NQN hanging out in Merrylands
One thing Buzzfeed is known for is their collection of videos highlighting specific affinity groups and their experiences. Many of their videos are so powerful that they remain relevant long after they are published, and go through multiple sharing waves on social media. Their video on what it’s like to be intersex is one of those, and worth a revisit if you haven’t already seen it.
Buzzfeed videos can range from hilariously sarcastic to deeply touching, and sometimes do both. Often though, they provide an opportunity for members of marginalized groups to explain, discuss, challenge, or reflect on their own experiences. The videos offer a perspective in a way that privileges the agency and authority that marginalized people have always deserved–but rarely gotten–with regards to telling their own stories.
This video from a group of intersex people presents a generously thoughtful, educational and honest take on a community too-often forgotten in our discourse about gender, sexuality, health care, and more.
When I was a child a neighbour worked here and his work shirt said BIG MEAT on the back
I am v good at colouring in
I love how grumpy Maru is all the time
I wanna go here
glass dildos sound dangerous!
Welcome back to another installment of Fucking with Feministing! This is Feministing’s sex advice column where we answer questions from you.
I’m Sesali and I’ll be your resident sexpert with the help of our friends at the Center for Sex & Culture (CSC) who have partnered with us to make sure that we have ‘smart’ and ‘safe’ with our sexy. We’re looking forward to helping you stay informed (and hopefully have some great sex, because my feminism wouldn’t be complete without it). Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pick a question to talk about here. Questions will remain anonymous. We’re so glad that you’re Fucking with Feministing!
Q: I’m about to buy my first strap-on and I have some questions. What should I know about buying one? Experimenting with it? Harnesses? Etc?
NOTE: Because the wonderful world of dildos is so vast, we have decided to answer this question in a series of posts. And because dildos are indeed wonderful, we’ve decided to name this series the ‘Dildo Extravaganza.’ So strap in (or in this case, strap on) and take notes! To get all caught up, check out Part 1, Dildos 101 and Part 2, A Guide to Materials and Care.
One of the best parts about writing this sex column are the conversations that happen via email between myself, Feministing Executive Director Jos, and our friends Marlene and Carol at the Center for Sex and Culture. These conversations are funny, honest, and informative. When we started the Dildo Extravaganza, it was no different. So imagine this: The team and I are brainstorming how to approach this vast topic. We were assessing each other’s expertise and I virtually raise my hand to gush about glass dildos. I bought one last year and my masturbation game has glo’d up as a result. But Marlene was all: “you’re going to get my spiel about the risks of glass.” And then she dropped such a huge bomb that we all collectively decided that glass as a dildo material should be its own column.
There are a bunch of reasons to love the concept of glass dildos. They are shiny and firm. They are easy to clean and non-porous, so they can be shared with partners between cleanings. But there are some technicalities that Marlene explained better than I ever could:
“Glass would be an awesome material in a perfect world. The problem is that we don’t live in a perfect world. If all glass dildos were made of borosilicate glass and properly heat treated after initial forming, we would have nearly nothing to worry about. The problem is that when we buy glass we really have no idea what we are getting. Many of us have had the experience of buying inexpensive wine glasses that all seem to break very easily after about a year of ownership; this is a heat treating problem. I could go into further detail, but I’ll just say this: the materials and procedures necessary to make glass dildos safe cost more. And we live in a world where many people are happy to risk your safety for their profit. This has become even more true as glass dildos have become more popular, bringing newcomers into the business just because there is money to be made. The possible bad outcome of an improperly made glass sex toy could be the end of someone’s sex life. It could even be the end of someone’s life. If your glass dildo isn’t made by your friend who is a very accomplished industrial glass blower, you don’t know what you’re getting. I will not put a glass sex toy in my body or the bodies of my friends and lovers. I do actually have friends who are accomplished industrial glass blowers who could perform a stress inspection, but most people don’t.”
I took the liberty of doing some
Googling research on exactly what borosilicate glass is, and how it differs from other kinds of glass. Add boric acid to the formula of the regular glass that your window panes and cheap wine glasses are made of – which are usually silicate – and you have borosilicate glass, which is more durable and temperature tolerant. Consider this, if you had to insert glass into your body, would you prefer it to be made of the same stuff that makes your cheap wine glasses, or the stuff that makes the glass pan your parents have had for 20 years that can go from fridge to oven without cracking? Most glass dildo vendors will specify that their product was made from borosilicate glass, but that still doesn’t clarify what heat treatment was used on the product.
Marlene was enthusiastic enough about this topic to actually pay a visit to those industrial glass blower friends of hers. She took a few glass dildos from a reputable retailer (who was sure that their supplier was doing things properly) to Tom Adams at Adams & Chittenden Scientific Glass. He was kind enough to put the dildos under his polariscope. This is a device that makes any internal stresses in glass show up visibly as rainbow colors. Adams & Chittenden do not make dildos and do not offer polariscope inspection as a service. [Please do not ask them for these services. They are a small industrial shop and don’t have time to respond to such requests.] A properly heat treated piece of glass will show no colors. And as you can see in this image, the sample that was expected to be stress free was far from it. You just never know what you’re getting. So Marlene was dead on, there is certainly a risk.
But on the bright side, the thickness of the pieces of glass used for dildos are pretty strong, even when not properly heat treated. The force involved when using a glass dildo can be pretty rough depending on your (or your partner’s) preference, but it is unlikely to be strong enough to break even a compromised glass dildo. It is very important to know, however, that the tiniest of chips or scratches on the surface of a glass dildo will make it much much weaker. CSC director and Good Vibrations Staff Sexologist Carol Queen also has some safety advice regarding glass dildos:
“If you’ve even dropped your pretty precious glass toy on a hard floor or knocked it against a hard surface, retire it, even if you can’t see any visible damage. You’re still going to have the sexiest paperweight among your circle of friends.”
Can’t argue with her there. If you’re willing to risk it on a glass dildo, here is what you should know.
Lube compatibility: Any lube will work with glass dildos.
Cleaning: Mild soap and water will get the job done.
Storage: You should store your glass dildo in a soft and/or padded case or bag to avoid chips or scratches. Be gentle and mindful during usage and cleaning to avoid this as well. This isn’t the sex toy you finish using and toss into the nightstand drawer. IMPORTANT: If your glass dildo chips, cracks, or scratches, it should be discarded IMMEDIATELY!
You should now be an expert on choosing a dildo. But do you know how to use it? We’ll be talking about harnesses and techniques in the final installment of the Dildo Extravaganza! As always, thanks for checking out Fucking with Feministing! Send all of your sexy, salacious questions to email@example.com and maybe your question will be featured next!
Barbara is crazy - it's still insanely hot
The folks at motherboard.com report here on a London pop-up shop called “Timeless.” It looks like a beauty-product store but is designed to inspire conversations about female fertility and egg freezing. Here’s how the article describes the shop:
The Timeless displays are simple but arresting. One wall is devoted to a graph representing women’s decreasing fertility with age, rendered in numbered cosmetics bottled filled to different levels. The difference between age 20 and 30 is stark.
Here is the display that has inspired strong reactions both pro and con:
Image source: here
One of the most interesting details from the article is that the project is supported by Wellcome Trust and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Anne Phillips, a professor of political science at LSE, appears in a film associated with the project. I suspect we’ll be reading a few academic papers associated with this project fairly soon.
H/T Kara Swanson.
Imagine buying an internet-enabled surveillance camera, network attached storage device, or home automation gizmo, only to find that it secretly and constantly phones home to a vast peer-to-peer (P2P) network run by the Chinese manufacturer of the hardware. Now imagine that the geek gear you bought doesn’t actually let you block this P2P communication without some serious networking expertise or hardware surgery that few users would attempt.
The FI9286P, a Foscam camera that includes P2P communication by default.
This is the nightmare “Internet of Things” (IoT) scenario for any system administrator: The IP cameras that you bought to secure your physical space suddenly turn into a vast cloud network designed to share your pictures and videos far and wide. The best part? It’s all plug-and-play, no configuration necessary!
I first became aware of this bizarre experiment in how not to do IoT last week when a reader sent a link to a lengthy discussion thread on the support forum for Foscam, a Chinese firm that makes and sells security cameras. The thread was started by a Foscam user who noticed his IP camera was noisily and incessantly calling out to more than a dozen online hosts in almost as many countries.
Turns out, this Focscam camera was one of several newer models the company makes that comes with peer-to-peer networking capabilities baked in. This fact is not exactly spelled out for the user (although some of the models listed do say “P2P” in the product name, others do not).
But the bigger issue with these P2P -based cameras is that while the user interface for the camera has a setting to disable P2P traffic (it is enabled by default), Foscam admits that disabling the P2P option doesn’t actually do anything to stop the device from seeking out other P2P hosts online (see screenshot below).
This is a concern because the P2P function built into Foscam P2P cameras is designed to punch through firewalls and can’t be switched off without applying a firmware update plus an additional patch that the company only released after repeated pleas from users on its support forum.
Yeah, this setting doesn’t work. P2P is still enabled even after you uncheck the box.
One of the many hosts that Foscam users reported seeing in their firewall logs was iotcplatform.com, a domain registered to Chinese communications firm ThroughTek Co., Ltd. Turns out, this domain has shown up in firewall logs for a number of other curious tinkerers who cared to take a closer look at what their network attached storage and home automation toys were doing on their network.
In January 2015, a contributing writer for the threat-tracking SANS Internet Storm Center wrote in IoT: The Rise of the Machines that he found the same iotcplatform.com domain called out in network traffic generated by a Maginon SmartPlug he’d purchased (smart plugs are power receptacles into which you plug lights and other appliances you may wish to control remotely).
What is the IOTC Plaform? According to ThroughTek, it’s a service developed to establish P2P communications between devices.
“I read the documentation provided with the device as well as all the website pages and there is no mention of this service,” wrote Xavier Mertens, an incident handler and blogger for SANS. “Manufacturers should include some technical documentation about the network requirements (ex: to download firmware updates).”
In another instance from May 2015, this blogger noted similar communications traffic emanating from a digital video recorder (DVR) device that’s sold in tandem with Internet-enabled surveillance cameras made by a company called Swann.
Likewise, postings from Dec. 2014 on the QNAP network attached storage (NAS) user forum indicate that some QNAP customers discovered mysterious traffic to iotcplatform.com and other Internet address requests that also were found in the Swann and Smart Plug traffic.
What do all of these things have in common? A visit to ThroughTek’s Web lists several “case studies” for its products, including Swann, QNAP and a home automation company based in Taiwan called AboCom.
ThroughTek did not respond to requests for comment. A ThroughTek press release from October 2015 announced that the company’s P2P network — which it calls the Kalay Network — had grown to support more than seven million connected devices and 100 million “IoT connections.”
I contacted Foscam to better understand the company’s relationship to ThroughTek, and to learn just how many Foscam devices now ship with ThroughTek’s built-in, always-on P2P technology. Foscam declined to say how many different models bundled the P2P technology, but it’s at least a dozen by my count of the models mentioned in the Foscam user manual and discussion thread.
Foscam customer service representative David Qu wrote in reply to requests for comment that “ThroughTek provides P2P technical support service for us.” He also said the P2P cameras merely keep a “heartbeat” connection to Foscam’s P2P server to check the connection status with the servers, and that no camera data will be stored on the company’s servers.
“The details about how P2P feature works which will be helpful for you understand why the camera need communicate with P2P servers,” Qu explained. “Our company deploy many servers in some regions of global world.” Qu further explained:
1. When the camera is powered on and connected to the internet, the camera will log in our main P2P server with fastest response and get the IP address of other server with low load and log in it. Then the camera will not connect the main P2P server.
2. When log in the camera via P2P with Foscam App, the app will also log in our main P2P server with fastest response and get the IP address of the server the camera connect to.
3. The App will ask the server create an independent tunnel between the app and the camera. The data and video will transfers directly between them and will not pass through the server. If the server fail to create the tunnel, the data and video will be forwarded by the server and all of them are encrypted.
4. Finally the camera will keep hearbeat connection with our P2P server in order to check the connection status with the servers so that the app can visit the camera directly via the server. Only when the camera power off/on or change another network, it will replicate the steps above.”
As I noted in a recent column IoT Reality: Smart Devices, Dumb Defaults, the problem with so many IoT devices is not necessarily that they’re ill-conceived, it’s that their default settings often ignore security and/or privacy concerns. I’m baffled as to why such a well-known brand as Foscam would enable P2P communications on a product that is primarily used to monitor and secure homes and offices.
Apparently I’m not alone in my bafflement. Nicholas Weaver, a senior researcher in networking and security for the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI), called the embedded P2P feature “an insanely bad idea” all around.
“It opens up all Foscam users not only to attacks on their cameras themselves (which may be very sensitive), but an exploit of the camera also enables further intrusions into the home network,” Weaver said.
“Given the seemingly cavalier attitude and the almost certain lack of automatic updates, it is almost certain that these devices are remotely exploitable,” he added. “It is no wonder that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is worried about the Internet of Things, how many government officials have or may unwittingly install potential spies like this in their home.”
If you’re curious about an IoT device you purchased and what it might do after you connect it to a network, the information is there if you know how and where to look. This Lifehacker post walks through some of the basic software tools and steps that even a novice can follow to learn more about what’s going on across a local network.
"Gedenkflug oder Karl Marx als Schwartze Madonna" by Inna Levinson
Notes on Marx
by ALEX CARNEVALE
The biggest phony, the most long-lasting piece of garbage was Karl Marx. I hate saying his name.
On the 8th of March, Marx wrote, “Yesterday we were informed of A VERY HAPPY EVENT. The death of my wife’s uncle, aged ninety.” Why would Karl Marx write such an awful thing? Because he stood to make £100 from it.
This is where Marx really believed wealth came from — inheritance.
Marx made disgusting comments about both Jews and blacks in his letters to Friedrich Engels. For Marx, ethnic identity was a kind of egoism, which allowed people to set themselves apart from one another. Of a enemy who he slandered as a Jew, Marx wrote to Friedrich Engels that "the fellow's importunity is also nigger-like."
Engels' family loathed Marx, who was financially sustained by them for most of his life. They wanted Engels to work in the family business, which was cotton. Papa Engels asked his son to choose between a life in Calcutta or one in New York. In order to support Marx and his family, Engels joined his father's company. He received 200 pounds plus expenses in his job there, which allowed him to fund the "political" work Karl was doing.
Marx taught himself English by memorizing Shakespeare. He eventually brought in some money by selling his political columns to newspapers. If he needed more money for alcohol or drugs, Marx pawned his wife’s family silverware or begged for it.
On Christmas Marx gave his kids gifts. He explained the event by suggesting that Christ was a poor carpenter killed by rich men. One biographer, discussing the fact that Marx’s writing rarely made any kind of logical sense, writes, "his vices were also his virtues, manifestations of a mind addicted to paradox and inversion.” Jesus Christ.
While his pregnant wife was off asking a relative for money, Marx drank a lot and threw rocks at policemen. To amuse himself, Marx fucked the housekeeper, a maid named Helene Demuth. The family all slept in one disgusting room. Engels paid for the ensuing child to be removed from Marx’s presence. The baby boy, Frederic, was given to a Jewish family in London. The child was so ashamed of his real family he visited his mother by the back door of the house.
Marx regretted getting married at all. He believed marriage was a silly institution, and he taught his daughters the same.
The phrase "from each according to his abilities" was originally an insult that Karl Marx levied at his intellectual rivals. It meant the individual in question had no ability. So we begin to understand the foundation of an all-powerful state — it presides over idiots for their own good.
Fascism tells us that all men are liars, that they cannot be trusted. Communism suggests all men are fools. Marx took almost forever to compose his magnum opus, Capital, forcing his family to live in abject poverty while he wrote the book's volumes in longhand. At first things seemed to be coming together quickly; Marx told Engels in April of 1851 that "I am so far advanced that I will have finished the whole economic shit in five weeks time.” He still had not, sixteen years later.
Prussian spies tasked with covering Marx could not believe how he lived. In their reports they noted
He leads the existence of a real bohemian intellectual. Washing, grooming and changing his linen are all things he does rarely, and he likes to get drunk. He often stays up all night, and then lies down fully clothed on the sofa at midday and sleeps till evening, untroubled by the coming and goings of the whole world.
Marx had asked for the position of London correspondent in a number of letters. The New York Tribune, a newspaper that he roundly denigrated to Engels, reached an audience of 200,000. He told the editor, Charles Anderson Dana, that he would be ecstatic if they featured his columns. So began Marx's career in journalism, and the regular income was sorely needed.
Marx took a break from writing his column in 1853, because a boil between his nose and mouth became so infected that he could not speak. Except for that sabbatical, he rarely missed a week.
In a 1951 epistle to Engels, he wrote, "At home everything’s always in a state of siege. For nights on end, I am set on edge and infuriated by floods of tears. So I cannot of course do very much. I feel sorry for my wife. The main burden falls on her, and fundamentally, she is right. Industry must be more productive than marriage."
Marx idolized his father and spoke often of the man, a well-to-do lawyer who converted to Lutheranism because of anti-Semitism. He loathed his mother, a housewife who spoke German with a heavy Dutch accent, after she cut off his allowance. He was not the slightest bit upset when she passed. "Blessed is he who hath no family," he wrote once in a letter to Engels.
The ascension of Napoleon gave Marx an easy target. His wife handled the secretarial work, churning out tract after tract from his illegible handwriting. When Marx was not writing, he hung out at a wine shop that he called his synagogue and binge drank. He smoked through the night, cheap cigars being the only thing Karl Marx could afford.
Engels was the only correspondent with whom Marx ever discussed intellectual matters. The rest of his letters were mostly trash talk, gossip, and complaints. He never engaged with any developments in philosophy, economics, social sciences, life sciences. He already knew better.
Marx's fifth child, Franziska, died shortly after her first birthday from a bout of bronchitis. Marx could not afford funeral arrangements, so Jenny begged for two pounds. Cholera was among the bigger threats to the survival of Marx's children, caused by sewage leaks to London wells. Only three of his kids lived to adulthood in such a poisonous environment.
Marx rarely managed to afford a doctor, so he spent what money he had a nice outfit for his wife. Pregnant with his next child, Jenny went to Trier to ask his relative for money. She had to look her best; it would too obvious if she went begging dressed as a pauper. Jenny returned with the needed cash; all the while Marx drank gin and his mistress took care of his children.
His sixth baby, Eleanor, was born sick. He wrote to Engels that the baby was “unfortunately of the 'sex.' If it had been a male child, well and good." (That daughter, Eleanor Marx, later killed herself by swallowing cyanide when she found out her boyfriend married a younger woman.) The distraction of Eleanor's infirmity was superseded by the sudden illness of their eight-year-old son Edgar, who was very ill with consumption. The boy died in Marx's arms.
Though Marx suffered a great deal of avoidable tragedy, he was never sympathetic to anyone else's pain. When Engels' father passed away, Marx received an unexpected windfall. Engels' inheritance allowed Marx to focus on Capital. He called the death of Friedrich Engels Sr. "a glorious surprise" and explained the whole family was "filled with glee" upon receiving £100 from Engels' inheritance. Marx spent most of the money publishing a manuscript he had written about a rival who falsely claimed he was in league with the secret police.
Jenny was so overtired from copying and recopying Marx's broadside that she contracted smallpox. The only thing that kept Marx from falling totally apart was the substantial distraction of a very bad toothache.
That book, Herr Vogt, sold 80 copies and the publisher went bankrupt. The printer demanded twenty additional pounds. Jenny recovered from her illness, but her face was a mess: she compared herself to a "hippopotamus which belongs in a zoological garden rather than in the ranks of the Caucasian race."
To give himself distance from this monstrosity, Karl Marx went to Holland to ask his uncle for money. On the way he partied in Berlin, but soon found the Germans not to his liking. He met a woman there, a connected one who satisfied him sexually. Marx's uncle gave him £160, money which lasted all of four months on Marx's diet.
Engels had been tapped out by the decline in the cotton industry, and Marx had no choice but to consider a job. He secured a position at a British railway office. After decades of work on the manuscript, the publication of Capital was met with resounding silence. To be fair, reading the massive tome was likely to take weeks or months and most reviewers could not be bothered. The copy he sent to Charles Darwin was never touched after the first eighty pages. Darwin sent along a terse and unwelcoming thank you note. This insult inspired Marx to suggest an alternate theory of evolution: that it was prompted by changes in the soil.
Marx amused himself by copying French pornographic poetry to Engels in the interim. Capital began achieving its first real notices when it was translated into Russian. Marx had always railed against the Russian culture, specifically the aristocracy, so this reception came as a bit of surprise to him.
Engels decided to bail out of the family business and retired with £12,500. This was happy news for the Marx family, but when Engels' wife died of heart disease Marx was less than sympathetic asent his friend a letter complaining about his finances for several pages and wishing it had been his mother who died. Engels forgave him in a letter later in the year, as he always did.
Jenny Marx died in 1881, and Marx prepared to follow her shortly thereafter. Marx was ill in his last years, travelling outside of Europe for the first time in his life, spending time at resorts in Algiers and Switzerland. He shaved off his hair and distinctive beard. His bronchitis worsened, but he never told his daughters, writing to a friend, "What's the point of alarming them?"
Marx's daughter Jennychen developed cancer while pregnant and beat her father to the grave, perishing in 1883. In his last days Marx drank a pint of milk mixed with rum and brandy for every meal. Only eleven people showed up for his funeral.
Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.
"Killing Time" - City and the Colour (mp3)
If you have ever walked up to an ATM to withdraw cash only to decide against it after noticing a telephone or ethernet cord snaking from behind the machine to a jack in the wall, your paranoia may not have been misplaced: ATM maker NCR is warning about skimming attacks that involve keypad overlays, hidden cameras and skimming devices plugged into the ATM network cables to intercept customer card data.
Two network cable card skimming devices, as found attached to this ATM.
In an alert sent to customers Feb. 8, NCR said it received reliable reports of NCR and Diebold ATMs being attacked through the use of external skimming devices that hijack the cash machine’s phone or Internet jack.
“These devices are plugged into the ATM network cables and intercept customer card data. Additional devices are attached to the ATM to capture the PIN,” NCR warned. “A keyboard overlay was used to attack an NCR ATM, a concealed camera was used on the Diebold ATM. PIN data is then likely transmitted wirelessly to the skimming device.”
The ATM maker believes these attacks represent a continuation of the trend where criminals are finding alternative methods to skim magnetic strip cards. Such alternative methods avoid placing the skimmer on the ATM card entry bezel, which is where most anti-skimming technology is located.
NCR said cash machine operators must consider all points where card data may be accessible — in addition to the traditional point of vulnerability at the card entry bezel — and that having ATM network communications cables and connections exposed in publicly accessible locations only invites trouble.
A closer look at the two network cable card skimming devices that were attached to the stand-alone ATM pictured at the top of this story.
If something doesn’t look right about an ATM, don’t use it and move on to the next one. It’s not worth the hassle and risk associated with having your checking account emptied of cash. Also, it’s best to favor ATMs that are installed inside of a building or wall as opposed to free-standing machines, which may be more vulnerable to tampering.
The first piece of Nicki Green’s I ever saw struck me in a way I did not expect from blue and white pottery. “Nina, after Bruce Labruce” is a clay jug painted in blue and white style that originated centuries ago in China. Repeating around the jug is a painting of Bruce Labruce’s photo of Nina Arsenault, nude, holding an AK47 and looking like the most powerful thing in the world.Stuffed into the top of the jug is a lavender hanky, which flags likes drag/is a queen. A queer/drag/trans/classical molotov cocktail, this piece – and Green’s work in general – is a trans art history nerd’s wet dream.
Nina, after Bruce Labruce, by Nicki Green, 2013. Glazed earthenware with cotton hanky. 6″ x 17″ x 6″
Nicki Green’s art is currently on display, along with work by James Gobel and Ariel Goldberg, at 2nd Floor Projects in San Francisco until February 21st.
Green’s revolutionary ceramics also include bricks (for throwing, of course) painted with images like pansies, carnations, mushrooms, and diagrams of genital surgery. There are vessels with sculpted dicks protruding from them, covered in lovingly painted flowers and designs. The rough quality of some of Green’s ceramics, matched with perfectly crafted details, keeps the artist’s hand visible in the work, just as her ideas and interests show through so clearly in its content.
I asked Green about the compelling, eclectic collection of signifiers brought together in her work.
“I’ve always been really fascinated by the idea of coding and communicating in covert ways, the kind of insider-ness of queer iconography. Hanky coding was totally one of my first entries into this concept and worked it’s way into the work via the molotov cocktail as a way to incorporate non-ceramic materials into a ceramics practice. I’ve been really into the collecting of visual information and kind of putting it all together via ceramics. I’ve been working in ceramics for a long time, but I got into blue-and-white glaze because it felt so recognizable and was a technical skill I wanted to learn, to try and replicate a pretty specific aesthetic and material practice, and i quickly realized how perfect the aesthetic could be for compiling patterns of queer symbols and icons. I keep having these revelations about the ubiquitousness of ceramics and it’s ability to be used as these queer revolutionary tools, like “oh! clay bottles as molotov cocktails!” “earthenware bricks to throw!” and lately looking to Judaism, Kabbalah and alchemy for themes like sacred vessels, immersion, fermentation, the well, etc. and trying to think about “revolutionary” as equally powerful in a domestic space versus in public, in the street. Ceramics have always been considered useful but also very much connected to community building, magic, creation and holiness, so these form feel so relevant as vehicles for describing all these concepts filtered through a (my) queer and trans lens.”
Green told me about what she’s exploring in some of the new work currently on display:
“This show has work that show the beginning stages of a newly budding (fruiting?) interest in fungus and using mycelium and mushrooms as a way to talk about queerness and transness without using images of the body explicitly. Last spring I found an amazing (and amazingly disturbing!) book called Der Giftpilz (The Poisonous Mushroom) by Ernst Hiemer that is about a German mother and her son picking mushrooms and discussing how dangerous and untrustworthy Jews are. I began to think about all the ways this metaphor could be used to talk about queers as well; the underground networks of mycelium, the idea of growth from decomposition, the “fruiting” of the mushrooms and the beauty in these forms. Reclaiming derogatory language has been a major part of my being able to think critically about my identities and my body in the world, and this direction feels like an extension of that (albeit a really intense one…)”
Check out Nicki Green’s work on display now if you’re in the SF area, and visit her website for more examples of her ceramics and other art.
I love u rockmelon
by ALEX CARNEVALE
creator Louis CK, Zach Galifianakis & Jonathan Krisel
Chip Baskets' mother (Louis Anderson) has these plants in her house with large fronds. She won't trim them because it would be like doing harm to something she loves, no matter how much they get in her way as she attempts to ascend the stairs of her home. This is the kind of compassionate, dispassionate attitude assumed by virtually everyone in the brilliant new FX series Baskets, except for its central character: a California clown named Chip Baskets (Zach Galifianakis). Unlike the rest of the people in his life, he knows exactly who he is.
Chip's identical twin brother Dale runs a correspondence degree mill that pumps out certificates in occupations like middle management and cell phone repair. He is used to his brother coming to him for money, and doesn't really resent the imposition. Chip asks him for $40, money he plans to use to fund the HBO subscription of a French woman who no longer has any interest in him.
Louis CK recently released the painful first episode of Horace and Pete, a three camera comedy that stars himself and Steve Buscemi as white brothers running a bar. You can feel CK's presence in Baskets, but it is more in the subtle diassociation from reality.
CK has not received enough credit for bringing some of the character of live theater to television; in Horace and Pete this melding such a disaster the show feels like a parody of Death of a Salesman. On his own HBO series, Louie, this unique feel to the television product made it seem vaguely otherworldly, and the same effect is achieved by the marvelous Baskets.
Chip Baskets' world is Bakersfield, California, which consists of the places he ventures as he rollerblades from the rodeo to his home base and back again. He only goes somewhere else when he is escorted, since he cannot afford a car and a bee caused him to crash his scooter.
Galifianakis is at his best when he is not playing too weird. The fact that he is about half the man he once was made him look like a turtle without his shell in recent performances. By now we are used to the slimmer version. At base, Chip Baskets is the kind of good-natured simpleton, but Galifianakis plays Chip with a depth the character sorely requires and maybe does not deserve. As Chip fails out of French clowning school because he amusingly speaks no French whatsoever, we have quickly finished sympathizing with his naivete: the man is no charity case, he simply needs to figure things out.
To set him on the garden path, his mother purchases him a Costco executive membership from Chip's only friend, a woman named Martha (Martha Kelly). The role of Chip's buddy is written exactly to suit the stand-up comedian, whose deadpan, unenthusiastic delivery never exactly made her a roaring hit onstage. Some of the ways Chip dismisses Martha seem a little too pat, but Baskets works better as a personal journey rather than a love story anyway. Chip responds well to Martha's understated nature and tries to ape it in his clowning, and eventually in his life.
Although Chip performs at a rodeo, lots of obvious jokes are avoided in favor of more personal storylines. In the show's second episode, Chip takes an interest in the clowning career of a Juggalo (Adam William Zastrow) with no experience in the art. Through Chip's intervention, the young man is able to pursue a fruitful career as a cashier at Arby's. Amidst the dark humor involved with Chip's maudlin existence in Baskets, there is an inspiring undercurrent about what positive things we can absorb from other people without even meaning to do so.
This is maybe not the hilarity audiences would expect from Zach Galifianakis as a clown, but who cares? There has not been a comedy as good as Baskets on television for a long time. Watching other comedies becomes the observation of a race towards a singular joke. Once achieved, the entire paradigm is thrown away for some other gag. Angie Tribeca, a horrid series which recently premiered on the equally unwatchable network TBS, at least attempted to turn this into a Mel Brooks-type zaniness.
Unfortunately Mel Brooks is not funny unless you are under ten years old or substantially more interested in puns than you ought to be. Rashida Jones is wasting her career as the titular detective, and honestly she was never really cut out for these sorts of gagfests anyway.
What comes across in Baskets is the same sort of basic humanity that is represented in everything Louis CK admires. He honestly appears to respect regular people a lot more than he does his actual friends and peers, so he casts them in the roles of working class individuals. Horace and Pete descends too far in this direction; it is too obvious that the entire cast not who they appear to be. The show even makes Rebecca Hall resemble a regular person, forcing her to kiss Louis CK on the lips as part of the show's opening moments. Although this dull sense of normalcy is more deftly done in Baskets, on the whole this humbling is a welcome change.
Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.
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