I’m Not Being Sarcastic, I Really Am This Excited

April 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

In the spirit of my last post advocating enthusiasm, I am going to dedicate this post to things I am crazy enthusiastic about. You could say that I am disproportionately excited about Disneyland and toast, but I say taste this toast and tell me it doesn’t taste like pure joy.

1. Lindsey Pavao tweeting my blog post about her!

Last week, I gushed about my crush on The Voice contestant Lindsey Pavao, and when she found out about my blog post (probably through her boyfriend, who is friend’s with my brother J and commented about the post on J’s Facebook wall), rather than filing a restraining order or hiring ninja body guards (regular body guards are so 1992),

she tweeted it to her gajillion Twitter followers along with a sweet note. Nearly 5000 people read my blog that day. I’d like to say that kind of traffic is normal, but I’d also like to say I’m dating Evan Rachel Wood, it’s just that she doesn’t know it yet — so no, not really. Thanks, Lindsey! Such a classy lady. Also, how hot is this picture?

Must. Buy. Dark. Lipstick.

2. Toast!

I really love toast. “But it’s just burned bread!” Sure, the way diamonds are just compressed carbon.

If made correctly, toast is crunchy on the outside, moist and bready on the inside, and covered in delicious, delicious butter (or your preferred butter substitute — I’m a fan of Smart Balance myself).

My brother, a competitive cyclist, used to have exercise-induced asthma, which was a serious problem when he was biking up mountains. He discovered, however, that he was gluten-intolerant, and when he cut gluten out of his diet: poof! no asthma. Since then, I’ve tried eliminating gluten from my diet, and even though my mom and brother felt that doing so had profoundly advantageous physical effects, I didn’t really notice a difference. I did, however, become aware of how much wheat was in my diet, so I decided to cut down just in favor of nutritional diversity. But there was no way I was giving up my toast, and luckily, brown rice bread came to the rescue. It makes amazing toast.

Rice bread isn’t great for sandwiches or generally eating it plain — it’s really dense and a bit sweet — but it makes damn good toast. The inside is so soft and sweet that the butter provides a wonderful salty contrast. (I’ve gotten fairly simple tastes when it comes to toast: I don’t need jam or marmalade or Nutella — I can’t buy Nutella; I will just eat globs of it from the jar — just a good glazing of butter, but don’t skimp now. Dry toast with just a tiny scrape of butter is so pitiful.)

Once, when I was in high school, I had a toast-related trauma. I was on my period, and in those days I had mad hormonal mood swings as part of my PMS, so my ability to handle disappointment was almost non-existent. One weekend day, I woke up sick with cramps and all I wanted was to make some toast and lie on the couch watching TV. I walked into our family room and saw my dad and brother watching a soccer game on the television, and when I turned to the kitchen, there was no toaster oven. It had burned up the previous week — caught on fire and everything! during dinner! it was rather exciting — and my dad and brother were supposed to buy another one while my mom and I were out of town visiting colleges. They clearly had not replaced the toaster. I looked at them on the couch, then at the empty countertop where the toaster oven used to be, and turned on my heel and walked back down the hall, all the way into the bathroom, at which point I stood with my forehead against the wall and cried quietly. My mom found me like that a few minutes later and was basically like “wtf.” She made me take a bath and managed to make me toast in our oven. My mother is wonderful.

3. Oh yeah: THE HUNGER GAMES!!!

I know you’re tired of hearing about The Hunger Games — they’re all over every form of media — but that’s too bad. Pipe down — I’m even more crazy enthusiastic about this one.

I love these books. I was really surprised how into them I got. I basically sobbed my way through the second and third ones; I was terrified my favorite characters were going to die, which, considering the high body count in these things, was quite likely. I fell in love with Katniss, who has been touted as a refreshingly feminist heroine, which I think she is, but not just because of her survival skills, talent with a bow and arrow, and her defiance. She is also a deeply emotional creature and spends significant portions of the second and third books basically catatonic because the people she loves keep being killed and kidnapped and tortured all around her. Katniss can be strong by masculine standards while retaining the emotional qualities that society traditional labels “feminine.” Peeta’s main strengths, similarly, are his compassion and emotional intelligence — again, “feminine” attributes — though he’s not exactly a wimp with a weapon, either. In addition to giving Katniss two very different choices of lover, Gale and Peeta also present two complicated and contrasting options for what it means to be masculine. (Kelsey Wallace has a great meditation on this over at Bitch Magazine online.)

Apart from the gender dynamics, though, and the extensive social commentary that I’m not going to get into right now, The Hunger Games books are awesome because you cannot put them down. Plot gets a lot of shit in the literary scene for being literature’s baser element, a sort of necessary evil, but the phenomenon that The Hunger Games has become is a helpful reminder of the power of plot. Stories entrance, compel, and change us as human beings, so you can scoff at The Hunger Games and pick up your copy of Gravity’s Rainbow instead, but there’s something about the visceral experience of narrative that should be valued just as much as a heightened aesthetic experience.

Now, as for the film franchise, I thought the movie was generally very successful, though I thought it took out a lot of the political commentary that is in the book and that the filmmakers botched a few important moments (as well as cutting out some of my favorite moments from the book — Katniss shouting “Peeta!” from the tree and then clapping her hands over her mouth? That moment is gold!). Maybe it’s a function of the PG-13 rating and the studio’s need to market to young teenagers, but the movie is basically Hunger Games Light, less violent, less complex, with less drastic consequences for the characters. In the novel, Katniss is really beat up at the end of the Games and Peeta is literally seconds away from death — he ends up having his leg amputated and the doctors that rescue him and Katniss from the arena have to restart his heart, twice — while in the film they’re just dirty with a couple of bruises and small cuts. Still, the movie was quite an accomplishment in terms of its faithfulness to the books’ significance and tone; I’m not sure if even the final Harry Potter movies felt as in step with their source material as The Hunger Games film.

Bottom line: I LOVE IT.

4. Faux fur’s becoming popular!

Since I love animals so desperately, I can’t handle real fur. I discovered yesterday, reading an interview with him in GQ, that Drake has a $5000 arctic fox fur bomber jacket. No. Not okay. Little foxes!! Suffice it to say I now like Drake less. I was never in love with him like some people, but I will not forgive this fox thing. Foxes are my spirit animal.

But while real fur is super not okay, in my opinion, I still love soft things. I especially love when my clothing is really soft. I never thought I’d be into faux fur — it always seemed so gaudy; also, Gotti — but this past season’s batch of higher quality acrylic stuff, as well as my changing fashion sense and decision that my clothing isn’t weird enough (seriously: I sometimes stand in front of my mirror and think, “This outfit isn’t weird enough”) but I’ve come to be a sucker for faux fur. It’s fuzzy! If I can pet my clothing, I’m on board.

5. Water (specifically, drinking it) !

I love water in general: the ocean, rain, rivers, lakes — I go apeshit for that stuff. In my daily life, though, water is most important as something that I consume in large quantities. I drink more water than anyone I’ve ever encountered, with the possible exception of my mother.

One time, in college, I was in a professor’s office at around 10 am, carrying my usual Nalgene, which holds something like 36 ounces. Since this was my first appointment of the day, it was full. My professor gestured to it and said, “Are you really going to drink all that?” When I replied in the affirmative, she was impressed. “I never drink enough water. I consume so much coffee.” I nodded in understanding and we launched into the discussion I’d come to have. During our half hour conference, I emptied my Nalgene of about 30 of my 36 ounces.

I’m the person that the busboy has to come back to every five minutes because my water-glass is empty again. I get really excited if a waiter/waitress leaves a pitcher of water on my table in a restaurant, and I’ll frequent any establishment that has a water cooler or a soda fountain where I can refill my water bottle.

I love water. It’s delicious and it makes my body run better and it doesn’t have any calories and it gives me something to do during awkward pauses in class.

6. New Gossip Girl episodes!

Gossip Girl is trashy and ridiculous, filled with improbable events and characters that I find abhorrent. And yet, it’s also awesome. Anything that involves Chuck or Blair is entertaining. Case in point: consider Dan Humphrey. He’s so annoying a friend and I once had a “Who is more annoying, Dan Humphrey or Finn Hudson” conversation, and we basically came to an impasse because both of them so desperately need someone to shake them by the shoulders and yell, “What is wrong with you? You’re living in a dream world!” I find Dan Humphrey so distasteful that I didn’t realize I find Penn Badgley (the actor who plays Dan) attractive until I saw him opposite Emma Stone in Easy A (stellar movie, btw — so erudite; also, Stanley Tucci). Watching Badgley as Woodchuck Todd in Easy A (you must see this film if you haven’t already), I realized he’s actually pretty cute. And not irrevocably obnoxious. It’s just his character on GG that I find so repellant. And yet, now that Dan is dating Blair, I find him and plot points involving him amusing. Although even Blair can’t save his hair. It looks like a marmot died on his head.

Blair’s redemptive powers are great. She’s a fierce woman with unapologetic ambition and no patience for other people’s bullshit. Also, a gold Burberry Prorsum trench coat.

She's clutching her coat like that because she's wearing lingerie under it and definitely didn't realize her boyfriend's parents were there.

This is what it looks like when it's not being violently jammed to the body in order to hide garters and a corset. WANT.

The writers have included some things in the last few episodes that I think totally betray Blair as a character, but these infractions aside, you can always count on Blair to have a witty barb, an inventive scheme, and truly excellent designer clothes. Unlike Serena, who, in addition to continually setting new records of cluelessness and entitled indignation, dresses like a trashy sixteen-year-old who shops at Forever 21 and Wet Seal and Bebe:

and then she turns around and thinks a lace-edged romper and a sequined vest are acceptable sleep apparel:

As for Chuck Bass, earlier this season he referred to USA Today as “the newspaper for people who can’t read” and he recently adopted a dog that he named Monkey. Also, actor Ed Westwick has perfected a deep voice full of both disdain and apathy that implicitly says, “Serena, I can’t believe I’m in having another conversation about how you’re still in love with Humphrey — after five years! I have a billion dollars. I could be doing literally anything else. If you weren’t Blair’s best friend, I guarantee you’d have ‘mysteriously disappeared’ long ago.”

Also, in a recent episode, he wore this:

That, my friends, is a hooded red onesie. I rest my case.

Nate should be embarrassed by how normal his workout clothes are. Embarrassed.

7. Dogs!!!

When I see a dog in public, I have to concentrate on utilizing all my self-control in order not to run up to it and hug it. “That is someone else’s dog. She will be freaked out if you scream and sprint toward her and then start hugging it.”

I can barely help myself. I just fucking love dogs!!

8. Disneyland!!!

I can be a cynical person. I think that the US Government is, in the worst case scenario, evil, and in the best case scenario, spectacularly incompetent. I don’t trust corporations and the all-pervasive consumerism of our country makes me very uncomfortable. HOWEVER, I love Disneyland. I love it. I realize that Disney is a multinational corporation that is doing tons of stuff I don’t agree with and that even their that movies I love from my childhood perpetuate harmful racial and gender stereotypes, but I just don’t care. Outside Disneyland, sure, these things are a problem, but inside those gates, I’m at The Happiest Place on Earth, and I plan on having the best fucking time possible.

I went to Disneyland with my two best friends to celebrate my 19th birthday, and my best guy friend, S, does not revere Disneyland in the way I do. I think he’d only previously been there once, as like a seven-year-old, and he thought we were going to approach our time in Walt’s fantasy kingdom with the same sarcasm cynicism that we apply to so many other things in life, but he was so wrong. Right after we’d entered the park, he made some comment that was not vehemently pro-Disneyland, and I almost ate his face.

“I have basically no areas in my life in which I have maintained my childlike sense of wonder. I enjoy lots of things, but it’s really hard for me to do so unreservedly, to open myself up to the untempered joy of an experience. Disneyland is basically the one place that makes me feel childlike rapturous wonder and if you take that from me I will end your life.”

Suffice it to say, S was amenably positive for the rest of the day.

Now, don’t even get me started on the glories of Disney World

9. THE OLYMPICS!!!

THE OLYMPICS ARE COMING THE OLYMPICS ARE COMING THE OLYMPICS ARE COMING AHHHH!!!

Generally, I’m not a huge sports person. The friends who’ve seen me at Stanford football games can attest to the fact that when I do focus on a sport, though, I get really fucking into it. Screaming, swearing, gesticulating wildly — and soccer matches are possibly even worse.

The Olympics are pretty much my favorite thing ever. Not Olympics time? Sports — eh. Olympics time? Oh my gods what is on is that curling I must watch it! 

In my mind, Olympics are the ultimate competition and winning an Olympic medal the highest honor an athlete can attain. Of course, in certain sports (mostly uber-popular team sports), other championships might take precedent in terms of prestige, such as the World Cup for soccer, but in my mind, when I’m watching the Olympics, this moment is the most important moment in this person’s career, period. That’s what gets me screaming at a biathlon with people shooting on skis in the snowy wilderness, what gets me crying about some diver and her arduous journey to get here.

The Olympics are a perpetual waterworks for me. Put on almost any medals ceremony and I’ll just burst out in tears.

I love it. I love Bob Costas, I love the video bios for the athletes, I love the special NBC Olympics music. I love seeing athletes whose careers I’ve followed compete. I love rooting with my whole heart for someone I just found out existed twenty minutes ago. I love watching sports I normally don’t give the time of day. Mostly, I love the emotionality of it — the joy, the agony, the disappointment, the triumph. I CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF IT.

When do the Olympics start again? July 27? Bomb. GET READY PEOPLE!! LONDON 2012!!!!

The Case for Enthusiasm

April 26, 2012 § 2 Comments

If you read this site, you’ll already be aware of the fact that I’m a pretty sarcastic person. I’ve been known to say that my mother tongue is sarcasm, but that’s not quite true — it’s my father tongue. My mother is generally quite positive.

I am also fairly critical, a skeptic, and I definitely sometimes yield to the temptation to be elitist with regards to art and entertainment — Mumford and Sons? Really? — but I am also a sucker for enthusiasm.

How I feel about the Olympics/Disneyland/a new Toni Morrison novel/insert thing I love here

The two worlds I spend most of my time in are academia and the art world, and I’m constantly surrounded by people hating on everything. It gets tiring. Wow, you don’t like Sylvia Plath, congratulations on your discerning taste, jackass. While academia certainly has a canon that it’s acceptable to worship/you’re expected to worship, academics can also fall prey to the hipster ethos of “the more obscure it is, the better it is” (unless it’s written by a woman: then it’s “chick lit”— or possibly young adult lit — and unworthy of serious discussion). And while artists love geeking out with each other over shared love of a certain writer/painter/musician, they also love hating on anyone whose work becomes successful. Just ask any young poet about the Dickman brothers: it’s a love them or hate them thing, and bitches will throw down.

Did you just say All American Poem was a shitty first book?

John Lithgow knows what's up. (Also, these gif Tumblrs are all over my Facebook feed recently, so you're getting some gifs today.)

But really, I’m so bored with all this hating. A few weeks ago, The Awl published a piece in which they’d asked a number of editors of literary magazines, as well as some contemporary writers, to name books or authors that they’d loved in the past and are now ashamed to think about. Quite a few mentioned Ayn Rand (duh), since many writerly and intellectual types go through an infatuation with her — she particularly appeals to the individualistic mindset of the teenage years. Now, while the woman’s philosophy was batshit insane, I think the fact that thousands of teenagers read her massive novels (Atlas Shrugged is a brick: the thing’s like 1200 pages — imagine a high schooler choosing to read a 1200-page novel) and feel galvanized by them is a sign that she has a certain kind of talent.

The Beats were another oft-repeated example of books people used to love but now are embarrassed to have cared so much about. The Beats are an easy target, and I think it’s kind of lazy to say you hate them. It’s like saying you hate Nickelback: you don’t have to provide any reasons, everyone just nods along. Of course, Nickelback makes me want to drive my face through the wall, and I think their lead singer is impressively unattractive, but still, hating them isn’t very original. It’s the same with the Beats: you can say they’re simplistic and self-indulgent and overly grandiose, and everyone will just go with it. Even though what’s really simplistic and self-indulgent is regarding this passionately inventive and massively influential group of writers as somehow insufficiently literary, but whatever — have fun at your Douche Convention! (I will defend Alan Ginsberg to my grave. “America” is one of my favorite poems of all time.)

Apparently the lead singer of Nickelback is named Chad Kroeger. I'm sorry, Chad, but you are one creepy-looking mofo.

The part of The Awl article that really bothered me, though, was Edmund White’s comments on Virginia Woolf. What he said:

My reaction:

Well fuck you very much. You cannot tell me that reading Mrs. Dalloway isn’t a journey for your very soul, or that Orlando isn’t a tour de goddamn force. (Also, thanks for writing off basically the only female modernist anyone takes seriously — sorry, Djuna Barnes, but almost no one remembers you, even though you’re a genius — or rather, one of the only female novelists period that people are willing to accept as truly great, because she can keep up with people like Faulkner and Joyce, which she fucking does, by the way.)

Now, Mr. White teaches at Princeton, so I’m sure he feels entitled to belittle anything he damn well pleases. And that’s his (annoying) prerogative, but I’m really tired of a culture in which degrading others’ work is the key to establishing yourself as a “serious cultured person.” (Are you wearing a monocle? Why are you not wearing a monocle, serious cultured person? If you’re going to talk about how television is the opiate of the masses, you should at least be wearing a monocle. And a bow-tie.)

Are they playing...Coldplay? Guards, take them away!

Imagine you are standing on a ladder, the top of which reaches a platform with a plate of cookies on it. Hitting the person next to you doesn’t get you any higher in the air, it simply knocks them down to a lower rung. There still isn’t anyone getting the cookies. (And yes, the ladder/cookie bit is an analogy for the progress of the human race. Where do I pick up my Philosopher of the Year award?)

And as much shit as I give various things/people on this site, it’s ultimately more fun to gush about something I love than to rant about something I hate — thus all the pictures of puppies and bunnies and Bradley Cooper.

I die.

I’m trying not to tamp down my natural enthusiasm in my life or apologize for liking the things I like. Yes, I write literary criticism that looks at Faulkner through the lens of poststructuralist and other twentieth century philosophical theories of consciousness, and I ALSO LOVE THE HUNGER GAMES. I LOVE THEM. I LOVE THE CHARACTERS. I LOVE KATNISS AND PEETA AND CINNA AND EVERYONE. I SOBBED THROUGH THOSE FUCKING BOOKS. THEY ARE INCREDIBLE AND THIS IS WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF YOU DISS THEM:

I think The Hunger Games books demonstrate keen attention to character development and a masterful management of plot, and you can make fun of them and of me all you want, but at the end of the day, I’m the one that gets to marry Peeta Mellark in my mind…I mean, what?

I adore Peeta in the books, so I was very skeptical about the casting for the film. Against my expectations, however, Josh Hutcherson was phenomenal as Peeta in the first movie. So now I obviously love him.

I’m campaigning for enthusiasm. Let’s love things and not feel ashamed for it.

My friend C is a continual example to me in this. C has perhaps the most unabashedly open heart of anyone I’ve ever encountered; she’s got love spilling out of her very pores: love for people, for nature, and for art and entertainment, both “high” and “low.” She doesn’t distinguish between these last two; she just loves things. Her heart is practically bursting with affection and joy when she watches Pretty Little Liars, and that enjoyment is not at all ironic. She feels no need to regard such a “trashy” TV show cynically, and watching her watch PLL is an absurdly enjoyment experience in and of itself.

We have a friend who doesn’t watch TV and sometimes when we’re talking excitedly about a show, he looks at us like we’re paramecia to his homo sapien. And we’re like, bitch, talk to Frank O’Hara:

My Heart

I’m not going to cry all the time
nor shall I laugh all the time,
I don’t prefer one “strain” to another.
I’d have the immediacy of a bad movie,
not just a sleeper, but also the big,
overproduced first-run kind. I want to be
at least as alive as the vulgar. And if
some aficionado of my mess says “That’s
not like Frank!”, all to the good! I
don’t wear brown and grey suits all the time,
do I? No. I wear workshirts to the opera,
often. I want my feet to be bare,
I want my face to be shaven, and my heart–
you can’t plan on the heart, but
the better part of it, my poetry, is open.

— Frank O’Hara

I want to be at least as alive as the vulgar. So let’s roll back the cynicism a bit. I aspire to be this excited at least once a day:

I have a new crush, thanks to The Voice, and it isn’t Adam Levine…well, it isn’t JUST Adam Levine

April 19, 2012 § 15 Comments

So I was planning on publishing like five blog posts when I published those last two, and then I realized that they’d all be about The Voice, because apparently I have a lot of things to say about The Voice, like really a lot. So I decided to sketch those posts out and save them for after I’d written some non-Voice-related posts…except that that second part never happened. All week I thought about nifty things I could be writing for the amusement of all my (imaginary) followers and the proceeded not to write a single one of these things.

So you’re getting another post on The Voice. And because 65% of the entries on this blog end up being about people that I think are sexy — regardless of what my intended topic is in beginning the post — you’re getting also getting another “Look at this person I find attractive! LOOK!” entry. This one departs a little from my norm, though, in that it features a lady person. So straight men, lesbians, and other lady-lovers, congratulations! Sexy chick: ahoy!

But first I’m going to make you sit through some gushing about Adam Levine because, come on, his sweaters?! Adorbs.

In case you’re not sure who Adam Levine is, he’s one of the “coaches” on The Voice, and he’s the lead singer of Maroon 5, that band whose songs sound like sex. If you haven’t listened to one of their records all the way through (because midway you and your partner got…distracted) you might be familiar with some singles like “She Will Be Loved,” “Harder to Breathe,” “Makes Me Wonder,” and that mental parasite “Moves Like Jagger” (that song’s a catchy ringworm that squeezes its way into your brain).

I’ve always liked Maroon 5. Yes, with varying degrees of shame, I’ve always liked them. Maroon 5’s songs are catchy pop-rock with a sensual funk/jazz flavor, and their lyrics mix actually interesting figurative language (“The sex she slipped into my coffee”) with the straightforward: “It really makes me wonder if I ever gave a fuck about you.” Okay, so the latter is more common, but come on — that coffee line is pretty good stuff.

So while I’ve liked the band, my feelings about Adam Levine specifically have been a bit mixed. On the one hand, he writes sexy songs and looks like this:

On the other, he always seemed a bit sleazy to me — the kind of guy my friends and I might describe as an “STD grab-bag,” who not only knows what “manscaping” is but participates in it (photo above says “yes”). So I was always vaguely attracted to him, but I resented being attracted to him and felt like I had somehow gotten oil all over my body any time I thought of him.

But then I started watching The Voice and Adam began his campaign to win me over, which he did by being incredibly invested in the singers in the competition (especially but not only the ones he’s coaching), making jokes with Blake Shelton about how the two of them are in love, and wearing adorable sweaters.

Thanks to the fact that they shot all the Battles on one day but showed them over four weeks meant that we got four weeks of Adam’s awesome sweater. I approve, NBC, I approve. Also, re: my recent post on facial hair, this is a successful employment of stubble. Though his hair is a bit too gelled.

And then hiding behind said adorable sweater when he doesn’t want to be mean and send someone home.

He’s such a shy little bunny!

Actual shy bunny.

Also, that above photo where he’s nude is an awareness ad for testicular cancer, and the hands belong to his (now ex) girlfriend, model Anne LongRussianName, so even that is now less vaguely unsettling.

But anyway, Adam — sextastic as I’ve come to think he is, what with his sweaters and his posing for Out magazine and his pro-queer rhetoric and his feminist-y comments to the media — is not the crush I’ve come here to talk about. I’m here to discuss Lindsey Pavao.

Lindsey is one of the contestants on The Voice this season and, in my opinion, one of the best ones. For her audition, she performed a cover of the Trey Songz tune “Say Aah,” which she had arranged herself and which essentially remade the song entirely, turning the beat-heavy hiphop song into The Weeknd meets Lily Allen meets the Antlers.

This has the audio for the full song and I think it’s worth a listen. I like this a lot better than the original.

At the time, Cee-Lo called Lindsey’s audition the most interesting thing to happen on the season so far. Since then, Lindsey trounced her Battle Round opponent on their duet of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box,” then two weeks ago gave an invigoratingly creepy performance of Gotye’s definitively excellent “Somebody that I Used to Know.”

Now that the live shows have arrived, the production value has risen exponentially. Instead of throwing the contestants onstage with some basic lighting changes that Kyle, the 10th grader who does the lights for the school musical, could pull off, Lindsey and the others now get fully choreographed routines complete with a half dozen to a dozen dancers (for one female performer, they were half-naked men, to  Blake’s confusion/distraction), complex lighting effects, smoke, and help from wardrobe.

While I appreciate what they’re trying to do, I also think that producing each song likes it’s the VMAs sometimes distracts from the actual contestant singing and other times makes a nervous, inexperienced performer look very out of place amongst so many professionals. Sometimes, however, that VMAness works in tandem with the singer to elevate the song to an experience. That’s how Lindsey’s performance of “Somebody that I Used to Know” went that Monday night. When the music began, viewers couldn’t pick her out onstage amongst a crowd of dancers wearing creepy mime masks. Then Lindsey leaned out from their midst, totally in command, and her voice slid into the song with a spooky airiness and her signature slightly ragged tone. My poet side wants to say her voice “slunk” into the song, like a cat (that may or may not be an animagus and thus magical) slinks into a room. Lindsey has a slinking quality about her. In a good way.

That shit is terrifying.

After emerging from the line of terrifying mime-corpses, she then proceeded to own the gorram stage. That woman has presence. There’s a shyness to her that emanates as an enigmatic quality, and it only makes her more magnetic. Even after the performance, when the coaches were commenting and Adam noted that he liked it overall but wanted her to really blow it out more on the chorus, she just stood with her gaze slightly lowered, head tucked into her shoulder a bit, with this small smile that said she was totally in control and not at all bothered by the criticism of the smoking-hot Grammy winner 15 feet in front of her. (That I could be so composed; I run into furniture, counters, and doorhandles on a daily basis. I know they’re there, that knowledge simply doesn’t alter my course.)

Yes, her voice is beautiful — both strange and lovely — but Lindsey also has something else, call it what you will: “command,” “charisma,” “the ‘it’ factor.” And aiding her in cultivating this magnetism is the fact that she is damn sexy.

Really, really sexy.

There’s actually another part to the Lindsey story for me, in which I wanted her to do well even before I saw her audition or heard her voice: my brother knows her. My younger brother J currently attends the University of California, Davis, from which Lindsey just recently graduated. She happens to be dating one of J’s friends.

The first time J mentioned her was about 9 months ago and our conversation had nothing to do with The Voice, or singing. We were talking about how my brother is attracted to girls with short hair, like pixie cut short, and he said that the girls he thinks are really hot his friends often don’t quite get. As an example, he then mentioned a girl from Davis who had one half of her head shaved with the other half of her hair long; J and his roommate K both thought this girl was super hot, which their other friends found weird. There’s no accounting for (bad) taste, other friends.

I remembered that conversation because it isn’t every day you hear about a girl with half her head shaved — especially if this is somehow a good look. When it came up that a girl J knew was going to be on The Voice, he mentioned to me that this singer happened to have half her head shaved, I think so that I would be able to recognize her easily, but I immediately said, “Oh! The hot one?” to which he (vaguely surprised) replied in the affirmative.

I was excited. I was going to get to see the hot girl with the half-shaved head! Then Lindsey appeared on my computer monitor.

Hot damn. I did not realize what I was in for.

So yes, Lindsey shows up and she is FOXY. Oh yeah, and she went to UC Davis, so she’s obviously not a moron. And then it turns out she has a great voice and is actually an interesting artist? Aaaand then it turns out I have a crush on her.

I’m sorry, did you say something? I was busy being stupid adorable.

Lindsey is hot. Really hot. It’s absurd how hot she is. Even more absurd than my being attracted to the same girl as my younger brother. (It’s going to be super awkward when he reads this blog post, isn’t it? Hi, J! Sorry about the awkward…)

(Side bar: I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog recently talking about men I find attractive, so it’s possible regular readers have assumed I’m straight. Meh, not quite. 

I identify as pansexual (any time I say that I get blank stares), which basically means bi, except that I hate the term bisexual because it 1) perpetuates the notion that there are only two sexes and thus ignores the existence of trans and genderqueer people, and 2) in its reference to duality implies that the bisexual person is attracted to men and women equally, when I don’t think most people are. I’m certainly not.

I mostly subscribe to the Kinsey Scale notion of sexuality, which suggests that sexuality is a spectrum, not two poles of “gay” and “straight.” Some people may be “totally straight” or “totally gay” in that they are attracted to only one sex 100% of the time, but some people might be 80% attracted to women and 20% attracted to men. Trying to quantify it like that only works as an example; actual attraction is clearly not as simple as percentages. Kinsey tries to approximate this division of attraction with a scale beginning at 0 (stone cold hetero) and ending at 6 (flaming queer), but I think you catch my drift. I slide toward the heterosexual end of the scale; I’m primarily attracted to men. Primarily, but not always. Like in Lindsey’s case. End of explanation/lecture.)

This is why not in Lindsey’s case:

Meanwhile, backstage, Lindsey takes a timeout to be stupid gorgeous.

So to recap: Lindsey has a really cool, strange, vaguely creepy singing voice, which I adore, that is also super sexy, which I am totally on board with.

After her audition, Lindsey disappeared from my TV until her Battle duet/sing-off with some guy I’ve already forgotten. They covered Nirvana’s “Heart-shaped Box” (Lindsey covered it in sexy; random dude covered it in blah — yay puns!)

During the video coverage for her Battle, Lindsey sang well, liked Nirvana, made pretty interesting comments (considering the bank of cliches contestants seem to pull from when they’re talking on shows like this), and was generally adorable. Oh yeah, and her hair looked awesome during rehearsal.

I just love her braid-bun hairdo here — I think it’s gorgeous; I wish I ever did anything that interesting with my hair. Until I was 15, I didn’t even wear it in a ponytail, I just wore it down. All the time. All the time. (It was long, it hid my face, I had self-esteem issues, moving on.) The one confusing thing about being attracted to people of your own sex is that sometimes you can’t figure out if you are more attracted to them or jealous of them. It’s a mind-bamboozling rush of “Ah! I want to look like you!” and “Ah! I want to kiss you!” Not for the faint of heart…

So, as for the Battle: Lindsey did a fine job with Nirvana, securing her place in the live shows and returning my heart rate to normal, and then for the first live show week she sang “Somebody that I Used to Know” by Gotye, which I think is a great song on its own. Add Lindsey and it’s like putting chocolate on my pretzels: sweet and salty and ohmygosh delicious! (Now I’m hungry…) Gotye’s original version is great, and his music video is pretty interesting too.

So anyway, Lindsey sings Gotye, and she wears this:

It’s like Mummenschanz, Renaissance Venice, and a Thierry Mugler fashion show are all happening in the middle of that god-awful Lestat Elton John musical from like 2005 that was based on Anne Rice’s vampire novels and the only real accomplishments of which were in fog effects and boring me to tears.

She stomps around the stage being badass and having a sick voice and generally looking hot as all hell. My parents told me later they thought she had the best performance of the night; I thought that she definitely had one of the best performances and at the very least looked hotter than everyone else. Even Adam. And have you seen Adam?

Oh hi, bunny.

Mmm. But still, during the live show Adam wasn’t wearing his sweater, and the fierce singer with the sharp grey eyes captured my attention.

I think her eyes are hypnotizing me…

Then, this past Monday, The Voice quarterfinals aired. Lindsey sang Katy Perry’s “Piece of Me” (thing I just learned: I don’t know how to spell Katy Perry’s name, which I feel sort of proud about) and was generally badass, although the song is a bit “eh” in my opinion.

Oh yeah, and she looked awesome. Her costumes are pretty much just better than the stuff the other contestants wear.

Because The Voice is all about my not getting bored, they had a surprise instant elimination at the end of Monday’s show in which each coach who’d had singers perform had to eliminate one of their team members on the spot. Brutal. Fast moving. The excellent opposite of Idol’s dragging-on-forever-how-is-that-person-still-here (non-)eliminations. Point for The Voice.

Christina Aguilera is Lindsey’s coach and I was really afraid she’d send Lindsey home because the other three performers on her team are very showy — big, big voices. There’s opera singer Chris Mann (whom I actually quite like), middle-aged soulful singer Jesse Campbell (who is technically very good but who just doesn’t excite me), and pop-princess wannabe Ashley DellaRosa or something like that (who has a good voice but whom I just find bo-ring. She sounds like every other pop diva on the radio, only with less personality — though she has been improving lately.) To the shock of people who actually give a shit about this show, Christina eliminated Jesse Campbell, who these giving-a-shit people, including the other coaches, had dubbed a frontrunner. Whatever, Lindsey was safe!

Then the live eliminations of Tuesday rolled around. Each coach had three singers. America voted (like on Idol) and the singer from each team with the most votes was safe, while the other two had a “last chance” to sing for their coach, at which point the coach would save one and send one home.

Opera man Mann did a mostly entertaining if not terribly interesting Coldplay cover on Monday night, which America apparently liked because he got the most votes, leaving Lindsey and her quiet weirdness to battle the pop belter.

Ashley Pop Singer sang an engaging if predictable version of Gaga’s “You and I,” while Lindsey followed with a performance of Mike Posner’s “Please Don’t Go,” which was at turns quiet, sly, powerful, desperate, and just generally fucking moving (can you tell I’m getting into this?). Though she managed to finish with some lovely final notes, Lindsey was in tears by the end, and so was I. And so was her coach, Christina.

Tears = good sign?

A few agonizing minutes later, Christina restarted my heart by announcing that she was saving Lindsey and sending Ashley home. I cried. Then I cheered. In my living room, alone.

So here’s the moral of this rather meandering story: Lindsey Pavao is talented and also a FOX, so you should support her on The Voice (though it is not on FOX, but rather NBC, to clarify) because apparently I care a lot more about this show than I thought I did, since I was in tears watching her perform/when I thought she was going to be eliminated.

Next week Adam and Cee Lo’s teams are competing, so Lindsey and the rest of Team Xtina (and Team Blake) get a reprieve, but in two weeks, it’s the semifinals. Help me keep my heart rate manageable: vote for Lindsey. You can vote on Facebook. You don’t even need to use one of those old-fashioned “telephone” things. Hell, you don’t even need to watch the show. On Monday April 30, after 10 pm (but before 10 am on May 1), just go to The Voice’s Facebook page and click to vote for Lindsey like 10 times. It’s easy, it’ll help my mental health, and let’s be honest, you’ll be on Facebook anyway.

And according to my brother/the imaginary friendship with her I’ve created in my head, Lindsey is a pretty cool person in real life. Plus, how can you resist this face?

Help me? Please? I’m just so damn adorable, like a bunny.

You should be watching The Voice: It’s like television candy, with glitter

April 4, 2012 § 4 Comments

I recently started watching The Voice on NBC. Or rather, on Hulu, but they tell me it’s made by NBC. This is the televised singing competition judged by Christina Aguilera, the guy from Maroon 5, some handsome country singer, and That Guy Wearing a Cape.

To elaborate, from left to right, we have:

1) Adam Levine, lead singer of Maroon 5, known for his sex-heavy lyrics, his tattoos, and those Adult ADD commercials he’s doing now

2) Christiana “I was totes on the Mickey Mouse Club with Britney and JT and Baby Goose before I became a superstar” Aguilera

3) Cee-Lo Green, half of Gnarls Barkley and the slick pipes and sharp wit behind the best breakup song of all time, “Fuck You” (on the coaches’ voice-over intros on The Voice, Carson Daly refers to this song as “Forget You” — the title of the radio-friendly censored/neutered version that basically destroys the song. When Gwyneth Paltrow sang “Forget You” on Glee, I wanted to punch her in the mouth even more than I normally want to punch her in the mouth.)

4) Blake Shelton, apparently a super famous country singer who is married to another super famous country singer

“But isn’t The Voice just a rip-off of American Idol?” you ask, from which the follow-up question for people who know me is “Why are you watching it?!” Often people say this because they know I hate American Idol. Sometimes they say this because they think television other than Mad Men is a waste of time (I watch Mad Men, too!) or they think anything that needs electricity to run is inherently abhorrent (I have a poet friend who is a fairly hard-core luddite, and super pretentious about it, too, which is obviously the best part…there are downsides to having super arty friends.)

And yes, I hate American Idol. Why are they still searching for the next American Idol when they already found him? (I heart you Adam Lambert.) But yeah, watching American Idol makes me feel physically ill (true story). It’s basically a televised celebration of mediocrity, judged by the astonishingly dull (and Steven Tyler). Seriously, Randy Jackson is so predictable that they could put a giant brown teddy bear in his seat and play a recording of him saying, “I dunno, I wasn’t really feelin’ it dawg,” and no one would notice the difference.

Unlike that Neilsen juggernaut, however, The Voice doesn’t actually have “judges,” it has “coaches.” This is actually a significant difference because each of the four coaches personally chooses singers for her/his team and then works with them each week, setting up each contestant to battle the singers from the other coaches’ teams. Or that’s what eventually happens. First, there is a series of “Battle Rounds” in which two members from a given team sing a duet, then their coach chooses the singer he/she prefers and sends the other one home.

That’s one of the great things about this show: they’re always getting rid of people left and right. Sweet; I’m not interested in the average performers. During each of the four weeks of “battles,” half the singers go home, and then during the initial “live shows,” viewers vote (like on Idol) to keep half the singers, while each judge can save one remaining person from being kicked off the show (so to tally, that ultimately means that a third of the people go home from each of these live shows).

I know. That was confusing. That’s one thing about The Voice: it’s not dull because nearly every week they change how people get kicked off/kept, so you’re too busy trying to keep up with the gorram rules to get too bored. After the initial audition weeks in which the coaches pick their teams, the show progresses as follows:

Battles (4 weeks): 6 out of 12 singers kept each week

Initial live shows (2 weeks): 8 out of 12 kept each week

More live shows: unspecified number go home each week

Thus, over the course of six weeks, they go from 48 performers to 16. Mitt Romney would be excited by that rate of dismissals. After they’ve whittled the pool down to 16, I’m not sure how many people they’ll let go each week because I just started watching this shit and I’m just happy to have understood the rules up to this point, but eventually someone wins, and that person’s coach gets bragging rights through the next season, while all the other coaches get the right to whine about the winning coach’s bragging rights.

Each of these coaches brings his or her own flair to the show — and I’m talking flair, not the personas American Idol judges have, like “The Mean One,” “The Female One, i.e. The Nice One,” or “Steven Tyler.” I mean, Steven’s fun, what with his outfits that look like he found them in a dumpster in 1978, but The Voice has more than one sartorially entertaining celeb.

Christina dresses like Wet Seal and Bebe threw up,

And this is the best thing she's worn all season. Honestly.

wears rhinestoned cocktail coasters on her head,

treats her breasts like flotation devices that won’t work if they aren’t exposed to air,

and appears to live in Barbie’s Dream House,

complete with a Diva Throne.

But while Xtina has some crack-tacular outfits, Cee-Lo isn’t satisfied with her brand of trashy glamour. He goes for full-on Spectacle.

He wears pink satin pajama suits during the day for his important meetings and rehearsals, the same way other people wear, you know, suits.

Cee-Lo also has a throne, only his came from Ethan Allen rather than Kim Kardashian's imagination.

He wears what seems to be the red sequined version of the above ensemble for performing with the other coaches…

…and in celebration of the first live show, he wore a wig and whatever else this is:

Look at the sleeves!

That is some intense fringe. I adore this man.

The biggest star on The Voice, however — other than Christina’s breasts — is a furry companion of Cee-Lo’s.

This is Purrfect the cat (no, I am not shitting you; that is the cat’s actual name). Cee-Lo brings him/her out for all of his chats with the camera, stroking the cat Dr. Evil-style. Or to be more historically correct, Blowfeld-style. (I deeply impressed a professor of mine a few weeks ago when I immediately and easily answered his question about what character Dr. Evil is parodying. I was raised on James Bond; my dad is so proud right now.)

While Cee-Lo and Christina are metaphorical disco balls, Blake Shelton spends his time wearing vaguely Western-looking shirts, saying “y’all,” making wisecracks, and being sweet to the contestants, while Adam Levine waits for the female portion of the audience to stop screaming every time he talks and then similarly makes wisecracks and says sweet things to the contestants, only while wearing more rocker-ish ensembles and without saying “y’all.” Adam and Christina also bicker like children. Children that want to do each other. Anyway…

I failed to mention earlier that the coaches choose their team members through the Blind Auditions, so called because singers preform onstage while the coaches’ backs are turned, and if a coach likes what she/he hears and wants that person on his/her team, the coach pushes a button and the chair turns around to face the performer. If only one coach turns around, the singer automatically joins that coach’s team, but if more than one chair turns, the contestant gets to choose which coach they want to work with.

The Blind Auditions’ force the coaches to judge based on voice rather than looks whether they like it or not (this doesn’t last, though; image comes into play later when the contestants are competing against each other, though that seems fair to me since music is a business, and the audience at a concert doesn’t watch with their eyes closed). Partly due to this limiting of first impressions to voice alone rather than voice plus appearance, along with each of the coaches’ having a distinct individual style, The Voice is populated by singers much more varied, unique, and even strange than the regular cast of Idol characters. Opera singer Chris Mann is learning to adapt his killer chops to other genres, while contestants like Charlotte Sometimes, Erin Martin, and Lindsey Pavao have weird and wonderful voices that actual sound unusual.

So despite the fact that it’s hosted by life-size plastic doll Carson Daly — who would give white bread a run for its money in a Contest for the Exceedingly Dull — I’ve found The Voice to be an entertaining, quirky show that features singers with actually interesting talent and coaches with idiosyncrasies galore.

The Voice: like American Idol, only interesting.

Sometimes it's just amusing how extremely different the coaches are from each other. I mean, look at that picture. These four would not have been friends in high school.

In Support of Beards

April 3, 2012 § 5 Comments

No, not the fake girlfriends gay men have to keep their sexuality secret (I just accidentally typed “sexcret.” This should be a new word.) I’m talking about the hair that grows on your face, if “you” are a man with the consistent ability to grow face hair.

This is not a beard:

If the mustache, soul patch, and chin-strap bit don’t connect, it’s not a beard. It’s unfortunate furry patches that are obscuring your face.

And I gotta say, I hate the term “soul patch.” I also hate actual soul patches. It’s like having toothbrush bristles sprouting from your chin cleft.

Anyway, my last post (from a long-ass time ago…sorry about that) focused on pretty men who hide their pretty with heinous facial hair and my annoyance/outrage at said hiding. After writing the post, however, I thought that it perhaps gave the impression that I don’t like facial hair. This is untrue; I simply don’t like ugly facial hair.

A recent conversation with some girlfriends started out focusing on what type of men we each like, which soon morphed into debate over beards, with the question being yay or nay (or yay with a caveat <= that last one’s me). Friend #1 likes outdoorsy men that tend to have bushy-ish beards, wear flannel, drive beat-up pickups, and work for environmental causes. Friend #2 likes clean-shaven men that have their shit together. I tend to go for artsy types with close-cropped beards, and I like beards that are kept in check and regularly trimmed.

In fact, in many cases, a good beard makes me more likely to be attracted to someone.

I think a big part of that is that facial hair is a fashion statement, and the way you trim it, or fail to trim it, works to communicate what identity you want the world to recognize in you. So a guy with a close cropped beard that I’d be checking out is communicating, “I’m an arty hipster-type who probably likes Neutral Milk Hotel and whiskey, and who has more than four pairs of shoes and an apartment with a lot of books.”

When I tried to think of examples of this type of beardy man, the first name that came to mind was Matt Berninger, the singer for The National. He’s the frontman for one of my favorite bands; he has a gorgeous, gravelly baritone (I like Justin Timberlake as much as the next person, but why does every current male singer have to be a tenor?); and when I saw him perform, he was drinking from a tumbler that he periodically replenished with a bottle of white wine (I really like it when performers drink onstage; I don’t know why, especially since, as I singer, I wouldn’t want to drink anything other than water or maybe tea during a performance; maybe I just like that they’re less tight-ass than I am).

Also, Matt Berninger’s face looks like this:

Sign. Me. Up. I’m also a fan of this picture of him holding his daughter:

It's a child! What do I do with it?! HELP. ME.

I love the look of sadness combined with sheer panic.

Okay, so the daughter here (and the wife I also know he has) means this one’s off the market.

Well, there’s always George Clooney, a perpetual bachelor. Though the man has skin so flawless that he doesn’t have to wear makeup on camera (What kind of devilry is this?! )he also can pull off a nicely trimmed beard.

Oh, I'm sorry, does this beard make me look even more handome and distinguished?

While the above photo from the 2012 BAFTAs is obviously lovely, I’m particularly partial to the below shot, which is more candid and taken while The Cloonester, his father, and some former senators led a protest in Washington D.C. to draw attention to the ongoing violence in Sudan, calling on alleged war criminal Omar-Al Bashir to stop said violence and allow humanitarian aid workers into the country.

Your humanitarian aid workers can enter my country any time. I mean, what? Wow...that was in incredibly bad taste.

Jon Hamm also looks damn handsome with a beard, but I’m starting to think Jon Hamm would look damn handsome with squirrels stapled to his face and a traffic pylon as a hat.

The man is brilliant comic actor as well as a dramatic actor, and he looks like that. Let’s pray to God he can’t sing…

I wonder if Jon Hamm and John Slattery hang around the Mad Men set talking about how they could have a sexy beard competition if it weren't for the show they're in the middle of taping.

Depending on the man, I can sometimes get behind the “bald head but with a beard” look. Black guys have a better chance of pulling this off; in second place, hipster-y white dudes.

My personal favorite example is Common. Holy hell.

THAT MAN. HIS FACE. HOW IS HE THAT BEAUTIFUL?!

I’m also often greatly in favor of the scruffy look, in which a man doesn’t go full grizzly but rather seems to have lost his razor for the past few days.

Mr. Miley Cyrus (ick), a.k.a. Gale Hawthorne (okay fine, his actual name is Liam Hemsworth) is greatly benefited by this look. 

As a side note, I think this is the prettiest and the classiest Miley Cyrus has ever looked. At least she takes the Oscars seriously.

Hemsworth is very pretty (I prefer him with his Hunger Games dark hair rather than the blondish he’s usually got going on), but there’s something about his prettiness that is too smooth, that makes him look manufactured, a la Chace Crawford, although significantly less so (and even Chace’s alien “good” looks aren’t enough to keep his character from becoming totally superflous on Gossip Girl). Some stubble makes Hemsworth’s face look less like it sculpted from plastic by some overworked peasants in China. He looks so good here; keep it up, Gale.

Of course, some men with faces so pretty they seem unreal should definitely not have scruff.

Matt Bomer is unnaturally handsome. My dad started watching White Collar when it first came on (great fluff show — lots of fun), and the first few times I saw it, and thus Matt Bomer, I kept saying, “Why is the Rolex model talking?”

Matt Bomer’s face can handle only the bare minimum of scruff. I think even this might be too much.

John Cho is another example of someone who should always go sans stubble.

I've chosen this photo from People's Sexiest Man issue because well, hello, he certainly is, and also because I think the photo inset at right of him as a kid is super adorable. I had those same bangs until I was 12. True story.

Some, though, really do look good in scruff.

Jake Gyllenhaal

ON THEIR FACES.

Penn "I dressed like this on purpose" Badgley

Pardon me while I go throw up.

Okay, so I have become much more amenable to chest hair as of late. When I was a teenager, I didn’t like it. I think was largely due to the fact that I was raised with the shiny chests of young Hollywood males, specifically Hayden Christensen. (I was obsessed with him after the second Star Wars prequel. I know; it horrifies me too. Some of my early crushes, like Ewan McGregor at age 10, also due to Star Wars, I still think were spot on. Others, like Hayden, not so much…)

At age 13 or whatever, my girlfriends and I were a big fan of the scene in Attack of the Clones when Anakin wakes up from a nightmare (shirtless!! teehee!!).

My mother found my attraction to guys with shiny, shaved chests appalling. Choice quotation from our discussions of this issue: “I don’t like bald-chested men!”

Since Hayden briefly pulled me to the dark side, however, I’ve come to prefer chests in their natural state, hair and all. Or rather, I’ve come to find chest hair itself attractive. Assuming his torso doesn’t look like a shag carpet.

Now, when a guy’s chest is all smooth and shiny, my thoughts tend to run as follows:

1) What are you, twelve?

2) You probably had to get that waxed. You chose to get your chest waxed and then went through all the trouble to do it. Yeah…we’re not gonna work out.

That said, I’m not a fan of the deep-v trend and all the man-cleavage, especially when it comes with bonus chest hair. I mean, is this joke:

And we get a mini snapshot of Jessica Szohr trying to tame her ratty extensions. These two were a hirsute hurricane as a couple.

So to sum up the post thus far: beards, yes, depending on the man. Scruff, almost always yes. Chest hair, yes; hairy man cleavage, no.

One final tip on how to pull of the “I’m a scruffy rake” look. Just look to Bradley Cooper. He knows his look is working…

SO FLUFFY! Until recently, Cooper had two rescue dogs that he'd named Samson and Charlotte (good names, I approve), but recently Samson died. Luckily, Bradley and Charlotte can have each other when they need consoling.

…but even a face like his can use a little help. Let’s take that scruffy man and add a scruffy dog. Perfect.

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