So it finally happened. I finally am going to go out and put on my nametag and shave my mustache and tell people that they can be gay and God will still love them and that women are powerful like gods and that we’re all gonna be saved in the end because God loves us and provides for us so do you want to read a Book of Mormon?
That means I’m going to be signing off of this here website for 2 whole years! This blog is almost four years old this year! I’ve been in Summer of Megadeth for nearly 2 years! Isn’t all of this so surreal and strange?
Cecilia wrote a screenplay that’s better than anything I’ve done. Not that what I’ve done is any good. Some people don’t read what I write and have the tactlessness to start a conversation about why and when and where they didn’t read it—though for some reason even this banality is colored by positive assumptions and great excitement about what remains to be read in some anticipated future. How I’ve made such a favorable impression of talent without the opportunity for engagement remains mysterious.
When her peers, for lack of a more damning term, want to talk to Cecilia about her work, the same glowing potentialities do not apply. There is, as appalling baseline, the question of whether it’s “something for women, or something that anyone can relate to,” as if a funny woman would naturally wish to purge men from her audience. There is, once the subject matter comes out, the question of whether it’s “stupid, or doing something smart with something stupid,” as if women would and should resort to hackery right out of the gate. Finally, when assured that the screenplay is dark, multilayered and satirical, a crypto-misogynist, even while mentally burnishing his feminist bona fides, will ask: “Oh, so you take after your man?”
Her man being the author of a novel that, even before it has been opened, is so transparently important, impressive and worthwhile.
You may never see Cecilia’s first name in the credits of a movie she’s written. That’s because having a woman’s name on a script, and read by strangers, is to invite a prejudice that need not be overt to influence the odds of her success. It’ll be better, she says, to use her initials and sidestep gender entirely. There is a long tradition of this sort of thing.
I think it’s fair in the current student loan discussion to point out that the timing is rather, um, fortuitous. That is, the job market has soured enough that the people for whom opportunity was always a pretty hard slog (the three lower quintiles in terms of income or mobility, who haven’t had a real wage increase in 40 years) are no longer the only ones feeling the effects of a pretty much stagnant economy since 1970.
The upper two quintiles, numbering a lot of [brace yourself, everyone!] white, middle class and above kids, used to filing into positions that were by and large secure a generation ago (law, accounting, media, education with the prospect of tenure or unionized positions, etc.) are now looking at the world, like, well, everyone else. And since they are in position to publicize, they are (good for them!) — but the crisis has always been there. They just weren’t as inspired by it when it was only abstract.
I’d been beating the drum of wanting a chart of student loan ratios tracked to income and inflation when I was in school 20 years ago. Graduating into a recession, I was pretty clear that I was part of a generation where the hedge education was sold as was perhaps inverting. It most definitely was if you wanted anything besides a J.D/MBA/M.D. I specifically did not pursue a PhD because I saw no good evidence that it was a viable economic investment. As a 24 year old, I was pretty bitter, but felt like I was adult enough that I could be held accountable for my decisions, and my concerns about my family’s financial future were enough that making any other decision seem frivolous, my charged ideological beliefs about revolution and social housing notwithstanding (and you know, don’t feel that bad for me: it turned out okay.)
I felt like my anger about the reality of the job market and what I had mortgaged (as a comparison, in 1993, fully bearing the costs of my student loans was 30% of my gross income at the time) as an undergraduate was perhaps more than an 18 year old should be compelled to calculate. There were a number of extenuating stressors (growing up in an economically depressed area meant there wasn’t really the possibility of just entering the job market) but they don’t roll up into a statistically relevant point.
So there most definitely is a crisis in education debt. But the story there isn’t about people borrowing a lot of money for grad school. That’s a decision an adult makes. The real crisis in the clearly exploitative recruiting techniques of trade school and other for profit schools — which were in full effect 10, 20 and 30 years ago. The difference now is that by expanding the Stafford program means it’s more of a public debt problem.
And there is a crisis in state public education where states are devolving their education expenses to the lowest rungs, often to the benefit of middle class kids, since in absolute terms state schools have a much lower price point for tuition.
This student loans thing is actually a real big deal, you guys. I won’t go into a long comparison of the student loan debt panic of late to the sex panic of the late 20th century, mostly because I doubt any implicit and attendant comparison between getting an education (under false premises, but still) and contracting HIV holds up, and further, I wouldn’t want it to, but let me just say this: Sometime in the past few years, the conversation about student loan debt has come to be primarily structured around shame. And I think we all agree that when the discourse has no recourse but shame? It ends no where good.
What I mean is this: I, and several people I know, have seriously considered taking drastic measures because of our student loan debt. Leaving the country permanently, faking our own death (I’m not fucking kidding), ending our lives — the state of the economy and employment options, coupled with the shame attached to this debt (lots of it imposed to cover for the reality that huuuuuuge third party-profits are being made from student loan debt), has made the situation really fucking dire. REALLY FUCKING DIRE. It’s probably needless to say, but this country has a long history of deploying shame to deflect or redirect blame, and the shame gets thrown at those people who are most vulnerable to it.
I have a lot of student loan debt. I also have a PhD, so, exploitative and fucked academic job market and tenure system notwithstanding, I am actually among the few kinds of debtors who might one day be in a position to pay this debt off. Many people have as much debt as I have for a 4 year degree, I mean fuck. I went into this debt partially out of necessity, and partially through a series of questionable choices (mostly in terms of where I chose to go to school — ie not a top-tier university, thus, nonviable stipends) — but for the overwhelmingly large part, not because I spent money irresponsibly and I think that I am the worst case scenario here. I read a news story today about a woman in Detroit (which, oddly enough, is basically where this proposal for the reform act started — at my own university! So proud!) who went into $100k of debt to get a bachelor’s and master’s in teaching so that she could teach in the Detroit public school system, possibly the most tragic school system currently operating in our country. She grew up in Detroit and went to school there and wanted to get an education so that she could go back into the system and try to make it better. Now she can’t get married, or buy a house, or really do anything, because she pays 30% of her income to the student loans, and she hasn’t made a dent. She shouldn’t feel even the tiniest bit of shame, but I bet she does, because it is easier to find the one thing that she could have done differently than it is to look clearly at the real problem, to follow the profits instead of recognizing the fact that this woman has basically mortgaged her entire life to try to do something good, the right thing, even.
I maybe deserve a little shame. And believe me, during the past few months I have spent many early mornings fetal style, shaking, clutching a lemon and thinking about how I will never have a home, a partner, children (fuck a new car, or vacation, I’m way past that) — really important things that I have been led to believe, and have begun myself to truly believe, I don’t deserve. Sidebar: I wonder how much big pharma is making off SSRI and benzo scrips for student loan debtors. I don’t know how much Obama’s proposed reforms, as well as those already enacted but not previously known about or made available, will help this situation, or will help any of us individually. I don’t think they represent a magical cure for debt or shame, and I am trying to be realistically and cautiously optimistic. But when I got the letter saying my loans qualified under this act? And then got online, read the details, and applied? I saw a light at the end of a tunnel where previously there had been no light at all. Maybe I can be a person! Maybe I deserve to be a productive and contributing member of society! Maybe I can get out from under my parents! Maybe I can face the shame that does belong to me without having to take on Sallie Mae’s as well.
And then I started going a little bananas and thinking that I could also conquer health insurance today, which, still no.
I would never shame anyone for their college choices but to me, I would die of heart-popping-out-of-my-mouth anxiety if I was saddled with anything near a six-figure college debt. Stay in(-state) school, kids.
“The debate in the House of Delegates was homophobic and embarrassing and showed a disrespect to a chief deputy commonwealth attorney and decorated veteran who was honorably discharged,” said Sen. Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria), Virginia’s first openly gay state senator. “It’s offensive that the Senate wouldn’t even grant Lt. Thorne-Begland the courtesy of a vote.”
From the Poetry Center Archive: John Cheever reads “The Swimmer”
On Thursday night, 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center will present “John Cheever at 100,” a centennial celebration of the great fiction writer with readings and remembrances by Susan Cheever (his daughter), Blake Bailey (his biographer), Allan Gurganus (a former student) and Michael Chabon (one of his biggest fans).
The evening will also feature some audio excerpts from Cheever’s two appearances here at 92Y (in 1964 and 1977), but today, in anticipation, we’d like to share a recording of Cheever reading one of his most famous stories, “The Swimmer” at 92Y on December 19, 1977.
“The story was made into a film some of you may have seen,” Cheever remarked before he began to read. “It still runs on late-night television. I know because people always call me and say, ‘Hey, you’re in the movies!’ It’s usually about half past 11… . Here again the story has had an international success, and the various interpretations have always interested me. It’s very popular in Russia, for example, where there are almost no swimming pools and where almost nobody swims.”
Burt Lancaster starred in the adaptation, which was shot in May of 1966. “Though an acrobat, a boxer, and a horseman,” Bailey reports in his biography, “Lancaster could scarcely swim a stroke and had been working since April with the UCLA swimming coach.” Cheever himself makes a brief cameo at a poolside cocktail party. Unhappy with the original cut, the producer delayed the film’s release until 1968. After attending the premiere, Cheever wrote to a friend: “It is not a great picture, but it is faithful to the story, and at the end, when he returns to the empty house, grown men weep.” And he thought Lancaster was terrific—“both young and old, masterful and tearful … lithe and haggard.”
Bailey says that Cheever had been nervous about meeting Lancaster that first day on set, but “after shooting was finished that morning, the actor put on a bathrobe and had a poolside lunch with Cheever…after which Cheever (evidently over the worst of his shyness) ‘jumped beararse’ into the water.”
In an ongoing effort to share with our readers some of the great literary moments which the Poetry Center has presented across the decades, this blog has begun to feature regular postings of archival recordings. To purchase tickets to “John Cheever at 100,” please click here. And for access to other recordings from the Poetry Center archive, please click here.
I told a bunch of joke, some of which ran on Tumblr/Twitter earlier (kale as a status vegetable, artisan Brooklyn will collapse when they find the recipes on Pinterest, nothing sadder than a gay couple that can’t afford good furniture, etc.) and got a few chuckles and it was moderately successful! I feel good about the result. And now I have the career prospects of every other amateur stand-up comedian, which means I should keep going but definitely should not give up the day… oh, well there’s no day job, so half of tomorrow will be spent writing more jokes so that I can do them at some undetermined open mic.
I’m no expert, but I believe you should say why you like things.
Now, like I said, I don’t exactly know what I’m talking about here, but it makes sense to me for people to explain or at least describe why they like certain things. Otherwise, life becomes a neverending unPinteresting slideshow of flag planting and aesthetic curation. Life turns into the cultural apocalypse that Thorstein Veblen warned us about. And that’s that shit I don’t like.
You don’t need to tell me about stupid-easy Note-baiting and the memeification of ‘life’. Because I’m on it, and it’s fun to do. But at some point, well at any point, it’s nice for someone to tap the brakes.
Otherwise, life seems to become, well, see above. Swag!Like!Swag!Swag!Like!Like!Reblog!
And then come the people who point out (rightly) that that method of living and talking about things makes no sense. But they do it (generalizing here) in a really annoying and facile way. I don’t get why anyone likes Lil B he’s retarded. Well, ok. I get it. Lil B is overrated he sucks and he’s gay.
It makes sense for the level of critique to rise exactly as high as the level of ‘hype’ supporting an art object. That should be some sort of Law of the Internet or something. (I call that, btw: B Michael’s First Law Of The Internet.)
That’s why there are entire departments devoted to Shakespeare — even if you don’t like him or think he didn’t exist or think he was an unhappy accident of colonialism and cultural mercenariness — there are at least a lot of smart people talking about why he’s great and why he’s problematic. That’s also why a show like Girls got memefied (see above) but it also created a spirited debate about sex, race, class, aesthetics — the whole thing. And why a show like, oh I don’t know, virtually none of the other ones has not — the people writing about all those shows was doing so on such a higher level that it was a mere eventuality that a rippingly provocative conversation would happen around it.
Anyway — you may be upset — this is just prologue or table setting for my main point, which is that I really like what Kitty Pryde is doing on “Justin Bieber” and “Okay Cupid”, and I’m going to say specifically why because simple cries of “AWESOME!” or “SHE SUCKS SPEND YOUR TIME ON SOMETHING BETTER” simply should not be addressed or countenanced.
They’re not only worthless comments, but they actually have a negative value. Well, or, they’re bad in a way that seems economic to me, a non-economist.
The economics of unpaid internships are obvious. Employers are desperate for cheap work, and “free” is pretty cheap. Workers are desperate for, well, anything, and students and recent grads are willing to negotiate their wages down to zero. But the ethics aren’t so clear-cut. If unpaid internships are the key to better jobs and bigger salaries, should we be concerned about the millions of lower-class students who can’t afford to work for free?
Yesterday, I asked you to tell me your experiences and opinions about unpaid internships. Hundreds of you responded.
Over the next four years, people (meaning more New York-focused and -based people than anywhere else) will have to muddle through articles written by people who claim to be adult and free-thinking, rational, professional observers of political fact around the topic of who would be a better candidate in 2016: Hilary Clinton or Andrew Cuomo.
Now, for the 8% or so of you who live in the deepest nethers of New York, or toil in the ostensibly professional media, let me share with you a fact that 99% of all sentient Democrats already know: Hilary in a coma gets more votes than Cuomo. His own Dad won’t vote for him. Put that shit to bed, and write about how great it would be if he ran for mayor. It’s the only viable job he has left.
"Work is a drag and I slow-drift down a murky cataract of razor sharp doubt and sledge-hammer tedium. Lied so I could work from home today. Couldn’t stand to do the commute and sit around beating back the glaringly obvious pallor of Who The Fuck Cares that I surely display.
You have probably heard of the Ohio Cub Scout leader who was forced to resign for being a lesbian. My brother recently shared this with his 7-year-old son who, in addition to being in the Cub Scouts, has a friend with two lesbian moms which required its own explanation a couple years ago. Now, my enlightened nephew reacted to the latest news by telling my brother this: “Dad, we have two choices. Plan A: We ask the Cub Scouts to change their mind. Plan B: We quit.”
The New Aesthetic concerns itself with “an eruption of the digital into the physical.”
The New Aesthetic is moving out of its original discovery phase, and into a evangelical, podium-pounding phase.
The New Aesthetic has the “scenius” of London’s Silicon Roundabout to support it.
I must try to explain the New Aesthetic to a wondering mankind
The “New Aesthetic” is a native product of modern network culture.
The New Aesthetic is a “theory object” and a “shareable concept.”
The New Aesthetic is “collectively intelligent.”
It is rhizomatic,
It’s open-sourced, and triumph-of-amateurs.
Above all, the New Aesthetic is telling the truth.
It’s the news, and it’s the truth.
the New Aesthetic is culturally agnostic.
The New Aesthetic is comprehensible.
The New Aesthetic carries a severe, involved air of Pynchonian erudition.
It’s temporal rather than atemporal.
The New Aesthetic is very hands-on, immediate, grainy and evidence-based.
Its core is a catalogue of visible glitches in the here-and-now, for the here and for the now.
It requires close attention.
The New Aesthetic is inherently modish
The New Aesthetic is constructive.
It’s built by and for working creatives.
It is generational.
It is a fresh and different thing.
It’s an avant-garde,
the New Aesthetic is a gaudy, network-assembled heap.
It assails critics like Walter Benjamin, rather than Walter Benjamin’s hapless artists.
The New Aesthetic is a rather old, and hearteningly traditional, story about a regional, generational cluster of creative people who are perceiving important stuff that other, older, and dumber people don’t get quite yet.
It’s a typical avant-garde art movement that has arisen within a modern network society
It’s a lure and a snare.
The true problem with the New Aesthetic is that it truly is a new aesthetic.
It has to become one, even if it doesn’t much want to be one.
The New Aesthetic is gooey all over with noosphere sauce.
The New Aesthetic is a genuine aesthetic movement with a weak aesthetic metaphysics.
It’s not their fault.
It’s our fault for pretending otherwise, for fooling ourselves, for projecting our own qualities onto phenomena that we built, that are very interesting to us, but not at all like us.
The New Aesthetic dusts off the Turing Test in a new Super Mario robot-vision guise, but it can’t get away with that attention-compelling metaphysical maneuver.
So the New Aesthetic is really a design-fiction, it’s a postulated creative position.
it’s a hoax, a put-on.
CERN built it, we live it now.
It was exciting because it touched something new, true and real.
the New Aesthetic is trying to hack a modern aesthetic, instead of thinking hard enough and working hard enough to build one.
That is my thesis; that’s why I think this matters.