[syndicated profile] tanehisicoates_feed

Posted by Ta-Nehisi Coates

A few days ago Jonathan Chait asserted that modern conservatism is "doomed" because it is "rooted in white supremacy."  The first claim may or may not be true, but there's little doubt about the second. Whether it's the Senate minority leader claiming that America should have remained legally segregated,  a beloved cultural figure fondly recalling how happy black people were living under lynch law, a presidential candidate calling Barack Obama a "food-stamp president" or a campaign surrogate calling Barack Obama "a subhuman mongrel," the preponderance of evidence shows that modern conservatism just can't quit white supremacy.

This is unsurprising. White Supremacy is one of the most dominant forces in the history of American politics. In a democracy, it would be silly to expect it to go unexpressed. Thus anyone with a sense of American history should be equally unsurprised to discover that rugged individualist Cliven Bundy is the bearer of some very interesting theories:

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

Prick a movement built on white supremacy and it bleeds....white supremacy. That said, I think it's always worth clarifying what we mean when we use words like "slavery" and "freedom" in an American context.

I took a flight to L.A. last night and brought with me Thavolia Glymph's bruising monograph Out Of The House of Bondage. Glymph is mostly concerned with the plantation house as a work-space during enslavement, and thus the scene of horrendous violence primarily dished out by "ladies of the house."

In general, a silence surrounds white women's contributions to the basic nature of slavery, its maintenance, and, especially, one of its central tendencies, the maiming and destruction of black life.

The maiming and destruction of black life. This is key. What Glymph is discussing is not merely the theft of labor, but the total plunder of the human body. Slavery is torture as a system of governance, corporal destruction taken as the mere cost of doing business.  

Here are a few additions, courtesy of Glymph, to your morning reading.

Item: Enslaved woman Mandy Cooper was not quick enough churning milk, and thus her mistress had no butter to serve her party along with the conrbread and biscuits. Cooper's mistress and her two guests--all women--then set upon Moore and "beat me from angah." Moore's mistress grabbed a heavy board. Another friend grabbed a whip.

Item: Enslaved woman Alice Shaw was given the task of fanning flies and clearing the dinner table. When she dropped a dish, her mistress "beat her on head."

Item: Clara Young did not always respond quickly enough to her mistress's summons. Her mistress lifted her dress and beat her.
 
Item: Lila Nichols failed to gather enough eggs. She was beaten by her mistress. This same mistress later set upon an enslaved woman whom she suspected of poisoning her, "leaving her back 'in gashes.' She then ordered the slave woman chained until she had recovered sufficiently enough to be sold."
 
Item: Delia Garlic was responsible for nursing and caring for her mistress' baby. "One day I was playin' wid de baby," she reported. "It hurt its li'l han' an' commenced to cry, an' [my mistress] whirl on me, pick up a hot iron an' run it all down my arm an' han'. It took off de flesh when she done it."
 
Item: "Slaves was punished by whip and starving," reported freedwoman Harriet Robinson. "Master Sam didn't never whip me but Miss Julia whipped me everyday in the morning. During the war she beat me terrible. She say 'Your master's out fighting and losing blood trying to save you from the Yankees, so you kin get your'n here.'" 
 
The idea that Robinson's master was fighting on behalf of the slaves is both rich and telling.  Mostly it shows that Cliven Bundy's theories are not original, but inherited. 
 
Enslaved black people were, with some regularity, beat with cowhide whips, tongs, pokers, chairs and wooden boards. Nails were driven through their palms, pins through their tongues. Eyes were gouged out for the smallest offense.
 
When people like Cliven Bundy assert the primacy of the past it is important that we do not recount it selectively. American enslavement is the destruction of the black body for profit. That is the past that Cliven Bundy believes "the Negro" to have been better off in. He is, regrettably, not alone.







Dolly Parton on Miley Cyrus

Apr. 24th, 2014 01:45 pm
[syndicated profile] thehairpin_feed

Posted by Emma Carmichael

by Emma Carmichael

"If I didn’t know how smart and talented Miley is, I might worry about her. But I’ve watched her grow up. So I don’t. She knows what she’s doing. She was very proud of the work she did as Hannah Montana, but people were gonna leave her there forever. And she was just smotherin’ and chokin’ in it. So she felt she had to do something completely drastic. And she did. She made her point, she made her mark, and more power to her. 'Wrecking Ball' is a great song. The whole album is great. So I’m hoping that now she can relax and show people how talented she really is. ’Cause the girl can write. The girl can sing. The girl is smart. And she doesn’t have to be so drastic. But I will respect her choices. I did it my way, so why can’t she do it her way?"

—It's time for TIME's annual Most Influential People issue, and the best entries this year are, obviously, the ones in which women write about other women they love (Emily Blunt on Amy Adams: "she’s silly and funny and dirty"). Here's Dolly Parton waxin' on her goddaughter, Miley. Beyoncé's on the cover, in a bikini. [TIME]

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askerian: Serious Karkat in a red long-sleeved shirt (Default)
[personal profile] askerian
zahhaked asked: "Latula/Mituna, first time after MT's accident (doesn't necessarily have to have "successful")"

No on-screen sex but they're still talking and thinking about it in pretty detailed ways. so, let's go with R. 640 words.

--

The third time he elbows her in the face is also the hardest. She doesn't manage to laugh it off in time, and his face twists and he flings himself off her so hard he slips over the edge of the bed. He thumps to the ground in a meaty, resonant way that makes her think he landed smack on his chest. She hurries to the end of the mattress, a hand on her face -- yeah, there'll be a hella nice black eye there in another half hour.

"MT? Mituna, honey--"

He contorts on the floor like a cut worm so he can look up at her, and she can feel her bulge retract. He's about to cry, eyes overbright.

"I'm so sorry, I'm a bulge, not even a bulge, bulges are cool as fuckhell, shit, shit--"

If she lets him keep yelling at himself he will be calling himself names and then he'll be depressed for days, and then she won't get laid. She doesn't even think before she rolls over the edge and lands on him.

Read more... )
umadoshi: (sleeping on a book)
[personal profile] umadoshi
I had the most unbelievably groggy day, and it's almost entirely due to a kitten, not my work schedule. A CERTAIN KITTEN (not definitively identified, since it was nighttime, my glasses were off, and the kitten in question stayed near my feet...but I'm thinking it was usually or always Jinksy) decided to spend what felt like the entire night hopping up onto my legs with a crinklepuff toy ever hour or so and playing with it for maybe five minutes before wandering off again. It's hard to sleep through ten pounds of kitten frolicking on one's calves.

It kept waking me up just enough to groggily think about shutting the bedroom door, and then he'd be gone again. So I slept badly enough to be actively nodding off at my desk repeatedly all day at the office. At least it wasn't a rough day, and I'm pretty sure I was doing the thing where I was mostly-asleep for only seconds at a time, rather than losing any significant amount of working time. But it kinda sucked. :/

I'm still getting a lot of enjoyment out of seeing so many people's perfume reviews, esp. since the bulk of it is BPAL, and it makes me want to try some of the same scents to compare...but of course, the bulk of my collection is limited edition stuff from over the last few several years, and even my general catalogue stuff is all/mostly on the aged side, so it probably wouldn't smell exactly the same as Lab-fresh imps that some of you are ordering. And unless I actually start wearing what I have, I really need to not start acquiring more. O_O Self, you have something like two hundred scents. That is LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS.

I think it's time to try changing up how I pick what to read, given that for ages now my method has largely been a combination of "buy books and put them on the shelf and don't read them because they don't have to get back to the library, with a few Read Right Now exceptions" and "see what books the library randomly sends me from my hold list because they've been on the list for two years, and then read that if time permits".

New plan: some combination of "go through my holds list and actually prioritize the books that friends have loved dearly (as opposed to enjoyed well enough to rec)" and "read the books I buy". So far, I'm implementing this as follows: cutting the not-terribly-concrete plan, which largely boils down to a few lists of titles and some notes, for anyone who's curious (and for my own reference) )
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
[personal profile] kate_nepveu
Still discussion happening in my Hugo reactions post, if that was a thing that interested you at the time; it seems to have had a slow trickle out onto Twitter, sped up today by John Scalzi linking to it and other criticisms of his position from Shweta Narayan, Arachne Jericho, and Rose Lemberg.

I explained why I took a somewhat different approach than those posters in a comment on my old post, but the criticisms of Rose Lemberg, and SL Huang, about the idea of "merits" generally, are important and worth reading as a broadly-applicable matter. (To be clear, I also recommend Shweta and Arachne's posts as powerful and important, they're just a little more focused on the specifics of this discussion.)

A link roundup is being maintained by Stefan Raets.

I'm going to again err on the side of caution and screen anon comments; I will unscreen them as soon as I can if they're consistent with the policy statements in my profile. So far I haven't had to keep anything screened; I will say so if I do. But, if you have substantive comments rather than something about these links, I'd appreciate it if you took it to the original post, because I hate split discussions.

And now, I must go wash dishes.
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Setting: Steel City, a city much like Detroit on one of the Great Lakes, in the Concord setting (an old homegrown campaign from the 1980s). The city hasn't had a sanctioned team of supers in a generation but happily a mass Origin is going to give the city a chance to address that lack.

Rather unfortunately from the point of view of the government, the Origin happened at an Occupy Steel City rally, so the mix of characters is going to be broader than the government might prefer.

Exit 13th Age

Apr. 23rd, 2014 09:36 pm
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Schedule conflicts mean yet more long gaps between sessions so our 13th Age campaign is shutting down.

Wednesday Reading

Apr. 23rd, 2014 06:09 pm
torachan: palmon smiling (palmon)
[personal profile] torachan
It's going to take me a while before I'm used to Wednesday being my day off! I keep being surprised at the reading posts all over my flist...

What are you currently reading?
Still rereading Scott Pilgrim. It's still great!

What did you recently finish reading?
Nothing.

What do you think you'll read next?
Well, I'm on the final volume of Scott Pilgrim, so I'll have to choose something soon, but I don't know what! I can almost guarantee it will be a manga, though. Oh wait, I do have two issues of Ms Marvel on my harddrive so I should probably read those.

Let's All Major in Feminist Biology

Apr. 23rd, 2014 09:35 pm
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Posted by Emma Carmichael

by Emma Carmichael

PS: When people hear about a biology study, what are some things they can ask themselves to check for gender bias in the study?

JH: The first step is always to say, 'Does this finding replicate?' Because we've so many of these flash-in-the-pan things where a study gets tons of publicity and there's so much competition in biology to be first with your breathless finding. So that's the first question to ask, 'Has anybody else gotten this?'

There are certain phrases that tip people off about gender bias. For example, if people do some kind of neuroscience study, let's say it's an MRI study with humans. These researchers will often say, 'This is a hardwired difference between males and females.' Well, if these are adults [who are being studied], it's not hardwired at all, right? They've had 20 to 25 years of experience that has shaped their brains. Typically, you don't find good neuroscientists using the phrase 'hardwired' because they know how plastic the brain is. Differential experience between males and females could account for brain differences as easily as any kind of brain differentiation that depends on hormones or something like that.

—PopSci has an interview with Janet Hyde, a psychologist at University of Wisconsin-Madison who helped spearhead the school's new fellowship [PDF] in "feminist biology," our new collective major. (PopSci has more words on the "hardwired" issue here, too.) [PopSci]

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Posted by Monica McLaughlin

by Monica McLaughlin

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across an unusual antique scrimshaw pie crimper that was carved in the shape of one of my favorite mythological creatures: a hippocamp. Half horse and half fish or sea-serpent, the hippocamp (or hippocampus) appears in Greek, Phoenician and Etruscan mythology, and Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, is often shown driving a chariot pulled by hippocampi. The gestural horsey/ fishy characteristics essential to the hippocamp are nearly impossible for an artist to resist, and they’ve been depicted in various forms—coins, mosaics, painting, sculpture—for centuries. You can scroll back through my Twitter feed for some examples, but definitely don’t miss this incredible late 16th century Spanish hippocamp pendant in the collection of the British Museum, and also don’t forget about the famous 18th century Trevi fountain in Rome, which depicts Neptune, the Roman counterpart to Poseidon, overlooking two rearing hippocampi (and a couple of tritons).

If you happen to have what is no doubt a lot of cash, you can always pony up for this amazing hippocamp brooch that’s currently available from Lucas Rarities in London. Circa 1939, the piece was designed by Juliette Moutard for the French jewelry house Boivin, and features a golden hippocamp with an emerald-studded tail. It’s nestled in a shell set with even more emeralds, and a ruby bow suspends a natural saltwater pearl pendant below. Gah.

If, like me, you take public transportation to work, you may want to invest in a nice little vinaigrette. No, I don’t mean the salad dressing. The vinaigrette I’m talking about is a tiny little box or container that men and women carried with them to help mask unpleasant scents in their immediate surroundings, generally during the late 18th- to mid-19th centuries. Consider it an early version of Febreze. Vinaigrettes usually had a hinged lid, and held smelling salts or a tiny sponge beneath a pierced interior grill. The sponge could be soaked in a perfume or other aromatic substance like vinegar (hence the name).

Peter Szuhay is selling this beautiful little gold vinaigrette that was designed in the form of a cowrie shell. Circa 1780 and probably French, it is enameled both inside and outside, and finished with a very pretty pierced and engraved interior grate. 

Now, I know I’ve gushed about Carlo Giuliano many times in the past and you’re probably sick of hearing about him, but let me just mention him again, because this brooch from Bentley & Skinner is insane. Circa 1890, it’s classic Renaissance Revival territory for Giuliano, but let’s just take it apart a little. There’s a figure of Venus holding a diamond mirror at center, with roses and a smiling, reclining tiger at her feet. She’s seated in a little cupola-like thing, and doves at either side of the ruby-set roof suspend pearl drapes from their beaks. The pearls loop down to two male masks that are also supporting pearl drops. The piece is gold, with various shades of enamel, rubies, diamonds, and a ton of pearls. It’s like a circus you can wear (for $378,000).

This sweet little English crown is hiding a surprise. Circa 1840, it’s a seal that would have been worn as a decorative watch fob, and it features rubies, pearls and diamonds set alongside textured gold detailing. The interior section of the crown is covered in green guilloché enamel, and it conceals an inner mechanism. This piece is actually musical; it features a disc and comb movement that plays eleven notes.

It’s auction season again, and you’ll have to bear with me, because apparently I’m in a bracelet mood. But before I get into the upcoming stuff, I have to mention the Christie’s Magnificent Jewels auction, which happened last week in New York. It featured a Belle Époque set of necklace and earrings by the brilliant Tiffany & Co. designer Paulding Farnham (yeah, I’ve mentioned him before, too). Circa 1900, the set surrounds diamonds with delicate enameled floral motifs in shades of purple and green, creating an overall light, airy effect that belies the fact that those are some SERIOUS diamonds. The set was estimated at $150,000-$250,000, and sold for $389,000.

So, first up is the Rago Arts Jewelry and Silver auction on Sunday, April 27. This is an unreserved auction, so good deals may be had, and a lot of the estimates are very reasonable. I particularly adore this Victorian sea serpent bracelet. Circa 1850 and from Southern Italy, it’s made of shell, with a coral tongue and a ruby eye. A similar bracelet was recently sold by Bell and Bird, so if you missed that one, here’s your chance.

On Monday, April 28, Doyle New York will hold their Important Jewelry auction. One of the highlights of the sale is a rare and important pair of natural pearls that were previously owned by a U.S. railroad magnate and may have also been in the collection of Empress Eugenie of France. I’m totally in love with a ton of their bracelets, though. Look at this pink sapphire and diamond cuff in 18k rose and blackened gold! And this lovely Gothic Revival bracelet, with tiny, gleaming gem-set panels of gold and enamel! Aggggh.

I’m always a sucker for Indian jewelry, though, and this elephant bangle is a delight. Royal blue enamel, gold leaf and table-cut diamonds decorate the body of the bangle, while the interior is enameled in a multicolored floral motif. The bangle terminates in two diamond-set elephant heads, with trunks joined by a coiled snake.

The Sotheby’s New York Magnificent Jewels auction is next Tuesday, April 29, at 10am. As usual, there are some giant stones—like this 15.23-ct Fancy Intense Orangey Pink diamond ring (estimate $6-7 million), and this 28.18-ct square emerald-cut sapphire and diamond ring by Oscar Heyman & Brothers (estimate $4-5 million).

This contemporary lily of the valley necklace is another stunner. By Italian designer Michele della Valle, the piece features bright tsavorite garnet stems, with delicate little buds comprised of 17.82 carats of round diamonds. Della Valle’s intention is to create “cheerful” jewelry; you can read more about him in this great profile written by jewelry historian Vivienne Becker in anticipation of this auction.

The Bonhams Fine Jewellery auction in London on April 30 has got a pretty great tiara. Circa 1900, it features a central crescent moon and sun motif flanked by shooting stars, all in old brilliant-cut diamonds set in gold.

On the other end of the style spectrum is this fantastic and slightly dangerous-looking white gold and aquamarine watch, circa 1970, by Andrew Grima. Grima was born in Rome but raised in England, and his designs were the toast of London society in the 1960s and ’70s. The watch is part of his famous “About Time” collection, which was commissioned by Omega in 1969. Grima was playing with the concept of viewing time through gemstones—substituting out the usual glass watch crystal with a semiprecious stone.

Grima died in 2007, but his wife and daughter have kept the business going.

The April 30 Jewels auction at Phillips New York offers a much more organic-looking Grima design in this Brazilian topaz and diamond pendant/ brooch, also from 1970.

This auction also has some big rings—including this 11.20-ct Colombian emerald with diamond shoulders—but I also like these earrings. Featuring Burmese ruby tassels suspended from openwork platinum and diamond caps, they’re nearly four inches long and probably weigh a ton, but who cares.

OK, totally not jewelry, but still cool and kind of related to jewelry? This is an assayer’s kit that is being offered in the Clocks, Watches & Scientific Instruments auction at Skinner’s Marlborough, MA location on May 3. Circa 1865, the kit was made by August Lingke & Co. of Freiberg, Germany. The case itself is dovetailed mahogany with a hinged lid, and it contains a velvet-lined, fitted upper tray with a bone scale and various other instruments. Inside are two other layers, also holding tools and instruments (including another scale in its own fitted box), and a selection of glass jars that hold the chemicals used to test the composition of various metals and minerals.

Freeman’s in Philadelphia is holding a Jewelry & Watches auction on May 5 at noon. They have quite a few nice things, but I’m particularly taken with this little sterling silver purse watch by Cartier. The case, which is engraved to look like an envelope, slides open from the center to reveal the watch. The “stamp” is dated April 17, 1941 and the name “Miss Nellye Grey, Oak Ridge Virginia” is engraved in a free-hand style on the front. I assume Nellye was the original owner? A pink gold version from 1943 sold at Sotheby’s last June, but the engraving is much more traditional.

And finally, Christie’s London will hold a Jewels & Watches auction on May 21. They’re offering this beautiful tiara, circa 1830, that is composed of carved and button-shaped red coral set on a wire frame. Coral was hugely popular in the 19th century, and was believed by some to ward off the evil eye. Nowadays it’s so endangered that it comes under fierce restrictions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Usually items that are at least 100 years old can be imported into the country, but proof is required, and possibly a permit as well. If you’re ever abroad and want to buy something that might fall under the endangered species umbrella—coral, ivory, tortoiseshell, etc—definitely make sure you can bring it into the country legally, or just don’t buy it at all.

 

Previously: Millennial Octopi and The Perfect Handle for Your Parasol

Monica McLaughlin would reeeeeally like to cover this exhibit at the Kremlin, if anybody wants to, you know, pay for her to get there.

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[syndicated profile] loweringthebar_feed

Posted by Kevin

Can you guess? It's because such a tattoo might unduly influence a jury if you are, at some point, charged with murder. At least that was the argument made recently in Barton County, Kansas (Great Bend Tribune), by the defense lawyer for Jeffrey Chapman, who looks like this:

Redrum23n-photo-web

Jeffrey looks like that, not his defense lawyer. I should have been more clear.

Story-sender Thomas B. asks whether this tattoo would be admissible at trial, and I think the answer is no. The fact that you like the word "murder" does not tend to prove you actually commit murders. In fact, you have a First Amendment right to go around saying (or displaying) "murder" all you want, except probably if someone has just asked you "should we murder or not murder this person?" So it is not relevant, but for what are probably obvious reasons it is pretty likely to prejudice a jury. So it would be out under Federal Rule 403, at least.

What seems to be the Kansas equivalent, though, says that a judge can exclude evidence if "its probative value is substantially outweighed by the risk that its admission will unfairly and harmfully surprise a party who has not had reasonable opportunity to anticipate that such evidence would be offered." I don't think it has any probative value, but it's also hard to see how Jeffrey should not reasonably have anticipated his neck tattoo might be an issue. I'd be willing to bet that Kansas interprets this rule in a way similar to the federal rule, though.

Even if it doesn't, there are other reasons your "murder" tattoo should stay out. Arguably this would violate the rule against self-incrimination, but it might also violate the rule against offering evidence of "bad character" to prove guilt. Actual criminal-defense attorneys could probably come up with many other ideas. And, in fact, the prosecution in the case is not arguing that it should be admissible.

Jeffrey's problem with this particular inadmissible evidence, though, is that it is permanently attached to his skin. That's why his lawyer has also asked that a tattoo artist be allowed to cover up or try to remove the tattoo before trial starts on April 28. The State objects to this plan, apparently because it would prefer he wear a turtleneck or something of the kind. At least, the State's argument is (1) it doesn't want to transport the suspect to the tattoo artist, probably for security reasons, (2) and the tattoo artist can't come to him because Kansas law does not allow tattoo artists to "practice at any location other than a licensed facility." I seriously doubt the State really cares about No. 2, which is why I like my turtleneck theory better.

The dilemma is apparently to be resolved in a pre-trial hearing today, so we shall see.

A couple of similar cases come to mind. Well, somewhat similar is the case of Corey Miller, who was going by the rap name "C-Murder" at the time he murdered someone in 2002. See "Murder to be Tried for Murder," Lowering the Bar (Mar. 16, 2006); and the unsurprising followup "Murder Convicted of Murder" (Aug. 14, 2009). There was no tattoo involved, but C-Murder had been performing under that name for some time, so the stupidity involved in later murdering someone was similar. (He changed his rap name to "C-Miller" while awaiting trial. Didn't help.)

The somewhat similar tattoo case was that of Anthony Garcia, who was convicted in 2011 of a murder committed four years previously. He didn't have a tattoo of the word "murder," but he did have a tattoo that depicted a murder crime scene in sufficient detail that a detective who later saw it in an unrelated mugshot instantly recognized it. "Guy With Murder Scene Tattooed on His Chest Convicted" (July 24, 2013). I'm not sure whether the tattoo itself was admitted, and I think it could have been given the significantly higher probative value. But it wouldn't have mattered, because an undercover cop got Garcia to brag about the murder on tape.

Oh, and here's a previous "client needs a makeover" case complete with the lawyer's amusing Photoshop rendering of what his prettified client might look like. Guess I have more stupid-tattoo tales than I thought.

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Posted by Jia Tolentino

by Jia Tolentino

Via the Wall Street Journal:

When Alloy Entertainment fired L.J. Smith from the popular young-adult book series "The Vampire Diaries" and replaced her with a ghostwriter three years ago, a civil war broke out among fans. One camp swore fealty to the characters and embraced the new books, which still feature Ms. Smith's name prominently on the cover as the series' creator. The other, more vocal faction sided with Ms. Smith and boycotted the ghostwritten novels.

"I would not read those books if they were the last books on earth," said Christina Crowley, a 35-year-old substitute teacher in Riverview, Mich., and a staunch L.J. Smith fan. "I didn't want to read her characters written by someone else."

Now, in one of the stranger comebacks in literary history, Ms. Smith is independently resurrecting her stories about the adolescent undead. She's publishing her own version of "The Vampire Diaries" digitally on Amazon, as fan fiction, creating a parallel fictional universe that many hard-core fans regard as more legitimate than the official canon.

The business aspect of this story is fascinating: The Vampire Diaries series is still being published with Smith's name prominently featured on the book covers, and Alloy after firing her is semi-promoting her fanfiction because they get a cut of the proceeds, thanks to the widening copyright loophole that Smith is using through Amazon Worlds. Shorter version: all writers are doomed. [WSJ]

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Posted by Heather Havrilesky

by Heather Havrilesky

DogDear Polly,

Love your column. Can I throw something at you? Apologies for being vague with certain details.

I'm a 43-year-old woman who has spent my whole life in one industry, got pretty far, and then descended back down the ladder to the place I started from. One day my whole outlook on my career changed and I wanted out. The problem was I didn't know how to do anything else. I was unconsciously sabotaging job after job but without an exit strategy, so it was a rough few years.

Finally I ended up at the entry level of my industry, hiding my experience and qualifications so I could be a worker bee. In exchange for giving up a great salary and high pressure 24/7 job, I got over a hundred hours of my week back, and for the first time, started to have a life. Materially, it's spartan compared to what I had, but I'm at peace and happy way more often than I was before.

Now that my job is so undemanding and I have a lot more time than I've had, I've gotten back in touch with my childhood dreams and have started to do what I really wanted to do. It's in arts/entertainment.

This is where my problem comes in: Having any actual success was far from my mind when I started my new work. I was just happy to finally have the time to be doing what I always wanted to do.

Things rather rapidly became serious with rather serious people and organizations as soon as I focused and treated my new "work" like real work. I got opportunities other people struggle and train for years to get, and sometimes never do. I am COMPLETELY aware of how incredibly fortunate I am. Friends and peers in the same world can't believe my rate of progress. I feel like I'm finally on the right track.

But then I just stopped. Hearing about other people's dreams are the worst, but this dream is my story in a nutshell: I was driving a champagne colored convertible down a gorgeous open highway of gold on my way to Beverly Hills. The road was clear, the sky was blue, I was on my way. Then I just pulled over the car and got out, walked away, and suddenly I was in the bowels of the 42nd Street Subway station. I woke up terrified.

The days are ticking past, and the serious people waiting for me to get on the bus will eventually stop waiting—or else find a replacement.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out why I'm so resistant to finishing what I started. Imposter syndrome, fear of success, all of these things hit really close to home, but I can't pinpoint why I'm finding it so difficult to reach out and grab the brass ring in front of my face.

I don't think it's stage fright necessarily, because though I won't say I don't care what people think, I have an uncanny ability to shut out the world and compartmentalize feelings and memories to the point of amnesia.

Possibly relevant: I grew up in a home where I was invisible when I wasn't being abused, and none of my accomplishments of any kind garnered the slightest notice. I left home as a teenager and haven't had contact with anyone in my family since. Over the years I collected family figure substitutes, but I don't really keep or maintain relationships for very long. The truth is I lack trust in people for anything beyond the superficial. I just think it's easier to limit my exposure to myself, basically.

This is my shot at my new life, exactly as I always wanted it, but I'm not pulling the trigger. I know all kinds of freedoms are waiting for me at the end of this road, but I can't take another step toward it.

My procrastination feels sickening. Yet I'm already letting myself play with the idea of mourning my missed opportunities in the future. The reasonable part of me is horrified. When I try to create new synapses and imagine a happy ending for myself, I can't bear it.

Got anything for me?

Avoiding The Future

Dear ATF,

Well, you did it. You went and hit me in my own blind spot.

That means I'm not going to give very good advice, probably. But there's so much to unearth here, and maybe even more to AVOID unearthing—to sidestep, circumnavigate, ignore. This may be one of the big moments in your life when you have to do two different, contradictory things at once: 1) dig for more information about what's making you so afraid, and 2) set that shit aside most of the time so you can GET 'ER DONE.

It's easy enough to draw a line from feeling invisible and never being recognized for anything, to now being afraid that if you ARE recognized for something, it will STILL feel like nothing. You will still be invisible. Or somehow it will kill you. Does being recognized mean dying? Maybe your survival as a kid felt linked to invisibility, and this is why you don't want relationships and don't want anyone being close to you or needing you or criticizing you or giving their honest opinion about what's right or wrong with you. Somehow, whenever other people get involved, the stakes always get too high. You want to stay safe instead. Safe and invisible.

A happy ending—or a happy turn in your path, toward success—would make you visible, and maybe it would also make you responsible for whatever unhappiness might remain. As long as you're unsuccessful and invisible, you have an excuse for feeling mildly depressed and mildly dissatisfied. So you tell yourself stories about what would be BAD about doing something you really love. You tell yourself that recognition and coexisting with other talented people would be harrowing. You are a fraud, after all. You don't really deserve to share a room with other smart people. You deserve to remain invisible. IT'S WHO YOU ARE.

I think many of us feel like we should remain partially hidden, and to do otherwise will magically transform us into major league assholes. We've seen recognition and wealth ruin other people, or we've IMAGINED that it was ruining them. Or we simply didn't like the choices someone made after he or she became wildly popular or rich—even though, 9 times out of 10, that choice boiled down to bad taste and nothing else. We treated it as a moral, a lesson about success, when there were plenty of tasteless moves and shitty choices in the mix before and after.

BUT—and this is a little freaky, so pay attention—maybe at some level we consider success itself, or wealth, or even happiness, as reflective of bad taste. Maybe we loved the words someone wrote down on a page somewhere, and we weren't prepared to see the annoying face associated with the brain that produced those words. Maybe we're just dicks who don't like that many TYPES of people, and we can only admire someone if we don't really know what TYPE OF PERSON he or she is. Once we can associate a person with a TYPE, it ruins everything.

But this is all about prejudice. And you know who thinks this way about "types"? People who hate themselves.

So ok, fine, we hate ourselves at some level. What else is new? The new part is that we don't believe that ANYONE really deserves success or happiness, except for maybe children and puppies and Choire Sicha. We don't realize that we believe this, of course, because that would be absurd. Instead, we walk around, blindly hating the successful and the happy and favoriting every fucking thing Choire Sicha tweets, without understanding why.

To us, having a little money might be fine, but having lots and lots of money, so much that you can not only gaze at cool stuff but actually PURCHASE IT AND OWN IT? And then other people come over and they go, "Oh shit, your stuff is fucking AWESOME?"

That's just embarrassing. If I not only craved money, but also had the bad taste to go out and get some? My mother would be appalled. It's actually a big fear of hers that I might someday stumble on a giant pile of money, because that would instantly render me a big asshole, plus I'd be really unhappy. I think I've internalized this warped view to some extent. So instead, I earn just enough to keep my head slightly under water. Perfect.

Why is this starting to sound like a graphic novel?

The point is: Many of us in the world are afraid of doing exactly what we love for money. We might have lots of reasons to do what we love, but we're also afraid to do it. At first we're afraid to do it because it seems like a big, stupid risk. How will I pay the rent? Later, we're afraid to do it because it's not important enough, or because we're too old, or because we're unlikely to succeed and even if we DO succeed, succeeding will turn us into dickheads overnight.

All of the potential pitfalls of success cloud our vision. We get scared and weird and want to hide again.

But THEN: Oops! Someone real in the real world wants to talk to you about your secret shamefully awesome project that reflects just how talented you are? And now you have to have real conversations like it's a real thing? Oh god, that's a little tacky. And maybe you have to eat… lunch? At a restaurant that's nice? And someone might say something about how big this thing you do might be, at which point you're like FUCK YEAH WHY NOT? But you're also OH JESUS I CAN'T DELIVER THIS I WILL FAIL and also I DON'T BELONG HERE and also I'M A STRUGGLER, HOW CAN I MAKE THIS A STRUGGLE? And THIS IS GROSS, THIS IS ABOUT SELLING SHIT, AND SELLING SHIT IS EMBARRASSING AND SHAMEFUL.

And then you go home and you think, "That real person just mistook me for another real person, but I'm not a real person. I'm an imposter. I'm invisible."

And ALL YOU HAVE TO DO to stop feeling conflicted and afraid is shut it all down and return to the status quo of hiding and hesitating. And then, when the idea of following through comes up? You feel a little sick. You can't possible work on anything. You should, but you can't. You're too conflicted. You're too unsure that this is really for you. Maybe tomorrow. Not today though.

Each day it gets worse. And eventually, you're already saying, "Well, that was sad, wasn't it? When I tried to do that thing and then I just STOPPED doing it because it was too real? Or I stopped because I'm a failure, an avoider, a crazy person who can't really do anything, who deserves to remain invisible?"

BUT LISTEN UP: This is why there are so many simple-minded shitty products in the world, ok? Because simple-minded shitty people, who don't mind how dumb and lame they are and don't mind making stupid-ass things and don't mind earning giant piles of money for them, are the ones who make all the fucking STUFF out there. They make shitty stuff, and then they get to buy the really awesome stuff (which is expensive, because so few people make non-shitty stuff out there). So that's why you associated awesome stuff with shitty people. And that's why, when you walk into a place and you say, "Fuck, your stuff is fucking awesome?” You're actually thinking, "Oh, maybe you're simple minded and shitty, actually." EVEN WHEN YOU'RE THE ONE BEING SIMPLE MINDED AND SHITTY AT THAT MOMENT. Striving starts to look like bad taste. Succeeding starts to look unsavory. Envy warps your vision, and you can't take people at face value anymore. And there's always a reason not to try.

So basically you're a neurotic in a cave for the rest of your life, while all the dumb people run around drinking champagne and fucking each other on yachts.

I like this as a graphic novel, a lot. But I don't like it as the plot of your life. So listen to me, ATF and listen, all of you other weirdos with shitty attitudes about success and money: Let's stop stigmatizing ambition and start imagining ways of being ambitious and speaking to and collaborating with ambitious people without hating ourselves and everyone else. OK? Because I want to read our stuff and buy our stuff. Yes, we're already tremendously privileged. Can't we acknowledge that and become even more privileged and buy a few awesome things and then give most of our money away to people who really need it?

Here's where I always land: I don't want anything that much. I like cool t-shirts and really good aged cheese, yes. But money doesn't seem like a good enough reason to do anything, even when I'm underwater. If money is the real aim, fuck it. So I get confused. Because money is NOT the real aim, ever. The real aim is writing great stuff, that I feel proud of. Money might become involved down the line, but that doesn't make the whole thing POISONOUS.

The point is, for some reason, your mind is basically looking for any excuse NOT to do the thing you love the most and want to do the most. When your thoughts demand drawings by Chris Ware, you know you're in trouble.

So at some point, you have to STOP. JUST STOP. You have to stop and say, “I am going to do this thing. That is all. I am going to do it. At long last. No more avoidance. I am going to act. One foot in front of the other. THAT IS ALL.”

Yes, you have permission to enlist a therapist. Yes, you have permission to call a friend or acquaintance or whoever and complain about the lameness of the REAL LIFE HUMANS who do lucrative creative things for a living, those unsavory people who take your talents and harness them and hammer out practical ways to squeeze money out of your work. People will say things to you about your brand, and you might just vomit straight into your hands. Or you'll be asked to have a social media strategy, of all horse shit things, and it'll feel like you've been asked to pull your pants down in the middle of the high school cafeteria.

You might even picture being way too busy, and having to fly places and talk to people about what you're doing. Ick. I always picture that. My husband is about to fly to China to give a talk and all I can think is, "Thank god I'm a common hermit and not an accomplished academic, so I don't have to do shit like that, ever." He can go out into the world, and I'll stay here and eat Cadbury creme eggs instead.

But you can't let fear and avoidance win, ATF. You have to forge ahead. You SIMPLY MUST. This story is not over.

SO: Make a list of concrete tasks that need to be completed. Here, I'll help. Number one on the list should be "Make a fucking list." Number two on the list might be, "Call X and tell him everything is moving forward as planned." Number three on the list might involve sitting your ass down and producing something concrete. List every single thing you need to do in order to forge ahead. Put a date on each task. Tape it on the wall next to your bed. Vow to do two of those things TODAY. TODAY, MOTHERFUCKER!

Day one is crucial. If something else has to slip through the cracks to make Day One a reality, so be it. You're reading this today, so this is the day you have to do the first two things on the list. OK?

Make the list. Tape it to the wall. Are you done? Is the list on the wall, next to your bed? Good. Now cross "Make a fucking list" off the list.

Now do the second thing. Then cross it off.

Don't wonder why you feel weird when you actually try to pick up the phone, or try to sit down and get 'er done. No. DON'T THINK. JUST DO. Don't call someone to talk about how strange it is that you feel so avoidant about this thing, and maybe it's because you don't really feel that good about these sorts of pursuits in general. Most of these types of products are so shitty! Why would YOU want to make something shitty, like all of the other shitty things?!! Or maybe most of them are amazing, way better than anything YOU will ever do.

Shut up and work. If you work hard enough, your thing won't be shitty. I promise.

But don't talk about that now. No phone calls. No anything. DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO RIGHT NOW, TODAY. OK? You don't have to do everything. Just do something. And tomorrow? Two more pieces of the puzzle. Two more small accomplishable items on the list.

Will you need a therapist once you succeed? Yes. Do you need one now? Clearly. Will you have more avoidant episodes? Yes. Will you give in to those feelings? No. You will get up early in the morning, and go to bed early, and stick to your list.

Here's another important piece of advice: Don't run around telling a big story about how you're doing this thing now and it's great. You're really doing it! Yeah! But then when someone wants to hear more about it, you'll admit that it's making you super confused and stressed out, because you're ambivalent about this or that aspect of it. You will want to talk that way—victorious at first, then slowly more and more self-doubting. Instead, try to make your free moments organic, low stress, regular, devoid of analysis. You go on a walk, you take a nap, whatever. Don't change everything just because you're moving forward with your thing. Keep working on having the same balanced life you had before. It's not one or the other. You can exercise and eat well and not be an ambitious ball of nerves.

I'm 43, too, by the way. You and I are old enough to do shit just because it's interesting now. There's no reason we have to feel like the world splits into two paths, and one involves hiding in poverty and the other involves driving a champagne-colored convertible down a gorgeous open highway of gold. You don't have to be invisible OR glamorous. You can just be productive and normal and happy. You can do things simply because you haven't done them before. You can get on a plane and see what China is like without feeling afraid, or feeling like a fraud. You are not either a rock star or a fucking loser who writes stupid songs for no good reason. You are not either a funny person or a failed comedy writer or a megastar of the hit television series SPRAYPAINT HUFFERS. You're not a hot young woman or a gross old lady. You are a human being who wants to do stuff.

So go do some stuff. Also, ATF? Learn to be vulnerable and lean on people. Learn to let people into your life. Dare to forge intimate friendships. Open your heart. You can do all of this at once. In fact, write STAY VULNERABLE at the top of your list, above everything else. Vulnerability doesn't have to derail you or hurt you. You can be vulnerable and also forge ahead. You can make things and insist that they not be shitty. (And sometimes you can't insist on that at first, but you'll be able to insist on it as you're more successful.) You can take this one step at a time without freaking out every few seconds, or convincing yourself that you'd rather have nothing.

You can do something without signing on to EVERYTHING. You can do something. Doing something is better than doing nothing. Loving your craft and getting better and better at it? That's a big part of what makes most people happy. This isn't just a means to an end; you have to remember that. This is the same thing you've always loved doing. This is the same low-key thing that you love. No matter what anyone else says it means, no matter what noise might build up around your craft, it's still just a craft. It's just what you love to do. It's simple. You are better, and happier, when you get to work at something you love. If you need to write that down and tape it to the wall, too, then do it.

And if this thing you're doing fails? You can try it again. You can try something new after that. There are always things to do, things you will love doing.

Stay vulnerable, ok? But do something. Don't think. DO.

Now go make that list.

Polly

Do you hate making lists? Write a haiku or limerick to Polly today.

Heather Havrilesky (aka Polly Esther) is The Awl's existential advice columnist. She's also a regular contributor to The New York Times Magazine, and is the author of the memoir Disaster Preparedness (Riverhead 2011). She blogs here about scratchy pants, personality disorders, and aged cheeses.

Photo by Mike Baird

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[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Ibid has worked out how to get up to the top shelf of the book case in my bedroom and from there to the top of the door, just as Fig did months ago.

What he can't do is get back down....
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Posted by Jia Tolentino

by Jia Tolentino

Fiona is a woman in her late twenties who lives on the East Coast with her husband Eric and their three-year-old.

So, we’re talking because you recently had a new experience.

My husband and I went to a swingers club for the first time!

How long had you guys been throwing around the idea?

A couple months—we talked about it a lot, but stopped short of making it an actual possibility. Then very recently my husband was just like, “Let’s just do it, we keep talking about it, I found this place in Atlantic City.” And we decided to go for it, and we went on Friday, and it was awesome.

And you’d never done anything like this before.

Not at all. I had experiences of being drunk and sort of fooling around with a friend and a boyfriend, but I’d never had sex with more than one person at a time, never really had sex with strangers. I only had one one-night stand ever and it was awful. So the idea had crossed my mind in fantasy, but not as something I actually wanted to do.

How long have you and your husband been together?

Married for almost four years and together for just about five.

So what was that transition moment like, from fantasy to all of a sudden you’re staring at each other like, “Okay yeah we’re gonna do this.”

Well, I should say here that my husband and I both have pretty serious trust issues, which is a big reason why this seemed like a potentially bad move. We’ve both had issues with being cheated on, and that stuff sticks to you forever. And he’s quite a bit older than me and has a lot of experience that I never had, and for a long time I was pretty protective of my fantasies: even if I expressed them in the moment and it was hot, afterwards he’d feel weird about it, so I kind of shut stuff off.

So oddly this wasn’t even on the table as a fantasy until I embarked on a bit of an emotional affair with an ex of mine. Afterwards we were working through it and trying to be really honest with each other about sex, and it opened up a new door in terms of what we were willing to talk to each other about.

Like what?

Like me saying, “I actually might be attracted to women.” Aside from making out with friends I hadn’t had any experience with that, so the realization came slowly. And I told my husband and the next day he called me at work and was like, “I want you to know that, if this is something you want to explore, you should be able to do that.”

My first thought was, Oh, that’s cool, and my second was like, Very sweet of you but that’s insane that you think a woman being bisexual is this very specific, like…

Yep. Never met a guy who wasn’t like, “Sure, bang your friend, that sounds great.”

Like, you’re not asking me to explore all the men I haven’t fucked. I don’t think they realize there could be an actual emotional threat.

So he says this to you and where did your mind go?

Well, I shut it down. I didn’t want to go outside my relationship, but my husband wasn’t really getting that picture—in accepting these things he was learning about me, he had a hard time understanding that he was included. But my whole fantasy life includes him. Or at least, once I opened up to him, it made it much easier for him to be part of every narrative. Some of the more self-destructive things embodied in certain fantasies changed once I told him.

Anyway, I’m in therapy, and we’ve gone to couples counseling, and eventually he did understand that he was part of this. We were able to be on the same page, and articulate sexual fantasies that surrounded each other.

For you, how much does wanting to have sex with other people have to do with wanting emotional things from other people?

I don’t see my sexual desires as in any way separate to my emotional desires. I also feel like I have sex and self-destruction pretty well tied together—my sexual history is typically complicated, full of wrong people and wrong reasons, and I’ve got this desire that my husband doesn’t have at all, to keep tabs on people, to know that I’ve had some impact on their life. Which is messed up.

And totally natural. So you guys get on the same page, and?

We talked about swingers clubs, but we thought it’d be too much too soon. Our sex life was getting incredible anyway—we were going to a lot of sex stores, trying new things. But then after awhile my husband was staying stuck on the swingers club as definitely something he wanted to try, and after awhile it had just come up so much that we needed to try it.

And it was obviously not like we had to go all in. There was so much talk about open communication and saying what we’re okay with and we’re not. Either of us could stop it and leave any time. We talked about ground rules—no getting anyone’s phone number, no doing anything without asking the other person. We both had the idea that maybe this would not really go far, and either way we’d end up sleeping with each other at the end of the night, and that’s what mattered.

All right, so night of. What happened? What’d you wear?

We have a three-year-old; she was already set up to sleep at my friend’s house for the night—my friend takes her once a month, which is the best thing ever for a friend to do—and the anticipation was great. We went to this thrift store that doesn’t have a dressing room, and I found three little black dresses, and my husband picked the one he liked the most, a little tank dress that flares out at the waist like a ballerina dress or something, way shorter than anything I’d wear in real life, with a scoop back. Luckily it fit when I tried it on at home. Black heels and a chunky necklace and that was my deal. My husband wore, like, whatever. Jeans. They have it easy.

But also boring.

True. So the club opens at 10—my husband wanted to go later, which is, you know, the normal thing; I was nervous and wanted to scope it out. So we went early. And the club is BYO, I think that’s sort of standard—and we waited till Atlantic City to go to a liquor store, and my husband doesn’t drink anyway, and by the time we got to a liquor store we could only get wine or beer, so I got some shitty-ass bottle of white something, so I was already like, “This is terrible,” and we pulled up and we see this couple outside in their fifties and the guy has a full-on ‘70s mustache, and I was like, “Well, this is exactly what I imagined.”

You were already expecting you’d be on the younger end.

Yeah, I think the general age is usually thirties to forties.

Do you have like a mental cap of what age of dude you’d be comfortable having sex with?

Not at all, I didn’t think it would really get to that point. I figured maybe I would have sex with my husband in this weird public place and that would be hot and maybe there would be a lady and that would be great too.

Okay, so what was the club like?

We were immediately greeted by a receptionist, a much older woman who looked very much like she did not want to be there. You have to sign a release form, it costs like $75 for a couple.

What are the rules about that kind of thing?

Single women get in free, single men have to pay $100, and they only allow 10 single men on a Friday night. No single men on Saturdays.

Makes sense. 

Yeah, they’re strict, everything is written out—at any point if someone says stop you really, really have to stop, and if you do anything untoward you’re getting banned. They are very aware of the potential problems. And there are essentially club bouncers walking around the whole night.

God, what a job that would be.

So we walk in, there’s a big TV behind the bar playing porn, a dance floor and a DJ who is only playing songs that are very literally about sex, just totally hammering it in.

“HAMMERING IT IN" LOL 

There were maybe two other couples when we walked in and I was trying really hard not to make eye contact, but then I felt guilty, because I was like, I should check people out—and then our bartenders (male, which I wasn’t expecting; I was expecting boobs) made me feel really comfortable. One of them showed us around all the rooms upstairs, all these rooms with beds and swings and stripper poles and those things you can bind people’s arms and legs to, and a locker room, and this room with a big bed and a contraption you can attach a dildo to, and this room with like bench observation seating, a room with a mirrored wall. In every room there’s a corner with a cart with towels and sheet sets and a bin to throw the used stuff in, and condoms.

So the idea is you meet someone at the club and move upstairs.

Yeah, I think there’s no nudity on the first floor. It’s more like a regular club down there.

Did it feel like that?

Well, it was pretty empty when I showed up, and the porn and the bad DJ made it more sort of like a bad idea of a regular club. And as the couples started filing in, all the men looked either old and creepy or serious New Jersey meatheads, not my type: the women were much more diverse in their appearances but even then it took me a long time to see anyone that I was remotely interested in.

My husband, on the other hand, was totally into it as soon as the bartender showed us around.

So how’d you ease into things?

We sat on the side of the dance floor, I had a glass of wine, we hung out for awhile. A lot of people knew each other already, it seemed. I was pointedly not making eye contact with anyone, and then finally this one woman—the one I’d thought was most attractive—started dancing for her husband, and finally a Prince song came on, and she and I and this other women got up and danced like it was high school, and then more people came in, and my husband just suggested we go upstairs and fool around.

We scoped the scene out—you know, lots of people having sex, lots of people watching—and we started making out in one of the side rooms. Then my husband was like, “Let’s go out where the people are,” and we sat down in the main room and started fooling around and I started giving him head in front of a bunch of people, and then I got on top of him—I actually kept my clothes on then, and all night too—and anyway, this woman I’d danced with downstairs came in. She was really cute, this light-skinned African-American woman with a bit of an accent, and her husband was this giant black man, like a friendly bear of a human. They came in and she was like, “Would you like to suck my husband’s dick?”

I liked that she approached me, rather than her husband. And I looked at Eric and he was like, yeah, go for it, and she went and got him. And we just started doing things—I actually ended up going down on her, which was the first time that had ever happened for me. And then she asked if she could do stuff with my husband—I think they tried to have sex but he hadn’t used a condom in so long that he couldn’t make it happen. And then another guy came in—he was wearing a hat, which I did not appreciate—and asked if I would suck his dick, so I was going back and forth between these two guys for awhile.

I am loving this story. Very rapid acceleration just now.

In the moment it was just like, “I’m doing this with my husband,” and the ideas I’d had about which people I’d want to do things with sort of went out the window. All I cared about was how they approached me. So then we sort of finished, went downstairs, got another drink.

Did it feel as chill as it's sounding?

Yeah, nothing felt weird about it. The ladies were joking around, every one was so positive, complimenting each other, you’re running into people in the bathroom.

True sex-positivity seems like the absolute only way for this to go.

Totally, but I have had really little actual experience with people who are like that. I grew up in a really Christian home, my husband grew up Catholic and with all the guilt in the world. I feel like I’m just now learning to talk to some of my friends about sex, even if I’m personally progressive.

Okay, so you go back downstairs, I imagine you’re just like on fire.

I was giddy. It was crazy. My husband went outside to smoke, and I talked to a few people, and then my husband and I went back upstairs and this is when it gets even crazier.

DOES IT NOW

So we went into the weird torture room, and it was just the two of us and we started having sex in there. My husband was behind me and this guy showed up and stood in the doorway watching, and I didn’t want to look at him but my husband was into it, and then a couple more people started watching and we were like, “Okay, I guess we’re performing.”

Then my husband was like, “Does anyone want to get his dick sucked? Wanna do that, babe?” And so the random guy who had been in the doorway just whipped it out. He was actually really wonderful and very gentle and polite. And also he had a pretty big dick.

Excellent, good for him. 

And then another guy came in, and so I was doing that too—and like, I think my husband finished, and asked one of them if he wanted to have sex with me from behind. So I think I wound up giving head to three guys, and two of them had sex with me for like a minute each. Finally I was like, “I’ve been giving head for an hour and I’m going to tap out now.”

And that was definitely the most insane series of events of the night.

Your ethos here is inspirational. Just like, all in. So you didn’t have to verbalize these finer points of consent you’d talked to your husband about?

In the first room it was like that. “Do you want to do this, is this okay, can they do this,” etc. But in that last room we were just like, we are just doing this. After he finished, I took a second and was like, “Are you done?” And he said, “Are you? It’s up to you, it’s totally fine with me if you want to keep going.” So I did keep going for a bit, and then I was done too.

And then I hadn’t gotten off at that point because I have to do it myself.

HAHAH oh my god. I can’t imagine how horny you must have been at that point.

Yeah, so we went off into a room, and then I got myself off there, and we had sex again, and another couple was doing stuff next to us—and then a girl joined in, and she was going down on the other girl and her boyfriend was having sex with her for behind, and we were like, “And this is how our night is ending.”

And so you were never uncomfortable?

There were two different guys who approached me asking me to fool around with their wives—I wasn’t into it, I didn’t like being approached by the husband, and I don’t think my husband was feeling it with them either. But those things were totally fine and comfortable. More like, “Maybe later, we’re doing stuff by ourselves right now.”

What did you talk about on the drive home?

We’re driving home at like 2:15, and my husband is having that feeling where you finish watching porn and you realize you’re sort of disgusted and you feel a little bad about it. He finally was like, “Are you okay with the fact that I offered you to give head, without asking you beforehand?” And I was like, “No, that was super hot."

I wanted him to call the shots—I was into that. It’s part of our fantasy.

He thought that you didn’t really want to do it?

Well, to be fair, I generally have a hard time saying no. We’d talked about how if I didn’t answer a question he asked me it would mean no. But he did really read me correctly, even if he was worried he hadn’t.

After that, for the next couple of days, we went at it like teenagers. Just days of having flashbacks every half hour, of like “Holy shit, we did that.” It was wild and awesome. We’re both still dealing with these residual feelings of guilt, like Is this normal, should we have been that comfortable with it, but also who cares, it was great. Eric was like, “It was really awesome to see you as your own sexual person that is independent of me.” And I loved that. We pretend that our sex lives before didn’t exist, or you block that out about our partner, but seeing your significant other in this way was really awesome.

Are you going to go back?

Definitely. There’s one actually right in our neighborhood.

It still doesn’t feel like a demographic I “belong” to—in whatever subculture I’d be placed into, this doesn’t really seem to exist. Or maybe this is just across all subcultures. The club was racially mixed, a diverse range of ages and looks. But the dominant theme does seem to be older married couples.

And I’m also still thinking about aspects of this. I know it’s a little reckless, that you can’t be completely protected sexually. But you do crazy reckless shit when you’re single, and the idea that once you’re married all this stuff just goes away and you’re a wholly responsible person…

Yeah.

I think we were responsible in all the important ways within the context of our relationship, anyway.

Any helpful tips you want to leave people with? Tips for first-time swingers?

Communication is the most important thing before, during and after. You cannot try and have your partner be a mind reader. Also, if you drink, you should, but do not get drunk. I was worried about that, in terms of consent and inebriation, but no one at the club seemed out of it. Just do whatever you can to mentally prepare yourself for all of the possibilities. Any ground rules that you need to set, set. Just know that you yourself can change those ground rules in the moment, too, if you find that you need to—and make sure you’re clear with your partner about that, and vice versa.

Those sound like good rules for life generally.

I guess they are!

If you have recently had a first-time or otherwise notable group sex experience and would like to talk about it anonymously (or not!), or if you know someone who might be interested, please get at me on Twitter or at jia@thehairpin.com. 

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Famous Fictional Food in Photos

Apr. 23rd, 2014 05:30 pm
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Posted by Jia Tolentino

by Jia Tolentino

Photographer Dinah Fried recently published Fictitious Dishes, a book featuring 50 photos of literary meals. The above is from Kafka's Metamorphosis:

There were old, half-rotten vegetables; bones from the evening meal, covered in white sauce that had gone hard; a few raisins and almonds; some cheese that Gregor had declared inedible two days before; a dry roll and some bread spread with butter and salt….

This is very 4/20 Cookbook reading material; more info at the Fictitious Dishes website. (Next up, a Farmer's Boy photo-feast?)

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Ramona Lisa, "Backwards And Upwards"

Apr. 23rd, 2014 04:45 pm
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Posted by Jia Tolentino

by Jia Tolentino


Chairlift's Caroline Polachek (who wrote Beyonce's "No Angel") has been recording on her own as Ramona Lisa, working a dislocated aesthetic that Fader describes as "wide-open and strange, like a cyborg’s take on pastoral music." Here's the first single, and you can stream her debut album Arcadia in full now.

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Posted by Taisia Kitaiskaia

by Taisia Kitaiskaia

Transcript after the jump.

Dear Baba Yaga,

Is it ever possible to indulge a passing fancy without destroying a solid reality? Must all reckless, selfish actions have dire consequences?

BABA YAGA:

You cannot ; always , be wanting to wear a Wedding veil & not desire to lift it & see which boars do run. For that, you must count yr arrows & yr strength & the tension of yr bow. A life of , letting the bowstring go Slack is a limp & bitter one. So sweet is the boar-morsel, & truly how solid is the reality of a veil?

Previously: "I've Been Single For 9 Years & I Feel Like I'm Missing All the Boats"

Taisia Kitaiskaia is a poet, writer, and Michener Center for Writers fellow. She's taking questions on behalf of Baba Yaga at AskBabaYaga@gmail.com.

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Posted by Jia Tolentino

by Jia Tolentino


Maybe someone's skateboarding across the stadium rooftop and casting a shadow? Or maybe ghosts just love soccer games in South America. The Daily Mail informs us of a precedent: "Some Venezuelans believe the 'ghost' of their deceased President Hugo Chaves was responsible for saving an otherwise certain goal during an international match against Colombia."

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Posted by Jia Tolentino

by Jia Tolentino

From the New York Times:

In a fractured decision that revealed deep divisions over what role the judiciary should play in protecting racial and ethnic minorities, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action in admissions to the state’s public universities. The 6-to-2 ruling effectively endorsed similar measures in seven other states. It may also encourage more states to enact measures banning the use of race in admissions or to consider race-neutral alternatives to ensure diversity.

States that forbid affirmative action in higher education, like Florida and California, as well as Michigan, have seen a significant drop in the enrollment of black and Hispanic students in their most selective colleges and universities.

For the past year I've been teaching at University of Michigan and watching students from all backgrounds try to force the school to deal with what it means that black undergraduates are now at 5% of the student body (a number noticeably off from state demographics: 14% of Michiganders are black). All year people have been agitating ferociously for an educational environment where administrators would not immediately sound disingenuous when saying the word "diversity," but the peculiar proto-justice that Jennifer Gratz hath brought upon us shall hold. Gratz, the (white) original plaintiff in the 1996 case, recently challenged a black Detroit high school senior to a public debate over affirmative action and stated, “Should we have a limit on how many Asians we admit? The government should be out of the race issue." She has called the Supreme Court decision a "great victory."

Michigan, whose online "ethnicity reports" are laughably half-assed and whose legacy-preference admissions policies are well intact, has otherwise acknowledged the ongoing protest by pledging to refurbish the multicultural center and consider digitizing some old civil rights documents, which one Huffington Post writer gives as evidence that "the University of Michigan Black Student Union's work for increased tolerance and diversity has paid off." Their work for tolerance! What a word, what a word.

I don't know. I'm from a neighborhood in Texas that is 93% white and went K-12 in the same demographic and even though I tutored in my neighborhood for long enough to become quite accustomed to hearing white people tell me about how they're the worst-off when it comes to college admissions, the racial atmosphere on campus here still reads insanely weird to me; this is still by far the most homogenous environment I've ever experienced in my life. I talked to my (nearly all white) students about race pretty often and oh boy did their voices grow awkward if they ever tried to discuss discrimination, which is what they called all that regrettable stuff America had done once upon a time long ago to people who were African-American, which is a word a lot of them said formally, in that "what had happened was" style; many of them couldn't say the word "black" without hesitation; in my one class with a black girl half the kids stared at her every time we talked about rap, poverty or crime.

Last night I was rereading Kartina Richardson's amazing essay "How Can White Americans Be Free?", which includes an incredible theoretical reading of none other than Spring Breakers:

The absence of time makes for a very spiritual place indeed, and Faith, whose spirituality is the clearest as a Christian, says she wants to pause time and calls it “the most spiritual place,” a place where everyone is the same. Faith proclaims her love of this uniformity again and again. Everyone is “like us,” she says (young, beautiful and white). They are all the same. And that means no one exists to remind them of their external identity.

To be isolated from history in a hall of mirrors is heaven to a young person, and the bliss of this collective, amnesiac atemporality on some campuses extends way beyond spring break. Richardson's piece is so remarkable because this all leads her to a point of clear-sighted compassion: "I realize that the obviousness of racism against brown people is a grace for us," she writes, "a grace because it is so clear and tangible. While that which oppresses whites is harder to see and is not discussed."

In order for white suffering to have a voice, white people must realize the largest and most invisible way in which they benefit from their white privilege, and it’s the same thing that’s causing their frustration being The Default. If Person A is actively supporting and benefiting from a system that oppresses Person B, it is very hard for Person B to hear Person A say, “But I’m hurt too!” However, if Person A is actively working to dismantle the system they benefit from but which oppresses Person B, then Person B is finally seen — and Person A’s pain can be embraced. In order to see a person you must see the truth of their pain. If you deny their pain, you refuse to see them. This is what makes black people invisible. And black invisibility is what makes white pain invisible to black people.

And so we live our lives never seeing each other.

And so it goes in these states, and likely more to come.

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