Thursday, June 10, 2010

This is your life on Garbino

"And when we too are dust, our descendants will have Rashid's curvy plastic trash cans."
- Virginia Postrel, The Substance of Style

More later.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The inevitable "Alejandro" post

-anyone else think she looks like Anna from "V" in the dance sequence starting around 4:13? I think it's the emotional detachment + hyper-sexual androgyny

-what on earth will pop culture do when it discovers Eastern Orthodox imagery?*

-there is not a single cigarette in this video, though she gives off a vaguely Carrollian vibe around 2:25, smoking some sort of bizarre pipe while imperiously watching the gay-monk dance-offering ritual. Clearly this indicates that cigarettes are now more transgressive than half naked men gyrating in heels and the group rape of a latex-clad nun.

"Don't wanna kiss, don't wanna touch, just smoke my cigarette and hush."

"To me, a woman smoking cigarettes was something extraordinarily funny. The absurdity of a woman putting in her mouth a rolled slip of tissue paper filled with tobacco really puzzled me." - Jacques Henri Lartigue
"I knew a man who, when he was a green country boy made a trip to the great city. There a friend undertook to show him the town; and they started on a journey through the Tenderloin, to the end that the youth might see what the world was like.

'And,' he said in relating the experience to me years later, 'there sat that girl, smoking. I wasn’t used to seeing women smoke. They didn’t do it in our neck of the woods. But that wasn’t what disturbed me. What clean bowled me over was what she was smoking: a big, fat, black cigar that would have put me on the casualty list in five minutes. And I considered myself pretty hard-boiled, too. That finished me. I couldn’t see anything attractive about a woman smoking a rank cigar. Whatever temptation I was under with respect to the lady fled. ...

'It was the shock of my young life. But I have always been thankful to that girl for frankly smoking that cigar. A library of preachment and warning from all the sages could not have more completely and vividly revealed to me just what she was; just how hard she was, how unlovely, how unlike a woman, how physically and psychologically repulsive, and what violence a man does to his deepest instincts when he permits himself to be drawn by such women. I suppose it was the want of what I might call feminine aesthetics in the performance rather than its unconventional side, that repulsed me most. ...

'It taught me a fundamental lesson. I know now why I abominate coarsegrained women, and women who make themselves coarse-grained. It’s instinctive. They can’t be good mothers. No child should ever be trusted to their hands, and no youth, either.'" - Wainwright Evans, 1922 (all emphasis mine)

"Smoking cigarettes is both a source of visible sensual pleasure and an emblem of women's erotic life. At least that is how it appears to men, for whom the sight of women smoking is both threatening and intensely, voyeuristically exciting." - Richard Klein

MY ACTUAL POINT: "Don't wanna kiss, don't wanna touch, just smoke my cigarette and hush," is basically the most emasculating thing a woman can say to a man. Add the huge age difference elsewhere alluded to ("She's not broken, she's just a baby/But her boyfriend's like a dad, just like a dad") and you've got some serious Lolita S&M shit going on.

Gaga has gone back and forth on feminism, swinging back towards the girlpower end of the spectrum in her recent Larry King interview: thus, some have criticized "Alejandro" as insufficiently empowering, or some such. Not that I concern myself much with feminism, but I would suggest that the complete absence of actual cigarettes is the biggest way Gaga's character gives herself over to the variously Mezo-American/Nazi-looking gay hordes (which is sweet, given that she's said this video is intended as a sort of love letter to her gay fans).

I've long considered mounting an anti-anti-tabagism campaign grounded in feminist rhetoric. Taking a woman's cigarette from her is a thing apart from depriving gas station attendants and business executives; not, of course, that in some wild fantasy of mine only women smoke, but I imagine that anti-tobacco opposition couched in such language would more clearly force the cultural questions surrounding my favorite narcotic, which are uni-fucking-versally ignored.

"C'est bien là, n'est-ce pas, dans ce grand bâtiment, que travaillent les cigarières?"

"C'est l
à, mon officier, et bien certainment, on ne vit nulle part, filles aus silégères."

"Mais au moins sont-elles jolies?"

"Mon officier, je n'en sais rien, et m'occupe assez peu de ces filles l

*This will never happen, of course, because despite the decided minority status of Catholics in this country, gratuitous Catholic imagery is never marked in the way Orthodox imagery would be (which, as a Christian, I can't say I mind, but as a fan of epic music videos, well...)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

You'll never recognize yourself on Heartattack & Vine

Tired of reading about Lady Gaga? I'm not, but just in case you want to see what actual musical decadence looks like (first song starts around 1:10):

"Heartattack and Vine"
liar liar with your pants on fire,
white spades hangin' on the telephone wire,
gamblers reevaluate along the dotted line,
you'll never recognize yourself on Heartattack and Vine.

doctor lawyer beggar man thief,
Philly Joe Remarkable looks on in disbelief,
if you want a taste of madness, you'll have to wait in line,
you'll probably see someone you know on Heartattack and Vine.

Boney's high on china white, shorty found a punk,
don't you know there ain't no devil? there's just God when he's drunk,
well this stuff will probably kill you, let's do another line,
what you say you meet me down on Heartattack and Vine?

better off in Iowa against your scrambled eggs,
than crawling down Cahuenga on a broken pair of legs,
you'll find your ignorance is blissful every goddamn time
you're waitin' for the RTD on Heartattack and Vine.

"Til the Money Runs Out"
check this strange beverage that falls out from the sky,
splashin' Bagdad on the Hudson in Panther Martin's eyes,
he's high and outside wearin' candy apple red,
Scarlet gave him twenty seven stitches in his head,
with a pint of green chartreuse ain't nothin' seems right,
you buy the Sunday paper on a Saturday night.

can't you hear the thunder? someone stole my watch,
I sold a quart of blood and bought a half a pint of scotch,
someone tell those Chinamen on Telegraph Canyon Road,
when you're on the bill with the spoon there ain't no time to unload,
so bye bye baby baby bye bye.

droopy stranger lonely dreamer toy puppy and the prado,
we're laughin' as they piled into Olmos' el dorado,
Jesus whispered eni meany miney moe,
they're too proud to duck their heads that's why they bring it down so low,
so bye bye baby baby bye bye.

the pointed man is smack dab in the middle of July,
swingin' from the rafters in his brand new tie,
he said I can't go back to that hotel room; all they do is shout,
but I'll stay with you, baby, till the money runs out,
so bye bye baby baby bye bye.

Lady Gaga, love her though I do, is really for those trying to up their performativity. Tom Waits sings for everyone who's passed the aesthete's point of no return.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

All your sanity and wits, they will all vanish, I promise

From Pushkin's Медный Всадник:

В гранит оделася Нева;
Мосты повисли над водами;
Тёмно-зелёными садами
Её покрылись острова,
И перед младшею столицей
Померкла старая Москва,
Как перед новою царицей
Порфироносная вдова.

The Neva is clad in granite; bridges hang
poised over her waters; her islands are covered
with dark-green gardens, and before the younger
capital, ancient Moscow has grown pale,
like a widow in purple before a new empress.

(translated by D. M. Thomas)

To study Russian is to walk into a circular room searching for corners

"Even drunk... uneducated... babies... will never make a mistake with verbal aspect. But none of you will ever really understand it."
Konstantin struggles to express just how completely hopeless this entire undertaking is.

"The fact that it has some semblance of regularity is remarkable in and of itself."
On Russian grammar, just, y'know, in general.

"Said by a child, it is completely innocuous. In prison they will kill you for it."
On using козел, which means "goat".

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Things Elis apparently need to be told about Russia

Direct quotes from my Muscovite professors during study abroad orientation:

"Russian medical care is actually quite functional."

"Ice is a very Anglo-American thing."

"Please take mosquitoes seriously. They're smart. They're city mosquitoes."

"Believe me, whatever your environmental concerns, they will go away in a day or two." (on purchasing fumigators to kill said mosquitoes)

Student: "You told us to get a 'traditional American gift' for our host families... what does that mean?"
Professor: "Ah... whiskey."
Student: "Uh... okay... what happens if they don't like it?"
Professor: "They will."

"Bring two pairs of pants. One for Church and one for the theater."

"Grammar is a mnemonic device."

"It's much worse than vodka. It's really very bad for you." (on diet soda)