Thursday, November 30, 2017

what the fuck is "art."

art is boring! i do not understand surrealism, performance art makes me uncomfortable, and nuance is lost on me. what is a triptych? abstract art mostly doesn't make sense? when was the neoclassical period? are these things it might actually benefit my life to know!? probably not! i mean, ART is for pretentious assholes. but listen, i also used to call a quiche a kweesh so who the fuck even cares what i have to say about a painting.

when i was pretending to be a cool twentysomething in the city i used to lie to people i was interested in having sex with and say i was curious about art, but that's an easy thing to say that is nearly impossible to disprove. if you say you know about art and then someone asks you a serious question about it and all you can do in response is stammer, "um, duh, frida kahlo?" then THAT SUCKS. but if you claim to be "curious" the very definition of that shit is literally "idk but i might want to?" i mean i'm curious about a lot of things:
-lion cubs
-heart surgery
but that doesn't mean i could carry on an intelligent conversation about any of those subjects. (and if i'm being honest i don't care enough about any of them to do more than skim an article or two.) here's the thing: i don't know anything. okay that's not true, i know a handful of super specific things that i will likely never be tested on, plus if there ever was an impromptu general knowledge exam i could probably fake my way through at least 3/4 of it, but i don't really know anything i could ever speak confidently about to anyone else, especially if they are more than nine years old. people are always asking me to speak at things where audience members will have clipboards and recording devices hoping to use whatever i'm saying practically in their own lives and my response every time is ARE YOU KIDDING ME. listen, i would love to speak at your university's gastrointestinal conference, sir in my inbox, but i don't even know which one my pancreas is. call up someone who actually knows what bile does.

when the producer of this podcast "a piece of work" that was in development and emailed to ask if i would be interested in going to a museum in new york and looking at art with my pal abbi i was like "haha yeah right girl what is a podcast." every week i listen to the read while cleaning the bathroom but other than that i can't be bothered. and okay, i listened to serial the first time around and became heavily invested in adnan's fate and when i remember it exists i can sometimes find this american life on public radio in the car but seriously podcasts are overwhelming to me so i mostly just steer clear of them. 1 there are a lot of them, and i don't know how to decide which one to listen to, and even if i could narrow them all down to just a couple is it fair to start with the most recent or do i have to go all the way back to the beginning and if the shit's been on since 2013 how am i ever gonna catch up? that's a lot of pressure! 2 also how do you listen to a podcast while doing anything else, please tell me. i have to sit still and focus like i'm in a classroom, with absolutely zero distractions in my line of vision, otherwise ten minutes into it i have no idea what the fuck i just heard. i tried to listen to dirty john a few weeks ago during a road trip and i missed the directions because siri sort of sounds like debra and i wasn't paying attention and long story short i still have no idea how it ends. 3 i listened to a joel osteen podcast ONE LOUSY TIME and now every time i check my podcasts there are his crinkly eyes asking "are you living a life of peace?" and you know what i don't need that kind of inquisition, reverend.

i took an art history class the one semester i paid attention in my scattered college career twenty years ago and honestly the only thing i remember was that the dude who always just happened to find the seat in front of mine in the middle of a crowded fucking auditorium would fall into a deep, comfortable sleep as soon as the professor dimmed the lights and i marveled that a person could relax that much anywhere, let alone in an auditorium full of rowdy nineteen-year-olds. i'm pretty sure i got a good grade in the class and i could not tell you how, because i have retained precisely 0% of all of the information i learned from those endless slideshows. but i agreed to do it despite my raging impostor syndrome and i went to new york and met abbi at the MoMA PS1 in queens, mostly because i had no idea when in the history of earth my name would be listed in the same sentence with rupaul or questlove ever the fuck again and turning down this opportunity felt ridiculous even for me. after i climbed to the top of the fucking building (why nyc just why) abbi greeted me in some fashion clothes with fashion hair and fashion electric blue eyeliner and let me tell you what it's like to have exactly one super-famous friend: on the one hand you'll be wide-eyed and mystified by their doing some dumb regular-ass shit like "whoa girl, you use the same stupid fucking google i use?!??!!!?!" and then on the other you'll meet up with them on a random thursday afternoon and they're still in makeup from being shot for THE COVER OF A FUCKING MAGAZINE. i was trying to discreetly wring out my soaking wet foundation garments because no matter what new york is always hot and you always have to scale the face of a mountain to get wherever you're trying to go while this bitch breezed in looking like a spring day on some "oh hey, i'm a model today." lol just fucking murder me already.

first they showed us this piece of text art (is that even a thing) that i looked at and, for the life of me, was rendered speechless because it just looked like a bunch of messy words that i could have made with five minutes and an inkpad but that is such a ridiculous thing to think and i was embarrassed because WHAT IF THESE PEOPLE CAN READ MY MIND and they know that in my head i am downplaying what is surely an impressive artwork too great for my tiny little cat brain to understand?! i was staring at it waiting for something brilliant to come out of my mouth but all i could formulate was "how much did this dude get paid to make this?" and listen i know the answer is either "one million dollars" or "they paid him in soup" because art is a mystery but i honestly wanted to know. what if i am wasting my time stringing my own words together and hoping they are funny and make sense when the real money is in quoting someone else's words and making them look cool on a canvas?

see, don't take me anywhere nice! or show me anything good! i'm the guy who puts ketchup on the steak like "durrr what's the big deal?" and you should absolutely know better than to take me to a place with cloth napkins! abbi was super cool about it and said "dude this is the reaction we want" and rachel the producer was laughing in a way that was definitely with me and not at me but all i could imagine was hannibal burress having some secret knowledge of color theory and scale while i was embarrassing myself slack-jawed in front of these paintings like "WOW, PRETTY."

next we went into a special room to look at a light installation, and all of the words that follow this sentence have been lifted verbatim from MoMA's description of the piece because my brain is literally a cake that fell in: one of artist james turrell’s celebrated skyspaces, meeting is a site-specific installation that invites viewers to gaze upwards toward an unobstructed view of the sky. a key representative of the “light and space” movement centered in los angeles during the 1960s, james turrell creates works of art that consist primarily of light, exploring fundamental questions about the nature of human perception by rendering tangible the act of vision. SOUNDS FUCKING DOPE, RIGHT. so the deal is you have to view the installation at sunset, and the best way to view it is to lie down on the floor in this room and stare at this hole that has been cut into the ceiling while a series of colored lights manipulates what you think you're seeing. so we (me, abbi, the sound guy who was very nice despite having to contort into many uncomfortable-looking yoga positions to record two idiots lying on their backs on the floor) all got down on the floor (i'm pretty sure i haven't been on a floor since my early 20s before all this joint disease started ruining my life and it definitely was a three-step process) and into prime viewing position (my left boob immediately rolled into my armpit and have you ever been in a super serious situation, like a thing you really can't afford to mess up, and right in the middle of it you feel a fart coming and you have to shift all of your attention to your butthole? because yes you need to nail this job interview but there's no way to do that if you release rotten broccoli wind in to your potential new boss's cramped office?) then the lightshow started as the sun began its descent (one half of my brain froze, existing only to monitor the incremental movements of whatever was happening on my chest while also tracking the various cell phone cameras circling the room, and the other tried to make the word "magenta" sound natural while coming out of my mouth and wondering just how goddamn long it takes the sun to go all the way the fuck down) and granted i grew up poor and didn't leave the midwest until my friends moved out of state and their parents flew me out to see them but wow it was the most amazing thing i've ever seen. i don't even know what i said to describe the optical illusion i was looking at but i do know now that test driving a bra you bought off the internet in front of people you want to impress is a horrible fucking idea. 

it was the most breathtakingly beautiful thing i have ever seen and i really did almost cry but also halfway through i was like "is my foot asleep?" and i couldn't stop thinking about what a terrible choice wearing a loose garbage bag dress had been. anyway if you like podcasts, or you are willing to suffer through some because you want to hear what i sound like lying on a carpet sounding like i'm buzzed on shrooms while dying internally of humiliation and trying to think of synonyms for the word "awesome" that sound convincingly like i'd say them, you can find all of the episodes of abbi's podcast "a piece of work" here. you'll like it even if you don't give a shit about art. at the very least, you can talk to someone you might want to have sex with about it.

click here and buy this thing i made!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

bitches gotta read: i am not your perfect mexican daughter.

happy belated thanksgiving, i guess. you know what i'm thankful for? the dubious, ever-shifting number of days during which we have to fumble around wishing people various forms of holiday cheer while squirming on the inside because whatever people's plans are they are definitely more exciting than yours and all you wanted to do was run into target for some sale-priced cake mix and whoops that dude you hate from high school just happens to be contemplating frosting choices and you didn't bother to put on a decent bra because who can even tell you have a body under the pile of gas station rags you fashioned into a winter coat this year but he is clearly staring at where your nipples are grazing the drawstring holding your gravy pants up while pretending he doesn't notice the pillowcase creases in your cheek.
him: "hey sam! you look great! got any big plans for christmas this year?!"
me, a collection of random dead body parts frankensteined together with ultra-absorbent maxi pads and old cheese: "i was just planning to build a shrine to my dead cat and mail something under $15 to a stranger from my internet gift exchange. and you, person who never had an ugly phase and hasn't aged a day (specifically to spite me)?"
him: "wow! that sounds interesting! i somehow can afford to fly twenty of my closest friends to aspen even though we're the exact same age and you have just enough cash to pay for that one box of brownie mix i can't believe you got a cart to push around!"
end scene.

so i have this new gig writing book recommendations for marie claire (GET A DAMN SUBSCRIPTION ALREADY) which is fun and weird because i am not very good at brevity and summing up a whole ass book in 75 words that both accurately detail the plot while also  explain why you should read it is really fucking hard. have you ever tried to convince someone to read your favorite book and ended up sounding like a total asshole? every month i'm like "i liked this book but how do i make other people like what i like without being irritating or boring them to death." i read little fires everywhere and i loved it so much and i wrote this passionate and funny recommendation that i thought perfectly encapsulated it and then i did a count and had to trim 212 words to 75 and all i ever wanted as a kid was super short assignments and now that i've got them i can't stop having diarrhea all over my keyboard. anyway all my beloved thrillers and YA novels are piling up because 1 i love tv and 2 no one is paying me to read them, but don't worry i'm getting my shit back together slowly but surely for this book club.

the rules
1 we are never going to meet in real life. that would require a bra and zippered pants and probably an expensive uber and no one is doing that. you don't have to worry about megan's dairy allergy or that vanessa doesn't like champagne. no cleaning the cat box or vacuuming the drapes or hiding the dirty laundry in the oven so your company doesn't realize what a huge slob you are. just you in your house glasses and gravy pants sobbing into your six pack of beer, the way rainbow rowell intended. getting together with people you don't live next door to is hella stressful. plus, a bunch of old bitches sitting around talking about fictional teenage romance is lame. OR IS IT THO.
2 we are never going to discuss this, ever. i mean seriously. i'm going to derive pleasure from knowing that people i might possibly enjoy spending time with if i ever could bring myself to meet new people and i are falling asleep and drooling on the same book we'll probably never finish. maybe we'll talk about it on twitter or something. but even thinking about organizing that is a daunting task and i'm already exhausted. mariyam suggested making a facebook group, but is that dumb? the internet is so hard sometimes. (ETA: there is a group! it's called bitches gotta read! and it is full of hilarious mostly-women people who aren't irritating! come find us!!) i also have a bunch of friends on goodreads but lesbihonest: i'm not, like, putting all these john grishams i read on there because i don't need you guys clowning me in public.
3 we are never going to shame each other about not reading the fucking book. this is the beauty of never having to meet or talk about it: i ain't gotta come up with "thoughtful questions" and you ain't gotta pretend to remember what happened at the end of chapter seven while a bunch of wine-drunk bitches you don't even like that much wait expectantly for your answer. i'll read the books for sure, but that's only in case i run into one of you at the co-op and you decide to ask how shocked i was by the twist no one saw coming at the end.

brief internet synopsis:
Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family. But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role. Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed. But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

i got an early copy of this book before it came out and i tore through it in a day. first of all, it's set in chicago but, more important than that, it features a character from evanston. i.e. the place where both lena waithe and i went to high school. the book is so funny and so great and i met erika a few weeks ago at the texas book festival and she is a total joy and let me awkwardly hug her even though it was 90 actual degrees outside and everyone was damp to the touch. since i'm playing catch up and haven't given you a list of shit to read in a minute, here are some books i've read in real life on my own dime from other people i got to press my sweaty flesh against in the oppressive austin heat:
made for love by alissa nutting, a genius.
the floating world by morgan bapst, a champion.
eat only when you're hungry by lindsay hunter, a sorceror. (and my homie from way back)
all grown up by jami attenberg, a virtuoso.
goodbye, vitamin by rachel khong, a wizard.
okay whew now my guilt is assuaged for dropping the ball, especially since i went to the trouble to hyperlink all of this shit which i never ever fucking do. these should keep you occupied, depending on your reading speed and/or your penchant for cheesy hallmark holiday movies, for at least a few weeks of hiding from all the people who bought you hanukkah socks or whatever other garbage you didn't ask for.