Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
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Carry That Weight: The Revival of Feminist Performance Art

Degas_Intérieur_Philadelphia_Museum_of_Art_1986-26-10
Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight began nearly five weeks ago. Throughout the performance the artist Emma Sulkowicz, a 22 year-old Columbia University senior, will carry a boxy blue mattress everywhere she goes on campus. Weighing in at fifty pounds, the mattress stands in for the mattress on which she was raped by a fellow student. Sulkowicz’s work is profoundly simple: a young woman visually manifests the psychological weight of the crime committed on her body and demands recognition of that burden. Carry That Weight is a purely visual performance, one so piercing it resists language.

Like most performance art, Sulkowicz’s piece has clearly defined parameters, what she terms “rules of engagement.” They are: the performance will last until her rapist has left campus. The mattress will only be carried on campus. She cannot ask for help, but can accept it once it is offered. Once a person helps her carry the mattress, they enter into “the space of performance.” By quite literally bringing the site of the crime (in this case an ostensibly “safe” domestic space) into public sight, Sulkowicz’s performance relocates its subject in between the shifting grounds of public and private, personal and political.

Carry That Weight implies that within the discourse surrounding rape, the separation of these categories are meaningless. The public and private cannot be separated. The discourse of rape inhabits the public, private, personal, and political simultaneously. Carry That Weight’s poignant acknowledgment makes Sulkowicz’s performance one of the most salient pieces of feminist performance art produced in recent memory.

Carry That Weight has a revival quality, renewing a 1960s tone of radical consciousness-raising: defiantly political, resistant to silence, and deconstructive of cultural definitions of rape. And since Sulkowicz’s performance has easily been one of the most discussed artworks of the year, I want to revisit some of the women who have tread in ugly discourse of rape culture; to return to a long artistic project that, like Sulkowicz, sought to dissect aspects of that culture and expose vernaculars of terror. READ MORE

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Uber Optics

teacherppreciation

As communities are heading back to school, we’d like to take a moment to celebrate the educators who are also our Uber partner drivers. Whether it’s an afternoon shift or a summertime gig, partnering with Uber provides teachers with the flexibility and opportunity they need to continue creating a foundation of excellence for students across the country.

Every day teachers are asked to do more with less, constantly faced with new challenges and limited resources. Uber opens the door for more possibilities and delivers a meaningful impact to the communities we serve.

Teachers are among the most dedicated, passionate and hardworking professionals – a few of the qualities that make the best Uber partner drivers. Throughout the year, we’ll continue to invest in providing opportunities for educators in cities around the world – recognizing the need for more income options on their own terms.

This almost feels like a parody. Surely, no modern, wealthy society—say, one in which an app-powered "your own private driver" service might thrive—would force professional, full-time teachers to also drive cars in order to make a living, nor would anyone celebrate that it was happening. Certainly you wouldn't expect corporations to rush to attach themselves to the phenomenon. And yet. Something, something, teachers, free markets, living wages, man. READ MORE

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Inherent Vice, Awkward Mood

If the options for an Inherent Vice movie were Joaquin Phoenix reciting Pynchon's best lines in a grave tone OR Joaquin Phoenix slipping in and out of mania while falling down a lot, physically, this seems to have been the right choice. It's just barely apparent in the trailer, but here is something that I'm curious to see in practice: Robert Elswit, longtime Paul Thomas Anderson collaborator, is listed as the movie's cinematographer. Elswit's all BIG SKIES and SYMMETRY and LINGERING SHOTS and MUSCULAR ACTION. There's not a whole lot of comedy in his credits! And certainly nothing quite like this: "It’s a stoner detective film so overstuffed with visual gags and gimmicks that the filmmaker said he was inspired by slapstick spoofs like 'Top Secret!' and 'Airplane!'"

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New York City, September 28, 2014

★★★★ Stepping out into the late morning air was like settling into a bath that had been waiting for a while—an enfolding, relaxing tepidness, not at all hot. Clouds softened the shadows on the playground. Children bored with chalking the concrete camel tried chalking other children's faces. The sun that got through was warm on bare ankles. The lid of the exhaust stack on a pony-sized Parks Department garbage truck clanged rhythmically with a sound of toy cymbals. By the afternoon, when there was no reason not to go to the playground again, the light had sharpened, but a haze still glimmered around the low-flying airplanes. The breeze was cooling, though it was barely strong enough to stir the dangling flags a little back and forth. Day's end brought wild pinks flaring one either side of the glass apartment tower, but the seven-year-old, unmoved, declared it a normal sunset.

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That audience-measuring company Chartbeat has "gained accreditation from the Media Rating Council for attention-based measurement of both content and advertising" is important to advertisers and therefore to all the people whose work and internet time-wasting activities depend on them. This metric, the apparent next metric, after page views and "uniques," is perhaps harder to trick but still easy to optimize for, especially if you're one of the new formless internet publishers—a relatively straightforward video, a quiz, or some as-of-yet unknown demanding media object that can hold you still, if not keep you truly engaged, will, in time terms, usually beat out a written story that takes a long time to produce and read. People are already hashing this part out.

What they're not yet hashing out what this means for another type of company: The read-later apps. So let's start: Instapaper, Pocket, Readability, Longform—the apps that take links and make them into clean little ad-free phone pamphlets that you can read on a plane—have been criticized, celebrated, but mostly tolerated. They help people read your work, which is encouraging; they also, at some point in the copy/clean process, at least give you a click, which is what you, or your editor, or your publisher, ultimately needs. Now, imagine a world in which "attention minutes" or some such measurement is how your employers measure the success of your work—a world in which its measurable value is connected to the time people spend with it. In that world, read-later apps, as they function now—giving you a click, but siphoning all of your time—are theft. Well?

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My Summer As a Housekeeper

8109773442_037bb4723a_zThe summer I was 18, I worked at an amusement park hotel as a housekeeper. The system worked something like this: every morning, we picked up our clipboards from the front desk with our list of rooms for the day, color-coded by what kind of service they needed. Pink was for occupied rooms that just needed a little spiffing, or “makes,” and green for just-vacated rooms that had to be cleaned for guests the following day, or “turnovers."

I liked to see a nice long sheet of green—a turnover meant that everyone’s crap was gone and I could haul out soaking wet towels and twisted-up sheets and vacuum and dust and start fresh. Makes were awkward; if the guests weren’t in the room, I had to tiptoe around their piles of toys and shoes and hilariously inappropriate lingerie while trying to make the bed and fluff the pillows. If the guests were in the room, I sometimes had to make small talk with them, the worst torture possible for my 18-year-old self.

We were paid $9/hour, an amount that seemed enormous to me then (and still does—it remains the highest hourly wage I’ve ever been paid). Yet you’re not going to go very far with $9/hour if you’re not a student whose basic needs (housing, food, orthodonture) are already paid for, especially since hours fluctuated based on occupancy. Because the hotel was attached to the amusement park and the amusement park was seasonal, a lot of high schoolers and college students did work there. But there was also a mother-daughter team who cleaned rooms with the efficiency of German train conductors. There was an older woman whose daughter was incapacitated by a Lyme disease infection that had spread to her nervous system; this woman was always the first one offered extra shifts, though it made little difference in the face of her gargantuan medical bills. A lot of the other hotel employees were teachers, working during their summers off to supplement their salaries. Point being: we weren’t all just students working to pay for our beer and gas. A lot of people needed the money.

After we cleaned a room and signed off on it being ready for habitation, we filled out a card with the name of the amusement park printed at the top in blue ink. HI, the card read, WELCOME TO DARIEN LAKE THEME PARK RESORT. MY NAME IS _______ AND I WILL BE YOUR HOUSEKEEPER. READ MORE

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The Useless Crap You Find When You Move

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, BuzzFeeᴅ Executive Editor Doree Shafrir tells us more about the pitfalls of packing and unpacking and constantly moving from one apartment to the next.

Doree! So what happened here?

When I moved out of the apartment I shared with my then-boyfriend in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, in 2009, I got rid of my huge file cabinet and threw everything that had been in there into two storage boxes. They sat in the back of the closet TB and I shared in Carroll Gardens; when TB and I broke up, they moved into a closet in a different apartment in Fort Greene; when New York and I broke up, they found a home in the back of a closet in my new apartment in Los Angeles. It wasn't until last week, when I was packing up my apartment to move in with my current boyfriend, that I decided it was time to excavate whatever was in those boxes. READ MORE

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Stars, "No One Is Lost"

If you told me that this song was by Stars I would say, oh yeah, obviously, that voice, yeah, I hear it. But if you didn't, I would hesitate to assume. If you told me it wasn't, I would absolutely believe you. Anyway: This is not a new song by some new band from LA or Berlin or The Playa. This is a new song by Stars.

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Publishing's Best Worst Friends

The leaders of American "literary culture" are worrying, gathering and organizing:

The Wylie Agency has about a thousand clients. Many have not yet responded to Mr. Wylie’s query about Authors United, because they are traveling or are inattentive to email. But about 300 Wylie writers have signed on, as well as the estates of Saul Bellow, Roberto Bolaño, Joseph Brodsky, William Burroughs, John Cheever, Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, Arthur Miller and Hunter S. Thompson.

“Every single response without exception has been positive,” Mr. Wylie said.

There is no reason to doubt that the responses experienced by Andrew Wylie, an extremely powerful agent, have been uniformly positive: His fight on behalf of the publishing industry, against an obviously imperious Amazon, is one that his peers and clients, living and undead, have been itching for. In the process of mounting it, he will likely provide an easy target for Amazon's defenders, who claim that the old publishing world is stale and elitist and unadaptable, and that it overestimates its own value.

Neither of these parties will reach the most valuable readers, who generally appear to be sympathetic to Amazon in their use of e-readers but who are probably mostly concerned with two things: The impossibly daunting number of books that they haven't yet read (to enjoy reading is to always feel literally one million books behind); and the price and availability, on dirt-cheap e-readers, of way more than enough of these books to keep them buried and happy. To put it another way: The point at which the death of Wylie's vision of literary culture becomes an effective cudgel is the moment that an avid-but-otherwise-unaware reader picks up an e-reader, browses the selection, and realizes that, among the thousands and thousands of could-reads and should-reads and what's-thats, something has gone missing. Not a single book, or a well-known writer, but some beloved tier of work that was previously allowed to exist by an industry that, at this uselessly distant future time, is long gone. Wylie's famous authors are more than worthy foes for Amazon. They're also probably better advocates than their industry, which will misapply their talents on dead-end antitrust cases and dissonant pro-publisher crusades, deserves.

Image by Hope for Gorilla.

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'SNL' Review: A New Hope with Chris Pratt

The seasons have certainly changed at Saturday Night Live. The show's 40th season began with an episode that hardly resembled a season premiere, with little pomp or circumstance over SNL's impressive four-decade lifespan, and in its place a straightforward night of comedy that reflected a show well adjusted to its new lineup. Nerves did occasionally get the better of the performers—especially first-time host Chris Pratt, who coasted on his signature goofy charm, flashing that Andy Dwyer "oops" face a few times—but overall the episode charged forward with a leaner (and more colorful) cast, and a greater confidence in its sense of humor.

We aren't out of the woods just yet, though. SNL's live sketches suffer from the same issues that plagued them last season: those low-hanging fruit gags, punchlines overwhelming the premise, the tendency for characters to randomly walk out of a scene without the sketch actually ending, etc. Also, the show has yet to reclaim its satirical edge, and with John Oliver so thoroughly setting us straight on Sunday nights, it's doubtful progressive America will look to SNL for its comedy any time soon.

But for the first time in a while, we have reasons to look forward to the future. Pete Davidson's masterful Weekend Update set gave SNL the newcomer starpower it seemed unable to locate last season. Michael Che and Leslie Jones' frequent on-camera appearances suggest the show might actually try to embrace its diversity, rather than use it as a quota. And a few clever sketch setups found their way into the set list, giving us hope that SNL can still do comedy outside of the format of a talk show parody.

If those little "40"s in the opening credits and interstitials become the only on-air milestone celebrations we see on the show over the next months, Season 40 may be a year SNL steps proudly into the next generation, rather than again be overshadowed by its glorious past. READ MORE

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The Ads We Deserve

Facebook has made a great many terrible promises to a great many terrible people about all of the terrible ways that those terrible people—and Facebook!—can make a lot of money using the incredibly personal data extracted from users to sell them terrible products. Not all of those promises have panned out. But one can get an approximate sense of how genuinely anxious one should be, as a Facebook user, by how genuinely excited the terrible people become at the prospect of one of these promises. (It's a roughly inverse relationship: The more excited they are, the more unnerved one can choose to feel. It's like when somebody guffaws loudly on CNBC, the appropriate response is a deep, guttural sensation of sickness. Anyway.) Here's what some terrible people saying Facebook's new advertising platform, Atlas, which will let them track users and display ads based on their Facebook data not just on Facebook, but e v e r y w h e r e:

"Mobile has been a very hard thing for us to do,” said Jonathan Nelson, chief executive of Omnicom Digital. “This Atlas solution is a huge step forward in making mobile marketing more effective."

"Nobody else besides Facebook has the depth of data about individuals," said Debra Aho Williamson, a principal analyst at the research firm eMarketer.

"Facebook has deep, deep data on its users. You can slice and dice markets, like women 25 to 35 who live in the Southeast and are fans of 'Breaking Bad,' " said Rebecca Lieb, a digital advertising and media analyst at the Altimeter Group, a research firm. The new Atlas platform, she said, "can track people across devices, weave together online and offline."

They seem quite excited. How do you feel?

Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife

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"We rarely fight, but when we do, we’re forced to choose our battlegrounds carefully. My place is usually out and the dumpster doesn’t work either–it’s impossible to take anything seriously in a one-room box that doesn’t even have a proper door. If a fight needs to be had, we usually end up hashing it out in the relative privacy of a car in a parking lot. I’ve cried my fair share of tears parked between two yellow lines." —The world's most performative dater (previously) on cohabiting in a dumpster.

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New York City, September 25, 2014

weather review sky 092514★ Morning arrived in dimness, with a soaking rain, perfect for not having to send anyone off to school in. The rain went away and came back and went away; the sky brightened a little and more drops streaked the windows. Clouds blew along from north to south. Late in the day, blue and white appeared in the west, just above the buildings. It was warm and close inside the elevator, getting more warm and more close as the doors refused to open, minute after minute. Outside, after too long, the avenue was still gray as ever, but clear light was up on the tops of buildings. In the time it took to realize the nearest parsley wasn't worth buying, the gray had become blue. Bright pink clouds raced by underneath it, and yet another lurid sunlight bloomed.

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A Cat-Sized Chinchilla Objects to Media Narrative

crat"'Extinct' cat-sized Chinchilla found alive in shadows of Machu Pichu" — Jeremy Hance for Mongabay, part of the Guardian Environment Network

"This Guardian piece is pure clickbait!"
cries the cat-sized chinchilla.
“How dare they suggest our birth rate
is but a scintilla."

"How droll, Guardian, putting 'extinct' in quotes,"
calls the cat-sized chinchilla,
"when my family alone would fill boats,
A whole 'extinct' flotilla."

"We’re 'found alive' from Peru to Katmandu,"
chides the cat-sized chinchilla.
"So why does the Guardian willfully eschew
my many cousins in Anguilla?"

"And 'cat-sized?' Really? That's the best you can do?"
concludes the cat-sized chinchilla,
"Well then, Mr. Hance, here's my headline for you:
'Succinct writer' is man-sized Gorilla.'"

READ MORE

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This Week in Lines

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1:12 PM Thursday, September 25 — Shake Shack
Location: Madison Square Park
Length: Forty-one people, thirty-one umbrellas
Weather: 63 and rainy
Crowd: Unflappable fry fans
Mood: Soggy on the outside, crispy on the inside
Wait time: Eighteen minutes
Lingering question: How much rain does it take to stop the Shack? READ MORE

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Expert Pit Master Rod Gray Talks BBQ

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The Chosen Vegetables

shaksbackforreal

The cuisine of the Ashkenazic Jews is kind of awful. This is not the fault of my people; they tried their best, they really did. But the climate, socioeconomic struggles, and raw materials they had to work with left them with some pretty rough dishes. Worst, in my mind, is that there are a few big Jewish feasts in the late summer and early fall—the best time of year for produce—and Ashkenazic Jewish food doesn’t take advantage of that. So I would like to propose a way to make the feasts of early fall—Rosh Hashanah and the breaking of the fast after Yom Kippur—a little more vegetable-friendly: We must unite the cuisines of the Jews.

First, some history: Amidst lots of wars, large waves of Jews left Israel around the fourth century A.D., settling mostly in the Mediterranean climates of Italy, France, Spain, and Morocco. Over the next thousand years or so, they experienced varying degrees of hostility in these places at various times, and most were eventually booted to the cold lands of the Russian Empire. Some did okay in the cities, but others were stuck in ghettoes, which were occasionally burned down; sometimes they were imprisoned or chased around or killed. Their food options, to say the least, were limited.

The Jews were used to some of the most fertile land in the world; eastern Europe must have been a brutal shock for them. Now called Ashkenazim, they created the best cuisine they could for cold weather, given the garbage they had to work with: starches, soups, fatty cuts of meat, and boiled root vegetables, largely adopted from Polish and Russian cuisine. When they finally made it out, mostly to North America in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, they brought this stuff with them, where some of the dishes got so popular they assimilated into the general umbrella of American food: Bagels, challah, latkes, and matzoh ball soup are as American as pizza, tacos, and pork fried rice.

People who aren’t into meat and fat will find that the centerpiece dishes of Ashkenazic Jewish cuisine tend to be very fatty and very meaty, like braised beef brisket, cholent (a slow-cooked stew of beef, potatoes, and barley) or kishke (an often-bland sausage made of beef intestine stuffed with flour or matzoh meal and chicken fat). They also often have a sweet element that can be cloying, since Jews worldwide love to put honey and apples and dried fruit in savory dishes. The sides are typically bland filler, made of noodles or breads or various permutations of matzoh. Spices are exceedingly limited; herbs pretty much non-existent. The vegetables used are of the root-y variety, like beets, carrots, potatoes, and turnips, all of which are cooked in pretty much the same way (boiled). The only Jewish vegetable dish I can really remember growing up with is called tzimmes, a dish of carrots boiled in water and honey and sometimes sprinkled with raisins. It is an awful, awful dish; it reduces the carrot to baby food and it is disgustingly sweet, as are many Ashkenazic Jewish desserts.

The fact that we eat this sort of food is especially galling during the High Holidays because late summer and early fall has some amazing produce—at least in the Northeast where I and, according to census data, several other Jews, live. It seems a shame to cook as if we’re in the dead of winter in a shtetl in Białystok when in fact we’re surrounded by amazing fruits and vegetables: The early fall produce, from apples to kale to chard to squash, join—for a mere few weeks—the end-of-summer peaches, okra, green beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers on farmers’ market tables. We could make the argument (and I will!) that Jewish food, like most poor-people cuisines, is about using what you can find. And what I can find in Brooklyn today is a hell of a lot better than what my great-grandparents could find in Grodno.

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Dev Hynes, "Everything Is Embarrassing"

Lost in the slightly tense but mostly tepid feud between songwriter Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange) and Sky Ferreira over artistic ownership of "Everything Is Embarrassing" is the document itself. Ferreira's version, the enormous hit, is slick and perfect and instantly imprints itself on your brain, where it is stored as just one or two repeating stanzas. Hynes's version, a functional and unpolished demo, feels small and tentative—it sounds embarrassed.

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A Poem by Lo Kwa Mei-en

Passion with an Operating Theater Underneath It
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The Economics of Internet Comedy Videos

ucbcomedyFunny videos on the internet come from a plethora of sources, from established internet studios to TV networks to independent comedians. But how do comedy production studios fund their internet comedy videos? There’s no simple answer. In fact, one of the first answers I heard was “Our funding comes from everywhere.”

However, as I talked to representatives from CollegeHumor, Funny or Die, Jash, Above Average, UCB Comedy, and Comedy Central, a lot of common themes came forward. Branded content funds more than you think. YouTube revenue funds less than you think. Comedy studios, like everyone else, earn money so they can fund passion projects. Incubating new talent is also a huge part of comedy work, and that adds an extra line to the budget.

So let’s take a closer look at how some of the major comedy production studios fund their internet comedy videos, as well as how a few indie comedy teams gets work done. READ MORE

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