“I have this strange feeling that I’m not myself anymore. It’s hard to put into words, but I guess it’s like I was fast asleep, and someone came, disassembled me, and hurriedly put me back together again. That sort of feeling.”—Haruki Murakami (via theorthodoxheretic)
“do you like me?” i asked the blue blazer. no answer. silence bounced out of his books. silence fell off his tongue and sat between us and clogged my throat. it slaughtered my trust. it tore cigarettes out of my mouth. we exchanged blind words, and i did not cry, and i did not beg, blackness lunged in my heart, and something that had been good, a sort of kindly oxygen, turned into a gas oven. do you like me? how absurd! what’s a question like that? what’s a silence like that? and what am i hanging around for, riddled with what his silence said?
Just watched a YouTube segment from Adam Pearson’s Beauty and the Beast: The Ugly Face of Prejudice (Channel 4). Although Adam has neurofibromatosis, not Crouzon Syndrome, I am often struck by how similar we sound—how similar the viewpoints of people who live with pathologized facial deformities/disfigurements often sound, regardless of the condition, its perceived origin, its perceived severity, or the details of their lives.
When I talk about my feelings as somebody with Crouzon, the general reaction I get from friends is “you can’t notice it”/”you can barely notice it.” I have absolutely no idea whether or not this is true. No friend is going to tell me that I’m noticeably and significantly disfigured if I am, nor is a friend likely to make mental note of it themselves once they’ve spent any significant amount of time around me.
And the people who have told me that I’m noticeably and significantly disfigured either have an agenda (usually because they’re medical professionals trying to get me to have high-risk, low-reward reconstructive surgery) or hate me for unrelated reasons (conservative men, I’ve noticed, have a particularly keen eye for craniofacial conditions; I still remember, to my discredit, the anonymous fool on one local blog who several years ago wrote a rather nasty post that began “saw you tabling at Fondren After 5…”).
The most honest commentary I think I ever got about my face was from an old friend of mine who admitted that I was not especially attractive in a conventional sense, that it would not be too far off the mark to call me odd-looking, but that I had a more pleasant face than many people who were perceived as more beautiful. My face made her feel comfortable and loved, she explained, and she thought I even had that effect on strangers—that I had a welcoming smile, that I looked very non-threatening. I believe her. I think this is probably the closest thing to an objective assessment of my face that I’ll ever get.
Another friend of mine, an experienced model with a stunningly beautiful but unusual look owing in part to her Dutch-Cherokee ancestry, once told me that novelty is very important to a mature, world-weary definition of beauty—that while laypersons tend to think of beauty as being close to an established norm, real artists and photographers in the modeling industry are always looking for something outside of the norm, something new, something that they don’t expect to see. A conventionally beautiful face, in the eyes of haute couture, can be a very bland face; what many would call ugly, the best minds in fashion might call bold, powerful, and creative. You can’t challenge and redefine an aesthetic by conforming to it.
All of this is to say that I just don’t know what to make of faces—mine or others—and that as I continue to work on this book proposal for a social history of the human face, I’m having to confront some personal demons. “Write what you know,” indeed. I will probably never know how much my Crouzon-related issues are due to my “objective” unattractiveness, to borrow a scientifically invalid term from Kanazawa, and how much are just due to a face-centric form of body dysmorphia. But I’m not sure it matters, in the end. What matters more is that I choose the company of people who, for whatever reason, find me beautiful, and avoid the company of people who, for whatever reason, do not.
An addendum to all that: there is a misconception that conventionally attractive people are shallower than most people. This has not been my experience. My experience has been that stupid people tend to be shallow and smart people tend to be deep, regardless of what they look like. I’ve found no correlation with looks.
cold is in the air,
an aura of ice
All day I’ve built
a lifetime and now
the sun sinks to
The horizon bleeds
and sucks its thumb.
The little red thumb
goes out of sight.
And I wonder about
this lifetime with myself,
this dream I’m living.
I could eat the sky
like an apple
but I’d rather
ask the first star:
why am I here?
why do I live in this house?
eh?”—The Fury of Sunsets by Anne Sexton (via uber-alles)
Here’s the thing about Weird Al: he isn’t trying to make relevant criticisms of the artists he’s parodying (remember: his first singles were “My Bologna” and “Another One Rides the Bus”). He’s trying to make novelty songs based around familiar tunes and lyrics. His style influences are Frank Zappa and Dr. Demento. He has seldom tried to do what you say he’s failed to do, and on the rare occasions he did try, he produced terrible music (“It’s Still Billy Joel to Me” comes to mind, but “Perform This Way” isn’t great, and that’s precisely because he isn’t good at ribbing artists). He brought up food all the time with MJ, for example, because nobody could ever accuse Michael Jackson of being fat (the possibility that MJ was anorexic, which now seems very likely, had probably never occurred to him); when the “wacko Jacko” stuff came about in the 1990s, Weird Al never touched it. In his entire career, I can’t think of a case where he intentionally drew blood on another artist.
So while I’d say this is not one of his more well-rounded albums (try Poodle Hat), I’d give it a B+. “CNR” is a fun track (I don’t think it matters that the White Stripes broke up), “Skipper Dan” is arguably the best thing he’s ever done (and the video by Nina Paley is GOLD), “Craigslist” is dated but still clever, “Party in the CIA” is a standard-issue Weird Al parody, “Another Tattoo” really is funny as hell, and “Whatever You Like” is a dig on the unrealistic expectations that the original track sets re: personal wealth and ability to give gifts (not a four-minute attack on poor people; it wouldn’t fit the lyrics, it wouldn’t fit the fictional “Weird Al” character who really did live on ramen noodles when he was younger, and it wouldn’t be consistent with his usual approach to humor). Hell, I even liked the polka medley this time around (I usually don’t).
That said, I think it’s time Weird Al abandons parodies for a little while and just does an album of original material—off-kilter pop, a la Zappa, but not strictly novelty music. It’d be risky, but I think he’s ready, and I think his old model of song parodies has been pretty much rendered obsolete by YouTube, which can crowdsource funnier parodies than one fiftysomething multimillionaire is likely to be able to consistently produce.
Slightly fewer than half the songs on Alpocalypse are reimaginings of pop songs of semi-recent vintage. The lead single, of course, parodies Gaga. Its message—that Lady Gaga’s outlandishness is all just a performance—is obvious, but at least it’s specifically targeted at Lady Gaga herself. (It’s…
…one of the nastiest moves has been the institution, by Michigan governor Rick Snyder, of an “emergency manager” over several cities in his state, as well as the Detroit public school system. This manager has the unilateral authority to fire officials, close schools, void union contracts, and assume total control over areas declared to be in a financial state of emergency by the state.
I hope this emergency manager concept gets struck down as unconstitutional real soon. It makes such total mockery of democracy and gives individuals the unchecked ability to do incredible harm to some of the most vulnerable communities in our cities. It is hard to fathom how *any* so called law maker of any political stripe could vote to establish these state sanctioned despots.
“It is curious how instinctively one protects the image of oneself from idolatry or any other handling that could make it ridiculous, or too unlike the original to be believed any longer.”—Virginia Woolf (via silentsouls)
This poem has been on my mind a great deal lately. I used to complain that I wasn’t a very sympathetic character because I couldn’t see any drama in my own story; this made autobiographical writing unappealing to me, and limited the autobiographical element in my other writing. “Write what you know” seemed like meaningless advice because, in the context of my own life, I didn’t feel like I had earned the right to know anything. I was a lucky person to whom things happened, and not an agent of anything interesting. It was only when I began to better confront what Jung would call my Shadow—the things I want for myself, the way I sometimes convince myself that the way I seek them is more noble than it is—that I realized that I have a story worth telling, and that I may in fact be a very interesting character after all, more because of my faults than my virtues. I know this poem is more about mortality than integrity, but Auden being Auden, the two subjects are always closely connected. Remember that line he changed in “September 1, 1939” from “We must love one another or die.” to “We must love one another and die.” For Auden, and for me, confronting human mortality and confronting our own darkness is, at times, the same endeavor. -TH
Love? Be it man. Be it woman.
It must be a wave you want to glide in on,
give your body to it, give your laugh to it,
give, when the gravelly sand takes you,
your tears to the land. To love another is something
like prayer and can’t be planned, you just fall
into its arms because your belief undoes your disbelief.
[…]”—Anne Sexton (Admonitions To A Special Person)
Or, at least, I don’t see how it can be anything but transphobic. A friend asked me earlier on my Facebook wall what I think of Sylviane Agacinski, and this was my response:
I haven’t read any of her books, but I’m familiar with her policy agenda; I like what she’s doing on gender parity, though not her stated reasons for doing it. 50% female representation is a good idea from a human rights perspective; no need to wax philosophical about the essence of men and the essence of women when the evidence suggests that both roles are socially constructed. A Sarah Palin presidency would, I think, quickly disprove her beliefs about the universal genetic superiority of women as leaders; I’m kind of surprised the Thatcher administration didn’t, for that matter.
Plus gender essentialism always feels, to me, like too much of a concession; if the history of humanity can be summed up as a war between men and women, then the feminist and LGBTQ movements become nothing but a morally equivalent opposition party to the patriarchy, and I don’t think it’s that simple. And I don’t see how anybody can posit a gender essentialism without implying a hostility towards gender role transgression—an attitude that is at least transphobic, and usually homophobic as well.
Ran into this with some of the MichFest supporters, who said that transwomen should not be allowed to participate because all “men” (which would include transwomen) are intrinsically evil, inferior, and give off destructive spiritual energy, while all “women” (which would include transmen, who they welcome) are intrinsically good, superior, and give off harmonious spiritual energy. That’s way too Yacub’s-history for me, and I feel like Agacinski’s ideas teeter on the verge of falling into that way of thinking; they don’t go quite as far, but I haven’t read enough of her work to know why. (One of her books is on my Goodreads to-read list, so I suspect I’ll get around to her work eventually.)
So I guess the short version of it is that if I knew Agacinski in person, I’d be happily marching in the streets alongside her advocating gender parity but I’d change the subject if she started talking about the nature of gender, at least until I’ve had a chance to read her books and gain a better understanding of why she says what she does.
Are any of y’all familiar enough with Agacinski to tell me whether my suspicions are warranted?
[x]You think you’re better than other species (more specifically; humans) [ ]You’ve run away from home [x]You have been bullied [ ]You are frequently sarcastic [ ]You have brown eyes [x]You occasionally wear a cape [ ]You wear reading glasses [x]People say you’re very wise Total: 4
SECOND [x]Justice and righteousness are important to you [x]You are ruthless [ ]You like playing the recorder [x]You consider yourself a genius [ ]Your pockets hold EVERYTHING [x]You like hats [x]Your eyes change color [x]You can be a bit childish Total: 6
THIRD [x]You love science [x]You want peace between everyone [ ]You are a master of aikido [x]You love playing with gadgets [x]You tend to be optimistic [ ]You occasionally perform magic tricks [ ]You also love vintage cars [ ]You can be somewhat bitter Total: 4
FOURTH [ ]You wear long scarves. Very long scarves [x]Yo-yo’s are fun to play with [ ]You occasionally wear floppy hats [x]Would you like a jelly baby? [ ]Your personality is very different from others [x]Your pockets are dimensionally transcendental [x]People say you’re charming [ ]You can tell if you can trust someone or not right away Total: 4
FIFTH [x]You wear “brainy specs” to look clever, when need be [x]You can be a bit venerable [ ]You prefer thinking and problem solving over physical activity [x]You hate violence [x]You like celery [ ]You tend to panic when under pressure [ ]Rosemary makes you sneeze [x]You will openly express your hopes and fears to your companions(friends) Total: 5
SIXTH [ ]You can be compassionate, but hardly anybody but your friends see this side [x]You also can be very arrogant [x]And melodramatic [x]You decided to become a vegetarian, but have abandoned that practice [x]You love poetry [x]You are very fond of cats [x]You have problems with directions [x]You are very determined to do what is right Total: 7
SEVENTH [x]People don’t really trust you [x]You tend to act like a fool to hide your intellect [x]You have a very dark side, though [x]You like chess [x]You would rather use words to resolve problems instead of violence [ ]You use umbrellas to accomplish tasks other than keeping the rain off of you [x]You are very eccentric [ ]You like manipulating people Total: 6
EIGHTH [ ]You love and respect all life [x]You are very romantic [ ]You often have panic attacks [x]You don’t understand the idea of gloating [x]You have a habit of repeating someones name when trying to make a point [x]Or when excited [ ]You have smoked [x]You are very afraid of heights Total: 5
NINTH [x]You like wearing leather jackets [x]You can be very emotional [x]Although, you can hide your sorrow with manic behavior and wit [x]You can be ruthless [ ]You cuss frequently [x]You tend to say “fantastic” a lot [x]You like bananas [ ]You can be violent Total: 6
TENTH [x]You are a happy person [x]You are also enthusiastic, especially at inappropriate times [ ]You feel very lonely [x]You are a fan of Harry Potter [x]You are a very forgiving person [x]You prefer rock music [x]You think that life is beautiful [ ]Allons-y! Total: 6
ELEVENTH [x]You don’t care if people think you’re eccentric [x]You can be very childlike [ ]Fezzes are cool [x]You have a very good memory [ ]You talk with your hands [x]You tend to ramble a lot [x]You would rather face situations alone, rather than put your friends at risk [x]You have green eyes Total: 6
WILLIAM GIBSON:If you'd gone to a publisher in 1981 with a proposal for a science-fiction novel that consisted of a really clear and simple description of the world today, they'd have read your proposal and said, Well, it's impossible. This is ridiculous. This doesn't even make any sense. Granted, you have half a dozen powerful and really excellent plot drivers for that many science-fiction novels, but you can't have them all in one novel.
INTERVIEWER:What are those major plot drivers?
GIBSON:Fossil fuels have been discovered to be destabilizing the planet's climate, with possibly drastic consequences. There's an epidemic, highly contagious, lethal sexual disease that destroys the human immune system, raging virtually uncontrolled through much of Africa. New York has been attacked by Islamist fundamentalists, who have destroyed the two tallest buildings in the city, and the United States in response has invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.
INTERVIEWER:And you haven't even gotten to the technology.
GIBSON:You haven't even gotten to the Internet. By the time you were telling about the Internet, they'd be showing you the door. It's just too much science fiction.
INTERVIEWER:You met your wife in Toronto, didn't you?
WILLIAM GIBSON:I took her coffee one morning. I was staying at my friend's place, and he had spent the night with some woman and didn't want to get out of bed, so he called to me and asked me to make them some coffee. I said sure, I made them some coffee, brought it up on a tray, and there was my wife.
“So put it this way: If Lady Gaga convinces one gay kid that it’s OK to be that way — “Be who you are and love who you are,” she preaches — or convinces others that it is not OK to bully, then that makes her a pop star unworthy of all the hate thrown her way, even if her music did suck, even if she was the worst thing in all of modern culture — which she most certainly is not.Hate on the Gaga all you want. She may be at the edge of glory, which drives some people insane. But you can’t deny that as much she is about fantasy and the artifice of pop stardom, she’s also all about living life to its fullest.”—Bill Holdship, Metro Times. (via fuckyeahladygaga)
“…Man is defined as a human being and woman is defined as a female. Whenever she tries to behave as a human being she is accused of trying to emulate the male…”— Simone de Beauvoir (via somethingjazzyonthewall)
“There are believed to be 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. We’re not always who you think we are. Some pick your strawberries or care for your children. Some are in high school or college. And some, it turns out, write news articles you might read. I grew up here. This is my home. Yet even though I think of myself as an American and consider America my country, my country doesn’t think of me as one of its own.”—My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant: Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas comes out as an illegal immigrant in NYT Magazine. (via: infinite hope)
The Gloss anonymously interviewed seven men from different walks of life, asking each, “What makes a woman a slut?” and posted the results yesterday. Among the indications of sluttiness cited were:
How many people she sleeps with a year
Not waiting long enough to sleep with a guy
Having sex with them on the first date
Wha? You’d call a woman a slut because she slept with you?
Aside from the obvious double-standard, the centuries of sexual repression and shaming women for daring to have a sex drive, and the host of other reasons that a statement like this is unfair, irresponsible and cowardly, you are contributing to a hostile and fearful dating environment.
If you don’t like the choices a woman makes about whom she sleeps with and when, you are more than welcome not to sleep with her. But to continue to judge single women for having the audacity to sleep with who they want to—something that single men are generally congratulated for—is to perpetuate an antagonistic dynamic between the sexes that has seen its day.