Sunday, April 20, 2014

What's a girl to do?

My lips are stained/So is my brain/What’s a girl to do?”-“What’s a girl to do”, Cristina (1984)
I remember hearing that song for the first time when I was 19, in college. A friend gave me a compilation that featured the song, but I didn’t listen to it for months because something about the name Cristina made me assume it was some overtly sensitive singer-songwriter. I pre-judge most music more than I would like to admit. But when I finally listened I had one of those moments where you immediately replay the song, and then again, and again. It was infinitely catchy, but I felt for once that I was the girl in the song, not an object of desire, but the narrator of the story. The song is about feeling lost, but with a pretty solid "who cares" shrug attached.  It's brilliant and still remains one of my favorite songs.

But who is Cristina? And why don’t we know her?

Cristina Monet was a Harvard drop-out, critic and writer who put out a few singles and two perfect pearls of albums between 1978-1984. Her career is always inexorably tied to her husband, founder of ZE records. Cristina was a hard artist to pigeonhole in the late seventies. Too cool and calculated to really be “punk”, too smart and tongue in cheek to ever really be a pop star. Before she had a chance to really explain herself, despite early praise she was ignored by pop-charts and considered too intellectual to be a real artiste. After two albums she was long forgotten.

Cristina is an artist who is dripping in irony, but there is nothing insincere about her music. Many of her songs, especially on her self-titled debut are introverted versions of songs known for their banality, turned into dark little nihilist statements. But the songs, buoyed by Kid Creole and Don Was’s early production work are really fantastic dance singles. If you don’t listen to the lyrics closely, you would have little problem dancing to them at a club. The lyrics are where most of Cristina’s charm is. One can hardly say she really sings. It’s all delivered with betty-boop coyness, and a strong sense of self-consciousness.  Cristina mined pop culture from punk (Don’t Mutilate My Mink), to Weimar cabaret (The Ballad of Immoral Leanings), to fifties pop (Things Fall Apart),to disco (Disco Clone)  but distinctly from the perspective of a modern woman. The women in Cristina’s songs are put-upon, but self-aware. Jaded, but charming. 

In a 2004 article looking back on her work, Monet remarked “It never fit in any frame, and it still doesn't." But I disagree. Monet certainly didn’t fit in her time, because she was too dark, too self-referential. In a time where information is a free-for all and references of the past can become just as relevant now, with nostalgia at an all-time high, nothing is past limits of relevancy. Cristina dared to go to those dark places, even if it was delivered with a world-weary sigh. Cristina is an artist of my time.

Cristina was clearly a privileged woman: beautiful, educated and wealthy, but she has a strong sense of that background as she critiques the world around her in her music, like some distant voice-over track to everything she witnesses. It’s easy to feel distanced from your own life sometimes today. I can google myself and read a version of myself I wanted to show the world when I was 19. Find an old profile photo of myself when I was 15 and have a distinct snapshot of how I wanted the world to see myself, but not necessarily a picture of who I was. Somedays when I think about my presence online, I feel like I am watching a film of myself. Everything I create, I create knowing it becomes part of some greater picture. It is impossible to exist in a vacuum when creating art today.

Cristina’s music feels so of this moment, because she is so very self-aware. She acts as a social critic, while adopting references from others. These days, who wrote a song, or where someone came from still hold water, but not the way they used to. If this message feels real, the authenticity isn’t all that important. And today, the lines between artist, performer, musician and writer don’t hold the same weight they used to. The melding of art and pop has always existed, but there seems to be a real resurgence these days of musical artists tying themselves to the art world. And at this point, the way technology has broken down barriers between the worlds, it hardly seems revolutionary. Sometimes it can lead to really fantastic stuff, in the case of Kanye West, whose collaborations with George Condo, citing minimalism as an inspiration for Yeezus,. Or Beyonce’s references to academic feminism; sampling excerpts of Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche in “Flawless”.

But more often than not it results in sophomoric attempts to seem “high-minded” to the public, a self-congratulatory reminder to the artist that what they are making is “art” so it must be important. Lady Gaga’s ArtPop was a over-the top, half-baked concept album that desperately grasps to the art world. The amount of self-awareness in it is overwhelming to the point where it cancels out any merits of the music. Katy Perry is another artist who has collaborated with contemporary pop-artists, but a whipped cream bra hardly seems subversive when that’s the kind of blatant sexualization every female pop artist does. And on the less overt side, there’s Lana del Rey who has made a career out of camp references and over-the-top paeans to American culture, that in a rare instance, are so very over the top, she’s become camp herself. But the main reason these attempts don’t work is because they’re dripping in self-awareness and irony, without any cleverness at all.

But who can blame them? It’s a time when the old-rock concept of “authenticity” no longer holds water, because when technology enables anyone to become a pop-star now, it doesn’t matter how you get there. We live in a time where we can connect with anyone we want, all over the world, so why is there a pervasive feeling of emptiness all around us. We live in a world where capitalism has failed us, where art no longer exists in a vacuum, but all of these attempts to meld pop and art feel just as empty too. We bemoan the presence of irony in all pop, but it’s those artists who are most successful. We like our entertainment with a heavy dose of self-consciousness.  

But there’s no one with half the wit or cleverness of Cristina in pop music today, and honestly it surprises me. It’s in this space, where I find myself relating more than ever to the music of Cristina. Here is someone who is fully aware of themselves, of their privilege, of their experiences, of the good and of the dark. What’s missing in a lot of pop today is self-awareness with a “wink”. Remaining self-referential without losing the bigger picture. And that’s what Cristina had. Why can’t we have smart pop? Why can’t we be self-aware without losing the heart? Cristina obviously isn’t the only artist like this, but there’s a reason she, and many similar pop artists, remain a footnote. I would love to see a future pop with the same cleverness and depth of an artist like Cristina.  

source unknown, let me know if you know

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hints From Hellouise

Hints from Hellouise: 

Literally me.

Don’t throw away that dryer lint!! Save leftover lint from your laundry and hoard it for 3-6 years, leaving little treats inside it, such as cheese, sweetbreads or whey. It will make a lovely home for rat families, colonies and if you’re lucky…rat cities!!!

Your kids tired of the same old packed lunch everyday? Spice things up daily with a whirlwind of surprises. Try almond butter on gluten-free bread. Try veggies and fun ranch dip. Send tater tots built into the tower of Pisa, with cheez whiz as the glue. Send an empty lunch box with an I.O.U. note. Send a lunch filled with a half-eaten bag of Cheetos and airport bottle of Bailey’s. The variety will be a great game for your kids, and give you more time to work on your All My Children fan-fiction.  

Here’s a last-minute dessert I call “the poor man Reeses”. Grab a large spoon. Dip into Nutella jar. Spin spoon around so it is fully covered. Remove from jar. Now place it in a jar of peanut butter (your preferred brand. I’m partial to Skippy because it is smoother than a ten year old pimp, but to each one’s own). Make sure it is spread evenly. Stick in mouth and cry softly in the dark. 

Do this "don't": Don't pay your parking tickets.

If your couch covering is getting old and tattered, find a giant plastic tarp and throw it over the whole thing. Keep it attached using duct-tape. Try to find colored duct tape to match the color of paint in the room.  

In this day and age, who has time to wrap presents? Here are a few things you can use to wrap gifts quickly:
·         Toilet paper
·         News paper
·         Regular paper
·         My unfinished taxes (am I ready to really admit I’m single to the government??)
·         Wrapping paper

It is important to conserve water for important things, like slip n slides and making chicken soup. Skip the shower. Dry showers are a fast, easy way, to stay a human untouched by water. Instead carry around a Febreeze bottle and pack of gum at all times. Another plus…less time to get ready in the morning!

Here’s a fun cocktail I call the “Patch Adams”. One bottle of the cheapest vodka you can find, or rubbing alcohol if vodka is unavailable, they’re the same anyways. Take a bottle of Patch™ soda and chug half the bottle. Fill the rest of it with vodka. Shake and chug again. Bon apetit!*

*This blog is partially funded by Patch™ soda. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


I feel like I've sort of fallen out of the habit of writing lately. Feeling a lot of self-pity, which sometimes makes me more productive but lately makes me more apathetic. I feel a few ideas brewing, so inshallah I'll have something up in the next week.

Meanwhile you can find me at the club:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The last woman on earth

Day 1
Man I am just completely bummed about being the last woman on earth. I got a email from the government alerting me to this fact. I didn't open it up for a week because I was convinced it was about how I did my taxes this year by sticking my W-2 and a empty 1040 form with a yellow post-it that said "Ill get u next time, okay? =)"   So I guess I'm the last one here. I would do something but I just started season two of House of Cards.

Day 2
Wait, even though humanity has fallen into decay, Netflix still automatically bills me each month? Bullshit.

Day 3
I decided to go out today, because I wanted to know what it felt like to be the last woman on earth and also I realized I haven't looted or sacked anything since this whole fallout thing.  I walked the 20 minutes to the grocery store. Actually kind of a bummer, what with all the trash can fires and mutant rat people eyeing me the whole walk. Haters gonna hate.

The grocery store was dead empty. I ran up and down the aisles and purposely knocked over an entire shelf of gluten free products.  I was on the ground of the chips aisle with 5 different bags of chips open and 5 different dips. No one was around to judge me for eating some really nasty processed queso. I think I could get used to this last woman deal.

After about twenty minutes of this I noticed that someone was watching me from behind a shelf. I got up, wielding a can of artichoke spinach dip and screamed at the figure to reveal himself. A young man came out from around the corner. I use the term man lightly, basically a boy, probably 16. Skinny, white, face bright red from cystic acne, filthy blonde hair hiding his eyes. Okay. He and I made some awkward small-talk about the acid rain we'd been having. I got up to go, and he asked for my number. I told him I don't give my number to strangers.

Day 5
So bored, keep on refreshing Twitter but NOTHING CHANGES.

Day 6
Why am I still peeing with the door closed?

Day 7
I decided to go out for a drink, because for once in my life, I can order something besides 2 dollar cans of PBR. I went and grabbed a bottle from behind the bar. "Bottle service y'all!!!!" I yelled out to the three other men in the bar. As soon as they realized I was a woman they all surrounded me. I feel a lot less obligated to take a drink from a man when money no longer means anything.

Day 10
I picked up the newspaper today (why are they still managing to print it?). I was on the front page, and pretty much every article was about me. Makes a girl feel special, I guess. There's been a lot of tabloid photographers outside my window (well the ones who manage to stay outside long enough before being eaten by rats).

Day 11
Men are so much less interesting when all they want to do is perpetuate the human race with me. All the come-ons are the same. "Oh, we could create a brand new world." "We have to do this to save ourselves." "Gee, your hair smells really good." UGH, would it be too much to be wooed a little.

Day 16
I keep on getting alerts from the government reminding me the urgent national issue my procreation is. GOD who are you, my relatives on Thanksgiving?

Day 28
The fact I no longer use OkCupid, Tinder or Match means I have far more time queso.

Day 29
Being considered a "10" by people doesn't really mean anything when you're told that while wearing a pizza stained onesie and unwashed hair.

There used to be a day when getting a statue of myself put in the nation's capital would have excited me. But that's before I realized that a non-comedy movie with Adam Sandler as a woman was my best option for a new movie these days

Day 60
I know everyone is concerned about me being the last woman on earth, but I genuinely am concerned as to where the last box of girl scout cookies is on earth.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ancient lands

The sun beats down on a desolate brown earth, a few buildings scattered here and there, the ominous rise of the prison breaking up the high desert plain, which hits the mountains in the distance almost by surprise, as if the two were unaware they would meet. Entering Canon City, it seems more mirage then real city. A few rolling hills, the road becomes dotted on each side by a few houses, the occasional gas station advertising “beef jerky”, as if it would bring us inside. Signs warning drivers not to pick up hitchhikers pop up.  

Coming into town, all the pieces start coming together; the dark brick buildings, an old opera house, a general store break up the dusty, bright landscape of before. It’s a clean and organized city. All western towns feel like that they were initially built as a response to the landscape, organized grid streets and beautiful tiny buildings in the midst of country that feels unhinged in its scope and size.

But most of these little towns ended up dying, busts dry up, the fear of violence and loneliness become too much, and as quickly as they came up, they can melt back into the landscape again. Living in the west is a constant battle for control. I remember driving through a town in Nebraska once, abandoned during the great depression, curtains still swaying in windows, milk cans on back porches, completely empty. But it didn't feel lonely, not really. The buildings had become overgrown with roses and ivy, probably brought by the families when they had first moved from the east. The houses seemed more comfortable in their new space then they probably ever did before. The land can consume you here. It feels like a battle, but out here, it’s usually people who lose.

As we drive past the Canon City downtown, we stop at the territorial prison on the edge of town. The cliffs behind it are a starkly bright brown against the blue wash of the sky. Next to the prison is the warden’s home, a fantastical little Victorian, all turrets and gingerbread, like something a child might build in the sand. 

After going through the museum, I sit on the steps; the building nestled into bright cliffs, strung with barbed wire. I can hear people milling inside of the walls of the prison next door. “ten minutes till last call” someone announces over crackling speakers. It is unnerving to think of them next door. Not because they’re criminals, but because they’re confined in that space, when the whole world surrounding them screams the opposite.
Colorado has many prisons. Most are situated in valleys and desert plains, insuring that anyone who escapes would be hard pressed to make it far, the mountains acting as a fence, the water less miles as a deterrent. I often wonder if I escaped out here, what I would do. Perhaps I had never realized what I was surrounded by, would I find it disheartening, overwhelmed by the scale of the land around me? Or would I feel free? So far from any real civilization that surely I could make my way out.    

I remember as a teenager the mountains and the space used to give me the distinct feeling of being choked. It felt like I was being overtaken by the scale of everything around me. I don’t feel quite that way anymore, but it still leaves me feeling unsettled some days.

On the drive home the sun’s angles makes me sleepy and I can’t help but drift off to sleep. I can only see the sky, my head on the seat of the car.

My best friend picks me up from the airport. It’s a cold and rainy January afternoon at Dulles airport. I like watching people get picked up alongside me at the curb. A young looking grandmother picks up her son, his wife and a little boy. I know the man is her son because she hugs him warmly and drags him to the car while the young woman wrangles a stroller and the little boy at the same time, struggling to maintain the two.

My friend is running a little late, traffic, you know. It’s always traffic here. It’s always waiting. The bus that never came, the train that took 45 minutes stuck behind a freight car, the 30 extra minutes staring at the back of people’s heads in the car in front of me. All my travels here are done with me facing the back of someone’s head. It feels a little too intimate. I hate seeing the side of someone’s head behind me as I look out the windows on long bus rides. I avert my eyes so they don’t know I know what they look like when they’re sleeping.

On the drive home from the airport the rain lets up every now and then, every few minutes turning into a downpour. The rain makes bullets on the roof of the car, which punctuate our conversation. She’s taking a back way to Fredericksburg, to avoid the traffic on the highway. We take a state road that is an endless plain of chain stores, broken up every now and then by “bail bonds” or “civil war memorabilia”.  

Sometimes living in Virginia it can feel ancient, especially by my American standards. The islands of free space feel like enclosed worlds, with woods so thick you can’t see further than a couple dozen yards in. But that’s an old world, though not so different from what I’m surrounded by now. The miles and miles of restaurants and grocery stores seem equally impenetrable. It’s absolutely alienating. I feel so separate from myself here. I honestly can’t distinguish some days from others anymore. It all blends into a flickering tape roll of store after shop after restaurant, ad infinitum.

I read somewhere about how early settlers in the east would often go insane in the forest. I can imagine so. I sometimes imagine myself to be a recently widowed pioneer woman with a baby, living in a tiny cabin in the middle of the woods, haunted by ghosts real and imagined. It could drive anyone crazy.

I still feel those ghosts but it’s in parking lots and flickering CVS lights. I feel stifled all the time. I can’t tell anymore if it’s the places I live that make me sad or the importance I imbue them with, good and bad. I feel like I’m wandering an electric wasteland the longer I spend here.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

If Netflix made recommendations for my life.

If you enjoyed food poisoning, you might also enjoy...
"UTI when you have to take a flight"
 "Bad cold at work"  
 "Awkward pimple on first date."

If you enjoyed "Half bag of Doritos for dinner" you might enjoy...
"Questionably old leftovers for lunch"
"Doritos Tacos Loco"
 "Ranch dressing and whatever is edible and you can dip in it."

If you enjoyed "emotionally unavilable twenty-something" you will probably like...
"Surpsingly immature forty year old"
"Thirty year old who still hasn't finished their Bachelor's"
"Guy who has read a book 'you've probably never read'"

Did you like "complimentary hotel soap"? You may also like...
"Free can of PBR"
"A casserole"
"Some qtips at the bottom of your makeup bag"

Do you like "reading twitter entries for 15 minutes"? Try..
"Cosmo Magazine"
"Reading half a chapter of a book"
"Haphazardly committing to watching 5 minutes of 'Keeping up With the Kardashians".

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

American History X

photo courtesy

Hi! Are you all the class from Stuart's Middle School? Yes? Great, I'll be your tour guide today here at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  Now everybody make sure you have a buddy, because you're in for a bumpy ride! Haha, just kidding we're walking.

But speaking of Bumpy, over there is Charles Lindbergh's first plane. Wanna talk about bumpy? That Lindbergh Baby sure had a bumpy ride. You've never heard of him? Well I'll say this kids--DO NOT open your windows at night unless you wanna end up burned up in the forest and that's all I'm gonna say about that.

Now here we have the hall of all the outfits of the first ladies. Pretty darn nifty, right kids? Excuse me little girl, please put down your phone or I'll have to "impeach" you out of this group. Haha, just kidding a woman could never be impeached because that would require her to have the political and social capital to become president. I think we can all agree that the ladies in this hallway knew just how to serve our country...BY LOOKING FABULOUS! Over here we have Betty Ford's lounging muumuu, if you look closely you can see the fine stitching on the polyester detailing. What's polyester? Oh little boy, how much you have to learn of the world.  Over here we have Dolly Madison's bloomers. Little known fact--in the war of 1812, with shortages of fabric, they were used as sails on a ship. Over here we have Barbara Bush's tailored suit. I have two words to say about this:Wool. Perfection.

Ahh, over here we have America's first telegraph. To make this a little more "hip" for you kids, let me put it this way: Telegraphs were like the fax machines of today!! Pretty neat, right? And if you guys want to exchange fax numbers with me after the tour, let me know!   I love chatting the night away after a long day of tours.

Excuse me Ma'am, what are my credentials? I should be asking you what credentials you have to be a middle school teacher! Muttering: She-harpy from hell. What? I have no idea what you're talking about, I said let's move on to the next room!

Here is a little bit of history about the Native Indigenous. They came to America in 1493, when Columbus declared it safe enough for Indian immigrants to make the long trip from their native India to come live here. For many years they learned the ways of the Portuguese, which helped them acclimatize to the New World. They believe the cow is sacred and buffalo are their mortal enemy which is why they killed all of them, leaving none for the Irish settlers to eat! Talk about greedy, right kids?

This is a room of wonders! I'll leave you to decide what the greater wonder is, that American flag made in the 1800's or the fact I didn't drunk-call my ex this weekend. Haha, just kidding. Over here we have a fine piece of folk art, made by poor people in the old times. Hey what's the biggest difference between people then and now? Anybody? Answer: They all died of Rubella and I'm going to die alone and not found till 72 hours later in my apartment, at which point my three cats will have started to gnaw at my flesh.

Stop crying little girl. What do you think those child miners in that photo would say to you? Probably something in Polish, most likely. Or maybe "I'm hungry."

EXCUSE ME! That is water in my water bottle ma'am and I am offended you would indicate it is ANYTHING else.

Ahh yes, here we are in the room of American media. Honestly, it's a serious hate crime that not a single item from the TV show Mama's Family is in here. That Eric Brown was one hot tamale. Woopsies! Haha, just tripped over my shoelace there. Ha, happens all the time to me. Umm, excuse me, I am fine. NO I AM NOT RAISING MY VOICE AT YOU OFFICER.