I’m not exactly getting over this breakup like a mature adult. I know this because I will do something innocuous like take a walk, on a beautifu spring day with my headphones on, but then will suddenly find myself laying down on the grass, crying over my breakup. Crying over a breakup. That sounds so teenage. But come to think of it, a lot of the feellings I have are teenage feelings. It’s not like I’m trying to be young either. I just fall in love, and then if it ends I want to kill myself. This has happened over and over in my life. It’s my fate.
I once read an interview with Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s where she talked about how she lived forever in this teenage realm of intense feelings. I never bookmarked it, wish I had. But I understood her. I have spent most of my life in my own private idealized world. I’m picky in dating. I get crushes, like a teenager, and fall in love with impossible people, like people who are very far away, or people who have depression or drug problems and live in private worlds of their own and can’t be touched, either.
And then I put everything into it. I bring that person into my world and make them the center of the dark romantic fantasy. When the real-world problems like distance or lack of money burst our fantasy worlds and we break up, I want to kill myself by jumping in a lake. It’s this very intense realm of feelings that makes you feel like you are alive for about a year, but then you go back to just being part of the boring machinery of life, when it is over.
Most adults my age have anesthetized themselves to it by now. They stop falling in love over and over again and just go for sex and friends, or they are married, or they fall in love with people who could make their life work with them. I totally understand this. It’s a good idea. Why not be happy? But as for myself, I keep falling in love, for a year or so, just enough to see what living is really like, but then it ends and I’m heartbroken, again. I’ll probably die of a broken heart at age 70. Like everyone else will have heart failure, but I’ll have heartbreak. Oh well, its my choice. I prefer my private world, even if I always meet men who live in their own, and our worlds keep bumping up against each other without the real humans ever touching.
I’m on a roll, I’m on a roll
This time, I feel my luck could change
Kill me Sarah, kill me again with love
It’s gonna be a glorious day
I’m in a very negative and honest mood today. The truth is – I hate NJ. I have been living here for the last 10 years. When I came here, I thought it was New England. I had lived in Boston for 3 years and liked it there. but I quickly learned that this is not Boston.
Why do I detest NJ?
Weather. It’s either freezing, like this winter which has been endless, or in the summer it’s a sticky swamp. There are a few pretty seasons in between, and the leaves do get pretty in the fall, but it never lasts long enough.
People – Sorry. I hate you guys! People here have the worst accents. It’s nasal and harsh. I hope never to get one. Men and women around my age segregate themselves, according to ancient Turkish law or something. The women sit around and talk about cooking. Men talk about sports. Young men talk about trucks or games. Bruce Springsteen is a safe musical conversation choice for everyone. NJ people are just rednecks who do not live in the country.
The problem with the people of NJ is that they think these are great topics.
What do I want to talk about? How about video art? How about the books of Milan Kundera, or the music of Joy Division, or Radiohead, or Amanda Palmer? How about old buildings? How about the movies of David Lynch?
At least in other places that were dirty and industrial, such as the Soviet Union, or North of England, or Detroit, people hated it there and that led to interesting movements in art or something. Here in NJ people mostly just live with it and go to the mall, or Florida, so nothing interesting comes of it and nothing changes.
Potholes – The NJ Department of Transportation estimated 300,000 potholes that need to be repaired after the endless winter of 2014-2015. They are still there, and they are ruining my car.
Surroundings – There is nothing worse than NJ in the winter. Did I mention winter? First of all, NJ has bad planning. Anyone can just build anything anywhere. So they put businesses in houses and houses in businesses. Then there are power lines snaking in and out of everything. Then most of Central NJ is paved over and full of traffic, oil and litter that people throw from their cars. The combination of disentegrating houses, torn up sidewalks, dirty snow and litter all over the place makes winter into a fossil fuel mess, so I usually just stay indoors.
I wish I could give this a happy ending or at least make it a learning experience. The only thing i would say is – what if I liked everything all the time, and everything was happy, all the time. Yeah, that would be hell, too.
These are the songs that make me long for my ex-long-distance-lover.
Bitten by the Tailfly is the name of an Elbow song. He always tried to get me into Elbow, and I was mildly interested, at best. That was in the early days our our relationship – Elbow, Radiohead, Eels, Mountain Goats. I tried to act like Elbow was whiney, and juvenile, an “emo” band. But really I could not handle the intensity of the lyrics.
The next phase of our relationship was other bands – he got me into Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, and Strokes. And I got him into Alt-J. Our album was “This is All Yours”. It was ours.
Gradually, I came to like Radiohead more and more. I had never gotten into Radiohead earlier because I was into Mudhoney more. But once he showed me how intense and painful and sad their lyrics could be. I was hooked. But Radiohead was too intense a high. I would listen for weeks and become depressed. I had to talk to him about it. We had weird conversations, and the fact that we were 3000 miles apart made them weirder. I wanted this to be our song for having sex. But it could only be our song for masturbating over webcam. The feelings were too intense for me, and again I tried to pretend I didn’t like Radiohead, and only liked stupid music like the Doobie Brothers. This song was almost too powerful:
Cherry Ghost was another band he got me into. And, thank god, they were less intense than Elbow, or Radiohead. I love this song which reminds me of the romance and longing that accompanied every moment of our relationship, where we could not touch each other:
And then, because we both loved Nick Cave all along, even from before we met each other, but that was just a given. Nick Cave was one of the things that brought us together, when we met on that music-oriented dating site:
And in the last part of our relationship, we were actually visiting each other. We listened to things together. I remember being stoned on the couch and laughing at this:
Finally, after 1 year, when we realized that we could not be together, because a relationship can’t exist only on webcam, we broke up. And one week later, I posted this on facebook, This is the song that reminds me of our breakup:
I am crying now, after listening to all these songs that remind me of him. But crying and writing sucks up all the banal hours, and keeps me going. I want to remember him, and the relationship that we built on love and hope and optimism, and music.
Recently, I learned about the other Princess Cornflakes. It is an independent French film, an “extra-large fashion comedy” by Antoine Asseraf and René Habermacher. You can see it here. I just watched it and from what I can tell, it’s a parody of girls aspirations to be beautiful and perfect models when they grow up, sort of a mini-Jane Campion. It’s creative and features special-effects scenes worthy of 50’s pulp fiction such as Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. I enjoyed Princess Cornflakes very much and I’m proud to share a name with this production.
My boyfriend and I both like the author Chuck Palahniuk. Well, my boyfriend likes Chuck better than me, but I like him too and we both refer to him as “Chuck Whatshisname”.
Chuck follows in the great tradition of writers such as Hunter S. Thompson or Tom Wolfe, and chronicles the extremes and excesses of American society in a genre called “transgressive fiction“. For example, Chuck’s book “Choke” tells the story of Victor Mancini, a recovering sex addict who pretends to choke on food in restaurants to con money out of people.. “Snuff” is about an aging porn star who choses to do the largest gangbang ever filmed. It’s a short book but is based abstractly on the story of Annabelle Chong, a feminist porn star who really did set out to make the world’s biggest gangbang.
I like Chuck’s books as they break through all taboos. They put everything out there. In our world where everything is available, but we are still expected to behave with Victorian decorum at times, Chuck’s characters are very refreshing. In Choke, for example, Victor logs on to a web site where a naked fat man is having monkeys stuff chestnuts up his ass, for all to see on the Internet. This monkey-stuffing man, who dispenses with all the layers of socially expected behavior, and clothing, and dignity, is totally liberated. I love this quote from Choke:
No matter what else you came up against, if you could smile and laugh while a monkey did you with chestnuts in a dank concrete basement while somebody took pictures, well, any other situation would be a piece of cake.
Currently I am enjoying Chuck’s Pygmy. Pygmy is about a group of Chinese exchange students who are actually highly trained special agents, come to America to live with host families, impregnate (or become impregnated by) Americans, and bring our society to it’s knees. It also involves a Midwestern host family where the mom is addicted to sex toys and steals all the batteries from her kids. The book is written in Chuck’s own invented pidgin Chinese.
The dialect reminds me of the broken English that you sometimes read on Programmer Forums. It can be hard to understand at times, but if you stick with it it’s hilarious. For example, Pygmy is describing the aisles at Wal-Mart:
Location former chew gum, chocolate snack, salted chips of potato, current now occupy with cylinder white paraffin encase burning string, many tiny single fire. Location former bright-color breakfast objects boasting most taste, most little price, recent best vitamins, current now feature bunches severed genitals of rose plants, vagina and penis of daisy and carnation plants, flaunted color and scent of many inviting plant sex life organs.
Or here Pygmy describes American pop music:
Useless American poetry and music no celebrate sacrifice lifetime to preserve state. No herald shining future of bright nuclear weapon, abundant wheat, and shining factory. No, instead most American song only empower to enjoy premature actions necessary for reproduction, grant permission commingle egg and seed among random partner occupying padded rear bench automobile.
I have no idea how Pygmy will take over the world. Well, actually I do, but I won’t spoil that for you my highly esteemed honorable blog reader of much fertile egg or seed.
Recently, on a music discussion group, we started discussing the similarities of Roxy Music’s Avalon and Steely Dan’s Gaucho. Both were made in the early 80’s and both albums have an extremely smooth sound characterized by lots of saxophone. And both albums are great for driving along the coast and pretending you are a yuppie, talking on a huge cellphone and driving a BMW. Love it or hate it, saxophones are the sound of the 80’s. Why is that? Is the sax some bygone urban yuppie dream of cool? Or was there something more to it?
People often wonder why I was an art historian, and why I took Visual Culture classes. There is nothing
lucrative that you can do with art history. And visual culture must be the silliest subject in the world. I mean all you are doing is looking at pictures, right?*
Yes, I know, your 5-year-old can look at pictures*. But that doesn’t make him a cultural critic. That doesn’t give him an understanding of the language of the visual world (visual semiotics and semantics) and the ability to analyze the power of images over popular culture. That is what we do in art history.
This might not seem so interesting or useful. I mean they are just harmless pictures, right? Why would anyone want to criticize pictures? Well, some pictures, like children’s illustrations, or paintings, are fairly harmless. But the majority of pictures that we see every day are not art or illustration. Most of the images we see today are advertising, and I believe advertising must be criticized and historicized. That doesn’t mean that we have to think ads are “bad”. But we should see ads for what they are, an attempt to sell us something in a very seductive way. Sometimes ads are cool. But they aren’t art.
I was recently thinking about those great 1990’s ads for Guess jeans (Georges Marciano). They were so beautiful. They looked like dramatic films stills and they featured top models like Claudia Schiffer or Anna Nicole Smith. They usually had a very “American” feeling to them, like something from a western. But others were very European like an old Italian realist movie. They felt gritty and cinematic.
It occurred to me that a major influence on the 1990’s Guess ads was John Houston’s 1961 film, The Misfits. You know the one with Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. If you don’t know it you should see it. It’s set in the American desert and tells the story of a divorcée and some struggling cowboys in Nevada still trying to live the frontier life in the 1960’s, but probably well on their way to just becoming trailer trash on the outskirts of Las Vegas in a world where global distribution and spreading suburbanism was killing the frontier. It’s a study of the end the cowboy persona and the American idea of “freedom” that came with it.
The Misfits and those Guess ads have so much in common. Passionate love, beautiful dumb people, and a gritty, black-and-white environment. But I would say that the Misfits is art and the Guess ads are not. John Huston, filmmaker of the Misfits, wanted to say something about how the frontier no longer fits daily life. Like an advertiser, he used beauty to make his message attractive and seductive. But his message was so much more thought provoking than the Guess message, which is simply “buy jeans”. But I don’t think much more of an argument needs to be made for these differences.
But lots of people who grew up on the Guess ads (like me) stop there and see the ads as iconic. The ads do have the feeling of the film, but they are derivative. They only communicate how the film looked, and not Huston’s overall message. To get to the message, you have to think harder and find the thing in history that influences the ads. But in our visual world where new images are constantly replacing old ones, we are not conditioned to look up the older things. We are so caught up in watching the ever-changing slide show of new images, some of which make us forget the past, but many of which, like the Guess ads, evoke it. These “throwback” images represent consumer culture’s obsession with nostagia that post modernists like Fredrick Jameson referred to as the “historical amnesia”.
And it’s cool. After all, we don’t want to overanalyze and over think things. And yet, sometimes being constantly entertained gets old. We start to wonder if we are making our own choices any more. That is why I personally love old images and old things. I love to see what people watched on TV in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I love to see the products they bought, the brochures they looked it, their flowery kitchen wallpaper, their speech and lack of clever irony. I even love more recent old things, like techno from the 1990’s. I think it’s important to try to remember or research how people behaved in other eras. And I’m not just talking about cool hot rods and rockabilly music or raves and pacifiers. I’m talking about the boring everyday aspects of a past era. How they might only have had one telephone in the house, or a girl might only have had two dresses because clothes were made in America, the little forgotten details.
So overall, art history is good and useful. We see lots of images – art primarily. We see how they have been received through history. An understanding of these older images serves as a triggers for memory when we are looking around our highly mediated environment, so that we can demystify popular advertising images and understand where they came from, and we don’t get too swept up in the seduction of novelty, like hapless cowboys trying to live in a romantic past that doesn’t really exist.
* Here is the rest of my diatribe about your five year old. It felt like I was getting off-topic so I made it a footnote: Your dear child CAN make something that looks like a Rauschenberg, or a Jackson Pollack (more likely a Pollack. Rauschenbergs were really complicated multi-media collages and most 5-year-olds couldn’t do the nailing or sawing involved). What your 5-year-old cannot do is make them at the right historical moment. Your kid doesn’t understand the evolution of painting over hundreds of years, and the “art rules” that were in place up until the 50’s that caused manipulating paint in a seemingly haphazard way to be so revolutionary. Sorry. Your 5-year old is not avant-garde.