Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ramblings: Songbirds and Cashmere

If wishes were thrushes, beggars would eat birds.

Right.

But… Ok? Hang on. No. I understand that if wishes were thrushes beggars would have a lot of thrushes but I can't imagine it is a lack of thrushes that is keeping them from eating birds. They probably lack proper bird processing and cooking facilities and an excess of thrushes isn't going to change that. If anything, it will probably exacerbate the problem.

Thrushes, songbirds generally, were a delicacy once (maybe they still are somewhere) but I imagine it takes time, attention and careful handling to derive much nutrition or pleasure from a thrush. They are not very big birds. They would be very fiddly to eat on the bone and I can't imagine there is much of them left off the bone. They must have been cooked on the bone (whole?) in those fancy pies. That would be a lot of tiny bird bones amidst your pastry, just waiting to spike you viciously in the gums or stick in your throat. Perhaps you ate the bones like those terrifying Filipino fetal eggs. You do you but even the thought of balut makes me feel a little queasy. Raw-ish egg and crunchy skull and tiny, sharp, choking bones and quills... That is a lot of texture right there. That is more texture than I can cope with. I love food; I love exploring food and new cultures and histories through food; I wish I could be one of those travelers who will excitedly try anything that is put in front of them but I don't think I could eat the most authentic balut in the world. I am too much of a coward. Or I am too repelled. I read or watched or heard an interesting talk about disgust once; about how (from my garbled memory) disgust, social or physical, is, at its most basic, a biological response designed to protect us. Humans are almost universally disgusted, across cultures, by the faeces of carnivores and incest because these things will cause us harm, they will poison us and damage our progeny. You are repulsed by rotten food because it can make you sick. That seems to give a lot of autonomy to the physical body but if you can flinch away from pain then I guess why not? QUASI-SCIENCE, Get It Here. I question how much you can expand on disgust-as-biology because so much of disgust is clearly cultural and because I am deeply wary of 'status quo disguised as evolutionary biology'. [Men's rights activists have really, horribly undermined the possibly sometimes legitimate field of evolutionary biology. OBVIOUSLY I am not a creationist but I nearly punched my computer that time I read that women like pink because they are used to searching for berries and men like blue because they had to watch the skies when they were on a hunt. Oh sure, just blithely ignore like 1200 years of Western history when pinks and reds were viewed as masculine colours and blue was for girls and Madonnas.] Raw eggs can give you salmonella but I don't think that is the heart of my discomfort and clearly it hasn't swayed balut eaters. I don't enjoy handling raw meat but people love steak tartare and Scandinavians like to bury food and eat it putrefied (#NotAllScandinavians). The world is a weird place and people have strange tastes and I should embrace that more but I struggle but I should try. But but.

I think they should have made thrush pies on the Great British Bake Off. I would swear blind that I saw pictures once of thrush pies that looked a little like crowns and they were rather beautiful. Can I find any photos? No. But, theoretically, they would be complicated, obscure and deeply British, i.e. perfect GBBO fodder. I mean, there would have been uproar but whatever.

Also.

I just realised that feathers are super pimped out hairs. Or rather, they are both integumentary systems. Bizarre. I quite fancy the idea of feather eyebrows but it also seems painful. Do birds get in-grown feathers? Asking the important questions.

If wishes were thrushes, beggars would eat birds. If wishes were scarves, I would be snuggled in cashmere? Certainly, if money was no object, I would be wrapped up in a Begg & Co. scarf. Their Arran cashmere scarves look lush. £240 might be a perfectly reasonable price for goats raised and wool spun and knitted in Scotland, I don't know, but it is sadly out of my price range. [N.B. The scarves are definitely made in Ayr but I can't see the source of their wool on the website and this post is quite long enough without going on another research binge.] Either way, they look lovely and local(ish) and I fancy one. I love their colour palette and apparent ethos. I would wear the hell out of that slate grey number. All I really want from my clothing is for it to be soft and warm - all cashmere everything. A cashmere cocoon. A cashmere sleeping bag perhaps? That would be the (possibly slightly sweaty) dream...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

These Are a Few of my Favourite Thing

I can't imagine why something like the Longform app didn't exist sooner. Maybe it did and I just missed it. I can admit that happens often. The app, which has a clean, mostly straightforward layout, allows you to follow your favourite publications and bookmark any interesting essays/longform articles to read offline. This is obviously great and the in-app reading experience is neat and free of distractions (there are a couple of issues with stuff like pull quotes and repetitions but I'm sure these will be ironed out). 

More excitingly though it allows you to follow writers directly. This may not sound like a grand innovation but I love it. Most writers write across more publications than I could read and although I follow lots of writers on Twitter I am too inactive and Twitter moves too fast for me to be able to catch everything. I follow some writers on Tumblr too which is great but, again, it's so easy to miss things in endless streams. In the app I have my own queue and I get notifications when the people I like write great longform things anywhere online! Revolutionary! I can then bookmark everything I want to read and have it in one handy place, safe from the abyss. Apparently I can't write about apps without sounding like an old. What can you do? One day I shall turn into my beloved Luddite father and eschew all machines. They have the devil inside of them...

In a fit of excitement upon downloading the app I brain-vomited up about 20 writers that I wanted to follow and I have added a handful more in the last fortnight. They are a solid 90% women and there is only one white man amongst them. John Jeremiah Sullivan gets a free pass because he has written some of my favourite essays, I mean, not a free pass to be awful but a free pass to be white and male. (Actually, I've just added David Grann. I'm sure there are others but I think 3% of my list is basically appropriate.) My list isn't conclusive and I'm sure there are some obvious people I have forgotten so let me know who I might be missing. You can also follow me on there since there is a 'recommend' function which I am enthusiastically using on anything particularly great. I am, as on Twitter (which I am trying to engage with more at the moment although it does not come easy to me), @cmiscellany. You can't come say hi on there or anything (I don't think?) but let me know if you're enjoying the app and recommending good things and I will find you.


New Ways to Consume Content. *barf*. Still, 2/3 of my favourite things. I can't be arsed to trawl back through my email to work out when I started getting into newsletters in a big way but I can tell you that Rusty was my gateway drug. The Tabs summer holiday/sabbatical/empty hole in my life was a hard time. Tinybitchtapes is the best and Ann Friedman does a great weekly roundup of her work and generally internet bizness. Real humans direct into your heart (inbox). Those are (relatively) old favourites but I recently signed up to a new baby newsletter that is bring me much joy. Heads up, it's not about new babies, phew - it is just a morsel of delightfulness and I have been receiving it for about three weeks. Laura Olin's Everything Changes near weekdaily email has made me smile every time I've opened it. Impressively random, no more than two minutes, a tiny flash of happiness. Dolly Parton facts (goddess - informative), the secret lives of emoji (weird - insightful), context-free animal gifs (obv). Awesome. I would highly recommend it. Do you have any favourite newsletters?


Transparent is so great. I had read many things saying it was great but I was and am still surprised at it's greatness. Amazon made this thing. Well, Jill Soloway and co. made it but on Amazon's buck. Wonders will never cease. I'm only about half way through and maybe (unlikely but not impossible) it will take a horrible downturn or have a very disappointing ending but that seems unlikely and, even if it is true, a half series of wonderfulness is a wonderful thing.

I did not particularly care for Afternoon Delight although I thought all the female actors were very strong. I feel like, with this kind of indie film, you maybe don't have enough space in 90-110 minutes to develop the likeable parts of a character that allow you to engage with the bog standard human awfulnesses. Of course, likeability is beside the point but I don't know if a film gives me enough to hold onto with more complicated characters? I'm not sure totally what I mean by that or even if I agree... A book (or perhaps a tv show?) character has 300 pages and a week or a month to engage you so they can be difficult and horrible because you get more, the character is unrestricted, but a film traps you in the mire... I don't know. Afternoon Delight made me feel miserable and Transparent makes me feel joyous even though everyone in it has their own brand of unpleasantness. It is warmer? I am just blissfully happy to have a trans protagonist and gender centre stage. I love a women-centric show but I really love that this blows gender up a bit wider. It is funny. It is beautiful and quiet but not mumble-y. The acting is great. Gaby Hoffmann hates pants. It is a good time for television.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Girl Crush: Meg Myers

I am deeply wary of nostalgia. I watched The Two Faces of January at the weekend and Kirsten Dunst's wardrobe is fantastic but no vintage dress can beat out the internet, easy access to birth control and hummus. [For reference, the clothes, settings and actors in the film are beautiful but - for me - its only appeal is aesthetic. I neither actively liked or disliked the film - it left me cold. I would only recommend it to those with a particular fetish for early 1960s structured fashion, sun-drenched shots of Athens and Crete and Kiki/Oscar. Admittedly, those things shine.] I want to experience original punk, the glamour of Hollywood's Golden Age, the party-going nihilism of the inter-bellum, Regency England (et al) but I'm not an idiot. I love Austen but I would lose my mind trapped in a drawing room.



It makes sense that the lost idyll that I truly regret missing is one within my own lifetime. If I was only 5-10 years older (and possibly American) I could have been a riot grrrl and still enjoyed the perks of 2014. I really wish I could have hit Fiona Apple and Sleater-Kinney and Liz Phair and Bikini Kill at their peak, at the right age. [N.B. For music purists and people who were culturally conscious at this time, I appreciate that I am blurring genres and epochs slightly here but since I missed both and they share DNA I am going to group them together. For more, see this history of riot grrrl and the 'angry woman'.] I can listen to their music now but I wish I could have experienced their rage/fierceness at its peak. I wish I could have listened to them as a teenager, become obsessed and seen them live. Seen them tear the world apart just as I was creating myself.



Of course, I've missed Meg Myers in the other direction. I am too old to enjoy her as an obsessive, bewildered teenager but at least I can bask in her anger and fierceness contemporaneously. I stumbled across her about a month ago and I am in mad love/lust. In my grand tradition of missing the boat she's been around for years - her first EP came out in 2012 and her latest EP came out in February. Whatever. Desire is a magnificent song with a magnificent video. It is dark and twisty and perfect. I love the viciousness, the sexual aggression and the barely contained rage, the challenge. She's beautiful and talented but also vicious and creepy. Heart dangerous girls...



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Article Reading Group: Allsorts


Baby LiLo via ITG

I have no coherent theme here. This is straight up: Stuff That Is Good On The Internet.

The Logic of Stupid Poor People - Tressie McMillan Cottom:  Just something everyone should read. Perhaps every three months or so. A reminder of how to be a human being.

The Transgender Crucible - Sabrina Rubin Erdely: Are we having a trans moment? Has the tide turned? Are we ready to abandon gender binaries and embrace a gender spectrum where people can self-identify however they please without fear or threat? (I’m not even going to try and posit the idea that we’re post-gender because ha!) Short answer: probably not. I’m thrilled that Laverne Cox and Martine Rothblatt and Jill Soloway’s show are enjoying success and getting good press but I am not touching the comments section of those articles with a barge pole and many trans/non- gender conforming people still face hatred, violence and systems of power that are stacked against them. CeCe McDonald is just one example of how much further we still have to go.

BuzzFeed’s Jonah Peretti Goes Long - Felix Salmon: Did you know... Jonah Peretti, founder of Buzzfeed, co-founder of HuffPo, ye olde Original Internet Dude, is the brother of Chelsea Peretti, Gina off of all-round excellent TV show Brooklyn 99? That’s hardly the main takeaway from this extended conversation with Peretti but it was news to me. I miss B99. Peretti is a thoughtful, interesting human being and he and Felix Salmon talk past and future internets. If those things hold any curiosity for you I would recommend giving this (admittedly pretty long) interview a try.

The Afghan Girls Who Live as Boys - Jenny Nordberg: This is awesome. I mean, awful but also awesome. The world is complicated. Obviously, as per Article #2, I would like to live in a world where people are not discriminated against based on gender – where a person’s access to education, employment, health, freedom is not determined by gender. But I don’t live in that world and the women of Afghanistan certainly don’t live in that world. And, given these flawed, patriarchal realities, I want all of the stories about the women and girls who cheat the system. The women who cut their hair and put on trousers so they can go out and fight and learn and support their families. Lady Fu Hao, the pope who gave birth, the bacha posh. These women can only exist in a society that denies women choice/agency/freedom and I don’t want to romanticise that but I love their determination and the way they expose so many of the moronic illusions of gender. Any further reading recommendations, esp. books, much appreciated.

I Re-Watched Garden State and Will Never Feel Again - Lindy West: Glorious. #NotAllLampreys