be really fucked up, but you can be fucked up too; and when you recognize that you are not infallible and that you’ve hurt someone with your ego-driven rebellion, you can be forgiven if you battle your own inner demons, seek humility, and even forgive yourself. This character, who seems so simple at first, truly comes from Sendak’s gut.
My father belonged to a Jewish social club. The day of my bar mitzvah he got word [through the club] that he had, no longer, a family. Everyone was gone. And he laid down in bed. I remember this so vividly. And my mother said to me, ‘Papa can’t come.’ And I was having the big party at the colonial club, the old mansion in Brooklyn. And I said, ‘How can Papa not come to my bar mitzvah?’ And I screamed at him, ‘You gotta get up, you gotta get up!’ And of course he did. And the only thing I remember is looking at him when the guests burst into For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow. And my father’s face was vivid, livid, and I knew I had done something very bad, that I had made him suffer more than he had to. This 13-year-old ersatz man.”
That shit is totally out of a Henry Roth novel.
And this is my new mantra:
I’m totally crazy, I know that. I don’t say that to be a smartass, but I know that that’s the very essence of what makes my work good. And I know my work is good. Not everybody likes it, that’s fine. I don’t do it for everybody. Or anybody. I do it because I can’t not do it.
And then he starts shit talking. And it is unbelievably rad:
Of Salman Rushdie, who once gave him a terrible review in the New York Times, he says: “That flaccid fuckhead. He was detestable. I called up the Ayatollah, nobody knows that.” Roald Dahl: “The cruelty in his books is off-putting. Scary guy. I know he’s very popular but what’s nice about this guy? He’s dead, that’s what’s nice about him.” Stephen King: “Bullshit.” Gwyneth Paltrow: “I can’t stand her.
It is incredible how much I love this guy. AND HE CAN’T FUCKING STAND LA GYWENTH! AND HE GAVE THIS INTERVIEW TO A LONDON NEWSPAPER!
Can you IMAGINE the look on her face? In my mind, she’s sitting on a window seat with her fairy-looking children, reading them Where The Wild Things Are, simulatenously thinking about how she can get in touch with Maurice Sendak to do a list of his definitive favorite children’s books for a Christmas shopping “Ge!t” edition of GOOP…and she hears this news. And as we all know, Gwyneth Paltrow does the drastic news thing pretty well.
Plus, dude, you guys, Apple and Moses will NEVER get to read Into The Night Kitchen ever again.
Let. That. Sink. In.
*1) I fucking love Gwyenth Paltow. In certain situations. Usually, in small doses. She is, definitively, the coolest Tennenbaum daughter. She is bitchiness personified in Great Expectations. She was void of cellulite and got to torture Ethan Hawke and I’m pretty sure her character’s a Virgo. And plus Sliding Doors is a pretty solid guilty pleasure. When it comes to acting icy or entitled, Gwyneth nails it. And the Spanish she speaks when Holly Holiday subs Spanish class is pretty solid.
But the thing is that that this girl just tries SO HARD. She genuinely puts in her fair share of effort. You KNOW this girl is relentless. And sure, she comes off a pretty rich girl who was born near the top of a mountain but probably thinks that she climbed her way there. But sometimes she still captures your heart and even saves “Glee” from the dregs of disaster. And you didn’t even want her to but she did and now you don’t like her even more for it.
2) I really don’t think that she meant to, but Gwyneth Paltrow has gotten up America’s ass as of late. I find it ironic that this woman, who can’t help but come off as the epitome of high maintenance, is constantly trying to defend herself and simutaneously claim how approachable she is. Gwyneth, you are not approachable. You had sex with Brad Pitt. And Ben Affleck (in the 90’s). And Chris Martin. I mean, for godsake woman, you had Chris Martin’s babies. Plural. And he writes award winning platinum selling songs about you. You must KNOW something that the rest of us don’t.
HOWEVER, that does NOT give you license to be some kind of guru. You are like a Jill of All Trades, yet, perhaps a master of none. You’re relatively good, but not fantastic at acting. You can carry a tune. Professionals tell you what to wear. You co-own the company you started with your trainer. You can make sandwiches. But does that make you the BEST at these things? Does that make you the expert on being a down to earth woman in the 21st Century? No.
And, GP, you constantly talk about how *easy* it is to be you, to get in your 90 minute work out, and a blow out, and a dinner with Stella McCartney and STILL bake gluten free cupcakes for your children (named for a piece of fruit and prophet). Well, honey, if I had a chef, some housekeepers, a couple of nannies, a stylist, a trainer, some assistants, and $33 million in yearly income, my life would be pretty fucking *easy* too.
3) I totally call bullshit on Mario Batalli saying that GP can eat a pan full of pealla and therefore totally invite Mama Gwynnie over to my place to chat and eat said pan of paella (no pork). Do it, Gwynnie. Do it.
This, my friends, is the Polyommatus, otherwise known as the Common Blue Butterfly. It is the state butterfly of New York, and, more importantly, it was the target of of the lifelong passion of my favorite novelist and lepidopterist, Vladimir Nabokov.
It is also the image I’m considering getting tattooed on my right ring finger. Considering being the main idea here.
I first read Lolita when I was 16. I had seen the Kubrick film years before, but picked up a copy of the novel we had lying around the house one lazy late summer day in high school after I had already blown through all my summer reading for school. Having already fallen in love with Joyce, Faulkner, and the Romantics, I was completely rapt with how an author uses language…and the first three syllables of the first line of Lolita, rolling into that first paragraph, rolling into that first chapter wasn’t like falling in love, but jumping into a sea of it, the kind of infatuation that overtakes you and mystifies you…and the fact that the object d’amour is a novel about an infatuation with an object d’amour and the lover is a fucked up-yet-captivating-anti-hero-pedophile…well, suffice it to say, I had found a favorite book. (Technically, Pale Fire, to me, is a greater literary accomplishment and one of the most thrilling reads in the English language, but Lolita still holds a place as #1 in my heart. To this day, I can’t read the last three pages without getting the goosebumps. Oh, Humbert Humbert, you are SO eloquent, you are SO interesting, you are so very, VERY fucked up.)
I proceeded to reread this book a total of SEVEN times in college, studying in depth four of those times at Berkeley. I read a LOT of work by Brian Boyd, considered the chief Nabokovian scholar, like, ever, and was always taken by his dissection of the use of butterflies, particularly the Polyommatus, in Nabokov’s work and life. Here’s a primer.
So, what the fuck does all of this have to do with getting a tattoo of this species?
#1: A butterfly is the only species that contains one collection of genetic information, but its DNA creates two related but separate creatures. The DNA coding for the caterpillar is expressed ONLY during that life cycle and it flips in metamorphosis; the DNA coding for the butterfly is ONLY expressed during THAT life cycle…which is to say that the caterpillar always has the potential to express a completely different, albeit more aesthetically beautiful and graceful self, but it must undergo massive metamorphosis. And then it can FLY and shit.
#2: In the times of my life that have been the darkest or most confusing, I have somehow stumbled into a flutter of butterflies. It’s happened three times now. I’m taking it to mean something.
#3: Getting a small permanent picture of a little blue butterfly is perhaps less trashy than a tattoo of, say, a penis or a bottle of Jack or a tramp stamp of a faerie or something.
#4: Nabokov once said “A writer should have the precision of a poet and the imagination of a scientist.” I’ve always tried to be that kind of writer; I delve into research. I edit with a scalpel. I’ve tried to harness an objective, analytical eye with my work. I experiment constantly. A lot of said experiments fail. A select few succeed. I try to think outside the box and in 5 Dimensions. I try to flip things around. I am on a constant quest to improve, understand, and express (although a lot of those times I am writing jokes about sex, drugs, and pop culture).
#5: I’m convinced that I’m always in a state of metamorphosis, but that, simultaneously I’m still the caterpillar and already the butterfly. Yeah, I don’t know what that means either, but let’s just go with it for now…
In the last four days, I’ve tutored three separate teenaged girls about Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, for various papers, final exams, and end of year projects at their respective high schools. Explaining the ideals of Second Wave feminism to girls who have in their spectrum of media such visionaries as Snookie, Kesha, and Kardashians makes things a little trickier, if not more warranted. Sixty years ago, Friedan skyrocketed into prominence for her analysis of how and why the ad industry manipulated the female form to sell shit. And not just shit, but ideas…mainly that being young, thin, white, rich, and hot was all that mattered. Because, let’s face it, as hot as I am, do you REALLY wanna see me do a photoshoot at 3 am, sans make up, in a beat up Berkeley tee-shirt and huge glasses, reading a six-page long article in the most recent edition of “The Economist”? (*by the by, if the answer to that rhetorical question is “yes”, then please notify me immediately so we can have ridiculous amounts of passionate, kinky nerd-sex, though I warn you now, I may beat you at a post-coital game of Portal 2.) Regardless…
Look, the conversation in the video above is nothing that hasn’t been said time and again for the last 60 years. That the media and ad agencies sell a dream, a false reality of beauty and happiness through doctored image is nothing new. And neither is the pain it causes not only in women, but in everyone who seeks to chase the dragon that is unmistakeable and immortal on every magazine cover, billboard, and reality show casting session. And let’s face it: advertisers, the editors at Maxim, Anna Wintour, et al will not change. But maybe our attitudes about beauty and the way we perceive it can.
With the media drenched culture of today, kids not only constantly digest images and content, but they edit how the world sees them…with every picture they post (after taking a dozen similar ones) of them posing in their bathroom for iPhone self portraits, or untagging themselves from shots they disapprove of on Facebook, or creating alternate identities and avatars that live more vibrant lives then they do online…today’s youth culture is not just self-aware, it’s overly self-conscious to a fault.
For the last few years I’ve worked as a tutor, teacher and mentor to scores of young men and women, all born attached to a DSL umbilical chord, with limitless access to images from the media telling them what to be, how to look, and how to appropriately brush their teeth with a bottle of Jack (without, you know, fucking up their expensive orthodontic work). And more important than teaching them how to properly use semi-colons and conjunctive adverbs, or identify the difference in the administrations of James K Polk and Woodrow Wilson, or how to memorize the process of photosynthesis, all I’ve ever cared about teaching these kids is to say “fuck you” to the media and to love and know and respect themselves above all else.
I will say that, through my own journey and tribulations with body image, that self-love comes from within, but the process of understanding and executing that love is different for everyone. So, moral of the story…know thyself, love thyself, and never ever read a goddamn fashion magazine ever (except when you need tips on great leave-in conditioners, but only then!).