Thursday, August 26, 2010

I've moved....

Hey ya'll; decided to head over to tumblr, namely so that I can more easily follow friends and post videos. Head to Mental Yoga if you are still masochistic enough to listen to my blathering. I've imported my old posts from here into that new blog. xo

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The N-Spot: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus

In her provocative anti-war tract Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf again and again invokes a horrific wartime newspaper photograph, manipulating (to good purpose, mind you) the delicate sensibilities of her readership. However, as she reminds us, the figure responsible for the pictured atrocities—this shadowy, gargantuan figure we might call ‘Tyrant’ or ‘Dictator’—cannot be wholly disavowed by members of ‘respectable society.’ The ‘Tyrant’ is not entirely other to those capable of ‘identifying’ him, as such. Indeed, for Woolf the photograph itself “suggests a connection…that the public and private worlds are inseparably connected; that the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and servilities of the other…It suggests that we cannot dissociate ourselves from that figure but are ourselves that figure.” The division of parts, the distinction between the oppressor and the oppressed, the good and the bad cop, dissolves under pressure; such lucid myths cannot hold.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus seems to me to provocatively prefigure this sentiment. For, despite your—or my—expectations, Shelley’s Frankenstein is no drive-in monster movie. Dismiss visions of rectangular greenish skulls, inconvenient steel bolts, and incomprehensible low-throated grunts. There is a dash of suspense here; a spine-shiver or three there; but the tale is horrifying more pointedly in the way that campfire stories chill the childlike sense of wonder we persistently retain. In fact, the story evidently originated in a scene rather like that, around the eerie glow of the campfire, though I suppose most of us cannot boast winning three-legged races or battles for the top bunk against Percy Shelley or Lord Byron.

The body count is relatively high for such a highbrow novel, but the chief terror of this novel is its indictment of an ambitious, seemingly charmed intellectual who presumes to play god. Frankenstein (Victor, the creator; the monster has no name) believes he has discovered an antidote to the usual cycles of life—birth and death—or at least unearthed paths that obviate the conventional route humans trek along. When the creature that emerges from his unethical (or at least blasphemous, if you go in for that sort of thing—and I don’t) experimentation turns out to be visually repulsive, Frankenstein abandons him to the cruelties of the human world and subsequently expects his own life to resume its usual motions. Indeed, it is this conflict that tends to be left unmentioned when people speak of Frankenstein—or at the least, it was a tension in the novel that I was more or less unprepared for (particularly seeing as I consider myself a fairly well-informed ‘literary’ type).

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Aural-gasm: Scissor Sisters, "Night Work"

I’m less of a music snob than you likely believe me to be; in fact, if you’d asked me two months ago, I probably would have confused the Scissor Sisters with Le Tigre or some other hazily riot grrl band. On a whim I grabbed their first two albums, which quickly became my personal soundtrack as I danced around my apartment, packed it up, moved to my new one, stomped through the streets of Cambridge, sat in coffeeshops around Harvard Square tapping my foot wildly, &co&co. It was as if I’d returned to my old haunt—The Wave, in Norfolk, and found myself woozy and suddenly dancing on stage. Fortunately, the sheer fun of listening to the band dispelled the melancholy of homesickness, and I eagerly anticipated their new one—enter Night Work. Whether you’ve never heard of them—or you have—or you hate them—or you hate music on principle—you should feel obligated to allow this album at least two listens, and come to the revelation that no other album will as perfectly slide into the discomforting heat and ennui of this summer.

Imagine your favorite dance-band revisiting Footloose, Dirty Dancing, and Flashdance, tossing in a stash of poppers and meth, twisting it with a healthy dose of anonymous semen, and finally emerging from that skeezy back-alley to keep on dancing. This is, without question, a rather naughty album; one to dance to, certainly, but more importantly, one to fuck to. It’s got the energy and the Velveeta-drip of the 80s but brings with it the tainted despair of our post-romance, post-social, post-internet age. The album runneth over with runaways, hookers, “sexual gladiators” (as Ian McKellen so wisely says on the album’s final track), tweakers, dirty dancers, terrifyingly deluded stalkers, and lovers who will almost certainly never see one another again (or if they do, say on the T for instance, they’ll studiously avoid one another’s eyes and continue to cruise the other passengers).

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I finally finally did it. Yesterday, my little sister & I went up to the Red Lotus parlor in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, & became tramp-stamp-sistas-4-LYF. Well actually, my sister got her tatt between her shoulderblades, but it'sh official: I'm a tramp, & I now have the stamp on my lower back to show for it.

"Nolite te bastardes carborundorum." Or, "Don't let the bastards grind you down." It's from The Handmaid's Tale, & I'm happy to give the full story sometime, though not feeling like ruining the pleasure of storytelling on here.

Actually, it wasn't nearly as painful as expected. More an annoying sensation which infrequently blossomed into brief & pointed torture. It hurt most around the spine & by the time she hit the right side, I was more or less accustomed to the feeling & got through the rest easily. Oddly enough, I might have caught the tattoo bug--as in, I think I'd like another at some point. Maybe a design around this one or another altogether.

My mom said to my sister that men wouldn't want her if she got more than one tattoo. Hopefully I'll have the pleasure of hearing the same advice before I head back to Boston--ha.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Thoughts on SATC2

So I have a confession: I've never been a tremendous Sex & the City shipper. I'd catch the (tragically censored) reruns on TBS; once in a while I'd watch it on DVD with friends (which was always better, with the abundance of hot male ass), but I never stuck with it, & so missed the end of the series & the first movie. But, you know, I can name the gals; I can generally follow the plot even if I'm coming into the middle of a storyline; but let's just say this movie was on my unconscious never-to-be-seen list. ANYWAY, ran into my fabulous roomie on the way home from the T last night; we grabbed a drink & a smoke, & she ended up asking me to see it with her (& with sister/sister's fiance). Since I only had the joy of apartment hunting & syllabus revisions ahead of me, I emptied a water bottle, filled it with white wine, grabbed my smokes, & we hauled ass to the theater.

Cutting to the chase...if you've ever wondered why multitudes of people around the globe find Americans so terribly repellent, just see the cultural icons that are most strongly identified with the US. Watch SATC 2 & tumble into 2.5 hours (MY GOD WHY WAS IT SO LONG?) of the most repulsively indulgent, extravagant, decadent, consumerist escapism of your life. The characters are so far removed from reality that you feel almost as if you're watching slightly different blowup dolls moan & groan about their phenomenally challenging lives. Everything is shimmering & polished; the fucking film opens with My Big Fat Gay Wedding (a contrived relationship, to boot, which I won't spoil here), replete with LIIIIIZZZZAAAAAA cameo (also, I don't care what people have been saying; Liza BUTCHERS "Single Ladies"--it was embarrassing to watch) & the most ridiculous displays of wealth you could ever imagine.

The show of course always adorned the ladies with glamorous wardrobes & Park Avenue apartments &co&co, but the movie takes this decadence to an entirely other level. At one point Miranda & Charlotte raise a toast to "mothers without full-time nannies"--but the moment falls totally flat and suddenly you're disgusted by the film's inability to consider anyone that doesn't have more money than they know what to do with. OF COURSE we'll all jump on the opportunity to have FOUR private vehicles in the Middle East, even though we'd all fit in one & this is supposedly a "gals-getting-crazy-together-trip." OF COURSE we'll take advantage of private butlers--what amounts to personal (and orientalized) slaves. OF COURSE we're only going to wear couture the entire movie (except when we get out of the shower, & are draped in 40k towels).

Toss this atop the rampant racism in the film's portrayal of the Middle East (much elementary commentary on the wearing of the veil--with the four SATC gals realizing that they're SO liberated in the US), blatant displays of disrespect towards non-Western culture which are never *really* reconciled (except in an almost ludicrous literal un-veiling scene), and conflicts & resolutions that seem so generated as to have come from a fill-in-the-blank wordgame--and you've got one of the most disingenuous & pathetic examples of film I've seen in years.

The show had a sense of whimsy, joy, tongue-in-cheek awareness of the extravagance & escapist tendencies; the film took everything jubilant & wrung it out until the interactions between the characters felt forced, the travels & the clothes seemed disgusting instead of glamorous, & the jokes seemed dried up & dejected. The writing was atrocious, the acting was mostly pretty terrible (the one great moment of the film was when Miranda & Charlotte admit to one another that motherhood is tough), the shine was too glimmering, & all in all, the movie infuriated rather than titillated me. Two thumbs way down, my friends.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


So need a touch of advice. I've been throwing around an idea for some time now, which is to try and freelance tutor this summer. The thing is, I figured if I was going to go through with it, I'd like to do it in the way I want--and to avoid compromise. If I want to compromise, I'll just wait tables or take some other shit job. So essentially, my plan is to--basically--form a mini-version of the course that I'll be teaching in my grad program in a bit over a year. Which is to say, I'm designing a syllabus around texts I love and would be comfortable teaching--and the tutoring course (perhaps unlike the one I'll be doing at the school) will be about equal parts seminar discussion and composition training. I'm organizing it as a small group tutoring 'class'--perhaps capping it at 5 or 6 students--and then holding private tutoring hours one day a week (which would be how I would charge it comparably to private tutoring).

I've got a preliminary syllabus together, and basically, we'll meet two days a week for an hour and a half or two, discuss our texts, discuss some theory/criticism, and discuss the weekly responses they'll be working on. I'm thinking of doing a number of things to help with the papers--peer critique, various assignments (re: the responses) in terms of writing approach, one or two will be responses to the theory rather than the fiction, etc. Then in private sessions, I'll really nail down the specifics of their papers. It's a lot of work, I suppose, but ultimately only adds up to around 15-20 hours per week, so I think it's entirely manageable. They'll also do one short, formal paper, and one longer one (around 8-10 pgs) at the end.

Oh, I should say that I'm aiming this at rising college freshman & high school seniors thinking of applying to college. Basically, this is designed to aid in the transition between high school level reading/writing & college level work.

My questions: a) anyone done comp. tutoring before, with general advice? b) I was thinking of assigning Elements of Style alongside our fiction--think this will be helpful? The thing I worry about is that my writing & grammar & the like has always been very intuitive--I tend to be able to tell when something is off, but I don't know that that unconventional approach will be as useful in teaching. c) Should I/can I charge comparably to private tutoring. I was also considering charging it more like a summer course--a flat fee, rather than hourly. d) Anyone know good places to advertise this sort of thing? I figure craigslist might suffice & some fliers in local coffeeshops, etc. but maybe something a bit more legit would help my cause? e) Is this whole idea just totally moronic?

Advice much appreciate. And if you don't--in the words of Very Mary-Kate, "WHY is everyone pooping on my dreams???"

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Poem o'the Day: John Keats, "La Belle Dame Sans Merci"

I'm not well-versed in Romantic poetry, but I adore this poem & want to share it with ya'll.

La Belle Dame Sans Merci
John Keats


O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
alone and palely loitering?
The sedge is wither'd from the lake,
and no birds sing.


O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
so haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel's granary is full,
and the harvest's done.


I see a lily on thy brow,
with anguish moist and fever-dew;
and on thy cheek a fading rose
fast withereth too.


I met a lady in the meads,
full beautiful--a faery's child,
her hair was long, her foot was light,
and her eyes were wild.