Paris, Reviewed

Paris, Reviewed Header img

Ask me to describe Paris to you, and I’ll balk and try to change the subject.

Despite spending a week there, all I can muster about the city when pressed is … well, there is a river in the middle of it, and the surrounding banks and hills are dotted with pretty buildings. Information you can gather from Wikipedia, or your imagination. Oh, and there’s art in museums and good food in restaurants but you should probably check out Trip Advisor because I don’t remember the name of that fancier hostel I stayed in or the bar I drank at every night. No recommendations from me, buddy, no specifics to give, now move along now please before this gets more awkward.

I try not to bring up I’ve been to Paris in conversation, because my inability to talk intelligently about the city is embarrassing. I want to remedy this situation by going back there and actually paying attention to Paris, the city proper, the second time. The funny thing is, months before my trip I planned to take detailed notes and photos for my mother. The Hungarian nationalists inside us wanted to compare. Budapest, my birth city, is considered the Paris of Eastern Europe and we were curious about its French counterpart. Could Paris in fact be the lesser, the imitator, the Budapest of Western Europe? I accepted my mission to do research for the Motherland wholeheartedly.

My time in Paris was, more or less, hopelessly distracted. Sure, the wine was great, attractions great, cafes and hostels great, all great great great blur. My original goal of studying the city (even its public transportation system!) was scrapped almost immediately and instead, I spent the entire time observing one thing and one thing only: a human male called “M.” Out of the corner of my eye.

I was constantly alert to his presence, my brain obsessed with tracking him. I watched where he walked, analyzed what he wore and who he was talked to and what he took a photo of. When he laughed, all my senses left my body and hovered steps near him like a ghost. Looking at him with both eyes was out of the question.

I had gone to Paris with M and his best friend who very importantly was my just-days-ex, as well as all our friends in college who were very intent (this they made clear) on the ex and I making up on this overseas break. M and I were madly, secretly in love, (I had been for a year), but we feigned disinterest in public; the trip would be more pleasant this way, we agreed while we packed the night before. On top of covertly spying on M, I had to diplomatically refuse and sidestep reconciliation schemes hatched by ex-and-friends. It was an excruciating week. Read the rest of this entry »


I want to be part of the poetry comeback crew, please

I convinced VICE to publish a gossip column/industry & conference review as a poem yesterday. So yeah, I am serious about this.

Why poetry? Because when it comes to story-telling, it is the most efficient form. Least input, brain fills in the rest. Imagination hacking, if you will. I love making the reader unpack things, toying with words.

A resurgence of mass public interest in poetry coincides with Twitter’s 140 character limit, I have to mention this. There is a certain beauty in brevity when you consider the infinite space on the web… and data caps. (Vine too, if we want to go multimedia with this)

Poetry even looks like programming!

Given the following as precedent, poetry going mainstream is not far fetched: You have Weird Twitter poets, the alt lit crowd, teens writing poetry on Tumblr (more accepted than when I was doing it on deadjournal as a preppy goth, too). Dan Sinker’s expletive-filled Twitter parody of Rahm Emanuel (however unfunny) still got turned into a book deal. Twitter account Shit Girls Say becomes a live web series. And then you have Patricia Lockwood writing an incredibly well-received poem on a personal experience,  titled “Rape Joke” on The Awl. Read the rest of this entry »


Thanks Rolling Stone and Tsarnaev, I guess, for legitimizing the cellphone selfie

My favorite time to take selfies is when I am drunk and alone in the bathroom. I tend to take the majority of them while inebriated, actually, and online evidence proves even middle-aged women do the inebriated selfie in the bathroom too.

Yes, even the Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, when he wasn’t sober, whipped out his cellphone and took selfies. And one of these non-sober self-portraits (speculatively) is on the cover of Rolling Stone right now and making a name for itself as the most controversial selfie on our planet.

Media critics are calling Rolling Stone everything short of evil for using his selfie photo as cover art, never mind that Instagrammed self-portraiture is becoming a legitimate form of art and feminist self-expression. This universality is exactly why the self-portrait of the young and handsome (and murderous, don’t you forget) Tsarnaev as cover art choice is outrageous. How dare we relate to a killer! How dare a magazine make us feel this way! If I were the art director over at the Rolling Stone right now, I would be creaming my pants: this is the type of feedback creative types have wet dreams about.

Tsarnaev’s selfie effectively normalizes him, and as the three-day long controversy has shown, we just cannot deal with that. We would rather depart reality and delude ourselves into thinking national-headline-making killers are ugly and have nothing in common with us than see them engaging in everyday behavior. If we could somehow magically teleport to a place where we all believed Tsarnaev didn’t know how to operate a phone, we would.

In fact, to portray Tsarnaev as ordinary is dangerous, they imply, because in order to feel better about the bombings we need to see the differences, not the similarities, between ourselves and the cruel killer. It sounds absurd, but this is more or less what the critics are saying. The New York Times thinks this kind of madness is a result of the heatwave. Possibly. I think it might be a combination of Tsarnaev’s image making fresh the horror of the bombings, much like that just-healing summer scrape you accidentally pick at only to have it start oozing.

The selfies we share on the web are supposed to be the best reflection of ourselves. This skewed mirror is precisely why the Boston Globe in a Thursday post echoing the collective rage calls the use of the selfie “ill-advised” and “irresponsible.” While many of us cannot fathom Tsarnaev’s terrorist intentions, we can all relate to photographing ourselves and dare-I-say-it, creating a typically blemish-free personal brand online. The self-portrait via cellphone is a “language we all understand,” but …we don’t want to understand a bomber. Please don’t make us understand one.

This now infamous selfie, originally displayed on Tsarnaev’s twitter profile, was the “mask” he chose to portray to the world and glorifying it by featuring it on a rock-and-roll magazine is akin to “collaborat[ing] with Tsarnaev in the creation of his own celebrity,” continued the Boston Globe.

Need I remind everyone, Tsarnaev was already a “celebrity” before his Rolling Stone cover, having graced the front pages of newspapers the world over with some even featuring that same image. Rolling Stone is not responsible for this mass media interest, the spread of the photo, or for Tsarnaev’s fanbase of young girls cooing over the soft locks in his approachable selfies. To suggest Rolling Stone is appealing to Tsarnaev’s misguided female fans by choosing this already-widely circulated photo when this same criticism was not levied against the New York Times, is logic I’d only be able to process if my head was in the sand.

CVS banning the sale of the magazine in its shops (and now Walgreens too), and folks celebrating this decision, is akin to saying “monsters must be clearly portrayed as monsters, or else.” Who wants to live in that black-and-white society, presumably filled with bad art? Not me. (Not to imply Tsarnaev’s selfie as cover photo of a magazine is good art — it is in fact the opposite for a variety of reasons and not just because of the bad captions.)

The disconnect between the villain within and the exterior shell of Tsarnaev as a potential sweetheart through his selfies is precisely why the self-portrait should be used for feature-length pieces about his descent into terrorism. But don’t just take my word for it.

Cover Think points out Rolling Stone’s cover is “doing nothing more than reflecting back to us the vanity of a young man’s narcissism, complete with his Armani Exchange T-shirt.” The Washington Post writes “the photo in question jibes with the impression of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that has emerged from countless interviews with friends and schoolmates” before calling the cover art choice “an accurate and journalistically responsible portrayal of this young man.”

To not use the photo as cover art because it humanizes, then, reveals a willful ignorance on the modern human condition. It is not only “irresponsible,” but bad journalism too. Art that elicits strong emotions is powerful, but banning it only increases its strength.

We can’t will away Tsarnaev’s cellphone, his looks or his seemingly normalness, just like how we can’t will back the lives and limbs his actions stole. And maybe that’s okay, because sometimes we need to see the similarities between ourselves and the villain in order to help us understand the differences. Cellphone selfie and all.

As for the cellphone selfie as legit art form, well, this controversy took care of that.


Yeah, the “Exploding Actresses” tumblr is sexist…

People tell jokes about violence against women all the time, either because they don’t realize violence against women is a cultural norm, or because they think laughing at said cultural norm will somehow make it less horrible. This is the only way that I rationalize the astronomical rise of the tumblr “Exploding Actresses” and the lack of any adequate critique of it as a form of Internet art.

As the title of the viral tumblr suggests, actresses explode. Not any random actress in any random movie either, these are actresses in movies very much beloved by women. There are GIFS, YouTube videos and stills.

“Have you ever imagined your favorite actresses and Disney princesses without heads?” opened one gleeful blog post about the subject. Huffington Post labeled their “hilarious” post about it “satire” but was unclear as to what was actually being culturally commented on: that women iconography was being destroyed rather violently, or that a male was behind it?

Them exploding is no big deal,  it’s a joke, it’s supposed to be funny, all the write-ups imply. This is problematic for a variety of reasons but Lindy West can explain those best somewhere else.

Perhaps the tumblr creator Simone Rovellini — who lives in a country the UN flagged for having particularly bad domestic abuse problem  – didn’t mean to be sexist with his movie choices or in picking the “greatest actresses in film history,” and merely chose the movies he did because the depictions of love in those movies make men’s heads explode. Or maybe he was implying that while watching these movies might make women happy, it will really leave them braindead. Oh wait. Both of those reasons are still sexist.

It’s interesting to note that as Rovellini’s mini-art project picked up press all over the world, he began exploding men’s heads in his work. Still only in movies beloved by women though. Hmm.


The city of Chicago, as seen through an airplane window

I don’t know how my mate @foundphotons takes as good photos from airplane windows as he does.

My photos of the airplane wing, for instance, always suck.

His, on the other hand, look like this. And he’s on his cellphone, going light on the Instagram filters:

 

chicago plane wing

 

Perhaps I am being the biased and proud mate here,  but then look at how the frame is divided into three parts here in this next photo:

 

chicago plane lake

 

That is no accident.

My mate is a photo wizard. A magic man of light and composition.


Wheat Thins Internet Ad Campaign Sucks (also, Nanalew has a purdy mouth.)

So, I am checking out the site I work for, before going to bed, and I notice a story I hadn’t read or heard about.

I go to see out who had tweeted the story that evening, (I am curious of our audience) and lo and behold, I see a sponsored tweet, purchased in EARLY JANUARY.

I had no idea these sponsored tweets had that long of a shelf life. Seem like a good value, now that I think about it (or so I thought, at the time).

Read the rest of this entry »



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