Free Bei Bei Shuai

March 26, 2012 at 9:43 am (Uncategorized)

Quote: “For everyone else suicide is a mental health issue. For a pregnant woman, it’s a crime. That’s a violation of women’s constitutional right to equal treatment under the law.”

This story is absolutely unbelievable. I don’t know what’s happening in this country anymore. We now officially prefer people who don’t exist over women who are actually here and roaming the earth. Congrats, USA.

Long story short: Bei Bei Shuai was pregnant and tried to kill herself. She survived, but miscarried. She’s now in jail facing charges of feticide and murder. She could go to jail for more than sixty years.

I have to go throw up now.

Protect Pregnant Women: Free Bei Bei Shuai | The Nation.

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Useless things I know because I am female.

March 18, 2012 at 9:32 pm (Uncategorized)

A few months ago, I was teasing a male faculty member at school for carrying around with him an iphone app that counts the calories of the food you’re eating. “But how am I supposed to know these things?” he asked. “For instance, did you know that avocados are filled with calories?”

Yes, duh.

“Sure, you do.” He didn’t believe me. He honestly thought that this was one of those things that people just don’t know, unless they’re a dietician or something like that. “How the hell would you know that?”

Duh (again), because I’m female. There’s shit you know off the top of your head when you’re female. A lot of it is disturbing (for instance, I know that most – not all, but most – of the women I know have been sexually violated/molested/assaulted at one time or another in their lives). But most of it is stupid.

Calories in food are a super easy one. I’m pretty good at guesstimating the calories in any dish, and I have the calories of various pre-packaged foods memorized. I also know all those rules about eating out: dressing on the side, no bread with your meal, protein should be the size of the palm of your hand and no bigger.

I know that the lower, inside lid of your eye – the part where your lower eyelashes are, the little flap of skin that goes right up against the eye itself – is known as the “lower waterline.” That is because the lower waterline (despite the fact that it comes into contact with your actual eye constantly, and is, a result, completely disgusting) is thought to be one of the key places to plaster with makeup in order to make your eyes look bigger. Also, when you apply blush, you’re supposed to do it on your cheekbone, in line with your pupil, and then out to your hairline, and then dab a little on your chin to slim your face (if your face is wide like mine). That I nearly never wear makeup doesn’t matter; I know this shit.

I know that if your skirt is sticking to your stockings because of static cling, putting some lotion on the outside of your legs (on top of the stockings) will help. And that if you get a snag in your stockings, clear nail polish will stop it from running… but don’t get it stuck to your leg, because the combo of stockings + nail polish = glue = rips off your skin = hurts.

Here’s a random one: I know that a certain kind of soda that was specifically marketed to the Latino/a demographic back in the 1980s was widely rumored to be an abortifacient. Technically, you were supposed to drink the whole can as fast as possible and then throw yourself down a flight of stairs, and the two together would “bring down your period,” which is a euphemism for miscarriage or abortion, or however you want to look at it. I remember some girls telling me this in high school and I’ve never been able to get it out of my mind, even though I know it’s not true. I can’t see that soda in my neighborhood today, some 20+ years later, without thinking of that.

I’m sure men have their lists of useless crap they know, because they’re men. I was recently walking in the park with my husband, and he pointed out that our football field there was not up to regulation standards. Ok: here’s a guy who hasn’t watched a football game in the entire time I’ve known him and has zero interest in sports in general, so how the hell would he know that? Right, because he’s male.

I just hate this stuff so much that it’s hard for me to even think about it. And it makes me wonder: is the brain finite? I struggle with foreign languages… so if I kicked out (somehow) all that crap on makeup and dieting out of my brain, would I suddenly have room for French? Yeah, probably not. But I’m still trying to forget all this stuff that I can’t seem to unlearn.

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Something happened.

March 16, 2012 at 11:23 pm (Uncategorized)

I woke up today and I really wanted leopard-print leggings, like these:

And a bright, hot pink headband, to wear while my bangs grow out, and also to dye my hair bright, hot pink. And to be in a one-person band called Goat Face Sandwich, unless there’s already another band called that.

Seriously, what the fuck happened today?

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The trouble with art.sy

March 14, 2012 at 9:15 pm (Uncategorized)

I recently got an invitation from the long-awaited internet experiment Art.sy (known in shorthand among a lot of people as “the Pandora for the art world”), and I checked it out. I wasn’t, shall we say, blown away… but there’s a lot of perfectly good reasons why that might be. Perhaps not enough galleries have signed on to really reflect a diversity of artists; or maybe they’re just simply still working the kinks out (it is, after all, still in Beta).

But then I’ve been thinking to myself: would a “Pandora of the art world” even really work? Say you had this program that ran perfectly, and it scanned each and every art work at a microscopic level, taking into consideration how blue it is and how abstract it is, and (somehow) what it all means, and when it was made. Could it then, by using those measurements it’s made, then make recommendations of works of art that you’d be likely to enjoy, based on the measurements of previous works of art you’ve enjoyed?

That sentence was tortured and wrong, but what I mean is: If I type in “Britney Spears” into Pandora, it will spit back at me (eventually) a Christina Aguilera song. It’s reasonable to think that if I like the pop-y, bubbly sound of one female singer who got her start in the 1990s singing frothy, dance-oriented songs, then I would probably like another doing the same thing. And if I didn’t like Christina (say, because I took sides on the whole Britney vs. Christina thing) then chances are I’d like… oh I don’t know… insert name of 90s blonde bubbly little thing here:__________

Art.sy works on the premise that hey, if you like Hans Bellmer, you’re gonna love Diane Arbus. After all, both of them took black and white photographs of “freaks,” so why wouldn’t you?

Except I’m convinced that art doesn’t really work this way. Or that rather, instead of art being the exception to all the rules out there, that music really is, and that we’re wrong to base a premise of a $6 million dollar program on the way in which music fandom works.

In my mind, here is how music fandom works:

Image

A small percentage of them are “nerds” – these are the devoted fans who, for instance, only buy(/hoard) vinyl or indie rock, or wouldn’t be caught dead listening Christina if they love Britney. That percentage of people will never be made happy by any program recommending anything at all, because they have such strong opinions about things that there’s no reasoning with them. Sure, maybe they “should” like an artist that Pandora might suggest, but they just don’t. Period.

Most people who listen to music are “fans” – they know what they’re listening to (they can identify Britney from Christina), they like certain things over certain other things, they purchase or download music, and so forth. These are the people you could sway with recommendations. They’re open-minded. If you slip a little Christina in there, they just might like it. Or maybe not, but you might have luck next time.

The remainder are “passive listeners” – they have music on in the background, barely aware of what they’re hearing. Sure, they’ll take their Christina with their Britney, but who cares – they’re not likely to buy either anytime soon.

However, this is how I regard the kinds of people who think of themselves as being invested (emotionally or otherwise) in art:

ImageI’m betting that if you were to poll people at museums and galleries, this is what you’d get. A certain percentage are “passive viewers” – if they’re in town near a big art museum, they’ll go just to get the name-dropping credit of saying, “Oh yeah, I went to MOMA last week…” They want to see “culture” and trust the institution to make the decisions for them. (Note: This isn’t a bad thing. I know fuck-all about science, and you don’t see me arguing with the displays at The Museum of Natural History. It’s just that, on my time off, I’m also not pouring my life into finding out more info on some display that I learned about in the Bio-Diversity Wing. For me, the experience of going to the museum is enough. I go, I see it, maybe I learn something, the end.)

For those that do care and like certain things and dislike certain other things, but it’s all in broad swaths, there’s being a “fan.” Fans know they might like “contemporary photography” and will go to any show of that, but don’t feel the need to narrow it down much more than that. Maybe they like really big, color photography. Maybe they like small, intimate black-and-white photography. The “fans” can’t quite articulate it just yet.

But the vast majority are “nerds” – art people through and through, who walk in the door knowing what they like and what they don’t. They know their history (or think they do) and have strong opinions about what is good and what is bad. They’ll flat out skip over the Contemporary Wing if what they love is Impressionism, and not feel the slightest bit of hesitation.

Here’s the problem for Art.sy: the group in play, the group that they really want to engage, is the “fans.” They’re the ones most open to suggestions, and most open to also pouring in a bunch of free time to digging through a database of art looking for new suggestions to like. For Pandora, that’s an awful lot of people. For Art.sy… not so much.

For better or worse, art is more like food than it is like music.

I like apples. Oh man, I really like apples – is there anything better than a crisp, bright red apple on a fall day? No way… so delicious and satisfying. It’s enough to make you think I would like pears. After all, they’re crisp and sweet and just like apples and…

Yeah, except I fucking hate pears. In elementary school, I used to pretend that I was highly allergic to pears, and I would scream whenever they appeared on my cafeteria tray, scooped there by some unsuspecting lunchroom worker. I’m not allergic. I haven’t had a pear since I was 5 years old. Chances are, if I were to try one, I’d probably really like it. But hell no. I’m not touching a pear. I know that shit’s poison, and I’m not going anywhere near it.

Just like I wouldn’t cross the street to see Diane Arbus’s photography, but I’d wait in line for hours to see Hans Bellmer. Why? The reasons are stupid and irrational. But they’re huge, and the chasm that exists in my brain between the two cannot be breached no matter what. I want to like Arbus, I’ve tried to like her, but I just don’t… and I love love love Bellmer. Pick it apart and give me each individual reason It’s because Bellmer is all constructions It’s because Bellmer is about desire and I’ll just deny it. I can’t articulate it.

In the moment of total fandom, the Nerd is rendered the Passive Viewer. It’s an altered state, just like if I were high or in love or otherwise not thinking straight. I like it because I like it. And all the reasons why just don’t make any sense.

And that’s where the program fails. Art, like food, is just awfully complicated.

What’s more, when someone recommends to you some art that you “should” like and you don’t, you’re horribly offended. You think I’m the kind of person who likes John Chamberlain? My god, what do you think of me? Certain artists develop a kind of stink about them for certain individuals, just like if I met someone who fucking LOVED pears, I might think less of them. Again, totally irrational, and almost out of a Seinfeld episode. But so it is. And so if you recommend John Chamberlain to me, I’m going to think your whole system of recommendation is a total fucking sham, and I will laugh at you (because it’s easier and kinder than thinking that I might have revealed something about myself that would have tipped you off that I secretly love smashed things) and expect that you will of course know that Chamberlain isn’t cool among my personal little vision of art and therefore shouldn’t be recommended, ever.

This is the problem. It’s not “there’s no accounting for taste,” rather, it’s “there’s no accounting for taste mixed with half a dozen different things, including what teacher from grad school said what about your work and who hit on you when you were in your early 20s.” Art is complicated. And there’s absolutely no good reason I don’t like pears (except that they’re poison).

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Killings Alarm Young Iraqis, Including Gays – NYTimes.com

March 12, 2012 at 10:07 am (Uncategorized)

This story is unbelievably sad… it was making the rounds of the news channels as “the emo killings” (which, I doubt most people know what “emo” is) and it’s good to see it being spun more for what it really is: an attack on young people who question sexual and gender norms, and just try to be different.

 

Killings Alarm Young Iraqis, Including Gays – NYTimes.com.

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March 10, 2012 at 11:24 pm (Uncategorized)

Ok, I know Internet, I know… I have disappeared. And the only thing worse in internet-land than a blog left vacant to rot is a blog entry by an author apologizing for why they haven’t been updating. I know I know I know.

But really, the truth is that I haven’t had anything to say. I have a show up and it’s awesome and I’m all about it and really happy with it, but that leaves me with a blog-problem, which is: if I say all I want to say in my show (and I really feel like I did), what do I say in my blog? Blogs aren’t fun if they’re all Hey, check out my latest achievement! bullshit. I want to get back to writing again, just for the hell of it, not as promotion for some project I’m working on. And this is all gung-ho and super pious of me and I’ll probably lapse into self-promotion again very quickly, but for now I feel like writing for the sake of writing.

I’ve been totally pre-occupied the last few months. There’s school, there’s the show, but mostly my brain has been on being sick and being pretty scared about being sick. First there was pleurisy (basically: it feels like you’re being stabbed, constantly, with no break at all, thousands of times during the day, in your lungs) which lasted six weeks, then a bad cold, then a root canal. Ok, those last two are like nothing… except that I’m so over being sick, any sort of relatively minor malady just seems like a sick (ha ha!) joke. The best part is that the “cure” for all three is basically to sleep, to sleep endlessly, constantly – and I sleep a lot as it is, but now there’s doctors telling me I need to just sleep some more. That’s great: if you ever want to feel as though you’re not really living your life, just sleep for 15 hours a day. Days zoom by. You don’t know what day it is or what you’re supposed to do. You wake up and, is it morning? night? Your dreams seem as real as reality. It sucks. But in truth, it’s the only thing that makes pleurisy, germs, and tooth pain go away. So you have to do it.

And to make sure you do it, doctors give you drugs, and lots of them. You’re just supposed to take your drugs, and sleep. But wait – I’m a person who likes to obsessively make things, all the time, always, always being productive… yeah, whatever. Take your drugs and go to sleep.  You can lay in bed and think of a thousand projects you want to be doing, you just can’t do them. Blechh. But I learned something really interesting that I never would have gleaned just from watching a million episodes of Intervention: you build up a tolerance for prescription drugs really, really quick. Like, way quicker than you should. If I drink two glasses of wine a night for a week, at the end of the week, I’m still feeling pretty buzzed from drinking those two glasses. Maybe after a month, I can move up to 2 1/2 glasses… maybe. But if I take one Vicodin a night for *two nights*… it doesn’t work anymore. The only thing that works in legit cutting the pain is doubling up on the Vicodin. And then, one assumes, doubling up after that. And, well, fuck that.

I told my therapist the other week, Come on, I’m not adding “drug addict” to my resume. So I stopped the pain killers right away in both cases, and just toughed it out. There were times when the pain in my lungs was so bad I would just force my eyes shut and sing my favorite songs in my head, over and over, til I fell asleep and didn’t feel it anymore; or when my tooth pain was so bad I nearly vomited. Whatever. Just have to get through it. I’m almost at the tail end, I hope.

In the midst of it, I thought a lot about Morphine – probably because of the connection to the drugs I could have been taking, and probably because they’re an amazing band that not enough people know about these days. (I miss my students stalking me; that’s part of why I’m restarting the blog. May as well fill their heads with good music.) At the intersection of “so good it’s bad” and “just so fucking good it hurts all over” is Morphine:

I’ve been listening to them a lot while I make crafts. I’m too preoccupied with the show and too much in pain with my teeth to really make art. And yet, I have to make something, so I am (baskets, little houses), and keeping myself distracted. Morphine would no doubt hate this if that guy Mark were still alive, and I have a weird personal connection with the band that sort of haunts me every time I listen to them and I always picture him looking down on me from heaven. So it’s been a little like having someone disapprove of everything you do while you do it, while you listen to them to keep your mind of the searing pain you’re having. It’s sort of perfect for me, really.

What the hell am I doing? I’m not really sure. But hey, at least I’m blogging again.

 

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