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12 Jun 19:51

A Conversation with Patricia Lockwood

by Molly Minturn
Cat B

Perfection. "I’m the absent-minded type, so I’ve always felt more detached and curious about reviews than personally affected by them. You know when your dog looks at you with its head cocked to one side, half “… go on” and half “I used to be a wolf”? That's how I look at reviews."

by Molly Minturn

I barged into the men’s, and felt stares burning
hard like reading or noon, felt them looking
me up and over, felt them looking me over
and down, and all the while just holding their
    they do it different oh no they don’t,
they do it standing up

It’s a bit uncanny how these lines in “The Feeling of Needing a Pen” a poem in Patricia Lockwood’s new book, Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, echo recent criticisms by a handful of discomfited reviewers. “They make me feel like the guy who ruins all the fun,” wrote Jonathan Farmer in Slate, in his review. Adam Plunkett, writing for the New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog, expressed concern that Lockwood was shaping her poems for her avid followers on Twitter, even going so far as to say that her best-known work, “Rape Joke,” is a poem that “probably wouldn’t have been written if Twitter hadn’t been around.”

Much has already been written about these reviews, from Mallory Ortberg’s excoriation in The Toast to Kat Stoeffel’s take in The Cut, in which she recommends that “‘Rape Joke’ should enter the canon forever and be required reading for all U.S. citizens.”

Listen to the sense of terrible captivity in these lines from “Rape Joke”: “The rape joke is that you were facedown. The rape joke is you were wearing a pretty green necklace that your sister had made for you. Later you cut that necklace up … The rape joke is that of course there was blood, which in human beings is so close to the surface.”

Now read these lines from “The Arch”:

… A city
cannot travel to another city, a city cannot visit
any city but itself, and in its sadness it gives
    away a great door in the air. Well
    a city cannot except for Paris, who puts
on a hat styled with pigeon wings and walks
through the streets of another city and will not
even see the sights, too full is she of the sights
already. And within her walk her women …

Lockwood’s poems, I realized as I read Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, are Paris. They have a freedom, an ability to step outside all bounds and territories, to create little worlds woven through with metaphysical conceits, gorgeous and slightly world-weary.

I talked with her over email earlier this week about Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, her experience writing it, as well as her thoughts about critical reactions to the book, and the best use of the word “Plunkett.”

There’s been a lot of talk about the supposed irreverence and suspicion of sincerity in your work. I actually found your poems to be full of empathy, especially for outsiders, like the man in “He Marries the Stuffed-Owl Exhibit at the Indiana Welcome Center” and poor Nessie in “Nessie Wants to Watch Herself Doing It.” Do you consider your work irreverent?

I am irreverent, but I don’t believe my poems are. The fact is that for all my modern vocabulary, I have an old-fashioned tendency to focus on characters—like Edwin Arlington Robinson except with lake monsters, and the thing they shoot themselves with in the end is profundity. Characters in poetry are a test of empathy, really. Can you project yourself into a myth? A mascot? A cartoon, or a waterfall? What is the most unlikely space you can think yourself into, can you look out through those eyes?

When I was reading your book, I kept thinking of it as a primer, maybe for girls, maybe for anyone who feels like an outsider, teaching us how to navigate this difficult world. In the first poem, the speaker is adolescent, witnessing confusing sex acts, and becomes a “homelandsexual,” perhaps as a way to keep safe. The last poem is in the voice of a hypno-domme, completely confident and powerful. Is there a sort of “journey” (ugh, forgive me for using that word) that the reader is meant to go on through your book?

Ordering a manuscript is one of the 12 labors; it frequently kills very muscular people. Sometimes it’s best to follow a rough chronology. I began with the earliest poem I wrote for the book and ended with the latest, so it wasn't so much that I wanted to send the reader on a specific journey as that I was asking them to walk with me on mine—as I thought my way through a question, and ended on something that sounded like an answer.

Has anyone ever called you a metaphysical poet? I feel like you are the last of the major metaphysical poets; they’ve just been quiet for a few centuries.

I’m totally a metaphysical poet, with a ruff and a tiny pointed beard. Even as a child I was obsessed by the conceit: how to begin it, how far to push it, where its breaking point was. I felt the most nagging sense of incorrectness when the components of my writing refused to work together. Plus the metaphysicals were so dirty—people’s bloods were always having sex inside the same flea, and it was poetry! So yes, let's say that they have risen up out of their GRAVE in the form of a rude patricia.

What do you make of Adam Plunkett’s review of your book, in which he expressed concern about your new poems being too crowd-pleasing and social media-ready?

I’m the absent-minded type, so I’ve always felt more detached and curious about reviews than personally affected by them. You know when your dog looks at you with its head cocked to one side, half “… go on” and half “I used to be a wolf”? That's how I look at reviews. My main feeling about the Adam Plunkett review was that it had gotten the whole conversation off on something of a weird hairy foot, and led it down a path of reviews of reviews, and reviews of reviews of reviews, which eventually seemed to travel farther and farther away from the actual work.

In a strictly poetic sense it was delightful, because the name Plunkett is so euphonious, and if you wanted to pretend to be mad about the whole thing you could bellow PLUUUUNKETTTT! at the darkening sky while ripping your shirt open to the waist and shaking your fists at the clouds. That's not an opportunity I’m ever going to pass up.

Did you have a particular audience in mind when you wrote Motherland?

Oh no, I never have an audience in mind. Or rather, the audience is the same as the one you put on shows for, in your room, when you’re a child engaging in the deepest and most private kind of play. It seems like the whole world you're playing for, it seems like the eye of God up on the ceiling, but it's really your own consciousness distributed among dolls. It couldn't be anything else.

Were you surprised that some men (NOT ALL MEN) felt alienated by certain poems in your book? What is your response to that?

I was surprised to see these sudden dark hints that my poems might be “difficult for men to access” because such a large part of my readership and so many of my visible supporters have always been men, from the very beginning. When BPOB first came out, I had a stock of about 100 books that people could order directly from me and I’d draw in it for them and write a little message, and I’d say 75 percent of the people who asked for them were men. The people who published those supposedly difficult poems were men, often men at the helm of very traditional institutions. The characterization just didn’t seem particularly accurate—not to mention that it didn’t give men any credit for the fellow-feeling and sensitive readings I’ve always gotten from them.

So hold up, this is interesting, let’s take it all the way. I think these responses are less about alienation and more about vulnerability. The part of us that reads poetry is a reflex part. Men read poetry with their reflexes the same as women do—they put themselves in your trust, they put their bodies in your hands, you tap the right place and the leg kicks. Or the pupils dilate. Or the hackles rise, and something flies out of you on a flock of little red nerves. To feel power shift out of your body is uncomfortable. It makes you feel that it was never yours to begin with. That’s the whole point; that’s the subject here; and maybe what we are seeing is that it is more difficult for men—to recognize that they’re in someone else’s hands, to recognize that they’re at someone else’s mercy, when the author’s touch feels different, when the poems are these poems.

I read that Laura Ingalls Wilder was an influence when you were writing Balloon Pop Outlaw Black. Did she come into play at all with Motherland? Who or what else influenced these poems?

“What would happen if one writer told the truth about her influences? The world would split open.” I will say that I did watch the entire run of Star Trek: TNG for the first time ever when I was smack in the middle of writing, and that HAD to have had an effect. You might actually be able to see a point in the book where I start to wonder what it might be like to have sex with Worf. A slight pivot, a swivel of the eyes toward the question: would his cum kill you.

You said in an interview with Hazlitt: “The problem with me is that I can write individually, sentence-to-sentence, very well.” But you’re now working on a memoir for Riverhead. How is that going?

It’s exhilarating, really. There’s so much space, there’s so much room to play with form, you take a greedy breath and it just keeps going—the lung of it seems infinite. And there’s always some corner of it you can sit in and rearrange and dab paint on when you feel stuck. That’s not true of poetry. When you’re stuck with a poem, you’re stuck. Go to the turtle races and put all your money on the slowest one, because you’re not getting anything done today. But a big book gives great shelter.

Molly Minturn’s poems and essays have appeared in Boston Review, the Toast, the Indiana Review and elsewhere. She lives in Virginia.


The post A Conversation with Patricia Lockwood appeared first on The Awl.

10 Jun 17:15

J Mascis streams new track, reveals details of new album

by Joel Freimark
J Mascis streams new track, reveals details of new album

There are few phrases more pleasing to the ears of music fans than “new J Mascis music,” and while he had already stated this year would see the follow-up to his phenomenal 2011 album “Several Shades Of Why,” he has now revealed that it will come out August 26, as well as streamed a single from the album.

The longtime Dinosaur Jr frontman remains one of the endless fountains of creativity, as alongside his solo work and The Dinosaur, he’s released countless other amazing projects under names like Heavy Blanket and Sweet Apple. Yet for this solo effort, titled “Tied To A Star,” he’s enlisted folks like Cat Power and Mark Mulcahy among others, and this can only make the final product all the better.

Posting a stream of the first single, “Every Morning,” it sounds as if the forthcoming album will fall somewhere between the heartbreakingly beautiful “Several Shades Of Why” and the last Dinosaur Jr release. J’s vocals are far more clear than on the Dinosaur Jr record, yet there is a fuzz, sting and loudness to the music that was absent from his last solo outing. However, that absence was in many ways what made that record so special.

Regardless, any new music from J Mascis tends to rocket to the top of the “must buy” list, and “Tied To A Star” is currently available for pre-order via Sub Pop.

Listen to “Every Morning”

Joel Freimark hosts a daily music-related webseries HERE and you can follow his daily music musings and suggestions HERE as well.

Image: Sub Pop

Follow @thedailyguru

03 Jun 16:05

Two Monks Invent The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

by Mallory Ortberg

This post brought to you by Michael, a seven-eyed dog from Brooklyn. Previously in this series: Two monks invent medieval art.

It doesn’t really work for monks to appear in this installment of the series, seeing as how the influence of the Catholic Church on popular art movements had really waned by 1848, but I’ve already committed to the general conceit, so. 

MONK #1: ok wow
what should we draw what should we drawww
everybody’s doing landscapes and rich ladies in front of old buildings so maybe we should –
MONK #2: bitches
MONK #1: what
MONK #2: we gotta paint bitches
just stone cold bitches man
MONK #1: i dont understand
MONK #2: bitches are it
bitches are the future
people want one thing from art
and that’s to see unsmiling, lush bitches brushing their hair
MONK #1: wow
MONK #2: like this


MONK #1: oh wow okay yeah i see what you mean
MONK #2: or this


MONK #1: okay so like this?


MONK #2: um
you know what
that’s a really good start
MONK #1: thank you!
MONK #2: something i really like about it is the moon
and the veil is great
and she looks like she might have consumption
which is great
MONK #1: thank you!!!
MONK #2: but that’s a woman
not a bitch
you didn’t paint a bitch
MONK #1: oh man
MONK #2: no no it’s okay don’t feel bad
it can be tricky
here’s another example
just for reference


MONK #1: ok let me see if ive got it yet
how’s this


MONK #2: hmm
MONK #1: oh dang
MONK #2: haha dont be so hard on yourself i’m just thinking
this is definitely better
MONK #1: yeah?
MONK #2: yeah
MONK #1: i feel like im getting closer
MONK #2: you definitely definitely are
she’s not smiling and that’s a great start
don’t really see any jewels though
MONK #1: yeah
MONK #2: remember your aiming for this


MONK #2: haha yeah
big hair, no heart, that’s the key


MONK #2: tell you what
lets practice some
ill give you a general activity
and you guess how a bitch might look while she was doing it
MONK #1: okay
MONK #2: i really think it will help
MONK #1: okay
MONK #2: gathering flowers
MONK #1: i guess
MONK #2: furious
MONK #1: dang
MONK #2: bitches gather flowers furiously


MONK #2: lets try another one
how do bitches picnic
MONK #1: um
MONK #2: solemnly
they picnic solemnly, in billowing velvet capes


MONK #2: okay
we’re picking flowers again
what’s happening
MONK #1: um
they’re picking flowers
like for a funeral
MONK #2: right!
is anybody smiling or having a good time?
MONK #1: no
definitely not
MONK #2: you got it kid


MONK #2: sitting in a castle
MONK #1: mega pissed off
MONK #2: that’s the one!!


MONK #2: okay bitches are swimming
set the scene for me
MONK #1: they’re trying to drown a guy
but real slowly
MONK #2: yes
that is exactly how bitches swim


MONK #2: how about dancing
what do bitches look like when they throw a dance party
MONK #1: enormously sad
just shatteringly grief-stricken
MONK #2: that’s right
bitches hate dancing


MONK #2: okay i think you’re ready to try again
lightning round
draw me a bitch in front of her house
MONK #1: ok hows this
MONK #2: is that a spear?
MONK #1: yeah


MONK #2: gimme two bitches
MONK #1: hows this


MONK #2: show me what it looks like when two people fall in love
MONK #1: like this?


MONK #2: what does it look like when a bitch goes on a date
MONK #1: ahh
she carries her dog and won’t look at the guy
MONK #2: you are ready


MONK #2: last one
show me a happy couple on a carriage ride
MONK #1: okay
is he missing part of his jaw?
MONK #1: yeah i thought it fit the scene
MONK #2: this is great stuff
MONK #1: you really think so?
MONK #2: i really do


MONK #1: okay um how about this one
MONK #1: really??
oh man
MONK #2: absolutely
this is it
we’re done here
lets call it the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and go get some opium


[All images via]

Read more Two Monks Invent The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood at The Toast.

03 Jun 20:30

"It’s OK to Be a Bit Sassy": An Interview with Jenny Slate

by Dina Gachman
by Dina Gachman

Back in January, Obvious Child premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was immediately called one of the best films of the fest (it was). The film’s star, Jenny Slate, was also hailed as the newest, freshest rom-com star in years (she is). It was also called an “abortion comedy” and a “comedy about abortion,” which it sort of is, but it’s also much more than that. It’s about Donna, a 20-something struggling standup comic in New York who is dealing with a terrible breakup, an empty bank account, and—as if things weren’t rough enough—an unplanned pregnancy after a one-night stand. It all sounds very serious, but Slate and writer/director Gillian Robespierre have managed to make a hilarious, touching movie about a woman going through some tough emotional challenges. First and foremost it’s a romantic comedy, and despite what’s going on in Donna’s life it never strays from that, which is no easy feat to pull off.

The movie is based on a short film that Slate and Robespierre made a few years back, and it also stars Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffman, Gabe Liedman, Polly Draper, and Richard Kind. They’re all great, and Slate—SNL alum, one-half of The Kroll Show’s PubLIZity duo, Mona-Lisa on Parks and Rec, Tammy on Bob’s Burgers—is a rom-com star you can relate to. She doesn’t wear designer clothes, live in a palatial home, or look perfect after a workout. She wears T-shirts, pees in the street, and casually stalks her ex-boyfriend. You know, normal stuff.

Slate has a new Marcel the Shell picture book coming out this fall, based on the squeaky, one-eyed snail who uses a raisin as a beanbag chair, created by Slate and her director husband Dean Fleischer-Camp. Right now, though, she’s got Obvious Child, which is an empowering, honest, and very funny movie.

Here’s Slate talking about why you should see it, what she loves about it, and why it’s much more than a comedy about abortion.

You’ve probably heard the term “abortion comedy” a thousand times in the last few months. It’s fitting in a way but it’s also a little reductive, so how would you describe the movie?

First of all, I appreciate any press about the movie. I want people to see it because I love it. I do think it’s more than a movie about abortion, though. In fact I think it’s a movie about one woman at a certain time in her life. It’s about her handling all the different moving pieces and going from a passive state to an active state. I would also just describe it as a very romantic, funny movie—it has all the satisfactions of a classic romantic comedy, but it’s plot points are just more modern and unique.

It seems like a tricky thing to balance the very funny moments with the more serious moments, like when Donna has her confessional standup scenes where she’s talking about very serious things, but trying to make people laugh at the same time. Was that a hard balance to strike?

I think so. We didn’t want to treat it so gingerly or treat it like it was so fragile and it would break and we didn’t want to be rough with it and seem glib or flippant or thoughtless about the situations that Donna goes through. I think people would agree that even in times that are more difficult humor can still be there, and just because there’s laughter doesn’t mean that there’s disrespect. It’s OK to put a toe over the line and be a bit sassy, and playing with those boundaries is OK, too. We weren’t jailed by them and weren’t afraid of being curious about how different situations could play out. In general, all the humor was coming from the point of view of one individual. Donna is never saying, “Hey ladies, isn’t everything like this…” She’s saying, “I’m me and I’m like this.” If people relate to it I think it’s maybe because even though she’s confident on stage, she’s confident in displaying a sort of vulnerability.

People who know you and your work might think, “That’s Jenny Slate up there on camera doing standup.” Did you separate your standup style from Donna’s at all? Did you do anything to try and differentiate the two?

I didn’t try to alter my standup style because that’s how I do standup. It’s sort of like a bodily function for me. That’s how I do standup, that’s how I dance, that’s how I kiss and that’s how I walk. All of those things are in the movie because that’s how I do them and I felt they shouldn’t be altered because I wanted it to be natural. It didn’t feel like cheating to me, in terms of acting. The standup itself is my style of standup, but the subject matter is in fact very different. It’s a delicate balance. 

How is it different?

I don’t talk about my husband and our sex life in my standup. I talk about maybe what made me horny as a teenager or weird things that might make me horny now, but I’m never going to put my husband out there and make a meal out of him for everybody else. I’m not interested in that and I think I’m very careful in my standup about walking the line between showcasing myself and hurting myself. I don’t think anyone wants to see me being fully self-deprecating because I don’t think they really relate to that.

What do you think people relate to?

I think what people relate to is the good-natured ribbing that we can give ourselves in order to explore different things we’re curious about. I share that with Donna, for sure. But it was kind of confusing to do something that I usually do in earnest and in a sincere fashion that I do in my own standup and to do it as somebody else and tell stories that are not mine. It was a whole different thing. I think with the right amount of focus it came out OK, but it was tough.

Have you gotten any crazy reactions to the film from anti-abortion groups? Has anyone had a reaction that surprised you?

Nothing yet. We’ve been very lucky to have open-minded audiences, and I think because the film is about so much more than a woman who has an abortion, people tend to come up to us after and share their personal stories. But a lot of them are just romantic comedy fans that are happy to see a rom-com that stars a woman that might be in their neighborhood. I also tend to just focus on what I’m doing, and I’m not interested in being part of an argument, so I’m not going to seek it out. I am interested in being part of a useful conversation and I welcome anybody that wants to join that.

You Tweeted a photo of your grandmother’s pro-choice stickers recently, so what was her reaction to the movie? I’m guessing she likes it.

She has a kitchen bulletin board full of 'I Stand Up for Planned Parenthood' and 'Keep Abortion Legal' stickers. Those have been there for years; that’s just her thing. She’s just a really cool lady. In general I have a good group of women in my family who stand up for women’s rights and they’re feminists of all different ages. She loved the movie.

This is what my 86 year old grandmother has on her kitchen bulletin board. #BeautifulPerson

— jenny slate (@jennyslate) June 1, 2014


When did you know you wanted to be on stage? What or who has inspired you creatively along the way?

I’ve always wanted to be an actress since I was very young. I was really influenced by people like Madeline Kahn and Lily Tomlin and Ruth Gordon and Gilda Radner—actresses that could not be replaced by anyone else. They had their own thing and their own sense of style, and individuality was the first and foremost thing [for them]. They had confidence and an acceptance of whatever their sexuality was and of their womanhood, and that pumped me up. I really liked that. And as a teenager I really loved Margaret Atwood.

We’ve got Maleficent, there’s a big budget Tom Cruise movie coming out—why should people check out Obvious Child instead?

There’s nothing like Obvious Child that’s coming out right now. It’s a small, homemade narrative. It doesn’t have any explosions in it but it has a lot of great jokes and it has a true beating heart. I think it’s the coolest, most authentic thing you’re going to see. But then again, I’m in it.


Obvious Child opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.

Dina Gachman is a writer in Los Angeles. Look out for her first book, Brokenomics, coming from Seal Press in spring 2015. She's on Twitter @TheElf26.

05 Jun 20:30

What Happens When You Start Earning a Living Wage

by Mike Dang
by Mike Dang

Resorts WorldGothamist has really terrific profiles of five of the 1,400 workers at Resorts World Casino who saw their pay double from $10-$12/hour to $20 or more, plus benefits after their union struck a new contract deal for them. Here’s Jeannine Nixon, who works at the casino as a customer relations representative:

A lot has changed now with me being in Local 6. I’m able to see all the specialists and in particular have a major surgery that was long overdue. I was having trouble eating and drinking, and they diagnosed me with achalasia. They told me that they needed to repair my esophagus and after that I’d be able to eat and drink properly, but then I was told I needed esophagectomy. Now I have better coverage and a thoracic surgeon from Cornell—one of the best—they went in and looked and that’s what I’m facing now. But with the contract, I don’t have to go pay those high co-payments. I count it as a blessing that I receive the service that I am receiving now. And if I didn’t make what I make now, I probably wouldn’t be following up with my medical care.

I raise my son by myself. He’s five. Now I’m able to put him in different programs, when before there were no programs available to him. He starts private school in August. I’m grateful for the [wage] increase, it is really important. Now I can afford to pay my bills, I can afford to pay my rent. I don’t need to borrow or need additional resources to do that.

To be honest with you, at the end of the day, I have pride knowing that I can pay my own bills. It’d be nice to get some resources from my son’s father, but that was my decision to raise him. Now I’m able to pay my bills and know that I don’t have to look anywhere else. It’s an overwhelming feeling, and I still pinch myself and ask, “Is this really happening?” I get two paychecks a week. It’s like, you get a paycheck, and then you get another one! [Laughs]

The rest of the stories are also wonderful. Go on and read them.

02 Jun 11:30

Using Clothespins To Secure Parchment Paper — Reader Tips

by Christine Gallary
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Parchment paper seems to have an annoying way of not staying in an empty baking pan. Even when it's creased or greased, it always tries to pop up, making pouring batter in and smoothing it out more difficult than it needs to be. Kitchn reader Laurel sent us this smart tip for securing the paper to the pan - use clothespins!


30 May 14:30

Lupita Nyong'o Options the Film Rights to Americanah

by Phoenix Tso

Lupita Nyong'o Options the Film Rights to Americanah

We have been waiting so long for a new Lupita Nyong'o film project, and our patience may finally be rewarded. As announced by Americanah author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie herself, Nyong'o has optioned the film rights to the book.


26 May 15:00

Fairy Tales Are Women’s Tales

by Anne Thériault

fairyFairy tales are women’s tales. This has been said before, in words cleverer and more articulate than my own, but still, it bears repeating: fairy tales are women’s tales. They’re bent-backed crones’ tales, sly gossips’ tales, work-worn mothers’ tales and old wives’ tales. They’re stories shared, repeated and elaborated on over mindless women’s work like spinning or mending or shucking corn. These stories are the voices of those who were, within a social and cultural context, so often voiceless; they’re women’s whispered desires and fears, neatly wrapped up in fantastical narratives filled with sex, violence and humour. Fairy tales speak of the things that women most hoped for – a prince, a castle, a happy ending – and those that they were most afraid of – that their children would be taken from them, that men would hurt them or take advantage of them, that their family wouldn’t be provided for.

One need only look to the sources cited by the great folktale and fairy tale publishers from the late seventeenth century all the way through to the early nineteenth century (a time when readers, editors and publishers showed renewed literary interest in both fantastical stories and traditional storytelling) to know that women were, by and large, the main collectors, keepers and tellers of these tales. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm credit such women as Dorothea Wild, Dorothea Viehmann, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, and their brother-in-law Ludwig Hassenplug’s three sisters as being some of the most important contributors to their Nursery and Household Tales. Scottish folklorist Andrew Lang, who produced the Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Rose Fairy Books, relied heavily on his wife Leonora Alleyne and a team of female editors for his content. And Charles Perrault wrote in an introduction to his 1697 work Mother Goose Tales that these stories fell within long tradition of old wives’ tales, such as had been told to children by their nurses since the dawning of time. So, initially at least, the idea that fairy tales came from the domain of women was commonly acknowledged, and even used to give credibility to some stories. And yet these days, we think of them as being for children only. So what happened?

Well, the industrial revolution happened, for one thing. The advent of new technology, and a population shift from rural to urban settings, meant that much of the dull, laborious women’s work simply ceased to exist. Factory-produced thread and yarn, which were finer and smoother than their home-spun counterparts, became cheap and readily available, which lead to a decrease of women spinning at home. Inexpensive, mass-produced clothing meant that it was often easier to purchase a new item than to try to mend an old one. Many working class men and women were employed in the factories that produced these goods, meaning that the long work days they spent in those filthy, airless rooms left no time or energy at night to dawdle in front of the fire telling stories. Opportunities for traditional storytelling diminished radically over the course of a generation or two, and folklorists began to worry about the fate of the fairy tale. Indeed, it was with the idea of preserving German culture that the Grimms began collecting and publishing folktales.

All of this helps explain how women were distanced from the act of storytelling, but it doesn’t answer the question of why fairy tales began to be associated with children. For that, we have to look at the shift in social attitudes towards childhood that occurred during the Victorian era; in fact, one might even argue that this was the first time childhood, at least in our modern understanding of the word, existed. Children had long been treated as miniature adults, expected to help provide for their family as soon as they were physically able to do so. This went largely unremarked upon when that work took place on a family farm, but when factories began hiring children for dangerous jobs in poor working conditions, social reformers sat up and took notice. Activists fought for the right of every child to have a childhood, emphasizing the fact that the earliest years of life were critical for a child’s development. With this cultural sea-change came a new market for games, toys and especially books for children. Interestingly enough, the Grimms’ first edition of their Nursery and Household Tales, which was geared towards an adult audience, didn’t fare very well sales-wise. It wasn’t until they created a second edition marketed for children that they saw any real success.

Of course, when putting together the second edition of their book, the Grimms made certain changes in order to refit their stories for a younger audience. This makes total sense; you wouldn’t expect children to be drawn to a book that, as Maria Tatar writes in The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairytales, “…had the look of a scholarly tome, rather than a of a book for a wide audience.” And certainly the Grimms had to make sure that there was nothing in their book that was inappropriate for children. What’s interesting is what changes they chose to make.

Fairy tales are notoriously violent, and it’s tempting to think that the Grimms would have made sure that the violence was the first thing to go when they were trying to make their stories kid-friendly. However, when we compare the second edition with the first, the opposite is true – the Grimms actually increased the violent episodes in their stories. Take, for example, their version of Cinderella – in the second edition, the children’s edition, the ugly stepsisters have their eyes pecked out by doves at the tale’s end, whereas in the first edition, their eyes remain intact. Evidently the Grimms had worried that in their original version of the tale, the stepsisters had not suffered enough retribution for their treatment of Cinderella, as the text in the second edition reads, “ … so both sisters were punished with blindness to the end of their days for being so wicked and false.” You can just imagine Jacob and Wilhelm conferring over this scene: “I mean, sure, the stepsisters have already had parts of their feet cut off, but do you think that’s really enough to drive the point home? I think we should remove at least one more body part so that the children truly understand how terrible the stepsisters are.”

So if the Grimms weren’t concerned about small children reading about violence, what were they worried about? Sex, naturally. They took out any and all allusions to sex. Like the fact that Rapunzel was totally doing it with her prince whenever he climbed up her hair-rope into her tower. Check out this brief but sexy (well, sexy by 19th century standards) passage from the first edition version of “Rapunzel”:

‘At first Rapunzel was frightened, but soon she came to like the young king so much that she agreed to let him visit every day and to pull him up. The two lived joyfully for a time, and the fairy did not catch on at all until Rapunzel told her one day: “Tell me, Godmother, why my clothes are so tight and why they don’t fit me any longer.” “Wicked child!” shouted the fairy. “What are you telling me!”’

Once her pregnancy is discovered, Rapunzel is sent off by her fairy godmother to live in a desert, “… where things went very badly for her here and where, after a time, she gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl.”

By the second edition all reference to pregnancy had been removed.

“Rapunzel” was not the only story to be sanitized; many of the others suffered the same fate. In the first edition version of “The Frog King or Iron Heinrich,” for example, the frog transforms into a man in the princess’ bed, at which point “she cherished him as she had promised,” after which both fell “peacefully asleep.” In the second edition, after the frog’s transformation (which does not occur in the princess’ bed), the happy couple immediately run off to find the king so that they can get married in the middle of the night, thus guaranteeing that absolutely nothing untoward happens between them until the palace vicar pronounced them man and wife.

The Grimms decided that some of their stories were completely unsalvageable when it came to the second edition, and just cut them altogether. Take “Hans Dumm,” the story of a man who could impregnate women just by wishing for it – if you’ve never heard of it, that’s because it didn’t make it past the first edition of the Grimms’ book. And yet stories like “The Juniper Tree” somehow made it into the children’s edition of their book. For those of you unfamiliar with it, “The Juniper Tree,” a story about a woman who kills her stepson, lets her daughter think that she was responsible for the murder, and then cooks the child in a stew to serve to his father. Because what’s murder and cannibalism when compared with the evils of sex?

The Grimms’ deletion of all things sexy from the second edition could be taken as a sort of Teutonic prudery, but when we look at it in context with some of the other alterations, there begins to emerge a pattern of marginalization and disempowerment of women. Not only did they remove any mention of sex, the majority of it both consensual and premarital, but all sorts of other details defining and limiting the female characters were added in. With each successive edition, the Wilhelm Grimm added in more and more adjectives describing what they thought was the perfect Christian woman; female characters were suddenly “dutiful,” “tender-hearted,” “god-fearing” and “contrite,” where once they had simply been “beautiful” or “young.” Wilhelm also began to alter the structure of the tales, introducing moral judgments and motivations that previously hadn’t been there. Traditionally, fairy tales had seen luck and chance count for more than hard work and obedience, but Wilhelm put a stop to that – instead the sweet, well-behaved, godly women were rewarded, and those who deviated from that mold were punished. Finally, Wilhelm added in all sorts of hints about the domestic activity he felt women should occupy themselves with – for example, in an early draft of Snow White, the dwarves only ask that she cook their meals in exchange for shelter, but by the time the first edition of his book was published, their demands included that she keep house for them, do the cooking, make the beds, wash, sew, knit and keep everything neat and clean.

And so fairy tales began to feel less like women’s stories and more like a guidebook for how women were expected to behave.

These days, women have new ways, better ways of communicating what we feel and think. And though we still face challenges when trying to make ourselves heard, we’re not silenced and dismissed as we once were. Perhaps it’s senseless to mourn the fact that fairy tales no longer act as the voice of women – after all, doesn’t that in and of itself show how far we’ve come in the past few hundred years? Yet it’s hard not to feel that in gaining one thing, we’ve lost another – or rather, that it’s been taken from us, and transformed into something that in many ways works against us. But I like to think that it’s still possible to look at fairy tales and see the beating heart of a woman’s story buried under all that repressive patriarchal junk. You may have to do a bit of digging, but it’s still there. It’s still concerned with all the same things that it once was – finding true love, protecting the ones it loves, outwitting those who would seek to hurt it. And I think that heart is worth resurrecting, if we can.

[Image from Andrew Lang's Green Fairy Book]

Read more Fairy Tales Are Women’s Tales at The Toast.

22 May 14:00

Let’s All Take A Minute To Read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case For Reparations”

by Mallory Ortberg

coatesLet’s be frank: I’m not going to write anything better than this that merits your interest today. It would be a disservice to content and probably also reading were I to write anything in this particular time slot other than “Let’s all read this together,” unless you already read the print version last week.

Having been enslaved for 250 years, black people were not left to their own devices. They were terrorized. In the Deep South, a second slavery ruled. In the North, legislatures, mayors, civic associations, banks, and citizens all colluded to pin black people into ghettos, where they were overcrowded, overcharged, and undereducated. Businesses discriminated against them, awarding them the worst jobs and the worst wages. Police brutalized them in the streets. And the notion that black lives, black bodies, and black wealth were rightful targets remained deeply rooted in the broader society. Now we have half-stepped away from our long centuries of despoilment, promising, “Never again.” But still we are haunted. It is as though we have run up a credit-card bill and, having pledged to charge no more, remain befuddled that the balance does not disappear. The effects of that balance, interest accruing daily, are all around us.

Broach the topic of reparations today and a barrage of questions inevitably follows: Who will be paid? How much will they be paid? Who will pay? But if the practicalities, not the justice, of reparations are the true sticking point, there has for some time been the beginnings of a solution. For the past 25 years, Congressman John Conyers Jr., who represents the Detroit area, has marked every session of Congress by introducing a bill calling for a congressional study of slavery and its lingering effects as well as recommendations for “appropriate remedies.”

A country curious about how reparations might actually work has an easy solution in Conyers’s bill, now called HR 40, the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act. We would support this bill, submit the question to study, and then assess the possible solutions. But we are not interested.

This paragraph in particular:

One cannot escape the question by hand-waving at the past, disavowing the acts of one’s ancestors, nor by citing a recent date of ancestral immigration. The last slaveholder has been dead for a very long time. The last soldier to endure Valley Forge has been dead much longer. To proudly claim the veteran and disown the slaveholder is patriotism à la carte. A nation outlives its generations. We were not there when Washington crossed the Delaware, but Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s rendering has meaning to us. We were not there when Woodrow Wilson took us into World War I, but we are still paying out the pensions. If Thomas Jefferson’s genius matters, then so does his taking of Sally Hemings’s body. If George Washington crossing the Delaware matters, so must his ruthless pursuit of the runagate Oney Judge.

I don’t have any useful commentary to add; this exists solely as a reminder for you to read the piece if you haven’t already, or to reread it if you have the time.

[Image via]

Read more Let’s All Take A Minute To Read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case For Reparations” at The Toast.

22 May 14:45

The World's Greatest Used Volvo

by Emma Carmichael
by Emma Carmichael

Castor, an art director from Sweden, is selling his rig, a '93 Volvo 245GL, which has both an inside and an outside. If this is the next frontier of Craigslist ads, I am all for it. [via]

20 May 17:18

Fake Infomercial Is Perfect Solution for the Dumb-Question-Asking Game of Thrones Watchers In Your Life

by Susana Polo

We all have these folks in our lives. The ones who ask “why did they do that” when the mystery of a character’s motivation has been left deliberately unclear, or “what’s going on” when they only started paying attention after the first twenty minutes of the show. Conan gives us one solution, with special guest star George R.R. Martin.

Of course, as geeks, we know another solution to this problem: A rewatching binge!

Warning: Video contains spoilers for the current season of Game of Thrones.

(via Kotaku.)

Previously in Television

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14 May 13:50

Read An Oral History Of The West Wing - Why Sorkin left, continuity errors, and more White House dirt. [The West Wing]

by Sarah D. Bunting
[Internetwork Notes]
Screen: NBC

Screen: NBC

As regular readers know, I do love me an oral history, so I settled right in with this one from The Hollywood Reporter about The West Wing, which purports to cover everything from pitching the show to the shift after 9/11 to whether Sorkin watched after he left the show. (He didn't, of course.)

There's some good dirt in there, for sure -- reading about Joshua Malina's elaborate pranks made me happy, as did Sorkin's ultra-diplomatic response to a network note so stupid, it has to have been real -- but mostly, it made me yearn for a book-length version in which everyone is perhaps a bit less circumspect about 1) what a mad-genius nightmare Sorkin may have been to work with and 2) some of the show's missteps along the way. "Isaac and Ishmael" is kind of glossed over with "well, that happened, but since TWW is an alternate timeline, blah blah blah." NOBODY's going to go on the record and say it sucked, even 13 years later? And Sorkin/Schlamme's departure is made to feel like a midnight massacre; the description is so elliptical. I'd have liked to hear more from some of the tertiary players, who were no doubt always listening, waiting for this day (NiCole Robinson, e.g.).

And I like Rob Lowe a lot, but his tone here is off-putting. "You know, I don't think I'm really going to watch much more of this"? Not a bad call, given the scene he's talking about, but: you left for The Lyon's Den. Overall the players could stand to congratulate themselves less -- Sorkin is actually one of the lesser offenders in that regard -- and by the end I'd started to remember everything that gave me impatient hives about the show, but that's the show/the talent, not the article, which is great work by Lacey Rose, Michael O'Connell, and Marc Bernardin. I just wanted it to be longer.

And crap on Sorkin more there I said it.

Read An Oral History Of The West Wing appeared first on Previously.TV

10 May 14:30

Puzzle Platformer Never Alone Features Adventure, Folklore, And An Indigenous Alaskan Heroine

by Becky Chambers

I want to play this. I want to play this right now.

Never Alone is the upcoming inaugural title from Upper One Games, which describes itself as “the first indigenous-owned video game company in the U.S.” The game follows the adventures of a young Iñupiaq girl as she attempts to stop an endless blizzard. There’s a big focus on cultural authenticity here, with a foundation in stories that have been around for thousands of years, and narration read in the Iñupiaq language (English subtitles will be provided). As someone deeply interested in both folklore and games, I think it’s wonderful to see a very old storytelling tradition join hands with a new one. Never Alone will be released this fall for both PC and console.

(via Kotaku)

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09 May 05:45

Eurovision 2014 Form Guide: Beards, Ballads, Bangers, And Bass Drops

by Mel Campbell

Eurovision is like Christmas to me. While I appreciate onstage gimmickry as much as anyone, I take the songcraft very seriously. And so, here’s a useful guide to this weekend’s musical highlights (and lowlights), plus a bonus drinking game!

The list is necessarily selective, as 37 countries are participating this year. Alas, Andorra, Monaco, Luxembourg, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Morocco and Turkey are not heading to Copenhagen, but Portugal is back after having taken last year off and Poland returns after two years.

In a nod to Eurovision’s massive popularity in Australia, there’s a five-minute performance slot during the second semi-final (airing here on Saturday night), in which Jessica Mauboy will debut her specially written new song, ‘Sea Of Flags’. Here’s a sneak peek from the dress rehearsal:

Shame she’s not actually competing — ‘Sea of Flags’ is a decent song, although the chorus does sound a fair bit like ‘Just The Way You Are’ by Bruno Mars. Speaking of whom: Denmark’s entry this year — Basim’s ‘Cliché Love Song’ — is a hilariously blatant, off-brand Bruno Mars song.


Power Ballads

Armenia’s entry, ‘Not Alone’ by Aram MP3 (yes, that’s the act’s name), is the current favourite to win. With piano, strings and a repeated “You’re not alone” line, it seems quite blah… Then, two minutes in, the bass drops!

‘Undo’ by Sweden’s Sanna Nielsen is also a highly fancied contender. I like the unusual four notes that begin the chorus, and Nielsen has a lovely crystal-clear voice.

Fans of Grizzly Bear or Fleet Foxes might enjoy Norway’s Carl Espen and his sensitive Nordic beardie ballad ‘Silent Storm’.

Spain’s Ruth Lorenzo competed in the UK’s The X-Factor in 2008 and says her song ‘Dancing In The Rain’ was inspired by England’s weather. LOL! It takes a while to get going, but has a killer chorus.

Conchita Wurst is the Austrian drag queen who’s caused so much controversy this year in conservative participant nations. But ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’ is a traditional dramatic ballad in the Shirley Bassey style, and she nails every note. If she weren’t so divisive, this could be up there.



I do love a good dance anthem with throat-searing diva vocals, swooshes, and beat-drops. But this year’s crop is quite uninspiring. Estonia’s Tanja is enjoyable but not ‘Amazing’, and Tijana’s interestingly raspy voice isn’t enough to save Macedonia’s ‘To The Sky’ from failing to launch.

However, Hungary’s answer to Drake, Kállay-Saunders, tries drum and bass in ‘Running’.

Ireland tends to oscillate between upbeat club tunes and whimsical fiddles and tin whistles. This year they’ve tried for both with ‘Heartbeat’ by Can-Linn featuring Kasey Smith. Does it work? I’m not sure.


Guitar Heroes

Italy’s Emma Marrone needs to get a stylist who isn’t an embarrassing tryhard, but musically, her ‘La Mia Città’ (‘My City’) sounds a little like No Doubt-era Gwen Stefani.

If post-punk revivalist cuties with sharp haircuts and black outfits are more your speed, ‘Something Better’ by Softengine is Finland’s answer to The Killers.

Given their two founding members are pre-school teachers and they wear block-coloured outfits, Iceland’s Pollapönk have been compared to The Wiggles. But really, they sound more like US indie-popsters OK Go. ‘No Prejudice’ is tremendously catchy.

Meanwhile, there is a disturbing trend for fey folk-pop. ‘Is It Right’, by Germany’s Elaiza, is like Pink fronting a folk band, and every bit as awkward as that sounds. The Micallef siblings from Firelight sound like Mumford & Sons in Malta’s ‘Coming Home’. But Switzerland’s Sebalter pull out all the banjos and whistles on ‘Hunter Of Stars’. They must be stopped now.


Into The Bin

While it’s nearly impossible these days to get nul points, some songs are total rubbish. Belgium’s Axel Hirsoux is a big cuddly wussbag who caterwauls about his mum.

Apart from drifting in and out of tune, Israel’s ‘Same Heart’ has an unfortunate subtext considering the Palestinian situation (“I will take it without any regrets…”). Also, I actually LOL’d at Mei Finegold’s histrionic delivery of the lyric “I’m not a person in captivity!”

Latvia’s entry is ‘Cake To Bake’ by folk outfit Aarzemnieki, whose frontman Jöran Steinhauer is actually German and has the same weaselly look as James Blunt. This insufferable song sounds like something commissioned by an advertising agency.

“Mix some dough/Add some love/Let it bake/Wait for a minute.” How about a good slap upside the head instead? In the same dreadful culinary category is ‘Cheesecake’ by maraca-wielding Teo from Belarus, which features lyrical clanger after clanger, culminating in “I look over Google Maps trying to escape/Cos I’m tired of being your sweet cheesecake.”

Russia’s entry ‘Shine’ by the Tolmachevy Sisters is lame, too. I hope Vladimir Putin doesn’t set his goons on me for saying so.

They won Junior Eurovision in 2006, but the song itself is a dreary midtempo number that sounds like a rejected Bond theme. “Can you be a masterpiece of love?”, they ask. No.


Gimmicks and Novelties

As Simon Copland wrote yesterday, Eurovision has a reputation for progressiveness and provocation when performing gender and sexuality. Poland has gone the Slavsploitation route with ‘My Słowianie – We Are Slavic’, a cross between ‘Milkshake’ and ‘My Humps’.

I was expecting to hate ‘Moustache’ by France’s Twin Twin, but this dance ditty about wishing you could grow facial hair is actually lots of fun — one of my favourites in the competition.

Georgian prog-jazz band The Shin has joined forces with singer Mariko for the seriously kooky ‘Three Minutes To Earth’, which sounds like something you might find in the back of your parents’ record collection.

‘Tick-Tock’ by Maria Yaremchuk of Ukraine might be my favourite song in the whole competition. With its whistle motif and handclaps, it has the same jaunty feel as Nena’s ‘Satellite’, which did so well for Germany in 2010. But what if it wins and everyone has to go to war-torn Kiev next year?


Bonus Eurovision Drinking Game! 

Drink when you see any of the following:

- Strobing lasers (two drinks if lasers accompany a dubstep bassline)

- Pyrotechnics (smoke machines, showers of sparks, etc)

- Lighting gimmicks (handheld lights, illuminated costumes, etc)

- Wind machines (two drinks if hair blows into mouth or skirt blows up to reveal underpants)

- Cages or industrial scaffolding (two drinks for ‘Glass Cases of Emotion’)

- Gimmick cameo performers who have nothing to do with the song (like Ukraine’s giant last year)

- Onstage costume changes (skirts, jackets or capes ripped off, costumes used as props, etc)

- Backing dancers in full-body catsuits (two drinks if catsuits are sequined or feathered)

- Giant fringed epaulettes

- Fingerless gloves

- White pants (two drinks if white is teamed with gold or silver)

- Military or taiko percussionists (two drinks if singer also does the drumming)

- Diva hand gestures in a ballad (fluttering near face, sky-pointing, fist-pumping, etc)

- Singer squats in wide stance as if about to poo on stage.


Eurovision 2014 is screening on SBS1 in four parts this weekend:

Semi-Final 1: Friday May 9, 8:30pm
Jess Mauboy’s Road To Eurovision: Saturday May 10, 7.30pm
Semi-Final 2: Saturday May 10, 8:30pm
Final: Sunday May 11, 8:30pm


Mel Campbell is a freelance journalist and cultural critic, and author of the book Out of Shape: Debunking Myths about Fashion and Fit. She blogs on style, history and culture at Footpath Zeitgeist and tweets at @incrediblemelk.

08 May 20:00

Interview · Mirka Mora

by Lucy

MirkaMora1 4

Mirka ‘s own works spread throughout her home studio.  Photography - Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

MirkaMora1 7

Home studio details.  Photography - Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

MirkaMora1 1

Mirka Mora’s studio paints in her home studio.  Photography - Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Mirka Mora’s home/studio space.  Photography - Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Mirka finishing off a painting.  Photography - Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

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Mirka Mora.  Photography - Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Oh my. Today’s interview is one of those incredibly special ones that I know I will remember when I’m an old lady recounting my fondest memories of this time! It seems incredible (or ‘incroyable‘ !) to have had the great honour of meeting and interviewing the amazing Mirka Mora last month.  At 87 years old, Mirka has an energy and vibrancy that is really impossible to describe.  She is cheerfulness and optimism personified!  She is also a charming hostess, completely hilarious and very cheeky (!), recounting for Sean and I endless stories about the debauchery of Melbourne’s bohemian scene in the early 50′s, when she first arrived here from Paris at just 21 years of age.  If such tales are to be believed (!), Melbourne seems to have mellowed out somewhat since then…!

Chatting to Mirka in her combined home / studio in Richmond, adjacent to the home of her son and art dealer William Mora, is a little like peering through a window into another era.  Her home is a treasure trove of ephemera collected by Mirka over the past 60 years – antique furniture and books stacked high on every surface, artworks crammed on every wall, a treasured collection of dolls and prams. There is barely enough space amongst the furniture to navigate from one side of the studio to the other, such is the scale of Mirka’s ever growing collection of antiques, art and objects.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we first met Mirka.  I didn’t know how long we’d have, or how patient she might be with each of my longwinded questions.  Of course, I should have guessed she would be so overwhelmingly generous, so gracious and so welcoming.  She bustled about making Sean and I strong black coffees, and offering us chocolates.  She was so warm and enthusiastic about sharing a morning with us in her home.

As we chatted, Mirka recalled tales from her youth in colourful detail.  She’s a master storyteller. After a brief introduction from her son William, I started off asking Mirka if it would be ok for me to ask her a few questions ‘Go for it, be game!’ she said!  Sean followed up, respectfully asking if she would mind if he took some photos as we chatted. ‘Of course! I LOVE to be photographed! Just be at home, just think it’s your studio’ she said excitedly.  And when we turned off her studio lights to shoot in natural light, the space plunged into momentary darkness. ‘Ooooh that is mysterious!’ was Mirka’s cheerful response!’ ‘Oh now you’re disappeared, I don’t know where you are!’

Mirka first came to Melbourne in 1951 with her husband Georges and first son Phillipe, seeking a new life after the war in Europe. The Moras lived first in rural McKinnon, but Mirka craved a more creative, colourful lifestyle, and it wasn’t long before she and Georges relocated into an amazing studio space at 9 Collins Street in the city, which suited them much better.  She didn’t know it at the time, but this building had been the former studio of a great many reverred Australian painters, including Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin and many more.  Mirka and Georges were famed for the amazing parties they would throw here, and their studio became a hub for Melbourne’s cultural and arts communities, attracting an endless stream of visitors including both Australian and international artists, actors, dancers, musicians and art patrons.

It was at the Collins st studio that Mirka and Georges first met art patrons John and Sunday Reed.  This led to a long friendship with the influential pair, and like many other Melbourne artists at the time, Georges and Mirka were regular guests at John and Sunday’s house, Heide, in Bulleen.  The reeds would host dinners and parties with many of Melbourne’s most talented artists of the time, and also supported many artists with their patronage. Georges Mora would eventually go on to assist John in setting up the Museum of Modern Art at Heide.

In addition to their central involvement in Melbourne’ burgeoning arts community, Mirka and Georges were clever entrepreneurs. In 1954 they opened the Mirka Café on the corner of Exhibition Street and Little Bourke Street. Mirka worked in the kitchen, and The Contemporary Art Society would meet upstairs above the café, with Georges Mora as president and John Reed as director.  Together Georges, Mirka, John and Sunday would organise art exhibitions and events here, including a self initiated exhibition for the Royal Visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1954 – an alternative to the official one in the Melbourne Town Hall!

Though she speaks vividly and fondly of those incredible years in Collins street, Mirka lives very much in the present. Even today, she paints everyday, and says she is still learning all the time.  ‘I’m 87 now, if I like it or not!’ she says ‘I think the secret is not to grow up too much. I like to be insecure, I like to be on tenderhooks. You’ve got to tremble.’

Ever the gracious hostess, as we left, Mirka thanked us again for our visit.  ‘It was nice to talk about the past’ she said, and to Sean, ‘It’s nice to be photographed by you!’.  William came to see us out.  ‘I think I’ve been on my best behaviour!’ Mirka assured William, with a twinkle in her eye. ‘All I know my son taught me! We are having a fabulous time, William Cherie! We really are’.

Oh Mirka, how lucky Melbourne is to have inherited you!   And how very lucky we are to be treated to a comprehensive retrospective of Mirka’s work and life at Heide Gallery, opening this month.

The show, entitled ‘From the Home of Mirka Mora‘, starts with the very first painting Mirka ever made in 1947, and ends with work completed this year!  Heide curator Kendrah Morgan and director Jason Smith worked closely with Mirka and William to select the works, and to negotiate with Mirka which works she would part with!   (‘She agreed to most things’ says William!).  In addition to her paintings, the show includes a lot of Mirka’s favourite objects, in particular her collection of dolls, as well as ceramics, soft sculptures, tapestries and drawings.  The show will be in the modern house, Heide II – it opens on May 17th and runs for most of the year, until November 9th.  We think they might need to extend the carpark for this one…!

From the Home of Mirka Mora by Mirka Mora
17th May to 9th November 2014 

Heide II, Heide Museum of Modern Art 
7 Templestowe Road
Bulleen, VIC

Just a note – in transcribing our conversation below, I’ve tried as best as I can to leave intact Mirka’s occasional grammatical errors and charming idiosyncrasies.  It’s all part of her magic!

Tell us a little about when you first moved to Melbourne. How old were you, and why Melbourne?

Well I was lucky. My husband didn’t want to come to Australia, but I had read books that my Daddy told me not to read, and in one book there was a beautiful French photographer who always went to Melbourne to make money for his friends in Paris. The photographer was Antoine Fauchery, 19th Century Melbourne. La Vie Bohème is based on that story. He made his money in Melbourne to support all his friends in Paris. You must have seen it, La Vie Bohème?

SO, when I was 16 my Daddy said to me ‘well you can read all the books on this shelf but I would rather you don’t read that one’. I mean you don’t say that to a girl of 16! That book was Scènes de la vie de Bohème by Henri Murger. And of course in it was a beautiful photographer who came to Melbourne to make money and bring the money back to Paris to all his friends, the poets and writers and singers, to support them.

Encroyable. I fell in love with the photographs of Antoine Fauchery.

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Mirka’s home details.  Photography - Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.
What was it like in Melbourne when you first came here?

It was a desert. But what we didn’t know was that all the people in Melbourne were very naughty. All the marriages were open! We couldn’t believe it! In the 50’s they were all open marriage, and my husband and I, we couldn’t believe it! It was a den of iniquity! You have no idea what it was! Unless my husband and I we excited everybody…

He straight away took a mistress. He didn’t ask me permission, I was very sad, but all people were in open marriages in an innocent city like Melbourne, can you believe it?! Ask your parents. We thought Melbourne would be so proper and very decent. It was an inferno! We used to go to big parties and I usually get bored at big parties, so I have a very bad habit, I go under the table to see what everyone is doing. And they were all doing hanky panky. I could not believe what I was seeing!

When I was in a wicked mood I would get out of the table and I used to say ‘Ah she’s doing that to him! He’s doing that to her!’ and I used to cause a lot of shambles and troubles. I had to because I don’t like boring parties. And they invited me, they have to pay the price. But I’m talking about 1952, can you imagine!?

Every city has its secret and its history. And the romance of Melbourne is great you know. All the gold diggers who came in and made their fortune and died. I have a disease you know, I’m a big reader, that’s a disease, so I had read a lot about Melbourne, that’s why I came… because of Antoine Fauchery.

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Mirka Mora.  Photography - Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.
So you set up in Collins street?

Well I was terribly lucky, because we came in a little aeroplane called 305, it was a little aeroplane that all the wealthy people from Melbourne went in to London or Paris, but we didn’t know that, anyhow in that little plane was a lady who thought I was quite a remarkable mother, because I had William’s brother with me, who was called Phillipe, my first son, and she thought I was a wonderful mother in the aeroplane, when we stopped in other cities she thought I was marvellous, and we became friends. I think she was a kind of lawyer or something.

And when we arrived we lived in McKinnon.  But one day I said to her, I really have to have a studio, I can’t paint, I can’t stay in McKinnon.  It was terrible because I had a big cockatoo who woke up all the street every morning. Somebody had given me a cockatoo and all the people complained about my cockatoo in McKinnon! So we had to give him away and I was so sad!

Anyhow I said to my friend that lady who was a lawyer ‘I can’t stay in McKinnon, I have to find a studio’ and she helped us get the studio in the end.

And of course I didn’t know the history of the studio, but the atmosphere was bewitching! It was the studio of Tom Roberts, McCubbin, Conder, all the great painters had had that studio. And we lived there for 16 years.  It was beautiful. Number 9 Collins street.

This was very exceptional. All the great painters had been there. Can you imagine? because when I came in the studio you could have taken the atmosphere with a spoon and eat it! It was such a charming place, with a soul.

Everybody came of course, as it was not far from the Windsor Hotel and The Ballet, and people came, all the actors and dancers. Maurice Chevalier was at the Windsor Hotel and I used to meet him in the Windsor gardens, pushing the pram with my Baby. And we became friends. So Melbourne was a nest of treasure really, if you knew the history.

MirkaMora1 11

Mirka’s works on the wall of her home studio – the gaps in the wall are the works which have gone to Heide (labelled as such to remind Mirka they’re in safe hands!). Photography - Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.
And how did you first meet John and Sunday Reed?

We met through the studio.  A lot of people knew the history of the studio, but nobody would tell me. I wanted to find out, because the atmosphere was so bewitching, and I didn’t know it had been a studio for painters or anything, I just knew it was extraordinary place with a soul.

So eventally everyone who knew the place came, of course, and it was fun and games night and day! My Husband and I, we loved giving parties, because that’s when you talk and met people. And one day John and Sunday Reed came to the studio. Of course they knew the history of the studio, but I didn’t know them, they didn’t tell us.

They bought a lot of paintings, and my husband got involved with John Reed to start the Museum of Modern Art, because we came from Paris and Melbourne didn’t have a museum of modern art then. The gallery was there already, but not the latest art. And my husband Georges Mora helped John and Sunday Reed start Heide, The Museum of Modern Art. And of course they sold it to the government when they died, so it will be there in perpetuity.

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Home studio details.  Photography - Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.
So in those years, it must have been very different out there at Heide, compared to your life in the city?

Collins st was fun and games day and night! You have no idea what was going on in my house, it was a house of iniquity! We danced and danced in those days, we were young, we danced right through to the early morning!

After one of our parties, one morning John Perceval said ‘I want a duck for lunch!’ and of course I went straight away to get the duck, it was only 6.30 in the morning, but I knew a shop that cooked ducks. So I went… and I’m going to tell you something really naughty now, but it’s the truth!  So I went to get a duck for John Perceval, and on my way back in Collins street, I could hear two young men laughing like imbeciles, because the wind was blowing up, and in those days I wore big skirts, and of course I forgot to put underpants! So these two men were laughing like idiots! But I was a good hostess. John Perceval got his duck!

Another day I was at the National Gallery, there was a big ‘Do’ in 1978 because Sir Sidney Nolan had his big exhibition of paintings. There was a lot of people, and I was too tired, and I didn’t want to talk to anybody anymore, and I saw a little door at the end of the big room downstirs at the National Gallery.  So I went to the door, to see if it opened.  It did open, and I went in, and I shut it, and I had a bit of respite.

Suddenly the door opens again, and a most exquisite man comes in, you could die for it! And he says to me ‘I know who you are, I know your work’ and I say ‘I know who you are too’. It was Sidney Nolan! I could have passed out! I did pass out, I am still passed out! It was so exquisite! I mean he was very good looking and dressed impeccably, and wasn’t he very gallant to say ‘I know your work?!’ can you imagine Sidney Nolan saying that?! So I did wee wee in my pants! And when he left I gave him my hand to say goodbye and his hand was most exquisite, the hand that paintd all the great paintings you know. You can’t plan a scene like that. If I hadn’t seen that little door. It was such a great honour. It was so delicious. So magic things can happen at the National Gallery.

So it was fun and games. I painted with one baby in one arm, William, and I painted always, because I am a self taught person so I have got to learn a lot. I’ve always painted.

So you still paint everyday?

Oh you have to paint everyday. It’s not a disease but it’s a passion. Because what’s amazing is that I’m learning a lot of things. I can’t believe it. I thought I knew everything about painting. I don’t! I’m learning everyday.

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Mirka at work on her painting.  Photography - Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.
Can you tell me what you do in a normal day?

Well my bed is in my studio! But lately I’m a bit sad, because usually I was in my studio at 8.00 O’clock, always I would start and have a good run until 12 o clock. But now I’m starting at 10.00 O’Clock, I’m getting a bit old or something I don’t know what it is. But physically I can’t. So I am losing 2 hours every day of painting. But I catch them again later!

I’m very addicted to very special light from the sky that is divine at 3.00 O’Clock in the afternoon. It just bewitches me, it’s a special light, its like a liquor! You know you drink it, and then the bottle it empty! But another days comes and it starts again.

I am terribly lucky. I have always painted every day, even when I had my son William when he was a baby on my arm. And one day I did an interview on TV and I saw paint on my Baby’s leg, and I was sad! I said ‘Oh that’s not fair, that my baby has paint on his leg!’. You see that’s paint that you have to clean with turpentine, that’s not fair to put turpentine on a baby’s skin! I’ve been feeling guilty about that for years!

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Kitchen details.  Photography - Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.
Do you have any other Australian artists whose work that you love?

I have a beautiful things from Charles Blackman. And beautiful memento drawings from John Perceval which I adore and love so much. But they were all working so hard and they were all drinking too much.

I don’t drink while I’m working, I’m no fool! I drink after. I like a good wine. I like a good man and a good wine! And I like a good inteviewer and a good photographer! I am greedy in other words. Because time goes fast you know, I’m about 87 or something now. I still think I’m 18. Time goes fast.

What do you think is your proudest achievement?

Well my three sons and my lover. That’s four things. Got nothing to do with painting does it!!? (laughs)

Actually that’s got a lot of things to do with painting. Because to be a painter you have to be a complete human being, don’t you? Or a photographer, or a writer, you have to be fulfilled in all ways… otherwise your brain is empty like a pancake. I don’t want pancake in my brain!

It’s very difficult painting, I can’t even talk about it really. Because I want to be the boss on my canvas, but I’m not. So that’s what’s uncanny, that’s where the mystery of producing a painting is.

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Mirka Mora.  Photography - Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.
What are you looking forward to?

I would like to face my death very elegantly. But I don’t know how to do it, yet. Because I am 87 or something. So it starts to be close.

I tell you the secret, don’t grow up, that’s the secret. I should be a lady of 87 but to hell with it! I want to have bad manners and bad habits, I don’t want to grow up in other words. But I hope I am a good example to other people, because you don’t have to grow old. It’s a trap!


Do you have a favourite neighbourhood in Melbourne?

Well I still love walking in Collins street. Because of the nostalgia. That was the beginning of Melbourne too.

But I love Melbourne very much. I love Australia very much. I went to see Uluru, that big rock in the middle of Australia. And you’re never the same afterwards. It was such an inspiration. Have you been? Oh you must. Very important. It’s very mysterious, its like a big brain. It has a soul. The rock has a soul. It seems to feed you but you don’t know what it feeds you with. It’s unforgettable.

I was very honoured to go there. My brain is enriched. But it’s a bit scary, the rock. Because it sends vibrations. I could feel all sort of things coming out of the rock. All sort of waves, electricity, it was very extraordinary. So aboriginal people have great mysteries, they know secrets we don’t know. I want to know!

What was last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

I used to be a very good cook. Actually I was a chef in our first restaurant called Mirka Café in Exhibition street. But in France all the girls are good cooks, because your mother teaches you.

Now that I’m a bit older I’ve lost my ‘oomph’ for food. Phillipe Mouchel, I love him a lot, he’s a French chef in the city. His cooking is so refined. But you have to be French to appreciate it, it’s like reading a poem.

What is Melbourne’s best kept secret?

Well I must say The Florentino and Guy Grossi are really special, and Phillip Mouchel. Those two chefs. They’re great artists. Guy Grossi is a poet. But I prefer French cooking to Italian cooking, but I’m not fair. I’m not fair at all.


Mirka Mora’s studio details.  Photography - Sean Fennessy. Production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.
07 May 04:15

Five Things We Learned From ‘The Double’

by Doug Wallen

Fans of The IT Crowd may be hanging out for more screen-time from Richard Ayoade — who made the curly-mopped outcast Moss such a cuddly portrait of emotional infancy — but right now the English actor is back in directing mode with The Double, an absurdist fable that plays like a pitch-black spin on The IT Crowd’s suffocating workplace purgatory. Following the tender but frank coming-of-age film Submarine (his much-loved 2010 directorial debut), Ayoade helms the weird tale of Jesse Eisenberg’s luckless clerk Simon James facing off against a completely opposite double of himself — named James Simon, naturally.

Here’s what we learned from watching it.


1. It’s a mind-meld with Dostoyevsky and Harmony Korine’s brother

Ayoade co-wrote The Double with Avi Korine, brother to infamous filmmaker Harmony Korine (Spring Breakers, Gummo) and co-writer of Harmony’s 2007 quirkfest, Mister Lonely. Avi came up with the story, adapted from an 1846 novella by Russian literary giant Fyodor Dostoyevsky. While the original story’s descent into madness is intact in the movie, the adaptation ramps up the anxious comedy, wringing a surprising amount of laughs out of a mundane workplace stranded in a dystopian society. You needn’t have read any Dostoyevsky to appreciate it, and it’s really more in line with Monty Python and such Ayoade-involved British comedies as Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and The Mighty Boosh.


2. It’s harshly funny… and often just harsh

Jesse Eisenberg plays a clerk named Simon who has worked for the same government agency for seven years — yet his boss still calls him by the wrong name. So far, so typical, but the film takes an uncommon joy in punishing Simon at every turn. As constricting as his work life is, home is even worse thanks to his bitter, elderly mother. Feeling “lost and lonely and invisible”, Simon wallows in his own inadequacy while pining for co-worker Hannah (played with angelic blankness and an inscrutable accent by Mia Wasikowska), in whom he senses a kindred spirit. Portents of doom become reliable punchlines, and a lot of jokes hinge on Simon’s pitifulness. A co-worker calls him “a bit of a non-person”, and, in light of a rash of suicides, a cop sizes him up and declares, “Put him down as a maybe.”

It’s brutal, but also really, really funny. Simon is stuck in a universe where he’s thwarted at every turn and never allowed to forget his sorry state. “I know I’m a disappointment,” he admits at one point. Against a setting and era that’s intentionally kept alien (cue foreign-language music and a fantasy currency), he struggles with farcical, failing technology and… pretty much everything else.


3. Jesse Eisenberg gets to cut loose

The role of Simon plays up to Jesse Eisenberg’s natural stiffness, but he gets to really cut loose and play against type as the assertive, can’t-lose, alpha male James, Simon’s double. Exaggerating the divide between life’s winners and losers, James is an instant hero both at work and with the ladies. At first nobody notices the likeness between the two — despite them having the same clothes and haircut even — and there’s a lot of abrasive humour in their interplay. Eisenberg energises both roles, and for about ten minutes The Double feels like a bizarro buddy-comedy, with James giving Simon sex advice and brawling in a bar.


4. It belongs in the canon of uncomfortable, absurdist comedies

If you love David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch (1991), Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) or Martin Scorsese’s After Hours (1985), you’ll settle right into the circular dream logic and caustic laughs here. Cited influences on the dystopian setting, meanwhile, include David Lynch’s grotesque black comedy Eraserhead (1977) and Jean-Luc Godard’s future-noir Alphaville (1965). And anyone familiar with Billy Wilder’s classic The Apartment (1960) will recognise a nod to that film when James borrows the key to Simon’s apartment for a revolving door of late-night trysts.


5. J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr. makes a cameo — twice

Early in the film, Simon runs across Dinosaur Jr.’s famously laconic guitar god J Mascis, who tells him in a deadpan drawl, “You shouldn’t be doin’ that.” It’s basically an indie-rock in-joke — let’s not forget that Ayoade has directed videos and a doco for Arctic Monkeys — but it totally works. There are many familiar faces from Submarine as well, including Noah Taylor, Sally Hawkins and Submarine’s young stars Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige. Cathy Moriarty of Raging Bull fame steals several scenes as a disgruntled diner waitress, while Paddy Considine plays the fleeting hero in a recurring parody of Dr Who.

But the best cameo comes from Ayoade’s IT Crowd co-star Chris O’Dowd, who’s gone on to make his mark in Bridesmaids, Girls and more. It’s short but hilarious, crackling with exactly the left-field comic energy you’d expect from them both.


The Double opens in theatres this Thursday.


Doug Wallen is Editor of Mess + Noise and Music Editor of The Big Issue. He also writes for Rolling Stone, TheVine, FasterLouder and The Thousands.

03 May 17:35

Gabourey Sidibe Says Smart Things About Being Confident

by Becky Chambers

Last night, actress Gabourey Sidibe gave a speech at the Gloria Awards and Gala, held by the Ms. Foundation for Women. And what a speech it was. It’s a moving piece about strength, beauty, and feminism, and the whole thing is worth a read. If you’d just like the highlights, read on.

In her speech, Sidibe spoke candidly about the troubles she faced in school and at home, the role models who got her through it, and the value of dancing even if you’re not invited to the party. She began with the question she’s frequently asked in interviews: “How are you so confident?” The question, she says, is always asked with incredulity, the implication being that she shouldn’t be.

It’s not easy. It’s hard to get dressed up for award shows and red carpets when I know I will be made fun of because of my weight. There’s always a big chance if I wear purple, I will be compared to Barney. If I wear white, a frozen turkey. And if I wear red, that pitcher of Kool-Aid that says, “Oh, yeah!” Twitter will blow up with nasty comments about how the recent earthquake was caused by me running to a hot dog cart or something. And “Diet or Die?” [She gives the finger to that] This is what I deal with every time I put on a dress. This is what I deal with every time someone takes a picture of me.

Her response? Believe in yourself anyway, even if no one else does.

If [other people] hadn’t made me cry, I wouldn’t be able to cry on cue now. If I hadn’t been told I was garbage, I wouldn’t have learned how to show people I’m talented. And if everyone had always laughed at my jokes, I wouldn’t have figured out how to be so funny. If they hadn’t told me I was ugly, I never would have searched for my beauty. And if they hadn’t tried to break me down, I wouldn’t know that I’m unbreakable.

Amen to that.

(via The Frisky)

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02 May 15:20

Matt Berry Is 40

by Alex Balk
by Alex Balk

There are some performers whose mere presence inspires laughter, and for me that is a list on which Matt Berry appears fairly close to the top. What with him having a birthday today and all I need no better excuse than to share this terrific bit of Berrydom from the second season of "The IT Crowd." The man is just comedy in human form.


The post Matt Berry Is 40 appeared first on The Awl.

29 Apr 16:45

"In the Dead Girl Show, the girl body is both a wellspring of and a target for sexual wickedness"

by Jia Tolentino
by Jia Tolentino

Alice Bolin has a terrific essay up at the LA Review of Books right now:

The Dead Girl Show’s most notable themes are its two odd, contradictory messages for women. The first is to cast girls as wild, vulnerable creatures who need to be protected from the power of their own sexualities. True Detective demonstrates a self-conscious, conflicted fixation on strippers and sex workers. [...] “How does she even know about that stuff?” Hart asks in 1995 when he and his wife discover sexual drawings his elementary-school-age daughter did. “Girls always know first,” his wife replies. This terrible feminine knowledge has been a trope at least since Eve in the Garden. Marcus compares Twin Peaks’s victim Laura Palmer to the teenage “witches” in Puritan New England who were burned to purge and purify their communities. In the Dead Girl Show, the girl body is both a wellspring of and a target for sexual wickedness.

The other message the Dead Girl Show has for women is more simple: trust no dad. Father figures and male authorities hold a sinister interest in controlling girl bodies and, therefore, in harming them. In True Detective, the conspiracy goes all the way to the top, involving a US senator and his cousin, a powerful minister. [...] Externalizing the impulse to prey on young woman cleverly depicts it as both inevitable and beyond the control of men.

"All Dead Girl Shows betray an Oedipal distrust in male authority figures, but in Twin Peaks and True Detective, the central characters are male authority figures," writes Bolin. Every other line in here has something fascinating to hang onto, so let me just recommend to all Dead Girl Show lovers/haters (Pretty Little Liars is the one that actually wins this, I gather?) that you go on and read the rest at LARB.

22 Apr 18:05

Two Medieval Monks Invent Maps

by Mallory Ortberg

Previously: Two monks invent Renaissance art.

MONK #1: what does Hell look like?
MONK #2: big upside-down beehive



MONK #1: What is the population of the world
like how many people do you think live in it
MONK #2: three at the absolute most
but they’re all enormous



MONK #2: what are you drawing right now
MONK #1: yeah
MONK #2: you should put in a warning about lions
because there might be lions there
in Asia
and people need to know
MONK #1: are there lions in Asia?
MONK #2: yeah
I mean if I were a lion
that’s the first place I’d go
MONK #1: okay I’ll put something in there
MONK #2: draw him bigger
MONK #1: what?
MONK #2: Draw the lion bigger
just in case the lions there are also giants
MONK #1: how do you know the lions there are giants?
MONK #2: I mean
how do you know the lions there aren’t giants
MONK #1: good point



MONK #1: wait remind me of what Asia looks like when you put it all together at once
MONK #2: a big horse with wings that’s about to eat Europe
MONK #1: right right thanks
MONK #2: no problem



MONK #1: what does Europe look like compared to all the other continents
MONK #2: exactly the same
but pointing in different directions and shaded in different colors
MONK #1: so like Africa, but going north?
MONK #2: exactly
MONK #1: oh wow, it looks like a bunch of flower petals!
MONK #2: pretty cool right



MONK #1: what’s the nearest country to Scotland
MONK #2: a giant lobster


MONK #1: how do I draw England
MONK #2: however you want
doesn’t matter
MONK #1: really?
MONK #2: yeah
make it look like a messed-up dick or whatever, it doesn’t matter


MONK #1: wait but so how much of Scotland is there
MONK #2: I told you
it doesn’t matter
MONK #1: no no I know
but just like, I’m curious
MONK #2: barely any
there’s barely any Scotland at all



MONK #1: what surrounds the earth
MONK #2: mm
some guys trying to blow on us
horrible red chaos


‘MONK #2: oh and one giant man trying to shoot an arrow at us



MONK #2: hey idk if I forgot to tell you this but all of Asia is mostly just one enormous castle



MONK #1: what does the whole world look like when you put it all together
MONK #2: weirdly enough
mostly text
like a big O with a T on it
MONK #1: really
MONK #2: yeah, very few pictures or mountain ranges or whatever, mostly just words in Latin



MONK #1: Where does Africa end
MONK #2: oh it doesn’t
just sort of blobs out into Antartica and keeps going around the whole world
MONK #1: oh okay


Read more Two Medieval Monks Invent Maps at The Toast.

15 Apr 19:00

Your New Hero: Mongolia’s 13-Year-Old “Eagle Huntress”

by Mallory Ortberg

eagle girlThrow away whatever pet you currently have and take a look at this. The land of Mongolia produces thirteen-year-old girls who eschew Instagram bullying and writing smut about One Direction in favor of hunting with golden eagles. From the BBC:

The Kazakhs of the Altai mountain range in western Mongolia are the only people that hunt with golden eagles, and today there are around 400 practising falconers. Ashol-Pan, the daughter of a particularly celebrated hunter, may well be the country’s only apprentice huntress.

(It is well, well worth clicking through, if only to get a look at Asher Svidensky’s photo gallery of Ashol-Pan. There is a picture of her nuzzling a golden eagle as it wraps its wings around her.)

The eagles are not bred in captivity, but taken from nests at a young age. Female eaglets are chosen since they grow to a larger size – a large adult might be as heavy as seven kilos, with a wingspan of over 230cm. After years of service, on a spring morning, a hunter releases his mature eagle a final time, leaving a butchered sheep on the mountain as a farewell present. “That’s how the Kazakh eagle hunters make sure that the eagles go back to nature and have their own strong newborns, for the sake of future generations,” Svidensky says.

I make jokes about movies on the Internet. I am nothing; I am less than nothing. I have never left an offering of thanks on a mountain for a golden eagle that served at my side. 

It is all I can do to keep from flinging my cat out the door in disgust, for he has never leapt from my arm off a wind-blown steppe in order to catch a fox for me. He is an idler, a trifler, and a blood-sucking non-producer, and I am no better. Ashol-Pan, I do not deserve to inhabit the same planet as you. I will endeavor to make myself worthy of you for the rest of my life, you eagle-wielding teen who strides the narrow world.

[Image via BBC]

Read more Your New Hero: Mongolia’s 13-Year-Old “Eagle Huntress” at The Toast.

08 Apr 15:00

“Filles du Roi”: Come Visit Scenic New France in the 17th Century

by Lindsey Palka

Lindsey Palka last wrote for The Toast about What Katy Did.

Today we forget how hard it was to leave home in the past. We can video chat our loved ones on the other side of the world, text them our every thought within a second, fly (in an emergency) to visit them in a day. Would you leave home if it meant you would probably never return? That you would almost certainly never see your loved ones again and only exchange letters once or twice a year? Hundreds of young French women made that trip and exchanged their existing lives for an adventure that would last their whole lives.

Known in French as the “Filles du Roi” or in English as the “King’s Daughters,” just under eight hundred young women, most of whom were between 15 and 25, were sponsored by the king to marry in New France between 1665 and 1675 to help settle the area. Not to be confused with the king’s actual daughters (three daughters by his queen and six or more illegitimate girls), they were given the name to demonstrate that they were his wards and it was their job to create this new society. Many were orphans, some were from upper-class but destitute families, but all shared a ready sense of adventure and a lack of other options.

Now imagine very seriously for a moment that you are about to embark on the biggest adventure of your life. That you are lying in bed—probably unable to sleep—and that tomorrow you will board a wooden ship and sail what could be six weeks or could be three months. You will sleep in a narrow, hard bunk that you may share with another young woman you do not know. You will have no fresh food or fresh water. The ship may capsize. Fever might break out. Someone, or quite possibly several people, will probably die. Once you make it to Canada, there are no cities to greet you. And when you get there you will marry someone you have never met and start a new life.


And once you get there, the life will not be anything like the life you have known. Every task we take for granted today is a major physical job—cooking three meals a day from scratch, using vegetables you’ve grown and preserved yourself, and meat you’ve raised and slaughtered yourself, using an open fire in a hearth. Spinning your own thread and weaving your own cloth, if you raise sheep, but certainly making all of your own clothes, and those of your husband and children. Washing the clothes and linens in an iron kettle over an open fire, using soap you’ve made yourself, and mending them after they inevitably begin to wear out. Keeping your house clean from the ever-present soot and dirt and ash, washing your dishes in a basin and scouring them with sand, sweeping with a broom made of tree boughs.

If you live on a farm you will take part in the farm labour as well—not only looking after chickens and milking cows, but actively helping with the planting, the harvest, and millions of other tasks a farm demands. All of this will take place in the sweltering heat of summer without air-conditioning and the numbing cold of winter in an uninsulated house with no central heat. And if all goes according to plan, you will do all of this while pregnant, breastfeeding, and looking after small children, until you enter menopause, at which point you will do all of the above work but at least you will not be pregnant.

And you will have very few neighbours, for New France in the 1660s was still quite a lonely place. Although Jacques Cartier had claimed the Gaspe peninsula for France in 1534 (ninety years before the Pilgrims would appear, shivering, on the Massachusetts shore), the colony lacked direction. Fishermen who didn’t mind deprivation spent summers there before returning to Europe, and when the wealth of fur was discovered, trappers began to flock to the woods.  For the next several decades, New France attracted young single men in search of money, adventure, and danger, though not necessarily in that order. By the time Quebec City was established in 1608, there were barely two dozen permanent white residents of New France. Few families were willing to stay permanently in a distant wilderness replete with dangerous wild animals, very few other white people, and terribly harsh winters. Thirty years later the population was still only 355–partially due to the poor conditions, and partially to poor mismanagement by the fur trading companies. Relations with the local Iroquois and Algonquin groups were constantly tense and did not make it any easier to attract families to the area.

New France had a wealth of resources, but by the 1650s it was verging on becoming a failed colony. There were a few hundred colonists, but they were mostly young, single men and a smattering of families. Married couples and families in France were unwilling to uproot themselves to a dangerous land, and there were vanishingly few young women with the means and desire to pay their own way to Quebec. In order to build a stable population, you must have families; and in order to have families, you must have childbearing women.

There were women in New France already, of course. Native women very occasionally married a white explorer, but it was not a common or popular choice among both groups. Mixed-race children were not unknown in the area, but for the vast majority of white explorers, a white wife was non-negotiable. White women had been in Quebec since 1639, with the creation of the Ursuline Convent. The nuns were expected to provide a moral and stabilizing force to the Catholic colony and to teach young Native girls English, therefore allowing them to become intermediaries between the two populations. However, since neither nuns nor Native women were viable marriage options for the vast majority of French men, the major issue remained.

Portrait_de_Jean_Talon_(éclaircie)Jean Talon was named Intendant of New France—a sort of head honcho representative for the French government—in 1665, and his solution was simple: Import women with no other options. It is families that settle colonies, not single adventurers, and Talon knew that to go much longer with such an unstable population may doom the whole enterprise. Imagine New France as a rowdy frat full of wild young men, and Jean Talon as their slightly anxious parent who keeps telling them “Don’t you think it’s time you found a nice girl and settled down?” And expediting that process by arranging for almost eight hundred “nice girls” to show up at the doorstep.

The king thought the idea nothing short of genius, and arranged to pay for the passage of the women, along with a dowry consisting of money, some clothing, and a few household items like one hundred needles and a thousand pins. (Sewing needles and pins were invaluable items–used daily, easy to lose in a room lit by firelight or candlelight, and nearly impossible to make a homemade replacement for.) The women were selected to be hard-working, devoutly Catholic, good-natured, and above all, willing to go.

The most amazing thing was that it worked. Although the filles du roi were overwhelmingly poor, and many orphans, none were forced to make the trip. Many were from farming backgrounds, and girls raised in French orphanages at the time would have been expected to have learned all necessary household skills and to do them well. Three-quarters of the women married within a month of their arrival, and most of the remaining quarter did not wait much longer. Several couples realized after their first dizzy meetings that their partnership may not have been the best idea, and broken-off engagements were not unusual nor looked down on. A very few women returned to France with their new husbands, but the vast majority married and began large families, just as the king had intended. The population began to swell as most filles du roi had at least six children, and seven to nine was more common.  Ten was not unheard of. Mother Marie de l’Incarnation, the head of the Ursuline convent that had been a temporary home to most filles du roi before their marriages, declared: “It is surprising how very many exceptionally good-looking children are born every year.” In later years, children born to these families were described by a later Intendant as “tall, well-made, and strikingly handsome.”

Many attribute Quebec’s unique set of circumstances, including its exceptionally high fertility rate well into the twentieth century, directly to the role of the filles du roi. By deliberately choosing women who would be hard-working and strictly Catholic, and encouraging them with state support to bear large families, the French crown created a culture that valued these qualities in its families. Quebec’s history has been irreversibly shaped by these women–young women who chose a life they knew would not be easy and that would take them away from everything they knew. How many of us could make a trip where the stakes were so high and stay there forever? How many of us would want to?

Read more “Filles du Roi”: Come Visit Scenic New France in the 17th Century at The Toast.

04 Apr 21:54

Wes Anderson’s music supervisor made playlists for each character in ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’

by Alex Moore
Wes Anderson’s music supervisor made playlists for each character in ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’

Randall Poster, the go-to music supervisor for Wes Anderson, Martin Scorcese and many others, has earned a reputation for bringing his music to life with inspired music choices. Working with Anderson he’s helped turned fans onto a trove of music that otherwise would have gone forgotten, from Emitt Rhodes to Peter Sarstedt.

As if the music from Wes’s excellent new movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel” wasn’t already fantastic enough, Poster has now made Spotify playlists for each of the movie’s characters for your browsing pleasure. There’s plenty of classical in there (M. Gustav is a classy motherfucker) but there’s also lots of obscure music that will likely constitute new discoveries. A little disappointing is that there’s no playlist for Zero, but leisure time for music listening probably isn’t in his lifestyle anyway.

Listen here.

Also, Poster did a Reddit AMA Friday afternoon. When asked what new music we should be listening to, he name-checked Lo-Fang. If you’re not familiar, check out a couple songs below.

31 Mar 23:08

OkCupid blocks Firefox due to its homophobic CEO

by Joe Veix
OkCupid blocks Firefox due to its homophobic CEO

On Monday popular dating slash casual hookup site OkCupid started blocking the Mozilla Firefox browser. The reason? Mozilla just appointed Brendan Eich as its CEO, who in 2008 donated $1,000 to support the passing of California’s Prop 8, a statewide ban on gay marriage. Not only does he dislike gay marriage, but he’s invested money in his homophobia.

So now, when Firefox users visit OkCupid, they’re greeted with a statement explaining their motives behind the block. Once users scroll to the bottom, they may continue on to the site, but only after being offered alternative browsers.

Their statement reads in full:

Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user. Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience.

Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.

Politics is normally not the business of a website, and we all know there’s a lot more wrong with the world than misguided CEOs. So you might wonder why we’re asserting ourselves today. This is why: we’ve devoted the last ten years to bringing people—all people—together. If individuals like Mr. Eich had their way, then roughly 8% of the relationships we’ve worked so hard to bring about would be illegal. Equality for gay relationships is personally important to many of us here at OkCupid. But it’s professionally important to the entire company. OkCupid is for creating love. Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.

If you want to keep using Firefox, the link at the bottom will take you through to the site.

However, we urge you to consider different software for accessing OkCupid:

Google ChromeInternet ExploderOpera Safari

Thank you,

Mozilla responded with a statement, in part:

Mozilla’s mission is to make the Web more open so that humanity is stronger, more inclusive and more just. This is why Mozilla supports equality for all, including marriage equality for LGBT couples. No matter who you are or who you love, everyone deserves the same rights and to be treated equally.

Which is all well and good, except in the entire statement, they don’t bother to address their CEO’s homophobia, which is somewhat shady, and just dodges the issue entirely.

h/t Valleywag

07 Mar 15:00

Femslash Friday: Carmen Sandiego and Miss Scarlet

by Mallory Ortberg

Previously on Femslash Friday, we’ve cut abusive tools loose and given fictional women the keys to direct their own lives. Today I want to talk about a board game character and a pretend lady from a game show for kids that prominently featured a capella music who stole stuff like “the history of medicine” and the leaning tower of Pisa, because it’s important to me that Miss Scarlet from Clue and Carmen Sandiego from Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego (oh, here’s a link to the damn song, go listen to it; I know you won’t be able to pay attention until you do) steal some diamonds and run off together into the sunset. A sexy board game piece and the evil female Indiana Jones? Yeah, I’m on board. It’s like two Catwomans (Catwomen?) getting married: awesome.

miss scarletThis is definitely the purest “Because I run this website” entry in the Femslash series. They’re not literary or even cinematic characters. Carmen Sandiego barely talks; Miss Scarlet is from a children’s board game. I can’t even claim the 1985 movie as part of this because I played the game all the time when I was a kid before I saw it so I never picture White Miss Scarlet when I think of her, just Regular Asian Miss Scarlet. I just feel like putting the two of them together, even though they don’t exist in the same game continuity, and I still own 1/3rd of this website so there’s nothing you can do about it; sorry.

There was a Clue-themed series of children’s mystery books, and they were terrible, and I loved them. The premise was always the same: for some reason Mr. Boddy was this very cheerful, fabulously wealthy naïf who was only best friends with murderous jewel thieves. He was like the Bertie Wooster of getting murdered. And I can’t find any quotes from the series online, but the setup would always be something like…oh, they’re all over watching a movie in Mr. Boddy’s screening room and everyone gets popcorn, but Miss Scarlet has popcorn with no butter and no salt and Mrs. Peacock has popcorn with salt and no butter and Mr. Green has popcorn with salt and butter (and so on), which becomes important later in identifying the killer, somehow, in a way I can’t quite remember. And then Mr. Boddy would show them all his latest treasure, and they’d all make punning asides to themselves about killing him and stealing it. So, say he had a new ruby-encrusted peacock statue, he’d show it to them and they’d all go into their killer inner monologues:

Birds of a feather flock together, thought Miss Scarlet, and I’ll have the finest feathers of them all once I’ve got that bird.

Mr. Boddy’s as dead as a dodo, thought Mr. Green.

Getting that peacock from Mr. Boddy will be as easy as duck soup, thought Mrs. White, and afterwards I’ll be free as a bird. 

I’ll be mad as a wet hen if I don’t get my hands on that statue, thought Colonel Mustard.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, thought Professor Plum, and Mr. Boddy’s a real bird-brain if he thinks he’s going to keep it away from me. 

I shouldn’t count my chickens before they’re hatched, thought Mrs. Peacock. Better keep an eagle eye on that statue the rest of the night.

That sort of thing. I just ate that shit up, I don’t know why. Oh, but by the end of every book you’d find out that Mr. Boddy wasn’t really dead, and you’d find out who tried to steal the artifact, and they’d begrudgingly give it back, and then for some horrible reason he’d invite them back to his mansion the next week. If Bruce Wayne wasn’t also Batman and suffered from weekly amnesia, he’d be Mr. Boddy, and Miss Scarlet would be his Catwoman.

Anyhow, Miss Scarlet was clearly the best of all of them because she was the only young hottie in a group of withered old chefs and ex-army dudes and non-tenured professors. She should have had a flock of Young Hottie friends. Look, if you’re a certain type of girl who grows up preferring a particular set of activities your only role models/avatars are Princess Peach and Miss Scarlet. You don’t want to be Princess Peach, necessarily, but you owe it to yourself and to women in general to select her instead of the toadstool guy when you’re playing Mario Kart, you know? Anyhow, Miss Scarlet meant a lot to me as a kid.

carmen sandiegoYou know what else meant a lot to me as a kid? Youth-oriented game shows that required an appreciation for a capella vocal work and a hell of a lot of geography knowledge. You see where I’m going with this, obviously. Carmen Sandiego is, luckily, of the same exact moral alignment as Miss Scarlet — she loves to steal and she loves to blow shit up, but nobody ever gets hurt and she never gets in any real trouble. She’s as stern as Batman but not even 1/25th as serious, which is an important distinction. She just wears giant hats and gets to live wherever she wants and never has to, like, walk home and then pay a bill and then fall asleep watching The Simpsons on her laptop. Her life’s aces. And what’s more aces than two brilliant, talented jewel thieves of color falling in love and taking on the world together? Nothing, that’s what.

Do you need more convincing? Let me present you with a meet-cute for the damn ages:

scarletcarmenfinal1“You’re never going to get the diamond out that way.”

“Excuse me? I’ve been stealing diamonds since — oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize who it was. Were you…?”

“I was, but you seem to have beat me to it.” Pause for rich and disarming laughter. A puzzling drink over an inquisitive table. Questions in both of their eyes. Then the two of them make a getaway — together. They’re both used to taking off alone.

scarletcarmenfinal02It takes a little getting used to, going somewhere with someone when you’re used to going it alone, but once you make a few adjustments, you find that two can travel just as easily as one.

Roxanne Palmer (alias Roxy Drew) is a cartoonist and science journalist. You can see her stuff at and

Read more Femslash Friday: Carmen Sandiego and Miss Scarlet at The Toast.

21 Mar 22:15

Zadie Smith Interviewed Beyoncé's Favorite Feminist

by Hillary Crosley

Zadie Smith Interviewed Beyoncé's Favorite Feminist

Something awesome happened in New York last night: literature goddesses Zadie Smith and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie united in feminist power and rose into the heavens … but before they did, the pair sat down for a long chat at Harlem's Schomburg Center.


07 Mar 16:40

A Townes Van Zandt Playlist

by Alex Balk
by Alex Balk

Today would have been Townes Van Zandt's 70th birthday, so here are some songs. You will of course have your own favorites, unless you are unfamiliar with the work of Townes van Zandt, in which case, oh boy, a whole new world of discovery is about to open itself to you.


The post A Townes Van Zandt Playlist appeared first on The Awl.

13 Feb 17:00

Woman Amazed And Horrified She Has To Just Keep Getting Up And Doing The Same Shit Again Tomorrow

by Mallory Ortberg

daliA local woman crawled into bed last night, defeated and exhausted by nothing more than the thousand small indignities faced by any human being on the planet on any given day, when she was suddenly struck by the horrifying realization that she was going to have to get out of bed and do all of this shit again tomorrow. All of it.

The local woman closed her eyes, momentarily overwhelmed by the prospect of facing a task as simple as putting on a pair of shoes or feeding herself breakfast or listening to another human being just exist even one more goddamn time, much less the thought of doing it in and out, day after day, until she died.

“God,” she thought to herself, “and then I have to do the dishes, too,” and the prospect of a lifetime of dishes — even taken one day or even one meal at a time — was like the threat of murder to her heart. How could something as relatively simple as scrubbing soap over a handful of plates and cups and forks feel so spiritually defeating?

“They’ll just keep coming, the dishes,” she realized. “There will always be a dish to wash, every day of my life. And even if I don’t wash them that day, they’ll still be there. The house will get dirty, and then I’ll have to clean it. It will rain, and I’ll have to close the windows, and then it will get hot out, and I’ll have to open the windows, and I’m worried I’m sitting too much and that I’m alienated from nature in a profound and meaningful way but there’s nothing I can actually do about that because what am I going to do, move to…to ancient Carthaginia and become a farmer?”

“This isn’t an actual problem,” this woman tried to tell herself. “The fact that I have to…do things to exist, that isn’t an actual problem.”

“Which, oh God,” she realized, “means there’s no actual solution.”

As of press time, the woman was seized with the unshakeable realization that no matter when she fell asleep tonight, she’d still have to coax her stupid brain into shutting off and relaxing long enough to fall asleep again tomorrow.

[Image via The Dali]

Read more Woman Amazed And Horrified She Has To Just Keep Getting Up And Doing The Same Shit Again Tomorrow at The Toast.

11 Feb 19:30

Three Women Writers on Supporting Each Other

by Meaghan O'Connell
by Meaghan O'Connell

Cheryl Strayed, Suzy Vitello, and Lidia Yuknavitch are all successful writers who are over 40 and live in Portland. Their writing careers are wildly different — Strayed wrote the bestselling Wild, Vitello is a newly-published YA author, and Yuknavitch writes weirder, indie stuff like the beloved Chronology of Water — but they are all longtime friends who met in a writing group (with Chuck Palahniuk!) almost a decade ago. Rebecca Rubenstein interviewed all three of them for Buzzfeed about how they support each other both as friends and professionally. It is lovely to read about:

SV: Cheryl has been my champion over and over. Connecting me with folks. Singing my praises, reading my work even! In New York! Telling the world that I was the best writer without a book in Portland. But now, I do have a book. So ha!

CS: One of my favorite memories of Lidia and Suzy is in May 2009, when I sold Wild to Knopf based on the first 130 pages of the book. I was flying to NYC to meet my editor for the first time, but I was absolutely flat broke and I couldn’t go shopping for something nice to wear. So Suzy and Lidia came over to my house with heaps of their nicest clothes, and I tried them on and modeled them and together we decided what I should wear. I borrowed a shirt from Lidia, and Suzy gave me a skirt and jacket of hers. It was so sweet. I went to NYC and had my fancy meetings with my editor and I could feel their love there with me, because I was wearing their clothes.

LY: SHARING CLOTHES! That was so cool. I’m probably not supposed to say out loud that these women are among a handful of women who have helped me put food on the table or gas in my car when I was fucking broke and ashamed and desperate. But they did.

I love this, from Lidia Yuknavitch, whose books I need to finally finally read:

I’m pretty sure the three of us represent three different trajectories in terms of publishing experiences… it’s been eye-opening, to say the least, to share our different stories (am I right, you guys?). It helps me remember to shout as often as possible, “THERE IS NO ONE PATH.”

What Cheryl and Suzy and the writers and artists and musicians who have helped me along — including readers — do for me as a writer is insist that, yes, you too have a place at the table. You too are worth a crap. Your stories can sit next to all stories. When I’m most afraid though, it also helps to sit near other women struggling to survive as writers. Suzy and Cheryl are women writers writing for their lives. They know what’s at stake.

10 Feb 15:30

My Last Hundred Bucks: There Is a Baby In My Apartment Edition

by Audrey Ference
by Audrey Ference

Where’d your last hundo go, Audrey Ference?

I just had a kid, and having just had a kid has weirdly not changed my buying things habits that much, because oh my god people are so generous! I have been given as gifts or hand-me-downs (or purchased used for very very cheap) pretty much everything I’ve needed for this baby. I don’t know if it’s the small NYC apartments or needing to repay the karmic debt of all the free stuff they were given, but all my friends and even friend-of-friend acquaintances have given me giant bags of clothes and toys and bottles and expensive playmats and bouncers and diapers and who even knows what. So, shoutout to New York breeder hand-me-down socialism, I guess. Anyway:

$50: Groceries for the current/oncoming snowstorm(s?), nibbles for our book club

$10: Baby fart medicine. My baby has trouble farting. I hope that someday she finds this and reads it. Honey, you are terrible at getting farts out of your butt and I do not think that it’s genetic based on me and your dad.

$20: Wine. Wine that I can drink now because I am no longer pregnant thank god. I got these strips that you can ooze milk onto to tell you if there’s alcohol in your breast milk and you can definitely have a glass or two before the milk gets boozy so no need to call child protective services, it’s fine.

$20+++: Seamless. So much seamless now. I am so lazy about cooking, which I guess I will blame on the baby, but in my heart I know is just general laziness. The thing that used to compel me to not order in was hating to have to talk on the phone and not having enough cash so you know fuck it I’m a grownup and if I want to pay way too much for someone to bring me a soggy burrito that is my prerogative. And I tip well because it’s cold as shit out there.


Audrey Ference lives in New York.