What’s Wrong with Handsome?!

March 9, 2012 § 2 Comments

So I have this friend. He’s very pretty. Like, his skin was made by elves and his hair spun out of rose-gold by fairies.

No, not that kind of fairy.

Moi???

Except…well, okay, that works too.

My point is that this friend has been genetically blessed when it comes to his physical appearance. He has those ice blue eyes that are so piercing they kind of scare you, and his strawberry blonde (though more strawberry than blonde) hair is so silky and perfect that I’ve talked with a number of friends about it, and we have all admitted to sometimes getting distracted just staring at his hair, seeing the light glance off it, watching him run his hands through it — see, I’ve wandered off into a daydream just thinking about his hair.

And this isn’t just a “break me off a piece of that” kind of situation. A straight guy recently made an envious comment regarding this hair, which was basically like, “How is that possible? Come on!

And yet recently, my pretty friend has been letting his hair grow too long. Whereas he once had that slightly shaggy “I’m an artist!” haircut, he let the bangs grow until he had to sweep them awkwardly to the side in The Zac Efron:

I know, Zac Efron, squeal!, or whatever, but seriously people, this is not how you want your hair to look.

I'm actually frightened by how much my friend's hair looks like this. This may be a picture of him wearing a Zac Efron mask.

At times, loathe though I am to speak of them, his hair even approached The Justin Bieber:

Even The Biebs has since realized the error of his hairstyling ways, and I don’t think “Justin Bieber!” when I think “someone who makes great fashion choices.”

I’m sure you can imagine, given the mental picture I’ve painted for you, why I recently commented (nicely! casually!) to said friend that his hair was getting really long and asked if he was planning on cutting it (he’s the kind of person I can see going off into the woods on a “spiritual quest” for the weekend and then turning up three months later, not realizing how much time has gone by and surprised people have been worried about him, so I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d just forgot to cut his hair).

But, horror of horrors — he told me he was growing his hair out! To waist-length! On purpose!!! And that he was always going to wear it down because he doesn’t like when men wear ponytails!

I remember that I excused myself from the room to go vomit, but I must have actually stayed, since he then revealed to me that he’s had long hair before and that, in fact, he used to have dreadlocks! He took his straight, shiny, magicked-into-existence-by–woodland-fairies hair and made it into a dirty mass of wtf are you doing, white boy? 

At one point when he had dreadlocks, he also had a bushy beard, and when he saw his mother for the first time with these new style choices, she took one look at him and burst into tears. True story. (Also, he said that he no longer grows beards because the beard splits in the middle of his chin and gathers into two points. May I quote Joey Tribbiani when I say, “That goatee makes you look like Satan.”)

Now, my friend has no reason to give a flying #&$% what I think of his hairstyle, me or anyone else — although we are the ones who have to look at him all the time — but his desire to go from “Hellooooo there” to “I think that guy is going to try to steal my purse!” got me thinking: what is it that makes really handsome guys work to uglify all their natural pretty?

It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately since it’s been awards season, and despite the fact that the Oscars are better than Lunesta at combating insomnia, I somehow watched all of it. And all of the Golden Globes. And I think I watched part of the Emmys? Although I avoided the Grammys like the plague because I hate that shit — also, I want Chris Brown to crawl under a rock and die.

The point is, I watch these shows partly out of masochism (who doesn’t love watching mediocre art beating out good art for the title of “year’s best”!) and partly out of my love for fashion. I watch for the dresses, and the hairstyles, and the jewelry, and the shoes, and oh yeah, the suits and other men-type-things.

Unless you’re Ryan Gosling in that olive green suit from the Ides of March premier, or Darren Criss in that cranberry slim-cut, or any other sexy man in a suit that I want to pour into my glass and drink, mostly men at the Oscars (etc.) succeed through understatement, i.e. by simply not doing anything wrong.

The other night I ordered an olive in my martini, but he did not come with it.

Ditto every Cosmo or vodka cranberry I've ever had.

If you’re a man at the Oscars (etc.) and I don’t remember what you were wearing the next day, that’s probably a good sign — not an incredible sign, you didn’t wow me, but still, high five for you — a sign that you wore a black tuxedo that fit you well enough, rather than putting on something too crazy.

Since menswear excellence is often based around less-is-more (or around Tom Ford — everything that man makes is stunning), it’s other parts of male stars’ appearance that stand out to me. Lately, it’s their panic to cover up handsome.

And why? What, pray tell, is wrong with handsome? I’m a huge fan of handsome! Why are you taking the handsome away from me?!

If the media is going to push unrealistic beauty expectations on us at every waking moment, I might as well have some pretty men to show for it!

The Oscar Man Fug that had one of my best friends texting me in horror occurred on the face of one of my all-time favorite pretty, pretty men: Bradley Cooper.

Baby, WHY?! Let’s hope and pray this was for a movie. And we know it’s not actually for the role of Satan because that 3-D Paradise Lost flick got cancelled, thanks be to all that is good and holy.

Others, however, can’t so easily hide behind the “It’s for a role!” defense. Take, for example, Ashton Kutcher, who’s role on Three and a Half Men recently led to his being forced to fix his horrifying face. And by that I mean cut his hair and evict the rodents living on his chin.

Hey there! Sorry about destroying your ability to see! #lolz #megadouche

Now, while Ashton Kutcher is majorly not my type (and by that I mean that he is astonishingly accomplished in the art of douchebaggery), he does actually have a pretty face. You know, when he allows it to go outside.

I'm actually surprisingly cute, right?

That look is okay. The guess-how-long-it’s-been-since-I-showered! look? Not so much…

No high-fives for you. Go get the electric razor.

Christian Bale is another one that I’ve been having trouble with for a while. Look, I know that he’s a very good-looking man. I’ve seen Batman Begins. I’ve seen The Dark Knight. I’ve seen 3:10 to Yuma, and The Prestige, and Public Enemies. I even saw Terminator: Salvation, though I can’t imagine why. I’ve seen Newsies. I’ve even seen Pocahontas, and in Pocahontas he’s sexy as a cartoon!! And yet, when I see him at any public event lately, I can only think, “What did I see in this guy, again?”

Seriously, what did I see in him? Oh right, that’s what:

Mmm.

The movie-star-on-his-off-time-skipping-a-shave-or-two is a pretty common occurrence in tabloid photos/in actors’ actual lives, and that makes total sense to me: if it’s your job to look perfect every moment, I can see why you’d trash the razor and eat entire pizzas given the chance. However, I think this should stop at a point.

Yes, sometimes when I’m working on a paper (graduate school = now I’m a perma-student), I don’t leave my house for four days and I don’t shower or put on makeup or wear anything aside from pajamas or sweatpants, and my bangs are all twisted on top of my head and I get that twitch in my eye…but the point is that after I finish the paper (or happen to look in a mirror), I take a shower and put on some real clothes. Also, though I do frequently grocery shop after I go to the gym and thus venture into public with no makeup, a red face, and sweaty, sweaty hair, I usually don’t want to punish strangers for having to look at me.

And I think, given these recent photos, that Shia LaBeouf has reached the “punishing strangers who have eyes” stage.

via The Daily Mail

If I hadn’t been prompted by the headline to know that this was Shia LaBeouf and you’d asked me who this was a picture of, I’d have replied, “Some homeless guy,” or “A hipster.”

Shia’s not in the upper echelons of “Bring the smelling salts! She’s fainted!” handsome, but he is definitely not bad-looking, and he has this strangely sexy vibe that I’ve never been able to pin down. And if you can look like that bum/painter above or like this:

…guess which look I think you should pick.

Plus, my best friend K has run into him in Burbank and apparently he’s super chill and a great sport, and he dated Carey Mulligan for several years whom, if you read the site regularly you’ll know I totally adore, so I’ll continue like Shia — or as we’ll soon be calling him Shi-Yeti.

But while Shia LaBeouf is a young guy who seems like a bit of a wild card, some of the other “Keep the handsome away from me!! The power of fame compels you!!!” menfolk are less young and far more handsome.

Brad Pitt is potentially the worst offender of all, in that he been hiding his handsome behind bad haircuts and bad facial hair for years, and also because he has the most handsome to hide.

So close, and yet...

I despise his hair. Despite the fact that he probably has a stylist following him around his house adjusting his hair/clothes, Pitt’s long hair always manages to look like it hasn’t been washed in a few days.

And don’t tell Angie (or the tabloids), but I’d suggest that in the above picture (his official 2012 Oscars nominee portrait), he looks like he’s channeling ex Jennifer Aniston during her early Friends years. 

Short in the front, long in the back for no reason? Yep, it’s The Rachel, only without the proper styling — Brad forgot to add the mouse and blow-dry the top with a large round brush! Shame on you, Brad…

Also, that goatee has got to go. My favorite photo from the 2012 Oscars red carpet is the following one, because Brad’s facial expression is admitting what Brad himself refuses to admit: that facial hair is heinous.

"Please! Get it off me!" - Brad's face

We know you’re not 25 anymore, Brad, and that’s okay! We know you won’t look like you did in Thelma and Louise,  but you can still look like this:

Or like this:

Don’t let Angelina’s perma-perfect alien-skin get you feeling down about your wrinkles — you’re an earthborn human so you’re going to age, while she doesn’t seem to have that problem.

You’re still handsomer than 99.99999985% of men. Who have ever lived.

Brad, we love you, not as much as we love The Clooney, true, but we love you. So please, bring back the short hair and the clean shave, or even just the short hair!

But whatever you do, don’t go back to this:

I stand corrected. THAT goatee makes you look like Satan.

Advertisements

How (Not) to Get Your Writing Published

March 5, 2012 § 3 Comments

I’m currently reading submissions for a bi-annual literary journal, sifting the “stellar” from the “has potential” and the “just get it away from me.” Since I’m currently an unknown writer sending my poems out to various publications, whispering, “Like me, like me, like me” when I mail them, I know the vulnerability of putting your work into the hands of someone potentially willing to publish it.

I’ve been writing poetry since early childhood. My premier preschool-era poem still hangs on my grandma’s wall; it is entitled “Happy Birthday Grammo” — my spelling was not all that at age 4.  Despite my two decades of writing since then, however, I’m still an “emerging writer,” in that I’ve never published a book. Or published in a lot of journals. Or developed a following. Okay, “emerging” is a generous term; I’m still very much in the early stages of getting published beyond my grandmother’s living room. And since I’d like people to read more than a single poem written in magic marker, I really hope that people at various journals and publishing houses are going to give my work a chance.

Especially since at any other journal I’d be the submitter, when I’m reading submissions sent to the lit mag I work for, I truly try to give each one the benefit of the doubt, assuming each poem will be good until I’m proven otherwise.

But sometimes I’m proven way otherwise.

My friend J made this stamp as a gift for another friend, who is an editor for a literary journal and who also teaches poetry to undergrads. I don't care if it's a joke -- I'm starting to want one of these.

Over the last two months, we’ve been processing significantly more submissions than normal because we’ve been reading all the entries for our annual editors’ prize. I’ve read over 500 poems that have been submitted for the contest, and that “benefit of the doubt” period I try for is getting shorter and shorter. (Are you familiar with the concept of the nanosecond?)

There are a number of things submitters do that immediately set their poem on the slippery slope to the “no” pile. (Subsections of the “no” pile include the “hell no” pile and the “oh, please, please let me never think of this again” pile.)

To help you, the submitters, (but mostly to help me and other editors deal with this crap less in the future), I’ve compiled the following points to help you avoid ending up in one of the nine circles of rejection hell.

1. Read the gorram directions.

a. If the journal’s submission instructions say, “Please submit no more than [insert integer here] poems/stories at a time,” what should you do? That’s right! Your should submit twice as many as they ask for because anyone anywhere would be happy to read more of your poems!

No. My biggest piece of advice for submitting to journals is to go out of your way not to piss off the people who will be evaluating your work. If I open your submission file to discover that you’ve included eight poems even though we only allow six at a time, I’m immediately annoyed, and I think two things: 1) This person did not read the directions, and 2) This person thinks that he/she/ze is above the directions. Well, guess what? Since I work for the journal, those are my directions, and your ignoring them is like giving me the middle finger while I’m doing you the kindness of trying to consider your work seriously, even if the title is “One in a Million” (Note: actual title for a poem I recently read — try to avoid cliches, especially in the title: it’s your first impression).

You don’t want me thinking you’re lazy, negligent, or arrogant before I even read your poems.

b.  If the instructions say, “Oy! These are going to be blind submissions! Don’t put your name on the manuscript!” then my suggestion is: don’t put your name on the manuscript! If you’ve submitted to a contest or an editor’s prize or anything else that asks you to remove your name from the file holding the poems/stories, but you ignore this and put your name and contact information on the first/last/every/any page of your manuscript, the person reading your submission can and probably will just reject it without reading it, since you didn’t follow the rules.

Conversely, if the mag asks you to put your contact info on every page of the manuscript in order to make it easier for them to contact you later, do that. If you don’t follow the directions, everyone will know how poorly you did on the “listening” portion of the STAR tests as a child.

2. Submit all your pieces of writing in one file, unless the directions indicate differently. Why? Multiple files are a hassle for us.

Many publications now allow you to (or even prefer you to) submit online. Writers usually do so by uploading their work to a dropbox feature on the journal’s website or through a service such as ManuscriptHub, or Submishmash, or Submittable.

We use ManuscriptHub.com, and after writers electronically submit their work, our readers must then download each file in order to review it.

Each submitter has his/her/hir own folder, and you will have assuaged me if I open your folder to find only one file (.pdf or .doc/.docx or something please — if I have to figure out how to open up some bizarre file type I either 1) won’t, or 2) will be incredibly annoyed by the time I actually get to your writing). If, however, I open the folder for submitter #4559 and find four separate files, each of which holds a poem about one page long, I will be muttering obscenities to myself as I open them. (You only want this to happen after I read your poem, as in, “Fuck! This poem just tore my heart out and fed it to a vulture and then put the vulture through a wood chipper!” This is how I react to things I like; I’m weird.)

3. I am judging you based on your font. When I open your (one, please just one) file, the font is the first thing my eyes register. Before I can evaluate your title or even the poem’s visual form, really, I either notice your font or fail to notice your font.

a. If I fail to notice it, that means you used Times New Roman: good job. Times New Roman is totally innocuous — it’s easy to read and is the default font for Word documents.

b. If I notice it and it engenders a happy feeling in my chest, that means you used a font other than the old standby of TNR, and one that is aesthetically pleasing but conservative. Examples of this include Georgia, Palatino (my current favorite), Garamond, Cambria, and plain Times (somehow slightly more beautiful than TNR).

Poets care an inordinate amount about font and spacing; I’ve had multiple protracted discussions with other poets about which fonts we prefer and why, as well as the benefits of 1.15 spacing and the evils of double-spacing a poem. You might think we’re ridiculous, geeky control freaks to spend time alone in our rooms thinking about fonts, and we probably we are — but we’re the obstacle between you and publication, so we’re ridiculous, geeky control freaks with power.

c. If I notice your font and it engenders a tight, burning feeling in my chest that makes me look for the nearest chair or small child to kick, that means you used something absurd — a flowery script that I can barely read or some pseudo-handwriting that looks like a kindergartener scrawled your poem in crayon (unless you are a kindergartener writing a poem destined for your grandmother’s wall, this is unacceptable). I will not take your poems seriously anymore. I will read for evidence to support my new belief that you are a dilettante/moron/cat that stepped on the keyboard while Jane got up to make a cup of coffee.

4. I’m judging you based on your poem’s visual form. Never center-align your poems. Never. Just don’t. It shows that you’re an amateur.

The only acceptable center-aligning that I can think of occurs in Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel Ceremony, in which she center-aligns a series of ceremonial poems/stories that interrupt the prose at various points, and these are center-aligned to emphasize that they are spoken, i.e. this is oral tradition: Native American myths spoken throughout the generations. And even in the midst of this brilliant, astonishing, acclaimed novel, I still cringed when I came upon poems placed in the middle of the page.

5. If you haven’t racked up any demerits during numbers 1 through 4, congratulations! I am now actually reading your writing without any negative feelings!

But now I’m judging you based on your title.

Coming up with a title can feel like lot of pressure. I mostly suck at it. The easiest thing is to use a very simple title and thus dodge the bullets of “cliched” and “overdramatic.” If you write a poem about a cornfield, call it “Field;” a poem about a lover, call it “For Thomas” (feel free to substitute the name of your own lover).

That “One in a Million” poem? My expectations immediately fell from this-person-could-be-the-next-Anne-Carson to writing-from-a-Katherine-Heigl-movie-level. Similarly, don’t call your poem “Tortured Hell that Is My Soul” — you don’t want me thinking this is a discarded Dashboard Confessional song from 2003. (Keyboard confessional: I secretly loved DC back in the day, and I’ll still rock out to “Vindicated” if given the chance.)

A title prepares readers for the poem, primes their expectations. A title can lead grammatically into the first line of the poem (I have a poem called “She Asks Me How You Are,” and the first lines are “And I tell her / you’re wonderful”), or a title can provide vital information (W.H. Auden’s “September 1, 1939,” which centers on the Nazi invasion of Poland on that date, which marked the beginning of World War II) or convey a tone (“In Vermont No One Can Hear You Scream” and “The Things I Do When I Am Not Doing You,” both by Gregory Sherl, who great and you should check these poems out right now — go on, click the link).

Your options for titles are myriad, but the safest is a one or two word title that is quiet and doesn’t distract from the poem. Of course, if you can come up with a title that does something more than be innocuous, kudos! Just so long as the thing it does isn’t “sound like a 13-year-old’s diary.”

I’m a big fan of the super specific, super long title. James Wright was a master of these. Great titles of his include “In Response to a Rumor That the Oldest Whorehouse in Wheeling, West Virginia Has Been Condemned” and “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota,” the latter being one of Wright’s most famous poems (and one of my absolute favorites). He also has a poem called “In Memory of the Horse David, Who Ate One of My Poems,” which consists entirely of the title: there is no poem; the horse ate it!

Of course, you can use a subtle title such that the poem’s ultimate tone or content comes as a surprise. When I first read Matthew Dickman’s “Grief,” I certainly wasn’t expecting the first line to be “When grief comes to you as a purple gorilla.”

There are so many options for titles, and you should feel free to experiment. I had high hopes for a poem I read entitled “If Proust Had a Facebook Account.” Just remember that the title is a reader’s first opportunity to get an impression of your writing; you don’t want that impression to be, “Did he copy this title from his great aunt’s needle-point pillow?”

7. Rhyme. If your poem sing-songs like a nursery rhyme and isn’t a re-imagined nursery rhyme that has the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe on welfare, there’s a problem. Use rhyme carefully (and, when in doubt, sparingly).

8. Be careful with controversial topics. I will cringe if you mention Jesus, or write a poem about 9-11. Writing political poems or other poems with an agenda is very hard. Read an anthology of anti-war poems: most of them will be heavy-handed. A poem (while in progress) needs the facility to change and grow and expand according to its own artistic needs; having a very definite message or moral that you want the poem to convey stifles the possibility for the poem to surprise you, its writer.

This is not to say that a poem dealing with a controversial event or issue cannot be successful — I write political poems sometimes — but if I’m distracted from the actual language and content of the poem thinking, “This is an Iraq War poem,” or “This poem really, really wants me to believe in Jesus,”  your poem will fail in terms of both art and message.

9. Be individual. This is the most difficult task I can give you; the pressure to be entirely unique as an artist (and a human being), to do something no one has ever done, to create a phrase no one has ever used, can feel immense. Don’t feel overwhelmed — simply develop habits that will help you make your voice distinct from the voices of others. Namely, read. A lot. Read all kinds of things — poetry, novels, nonfiction, humor, genre fiction, news — but pay special attention to others writing in your genre, be that genre poetry, the short-story, or what have you.

Pay attention to images and words that you see repeated amongst different writers so that you can avoid over-used images or words or phrasal constructions. People at our journal were joking recently about how many poems we get that compare hands to starfish, and low and behold, one of the submissions I was reading this week actually used that metaphor. I found myself laughing quietly while reading, as well as expecting this poem (the starfish/hand image came in the first few lines) to be rather uninventive and unsuccessful. I hope no one reading my poems is reacting to them that way.

10. All my submission advice up to this point can be summarized in one point: don’t alienate your reader. If you can avoid any red flags that shout “This writer is an amateur!” or “This writer didn’t read the directions/doesn’t really care about this!” or “This writer is either a child that doesn’t speak English or a goldfish!” then you are in business.

Finally: get your stuff out there. Don’t be intimidated by all my bitching and raving; be careful and be attentive, but put your writing into the world. Though the editors and other staff reading journal submissions can seem scarily critical, as if they are just waiting for a reason to hate your work (and I probably just added to that intimidation factor — sorry about that), all we really want is to love your work.

When I see a poem with a font like Renaissance-era calligraphy, I’m annoyed, yes, but mostly I’m sad. My annoyance comes from being disappointed: I was hoping that poem would be spectacular.

The people reading your submissions want you to succeed, so fly, little bird, fly! into the wide literary sky!

Avoid cheesy imagery and terrible rhymes like that last sentence and you’ll do wonderfully.

Where Am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for March, 2012 at The Snarkist.