24 October 2013

hi, hey, hello

Just dropping by to link to a few things I've been working on lately.

Today I'm at Pacific Standard with an article about a new lab at University of Chicago that designs avant-garde games for disadvantaged youth. I could have gone on at least twice as long about all the stuff they're working on. I was genuinely moved to see an English professor working outside the university bubble...pretty rare, at least here. 

A few weeks ago I wrote about Tavi Gevinson and Rookie magazine for Slate Book Review. I have wanted to write for SBR forever, so this one really meant something to me!

And finally, I was in the October issue of WIRED magazine with a short piece about Pia Interlandi, a fashion designer who makes clothes for dead people. You can also read it online. Shoutout to the amazing commenter who asked "if you are supposed to start wearing this outfit every day once you start feeling unwell." Love you, whoever you are.

Here is a picture my mother texted me of the issue in her cart at the grocery store. She's adorable. 

14 October 2013

"skyfall" by camille

Listen, I know I’m an asshole. My last post made fun of my high school classmate’s husband’s terrible Kickstarter (which, alas, went unfunded), and I have long a long history of using this blog to make fun of people I went to high school with in general. I am not proud of it and I recognize that this behavior is rooted in deep personal deficiencies and insecurities. Still, I would be remiss if I did not share this FUCKING AMAZING video that my high school classmate is currently sharing on Facebook.

Other notable Facebook posts from this particular high school classmate include hundreds of photos of her in weird bikinis and promotional materials for her “document handling business” (?). This particular video, however, is of her singing an Adele song in the bathroom. It has literally one viewer, and presumably that's me. Please enjoy. 

18 September 2013

best of the best: the cannabis crew kickstarter

I highly recommend that you check out the treasure trove that is the Kickstarter page for my Facebook friend's husband's latest project, a web series following the adventures of Trip, Tran, and Dank. 

some solid acting, here
In case you are wondering, Trip, Tran and Dank are human names. Tran "rides hard, but parties harder." Trip is a "holistic soul flower."And as you can tell from his name, Dank is a businessman. Oh, and an artist!

art by Dank
The web series is called Cannabis Crew, and it is described by its creators as an "Entourage for weed dealers." I'm really hoping they double their modest goal of $25k because one of the stretch goals is some sort of action-packed bonus episode. Not gonna lie, the #somthinggonna'xplode hashtag has me intrigued!

Sadly, the world must wait a whole month to see if this thing gets funded. If you'd like to donate, perks include full-body hemp oil massages, official Cannabis Crew koozies, and (obviously) art by Dank.

In the meantime there are some really outstanding videos about each cast member that are available for your immediate enjoyment. I think Tran's is my favorite.

Another thing you might want to check out the Cannabis Crew's meditation on the Kickstarter platform. These fellas have clearly done their research.
Let's face it:  What Artists are best at is creating Art.  But in order to do that, sometimes we need Benefactors.  It's the oldest story in the book.  But since the Catholic Church probably isn't going to support our "Sistine Chapel," we're hoping You will.  It's time for the People to Take a Stand & Support the type of Entertainment they want to watch, and fortunately for us, Kickstarter is giving us that chance.  We are appealing to you, John Q. Public because 52% of you believe Medical Marijuana should be Legalized in the United States, and there are over 316 Million Citizens that live here.  If every one of you gave us a single dollar: A) We wouldn't have to fulfill a single perk & B) We would have a budget of  $160 Million dollars to shoot this thing.  That's less than the cost of most Hollywood Films these days, but more than enough for us to shoot this show.
Like all of history's greatest philosophers, the Cannabis Crew understands that Pure Logic is best conveyed with Randomly Capitalized Words. You can't argue with hard numbers, people. Or the fact that Cannabis Crew is a modern-day Sistine Chapel. Or that we should pay somewhere between $25k and $160 million to support these artist-activists who are working so hard to legalize medical marijuana. Theirs is a message worth carrying into the world on a koozie, for sure. Be the change you want to see, etc.

It's hard to believe that the actual web series could surpass the entertainment value of their Kickstarter, but please join me in wishing the cast and crew of Cannabis Crew the best of luck in this amazing endeavor.

22 May 2013

there are 852,297 views of this youtube video & roughly half of them are mine

There are no words for how much I love this video. Not only for the dance moves, which are obviously fucking fantastic, but also for the elaborate fantasy I have developed in which I am BEST FRIENDS with everyone ever in the history of Soul Train. These are literally the coolest, most awesome people I have ever seen in my life, and I would be jealous if I didn’t love watching them so much. 

For the last week or so it has been feeling like summer in Chicago. I hate summer so much. I mean, I suppose there are a few summertime things I enjoy (mostly swimming, BBQs, and drinking on patios), but mostly it’s a sweaty nightmare. I feel the same way about summer as I do about sports: I just don't get people's enthusiasm. Magazines and design blogs in particular become unbearable around the month of June. It’s all sunshine and gratefulness and drinking lemonade, and I'm just like ughhhhh fuck you. I’m hot.

All of that said, I’ve been trying to think of some strategies for coping with the warm days ahead, leaning into summer as I’ve learned to lean into winter after all these years in Chicago. One thing that I’m pretty excited is some serious popsicle experimentation (more on this later). But so far my most successful summer project has been iced coffee. Perhaps you’d like to make some?

Until recently, I was never really into iced coffee because there was something just inherently sad about it. It’s basically just watered-down stale coffee, you know? Or at least it was, until I started using the NYT cold brew method.

I use the proportions in the original recipe, which is 1/3 cup coarsely ground coffee to 1.5 cups cold water. I make a big batch (1 cup coffee & 4.5 cups cold water) in a French press, stir it a few times, and leave it out on the counter overnight. In the morning, I press down the plunger and pour it through a paper filter stuffed into one of these jobbies, which I place strategically over a glass pitcher. I stir in a scant tablespoon of agave syrup. Then I put the pitcher in the fridge.

For serving, I use mason jars filled with ice. I pour the coffee, leaving about an inch at the top. I add a splash of half and half and top the whole thing off with cold water. This (and the agave syrup) is the critical difference between my personal recipe and the NYT version, which says you should use equal parts coffee concentrate and cold water. Huh? To me that sounds way too watery, but then again I have not actually tried it. 

16 May 2013

rapture specs

Today I’m at Pacific Standard with an article about death.

Not so long ago I had a weird conversation about death with my great aunt, who will turn 90 this summer. We were having lunch with my aunt and uncle, who were in town to oversee the exhumation of my great aunt’s late husband. Some 35 years after his death, Great Aunt J had decided to dig him up and have him cremated for…what reason? I still don’t know, but presumably it has something to do with her own imminent passing. I know she now keeps some of the ashes in her bedroom.

I think we were discussing one of the (many) ceremonies they had planned for the ashes when Great Aunt J voiced her concern that maybe cremation had been the wrong decision given the possibility that my great uncle might need his body for the Rapture.

I was floored. First of all, what did she think had been in that coffin? I’m no expert, but I’m guessing Jesus would have had his work cut out for him, embalming or no. My great aunt isn’t stupid, and anyway she’s 90. She knows something about decay. Clearly this was next-level denial.

Also, obviously, Rapture, whoa. My understanding of religion is very hazy, but I thought Rapture stuff was evangelical territory? I also didn’t realize that some people were so literal regarding the Rapture specs. Like, even if you accept the idea on its own terms, the notion that god for some reason requires your physical remains strikes me as a real failure of imagination. If your omnipotent being has the ability to reanimate a corpse after 35 years, do you not think he could just conjure a new body from dust or an old scarf or something? Please.

The conversation with my great aunt quickly went to the next level when my uncle—who is, mind you, a minister (i.e., not my bigoted uncle)—responded by reporting that there’s a shortage of organ donors in African-American communities because they believe their bodies have to be fully intact for Rapture purposes. Such a terrible shame, he said. So ignorant.

Which, where to start, but first of all, while I agree that it’s a shame and also dumb, his statement seemed to me vaguely racist given that before us sat a super-white octogenarian who was demonstrably worried that she had blown her late husband’s chance at eternal life. It also seemed weirdly insensitive. What, you’ll indulge grave digging and weird ash rituals, but draw the line at Rapture specs? You’re already in it, man. Just tell the old lady it’s gonna be fine.

Obviously, I don’t know what happens when we die. (My mother loves to tell the story of how, after I learned about heaven in Sunday school, I asked her if our family would all be in the same cage.) I bristle when people mistake me for an atheist, because belief in nothing is in fact still belief. To my mind, atheism is just religion for empty people. I’m agnostic because the only thing I truly believe in is my own limitations.

At times I’ve wondered if humans lack the capacity to perceive god in the same way that we can’t see as many colors as mantis shrimp. (Which animals would have the god sense? Maybe dogs.) (Also probably mantis shrimp.) So yeah, I don’t know, but I can still say with some confidence that believing in the Rapture is death denial taken to its most extreme conclusion—not only will your everlasting soul going to heaven, but your body will, too! Er, just not yet.

In all seriousness, working on this piece was enormously interesting, and also really hard.

Years ago, I read these lines from Matthew Dickman’s poem about his twin:

The slow dance of siblings.
Two men in the middle of the room. When I dance with him,
one of my great loves, he is absolutely human, 
and when he turns to dip me
or I step on his foot because we are both leading,
I know that one of us will die first and the other will suffer. 

For the first time, I understood—like, really understood—that’s how it’s going to be, not just with my sister, but with everyone I’ve ever loved. It’s a tricky business to find a way to let these thoughts into your life without letting them paralyze you.

I think the final frontier of adulthood is slowly being stripped of your vague sense of immortality. A week or so before I turned in the draft of this piece, I bought a juicer. At this rate I’ll begin Rapture prep before I hit 40.

02 May 2013

things I love thursdays: spring fever

click to enlarge

So the nice thing about the TILT tradition is that it makes me check in here at least once a week. Real post soon, honest. Meanwhile, here's what I'm into lately:

  • Hot pink floral stationary
  • The Kentucky Derby is Saturday, and I will continue my proud tradition of betting on the horses with the most awesome names. (Well hello there, Fear the Kitten.) The fact that these horses typically have the longest odds--and that I still choose them--undoubtedly is a metaphor for all that's wrong with my life.
  • I would really like to buy this expensive box for my dresser.
  • There's a Madewell in Chicago now! I just picked up this pretty dress.
  • So this is usually the season where I buy cool makeup that I'm fundamentally incapable of applying. But oh my god, this lipgloss (stain? whatever) has CHANGED MY LIFE. For one thing, it's not even remotely sticky, so you don't have to deal with weird hair lips all day. For another, the colors are fantastic. I like shades #15 and #27.
DOUBLE TILT BONUS: On Tuesday I went to see Nico Muhly and Bryce Dessner (one of the guys in the National) play with a Chicago sextet called eighth blackbird. The trappings were kind of hilarious because the event was at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The program alone was amazing. Check out this photo in the program from "Untitled Feminist Show," which appeared there earlier this month:

Is it me or are the censor bars EXTRA hilarious?

Anyway, the music was fantastic, the best part being a Nico Muhly piece called "Doublespeak" that, sadly, doesn't seem to exist as a recording. What DOES exist is this video of eighth blackbird performing the piece last year, which I have listened to at least a dozen times in the last 24 hours. I hope you like it even half as much as I do!