Sunday, April 17, 2011

Top 5 Banned Books of 2010

1.       The ttyl Series: a series about teenage girls written in text message format, and supposedly quite realistic.
Reasons: Nudity, sex, drugs, swear words
Okay, let’s address the “nudity” claim. I would like to point out that this is a BOOK. So, what, did she describe the nudity? If so, WHO CARES? They are WORDS… and since sex is a different category one assumes that these aren’t even sexualized words. If your kid can’t handle the word “breast,” then for God’s sake, remove said child from English class and invest immediately in a psychotherapist who can help him or her overcome his/her obviously stunted emotional development.
2.       And Tango Makes 3: a children’s book about two male penguins who adopt and raise a baby penguin
Reasons: Homosexuality
Um, I’m sorry? Is this committee actually overtly suggesting homophobia as a legitimate objection to a children’s book? Like, they’re not even going to try to find some sort of figurehead excuse? How is this considered acceptable?!!! It’s like a politician calling for a boycott of Woody Allen movies because “Jews are icky.”
3.       The Perks of Being a Wallflower: First person account of the complications of life as a teenager.
Reasons: Homosexuality (again), sex, swear words, religious perspective
Reading that list is like playing a game of “Which One Doesn’t Belong?”  I can’t believe the presence of a religious perspective is grounds for banning. I mean, kids have to know… they do exist. I respect the need to maintain an unbiased curriculum, but these books aren’t just not required- they’re banned. As in, the library is not allowed to stock them. Again, I feel that the children here are being somewhat underestimated… I have total faith that little Sally will be able to read a fictional novel without immediately converting to the main characters particular affiliation. One would hope.
4.       To Kill a Mockingbird: Oh, you know this… Or you’d better.
Reasons: Racism, swearing
First of all, this book is not promoting racism… actually just the opposite. Is it banned because racism is upsetting? If so, then that school must have one limited curriculum. I’d like to see how they managed the history classes without war. And also, I find it absurd that racism is abhorred but sexual discrimination is actively participated in. This board sucks.
5.       Twilight: The whole teenaged vampire thing.
Reasons: sex
No comment.
As for the issues I didn’t address- I would like to reply simply by listing a few titles and the themes therein.
Romeo and Juliet: teen suicide, sex among minors, murder, sexual innuendoes, swearing
Greek classics: Incest, murder, bestiality, suicide, sexism, racism, drugs (LOTUS)
The Bible: incest, sexism, racism, bestiality, murder, genocide, favoritism, religious perspective (s), cannibalism, torture, prostitution, theft, betrayal, death, gambling, homosexuality, homophobia, apocalypse… and many, many more.
I rest my case.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Awesome Accessories... In Books

Books/ myths have a lot to offer fashion-wise for entertainment that is almost entirely non-visual. Here are my top picks for fictional accessories, as well as some more realistic manifestations if you are inclined to make one of them your own.

1. Dorothy's Ruby Slippers: The sequined-up fire-engine pumps you wore every day when you were six may be a bit much for the modern workplace, but luckily there's a very neat equivalent over here in the real world in the form of a little brand called Ferragamo. These babies are all about their signature red underbellies, and if you flash these around enough, you can probably also get wherever you want to. Mostly because if you have Ferragamos, then you probably have money, and money = access to EVERYTHING!

2. Miss Havesham's Wedding Dress: If you had one of these, you'd never want to take it off either.

3.The One Ring: You don't even need a real- life equivalent... you can buy the real thing. Seriously. I saw it in one of those in-flight magazines. You can order an exact copy of the ring that could destroy middle earth. I mean, minus the actual destructive capacities. I guess if you want hardcore authenticity you could buy this and a nuclear weapon off of the black market, but I'd advise against it; you'd probably wake up the next morning in Guantanamo Bay. If you just want the whole invisible thing, just throw on a white Hanes tee, Uggs, and some skinny jeans. Trust me, no one will notice you. *Switch Uggs into Rainbows if you live on the West Coast.

4.The Sorting Hat: Okay, there's no real equivalent here, but if you want a witch's hat, just go to any Halloween store. If you want a hat that also provides you with an automatic group with which to align yourself, here are some possible options:
  • Ironic Trucker Hat- Why, just pop on over to your local American Apparel! There, you will find a wonderful sample population of your new posse. You'll have a grand old time bonding over PBRs and bemoaning the way MGMT has completely sold out
  • Beret-Hooray, beret! You'll fit right in with the artsy, the intellectual, the whimsical, the European, and the pretentious. Simply pick your poison! They'll accept you no questions asked, because this hat, she speaks- she speaks for you.
  • Fedora- Rock on. Your new friends are at Paramore.
  • Baseball Cap- oh, well aren't you just so cool and laid back and attractive. Fine. Just go find your requisite group of hot guy friends and play Madden all night and be awesome.
  • Derby Hat- Congrats on your recent assention into the English aristocracy! Tell Will and Kate I say hi.

5. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Just tote your fav volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica. What's that? You don't have freakish Goliath-like strength? Fine. I guess an iphone would work, too.

6. Holden's Red Hunting Cap: This has the potential to be atrocious or cute. Here is a cute one. Just please refrain from whining about phonies while you're wearing it.

7. Mary Poppins' Magic Purse (later usurped by Hermoine's clutch in the last Harry Potter book): There isn't anything that expands magically yet, but a good solid boho bag should do the trick. Those things could fit a twelve year old child in there. If you literally have so much stuff that you can't fit it all in one of these, then A & E has a show called "Hoarders" them.

8.Holly Golightly's Sunglasses: The movie kind of did this for you... go hit up a Ray Bans.

9.Hermes' Sandals: Okay, there are two ways you can go here... stylistically, if you're craving the ancient Greek, you can slap on a pair of gladiators or lace-ups. You could even rock bandage heels and pretend you're somewhere in the realm of authenticity. (Even though you're really not). If it the transportation is what you crave, they have those sneakers with the wheels in the heels. And of course, there's always roller blades (especially effective when strapped to fireworks!). If you just want to feel like you are walking on air, then invest in some temperpedic slippers. They're expensive, but let me tell you something: they are so. fucking. comfortable.

10. Hester Prynne's Scarlet Letter: A normal person wouldn't want a badge that alerted all the world to their greatest personal mistake. But if you're not a normal person, then iron-on patches are for you. Be a total hippy and put them on your canvas purses, your torn jeans, your ratty caps... whatever floats your boat. You're welcome to actually get a big red "A", but you could also go for something cuter/ more normal like a car logo or a peace sign. Again, up to you.

Art Mirrors Life: Characters' Modern Social Equivelants

The frenemy: You all know the term. This person is "like totally your bff" until they forward your "Cabo!" pictures to your boss and tell your boyfriend you shave your butt. This delightfully purloined relationship is exemplified in the wonderful novel A Separate Peace. One minute Gene is telling Phineas how awesome he is- they're playing "Blitzball"- it's an Indian Summer... and then BAM. Knocks him off a tree-branch. Frenemy indeed.

The couple that is "SOINLOVE!!!": It is nauseating how consumed these people are. Romeo and Juliet are teenagers, which is kind of how it should be, but it real life, there is no age limit. There are sixty-five year old new couples that are similarly hellish to be around. They are all about the PDA and the extreme dramatics. "Staaaaaay... it isn't morning! I couldn't BEAR to part from you for even one nano-millisecond. What's that? There are people who will very literally KILL you if you stay? But I looooove yoooouuuuu!!!!!!" ick.

The group clown: AKA the drunk slob you profess to disdain but secretly love because he's awesome. Shakespeare locked this one down perfectly with Twelfth Night's Sir Toby Belch. Objectively, the man is loathesome: he's loud, inconsiderate, and almost willfully stupid. And yet he delights us. We rejoice in his eventual wedded bliss and applaud him for his inspired bullying of the insufferable Malvolio. Same with whatever lovable buffoon you have in your personal network. Maybe he is funny, maybe he has a good heart, maybe he just plain makes you feel superior. Whatever the reason, his presence is joy, and without it your life would be strangely lacking.

Your boss: Milton's Satan. So cunning. So sneaky. So teeeeempting with that raise that you are never really going to get.

Your husband/boyfriend/S.O., if you love him or her: Lancelot

Your husband/boyfriend/S.O. if you don't: Arthur

The teacher who changed your life: Atticus Finch. This man was absolutely everything every mentor should be. He was kind, brave, generous, fair, wise, patient.... yeah. You get it.

The mule: This person will pursue every issue to the bitter end. He googles every single fact about which you disagree or about which there is any question whatsoever. He will demand every detail of every aspect of the story you're trying to tell to the point that you never actually get to finish telling it. He will. not. let. it. go. Just like Captain Ahab and his white whale, this person will DIE before he just ACCEPTS that a tomato ought to be classified as a fruit and not a vegetable.

The person who you don't like, and therefore run into absolutely EVERYWHERE: James Joyce's Ulysses is basically a story about one man (Leopold Bloom) walking around the city for a day. It just so happens that his wife is concurrently having an affair with a skeeze machine named Blazes Boylen, about which Leopold just so happens to be aware. Naturally, he hates him. In the 24 hour period over which Ulysses is set, that man is EVERYWHERE. All of Dublin and he has to eat at the same cafe as Leopold. He passes by him on the street. People talk about him at Leopold's friend's funeral. It's absurd! Yet I swear to God, the same thing happened with my least favorite math teacher in high school, and half the people I know have routine run-ins with a particularly awkward ex boyfriend.

The "complex" emotional teenager: Holden. Caufield. Everyone's a phony. Everything's fake. Nothing
means anything. Oh Holden... your sensitivity is endearing, but you're a phony, too. There are literally hundreds of kids just like you, skulking around the playgrounds late at night and lamenting the damaged state of the world. And everybody knows one.

The sweet old man who tells you the same story nine times: Don Quixote. Granted, your old neighbor/grandfather/ old family friend might still retain their more rational mental faculties, but let me tell you something- your facial expression when he or she tells you for the twelfth time that he/she made an "internet account" is the exact same one you would have if you were hearing about the imminent threat of attacking windmills

The girl crush: She's smart and spirited and pretty and talented, and in spite of all this, for some reason you don't hate her. Actually, all you want to do is hang out with her... like, all the time. So you know it's gotta be Lizzy Bennet.

The best friend: Solid. Steady. Always there to listen to your rants or tell you you're pretty or carry your weary body through the poisonous mists of Mount Doom. Samwise the Brave.

Car Games: Name Five Books With Title Words in Each Category

When you're bored, which is often, if you're cool, you need something to stimulate the mind... something kind of smart, but also delightfully pointless. So I will be routinely supplying you with literature-focused car games. The kind of games your father forced you to play on road trips in your youth until you seriously contemplated ripping out your own eyeballs; the kind of games that your grandmother probably plays with her friend Barb when they cancel Days of Our Lives; the kinds of games you know you secretly love.

So name five books that have a word in the title that falls under each of the following categories:
Heavenly/Hellish Things
Men's Names (only)
Women's Names (only)

Here's five well-known examples that I thought of for each:

Colors: The Color Purples, The Scarlet Letter, The Black Pearl, the Red Badge of Courage, The Green Mile
Numbers: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, a Tale of Two Cities, The Three Musketeers, One Hundred Years of Solitude, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Animals: Of Mice and Men, The Black Stallion, The Cat's Cradle, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, The Lord of the Flies
Heaven/ Hell: Paradise Lost, This Side of Paradise, Angels and Demons, The Devil in the White City, The Satanic Verses
Food: A Clockwork Orange, Chocolat, The Grapes of Wrath, The Tortilla Curtain, The Bean Trees
Occupations: The Merchant of Venice, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Handmaid's Tale, Summer of My German Soldier
Relations: The Brothers Karamazov, Native Son, My Sister's Keeper, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Princess Bride
Buildings: The Ciderhouse Rules, Northanger Abbey, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Wuthering Heights, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Men's Names: David Copperfield, Frankenstein, Macbeth, Don Quixote, Silas Marner
Women's Names: Mrs. Dalloway, Anna Karenina, Emma, Madame Bovary, Rebecca

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes- Book I Just Read in Article Form

Talk yourself pretty
You know when you get up in the morning and you look at your sharp, sharp razor, and your eyeliner that inevitably smears all over your eyelid when you blink, and your straightener all patchy with grafts of your neck skin, and you just WISH that you could be inherently more attractive without doing anything? Guess what? You. Can.
There have been a plethora of new studies coming out about weird, completely nonaesthetic factors that make people more attractive to both men and women. Specifically, the book Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes blew the lid off of the important role of things like smell (pumpkin pie=manbait, apparenty) in creating attraction. Some of them are totally out of your control, like hormonal shenanigans, but many of them can be totally manipulated to your advantage. Here’s some things you can say to make yourself more attractive (beyond just “I’m horny”…. Although, let’s be real here- most of the time, that’s probably all you really need)
Say “sumptuous” a lot. In one recent study, a researcher asked 101 volunteer college students to rank recordings of different people’s voices according to who they thought would be the most attractive. Creepily, the results lined up perfectly with the people who actually were the most conventionally attractive (fit, symmetrical face, etc). The female voice type that was assumed to be the most attractive, likeable, and even trustworthy was melodious and fairly high without being shrill. If you want to work this whole siren thing, you can either try to talk like this (but I warn you: if you’re like me, you WILL end up sounding like Minnie Mouse on dopamine) or you can just use words that naturally  sound alluring. Some of the most appealing words in the english language, based on actual scientific studies, are “adroit”, “demesne”,” opulent”, and “sumptuous.” Mmmmm they’re like Death by Chocolate for your ears
Talk like You’re… Certain traits are just generally accepted to be more desirable. Most people are genetically wired to be attracted to humor, kindness and intelligence. It is my personal theory that this is because in choosing a mate ancient homo sapiens  were also choosing traits for their future children, and the thought of a cave full of stupid, unfunny, evil little cave-babies is enough to kill anyone’s libido. But whatever the reason, these are three traits that make everyone seem innately more attractive, so try these three tips: to sound smarter sign up for one of those word of the day apps and then use it. Also read all the headlines from the front page of the New York Times  (or any newspaper, really, besides The Onion, although that might come in handy in the humor department) and at least one article. That way you can converse “knowledgably” about current events like it ain’t no thang…. Then go back to your Us Weekly. To sound nicer, say something complimentary about someone not there or bring up an issue/ injustice that you “care deeply” about, such as the plight of South African Gooba Turtles.* To sound funnier 1) quote someone else who is actually funny 2)covertly make and distribute “special brownies” 3)over-articulate EVERYTHING. Everything is funnier when it is unnecessarily verbose. For example: “You’re a douche”- mindless insult . “You, my good sir, are a receptacle of unadulterated douchery made incarnate.” –hilarious.
Say NOTHING. Unsurprisingly, the study also found that people like it when you listen to them. It implies respect and establishes an air of mystery. The researcher also suggested, though that men in particular might be attracted to the docility that silence implies, which strikes me as a little bit chauvinistic. So, I don’t know… maybe listen to his story about his friend from college and then punch him lightly in the pancreas. You know… just so he remembers his place.
Share the Love. People (all people) are more attracted to people that they perceive to be admired/ loving. Good relationships = healthy person= more good relationships. It’s an un-vicious cycle. And everyone wants in on that. So project your (non-creepy) love for your nephew, your mom, your fifth grade math teacher, for everyone to see. Similarly, if you’re desired, it means there’s something about you that is worth desiring, so people are drawn to people with lots of friends or attractive exes. So feel free to start your next story with “So I went to the mall to visit my ex boyfriend- he was working at Abercrombie at the time- and… “(insert semi-legitimizing story here) 
*Not a real animal.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Ways to Turn Your Ventillation into Compensation

I was reading an interview with the (one) female writer on the Conan O'Brien show and was delighted to learn that she owes all of her success to dicking around on facebook. All of it.... Okay, this is false. She probably owes her success to a nauseating combination of hard work and natural intelligence. However, here's what is true: when she was applying for the job, her portfolio consisted of about 200 hundred news jokes that she had written... they were the result of about a year of daily facebook statuses that she had written to keep herself from getting bored. So there you go. Facebook haunting into legitimate portfolio into a fantastic job that makes roundbreaking strides for female comedians. So if you have a repertoire of witticism lyin latent in your facebook history, don't just sit there, do something with them. In the meantime, here are some other ways that you can turn letting off some steam into cold hard cash, mostly of the underhanded variety:

1. Submit. Like the Conan Chick (whose name I am too lazy to look up, and with therefore be henceforth referred to as CC), you might well have some stray brilliance lying around. Be it an old blog, a series of tweets or a diary entry (only if you have a deeply, deeply accurate awareness of what other people should and should not be privy to in terms of your sex life, existential crises or bowel movements) you can submit it to a magazine, newspaper or alternative media for publication. In all honesty, its unlikely that you will actually get published, but its free and on the off chance you do get it, you get to feel like an absolute movie star. So go hit up those Op Eds.

2. Letters of Complaint. If you are NOT pleased with a service or a product (or if you are, but are also a total skeaze), you can write a letter of complaint to the company that produces/ provides it. When I was maybe seven, I got a gallon of cookies and cream ice cream, except that, actually, it was just vanilla. There were no cookies in it. I was appalled. So when my parents (in what I now see as a transparent- and successful- bid to deter me from my original reaction of inconsolable whining) suggested that I write to the Dreyers Company, I took them up on it. And do you know what I got back? I personal note of thanks for my concern and a gift certificate for a free gallon of ice cream. I didn't need a reciept or anything. The lesson here is that most big enough companies have neither the time nor the energy to deal with the innuerable disgruntled seven-year-olds of the world, so they'll usually just give you something free in order to shut you up. So nurture that consumerist outrage; that dyson bladeless fan will be YOURS, goddamn it!

3. Transcribe. Is your family eccentric? Would you like to capitalize on that eccentricity? Do you have absolutely no decency or respect for the privacy of your loved ones? Then do I have an opportunity for YOU! Like Justin Halpern, whose TV show via book via twitter account "S%#@ My Dad Says" has gleaned all sorts of crazy revenue, you can make money simply by copying down the words of people around you. It's the lazy man's way to getting published. Technically, every single word is plagiarized, but you STILL get all the credit and all the earnings. "Amy's Answering Machine"- one woman's publication of all the voicemails her crazy Yiddish mother left on her answering machine- has been similarly successful.   You are not the source of the brilliance. You are merely the medium by which it is expressed. But its still your name on the check, so go for the gold (and make alternative plans for your next Thanksgiving dinner.)

4. Product reviews. Every company wants publicity. Very, very badly. And they are willing to pay for this publicity. Very, very nicely. People tend to trust more in the authenticity of a review from another everyday consumer than in one from some random official sponsor. That's why all those diet pills have approximately 7 billion testimonials. (Yes... more testimonials than human inhabitants of the planet. Those things are THAT good). So sites like Rotten Tomatoes are a Mecca for companies looking to bolster up their reputations. Enter paid reviewers. All you do is agree to review some company's product and then they pay you to do so (note that you do not need to compromise your values here... if the thing seriously sucks, then for God's sakes DECLINE). Alternatively, you can get a job reviewing for a general review site- like book reviews for a site about books, etc. You know you love airing out your opinions, so get some moolah for it and spare your poor local hairdresser the lecture all in one fell swoop.

5. Be a Criminal. Okay. This is an article about making money off your writing in the laziest possible way. And this IS an option. There are sites that will buy your old school essays either for direct resale to today's current slackers or to use for "educational purposes"/ as a writing sample. You can do this. You can make an easy 25 bucks letting Johnny C reiterate your theory that Ulysses is  a direct result of a weird dream James Joyce had that day. You can. But you will go to hell. Know that. 25 dollars here= hell. Your call.