October 19, 2014

Fish Food

vintage sweater // carin wester skirt // x-girl bag // shoes from bird on a wire

The low wall in front of our house is a fluid border that ostensibly separates the sidewalk from our front patio but is, in reality, an ad hoc community perch where dogs, birds, neighbors, and interlopers alike sit and chat just loud enough for me and the mister to glean every rote detail about the their plans to re-tile the roof or the quotidian tortures suffered from the new girl at the office or the diminishing quality of the neighborhood insects... all from the comfort of our own sofa.
Surrender to this nameless force of familiarity takes the form of barbeques on our front patio, where the smell of roasting meats nets passersby in her smoky arms. Beers are drank. Accords are silently confirmed. The other night barbecued tilapia and chicken alongside baby octopi, their little loopy bodies ready to fall through the grate and into the coals. They were very good, like chewing on new erasers. Sterling would later reiterate his reluctance to eating octopus in the wake of several recent studies shewing evidence that these taupe mollusks possess more mental and emotional intelligence than dogs. Thus my first ethics-based dietary restriction is born. I must refrain from eating octopus at all costs.
Thankfully, squid are stupid as fuck.

August 26, 2014

Privacy, Control, and The Ethics of Online Derision

The mister and I share a catholic range of freak-outs. Sometimes I have Clothing Freak Outs where I methodically try on every single thing I own, a protracted existential breakdown that hinges on futile notions of authenticity and eventually ends with the resignation that the gap between means and taste is just that.

When I worked in high-end retail, I would set my crises to music with a song I referred to as Lady Freak Out. The chorus was a high-pitched disco jam followed by a protracted breakdown as well as a dance with roots in Voguing and the Roger Rabbit

Sometimes I have Intelligence Freak Outs where it seems I can literally feel my brain bump against the ceiling of my understanding like a stray balloon.
The other day I had a Privacy Freak out. It began at the heretofore holy site of Post Workday Decompression, my favorite neighborhood taco truck. While ordering food in my broken-yet-serviceable Spanish, a guy in some sort of  Brooklyn 2005 Time Traveler uniform stepped into my personal space to stick his iPhone in the face of the girl working the truck. "Smile!" he commanded her while interrupting me. She waved awkwardly and I was enraged, but the it was over in two seconds so I ignored the whole thing until a few moments later when l he stepped into my space AGAIN and stuck his phone into the girl's face AGAIN and commanded her AGAIN to smile because the first photo apparently did not come out right. I'm not opposed to asking a friend or loved one to take a picture of/for me, but there is a special place in hell for those who rely strangers to succor their Instagram envy by demanding multiple takes. "Excuse me, do you MIND?" I said.

Then his Probably Creative-Partner piped up.

"You're actually part of a, uh... a social experiment right now" he said between maws of veggie burrito.
"Really." I replied "That sounds amazing."

He gave his friend the signal to halt the 'gram jam until I left, whence they gave me the parting gift of disapproving looks before returning to cooing about the authenticity of the truck's fare.

Perhaps this incident on its own is owed no mind. I'm sure those two gentlemen are working very hard on securing some seed funding for something or other and I wish them nothing but luck. A part of me hopes the intrusion itself was the experiment, and my reaction alone should be evidence enough to conclude that most people do not like having cameras shoved in their faces without asking, unless of course, you are a Famous Person or a Professional Comedian doing a street segment, and you are armed with a cameraman and a microphone, so that I might legitimately assume the ensuing footage will be viewed by many, many, people and I will be adequately prepared to try and charm them all.

The next morning I went out to get coffee at a spot in Silverlake, the kind of place where patrons do their best not to pay celebrities any heed, and most people have the decency to just take photos of their sunglasses artfully juxtaposed against latte art quietly at their own table. But while standing in line a kind of bridge-and-tunnel looking fellow (your jeans! They will betray you every time!) stepped back to get a wide shot of the coffee shop, and incidentally, everyone standing in line. I heard the little digital snap of his phone, and turned my head, whence he put the shutter on blast and took six or more photos, now with my face in them. The baristas kept their heads down and eyes askance, giving the impression that this wide-angle milquetoast motherfucker was not the first offender. I'm sure the coupling of these two events is greater than the sum of their parts, but I felt violated--like when strange men ask to see your tattoo while they're already touching you. I watched Bobby Bootcut fap away on VSCO Cam or whatever and tried to understand that this guy perhaps isn't a total asshole, just presumptuous and aloof. I took a moment to breathe, then walked over and asked him very politely to delete any photos he might have incidentally taken of me. The rote irony of his shock at being approached by a stranger in public only swelled my disdain, but he mumbled some vague apology and (hopefully, I can never know) deleted the photos.


Sitting at home that evening, fuming over various new lacks of privacy, I flipped through my Instagram. These are all from my own account:

So. Time and time again I do the very same thing I freaked out about being subjected to earlier. My excuses for deliberately taking pictures of strangers without their consent has been either: they don't know I'm taking their picture, or it's ok because their face isn't showing, or you can see their face but it's ok because I'm not mocking them, or I'm mocking them but it's ok because they deserve it.

Taking pictures of strangers to mock or shame them on social media used to be the internet's stock in trade. Lately it's considered morally bankrupt, or at the very least rude. Even BuzzFeed, the pioneer of mainstreaming online derision, has recently changed their tune:

For the record, I do not take moral lessons from technology companies.  I do think the state of fashion blogging at large right now is as sad, ridiculous, and transparent as Luxirare makes it out to be, but while it's easy to pillory the blogger's MO to share a little piece of my world with you! it's something we all do, blogger and, er...civilian alike.

 We curate our feeds to only receive information that we want to hear, from people we already know or want to know, see images that we already want to see, and receive arguments from people we already agree with. In turn, this is the lens through which we view the world. No wonder we see other people—real goddamn flesh and blood people—as mere  props in the worlds we create and control; the privacy of those people is moot once we are so accustomed seeing people as images. Animals too.

We rail about the trespasses of the NSA and government surveillance, but what do we as individuals do to protect our collective privacy? Not much.

I suspect the recent insistence on reminding one another that everyone on the internet is an actual person is less about some previously-untapped wellspring of empathy on the part of media outlets who generate revenue by violating the privacy of individuals in order to hold them up for public ridicule than an attempt by certain individuals who maintain those outlets to deflect ridicule from themselves. It's not okay to take pictures and make fun of strangers on social media if that stranger happens to be handicapped, marginalized, or otherwise disadvantaged (or happens to be a beloved celebrity), but it's perfectly all right to mock "privileged" people who, say...  attend Coachella.

These demarcations are determined by differences that can only be verified visibly, so those who reserve public ridicule for those who "deserve it" are even more entrenched in the tricky mode of apprehension that conflates vision with seeing. Cataloging features of deserved-ness too easily devolves into absurdist identity politics, weighing perceived privilege against perceived disadvantage in order to compute a proper judgement in thrall to the demands of our personal choir.

August 23, 2014


The idea for this video has been bouncing around in my mind for a while, so I'm happy to have KCHUNGtv as a pretext to buckle down and churn it out.  I've been meeting and working with awesome people through the Gal Palace and the Women's Center for Creative Work. Run, don't walk, to your nearest feminist collective and /or DIY event space.

Hope you dig it.

Patriarchal Fatigue from FEMMERCIALZ on Vimeo.

About Femmercialz: "There should be billboards; ads in magazines; ads on buses, subways, trains; television commercials spreading the word, letting the world know more about feminism....this is what we must do to share feminism, to let the movement into everyone's mind and heart." - bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody

Inspired by these words, a group of feminists have spent the summer making a series of ads. These have been aired on KCHUNG TV at the Hammer Art Museum during the Made in LA exhibition. Created by members of the Women's Center of Creative Work, in collision with our dreamz of creating a woman wonderland, a feminist paradise, a fallopian utopia.

August 7, 2014

Keep Your Front

Larry Johnson keeping it tight.

 As a graduate student and a faculty member I tutored athletes, because I liked them and because they got a raw deal. I asked a great hoopster what he was learning in College. He said, “lying, cheating, and getting money in a paper-bag.” So I had some sympathy and athletes were an easy teach. They knew something no other university student knew. If you work, you get in shape. If you practice, you get better. I tried to shift these athletic axioms over to academics and it usually worked. They would start scheduling timed academic workouts. (fifteen minutes of full-on Keats) Et viola. I also devised a way of teaching white English to black players. I would cite my grandfather’s Irish brogue and point out its similarities with Ebonics---most prominently the Celtic “be.” “I be going down to the liquor store, eh.” They got it and they got it every time. Ebonics was just as foreign as English

A lot of the players I tutored made the pros, like Greg Anthony, Larry Johnson and Shawn Marion. A lot didn’t, but they never let themselves go, even after the five years that marked their window into the pros. I would see them all around Vegas trim and tight, in the gym, parking cars, working as greeters or security, Even when the chance was gone, they never lost their front, never stopped shooting three-pointers in the empty gym, never let their threads look skanky.

My point: unknown artists have a forty-year window to make the bigs. This is a big edge over jocks, so you need to keep your front. You need your work habits. You need some decent threads. Your studio needs to be a workplace. You should make exhibitions not single works of art. You need to be ready, right and tight. You need to be ready with the goods to show. The rule in rock and roll, when we found ourselves setting before an empty bar: You play to the walls. You’ve never lost until you quit and, if nothing happens, maybe you will be discovered on the day you die—but you will be ready for posterity.

—Dave Hickey

Edvard Munch keeping it tight like Larry (Shore With Red House, 1904)

One of my favorite writers just joined Facebook and is regularly dropping bombs like this for free. I suggest you follow him...