Monday, April 21, 2014


The hardest part of "scientifically" picking apart the art that you love, besides the obvious ramifications of infusing intellect upon something that maybe shouldn't be thought about quite so much, is that you have to decide how to define your parameters at every turn, a task that's sure to give you pain in the membrane. Yeah, I said it.

The first question I had to ask myself was how a show even gets to be on my top shows list. At first, I decided not to include reality competition shows such as Project Runway and RuPaul's Drag Race, using the lack of a plot-driven storyline as my reasoning. Earlier today, with my composition book, a pink pen, and many scribblings I realized that RuPaul has to be on my list. It's no less plot-driven than Daria or The IT Crowd. I love it because it represents a chunk of culture that's entertaining, moving, and beautiful to look at. I've never missed an episode. I watch it every Tuesday night with my girls Kim and Lindsey in a Facebook chat box nearby. I've rewatched seasons. So
Ru, your show was added to my quest for the top ten TV shows!

As a newly-more-aware feminist, I couldn't include Big Bang Theory or That '70s Show in my list, though I have previously considered them favorites and are both shows I've spent many hours enjoying. On both shows the females are outnumbered and sexist jokes are sprinkled throughout the dialogue like glitter at a strip club. Donna and Penny are both fierce women with their own agencies for the most part (and two of my favorite female characters on a sitcom), but they both make and endure sexist jokes with a smile most of the time. Their male counterparts (Eric Forman and Leonard Whatever-His-Last-Name-Is) are lauded as wonderful boyfriends and sweet men, though they are both contemptible, arrogant, sexist assholes, if you ask me. You didn't, so I'll move on.

Then I wondered if fluff shows like Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Beavis & Butthead, and Sifl 'n Olly could count amongst my favorites. These are shows I enjoy without higher levels of thinking...well sometimes my levels of thinking while watching these shows are, ahem, high, but not intellectually so. Under these considerations, even Daria skirts the line of "Is this GOOD enough to be a favorite?" I'd say Daria represents the type of outsider-feminism me and my friends exhibited in high school in the late '90s, so that means something, I suppose.

Sifl 'n Olly means a lot to me, but the lack of DVD releases of the seasons leaves me with the arduous task of tracking down as many episodes as I can find dubbed from old VHS tapes onto YouTube, so unfortunately, it's out of the running for a stupid reason. If anyone has all of these episodes on VHS, please mail them to me and I will upload them to YouTube and send you a package of amazing kitschy things and love you forever. I live for these hilarious sock puppets!

In the vein of television that simply makes me laugh uncontrollably, I have a soft spot in my giggle bones for Beavis & Butthead and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Shake reminds me of my brother Sagan, the presence of which both comforts and fills me with overwhelming outbursts of love. Beavis and Butthead were two figures that were there as I grew up, reminding me of my male friends. They were the way I came to understand adolescent boys to be, and overall, I think that's still a pretty accurate portrayal. I always identified with Beavis more, myself, if you care to know such personal details.

Even after my top 13 and their rating parameters were finally decided upon, I had to figure out a way to apply my ratings of the parameters so that they could make the shows numerically comparable to one another. It got complicated, as I tend to make things. I decided upon a point system of 0-10. As described in an earlier blog entry, I knew I'd be averaging the scores.

FEMINISM: I decided that for an episode or show to be deemed (by me) as feminist it would be judged upon five parameters. It would get three points for passing the Bechdel Test, two points if the show as a whole represented well-rounded female characters (women with personalities, flaws, and agency), two points if the ratio of females to males was at LEAST 1:3 (being generous on that point), two points if the show overall had non-sexist humor, and one point if one of the characters was a feminist icon.

CHARACTERS: For a show to receive top marks in character development, I have many requirements. First, I will isolate the Core Four characters in each show. For The Office, that would be Jim, Pam, Michael, and Dwight. Then I give the show one point for each of the Core Four that I like. I then give the show two points if at least two of the Core Four are women. The show then gets one point each if it portrays/represents the following people in a positive light: trans-individuals, people of varying body types, people of varying sexual orientations, and a variety of race representation.

STICKINESS/INTEGRATION INTO MY DAILY LIFE: In order to receive many points in this category, a show must be quotable (three points), memorable (four points) and re-watchable (three points).

COPING: I watch television to either escape (comedy) or learn skills to cope (fantasy/drama) with my life. A show gets up to five points if it allows me to be sufficiently distracted from and/or better equipped to cope with life. The other five points are allotted when I feel that a show as a whole has achieved a specific goal. This "goal" is one I perceive as the viewer and may be a "goal" it achieves for me specifically, and not one any of the creators intended. For example, Buffy has a very clear goal of being a feminist show with a feminist icon. Buffy has achieved that goal, completely. A show like The Office on the other hand, doesn't have an obvious goal, though I do find it to be a good-natured show that's HILARIOUS and awkward and changed the way comedies were created from then on. Without it, we might not have Parks and Recreation or New Girl.

With all parameters set, I've settled in for some serious television watching/scrutinizing. Today I watched three episodes.

Let's begin with Daria's "Malled". It's the fifth episode of the series wherein everyone takes a school-enforced field trip to the Mall of America. Honestly, I still have no idea what my favorite episode of Daria would be. Unfortunately, plots in the show are not memorable enough to choose a favorite, for me anyway. What I like about Daria is what I like about my good friend Lindsey, dry sarcasm and a fierce wit. Daria is a feminist icon, to be sure, but her day-to-day activities don't make big statements or quotable impressions most of the time. I can watch Daria with the type of partial attention my teenage-self-on-the-phone probably paid it the first time around. Daria and Jane (and even several other secondary characters) are great characters and high schools and malls are two of my favorite settings in film, but there's not a lot else with which to assess here.

I was very disappointed to find that what I typically list as one of my favorite episodes of television ever, The Office's, "The Injury", does not pass the Bechdel Test. Pam talks only to Jim, Michael, Dwight, and Oscar in this episode. Angela talks only to Dwight. Phyllis only talks to Michael. Kelly doesn't even have a line in this episode. As a whole, the show represents females in an honest way, though they are often outnumbered and out-shined by their male counterparts.

With that said, I quote this episode almost every day. "I can feel the blood coursing through my foot veins!" I find several scenes to be laugh-out-loud funny. It is an excellent example of comedy in exactly the way I take my comedy: weird, awkward, and sweet-natured. It's the one where Michael clamps his foot on a George Forman grill and Dwight gets a concussion and is really nice to Pam all day.

The characters on this show are very endearing to me. They are all essentially good human beings and I prefer them to the assholes of It's Always Sunny... or Seinfeld. I have rewatched the entire series at least twice and will do so again and again throughout my life. Getting swept up in Jim and Pam's love-story is something I look forward to doing over and over. It is one of two popular heterosexual love-arcs I enjoy as much as the rest of the world. (The other is Pride and Prejudice, btw.) If I was the type to channel-surf, I'd watch The Office anytime I found it on. I suspect the show will make my top five.

The IT Crowd is a new favorite for me, having only just watched it twice through in the last few months, but I liked it immediately. What started as a huge crush on Moss (above, quite possibly the cutest boy on television EVER, in my opinion) blossomed into a genuine appreciation for both Jen and Roy, the other two main characters of the show. A British comedy about a nerdy tech-support trio working in the basement of a big corporation, all three of whom are pretty to look upon? Sign me up! I think I have a predilection towards workplace comedies because they tend to stay in the realm of not-too-emotional and not-too-serious. In fact, all three kinds of television I enjoy (workplace comedy, high school drama, and fantasy -- hey, Buffy is all three!) have barriers to bald emotions of an intense nature. I have no problem dealing with intense emotion if I am tricked into it by falling in love with a vampire, but don't show me real tragedy and sadness.

I don't seem to have much deep thought about The IT Crowd. I enjoy the eye candy (and humor, because Richard Ayoade's character is perfection) of Moss while laughing often at every other character/situation of the show. The episode I watched today was "Aunt Irma Visits". The boys get sympathetic-PMS alongside Jen and hijinks ensue, basically. This episode also includes the rare cameo from a sexy gothed-up Noel Fielding. I'll talk more about my crush on HIM in a different post.

Sadly, this episode also does not pass the Bechdel Test. However, as the show typically deals mostly with the three main characters, two of whom are men, this is not as big of a slight to me as it is when a show with a larger ensemble cast, such as The Office (a show that has NO excuse to ever have a non-passing episode) doesn't pass.

Once The IT Crowd has been seen by me four and five and six times and inevitably become part of my vocabulary, I will have more to say about it. For now, enjoy this, my current favorite quote from Moss:

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Buffy's "Restless" Revisited.

As described in my last blog entry, I am on a quest to find my top ten TV shows of all time. I have a chart and there's math involved. It's all very organized and methodical. I chose to watch my favorite episode of each of the top 12 contenders, assessing both the episode and the show as a whole on several different criteria.

There's no contest for the top spot on my list of television. Buffy the Vampire Slayer has crawled into my lizard brain, coating the bean of my being (what?) with a light glaze of Summers' blood. I couldn't escape the power of Buffy even if I wanted to, and I'll never want to escape the Slayer's superpowered grip on my psyche. There's a black hole in my personal history that occurred during the last couple of years of high school followed by the couple of years after that. I was in a dark place with a terrible man at my side. In 2001 I was reunited with Buffy Summers when the show appeared on UPN late at night after it wasn't available to me for all of seasons 4 and 5. Mercifully, I got to watch seasons 6 and 7 as they aired. If you're not familiar with Buffy's arc, season 6 was the season that each character was their own "Big Bad". Their angst was so pervasive that they destroyed themselves episode after episode. It was heartbreaking. I cried every week, copious tears of recognition and solace. I saw my boyfriend in Spike, the character that mentally manipulated/verbally abused Buffy. Spike attempted to rape Buffy that season. I started using the name in my online blogs in place of my boyfriend's real name. I wouldn't leave my Spike until 2003, about five years too late. Were it not for Buffy I would have sunk, maybe irretrievably, deeper into that hole.

Am I attributing too much to a TV show? Perhaps, but I say all this to express that my relationship with Buffy is emotional. She is an icon that's imperfect, badass, and relatable. The character was only two years older than me. Her struggles were my struggles, though mine dealt far less in metaphor, unfortunately.

I'll reveal the scores I gave each episode and show at the end of my assessments, but I wanted to speak to my feelings while viewing each piece of entertainment.

Buffy's "Restless" is the last episode of season 4. In atypical season-ending fashion, the "Big Bad" of the season had already been defeated. This is an episode of dreams. We get to see into the psyches of Xander, Giles, Buffy and Willow and it is fantastic. Joss Whedon is the only writer that has ever successfully filmed dreams, in my opinion. In this episode alone, he gets the odd flow of the dreamworld exactly right. Things are said that make sense only in dream-speak. Words are spoken in languages not understood by the dreamer for a character that often doesn't understand in real life (Xander). Metaphors are employed in the ridiculous way of dreams. It is an episode filmed as if underwater, as restorative as a nap.

The score of this episode is minimal, meditative, and sensory. There's a sequence wherein Buffy reaches into a medicine bag full of clay, then rubs it into her face and walks slowly through the desert. The music and picture above are from that scene. It's breathtaking. I don't think I've ever watched this episode out of sequence. It was a fantastic experience. It was a breath. In one episode, the psyche of each character was revealed, mostly through images. Almost every one of my favorite characters (Tara, Oz, Anya, Harmony, etc) makes an appearance here. Tara is sort of the spiritual guide of the dreams, speaking in low-ASMR tones saying things like:
which is equal parts foreboding, as to the later-revealed nature of the Slayer, and simply gorgeous dream-flavored existentialism revelatory of Buffy's view on herself. This statement is so wholly indicative of identity's fluidity over the span of one's life, too. Go ahead, try to grasp what you are. You can't, though we'll spend our lifetimes trying.

In the best episodes of Buffy, most symbolism employed within works on several levels and can be applied upon many different situations. The best art leaves itself open for the viewer to impose one's own interpretation upon it, without the burden of authorship intent impeding, trampling your experience. Buffy is seldom ever heavy-handed in its approach to symbolism. Even inside the dreams of specific characters you've known for four years, one doesn't feel oppression from already knowing their history conflicting with your projections of their dreamworld. In other words, it's easy to tell what their dreams mean to them while simultaneously pulling what YOU need from their dreams into yourself.

Without question, this is my favorite episode of television ever, which makes it hard to quantify it with worrrrrrds. Words pale in comparison to the feeeeeeels. I feel existential calm when watching "Restless". I feel warmth and peace. I am in awe and completely engaged every moment. Most television and movies I enjoy have those parts that you dread or want to fast-forward through. Not "Restless". Nothing in this episode is wasted. Every image, everything going on in the background, every sound, every word uttered is carefully placed and multidimensional in meaning.

Plus, it's a really funny and quotable episode.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Quest to find my Top Ten TV Shows...

Buffy is #1 of course, but what are the remaining nine slots of my favorite TV shows of all time? To determine the all-important answer to this question, I've made a chart.

On the chart I've listed my top 12 shows:

*Buffy the Vampire Slayer
*Gilmore Girls
*The IT Crowd
*The Mighty Boosh
*New Girl
*The Office (U.S. version)
*Parks and Recreation
*Star Trek: The Next Generation

The second column in the chart, next to show's name, is what I think might be my favorite episode of each show. This turned out to be a more difficult task than I thought it would be. Some shows I knew right away. The Office's "The Injury" I have watched probably a dozen times. I quote it often and enjoy every bit of it. Buffy's "Restless" immediately came to mind as my favorite Buffy episode. Most shows I had to painstakingly look through the episode lists to find the possible favorite ep of each. The aspect of each show that I like usually boils down to the characters and isolated situations that make me happy. For example, I love the fight between Monica and Rachel on "The One After the Super Bowl", but the whole episode isn't gold. The thing I love the most about "The IT Crowd" is Moss. So anyway, I picked an episode per show. An episode I know I like, though in some cases I couldn't choose a favorite.

I will rate each episode on the following five criteria, then average the score for an overall episode total:

*character development/representation within the episode
*times I felt genuine emotion or high-level intellectual thought in response to the episode
*feminism (like does the episode pass the Bechdel Test and represent chicks well?)

I will then rate the overall scope of the series on the following five criteria:

*character development/likability
*story development/overall engagement in the series
*how often do I think about the show in everyday life/quotability/has the show become a part of me?
*identifiability: how well did the show teach me to cope with something in my own life?

THEN, I will average the two averaged scores together to get an overall score for each show. Then I shall have my ranking. At that point, I will probably watch a few more episodes of each of the top five to analyze them more thoroughly.

Here we go!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


*The Lana Del Rey song above is just 'cause I'm obsessing over it this week. Listen while you read, if you please.

I read this intensely long article on Pitchfork today that describes the evolution of streaming music. Apparently, back when telephones were the new and scary technology, one could pay to hear an opera over the lines, if they were like REAL rich, I'm assuming.

In America, artists have never been paid for airplays on the radio (we're the only country that this has always been the case). Plays on the radio are considered "promotional". So, the outrage about artists not getting paid very well for streaming web services, which is basically the new radio, is less of a blow perhaps? I don't know what I think about this because:

1) I'm too poor to not stream before I buy and I NEED music to live.
2) I'm pretty into the Swedish model of people having a right to things for free. Apparently you can camp in people's backyards in Sweden for free as long as you leave everything the way you found it. I feel I have a right to listen to any music I want, and a Swedish company called Spotify provides this for me.
3) I also think people should be able to make a living off of making music. The record industry model was born broken, and this has always been a struggle for musicians. Always. I twitch a bit every time I pay for an album because I know my money is barely going to the right place.
4) If I made music, I would provide it on a donation-basis on SoundCloud or BandCamp. Because the people I know are as broke as me and I am practical enough to be aware that people aren't going to buy something they can't first listen to...

It's a new time. You don't have to buy a CD with your fingers crossed anymore. This is a good thing. I respect artists pulling their music from streaming sites and taking a stand when they feel they're not getting adequately compensated for their art, buuuuuut not being in the streaming game means not being heard a lot of the time. David Byrne and Thom Yorke can get away with it, for sure, but not littler bands. If I made music, I'd never get heard without making my music free. And if I signed to a major label, I'd be giving them the control over my art. A free model would be the only way I could succeed. Maybe it's not fair. To be sure it's not fair, but I know what it is.

I also, here's a controversial opinion, think artists tend to overcharge for their art in general. I will never pay thousands of dollars for a painting. I will never pay $200 for a concert ticket. I'll never pay $500 for a pair of shoes or a purse. I believe in paying for quality, but not for prestige. You should totally be able to make a living doing your thing, but no one needs to be paid multiples of thousands of dollars per month for their living. Don't get me started on the way wages are "earned" in America.

I think a lot of things should be free. I think television and radio should be free. I understand it costs money to make art, but I want to give the money after I know I enjoy the art. I will TOTALLY buy the DVDs and the music files. I'll buy the shit out of the things I love. I will buy the merch and fund kickstarter-projects for people I respect. I believe I vote with my money, but I have VERY little money with which to vote.

Until the whole system is fixed (like people like me can make living wages with a bit of cush and corporate monsters no longer exist), I will continue to enjoy my Swedish websites filled with gorgeous-sounding music for free, buying only the albums that really bewitch me. To be fair, I am easily bewitched by music. I still spend hundreds of dollars on it every year...more than I can afford.

comfort culture.

You know how you eat macaroni and cheese when you’ve had a bad day at work, or maybe drink a beer? Of course you know, because comfort FOODS are often mentioned in America’s vocabulary. But what about comfort culture? What’s your personal pizza of television, the mashed potatoes of movies, and the fish sticks of sound? While you’re contemplating the dark chocolate paperback that calms your addled mind after a stressful day, I’ll share with you some of my pop culture comforts.

*TV series: Buffy the Vampire Slayer — It’s no secret that Buffy is my favorite nugget of pop culture ever. Joss Whedon’s vision of girl superpowers has entertained my eyes, ears and soul since 1998. The Slayer has lulled me to sleep through some of the darkest evenings of my life, quite possibly the only reason nightmares didn’t engulf me in my early ‘20s. If you’ve avoided this show because of the title’s cheesiness alone, stop denying yourself one of the most influential shows of the 20th century. Buffy could change your life.

Get it: Netflix, Hulu, video stores

Me today celebrating National Library Workers
Week. I'm part Vulcan, you know.
*TV franchise: Star Trek — For the past 4 years or so, Star Trek has been my before-bed ritual. Not every night, but at least a couple of nights per week. If the plot is peaceful, I might fall asleep to the gentle hum of the starship. The DVD menu screen of “The Next Generation” is like white noise bliss to me. Don’t misinterpret, falling asleep to Star Trek isn’t a diss. I LOVE the franchise, but I have this calm and familiar relationship with it. I know I will rewatch each series of Star Trek over and over until I die of really old age, so there’s no sense of loss if I dream through episodes here and there.

Get it: Netflix, video stores

*Album: Air // Talkie Walkie — This album used to be my study soundtrack in college. When I hear the first notes of “Venus” I am instantly transformed back to that space of settling in for a quiet night with books, coffee, and gritty knowledge. Yeah, thinking about studying chills me out. Obviously, I’m a nerd.

Get it: Spotify, iTunes, Google Music, music stores

*Movie: Bandits — Not many people realize the brilliance of the 2001 film starring Cate Blanchett, Bruce Willis, and Billy Bob Thornton. The performances are buzzing with anxiety, emotion, and genuine crazy, an aspect of pop culture that always soothes me…to see others fraying onscreen makes me feel less nuts. Plus, this movie is hilarious if you like understated David Letterman-type humor.

Get it: Netflix, video stores

*Book: Drawing Blood // Poppy Z Brite — In the summer, my brain turns to a soupy-slosh of jumbled thoughts and baking grey matter. It is my least favorite season. To get through the sizzling flames of August, I usually end up reading this lurid tale of two young lovers surviving a summer in New Orleans. The pages are filled with ghosts/psychological demons, children of the night, and early ‘90s-style computer hacking.

Get it: the Joplin Public Library (the very copy I first read in high school!), bookstores

Email me your comfort culture items:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

self-sabotage and procrastination

I've been agonizing about my definition of self lately. I used to consider myself a writer and then I:

*wrote a "novel" in November
*stopped turning in articles to The Current, Etc at the beginning of 2014.
*failed at revising my novel in February.
*signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo April and have only amassed 2000 words just posting to my blog because I have no ideas for how to tackle anything anymore.

Projects I used to consider fun exercises in writing feel like they're not taking me anywhere anymore. I know what I really NEED to be doing is revising that damn novel, but I'm not. I'm not and I'm in



All I've ever known how to do, which is to say that all I've ever practiced doing, is free-association journal-writing. I come to sound conclusions about my insights into self by writing. I don't make up characters that aren't me. Shit, the main character in that stupid novel is just me if my life had a purpose. My instinct is to admit I'm not a writer and stop writing.

This is what I did back when I was an art major. I tapped into a well of creativity and instead of riding that wave, I stopped myself from getting better. It's almost as if I see cultivating talents as an addiction I must squelch.

I know in my soul that the happiest most productive version of me is a person with an entire room to herself. A person that uses this room to glue jewels to things. A person that uses this room to read sci-fi/fantasy novels. A person that uses this room to sit in a comfortable recliner and drink coffee while staring out a window. A person that uses this room to listen to podcasts and knit a mediocre scarf. A person who uses this room to type zine articles on my typewriter. A person that creates as much as she takes.

I am marginally good at several things:

*making zines
*making mixes
*writing off-the-cuff semi-inspirational articles posted to zines/free publications/blogs
*sloppy artistic statements such as collaging, Barbie alterations, and the like
*putting together bitchin' outfits
*customer service/anticipating needs of coworkers to reduce their stress-levels at work (basically taking care of background annoyances so someone else can do stellar things, like a muse)

But the majority of my time is spent reading, binge-watching great television, and putting off creativity. I absolutely know that talent takes time and hard-work, but I don't focus on one thing long enough to cultivate it. I perpetually put out unfinished work because if I didn't, I'd put out nothing. I feel that this is a necessary first step in learning something new, but I don't ever move past that step into beginning to put out work that's less sloppy. I have this strange aversion to polish.

Perhaps I'm a secret chaos worshiper. When I paint my nails and mess up, I KNOW I've messed up. I have a good eye for detail. I know I CAN fix it, but I REFUSE. Fuck the system...but what system? The system of an organized nail-polish job? Yeah, that's an oppressive one, Stephanie. Better defy that. I mean, whaaaaat? Rebel without a cause is an understatement. I have this fierce commitment to flaws that I can't reconcile.

I really am quite at peace with this outlook on life, but there's got to be SOMETHING I'm willing to get better at doing. There's got to be at least one thing that I can let myself buff into submission. It's almost as if I feel like a fake if I don't have holes in my sweater. Because who I am is very flawed, very hole-filled, and substantially unkempt.

A few things I REFUSE to do for large chunks of time, for no apparent reason:

*brush my hair
*paint my nails (not that I let them be naked, which is fine, I just let them chip away for weeks before repainting them)
*stop wearing pants to work when they have tiny holes on the seams of the inner-thigh area
*fill out paperwork
*get my teeth cleaned
*go to the gynecologist
*do ANYTHING I've said I'll do, either to others or myself

Sabotage and procrastination. It starts with a middle finger to "the man" and simmers into a dose of self-hatred that eventually gives me the energy to rebel against myself which sparks me into doing a project that mostly sucks, but at least I did it, damnit!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

the moment

Living in it is a tricky thing. We can benefit from focusing on now, remind ourselves that now is all we have...

but we can also get so trapped in "now".

For example, "now" has led me to make poor life decisions because I couldn't see beyond my situation many many times in my life. "Now" has caused me not to commit my experiences to memory and left darkness in the place of important moments in my life. Did I live them when I was there or was I too overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of them to understand them at all?

When I visualize events in my life, the pictures taken at those events come to mind at times when the memories themselves are misty or even nonexistent. What I don't document, I don't keep. I am exceptional at forgetting.

This leads me to thinking about the darkness within. Mine, yours, ours together. I have a blotted out portion of my past. I don't like to think of myself as a victim, but I also can't blame myself for choices that I felt, accurately or inaccurately, were taken from me by people that are horrible. I blot to survive. I'm glad for it because it means that my mind has found a way of coping. I also feel sad for my former self, the choices I could have made, the paths I could have taken.

I feel empathy and worry for those around me that are living within choices they feel are taken from them, choices they'd like to remake differently, or choices they didn't make at all and now cannot make. Going after things wanted/needed is worth it. You may not know what you want until you dip your toes into something sticky.

I am forever beholden to those that kept me alive during years of black. Without my best friend Kim, I wouldn't have made it through the first half of high school. Were it not for my mom pleading with school officials to let me have art classes the first three hours of my senior year, I wouldn't have made it through high school at all. If I hadn't had the almost constant companionship of my brother Sagan the years after high school, I would have slipped too far into the abyss to be reached. We need those around us to shake us. We need those that love us to stick around even when the shaking has no effect.

If you know someone living in darkness, just be there. Shaking, advice, and truth may not reach us, but presence will. Presence and acceptance can break through, even if the person doesn't realize it until many years later.

Friday, April 4, 2014

YouTube for dummies.

I'm learning to upload videos, splice videos, cut clips, add clips, change audio tracks and use crates as makeshift tripods for my iPhone.

It's all very frustrating and rudimentary and strange.

I've done four videos so far and uploaded all but one of them to my channel. They are ASMR videos. Here, Laci can explain it to you:

I'm a little embarrassed about them because they seem so self-indulgent. Most of them are me showing off things I own and talking in a soft and soothing voice. One commenter described my voice as "is good but is sounds slutty". But it's a thing. Like, people DO this. I'm doing this. So this is my coming out blog post, I guess. Most people aren't going to get it. I plan to make about ten of these and then if I have at least 25 subscribers and feel like I'm improving and getting something out of making them, I will continue.

So, if you want to see what I'm on about, go to here. And maybe don't talk to me about it in person if you don't get it...not yet. I'm too delicate. I'm at a stage where everything is really bad quality.

"You see, our band's moving toward this new sound where....we suck, so...practice." -Oz from Buffy

My computer HATES my new video editing habit. It says it's too full of audio files to hold any video files and it ESPECIALLY doesn't want to alter or play those video files. It demands more memory and more space. This is officially the moment where I start to think I might need a new computer. But I've only had this one 4 years. It's got juice left in it. I can beef it up a bit.

Seriously, like, do you KNOW how ridiculously long video editing takes? I'm not even doing anything serious. I'm taking several videos and splicing them together, maybe trimming a few seconds off the end, changing an audio track. That's ALL I'm trying to do. Nothing fancy. Nothing "Hollywood".

This is how long it takes:
*video preparations: 15 minutes
*recording video: 30 minutes
*re-recording audio for video because the wind SUCKS: 30 minutes
*transferring video from phone to computer: 5 minutes
*opening and editing video in quicktime: 15 minutes
*saving edited video to computer: 2 hours!
*opening video in imovie because I need to do MORE editing that quicktime can't do: 30 minutes
*editing in imovie: I don't even know because I haven't finished the last step yet!
*saving after editing in imovie: dunno yet.
*uploading finished video to YouTube: 4-6 HOURS.

Total time uploading one crappy little 20-minute video of me showing you the contents of my purse: 9-12 hours. OMG. Really?! Reallly?!?

I've never been very good at doing things that are hard or require skill. But I'm willing to learn the basics of most things I want to do. I can knit a scarf. I can hand-sew holes in the armpits of my sweaters. I can record a video with my iPhone and upload it to YouTube. After tonight's foray into the deep waters of video-editing, I may know how to add a different audio track to a video I recorded.

I'm whiny and I just drank a glass of wine from a bottle that's been open at LEAST three weeks.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Pervasive beauty.

I have been OBSESSED with perfume lately. I've been ordering samples from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, Possets, and Lucky Scent like a woman gone mad with, you know, obsession. I've researched how to make perfume. I've tried a scent that costs 240$ a bottle, even though I knew it cost that much when I ordered the sample. Because I'm a masochist. And it smells fucking fantastic, by the way. Luckily, the sillage (see, and I learned new words too! It means how far the scent projects from your body, how well others can smell it.) is almost non-existent and I like a scent that ASSAULTS people, so I'm not TOO tempted to talk myself into buying it anyway. completely rules my life right now. It's a site that outlines all the notes in different perfumes and has reviews and such.

Let's back up a bit. In 1998 I saw this ad:
I knew on instinct that THIS was the scent that Poison Ivy would wear and I considered myself a devotee. I can't remember what happened next, but I must have been at JC Penney with my grandma or something and I must have tried the fragrance. I knew nothing about notes or sillage, but I knew this scent was for me. My grandma has given me everything I've ever wanted my entire life, so it quickly became mine and I've worn it almost every day since 1998.

I now know that Hypnotic Poison has top notes of apricot, plum, and coconut, a heart of jasmine, rosewood, caraway and a flower called tuberose. Tuberose is sometimes called "corpse flower" because on some people it smells like rotting meat. On others, it smells sickly intoxicating. Every person that's ever had their face in my neck has been, dare I day hypnotized by this perfume. I can't say if it's that addictive sour scent Jennifer Lawrence was talking about on "American Hustle", but I like to think it is exactly that. Base notes are amber, almond, vanilla, and musk. The overall effect of this scent curls up into the pointy part of your nose. After trying dozens of scents the last few months, I go back to Hypnotic Poison knowing that I truly found my perfect scent when I was 16. I will always have a bottle of this evil angel.

In my perfume studies I also learned that Hypnotic Poison is made by Annicka Mendardo. She's made a lot of different perfumes, another of which is called Lolita Lempicka. Lolita Lempicka is actually a perfume house, but its 1997 premiere scent bearing the name was the one made by Menardo.
The ad above was one I saw in Seventeen magazine as a teen and used in collages, though I never thought to try the perfume itself until now. This scent it based on licorice. It has anise, vanilla, almond, vetiver (one of my very favorite notes-- kind of an earthy, wet-cave smell. It's used in a lot of men's perfumes, though I prefer it paired with softer notes or by itself in essential oil form.), ivy, and musk. When I read the notes and reviews, I ordered a bottle without even trying it. I tried to try it, but they didn't have a bottle at Ulta and I didn't want to brave department stores where sales associates might actually, *gasp* TALK to me. Yesterday it came in the mail alongside a bottle of Hypnotic Poison (I was out and have decided I can't EVER live without it again). If this perfume hadn't been called Lolita-something (Lolita is not a concept I'm drawn to, by any means) or maybe didn't have all that gold on the bottle, I would have wanted to try it based on my love of the ads. If I had tried this instead of Hypnotic Poison, perhaps THIS would have been the scent for me. I'm addicted to it. I think I might even be a little allergic to it because my throat gets a little sore the first hour or so after I spray it, but I cannot help myself. I have to stop myself from spraying it every few hours. It is arresting.

My entire identity is based upon dichotomy. I like sweetness undercut by decay. I like pinup girls with vampire teeth. I like babydoll dresses on Courtney Love. The temptress that bites, the rotten fruit, the cloying smell of blood. This search for a new perfume was driven by a need for a scent that would have such a personality that it repels in an intriguing way that makes you want to smell it again. I wanted licorice or root beer or Dr Pepper. I wanted sickly sweet earth, darkness mixed with piercing light. I wanted to be abhorrently intoxicating. In many ways Hypnotic Poison is already this scent for me, but Lolita Lempicka is a siren I may end up wearing almost as often.

If Hypnotic Poison belongs on Poison Ivy, Lolita Lempicka is the scent she wears as Pamela Isley. It's the daytime scent of a woman that smiles sweetly with a dark tendril of tumult swirling in her piercing eyes. Hypnotic Poison is the scent of the same woman at the moment that smile becomes a sneer. You are perfectly willing to follow her into the dark forest of your inevitable demise.

At this moment, I feel that my search is over. My intensity has simmered to that feeling of absolute contentment I get when I feel I have found the "ultimate" of something, like when I found my leather jacket. I would still like to try to make my own perfume someday, but I think I have a top 5 that will probably remain the same.

MixtressRae's top five perfumes:

1. Hypnotic Poison

2. Lolita Lempicka

3. Midnight Poison: this is my "going out" scent. It opens with bergamot and simmers into vanilla, amber, and patchouli. That bergamot punches you in the face! I wear it almost every time I go to a nighttime social event. It is so inextricably linked to socialization, drinking, and good times with friends that if I'm thinking of bailing, I can spray it on myself and be instantly ready to GO.

4. Malediction: from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. It's a mixture of patchouli and vetiver. Simple, powerful and comforting.

5. Gypsy Grave: from Possets. It has vetiver, musk, clove, flowers, incense. It smells like gravestones and dying flowers, like dust and damp the sidewalk after a rain. It truly evokes a cemetery, like ash, death, moss, and teeth-clanging hopefulness. I like this one a lot. This is a great "day off" scent. It reeks of languishing about listening to The Cure on a rainy day.

Monday, March 3, 2014

watching others fall apart...

I was just writing an article for The Current Etc (I'd link to their site, but it's HORRIBLY outdated, like did they put it up in the '90s?!) about comfort culture. I'll post the article later, once the issue has been out for a week or two.

As I was writing, I realized the kind of culture that calms me -- be it music, television, movies, whatever -- is the culture of addled minds and frayed souls. To see others crumble makes me feel like I can handle life after all.

I watched "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" Saturday night. So many aspects of the the relationship between Clementine and Joel moved me, but particularly it's their flaws that make me like them. The open way they start over at the end with their flaws pushed forward makes me so happy.

And then there's this moment where Clementine shatters the "manic pixie dream girl" trope in two sentences.
I don't want to see characters with their shit together. I don't even want to see characters GET their shit together most of the time. I want to see people with pieces of themselves scattered all about them, people broken and bruised that are choosing to live that way, choosing to wear their bruises on the outside. I breathe ragged, but I breathe nonetheless. That's the hardest part for me in my daily life. I want to hide when I feel unhinged. I used to think I had to pull myself together before I could face the world, but the truth is that pulling it together and facing the world sometimes have to happen simultaneously and maybe, just maybe, people can handle you frayed. Perhaps when you wear your imperfections on the outside, others with similar madness will be inspired by you, or they'll see themselves in you.

In other news, Katniss Everdeen is my new #2, after Buffy of course. She is amazing. Flaws are cool.