Showing posts with label opinion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label opinion. Show all posts

happy vs. happiness

Happy has got to be the most prostituted word in modern society, and certainly in the blogosphere.

Happy is not the same as happiness, and there's all the difference in the world between the two. Happiness is an occasional, organic byproduct of living in sync with your values. It flows into and through you. You can't control its production or delivery. You just wake up and it's there, or turn a street corner and feel it grab you. It pulses in huge bursts or slow, steady waves, until it fades away again.

People search for happy all the time, sometimes desperately. They seek it out like a drug, a quick fix to get them through the day. Sources of happy are short-lived and almost always involve some form of external validation.

Happy is a thing people hunt, but happiness is a thing that finds them.

Some of us bloggers forget this difference - or we live in denial of it. For some of us, happy is the whole point. We treat it like a trophy, polishing it and placing it prominently in front of us. Then we can hide behind it, and use it as a shield to block criticism or uncomfortable truths. Look at my happy! Just try and get past it! We worry that if we don't prove our happy, we'll be laughed at, scorned, judged - or worst of all, pitied. So we parade our happy even at the risk of ridicule. Even at the cost of exhausting and alienating those around us. Because not everyone wants to march in our Happy Parade.

Not everyone comes right out and declares their happy. They're smart enough to know this is mawkish and unappetizing. More savvy and sophisticated bloggers underplay their happy hand. They play their happy cool, with a casually-worded caption and cute emoji on an Instagrammed photo of a beautiful day - or a beautiful child. Here the happy lies quietly in subtext, but don't be fooled. It screams just as loudly: I AM HAPPY.

But I'm gonna let you in on a little secret. We're not telling you. We're telling ourselves. Which is not to say that manufactured happy and genuine happiness never overlap; sometimes they do. But sometimes the happy is a placeholder for happiness, which never needs likes and rarely poses for photographs anyway.

It's all so bizarre, our fixation with finding and flaunting the happy. And to complicate matters, happy is a squirrelly, highly subjective concept. To one person it might mean extreme elation; to another, balance and inner peace. We all aim for different spots on that continuum. Some are satisfied by a sense of general well-being, and some lose their minds in pursuit of elusive ideals of financial wealth and personal power.

The fact is, the less you need to make you happy, the more powerful you are. If all it takes to get your happy is walking with a loved one on a sunny day, you're going to be able to fill your tank much more easily and frequently than someone who needs luxury vacations, or the envy of others.

And because the stakes are so high, we use happy against each other. We lord it over one another, secretly feeling glee when our enemies seem to lack it. The ultimate cut down is to declare someone unhappy (i.e., sad). It's such a hurtful thing to say because there is no more pitiable condition, particularly when it's on public display. We cluck our tongues and say Oh, she's clearly unhappy, and we feel smug and safe and uninfected when we do so, because emotional well-being is a form of wealth. True happiness is a currency of mental health but the temporary nature of happy adds up to pittance.

But we open our wallets and show off our happy hundreds, because they are so very easy to count, so attractive when spread wide in our hands.

taking a lonely: the uncensored inner monologue of a blogger in pursuit of cute vacation selfies

Oh my, who totally nailed her outfit today? WHO! Lightweight, linen blend sweater and cutoffs? LAKE LOOK ON FLEEK. Def gotta get a shot of this ensemble. Ooh, I know. I'll sit at the end of that dock down the road, the one with the picturesque faded planks. With the water in the background, it'll be perfect! Let me just grab my lipgloss. Oh and maybe a hair tie. Shit I should probably put on mascara too. Okay here we go!

(7-8 minutes of walking in 90 degree heat and 60% humidity later)

Phew, really is warm out today! I don't actually need this sweater. Like, at all. Just a quick shot then I'll take it off... Ah, here's the dock. Hm. I wonder whose it is. I doubt they'd care if I used it for a minute. Nah, I'm sure it's cool...



Oh wow, okay, so we're a little bit sleepy and dehydrated looking today huh? No worries, that's cool! Just gotta....angle it...a little bit....hmm. Well. Those crows feet really stand out in this sunshine, haha. Maybe...maybe just tilt it down...like...yes. Perfect. Now let's get the hell out of the heat.

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So help me god I'm not leaving here until I get a pic of me jumping into the water. They will literally revoke my blogger's license if I don't get this shot. Literally. Okay, just gotta set up my Joby on Bill's dock... Oh, heh, look at that. The guys that were cutting the neighbor's tree down this morning are back from lunch. I wonder if they can see m--yep. Okay. Hm. Really pretty day though. Shame to waste it. Might rain again and I'm running out of time. Fuck it. Not like they've never seen a woman repeatedly setting a self-timer and running to jump in the lake before...







What. The fuck. Why can I not get the timing right?? I'm jumping the gun on every shot, damn it. Okay okay, I got this. Just have to wait until I hear the beeeeep....aaaaandd....

*SPLASH*

....SON OF A....

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Okay well if I can't get a good shot of me jumping in the water, what if I just do a selfie of me descending into it?? That could be cute! Like, Oh, there she goes, getting in the lake for a swim! What a pretty scene! The mountain behind, all peaceful and--well after this boat passes by, I mean. And this one...





Alrighty let's see what we got. Yikes it's bright out here. Hard to see the screen. Carrying my phone around the corner into the shade after every take is really getting old though. And those guys up there are really taking their sweet time hauling the tree away. YES HELLO I SEE YOU TOO GENTLEMEN. I KNOW I LOOK RIDICULOUS, STOP SNICKERING. Gah, the one where my hips look best there's a stupid hole in my hair and the one where my hair looks cute is too dark. Whatever, I'll post both!

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ZOMG pretty wooden stairs!



Cute! Wait, my feet are too straight...

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ZOMG pretty weathered dock!



Cute! Wait, my feet are too crooked...

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Oh god I almost forgot the feet-dangling-over-the-edge shot. Come on, Ellie! These are essential shots! Let's just sit right here, this is nice, okay, put our legs out and...



...Oh. Shit. The dock's too close to the water. My feet will be IN the water. NO WORRIES JUST STICK THEM OUT LIKE THEY'RE SWINGIN', ALL CAREFREE AND SHIT.

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Don't do it, Ellie. Do not take a contemplative selfie. They are fucking stupid and you will look like a tool. What are you--no--put the Joby back in your bag--PUT THE JOBY BACK IN THE--oh for fuck's sake.



BWAHAHAHA

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I really have to get a selfie with my actual face in it. Otherwise I look like that weirdo who only posts headless shots because she hates her face.



I hate my face.

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Okay, just gotta get one of my signature butt-portraits, so everyone knows I still like my ass even though I'm forty!



I hate my back.

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SERIOUS POST-SCRIPT

I'm poking fun at myself today, because I know how ridiculous selfies are. But the fact is, mini photo shoots like these take time and effort. And mine only contain me. Mine was the only time I wasted.

I cannot imagine putting small children through this sort of thing, multiple times a day, multiple days in a row. Dressing children not in what's most comfortable for them, but in what will garner the most likes on Instagram. Or sell the most sidebar ads. Posing them, positioning them, directing them like little models day after day after day.

Mommybloggers who do this - and you know who you are - you need to take a good, hard look at yourselves. Your kids are not props. Stop exhausting them with your need for validation, stop parading them around for strangers on the internet.

Seriously.

Just. Fucking. Stop.

in which I White Knight for a music festival

In a move 0% of those surveyed characterized as "a good idea", I went to Coachella for just one day - Sunday. I'm not often in the habit of wasting two thirds of a music festival ticket, but thanks to my own last minute indecisiveness, a resale glut on StubHub, some flaky Airbnb hosts, and a disinclination to engage with Craigslisters after dark, it was the best I could do to salvage my investment. I drove out, spent eight hours there, and drove home. Intense for sure, but not unbearable. And considering how much incredible music was plied into such a narrow time slot, worth the trip.

Coachella is everyone's favorite festival to hate on, and understandably so. It's expensive, heavily corporate, and has a terrible reputation for superficiality. Fashion has become such an integral part of Coachella culture that it seems to garner just as much attention as the performances themselves. When I saw this photo on The Atlantic, I cringed. A pack of rich, skinny white women striding in imperial lockstep across the field, outfitted in head-to-toe Bohemian Muse™, refusing to break the fourth wall and even acknowledge the photographer (kneeling in apparent fealty) before them. Looking at it tells you absolutely nothing about the festival. It's images like this that scare otherwise enthusiastic live music fans away from Coachella. Hell, it briefly scared me, before I tore my eyes from Alessandra and Co's cheekbones and noticed the reassuring averageness of most everyone else in the photo.

Coachella's excess is undeniable. But what I've experienced in the last three years is that those corporate dollars buy a lot of production value. The festival truly delivers in terms of spectacle, talent, visual and audio design. Also in terms of cleanliness, accessibility, and organization, which are no small considerations when you're exhausted, overheated, dehydrated, and on day three of self-abuse. I for one am happy to pay a little more for a ticket if it means substantially shorter bathroom lines, easier to navigate grounds and exits, less trash, and more shade structures. And the fashion thing? Yes, it can be tiresome. But it's hardly fair to crucify Coachella for glorifying style when the flower children of festivals past are to this day admired as, well, Bohemian muses. Personally, I inwardly snicker when I see girls sweating under the weight of clingy crochet tops and leather fringe bags, dancing stiffly in heeled boots lest they dislodge their headpieces. And if those paper dolls want to blow $7k on a "Safari" tent vs. taking an actual safari, more LOLs for the hoi polloi. (Though I'd happily take their money and their cheekbones.)

Your social media feeds don't lie. Yes, some people at Coachella really look and act like that. And unless you check out the Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, etc. coverage of the festival's raison d'etre, those obnoxious selfies are probably your sole impressions of Coachella.

As a festival lover, this makes me sad.

Coachella could certainly use some tweaking, by everyone from organizers down to attendees. Skip the obnoxious publicity stunts and set up some truly noteworthy reunions and surprise appearances. Kill the over-the-top lodging packages, which attract scenesters and spoiled trust fundies. Stop making it about the clothes and satellite parties.

These failings notwithstanding, however, Coachella is an incredible experience. Seventy-two hours of pure potential: to bond, to explore (within and without), to be surprised, to feel and love and listen intently. This is what every music festival offers - even one whose hype has outpaced its maturation.

The Atlantic photographer who focused on the Coachella Heathers and blurred out everything else got it exactly backwards. If he'd stepped back and taken a wider shot you would have seen, albeit mixed in with the occasional douchebag, thousands of everyday people, concerned with much better things than matching outfits. I know because I notice them. Especially when I'm alone. I see tiny stories unfold, all day long. Some I'm even a part of. And I'll tell you a few, though they might well seem pedestrian and schmoopy. But first, you know what you have to do. That's right. You have to slog through Ellie's Carefully Curated Selection of 'Same Shit, Different Year' Festival Photos, because that is the tradition around here. Now look, goddamnit, LOOK AT THE PRETTY COLORS.

You have to admit that on the scale of obnoxious to cute, a circle of kids with their heads together for a group selfie is definitely at the cuter end of the scale. 


Look at these disgusting, multi-color, multi-size people, milling about all normally and shit. It's like they don't even care that The Atlantic needs clicks.


Are you frightened? It's okay if you are. I was. And I was completely sober. Did I mention it moves?


I heard this variously described as "the earth mover statue", "the machine from Aliens", and "the crane thing." Whatever it was, at least it stayed put.


They keep shoving the Do Lab further and further to the fringes of the festival. At this rate it'll be in Riverside by 2020.


"Hey Ellie, did you finally ride the Ferris Wheel, like you've been promising you would for forever?" "What's that? Oh hey look over there, free popsicles!"


I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that no one could possibly be so messed up at a festival such that alternately seeing a butterfly and a caterpillar could, like, totally screw with their mind and trip them the eff out. You go right on believing that. 

I was glad to see the Corporate Headquarters hippos back this year; they are a hoot. Here's an interview with the people who do it. 


Instagram's hardest working balloons right here, folks.


I rarely insist on being close up but for my first time seeing Ryan Adams? Hells yes.


I think that's the helicopter they used to airlift Drake to the hospital after Madonna sucked out his trachea. 


Not pictured: a mercifully cool breeze.


They ain't pretty, but they is comfy!


Sahara Tent, EDM headquarters of Coachella


"Okay, everybody, since it's almost 4/20 we're gonna put a spotlight on each of the weed smokers in the audience! Remember, it's not paranoia if they're really out to get you!"


Rainbow. Bright.









You made it! You made it through my shitty, indiscernable-from-all-the-others festival photos. Your reward? A recap of the 2/3 of a day I spent there. Next post, though, because the hour is late, recovery is incomplete, and your Festress will be much more apt to produce purple prose vivid description and adjective abuse imagery without foto filler distracting her.

slightly defensive Q & A drug disclaimery thing

Festival season approacheth, which means pretty soon I'll be referencing capsules and powder and fungus, oh my! I figured it would be a good idea to put up a post I can link to, containing an overview of All Things Drug. At some point I'll move it to its own page, but for now, new content!

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You blog openly about drug use. Do you think this makes you cool or something? Because, uh, you are definitely not cool.

First of all, *clears throat pedantically* "drug" is an umbrella term encompassing a vast array of both prescription and recreational drugs, some of which I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. AND YEAH, I KNOW I'M NOT COOL. THANKS. I don't talk about drug use because I think it makes me cool. I talk about it because I imagine it's more interesting than what I ate for breakfast, or what I did at the gym, or what's in my purse. I write first and foremost for my own enjoyment but I try to be entertaining, too.

How often do you use MDMA?

Four or five times a year, at festivals and the occasional local electronic music show.

How often do you use psilocybin (magic mushrooms)?

Ten or twelve times a year, at festivals, shows, or on the occasional weekend night. A standard dose of mushrooms has the same effect on me as a few drinks; I'm giggly, chatty, happy, relaxed. There's no comedown with shrooms, so it doesn't "cost" as much to take, physically and emotionally speaking, as MDMA.

How often do you smoke pot?

Next to never. Not really a fan. I hate the sluggish feeling and I get crazy paranoid. If I do it, it has to be around close friends that I feel totally comfortable with. Even then, I just feel useless and stupid.

Have you ever accidentally given Chaucer a contact high and spent ten minutes following him in circles around a light pole at 3am, stoned out of your mind, while he frantically searched for an invisible squirrel, then come back upstairs to somehow end up helplessly watching a YouTube video of a forest wedding where all the bridesmaids were dressed as fairies and all the groomsmen were dressed as elves?

....maybe.

Is that mildly terrifying experience partially why you hate pot?

....maybe.

Do you take any other drugs?

Nope. I tried GHB once and was sick as a dog. Never again. I've never tried cocaine or heroin or meth and I never would, not in a million years.

Come on...nothing else?

Okay well at some point I will definitely try LSD. I've been wanting to for ages but just haven't found the right time.

What do you want to say about MDMA?

Only that if you're going to use it, please educate yourself beforehand. DanceSafe is a fantastic, extremely thorough resource and a great place to start.

Are you condoning drug use?

No, I'm condoning education. Not only does preaching abstinence not work, it does a grave disservice to those it's intended to protect, by withholding information those people need to make good decisions under potentially dangerous circumstances. Just like sex. People are going to do it, and there's no use pretending otherwise. May as well empower them with what they need to know to be safe.

What do you want to say about psilocybin?

Well, for starters, this:

In 2006, the United States government funded a randomized and double-blinded study by Johns Hopkins University which studied the spiritual effects of psilocybin in particular. That is, they did not use mushrooms specifically (in fact, each individual mushroom piece can vary widely in psilocybin and psilocin content). The study involved 36 college-educated adults (average age of 46) who had never tried psilocybin nor had a history of drug use, and who had religious or spiritual interests. The participants were closely observed for eight-hour intervals in a laboratory while under the influence of psilocybin. 
One-third of the participants reported the experience was the single most spiritually significant moment of their lives, and more than two-thirds reported it was among the top five most spiritually significant experiences. Two months after the study, 79% of the participants reported increased well-being or satisfaction; friends, relatives, and associates confirmed this. They also reported anxiety and depression symptoms to be decreased or completely gone. Fourteen months after the study, 64% of participants said they still experienced an increase in well-being or life satisfaction.  
source

Also this:

Taking magic mushrooms (psilocybin) can have a lasting change on the individual's personality, making them more open about their feelings and the way they perceive things, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA, wrote in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. The authors explained that those who had mystic experiences while on psilocybin were more likely to subsequently exhibit certain personality changes, making them more forthcoming about their feelings, becoming more focused on being creative, curious, and appreciative about artistic things. 
source

It's actually difficult for me to talk about my shroom experiences because they are so precious to me. I don't like opening them up to mockery. One more quote to explain:

"...it is simply impossible to communicate the profundity (or seeming profundity) of psychedelic states to those who have never experienced them. Indeed, it is even difficult to remind oneself of the power of these states once they have passed." - Sam Harris

Have you ever had a bad MDMA experience? 

I've had some exceptionally difficult comedowns from MDMA, which I now know were exacerbated by redosing. The serotonin depletion is difficult under the best of circumstances; for those who suffer from depression, it can be excruciating. (Feelings of hopelessness, despair, etc.) I am super irritable and moody after taking MDMA and prefer to interact with others as little as possible. I've also jacked my jaw up something terrible from grinding my teeth. All of this sounds horrible I know, but that's the tradeoff on MDMA. At the risk of sounding glib, they call it ecstasy for a reason, and that reason is why I'm willing to cope with the negative after effects.

Have you ever had a bad psilocybin experience? 

At Coachella 2014 I overdid it on the last morning of the festival. I was exhausted, overheated, dehydrated, and undernourished. I took some shrooms on the shuttle ride to the fest and puked them up the second I got off the bus. Brutal. But that's less a reflection on the drug than on my state of being.

Once or twice I've gone a little "dark" on shrooms (thinking negatively), but it didn't last long and my trips have always ended on a high note.

Aren't you a little old to be doing this stuff?

Probably! I'm also probably too old to go to EDM shows, too old to wear graphic tank tops, too old to take half-naked selfies, and too old to eat rocket pop sorbet (stuff tastes EXACTLY like a bomb pop) for dinner. And yet here I am, doing all of those things, and neither Christ on high nor my conscience has all that much to say about it.

I hesitate to drop a hot-button word like childfree, but that's largely what it comes down to. I'm responsible to and for myself (and to some degree my partner), and that's it. No babysitter curfew, no kid to embarrass with my youthful antics, and no one's welfare tied to my own. So my being past the age when most people are done experimenting with drugs doesn't really matter, since the typical trappings of my age group (i.e., children) don't apply. "Too old" might sting when hurled from the right angle, but that's mostly because aging itself stings. The fact is, "too old" is often a lifestyle-dependent condemnation.

I'm actually glad I didn't discover drugs at a younger age. I didn't try ecstasy until I was 36 years old. That's just three years ago. I didn't try psilocybin until I was 37. Coming to these experiences later means not only am I more emotionally equipped to handle them, I'm also in a better position to appreciate what they've done for me. (I'm much more thoughtful and introspective than I was ten, fifteen years ago.)

Is there a handy resource I can consult for a good reflection of your opinions on drug use?

SO GLAD YOU ASKED. Sam Harris's essay Drugs and The Meaning of Life, quoted briefly above, gives an excellent overview of psychotropics, and I'm pretty much on board with everything he has to say about them.

I don't think you've drawn enough on Sam Harris for this post. Can you please quote him again?

Love to! From the first chapter of his latest book, Waking Up, on using MDMA for the first time:

It would not be too strong to say that I felt sane for the first time in my life. And yet the change in my consciousness seemed entirely straightforward. I was simply talking to my friend—about what, I don’t recall—and realized that I had ceased to be concerned about myself. I was no longer anxious, self-critical, guarded by irony, in competition, avoiding embarrassment, ruminating about the past and future, or making any other gesture of thought or attention that separated me from him. I was no longer watching myself through another person’s eyes. 
And then came the insight that irrevocably transformed my sense of how good human life could be. I was feeling boundless love for one of my best friends, and I suddenly realized that if a stranger had walked through the door at that moment, he or she would have been fully included in this love. Love was at bottom impersonal—and deeper than any personal history could justify. Indeed, a transactional form of love—I love you because…—now made no sense at all.

Exactly how many days left until Bonnaroo?




weekend snippets

This is Friday afternoon's view from the sushi restaurant and bar on the 21st floor of a building a few blocks from where I live:

It took me a while to make it up to Takami, but I've been twice now, and I can attest to the foolishness of that delay. The place is great. Food's wonderful (perfect, bite-size crispy rice with tuna, melt-in-yer-mouth yellowtail, and their garlic edamame is like crack) and as you can see there's a pretty view of downtown from the deck.

But what really made those visits was going with New Neighbor Friend, who is like royalty up there. It's her Cheers, but writ tiny. Like, seven barstools tiny. NNF, incidentally, is pretty bomb-awesome. We've only hung out a few times so far but all signs point to her having a big, fat, open heart and lots of warmth for the people in her life. It's not hard to see why they literally cheer when she walks in. So yeah, Takami is kinda next level in her company, but the bartenders, regardless, are some of the nicest I've met ever, never mind in LA. Super friendly, engaging crew up there, A-plus, would and will return. Should you make it up there yourself, ask R.C. to make you a time and place shot. Fun, fun.

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This is what Friday night looks like, when you drunkenly challenge your girl Kerrbear to a height-off, because for some reason you've been under the impression you're taller than her, when no, dumbass, you're clearly not:



And if the number of drinks on the table don't explain whatever it is her husband and I are doing in the pic above, well then I don't know. It looks like Christmas, but it's just La Cita. There are dive bars in DTLA and then there are dive bars. La Cita is the latter. And that's not a knock! I love the place. Spacious, dimly-lit patio and a trashtastic, sweaty dance floor in front of a stage that actually gets some pretty good acts. I saw a band called Psychic Friend there years ago that played this catchy-as-heck track:



The four of us had another long night culminating in a trip back to Pacific Dining Car, which gets my vote for Place Most Likely To Be Hiding Hungry, Cheating Celebrities, though I am usually too busy getting my Huevos Rancheros on to thoroughly investigate. If you go, ask to sit in the bar area (it's a little bit brighter, but much cozier).





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This is Saturday afternoon's lookup from the area beside the library, behind the Hilton, brought to you by the dog who for some reason loves to wander around back there:






Yeah, that guy. There's hardly anyone up there on weekdays and weekends it's a ghost town. So that long stretch of open space is a good place to practice sit-stay-wait-come!, which, as you can see, his Winkiness has down. We are still working on no-no-don't-eat-the-pizza-crust-someone-left-on-the-ground.

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This is McConnell's Fine Ice Cream in Grand Central Market, where I stopped Saturday night to pick up a pint of Salted Caramel Chip for dinner at Kross's:

The pint cost nine dollars. It was my first taste of McConnell's, where the line tends to be a discouraging several dozen people long. Now I understand both the cost and the line. If I was high I would probably pay $18. Maybe even $25. The stuff is fucking unreal.

Kross grilled burgers and corn on the roof while I supervised (read: played with the cats) and drank cherry cider. I'm at the stage where every day I'm expecting word that they're outtie, finally heading to SF. It's the awfullest torture, waiting for the axe to fall - which it will, sooner than later. In the meantime I'm just trying to feel grateful for what I get, and what I've gotten. Freakin' love those two to bits.

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This is a stretch of abandoned bar at Peking Tavern, on Sunday night:

We caught some of The Oscars from a cozy booth against the wall, where I made an exception of my No Same Side Sitting (barf) rule, because Academy Awards. Rather Terence caught some which he helpfully narrated, because I am blind as shit. Though I did a right good job of locating the dumplings on the table!

Then had him take a selfie of us but hid my face, because logic.


Awards shows are not really my bag. Artists and performers of all genres certainly deserve recognition from their peers, but the excess and superficiality and hype kind of skeeve me out. Plus all I can think of when I see some young actress accepting an award is all the other ingenues everyone OMGLOVED but didn't think much about once Hollywood had chewed them up and spit them out. Also, this Twitter exchange between Andy Richter and Danny Zuker is pure win:






























I was happy Eddie Redmayne won, though. 

yet another fiery hot take on 50 shades

Every news outlet and its parent company is publishing the same piece, saying the same thing: 50 Shades of Grey isn't erotica; it's abuse. And I agree, because it's obvious (and here I'm referring to the book) that Anastasia isn't a true submissive. She's not into it. She's more scared than titillated. She sets limits which Christian fails to honor. All of this runs completely contrary to everything BDSM represents, and everything that makes it awesome.

When 50 Shades drifted onto my radar sometime in the last couple of years, I felt the same tingle of annoyance - of irrational possessiveness - I get when an unknown band I love blows up. Oh great. Secret's out. And yes, all the LOLs in the world at the idea that BDSM could be my, or anyone's, secret. But there you have it.

What bothered me was the fear that 50 Shades, the most widely-selling book of its kind in recent memory, had gotten it terribly wrong, where "it" was a subject I cared about. The fear that, in the wrong hands (and minds), that subject was going to be mishandled, and thus misrepresented to the millions of people suddenly exposed to it. Or, alternatively, that it would be so watered down as to be unpalatably boring. Turns out it was a little from column A and a little from column B. (Columns D and s were unavailable to comment; they were too busy having fun in much better books.)

So I am relieved by 50's embarrassing critical reception. Sure, it's sold and sold and sold. But virtually every reviewer, professional and amateur, is in agreement: the writing is wretched. And wretched writing doesn't move people, in good ways or bad. The outcry against (an inaccurate portrayal of) true BDSM that I feared never materialized, and instead people are crying out against what they've correctly identified as abuse. They are also seeing 50 Shades the literary endeavor clearly for what it is: pap. I also don't imagine that hordes of young lovers are flocking to their local Pleasure Chest to stock up on toys. Not that I would disapprove if they did. I am in great favor of such pursuits, every last consensual kink of them. But I'd hate for anyone's curiosity to be rooted in the sort of misguided, misogynist ideas put forth so ineloquently in 50 Shades. The only bad kink is nonconsensual kink, and that's exactly the kind E.L. James wrote. But don't take my word for it; she says so herself.

I started writing with the idea: when you meet someone who is into bdsm (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism, red.) and you are not up for it, what will happen? 

(Emphasis mine.)

There are a couple of fantastic, extremely thorough take-downs of 50 Shades on the web that, if you're interested, are smart, funny, and will satisfactorily quell any fears you have about missing out on something hot. Because I was definitely afraid I was missing out on something hot. Thankfully, people more patient than I went ahead and determined that no, we are not missing out on a damn thing. (Not the least because 50 Shades stops short, IMHO, of anything much further beyond Vanilla+.)

The Pervocracy looks at 50 Shades from the perspective of an active, feminist member of the BDSM community, and nails it again and again:

One of the many nasty things about this book is that it acknowledges that kinky women exist, but much like blonde women, they blend into a homogenous morass of not-quite-humanity. [Christian Grey]'s past submissives don't have any names or distinguishing features, they're just "the fifteen," and Ana and [Christian] always talk about them like there's something cheap and dirty about the fact that they might've actually enjoyed playing with him.

Jenny Trout has authored several romance novels herself; I have a feeling that what a lot of people were looking for would be much better found in her books. An excerpt from her take on 50 Shades:

Now, let’s move on to how fucked up it is that Christian is grossed out by the fact that Hyde likes rough sex. I get it, he’s supposed to be thinking, “My god, is that how I’ve been treating Ana? I’m such a fool! Tender and quiet lovemaking with a minimum of bodily contact from now on!” But it’s so, so stupid. The thing that makes Jack Hyde evil isn’t that he likes rough sex. It’s that he likes rough sex specifically to humiliate and manipulate women into doing what he wants them to do for him, without caring about obtaining enthusiastic consent, and that’s nothing like what Christian…

For the record, I would (maybe) include links to some of the good BDSM writing I cut my teeth on oh so many years ago. Alas, Usenet is no more, and the Altnet I frequented bears little resemblance to its modern iteration. There is one remaining extant web source of material that young Ellie spent many a night procrastinating frosh term papers on...but if you want to know what it is, you'll have to email me to ask, muahaha. I'll share, but first you've got to admit you're curious...

And with that I will shut up about the thing I wish everyone else would shut up about, too.

What If, or In Defense of Snorkeling

There may come a day when Terence will turn to me and say Remember when you made me watch that movie about the time-traveling hermaphrodite who had sex with herself and gave birth to a baby...that was actually her? And I'll have to reply Yep. Yep I do. Because that was last night's activity.

As a dues-paying, voting member of SAG-Aftra, Terence gets free screeners of the award-nominated films. Super cool perk that's turned our living room into a regular AMC lately. No Horrible Bosses 2, either. Just compelling, thought provoking, heartstring-tugging dramas.

The stuff, in other words, that I don't like as much as time-traveling, self-impregnating hermaphrodites.

All movies are predicated upon a What If of some kind, but I like my What Ifs exotic. Big, outlandish, fantastical What Ifs that are so far removed from the realm of reality that my (admittedly sensitive, though gradually toughening) triggers remain safely out of reach. Give me science fiction. Action adventure. Horror. Give me post-apocalyptic chaos, ghosts, outer space, super powers, aliens, time travel. Alternate universes I can visit without cutting too close to anywhere near home. Give me something I have to imagine, because I've never gone through it. Family dysfunction? No thanks. Divorce? I'll pass. Abuse, disease, death and grief? Chaucer and I are going for a walk.

Spare me from having to vicariously relive, even obliquely, anything familiarly painful. Show me the never-known instead. Because when I unplug in front of the screen, I want to forget the kind of stuff that has too much real estate in my brain already. I want to be taken out of myself. Not shown a mirror, however distorted. Bottom line: the greater the possibility some element of a drama's plot has happened - or could happen - to me, the less interested I am in watching it.

This makes me sound like a dispassionate, maladjusted robot. I'm not, and I'd be -- wait hang on, let me adjust this dial on my neck -- I'd be more embarrassed of my cinema dramaphobia if I didn't consider it compensated, in the interest of culture and Deep Thinking, by the novels I read. Oh yeah and then there are all the feels of daily life. Got plenty of those. Doing okay with them. As well as the next person, anyway, I think.

But movies can be tricky little bastards. Some get to you organically, but others will manipulate the hell out of you. Push you to places that, if it's all the same, you'd rather not be pushed to for a tidy one hour, thirty minutes before being left bewildered, when the reel runs out, by a heartful and a headful of WHOA. WAIT. WHAT. WHOA.

It's the difference between scuba diving and snorkeling. You might see some dazzling, dangerous, indescribable things if you're willing to go deep and risk drowning. Or being eaten alive by sharks. Or you can float closer to the surface, still get a decent show, and be much safer.

---

If you've got time for a good What If this weekend, here are a few of my recent(ish) favorites:

Edge of Tomorrow: Live. Die. Repeat.
Moon
The Hunter (a more conventional, closer-to-Earth drama, but the animal lover in me was enchanted; the final fifteen minutes of this film are stunning)
Oculus
Europa Report
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Road

And hey it's Friday! Would you like a pretty song to ease you into the weekend? 



Have a good one, guys.

okay I guess I'm going there after all

Quickly want to share an excerpt from the best thing I've read yet about the attack in Paris: The Blame For the Charlie Hebdo Murders. Now, I try to be more or less apolitical with my blog ever since I realized, with the help of some constructive criticism, that I have a problem with tone where religion is concerned. But twelve people are dead and it's difficult for me to sit on my hands when more influential, further-reaching internet pundits are victim blaming and spouting off ignorant shit about tolerance and moderation and the "sacredness" of "rich traditions".

So in the interest of doing what little I can to counter-disseminate:

The murders today in Paris are not a result of France’s failure to assimilate two generations of Muslim immigrants from its former colonies. They’re not about French military action against the Islamic State in the Middle East, or the American invasion of Iraq before that. They’re not part of some general wave of nihilistic violence in the economically depressed, socially atomized, morally hollow West—the Paris version of Newtown or Oslo. Least of all should they be “understood” as reactions to disrespect for religion on the part of irresponsible cartoonists. 
They are only the latest blows delivered by an ideology that has sought to achieve power through terror for decades. It’s the same ideology that sent Salman Rushdie into hiding for a decade under a death sentence for writing a novel, then killed his Japanese translator and tried to kill his Italian translator and Norwegian publisher. The ideology that murdered three thousand people in the U.S. on September 11, 2001. The one that butchered Theo van Gogh in the streets of Amsterdam, in 2004, for making a film. The one that has brought mass rape and slaughter to the cities and deserts of Syria and Iraq. That massacred a hundred and thirty-two children and thirteen adults in a school in Peshawar last month. That regularly kills so many Nigerians, especially young ones, that hardly anyone pays attention. 
Because the ideology is the product of a major world religion, a lot of painstaking pretzel logic goes into trying to explain what the violence does, or doesn’t, have to do with Islam. Some well-meaning people tiptoe around the Islamic connection, claiming that the carnage has nothing to do with faith, or that Islam is a religion of peace, or that, at most, the violence represents a “distortion” of a great religion. (After suicide bombings in Baghdad, I grew used to hearing Iraqis say, “No Muslim would do this.”) Others want to lay the blame entirely on the theological content of Islam, as if other religions are more inherently peaceful—a notion belied by history as well as scripture. 
A religion is not just a set of texts but the living beliefs and practices of its adherents.

(emphasis mine) 

Thank you for reading. And thinking.

---

confidential to Kelle: Yeah you bet your phony ass this is in response to that ignoramus of a co-exploiter you call Dad. I know you read here, because you're too frantic of a whitewasher to not keep track of your detractors. I know your ex-fans read here, too, because my blog pops up as the number one search result for "Kelle Hampton criticism" - a distinction of which I'm proud and one backed up by the emails that trickle in, slowly but steadily, from those ex-fans.

While I have you: fuck you, for the disgustingness that is publicly monetizing your children's baths. You accepted money to post on the internet, for the uncontrolled consumption of thousands of strangers, intimate photos of your children. In the bath. LOOK AT YOUR LIFE. LOOK AT YOUR CHOICES. 

snow job

Sometimes after I finish a movie, I'll look to see what critics thought of it. I guess I'm hoping to see my opinion backed up by the experts (in those instances where I have a strong reaction, anyway). Sometimes I'm validated, but sometimes I'm baffled. Last night I was baffled. Snowpiercer's 95% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes baffles me.

If Snowpiercer were an addition problem, it would look like this:

                   Schindler's List
            The Hunger Games
                                    1984
    The Day After Tomorrow
               The Wizard of Oz
                  + Polar Express
  _____________________
                                  lolwut

Dystopic, post-apocalyptic movies are my absolute favorite, so I was already primed to like Snowpiercer. It's the story of a perpetually running train which circles a frozen Earth, containing the last surviving humans, strictly divided by socioeconomic class. Awesome, right? Oh and it stars Tilda Swinton. Even awesomer.

But Snowpiercer is dystopia plus camp, and that is a difficult combination to pull off. At moments I felt as jerked about by this movie as the train's inhabitants, zipping wildly around jagged mountain peaks with no control over their fate. Just when I'd accepted Snowpiercer's slapstick, eased into its cartoonish feel, it would suddenly bring me up short with some inexplicably disturbing concept or visual. Case in point: towards the end, the film's protagonist tells a story about the early days of the train, a time when the poor, starving passengers sequestered in the last car were so desperate for food that they fell to cannibalism. "You know what I hate about myself?" weeps Curtis. "That I know babies taste the best."

If you're going to drop a bomb like that on your audience, you'd better be sure you've steeled them for it. I was not steeled, and the line hit me like a snowball to the face. And not tlapa, either. Carpitla.

Another problem with Snowpiercer: it quickly kills off its most compelling characters (including Swinton's character, a loathsome toad of a woman she plays gloriously), then fills the gaps left behind with new ones that seem like they should be important, but aren't really. For instance, there are a number of fight scenes directed to emphasize the significance of some bad guy (repeated close ups of his face, etc.) but ultimately those characters don't add very much to the storyline. I was confused as to where my sympathies were meant to go. They certainly weren't drawn to Curtis, Snowpiercer's irritatingly reluctant savior who, when faced with the full truth of reality in the film's final scenes, crumbles like tlacringit (sorry, but that whole list is amazing).

Even the film's villainous mastermind, Wilford, the train's creator and dictator figure (played by Ed Harris), is disappointingly bland. He's less terrifying than smug and disaffected. His whatever attitude towards the horrors his creation has perpetuated was contagious, because by the end, I felt pretty damn whatever myself. Critics raved about Snowpiercer's set design, but its most important component, the exalted Eternal Engine of Wilford's front car, just looks like an oversized hamster wheel. It's as if the art department had exhausted its creativity somewhere between train's caboose and its lush middle section. Eh, fuck it. The audience'll get that it's a big deal.

In Snowpiercer's last scene, the train breaks up spectacularly, cars scattering like toys across blindingly white snowcaps. One of the final shots is that of a polar bear, gazing at the destruction with a dafuq? expression on his face. I imagine that for much of Snowpiercer, I looked a lot like that polar bear.

breaking news: people brag on the internet

That thing people do, where they are grossly ostentatious in showing wealth, with the express purpose of making others jealous? It has a name: invidious consumption.

Invidious consumption is defined as "the deliberate conspicuous consumption of goods and services intended to provoke the envy of other people, as a means of displaying the buyer's superior socio-economic status."

We all know this phenomenon exists. Thanks to the internet, we see it all the time. But if like me, you didn't realize there was a handy sociological term to denote it, well, now you know. And if like me, you find it exhausting to witness, think about how exhausting it is to be those people. To be constantly burdened by the need to prove something to others - to people they probably don't even like. People they've ex'ed out of their lives. Ex-husbands and ex-lovers and ex-friends.

I can't even imagine.

Oh wait, yeah I can. I can imagine, because there have been times in my life that I've done it myself - times when my financial security seemed like the only thing I had going for me. And yeah, it was exhausting. It is fucking exhausting to make choices based on deeply rooted hurt and anger. Oh yeah? You don't want me in your life anymore? Great. I'm gonna show you just how fucking amazing my life is without you in it. God, I am so much fucking happier now. Can you not see how FUCKING HAPPY I AM?? 

It's impossible to get through offline life without collecting cuts and hurts along the way. Painfully dissolved romances, abandoned friendships, misunderstandings and miscommunications. But bloggers and other live-online'ers (i.e., heavy users of social media) amass these cuts and hurts in full view of everyone they know (and a good deal they don't, the imagined judgment of whom is sometimes worse). Pride and ego - which despise pity - demand they show everyone that, not only have they survived, but they've gotten to the very top of the caterpillar pillar, bitches.

A public platform (such as the internet) + an inability to let go + insecurity = the perfect storm for invidious consumption.

Part of why I quit Instagram is that I recognize remnants of this behavior in myself, even though I have worked really hard, in the years since my divorce, to curb it. Not so much invidious consumption as "invidious happiness". One could argue that happiness is a form of emotional wealth, so in a way, it's the same net effect. I've got something you don't, person I dislike for X reason. Neener neener.

This is not to say my happiness hasn't been real, because I can say with gratitude that it is, even when it is undercut by my ever-present depression. But if it's easy to throw up a smiling snapshot on my blog sans context, sans any attempt at thoughtfully rounding out the bigger picture of my life (ups AND downs), on Instagram the whole fucking point is to blast the best moments and cut the sound on the worst.

The internet is a great place for sharing our lives with people we like. But it's also the perfect vehicle for showcasing those lives, like diamonds in Tiffany's window, to those we don't. And when we cease to examine our motives online, we cease to care about the difference. And that's not an internet anyone needs.

kinda though

A Pair Of Gross Oversimplifications 
(each containing a grain of truth)

1. Being stylish requires little more than having the patience to endlessly chase denim hemlines up and down, in and out, all while scrambling to pair them with "on-trend" shoes of the appropriate fucking heel height.

2. Everything I need to know about you, I know from how comfortable your dog's collar is. If you put your pet in a stiff, heavy leather collar because you think it looks better than something soft and pliable (such as nylon) - you are a terrible human being. 

tea: no cream, two sugars

I watched The Grand Budapest Hotel tonight, and I enjoyed it in a way I haven't enjoyed a Wes Anderson movie in a long, long time. It feels scandalous to admit, but the truth is, none of his subsequent films have charmed me nearly as much as Rushmore did. At least, not in the way they seem to charm everyone else.

It's actually been kind of lonely, this Anderson apathy of mine. I mean, you don't confess to something like that without garnering looks of shock, if not outright contempt. It's Wes Anderson, after all. He's a fucking genius, and the patron saint of indie film-loving creatives everywhere. How dare I.

Don't get me wrong. I really, really like his work. His stories are heartwarming and delightfully taut. The aesthetics of his set design and costume are utterly beguiling. Heck, I left Tenenbaums (and later, Moonrise Kingdom) wanting to redo my entire wardrobe in head-to-toe Anderson heroine chic. Natural fabrics to regulate my body temperature when adventuring! Muted brights to set off the glow of guarded optimism in my face! 

But watching his movies sometimes feels like eating a sleeve of Pepperidge Farm cookies. They are pure perfection, irresistible deliciousness...right up until the point that I've had too many and I have to shove them away, semi-disgusted. And just like the binge, no one can know about it. Because Anderson films are such lovingly appointed dollhouses that to criticize them is to be the bully who pooh poohs the playroom tea party. I don't wish to pooh pooh the tea party. It's a very lovely tea party, and I'm glad to have been invited. I'd just like my tea a mite stronger, please.

But back to Budapest. I haven't seen Anderson's complete works, but those I have, I personify thusly: Rushmore is the smart-alecky kid; Tenenbaums is the snarky graduate student; Life Aquatic is the eccentric uncle, and Moonrise Kingdom is the bookish teenager. These characterizations are meaningless, but they helped me figure out what Grand Budapest is, and why I liked it so much: it's the favored, playfully conspiring grandfather. The one I want all to myself for an afternoon of swapping tall tales.

Ironically, what I loved about Budapest is how it's both "so Anderson", and so not. All the usual themes are in place: the fight against injustice, innocence vs. experience, adolescent love, and the most interesting to me - the families we get vs. the ones we choose (the classmates of Rushmore, the boat crew of Life Aquatic, the scout troop of Moonrise Kingdom, the hotel staff of Budapest...). But it feels like Anderson is doing some things for the first time. Poking fun at himself, for one (my favorite instance of this being the hilariously campy degree to which the ski/sled scene action is sped up). And more significantly: getting his hands dirty. Really dirty, in fact.

There's violence in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Multiple murders and gruesome bodily dismemberment. Sure, it's funny - but darkly so. There's no on-screen sex, but sexuality is referenced frequently and unabashedly (there's even an allusion to prison rape!). The story is set against the backdrop of war.

There's a cat thrown out a window.

A cat. Thrown out a window.

Everything about it feels like Anderson, but evolved. More mature. More evenly balanced between light and dark, between creative abandon and directorial self-awareness. Even the Society of the Crossed Keys cameo montage feels less like a showy parade of celebrities (zomg! everyone wants to be in my movies!) and more like an acknowledging wink at an absurdly star-studded club (lol, everyone wants to be in my movies).

But you can't talk about what makes Budapest wonderful without talking about Ralph Fiennes's character, as conceived and as played. He's more fully fleshed out with imperfection and contradiction than any Anderson character I've yet to meet. In turns a scoundrel and a gentleman (occasionally at the same time), we never quite know how pure his intentions are. And that's okay, because he's written with such nuance that it seems unclear if he even knows. His ambivalence (which runs all the way down to his sexuality) is intriguing to his last bits of dialogue.

I could go on, but the point is, I'm happy to say the bloom is back on my Wes Anderson rose. In fact now I'm inspired to go back and catch up on what I've missed, if for no other reason than I'm curious to see when this evolution began. Bottom line: I would never want Anderson to lose his twee. I just want him to keep sharpening it. Sharp tools are always the most effective - even when all they're building is a dollhouse.

life, styled

Calm down, lifestyle photography subjects.

Look, I don't doubt that the smiles in your family cuddle puddle are real. I don't doubt that there's genuine love, despite there being an outsider wielding a $5k camera just inches away from everyone's faces.

But the minute you invite a professional photographer into your home, your business, your favorite "meaningful spot", you are turning that space into a stage. Artifice is built right into lifestyle photography. So maybe chill out with the manic laughter and props? Maybe just relax and interact normally? You can't spin emotion out of thin air, and it becomes rather silly when everyone knows you were prompted by a stranger, at a cost of several hundred dollars an hour, to emote on cue.

Photography that seeks to honestly capture what is truly there looks and feels a lot different than photography with something to prove.

Signed,
someone well versed in both kinds

hate read cafe

"Welcome back to Hate Read Cafe, may I take your order?"

"Yes, give me a plate of something that makes me sick." 

"Are you sure? You seemed particularly unwell after you had it last time."

"Yes, please. I know I shouldn't, but I just can't help myself!"

"Okay, you got it. One shit sandwich, coming right up."

I'm the first person to agree that there are important discussions to be had about bad blogging behavior - which, in the cases that most interest me, usually boils down to bad parenting behavior.

But Jesus. Reading this crap you reach a point where it's like, Okay, this person is never going to change. In fact, she's dug in her heels and fortified herself with the validation of a bunch of idiot strangers, and now she's even worse than before.

I used to think that the more people who publicly stood up and said, Yo, pull the camera out of your kids' faces and let them live their damn lives in peace, or Get off the damn internet and devote some more time to your children; I promise you no one will be upset if you skip a few blog posts so they can have a hot meal sitting at a table, the more shame these over-the-top mommy bloggers would feel. I did my part to chime in directly or with satire, anything to add to the chorus of observers saying THIS IS NOT COOL.

But I don't know. Sometimes I think it's a big waste of time. They're not stopping. And I have to wonder, at one point am I the stupid looking one, for continuing to eat shit sandwiches?

Part of me wants to keep chipping away, talking about it, pointing it out in hopes that these women will wise up and treat their kids better from here on out. But part of me is like, Fuck it. They can deal with the fallout years down the line as these children realize what's up and want nothing to do with their selfish, narcissistic, oblivious mothers.

lamebook part bazillion, or god, can we please outgrow this failed social experiment already?

When I see a Facebook friend list in the thousands, I see a meaningless compilation of data. I see a collector. A rabid networker. To get to that level, they have to let pretty much anyone in. Anyone they've ever met, and lots of people they never will. There's no distinction between that person's real friends and associates and a mass of random acquaintances and ghosts. They're all lumped together and the purpose and spirit of true connection get lost in a sea of bland, smiling thumb nails. And I think, No thanks. I want to be known, not collected.

Facebook is structured to digitally link members to others simply because they know someone who knows someone who knows someone. To chain members to their past. Hey, don't you know this guy? You went to junior high with him! What about her? She works with that woman you met at a party in 2009. In effect, these suggestions make pop-up ads out of human beings. Click here to buy and clutter up your life one semi-stranger a time.

What a phony, diminished simulacrum of relationships this is.

When I see someone being selective about who they befriend, I know that person puts some consideration into their online presence. About what it means to Accept Friend Request. About privacy and boundaries in an age when social media is perfectly engineered to erode them. 

I suspect they have more time for their true friends because they're not busy keeping track of what a bunch of friends-of-friends and once-mets are doing. I suspect they're not distracted from their current relationships by reminders of old ones. I suspect they're not satisfied by shallow virtual interactions, and are probably good at the more meaningful ones. And I think, I'd accept that friend request. 

So to speak. 

whipping boy

If for some reason you haven't seen the latest SNL digital short, may I offer you two and a half minutes of comedic brilliance on this Friday afternoon?



You don't have to be an EDM show frequenter (or even a stay-at-home fan) to get how hilarious this spoof is, but it certainly helps. I laughed myself sick, laughing at myself. My favorite line? Bobby Moynihan: "This is the best day of my life!" If I had a dime for every time I've uttered a similar oath under similar circumstances, well, I'd be embarrassed how many glow sticks I could buy. But the stroke of genius that really kills me - pun intended - is the exploding heads. That's the bit that you'll only truly appreciate if you've seen electronic played live, and witnessed for yourself what those much-anticipated bass drops do to frenetic, beat-hungry fans: It destroys them, in the best way possible. If you've never experienced a rave (or don't intend to), take this EDM junkie's word for it: The physical paroxysm that accompanies a good drop is almost unbearable. Get turned up to death! is right.

Crave Online's Johnny Firecloud loved this short, too. But Firecloud skates much too quickly past the subtleties of Samberg and Co.'s satire in a rush to drive his axe gleefully into EDM's viscera. Once there, he proceeds to grind it with what I can only imagine is deep satisfaction, since he sees the SNL piece as pop culture's confirmation of the bone he's been chewing since last year: EDM is the over-hyped, artistically bankrupt realm of drugged-out musical philistines.

Yawn.

I know that EDM is the preferred musical whipping boy of - well, of anyone who doesn't like it, basically. I can even understand why. It's new. It's not rock and roll. And, to the uninitiated (not to mention the willfully disdainful), it's deeply esoteric. EDM is a culture accessorized by trappings actual and philosophical. PLUR and Kandi are things you're not going to understand - much less respect - unless you spend some time in the scene, engaging with other fans, freely giving yourself over to That Which Is Different. You're certainly not going to get it standing on the sidelines, glaring with disgust at the crowd while counting down the minutes to your (read: the good) music - which is what Firecloud apparently does. I hate to break it to Johnny, but I guarantee those kids that were running in place at the Treasure Island festival were having the time of their lives. Bummer he let his irritation at them poison the rest of his night - but that's more a reflection of his Get off my lawn! mentality than the quality of the music they were enjoying.

Are there drugs at electronic shows? Of course. Are those drugs a required precursor to enjoyment of the music? Well if they were, why would fans such as myself bother listening to it at home? And I'm not alone: Just yesterday, a friend shared an EDM playlist on Spotify...with over 100k followers. I'm having trouble believing all those listeners are "popping a Molly" every time they hit shuffle. Besides, as one commenter on Firecloud's first article pointed out: while ecstasy is the preferred drug of EDM fans, who's to say it's any "worse" than the beer-soaked revelry of rock concerts? At least it doesn't spill.

Firecloud is big on youth-castigating buzzwords: Pfizer, pharmaceutical, push-button. That last one is an especially important component of his claim that what happens at EDM shows isn't Real™ Music. And again, I get where he's coming from. Since there are no instruments being played, electronic music is arguably synthetic - ersatz. But so what? A good beat is a good beat is a good beat, and I'm not even going to touch the subject of how much skill and technical ability it takes to blend those beats into something danceable (my boyfriend is an Ableton-proficient musician after all; I'm admittedly biased). And yeah, DJ salaries are nothing short of stunning, particularly considering how young their recipients are. But free market is as free market does, supply, demand, etc. and so forth - don't shoot the zeitgeister.

Bottom line: Firecloud and other electronic pooh-poohers aren't interested in delving deep enough into EDM to understand what exactly millions of fans love about it (hint: our "sensory stimuli" aren't as "blown out" as he thinks). But it's fine by us if they prefer to stay home and hate. The dance floor is crowded enough as it is.

missing the important things

I made the mistake of swinging by Kelle Hampton's blog tonight and saw the saddest thing ever.

She published a post containing photos of her two young daughters playing at a swimming pool; the younger one watching her big sister carefully as she cannonballs into the water. Kelle's commentary on the photos: "I didn't notice what was happening here until I pulled these next pics up on my computer and--Nella's carefully studying and copying Lainey's every move."

There aren't enough frown emoticons in the fucking world.  :( :( :( :( :(

No, Kelle, it's difficult to notice things like the wonder in your child's expression when you're seeing it miniaturized on an LCD screen instead of writ large and beautiful on her actual face.

Fifty-five thousand strangers looking at her children, day in and day out. Fifty-five thousand. And she is completely okay with this.

I don't doubt Kelle loves her kids. But doing right by the people we love is rarely as easy as just loving them.

more, better, best

Everything I recall about my childhood home can be summed up in a few paragraphs. It was a typically suburban three bedroom home in a smallish town in southwestern Michigan. Red brick, single level. Pussy willow on the porch, plum tree at the end the driveway, crocus blooming under my bedroom window in spring. I remember the things that filled the house only in terms of their use, and their sensory and emotional significance.

Gold corduroy couch: The Muppet Show, way past bedtime, Dad engrossed in the newspaper.

Piano: Mom leaning in to read sheet music, spectacles and a cable-knit sweater, rare good mood.

Oil painting of a lion: expression as inscrutable and mysterious as my parent's marriage, deep fear of wild animals that has yet to abate.

Kitchen telephone: avocado green, cord wrapped around my mother's skinny hips, pot roast for dinner.

I know we had wallpaper, but I couldn't describe the print. I know the house was carpeted, but I couldn't name the color. What I can tell you is that my brother and I had a front yard big enough to host kickball games, and a backyard with a swimming pool, a swing set, a shed full of toys, and enough land to fence in the occasional turtle plucked from Lake Michigan. Fucking glorious, in other words.

And among the gratitudes I have for what, on balance, was a pretty awesome childhood (above implications notwithstanding), is that my mother lived pre-Pinterest, and pre-social media. That decorating her home, planning her children's birthday parties, and choosing outfits for PTA meetings were endeavors undertaken with the knowledge that only those in her immediate social circle would see the results.

God, how nice that must have been. How nice that the only Joneses with which she probably felt compelled to keep up were the ones directly next door. How nice that she could concern herself with the business of mothering, undistracted and unstressed by comparison with how her peers were doing their mothering.

How lucky that my brother and I survived to adulthood without ever having lain eyes on an overpriced cake pop, frosted to match an overpriced paper party straw.

Pinterest never comes up in my daily (offline) life. I know most of my friends have heard of it, and a few of them are on it, but it's nothing we talk about when we get together. I only feel the need to account for my disuse of it when I'm internetting, because hello. Pinterest. What, Ellie, you don't like to be inspired? What are you, an animal?

What I like is not overwhelming myself with the pressure to More, Better, Best my life to death. And anyway, I like to think I did the Pinterest thing, in a way, in my twenties. It was called Lucky Magazine, and then Domino Magazine. It was Holy shit, I didn't even know that existed until I opened this magazine, but now I'll be MISERABLE if I can't have it. And it sucked.

I More, Better, Bested my last apartment without ever even looking at a pin board, and that was hellish enough. I consulted exactly one decorating book, nearly wearing it out with study. Okay, so since my bed frame is structured, I should have more organic, free-form nightstands. Got it. What should have been a fun exercise in creativity and self-expression was instead an exhausting, obsessive search for material things to make my home look OMGamazing - and for the most part, that search was limited to three or four sources within my price and geographic ranges. I can't even imagine how quickly my brain would have exploded had I opened myself up to the ten billion options Pinterest would have shown me.

This time around, I am opting the fuck out of that particular rat race, at least as much as I can. This time around, I am keeping the procurement of what furnishings we need as quick and simple as possible, so that I can get past making sure there's enough light to read by and on to making sure we're stocked with our friends' favorite drinks. Because when I think back to the things that filled the living spaces I inhabited twenty, thirty years ago, what I remember isn't whether or not the coffee table complemented the sofa - it's that it did an efficient job of supporting four slices of pizza and the original Together Box, aka Monopoly.

internot musings, part 5,039

Last night I spent about an hour sitting alone on the sofa in the dark, just thinking about some things I'm going through personally. Craptastic feelings of inadequacy and failure that are inching into self-loathing territory. I didn't pick up my phone or open my iPad to distract myself. I didn't put up a fight at all. I just let a parade of shitty emotion march right over me.

Simply sitting like that - being still and quiet with my thoughts in order to work through them - is something I've never been good at. When things get uncomfortable for me emotionally, distraction is the name of the game, typically in the form of some screen. Until I dumped Instagram, that screen was usually my phone's. I'm still turning to the browser far more often than I'd like, but overall, the amount of time I spend staring at my phone has gone down significantly. I'm happy about that change, but I know that I'm still using the internet in some pretty unhealthy ways.

The internet is my wooby and my scourge. It's where I go when I'm upset, and it's the place I go to get upset. It's the buffet at which I can gorge myself to bursting on whatever my appetite demands, no matter how toxic the craving. I overstimulate myself in some pretty fucked up ways on the internet, knowingly subjecting myself to annoyance, anger, envy, covetousness, jealousy, and more, all of which sit like jagged rocks at the bottom of a slide disguised as curiosity, or boredom. I start out surfing pages, but I end up surfing feelings themselves.

The internet is my right-hand enabler for some of my worst tendencies - egotism, materialism, superficiality, competitiveness. But it's also where I go to reaffirm my values, and the things I want to believe about myself. On other blogs and news sites, in communities and forums, I can read the words of like-minded individuals and surf away feeling reinforced by opinions I already held. It's the ultimate self-selection tool. And I wonder how my perceptions of the world - and of myself - would change if they weren't constantly being filtered through an internet page or two.

I'm also thinking about the ways in which we sell ourselves to one another online. Every so often, in discussions of blogs and social media, someone will point out the obvious: Okay, but don't forget: we're only getting a little bit of the picture with her. She's only sharing as much of herself as she carefully chooses to. And we know this, of course. But I think considering the degree to which we have allowed ourselves to become invested in these virtual relationships, it cannot be emphasized enough, just how important this is to remember.

Much in the same way that white sugar, white flour, and even cocaine are highly refined, concentrated essences pulled unnaturally from their greater, nutritively diverse packages, so are our 'net selves an artificial, winnowed-down version of who we really are. When I meet my friend Kerry for drinks, there's not a lot I can hide from her. She sees I'm tired. She sees my clothes are wrinkled, or out of fashion, or inappropriate to the occasion. She can see the tension on my face and draw conclusions about the kind of day I've had. It's easy for her to ask questions and get an idea of where I'm at emotionally, how I've been spending my time - how happy I am or am not. Sure there are things I can keep from her, but it's tricky to hide who I really am, time and again. Sooner or later, my flaws and uglier traits will out themselves.

But when I pop online, for all anyone knows - I'm perfect. I'm dressed stylishly, well-rested, productive, creative, and happy. I'm clever and cute and everything is peachy. For all anyone knows. And though yes, we're all quick to rush and say Oh, of course. Of course we know there's more to the story offline, I wonder how healthy it is to keep subjecting ourselves to these incomplete pictures of a one another. I think it fosters a whole host of shitty feelings we'd be better off without. She's prettier than me. He's more accomplished. They're a happier couple than we are. Etc. Or, when we identify the lie: Ugh, what a phony. She's not fooling anyone. Who does he think he is? I can't stand him. 

Annoyance, anger, envy. Why do we do this to ourselves, when we know better? When there's an entire, gorgeous physical world at our fingertips (not to mention a pretty interesting internal one), why do we ignore it hour after hour in favor of the virtual one filled with things that trigger such crappy emotions?

More and more, and especially since leaving IG, I'm thinking about what life was like, pre-internet. I've made a lot of noise about Productivity! and Literature! and Writing! and Better, More Creative Use of My Time! as motivating factors in my decision to (again) withdraw from social media - but now I'm wondering why that void needs to be filled with anything at all. What if the spaces between daily activities were filled with...nothing? With a few minutes of just sitting quietly? With petting Chaucer or just enjoying the sight of sunlight pouring in my window? I mean, what the fuck did I do with my spare time before I had a billion screens and gadgets to toggle between all day? It's been so long, I don't remember. Maybe nothing? Maybe a lot of sitting alone in the dark and thinking?

And maybe that isn't such a bad thing?