I knew this bra fitting thing was a scam…

They tell you you’re a 34 quadruple M so that you have to buy a $200 bra, instead of the $30 36D one. My friends have been swearing by this for awhile now, but it always sounded like a bunch of snake oil to me.  Kate Harding explains why:

Did you know that something like 85 percent of women are wearing the wrong size bra? Yes, you probably did, because Oprah and women’s magazines and makeover reality shows and even mainstream newspapers have all been beating that drum for years. Like getting dressed and eating food, choosing a bra has become something only the foolish attempt without expert supervision. Browse the Target lingerie section at your peril, ladies; the only way to be sure you’re not unwittingly looking 10 pounds fatter and possibly setting yourself up for permanent back problems is to go to a specialty store where nothing costs less than $50, invite a stranger to fondle your breasts, and take her word for what size you really are. Even if, as the Telegraph has recently reported, that specialty-store employee has no idea either.

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Am I too cynical?

I didn’t watch the State of the Union address last night, but I heard that Obama wants to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Is it wrong that I think he’s doing this only to build political capital with the gays so he can screw them over in some other way next week or next month or next year? Like, here’s a crumb of hope, but hey, then I’m shipping you off to Rush Limbaugh’s house for the public floggings?

Oh to be young and idealistic again…

How I try to start…

What I do when I can’t write. Here’s a little piece of junk essay about how it feels to not get started:

I don’t want to write a story about lonely people sitting in rooms doing menial jobs. And I don’t want to write about magic. And I don’t want to write about disaffected youth (okay maybe that’s a lie).

And I don’t want to write about Paris now, because the snob in me feels like it would be typical and douchey. But I would’ve wanted to write about it when I was seventeen. And I did. Wrote a bunch of bad poems and maybe one half decent one. Is it the wrong instinct – to Douche Police censor myself? So what if you’re in your mid-twenties and want to write about Paris? Am I going to mock you? Should you write about Omaha or Knoxville, Tennessee instead? This is not supposed to be a travel essay on Paris, but what is it supposed to be? Why don’t I want to look at my photo albums and reminisce over the old pictures and remember what it was like to take pictures with a film camera. 26 pictures and then pop the door open and load a new little spool. Do I miss that? Will the world continue existing for the people who want to shoot on film? The grandmothers (like mine) with their disposables and the art students with their vintage SLRs and big lenses?

Okay so maybe I’ll take a trip to Omaha and write about some white picket fences instead. Too bad David Foster Wallace did it first and did it better, right after 9/11 no less. And they say that Flannery O’Connor never strayed too far from her hometown. She still wrote, some would say brilliantly, but I wouldn’t. What about Paris is not capturing my imagination? I like remembering the riots there, the sixteen or so nights filled with burning cars in the Parisian suburbs. Race and immigration tensions and troubles, that line of thinking I can follow until the cows come home. But romance? Travelogue? Architecture, even? Not following. Not sweeping enough in my head. Boredom creeps in, which is crazy, but also true. Maybe I don’t need it to be exciting. I would say something equally douchey and say ‘I just need it to be real’ but that wouldn’t get me anywhere either. Plus, it would also be a lie.

A lot of people can disappear into it and disappear well.

Now that’s a line to start with:

Smart smart smart…

Bill Ivey, the former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts started an interesting debate at Artsjournal.com a news aggregate/blogging site about the arts and culture. It’s a daily must-read. I really like where Ivey is going with this:

Doug worries that if we take on any policy issues other than those that directly affect our core constituency — nonprofit arts organizations and artists who work mostly in that world — we’ll be out of our depth and get things wrong, unable to choose sides responsibly.

True, there are some ambiguous situations that arise, but many issues are pretty clear, especially if we always ask, “Will policy x enhance the expressive lives of individuals and communities by making heritage and the tools of creativity more available, or will the policy increase costs, erect barriers, or limit access?”  After all, we are as smart as leaders in any field, and little of this is rocket science: create low-power FM outlets in urban areas, almost certainly a good thing; allow one company to own 10% of all radio stations; probably bad (as the Clear Channel experiment demonstrated); abandon Net Neutrality to allow advertisers to steer online searches; almost certainly bad.  Yes, there are some really thorny issues (Google Books is one) but I absolutely believe that the conversation around these issues will be better if the smart folks who have mostly thought about museum attendance and foundation funding turn their attention to a wider set of issues.  If we don’t, the part of the arts scene that we know best will end up as roadkill smashed flat as public policy speeds along the highway to market hegemony.

Now I’m not a conspiracy theorist (really; I’m not) but if I were it would be easy to frame the entire nonprofit arts scene as a plot to keep smart arts people from ever thinking about things like copyright, union agreements, media ownership, or mergers in the recording, film, and television, or live performance industries. They give the NEA an extra ten million some years, and it’s all “high-fives;” the next year they take it away, and we spend thousands on seminars to help us cope with the funding crisis.  All the while, bigger forces are quietly tying up the Internet, expanding the footprint of IP, while allowing heritage assets to be locked up in the vaults of a few merged media giants.  The nonprofit scene can be viewed as a medium-sized sandbox in which arts people are asked to play for a pittance while mainstream policy actors use legislation, legal interpretation, and regulation to expand controlled revenue streams.

But I’m not, just not, a conspiracy theorist…

He’s absolutely right. It’s something I’ve often worried about, me who has pretty much consistently worked in the cultural and nonprofit sector all my working life. What if it is a sandbox, or better yet, a pink collar ghetto? (Or a white liberal guilt ghetto for that matter? I do feel like there’s a certain expectation or lack of one that people who are bright in the nonprofit culture sector can’t be thrown in with the sharks everywhere else. “Well, they’re smart but they’re not smart smart.” Obviously Bill Ivey is smart smart, and so are a lot of people I’ve worked with in my life. The artsjournal thread is exploring whether people are ghettoizing themselves, in this case, maybe thinking that they’re not so smart after all. I’m glad Ivey is calling them out…

The reading list…

For the near future at least.

Right now, I’m reading My Paper Chase by Harold Evans, who was the former editor of pretty much every newspaper in England and New York City.  It’s amazing… quite a ride. He’s basically had a hand in every major story in England over a fifty year period. He’s fairly self-congratulatory about it, but it makes for an amazing read. Plus, I would be pretty fucking big on myself too if I had his resume.

Next: Life as Politics: How ordinary people change the Middle East by Asef Bayat, one of the first books to realize that all poor people in the Middle East aren’t frothing-at-the-mouth terrorists. They’re just regular people and they hate suicide bombers too.

Next: The Beautiful Struggle by none other than my living writing hero Ta-nehisi Coates. I can’t even tell you how excited I am to read this. If it’s even half as subtle, beautiful and resoundingly smart as his blog, I’ll be blown away.

Next: I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay by John Lanchester. Apparently this is the book equivalent of the This American Life episode The Giant Pool of Money, which, if you haven’t listened to, you absolutely MUST MUST MUST!!! It explains the economic crisis in a way that A) you can understand and B) doesn’t bore you to death and C) actually entertains and evokes an emotional response in a much more subtle way than BAH A MILLION PEOPLE ARE GOING TO LOSE THEIR HOUSES BAH!!!!!!

Oh my god, everybody. They’re all nonfiction books. And not a chick memoir among them (I’m looking at you, Elizabeth Gilbert and your half-assed follow up to the cash cow known as Eat Pray Love. Fucking phoned it in, no doubt).