spencer wants calf implants!

February 21, 2008

from Star – “Spencer Wants Calf Implants!”

The Hills star Heidi Montag is no stranger to plastic surgery, and now her boyfriend, Spencer Pratt, plans to get calf implants to look more buff.

“Spencer works out with a trainer almost daily, but he can’t get rid of his skinny legs, and it drives him nuts. Heidi even nicknamed him Chicken Legs!” a pal tells Star. “Spencer is secretly insecure about his legs.”

But he still hasn’t gone through with the surgery. “He knows it’s a painful procedure.”

look at how low he’s got his shorts pulled down in this picture, like he’s trying to cover his calves entirely. it’s not a “yo bro, i’m down with hip hop” signifier, it’s body image issues. this carefully arranged photo shoot must have been sheer torture. where is the jezebel lovefest?

also, i really like that the title of the story has an exclamation point (“Spencer Wants Calf Implants!”). also i really like that to get an item in a tabloid, you don’t even have to have plastic surgery, you just have to be considering it. i could probably do some biblical bullshitting around with this, like spencer, post-surgery, praying to his shins while listening to the shins, but fuck it, this isn’t “lost,” guys.

preview for “the hills” season 3, part two

ladarag (02.21.08 | 10:09 AM)

man i gotta watch it i miss it so much amn i wish 3\24 will hurry up and come !!

stokedbug2 (02.21.08 | 10:08 AM)

i keep watching it and watching it its so intence!!! i want to see it! i am so glad spenser is gone!!

Happylilies1187 (02.21.08 | 9:58 AM)

omg that is so much to show in one preview i guess all i can say is im excited. OMG i am going to watch it again.

pinky_rasta420 (02.21.08 | 9:31 AM)


beionka (02.21.08 | 8:59 AM)

o snap i love this show and icant wait till this comes back on…i no everything that happens on every show so haha dont hate!! jkjkjkjkjkjkjk

IAmOnMTV User (02.21.08 | 8:57 AM)

omfg wat the hell happend to brody. i loved them together they were so cute together =[ o well Lauren i love you and you dont need a man to be happy!!!

Jessica Kim (02.21.08 | 8:33 AM)

OMG!!! i can NOTT wait! ahhhhh! dramadramadramaa, so excited to watchh it!

LoLbunnii (02.21.08 | 7:37 AM)

cant waiiiiittt!!

ima_dancer29 (02.21.08 | 7:08 AM)

OH MY GOSH!!!!!! i cannot wait!! i am so so so excited!!!

happie (02.21.08 | 6:22 AM)


happie (02.21.08 | 6:20 AM)


I<3THEHILLS (02.21.08 | 6:20 AM)

this is going to be AMAZING wow and does anyone know the name of the song thats playing in the backround?

happie (02.21.08 | 6:20 AM)


TLT (02.21.08 | 5:54 AM)

Wow! Looks really good cant wait to see the first episode!

twinkletoh (02.21.08 | 5:42 AM)

When is Lauren going to live her real life and not these MTV scenerios?

Zakiya (02.21.08 | 5:38 AM)

OMG!!! can’t wait for March 24th i wanna c some drama and here it is!!!!

missfiend702 (02.21.08 | 4:57 AM)

oh wow….. i cant wait for this season…

Kris2theTi (02.21.08 | 4:55 AM)

Oh man – did never watch any of these until recently online and I’m sooo excited for the new season!!! DRAMA!! Love it!

sandysweet (02.21.08 | 4:25 AM)

no ******* way! so much intense drama. of course Heidi is trying to keep herself in The Hills mix. her & ol Spencer want to keep the cameras around for as long as they can. becuse as soon as they are completely out of the Lauren social circle… puff… no more MTV cameras. Lauren is into the French Bam Margera. lol.

cinnamonkrs (02.21.08 | 2:52 AM)

This season is going to be crazy! Lots of drama, lots of comebacks. I like that you can see growth in some of the characters and others are still in the same cycle. And that’s true to life! Congratulations girls on what looks like a promising season!

I appreciate people taking time to write any kind of comment. Do you know how much effort it really takes to sit down and write a comment? I’ve never written a comment in my entire life…you really have to have a lot of passion and thought to write any comment, so thank you. – h.m.

But how can you think and speak at the same time? How can you think about what you have said, may say, are saying – and at the same time go on with the last-mentioned? You think about any old thing, more or less, in a daze of baseless unanswerable self-reproach. That’s why they always repeat the same thing, the same old litany, the one they know by heart: to try and think of something different, of how to say something different from the same old thing (always the same wrong thing said always wrong). They can find nothing, nothing else to say but the thing that prevents them from finding. They’d do better to think of what they’re saying, in order at least to vary its presentation: that’s what matters.

But how can you think and speak at the same time (without a special gift)? Your thoughts wander, your words too – far apart. (No, that’s an exaggeration: apart.) Between them would be the place to be: where you suffer, rejoice (at being bereft of speech, bereft of thought), and feel nothing, hear nothing, know nothing, say nothing, are nothing. That would be a blessed place to be: where you are. – s.b.


Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt have more than just music in the works.

“We’re definitely developing the Heidi and Spencer video game,” Pratt told Usmagazine.com last week at video game giant Electronic Arts’ Burnout Paradise pre-Valentine’s Day lounge in L.A.

Pratt, who said he is collaborating with EA on the game, told Us, “it’s top secret. Let’s just say that everyone will be addicted.”

Good news to those who love-to-hate The Hills pair: “You can definitely play as us or you can play against us,” Pratt said. “You can even torture me.”

He said “there’s going to be two versions: the adult version and the one for minors,” adding, “just be ready, that’s all I have to say.”

Expect the game to hit shelves in 2009, Pratt said, “right around Christmastime, probably.”

EA did not return e-mails for comment.

i just…i mean…what i am supposed to say? it speaks for itself.

He said “there’s going to be two versions: the adult version and the one for minors,” adding, “just be ready, that’s all I have to say.”



lauryn hill

“so much things to say” – lauryn hill

right at the start i’m going to go ahead and expose the flimsy pretext of this being some kind of real feature (“songs that should be on ‘the hills'”) by saying that basically i am just going to talk about songs i like and then through some bullshit-fu and clumsy rhetorical acrobatics try to connect them tangentially to “the hills” and also possibly to a larger cultural context. since this is largely how this blog works anyway, i assume this isn’t going to offend anyone, so there.

lauryn hill’s “mtv-unplugged 2.0” has been one of my favorite albums of all time since i was a sophomore in college in 2004. i remember seeing part of the television show when it first aired in 2002 and that it fascinated me in some way i couldn’t articulate, but i had crappy taste in music then and so didn’t really come to listen to the album until i got a copy from a friend at college in 2004. coincidentally, i probably really got into it at about the same time that kanye west’s “all falls down” (which features an interpolation of “unplugged 2.0″‘s “mystery of iniquity“) was really starting to pop.

when i was first trying to think of the aforementioned flimsy theoretical pretext for writing about this album/song, i had decided to write about how it related to reality television. i was going to focus on the fact that, in addition to being an album, “unplugged 2.0” was of course a television show, a reality television event. i was going to do explications of choice lauryn quotes like, “see…fantasy is what people want but reality is what they need…and i’ve just retired from the fantasy part.” and also some other bullshit that i hadn’t really thought of yet.

but then i realized that the album has a lot more to do with something other than reality television. i said earlier that “unplugged 2.0” became one of my favorite albums when i was a college sophomore. i think that it’s the perfect album for college sophomores, which is to also say that it’s the perfect album for bloggers.

“unplugged 2.0” is a double album – it’s an hour and forty six minutes long. of that hour and forty six minutes, about a half an hour is devoted to l.hill just talking about stuff. these eight tracks, the interludes, are really like spoken word blog entries, maybe delivered at a “hip, urban” poetry slam instead of via typepad or wordpress. the interludes mix the funny with the serious, the deeply religious with the quotidian, homespun wisdom with banality, self confidence with insecurity. l. talks about celebrity culture, about image politics, about her personal life. there are coughs and long silences and pauses where she stops and asks for tea because her throat is raspy. the whole thing is begging for the coinage of the term overshare.

the best interlude for discussing all of this is the longest one, interlude 5, which lasts twelve minutes and thirteen seconds. this is longer than a song has any right to be, but luckily this isn’t a song. interlude 5 begins with lauryn asking the audience, “y’all doing alright? you okay?” they applaud and she says, laughing, “i’m just asking a question, y’all givin’ me a clap – a yes is fine.” after an extended pause, she starts a monologue about how everybody’s in the same mess:

I tell you, I know everybody’s in the same mess, I’m telling you, we all are, I, I, I know that, you know, and I’m just, you know, I’ll be the first to tell you, you know, I’m a mess and God is dealing with me every day, every day I’m trying to learn how I can be less of a mess. [laughter]

she goes on about how God has helped her understand that she is the problem and that she is what has to change, he has broken down life into “problem, cause, solution,” that “that’s what all of these songs are about: problem, cause, and solution.” then she shifts a hundred and eighty degrees, from talking about how we are all the same to how we are all unique individuals and how important it is.

You already are the standard. What are you trying to fit a standard for? We were each created to be individual standards, you know. And we’re trying to fit into a standard? It doesn’t make any sense, you know. So now I’m just, you know, after all that, I’m just ready to be me. And it’s a lot to work through, you know, because all of us have hidden in these little boxes purposely, because of parts of ourselves that we were unhappy about. And it’s because we didn’t understand, you know, because there’s all this social doctrine that says, you know, that the infinite God, with all this expression, who created every single one of us, absolutely different, on purpose, wants everybody to fit into the same suit. But like, you know, that’s deception. That’s deception.

then she stops her monologue to talk to her husband, rohan marley, off stage, who is trying to find something in her purse.

Ok, let me just, I think this is the wrong one (laughing) I don’t think this is the right one.

then she tells a story about taking her kids to disney world the previous weekend.

We took, we were in, uh, Florida this weekend, and we took the kids to Disney World. And um, and we were going, they gave us a tour and so they escorted us through the back. and when they escorted us through the back, we got to see how, you know, how there was all these people working all hard and it was like real dirty back there, and, of course, in the front it was all immaculately clean. And I, I said, you know, people need to see the reality, they need to see how people slave to maintain this illusion – it felt like my life.

then she tells a story about her interactions with her husband backstage.

I was in there in the room, you know, before we came out here, and he said to me, I said, “Ro should I change?” And he said, “Yeah.” So I looked at him, I said, “Why did you tell me to change? I was comfortable, man.” But I asked him the question. So I went in the room and I tried on all these clothes and I was like, I feel like an idiot. So I pulled out all these clothes and I’m sayin, “ok Ro, you know, pack the bag neatly, you know, could you put the clothes back in?” And he’s like, “All right.” So he’s trying to do this but then I’m like, “No! Now take this out! Now put that back and take that out! Put that back, hold that, take, that, put, The orange shoe! The orange shoe!” [laughter] So I’m like. And then after awhile I just said, “Ro baby, could you leave? Please get out the room. And I just put back on the clothes I came in.” Ok, I was like…I’m just not there anymore. Nah, I’m telling you. It’s like, uh. [laughter]. Hey you know he’s learned. Because before we used to just beef and now he’s like, “Okay…I’m out.” It’s real.

then she cracks some jokes about how marriage and dating work.

It’s like, we date people, like let’s say, you know, we’re interested in somebody and we put on the perfume and dress up and then we do things that we will never ever ever do again! You understand what I’m sayin? It’s like…And that’s why so many marriages end up in divorce. It’s because people wake up next to a stranger. They say, “Who the hell are you? What are you doing in this bed? Where’s that man that used to do ‘du, dua, and du?’” And I’m sayin’ let’s give them reality from the door because…you’re going to attract love, and the one that really loves you. And then you don’t have to pretend and falsify, and you know, keep that posture.

then she tells how she first met her husband

…I’ll never forget when I first met him I said to him, it was like, he saw me eating in front of him, and he told me, he was like, “You eat like a man, you must not like me.” You know, because, women, usually they keep that posture. And I said, “Nah. I said it’s not even that, you know.” It’s but, this is reality. This is, you know, and that’s it, man, I mean, I’m just telling you, it’s so wonderful to finally find…And trust me, it’s a work in progress, it’s not something that happens overnight. We all have to be introduced to each other.

then she talks about how daily change is necessary.

I’m changing, because that’s a natural part of life. We’re all supposed to change. Who wakes up and is the same way tomorrow and the day after that? Nobody is. Let the experience teach you and be real, man.

then she talks about what she has to say to haters who don’t like her mode of expression (shades of the manifestos against the MSM).

Because there’s some people who prefer deceptions, see. They say, uh, I don’t like this new expression, and I say, what, you want two-thirds of me to stay outside? I’m a whole person. you can’t say, you know, two-thirds of Lauryn, come in here. Only two-thirds is acceptable. I’m a whole person, you know, and that’s everybody. You always talk about spiritual warfare and we didn’t realize that it was in relationships. It’s emotional warfare. Being able to tell the people we love the most the truth about ourselves. And when they say, “Hey, that doesn’t fit into our box for you,” we say, “Well, I ain’t in no box. don’t try to put me in one.” I’m going to play a little bit of guitar with this one, but I might stop it cause I really want you to listen to the words, so if I stop, you understand why. I want you to really hear the words…”

the album is a flipped and reversed biblical verse – instead of the word made flesh, it’s the flesh made word (and sound); it’s straight up essence rendered in a double album you can download off of soulseek, drinkable like bottled holy water cold from your mom’s fridge. during portions of a couple of the interludes, hill riffs on the word “repent.” for her, to repent doesn’t mean to ask for forgiveness, though, it means that by saying what’s inside her, by getting it out, she doesn’t have to feel bad or guilty and she doesn’t have to ask for forgiveness. in interlude 5, she says, “the real gospel is ‘repent,’ which means, ‘let go of all that crap, that’s killin’ ya.'” “i just feel like sharing,” she says in interlude 7.

at the climax of my favorite song on the album, “adam lives in theory,” hill vamps, singing “what, what we gonna do now, where we gonna go now, what we gonna say now?” she asks it again, playing with the melody. her skittery flamenco strum breaks into doubletime, racing under her as she sings, “i’m telling you, telling you, i’m telling you, i’m telling you, i’m telling you, i’m telling you.” during all this, she’s ostensibly talking about jesus (“he’s going to tell us what to do now,” “i’m telling you he’s going to tell you”) but then right after the song ends and the crowd applauds, she doesn’t say “praise god,” she says, “i’ll tell you, every single one of these songs is about me first, me first.” like so many blog entries, the content of what’s being said may not be as important to the author as the simple fact of saying it, of putting something out there that wasn’t there before. it’s not about what’s being told, it’s about telling it.

the songs themselves are sketches, demos, unfinished, full of false starts and miscues. several of the interludes seem necessitated by the fact that hill has beaten her guitar out of tune and has to have it fixed. yet despite or because of their imperfection and incompletion, she sings her songs with the sincerity and commitment of a thirteen year old girl updating her livejournal in the middle of the night or chris crocker crying about britney. there is no band, no accompaniment, it’s just her and a nylon-string guitar. thus, there’s little to no distance between this album/show and the bedroom busking that is such a large part of youtube, the heartfelt awkwardness and clumsy, outsider perfection of so many of those solo-strummed videos. without a band to have to interact with or polished, recorded songs that her audience knows, l. is free in nearly every song to lay into the aforementioned vamps, in which she repeats a line or two lines over and over and over again, varying the the rhythm, the tempo, her vocal inflection, the phrasing, the melody; swapping out a word or two for others, swelling the volume and intensity so that she’s yelling and then dropping into pockets of quiet reflection, turning the music over and showing it from different angles.

if this album came out today, it would be a big hit, a cultural touchstone. in 2002, it was too weird and too personal to be truly popular – it was considered a train wreck. but in 2008, to be considered a train wreck is to be considered, to be considered in tabloids and magazines and blogs, to be considered on “the view” and “oprah” and “tyra” (imagine lauryn hill having a whole hour on “tyra”), to be considered around water coolers and at Starbucks. to be considered a train wreck doesn’t make you less important, it makes you more important; it doesn’t make you less interesting, it makes you more interesting; it doesn’t make you less of a person, it makes you more of a person.

in his recent song, “champion,” kanye devotes a verse to lauryn.

When it feel like living’s harder than dyin’
For me givin’ up’s way harder than tryin’
Lauryn Hill say her heart was in Zion
I wish her heart still was in rhymin’

when you search for the lyrics to this song, as i did when writing this, a yahoo answers page comes up near the top of the search results. a person has quoted the verse i quoted above and asked what “zion” kanye is referring to. someone responds, first quoting the lyrics of “to zion,” a song from “the miseducation of lauryn hill.” the commenter notes that,

Lauryn Hill is the mother of four children with Rohan Marley, the fourth son of reggae legend Bob Marley. Together they have four children. Her eldest son is Zion David Hill-Marley, and the song was written for him.

The double meaning of the “Zion” in the song is in the Rastafarian sense – “Zion” is the promised land, or Paradise (actually it is Ethiopia.) “

the person goes on to give a brief, wikipedian summary of rastafarian beliefs about marcus garvey, haile selassie, and ethiopia. the original asker of the question rates this answer 5 stars, the maximum possible rating, and then writes back,

thats cool. i was just wondering cuz i live in a town called zion. i wanted to know more.

so, actually, zion is three things. it’s the name of lauryn hill’s oldest son and, also, it’s a mythical promised land of milk and honey and dope beats and, also, it’s a small town where somebody heard a song that mentioned the name of their small town and thought kanye west was maybe talking about their small town and wanted to know what it all meant, wanted to find some way to connect this big, popular song by this big, popular artist to the place where they get up every morning and eat breakfast and check their e-mail. “unplugged 2.0” is that kind of spirit sustained for an hour and forty-six minutes. in 2002, the “2.0” in the title was probably a reference to the fact that the album was double-disc, but, obviously, in the blog age, “2.0” means something else entirely. i could tease out that connection for you, but my explanation would be stupid and banal and pretentious all at once, it would bear the aching imperfections of my humanity, and, hey, this is a blog, right, so there’s enough of that kind of shit already.



oh, whoah, so, i got a little distracted there. back to “the hills.” i think “so much things to say” is probably the best choice of “unplugged 2.0” songs for “the hills” soundtrack. music on “the hills” tends to take one of three forms – it is either fashionable poppy ear candy meant to provide motion, gleam, and cool-cred (i could look up some songs and put them inside these parentheses), or it is powerfully emotional female-sung pop meant to represent emotional climax and catharsis (cat power’s “the greatest,” the show’s theme song, i am too lazy to actually research these points), or it is singer songwriter stuff meant to underplay the quiet, reflective, yearn-y moments closing some episodes (anamarie digby’s cover of “umbrella,” the nouvelle vague cover of “i melt with you,” the piano ballad cover of “girls just wanna have fun” in the second season).

“so much things to say” obviously fits the second category – if you’ve been listening to it while you’ve been reading this, you know that. when music is emotional on “the hills,” it is intensely so – many times it, not what the girls actually say, is the true expression of their emotions, of their feelings. this is an evolution of the use of music on “the real world.” emotional music on “the real world” is situational and ensemble-driven – it’s supposed to reflect the general mood of the group of people in the situation that’s broken out between them. music is used that way on “the hills,” too, but sometimes it seems like it’s supposed to be what it sounds like just in one person’s head, in lauren’s or heidi’s skull, like it’s streaming off their frontal lobe onto the soundtrack.

the lyrics of “so much things to say” seem apt to be playing in heidi or lauren’s heads during one of those emotional scenes at an episode’s climax where something important has changed. the song has verses about marcus garvey being “sold for rice” and a lot of biblical allusions and black history stuff i don’t understand, but the chorus is pretty universal and contemporary – lauryn just repeats, over and over,

They got so much things to say right now;
They got so much things to say.
They got so much things to say right now;
They got so much things to say.

and later

They’ve got, they’ve got, so very many things to say about me
I’m telling you: lie
They, and they, and they will have so many things
They’ll have so many things to say about you… to say about you
Cuz they don’t know me, know me
They don’t know me, oh they don’t know me, oh they don’t know me
Oh they don’t know me well

rewind a second. in the outro of “unplugged 2.0,” lauryn talks about her treatment by the press.

It’s like, if you give yourself up, listen, nobody can blackmail you at anything. I never forget, you know, when I first started to understand what all of this was all about, I just went to my, my parents and I just started confessin’ about stuff I did like in the second grade. Seriously, but we don’t know how all that stuff over time, we kids, man, all that repression, all that stuff just holdin’ you, you know, stuff I – talkin’ about boys feelin’ my booty in the second grade, I mean, I’m tellin’, and and ashamed of that, you know. Like no…Like no other girl in this audience played “run catch and kiss” or any of those silly games, you know. But just, from a child, just growing up with all that guilt, you know, and we think that that’s God. We think that’s God, telling us, “Feel guilty.” God is saying, “Get free, confess, man.” Understand that, look, everybody’s going through the same stuff, same issues, it’s just a bunch of repression. And I’m saying, man, life is too, is too valuable man, for us to sit here in these boxes all repressed, afraid to admit what we’re really going through, you know what I’m saying? I’m tired of that.

I’ll tell people, listen, I, it was so funny, when I was trying to, whenever I was pregnant with my first, my son, when I was trying to keep it a, a secret, it was all over the place, you know. And I went everywhere and I said, “Hey, I’m having another baby,” and I didn’t hear about it at all. And I was like, man, I said, look, “Y’all just wanna deal in, in stuff that people don’t want out.” So now I just give myself up. “Yeah, I’m having another child, yep, yep. What else would you like to know?” Yeah, I’m crazy and deranged, you know, and I’m free, you see, I’m free. You know, I might play these songs and twitch a little bit, just so people know, you know, look [laughter] Dont, I’m telling you, when they think you crazy, they don’t mess with you. I’m telling you, you think, y’all think that that’s a curse, it’s a blessing, it’s a blessing. When I was, uh, you know, uh, a politician, boy, everybody, just all over me, you know, I didn’t have a private moment at all, not, not one private moment. And now that people think I’m crazy and deranged, we have peace, total peace. And so I, listen as far as I’m concerned, I’m crazy and deranged. As far as all y’all know, I’m crazy and deranged, I’m emotionally unstable, and, and uh, I’m not gonna ch- and that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. [laughter]

does that make you think about anyone? you might like to know that rohan marley, the father of lauryn’s children, left her last fall, while she was pregnant with her fifth child, and that he was/is good friends with kevin federline.

by another weird google accident, i found out that “so much things to say” is actually a cover of an old bob marley song. the variation of the chorus that i’ve quoted above, though, the “they don’t know me” one, isn’t in bob’s version, and i think that those lines, about how “they have so many things to say about me” and “you” but that “they don’t know me, they don’t know me,” lauryn‘s additions, those are the ones have the most to do with lauren, and with heidi and lindsay and britney, too; not with I and I but with us and US, with me and you.


That is the true genius of America, a faith in the simple dreams of its people, the insistence on small miracles. b.a.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, if who you really are is a douchebag, no one is required to love you (although I think life has plenty of examples of douchebags finding love at the same rate as nice, normal people. sigh.), but most of us are just your average (flawed) human beings. And the odds are, SOMEONE out there will find us captivating. – j.a.

[The] issues are never simple. One thing I’m proud of is that very rarely will you hear me simplify the issues. – b.a.

Blogging is so. So. SO. SO. easy compared to writing a cohesive narrative of 2000 words or more. Blogging is jotting down your thoughts. Anyone can jot down thoughts in a coherent and more or less amusing fashion. But try making an actual long-form argument – that MAKES SENSE – without resorting to cliche or banality or circular rhetoric or just filler … while still maintaining your voice? ugh, it’s not easy. – j.a.

Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. it’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere. – b.a

Moreover, if what we know about ourselves flies in the face of the perception of other people, we may choose to actively ignore that perception. For example, my love of the color pink may lead people to believe I am immature. Now, I may disagree with this, but that’s (probably) just how people will feel, no matter what. It’s better to know this, and deal with it accordingly, than to not.

…Is it fair that people judge? Of course it isn’t. But it’s reality. So what should I do, then? Not dress the way I want to dress? Or accept that some people will judge me inaccurately?

So far I’ve chosen the latter. – j.a.

The fact that my 15 minutes of fame has extended a little longer than 15 minutes is somewhat surprising to me and completely baffling to my wife. – b.a.

It seems that people AUTOMATICALLY assume if you want to write a dating column, you’re harboring an intense desire to be famous or buy a lot of Manolos or something. That’s not why I started my column (back in college), and my career ambition is entirely separate from that. I’m not ambitious BECAUSE I write a dating column, and I didn’t calculate that it would be easier to get more attention or succeed in the world of journalism if I were a dating columnist (although I think it HAS brought me more attention than if I were a regular reporter – but that was an unexpected byproduct).

I began the column because I was genuinely fascinated by the machinations between men and women, and I thought I could – gasp! – actually examine issues that people obsess over incessantly. It’s sort of ironic, how deeply relationships affect everyone’s lives, but how frivolously they’re treated in journalism. WHY IS THIS!?!? – j.a.

We live in a culture that discourages empathy. A culture that too often tells us our principle goal in life is to be rich, thin, young, famous, safe, and entertained. – b.a.

PS. I think sleep masks as headbands could be the next big thing.

PPS. I am kidding.

PPPS. God, I totally had a dream that I was driving in a car with Paris Hilton, and she was really, really smart, and we discussed her regrets about creating the ditzy, vapid “Paris Hilton” character.

PPPPS. I wish I were kidding. – j.a.

People are whupped. I’m whupped. My wife is whupped. Unless it’s your job to be curious, who really has the time to sit and ask questions and explore issues? – b.a.

I’m so, so, so tired. Sleepy, emotional tired, like anything will make me cry. If you told me now that you didn’t like my dog, it would probably make me cry. Okay, maybe I would just frown, but you know … it’s almost a PMS-y, illogical, irrational, over-sensitivity. I feel like this is a version of tired we should outgrow, but I haven’t. Meh. – j.a.

Look, we live in a celebrity culture and sometimes you get caught in the wave and the buzz and a lot of it’s flattering but, you know, one of the things that I try to remind people of is, is that I was in politics as a state senator operating in obscurity for many years. Before that I was a community organizer working in low income communities in Chicago and nobody knew my name then. And so, having involved myself in public service for a pretty long time without getting too much attention, hopefully I can keep some of the attention that I’m getting now in perspective. – b.a.

As part of the article I’m writing, the editor suggested I cite a few of the insults lobbed against me over the past few years.

So, because I follow instructions (ha), I diligently waded through the murky abyss of internet hatred against me.

It’s not that I haven’t heard this stuff before, but I swear to god, after an hour I was THISCLOSE to slitting my wrists, just to get it over with …

UPDATE: Okay, I’m done trolling through the drivel and will literally NEVER go there again. Now, looking at the comments I’ve pasted onto a word doc, out of context they actually … make me laugh. I still feel sick from the entire process, but when I look at them, it’s like … “seriously???”

“slut with a pen”
“useless ho-bag”
“attention whore”
“chiclet-toothed asshole”
“old, ugly and over”
“dumber … than an autistic child”

“Boobs speak louder than words. And lucky for her.”

My favorite is “dumber than an autistic child.” – j.a.

Faith doesn’t mean that you don’t have doubts. – b.a.

Okay, so (for this article) one of the things I’m thinking about is what it is, at the root of everything, that makes us unhappy.

I think that most (needless) unhappiness stems from the worry that, on some level, we are not enough.

Not smart enough or beautiful enough or thin enough or successful enough or rich enough – or … yeah … LOVABLE enough.

We’re frightened of being criticized, of being rejected, of being unloved.

Many of us are giant balls of self-doubt and anxiety – and we’re freaked out that someone will FIGURE THIS OUT. – j.a.

We think of faith as a source of comfort and understanding but find our expression of faith sowing division; we believe ourselves to be a tolerant people even as racial, religious, and cultural tensions roil the landscape. And instead of resolving these tensions or mediating these conflicts, our politics fans them, exploits them, and drives us further apart. – b.a.

I want the entire world to get “life = not zero sum” tattooed on a body part they see every single day. I feel like it would help. – j.a.

We have a stake in one another … what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and … if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done for the people with whom we share this Earth. – b.a.

I remember thinking how funny that was, that they were insulting me for … being nice??

Now, looking back, I think it’s more sad than anything else. It’s sad that they were convinced it was an artifice – because they couldn’t believe that someone might ACTUALLY be interested, might ACTUALLY want to be your friend, might ACTUALLY think you’re great.

It’s not fake. I really am like that. 🙂 – j.a.

In an interconnected world, the defeat of international terrorism – and most importantly, the prevention of these terrorist organizations from obtaining weapons of mass destruction — will require the cooperation of many nations. We must always reserve the right to strike unilaterally at terrorists wherever they may exist. But we should know that our success in doing so is enhanced by engaging our allies so that we receive the crucial diplomatic, military, intelligence, and financial support that can lighten our load and add legitimacy to our actions. This means talking to our friends and, at times, even our enemies. – b.a.

Yes, that’s a nametag I’m wearing. I love nametags. I love wearing one, and I love when other people wear them. It just makes everything so much easier, you don’t have to worry you didn’t hear their name right, you don’t have to humiliate yourself asking someone you’ve met 7 times to repeat it, etc etc. I think we should all have cute permanent nametags we wear whenever we’re interacting with a large group of strangers. Just a helpful life suggestion. – j.a.

Hope — Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope! In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation. A belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead. – b.a.

I mean, to have happiness without any pain. For the last six months it’s been on-and-off joy mixed with bad-relationship pain (and for the past two months, a TON of breakup pain), but for the last week, I’ve felt this pure unadulterated joy – like I’ve come through a very horrible sandstorm and I can breathe again.

It makes me a little NERVOUS, actually …(how weird is that??)

I call it Freedom Happiness: the happiness of not being dependent upon anyone for my happiness.

It’s lovely. I highly recommend it. – j.a.

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. – b.a.

With a half dozen officially sucky Valentine’s Days under my belt, I’m still in thrall of the unmitigated potential of the occasion. This is perhaps surprising, given that my most memorable February 14ths include being given a regifted copy of All Quiet on the Western Front (um, it’s a war novel. What?!?) and years later, after even my backup date had stood me up, eating an entire jar of frosting. Alone.

No matter – I’m a perpetual optimist. And that frosting was actually quite good. Just because I haven’t had a “perfect” Valentine’s day … yet … doesn’t mean it won’t happen sometime in the future!! – j.a.

hiatus, part 5

February 12, 2008

Lauren doesn’t know if she’s having trouble breathing. Lauren doesn’t know if she’s having trouble breathing because she’s really having trouble breathing or because she thinks she’s having trouble breathing. Lauren’s talking on the phone to Scott, her producer, about the situation, about the breathing and the bubble and the air. Lauren’s talking to him in the kitchen on her iPhone. Is she having trouble breathing because she’s talking on the phone? Should she talk quieter or not breathe as hard, does that make a difference, does Scott know? Is this plastic sheeting around the house, which Scott calls the bubble, is the bubble being filled with air for them to breathe? Is Scott sure about that, is someone checking on it, is there a clipboard where someone has literally checked off, in blue or black ink, “fill the bubble with air for them to breathe”?

Lauren’s talking on the phone to Scott, her producer. When she first found the bubble, she was scared and she called her dad, but he didn’t pick up. She called her mom but she didn’t pick up. Lauren didn’t know why her parents wouldn’t be picking up the phone. She didn’t know why her parents wouldn’t be picking up the phone on a Monday morning and it made her even more scared, like what are they doing that they couldn’t pick up for Lauren, their daughter, who they love? That’s when she started to have trouble breathing.

Then she called Scott and he picked up and she was relieved, at least sort of. Really it’s good that she called Scott, it’s better that she talked to Scott than them, and he agrees with this, because Scott is in LA and Scott knows things, especially things about her life, because that’s his job. Scott’s job is that he knows things about her life that are interesting for television, but that also means that he just knows things about life, like how the terror alert level has been raised to red (there should be an iPhone application to tell you when the terror alert is raised, like the one that tells you about the weather), like how the gas appeared and people collapsed on lawns and in parking lots, like how there is plastic sheeting around her house and her neighbors’ houses to protect them from the gas because they are in a high risk area, like how the gas is in some areas and not others, like how Scott is in an area where there is no gas but is blocked off from Lauren’s area, like how Lauren’s parents are fine but some communications are blocked right now because of the government, like why her cable and internet are out, like a lot of things. Scott knows a lot of things and Lauren is glad he knows these things. Lauren likes have all the information on a subject so she can make informed decisions – this is the way good business is done.

Does Scott know if there is enough clean air in the bubble for she and Audrina and Audrina’s boy all to live? Audrina and her boy are out on the lawn, feeling the edges of the bubble. Lauren is watching them through the kitchen window. The boy isn’t wearing a shirt, just pants. If he was good looking or if they were decent pants, it wouldn’t seem trashy. Do they need to weigh themselves to see how much air needs to be pumped in? Lauren knows from movies about space that it’s important how much you weigh because people who weigh more take up more air – that’s why they don’t let fat people into space. Lauren weighs herself every morning. Obviously she weighs more at the end of the day, but she doesn’t weigh herself at the end of the day because that’s unnecessary and can trigger body image issues and emotional eating. If Scott asks how much she weighs, should she tell him what she weighs in the morning or should she add some pounds to the number to be safe, to get some extra air pumped in? Lauren doesn’t want to make herself sound fat, but what if Audrina lies about how much she weighs? Audrina drinks too much beer at those bars and skips the gym sometimes and she might lie to Lauren about how much she weighs and if she lies then they might not get enough air and then they might die, unless Lauren saves them by pretending to be fat. Lauren always has to be the responsible one.

If someone has to stop breathing, shouldn’t it be Audrina’s boy? Lauren thinks of the reasons he should have to stop breathing so she’ll be prepared if she has to say them to Audrina in an important moment. One, because he’s bigger and a boy and so he takes up more air. Two, because he’s a stranger and he doesn’t have the close emotional bond that Lauren and Audrina have developed over several years. Three, because this is Lauren’s house and she paid 2.2 million dollars for it and now she owns it and it’s hers. Lauren won’t say three unless she absolutely has to, but if she absolutely has to, she’ll say three. Whenever she complained when she was in middle school, her dad would say, “When it’s your house, you get to make up the rules.”

Lauren wishes she could talk to her dad, her dad would know what to do, he would take control of the situation. Her dad was always strict, but rules and discipline are what make dreams and wishes possible. Scott keeps telling Lauren to calm down. Lauren hates it when people tell her to “chill” or “chill out” or “cool off” or “cool it” or “calm down” or “relax,” she hates all of those phrases. Some people are not naturally calm and relaxed – some people are naturally anxious and sympathetic, some people are naturally devoted and lonely, some people are naturally caring and stressed, but this doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with them, it’s just who they are. A lot of people who are naturally calm and relaxed are often lazy or stupid or don’t have the drive to succeed that other people like Lauren have and so who is better now, these calm and relaxed people? Lauren doesn’t think so. If you have lemons, you make lemonade. Lauren never had a lemonade stand when she was a girl, but she always liked the idea when she saw it in movies.

The conversation with Scott ends because he’s getting a call with more information about her situation. Even though Scott doesn’t seem to know everything he should, Lauren likes the idea of people caring about her and trying to find out information about her situation. She likes the idea of Scott in his office with a folder that says “Lauren Conrad” and inside the folder is information and notes about her situation and maybe some pictures. She likes the idea that he is having his assistant and interns call the authorities for information about her situation. She likes the idea of Team Lauren, she loved when that happened, she kept the t-shirt they gave her it even though it wasn’t the right fit.

Lauren sits down at the kitchen table with her magazines and a container of non-fat strawberry yogurt and a bottle of water. She spreads her magazines out in front of her on the table, all of them, Lucky and Us and InTouch, Cosmo and Cosmogirl, Vogue and Teen Vogue, Seventeen and and YM, Self and Shape. Lauren loves her magazines, each and every one. She has subscriptions to all of them and she loves how subscriptions work, she finds how subscriptions work comforting, mail arriving at her home at certain times every week and every month, on schedule, on time, in thin wrapping and envelopes that you get to tear open like presents.

Lauren tries to read the new issue of Cosmo. She tries to read the new issue – she flips through the pages as she eats her yogurt, but she can’t connect to any of it, it doesn’t mean anything to her, now, in this moment. There’s no advice about how you should act during a terrorist gas attack, what you should wear, what shows you should watch, good songs to listen to – there’s no quiz to take. Lauren looks out at Audrina and her boy on the lawn. They are kissing, Audrina and the boy with his shirt off, sitting in the grass. The position they are in, the way his arms are around her, is actually really unflattering and makes Audrina look even fatter than she is. Audrina never listens to Lauren when Lauren tries to give her style tips, even though Lauren is kind of an expert and a lot of people think she is stylish and she has been quoted in magazines. Audrina always gets really bitchy about it, which is so rude, especially since Lauren is letting her stay in a room in her new house for free.

But at least Audrina has someone, even if he is ugly, even if he doesn’t dress well, he is someone, he is a person, he is a male person, with arms and strength. What if there is more gas or an explosion or what if there are real terrorists that come to the house, men in hoods with guns? Even though Lauren is a strong and successful and attractive and independent young woman who has a lot going for her in her life right now and doesn’t need the distraction that a stupid boy would provide, it feels important to her to have a stupid boy right now, with muscles that she can hold on to, with things to grip. That should have been an article in Cosmo, how it’s important to have a boyfriend in a terrorist attack.

Lauren put her fingers on her neck to try to check her pulse, like in gym class in school, but she doesn’t feel anything. In gym class in school, she didn’t feel anything either, she just pretended to and copied the pulse rate of the girl next to her. It didn’t seem important to have a pulse then, but now it seems very important to have a pulse; Lauren wants a pulse so bad, she wants to feel the blood moving through her neck in rhythm, on time. She knows that she has a pulse, she knows that she wouldn’t be sitting up and eating yogurt and breathing and pressing her fingers to her neck if she didn’t have a pulse, but all the same she just wants to feel it so she can really know that it’s there. Lauren presses her fingers against her neck and waits to feel something.


February 4, 2008

so i did a cover of “higher,” heidi montag’s single, which officially comes out tomorrow. it’s kind of like when jimi hendrix played “sergeant pepper” live three days after it had been released. except…not.

it was really kind of difficult to cover. you may think all those synthesizer parts in heidi’s version are silly, but as my single abortive synth solo in the final chorus of my cover makes clear, they’re hard to play, yo. also, the melody is pretty complicated, rhythmically, so i smudged it out with my jeff tweedy/big star/wowiamreallyflatteringmyself crayon.

anyway, what this song really got me thinking about was that song by zooey deschanel that was just released on stereogum. because like heidi montag, zooey deschanel is not a very good singer. don’t get me wrong, i think “why do you let me stay here” is absolutely adorable and i like her a lot, but that doesn’t make her billie holiday. that’s okay, though, she doesn’t have to be – neither heidi montag nor zooey deschanel are very good singers, so they’re not bringing the joy of pure melody or rich harmonics to the table. what they’re bringing is an extension of their brand, from image to sound. maybe that sounds crass, but if it does, i’m assuming you’re assuming it sounds crass about zooey, not heidi. which is of course bullshit.

zooey’s song is a perfect sonic manifestation of the persona she’s trying to project: the indie filmrock chanteuse vintage cutie. for this purpose, she’s got the perfect mainstreamindie producer, m.ward – he’s not as mainstream as rick rubin, though he shares a similar analog aesthetic, but he’s not super underground, either; “post war,” which i loved, BTW, could have easily been released at starbucks. her covers are cred-tastic; a sixties soul song (“you really got a hold on me”) and an early beatles track (“i should’ve known better”). her voice is like the PG version of nancy – there’s twang, but no bite; she’ll make out with you, but she’s no sex goddess, she’s a sweet-tart sweet heart. the nancy thing, now that i think about it, is even more apt – “she and him” is really (even in the grammar of the name) the 2.0 version of “nancy and lee“- it’s “nancy and lee” for people who loved the movie “once.”

read this copy, from the merge website

She & Him is a story of musical serendipity: Two artists, each renowned in their own creative fields, meet and recognize a certain shared nostalgia. The result is destined to be one of the musical highlights of the year.

Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward first met to record a version of Richard and Linda Thompson’s “When I Get To The Border” for a movie soundtrack. Immediately struck by one another’s talents and finding an instant rapport, Zooeylet slip that she wrote her own songs which she recorded alone at home on her computer. Somewhat shy about anyone hearing these musical morsels she eventually sent the demos to Matt who was instantly impressed. They soon reconvened at his Portland studio to begin work.

Embracing the warm sound of early analog recordings, Volume 1 is more than just a showcase for Zooey’s rich and endearing voice; it’s a distinctive and endlessly charming album. The songs themselves give a respectful nod to the likes of Dusty Springfield, Linda Ronstadt and The Zombies while Matt’s production gives them just the right amount of golden era sheen. Whether Zooey’s channeling Ronnie Spector as on “I Was Made For You” or joining Matt in turning The Beatles “I Should Have Known Better” into a seductive hula guitar duet, the results are always captivating. “

she’s shy about her bedroom recordings? they were recording a richard and linda thompson song? they did the album in PORTLAND?! my favorite bit of indified adjaculation (besides the boilerplate “the warm sound of early analog recordings”) is “golden era sheen” which just reminds me again of how gorgeous zooey deschanel was in those lovely analog grain looking beautiful golden light scenes in “almost famous,” which when i was sixteen was as close as i was getting to drugs and/or sex. i know i am sounding really mean here but the truth is i love this song and i love zooey deschanel. i will probably listen to her record way more than i have ever listened to nancy sinatra. like, look at her in the picture above – i don’t know what the fuck that part of the vintage dress is called that looks like a bib, but it’s so cute and i love it, just like her self-consciously retro hair. “why do you let me stay here” and the promotional material makes me want to be m. ward and have hot indie sex with zooey deschanel. this is, of course, exactly the point.

heidi’s song is also a perfect sonic manifestation of the persona she’s trying to project – that’s why it seems so fucking crazy, because what she’s trying to project is fucking crazy. when, on “jimmy kimmel,” heidi described her producer’s music as “from outer space…literally from god,” it sounded ridiculous, and yet when i hear that insane synthed out intro, i see exactly what she meant. it’s not real outer space music, it’s not literally from god, but it’s exactly how heidi’s persona would interpret those terms. i imagine her with big studio headphones on sitting with her eyes closed and bopping in an office chair to these weird synths and floyd-y noises while spencer and theron do lines in the studio bathroom. this is a “reality” “star” who has said with all seriousness that she’s going to win an oscar someday – not that she wants to be a great actress, not even that she wants to win an oscar, but that she’s going to win an oscar.

do you want an example of why this song is perfect for heidi’s persona ? okay, so last week heidi and spencer got outed for manufacturing their paparazzi photos, right? then, sunday, spencer gets quoted in the new york times style section in an article about how celebrities go to vegas in order to avoid being photographed by the paparazzi.

“In Vegas, I don’t have to worry about photographers waiting outside my house every day because they can’t wait outside my hotel room,” Spencer Pratt, a star of the MTV reality series “The Hills,” said in early January as he and Heidi Montag, his co-star and girlfriend, posed for photos on a red carpet on the way to an event that they were paid to attend at the Jet nightclub at the Mirage.

“When we travel here we have bodyguards, there are people with earpieces making sure there aren’t any photos we don’t want, making sure there’s no problems,” Mr. Pratt said. “I’m sure a lot of celebrities come out to Vegas because it’s like a hide-out, it’s a getaway.”

notice in the first quotation how he doesn’t mention that he’s complicit in the image making and is in fact collaborating with the paparazzi who are shooting him. notice in the second quotation how his “a lot of celebrities” implicitly includes himself and heidi, who a lot of celebrities would not classify as part of “a lot of celebrities.” this is crazy! do people not see how crazy this is?

don’t get me wrong, the song is out there, i know. the lyrics are often insane – in the second verse, she sings (or i think she sings) “there’s no one next to me…i feel free” and then sings “it’s like our families.” how is being alone like our families? unless this is a deep revelation about rootlessness and the weakness of familial bonds which only seems like someone trying to find another word that rhymes with “me” and “free.” i just recorded the first two verses because honestly i have no clue what she’s saying in the third verse (something about “keeping the pace?”). but again, all of this is perfect for a song by heidi montag.

there are similarities between the two songs. lyrically, both traffic in vague generalities. zooey’s are passive (“why do you let me stay here…i’m just sitting on the shelf”) and passively coy (“i think you’re just so pleasant / i would like you for my own”) and coyly infantilized (“you make me feel like i am just a child”); heidi’s are active (“nothing can stop me now”) and actively bold (“i feel the energy / i’m breaking boundaries”) and boldly retarded (the aforementioned second verse, which rhymes “me”/”families”/”i feel free”/”found the key”). both songs have breakdowns to massed voices and sparse instrumentation; in zooey’s case, it’s a brian wilson approved wordless doo-dah fest; in heidi’s case, it’s a repetition of the word “higher” over a thrummy club bass and more casios.

unlike zooey’s song, i don’t know what heidi’s song makes me feel. like, i guess it’s supposed to make me feel, like, “heidi montag is a transcendent pop icon like her idols madonna, britney spears, and stevie wonder.” obviously it doesn’t make me or anyone else with ears feel that. maybe what it makes me feel is “heidi montag is trying really hard to make me feel that heidi montag is a transcendent pop icon like her idols madonna, britney spears, and stevie wonder.” and i think that’s kind of admirable and brave and stupid and fake and honest and naive and fascinating, which is basically how i feel about heidi montag. i have two favorite parts of “higher.” my second favorite part is at the end, where, over eerily twinkling faux-dissonant adorno-cranking-dat-in-his-grave piano, she breathily intones “am i dreaming?” which i think is probably an echo of some britney thing, but i don’t know britney enough to know that. my first favorite part is when she sings “higher” four times during the breakdown, between 2:01 and 2:09. objectively, they’re awful – so painful and strained. yet they’re great because they’re so painful and strained – britney spears or madonna would never release a record with a sound like that on it. heidi wants to be like them, she tries really hard to be like them, but she can’t, because she’s just not a good singer.

and that’s why i like heidi and zooey, because i’m not a very good singer either. i know it and i know it’s probably not going to change, i’m not going to wake up tomorrow and sound like marvin gaye or rufus wainright. like heidi and zooey, i’m just trying hard and doing the best i can.

p.s. i did a power pop version because that is my skill set, but what this song is obviously waiting for is a mixtape remix about getting blazed. the obvious choice for the guest verses is weezy or one of his proteges (protegi?), but i hold out hope that it could be a return to the spotlight for afroman, one of my personal heroes (“because i got high” is dumb but “colt 45” is one of my top 10 songs of all time, easy. it’s the “rappers delight” of my generation.)

lauren’s birthday

February 1, 2008

i was going to write a letter to lauren on the occasion of her twenty second birthday but then i realized how that would be hypothetical and stupid. i mean obviously it would be hypothetical because i don’t know lauren and obviously it would be stupid if for no reason but that ridiculously formal phrasing, “on the occasion of her twenty second birthday,” like we are living in “the princess diaries” or something. in the letter, i would talk about how i have been twenty two for a couple of months now and how it has been a pretty lame couple of months and how i know she has a lot of problems in her life but there are positive things too which she should appreciate and how i empathize with her and try to understand her problems and how that is the reason i write about her, because i want to understand her and already you are seeing how embarrassing this letter would be.

but it might not only be hypothetical and stupid (and embarrassing), because what if she read it? that would add horrible to the list of adjectives. i think most fans who write about celebrities dream of the celebrities that they write about reading what they wrote about them. i think most fans would like that because they write about the celebrities because they think they understand something about the celebrities that other people don’t understand or they think they love the celebrities more than other people can or do. i think both of those things are true about me and and LC and the gang, but i think it would be the worst thing in the world for me if lauren or whitney or heidi or audrina or lo or spencer read anything i had written. i would just die. first, i’m sure reading it would creep them out like if you found a note from a stalker or something and while i like to creep out people who like to be creeped out (hello, dear readers), these people don’t seem like people who like to be creeped out and i don’t want to creep out people i like if they don’t want to be creeped out. but beyond that, i think reading the things i’ve written about them would maybe make them self conscious about their performance and that would be no good. i mean, obviously they are already kind of self conscious about their performance, that’s why it’s performance and not existence (although i don’t think the two are really different at all, duh), but right now they are exactly the right amount of self conscious and if they read the things i’ve written about them then it might be a tipping point, like in that book “the tipping point,” and they could become too self conscious and the whole enterprise would become this shitty mid-period john barth novel and then i would be sad and i would have to write a blog about something else, like my feelings.