friday listicle

March 28, 2008

just a few tidbits. first, patrick writes in with some information about lauren’s dress.

in your recap of of the season premiere you incorrectly referred to the dress that lauren ruined with the curling iron as a “french couture dress”. the word couture refers to a garment that is custom made for a particular client usually employing mostly hand sewing. specifically it refers to custom garments made by a fashion house that is recognized as producing Haute Couture by the Chambre syndicale de la haute couture which has very precise standards that need to be followed in order to get the title. I believe there are only 13 houses in the world that currently have the title of Haute Couture.

what lauren was wearing is what would be called pret-a-porter (like the terrible altman film) or ready to wear. it was something that was produced in standard sizes ready to be worn straight from the rack. i’m sure it was not cheap but nowhere near the price of a couture piece which run easily in the hundred thousands.

one of the problems i ran into when writing “hiatus” (which i want to continue but i’m not sure if i can or will) is that i know absolutely nothing about fashion. this was troubling when trying to depict lauren’s interior life; i know that she would be thinking about fashion and garment construction and using those kinds of metaphors and noticing brands and designers and etc. and i just have no knowledge base on any of this kind of stuff.

moving on, did you think i was a little over the top when i was talking about “the hills” and its lack of reverence for monuments and landmarks?

what does this say about paris? it says that it is just another image to be appropriated and sampled as necessary, but it no longer has a real essence, no true importance that the editors and cinematographers have to revere…the landmarks are just marks in the land…

i was concerned that maybe i was pushing it a little. well, that was a stupid concern:

If you are among those who dismiss Heidi Montag as being just another product of another reality show, consider this: Montag has a clothing line, a music career that continues despite a disastrous first attempt at a music video, and she even had hopes of altering the famous Hollywood sign to say “Heidiwood” in time for a splashy April 11 fashion show.

According to Us Weekly, Montag’s publicity team (who deserves congrats in their own right for turning Montag into the brand she is) wasn’t able to make it happen. Los Angeles city council member Tom LaBonge told the magazine, “We rarely accept alterations of an historic monument.”

 

finally, singer-songwriter juliana hatfield wrote a totally emo overshare-y blog post about how “the hills” is destroying society. a short excerpt:

I believe that television – and cable tv in particular (and now the internet, and all the other technologies which weren’t such a presence when I wrote the song) – is ruining our country. Ruining us. Some people actually think that what is on tv is real. It’s wired into their brains. With so many reality shows, they get the “reality” on these shows mixed up with real reality, and it leads to identity confusion. And dimwittedness. And conformity. And greed (people want what they see on tv). And it moves to the streets, the malls, schools, to the culture, as a uniformity of experience, language, dress, style, thought, desire.

whoah, reality bites! obviously, i am working on a response song and a totally emo overshare-y response blog post which i will post either this weekend or on monday. originally my response song was going to be me crooning “juliana…fuck you” over and over again with varying intonation on top of a loping country strum for two or three minutes but then i remembered that JA and HM would look down on me for my lack of caring and understanding and faith/hope/love and so i am going to act nice and gentle, promise.

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  • so, that was good.
  • in the recap from earlier in the season, brody’s “i’ll always be there for you, you’ll always be there for me” reminded me again of “friends.” this time it wasn’t the theme song, the beginning of every show, it was how “friends” ended, the finale. as you remember, in the last season of “friends,” rachel gets a job as a buyer for louis vuitton in paris. ross tries to convince her to stay in new york, but their relationship has become too complex and this opportunity is too good, the job too perfect to give up. he tearfully confesses his love to her at the airport, but it’s not enough. except then at the end of the finale he is in his apartment and she leaves a message on his answering machine about how she “has to get off the plane” and then as soon as the message ends she is standing in the doorway and “she got off the plane” and the narrative arc begun ten seasons earlier is finally neatly bow-tied and eyes cry and hearts are warmed, all because “she got off the plane.”
  • obviously “the hills” exists in opposition to that kind of narrative arc and that kind of romantic ideal. in the first season, lauren didn’t “get on the plane” to go to paris, either, and it seemed like a great idea at the time because she loved jason so much. but unlike “friends,” a sitcom, which is allowed to end and freeze and stop time, where we can just imagine that monica and chandler grow old together on some metaphorical front porch in an eternal sunset, where we can believe that ross and rachel’s clashing personalities cease clashing until they die together in their sleep in the same bed holding hands, “the hills” is a reality show and it keeps going and it became quickly clear that not getting on the plane was a bad thing, a thing to regret, a mark against lauren’s judgment and character. in “the hills,” there is no ross, no chandler, no joey (i think the closest we probably came to a ross was that well-meaning dim-bulb tallan from “laguna beach”); there are no guys who are basically good hearted and don’t have some kind of agenda (spencer, frankie, all of them) or demon (spencer, jason) or skeleton in their closet (spencer, jason) or just general asshole tendency (all of them, gavin). for lauren, there is no “mr. right,” there is “mr. ok” and “mr. maybe for a couple of weeks” and “mr. he’s not as bad as the last one.” even though she was like totally in like with brody jenner right before she was given the chance to go to paris, LC didn’t bat an eyelash over the decision – as she says herself in the introductory voice-over – “i had turned down paris for a boy before; i wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.”
  • the first scene was delightfully meta. i started to watch “inland empire” this weekend, as a kind of spiritual prep for the season, and lauren and whitney’s first scene with the driver definitely reminded me of the first scene in “inland empire” with laura dern and grace zabriskie (also the episode as a whole and especially the scene at the debutante ball reminded me of the david lynch gucci ad, which seems to steal its midnight helicopter shots right from a “hills” edit bay). lauren and whitney are picked up at the airport by a driver. he will take them where they want to go. he tells them “it’s a new world for you,” that “everything is different.” this is a kind of “through the looking glass” remark and lauren asks, like little alice, “how is it different?” he puts the reins in her hands by saying “it’s up to you to see.” they decide the plot, they decide where to go, what to do, how things play out.
  • we’re in paris now, i’ll be your tour guide, on your left is barthes – do not follow the signs, they may be misleading. sorry, that was painful. the thing i love about “the hills” and reality television in general is that they are a complete blow to the dated, romantic idea of the author, or, since we’re in france and since we’re talking about visual media, the auteur. the work that hisham abed and jason sands and tony disanto and the editors they employ do is crucial to the success of “the hills,” definitely, but the work that lauren and whitney and audrina do is crucial, too, and at least equally important. they are not just actors, they are writing the story of the show with their lives. everyone is collaborating to create meaning, they are all the author, even audrina. the cast and crew should have a centerfold in some critical theory journal, all wearing glasses like lauren does in that scene where she is sitting in the computer lab and wants to look studious. personally, i like this model of authorship way more than david simon giving sermons on the mount about how brilliant he is and cockslapping anyone who disagrees.
  • of course, the producers will try to control what happens. whitney asks, “what are we going to do?” and the driver notes, “oh, you have your itinerary.” this is obviously an allegorical stand-in for a script – the girls are supposed to go to location one and then location two and then location three – they are supposed to do these things in this order, to follow the plot. later, in the hotel room, lauren asks a similar “what do we do now” question and whitney says that there’s supposed to be an intinerary slid under the door, and, voila, there it is, the new day’s script, just like how real movies are produced! isn’t there a scene similar to this in “day for night“?
  • yet lauren and whitney have no respect for this plot, this script, at all. impulses and whims trump order and logic. the intinerary says they’re supposed to pick up the shoes first and then get their gowns. but lauren decides not to to, that, fuck the script, we want wardrobe, we want our pretty dresses; we make the decisions, driver, we own you, you have to take us where we want to go.
  • that this horrible decision will have negative consequences is totally, obviously telegraphed. as an audience, we are trained to understand that because of the economy of time on television we wouldn’t be getting this information unless it was going to be important later. yet, at the same time, it is telegraphed in the same way that things are sometimes telegraphed in real life, like when after we fuck up the reason we fucked up is completely obvious. a jezebel commenter noted during their liveblog, “shit i feel like they should have gotten the debutantes shoes first.” this isn’t an ironic comment, this person is genuinely reacting in the moment because she has probably had a totally similar experience.
  • the meta tendency is reinforced after the scene where girls pick up their dresses. outside the store, the driver asks them “was it good”? he is an analog for the producer – he drives them around and asks them how they are doing, how their scenes are going. he tries, with his itinerary, to tell them where to go, to shape the narrative, to get the footage he needs, but ultimately he is stuck following their (stupid) decisions. he is a driver and he is always down. 😛
  • when the girls go to collette, the decisions re: blocking and cinematography are telling. when they pull on the glass door and it doesn’t open, the obvious cinematic tendency would be to cut inside the store to a reverse shot of the girls so we can see their faces, their reactions. but even though the producers could have easily put a camera inside colette, they don’t, because, despite the occasional incongruous dubbing, they are bent on maintaining the verite illusion of the show and in the world of the show, colette is closed and nobody is inside and nothing can be done about it. thus, instead, were are stuck with this long lens shot of lauren and whitney from behind and then we get a little closer and whitney turns to the side a little bit to accommodate the camera.
  • this reminds me of something i heard on the “breathless” DVD commentary, about how a lot of the shots on the streets of paris were filmed in secret by godard, hiding with his handheld camera inside a mail cart to get footage without pedestrians noticing.
  • which brings me, of course, to paris. in this episode, more than ever, location is significant. this is an entire hour-long episode of “the hills” that does not, except for a brief interlude with spencer and stephanie, actually take place in the hills – our settings are paris and crested butte, colorado. as i said during the previous trip to colorado, the images there feel so strange, like an alien landscape. the scene with heidi and spencer arguing beside the SUV is no different – one commenter noted that it looked like “a james bond scene.” to me, it seems like in a lot of the shots with spencer that they have brought in dry ice or a fog machine, like the actual climate doesn’t create enough atmospheric texture for the camera to pick up on so they had to augment it with something artificial.
  • on this note, the establishing shots throughout the paris parts of the episode are really interesting. i guess it’s because when people think of paris, especially people (like me) who have never been to paris, they have a very preconceived aesthetic notion of the city. (this is kind of tenuous but i’m going to go with it for a second) the same is true of new york – like, when i think of new york i don’t think of what it’s really like because i don’t know; instead, i think of what it’s like shot by gordon willis or ernest dickerson or or the plastic-y simulation on “friends” and a ton of other 1990s sitcoms that i love dearly. felle owns roma of course, and for paris, my imaginary landscape is either a mid sixties godard film or some collectively held by americans gallic audiovisual stereotype of ye-ye girl music and reverent technicolor shots of landmarks and baguettes and cafes and gitanes (i’m sure there is a movie i can reference here, but i don’t know what – “an american in paris”?). it doesn’t matter whether paris is gritty as “code inconnu” or as pretty as “amelie” or whether (duh) it is a complex city that can’t be captured by a single film or director’s ouevre or even a delightful omnibus like “paris, je t’aime” – i don’t see any of that, i see it the way that it’s been built, celluloid brick by celluloid brick, in my mind’s eye.
  • yet in the establishing shots and interstitial sequences, paris is treated with the exact same aesthetic template as LA. i know the process is more complex than this in real life, but it’s like the producers just shot a lot of random raw footage in the streets and then fed it into final cut pro and there’s some automated macro to cut out two second chunks (building, then cars driving fast at double time, then crash zoom-focus cars driving fast from other angle at 1.5 speed, then other building, then oddly framed shot of something random) and splice them together. obvious, there are some differences (i don’t think we’ve ever seen an evocatively framed shot of a bike rack or many people riding bicycles in the LA episodes), but largely, things look the same. if you lit it well enough and then shot it and color corrected it and chopped and screwed it the way that the editors of “the hills” do, could you make one of those LA drainage ditches (like in terminator 2!) look like the seine, could you make the city of angels into the city of lights? probably. what does this say about paris? it says that it is just another image to be appropriated and sampled as necessary, but it no longer has a real essence, no true importance that the editors and cinematographers have to revere.
  • that this lack of reverence is an absolutely right and true decision for the series is proven by the one scene that actually is reverent towards the idea of “PARIS,” the scene where lauren and whitney and ROCK AND ROLL visit the eiffel tower at night with a bottle of champagne. this is also the one scene in the episode that is absolutely and totally flat and bland. the reason it’s flat and bland is that it’s really just a bunch of shots of a building (and not just a building, but a building everyone has seen a million images of before, q.v. the most photographed barn in america, but i’m not going to go there) in these exquisitely framed images of steel girders and iron cables and light bulbs, we can barely see lauren and co., they are a spectral presence in poorly lit long shots. there are no close-ups and no faces, and if there are no close-ups and no faces, there is no emotion or feeling or fauxthenticity and if there is none of this, there is no scene. they are no longer people or characters, they are just figures overwhelmed by the monolith.
  • later in the episode, before matthias takes her on her moonlight vespa ride around the city, lauren says she wants to “see the city,” but that’s just a flimsy pretext for her tryst. she’s just saying that because it’s something people say – she doesn’t really want to tour the catacombs or hit up the louvre or whatever other touristy things, she wants a romantic moment with a scruffy french boy. as the two of them cruise, the landmarks become just marks in the land. at the beginning of the trip there’s a really great sequence which begins when matthias stops the vespa on the side of the road. the camera then cuts to a static shot of notre dame. who knows – they may be actually looking at it at that exact moment or it may have been picked up by second unit after lauren and whitney went back to LA. but anyway, the shot: it’s a postcard image, flat, still, you look at it for a second and then throw it away, which is exactly what the editor does, which is exactly what lauren does. lauren says she wants to “see” the city but really she just wants to “look at” it. after notre dame, the architecture whizzes by – you’ve already seen the eiffel tower, so who cares about seeing it again besides in a short tracking shot. l’arc d’triomphe is something you see, out of the corner of your eye, down the road from an intersection you’re speeding through on the way to your hotel; it’s not something to care about or stop and take a picture of.
  • this visual irreverence and appropriation is mirrored with a linguistic version of same in that scene in the hotel where lauren and whitney are playing with the phrasebook, not trying to learn survival french or something educational but picking out words that are relevant to lauren’s personal life and then giggling at how funny and foreign they sound.
  • this reminds me of that scene in patricia’s apartment in “breathless,” how she sticks her fine art postcards up on the bare white wall.
  • blah blah globalization blah blah
  • lauren’s conundrum about what to wear to go the club is yet another genius example of the specific implying the universal. probably not many people watching “the hills” have had to decide what they can wear to meet the dress code of a fancy parisian night club, but everybody has had some kind of crisis about what to wear when they’re going out. the same thing when lauren fucks up the dress – most people haven’t burnt an expensive french couture dress with a curling iron but everybody has gotten a stain on their clothes before. not many people have had to rush through the shower to get to a debutante photo shoot at an expensive hotel, but everybody has had to get ready quickly (also, i love when lauren calls whitney a “dirty girl” – oh, faux innuendo!) etc. etc. etc. it’s not the audience’s experience but at the same time it’s completely relatable; it’s a talking point for the girls who watch the show, it’s a discussion starter, it’s a way for them to connect and empathize with the characters and with each other.
  • THE BAND IS CALLED “ROCK AND ROLL”! duh, lauren leaves the (relative) dreariness and boredom of her everyday life in LA for the (relative) glitz and glamour and ROCK AND ROLL of paris. it doesn’t matter that we don’t hear their music, it’s not important even that they are really rock and roll musicians (although it’s great that this is their one identifying characteristic, like, when matthias comes to pick up lauren the second time, he still has the subtitle “guitarist” under his name) but they are ROCK AND ROLL people, they represent ROCK AND ROLL as a concept, they drink and smoke and have long hair and wear really tight pants (obviously the archetypal rock and roll fantasy becomes a bit more effete en francais – a vespa instead of a harley, etc.) (also, i love how anything related to rock and roll, rock music, leather jackets, or dirty, unwashed hair has some kind of tangential connection to audrina.)
  • LAUREN AND WHITNEY GO WITH ROCK AND ROLL TO A CLUB CALLED CLUB NEO. NEO IS A PREFIX MEANING NEW. THEY ARE TRYING TO FIND THE NEW THEM, THEIR NEW LIVES. THE TITLE OF THE EPISODE IS “PARIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.” IN THE CAR EARLIER, THE DRIVER TELLS THEM EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT. LAUREN ASKS HOW IT’S DIFFERENT AND THE DRIVER SAYS “IT’S UP TO YOU.” IF THIS WAS IN A MOVIE, THE SYMBOLISM WOULD BE BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS AND TRITE, BUT THEY ARE ACTUALLY LIVING THIS. IT IS SO GREAT THAT I HAVE TO WRITE IT IN ALL CAPS.
  • in my post about the half season finale, i discussed the fairy tale theme and how the hills is an utter refutation of the idea of fairy tale love. in this episode, we’ve got more variation on that theme. i don’t even have to read into it that deeply; i mean, this is an episode about our heroines going to a ball!
  • the obvious fantasy is cinderella: you go to the ball and you are elevated above your hardscrabble everyday life and you meet your prince charming. the reality, though is totally different – lauren and whitney are not real participants in the ball, they’re not debutantes, they don’t get to dance or find their prince charming. they are removed and detached from all this because they are working, they are doing their jobs: their beautiful ball gowns are just fancy uniforms, like butlers wear tuxedos.
  • most of all what they are doing at the ball is the same thing that we in TV land are doing; watching, seeing, gazing, staring, looking at, whispering comments to the person next to them. besides the little snafu with whitney’s partner and the cards, nothing happens in the scene; they and we are just watching a really expensive parade. it’s a gorgeous, luxurious sequence but also the shots of the hordes of beautiful girls bathed in flashbulbs become, after a point, a little terrifying. the agony and ecstasy of observation.
  • what about prince charming? oh, matthias, right. he’s tall (umm?), dark, uh, handsome? sure, i guess, if you go for that sort of thing. whatever, he’ll do.
  • so lauren and matthias go on their moonlight vespa ride and it’s great and wonderful and yadda yadda. this is the transformative experience, this is the fantasy, this is exactly what lauren and the audience want, this is what we’ve been waiting for.
  • but at the end, there’s no kiss! across america and canada, there are a million teenage girls sitting in their living rooms holding hands waiting for lauren to get her fairytale kiss from her mysterious stranger in france and she doesn’t, she just hugs him and walks up the stairs and lets the moment die. expectations popped like balloons.
  • but they had to be because that’s the fantasy and this is NOT a fantasy, it’s reality, or at least reality TV. the reality is the kiss that matthias and lauren share not at the climax of the narrative, but smack in the middle of their story, outside of club neo. as lauren and whitney walk to a cab to go back to the hotel, matthias approaches them from behind. our first glance is of him rushing across a frame to catch them before they leave, his speed an obvious symptom of nervy desperation. he grabs lauren from behind. she says “oh my gosh, you scared me.” he, gripping her, shoulder, says “you were moving without telling me byebye.” she doesn’t understand (lost in translation!) and he says, “you were movin without kissing me byebye” and so she grabs his beard like handles and gives him an exaggerated gallic double cheek kiss. he is drunk, he smells like smoke, it is kind of unpleasant; it is uncomfortable, it is awkward, it is real, too real, maybe. if you have never been in a situation like this, let’s just say that on both sides it’s not very fantastical. it is romantic in the way the mary gaitskill story “a romantic weekend” is romantic.
  • along these lines, it’s natural that spencer’s quixotic statement about heidi, that he’s going to “go find her on the mountain in colorado” is met with a derisive snort by stephanie and why spencer fails so spectacularly in his mission. the girls in “the hills” do not need to be rescued; being rescued is an imposition, it’s rude.
  • it’s not that paris as a fantasy doesn’t exist anymore – it does, it’s just as seductive as ever. lauren and whitney come to paris expecting everything and a cherry on top. but they, just like andy in “the devil wears prada” or carrie in the paris episodes of “sex and the city,” come to understand that the fantasy is just that, a fantasy, something that they’ve seen in movies and TV shows and fairy tales. it’s not something that applies to their real lives (or even their fake lives!), it’s not something they can live in, it’s not sustainable. paris doesn’t change everything because it’s just a working vacation and on monday you have to return to your life, your everyday, your home, your city. lauren doesn’t stay and languish in some dusty garret with matthias and at night sit in cafes listening to small jazz combos, she leaves, she goes back home. whitney doesn’t have any beautiful technicolor dreams realized; what she realizes is that her job and everyday life are boring and unsatisfying and she leaves too, she goes back home. they get on the plane and go because that’s how planes work; they don’t have a one way ticket, it’s round trip, so they have to go back home. they are not the lost generation, they are generation: lost, and they have to get back to the island, not get away.
  • because, of course, dreams must eventually end and we must wake up. the waking up is in the last scene, when lauren and whitney are in the hired car – its windows are way blown out; the light is the kind of light that hurts your eyes the morning after, when you’re hungover. the return to the norm is ultimately signified at the very end of the episode, when whitney says, “well, it’s back to reality,” directly addressing the camera but not in a haneke way or a godard way or a welles way but in just kind of an accidental “oh-oops-there’s-a-camera-there” kind of way. all roads lead to the hills.
  • FIN (LOLfrench)
  • oh yeah, heidi and spencer. as you know, i think heidi is very important but this episode wasn’t hers. the one scene i have anything to say about is the first scene between heidi and her mom. the conversation is great because it’s just an endless string of cliches (“you have a lot of growing to do, both of you, individually. i mean, i would love to see you starting fresh and, and just working on yourself for a while.”) yet this is life, life is a string of cliches. life is not like “juno,” people are allowed to say cliches unironically and they do. i consider myself a reasonably intelligent person and i do it all the the time; i’m sure you do too. the other heidi-spencer scenes had some revelatory carverian repetition, but i have already written like 4500 words and i am really not in the mood to transcribe them. their day will come soon, i’m sure.
  • my favorite shot in the episode was obv. when whitney tenderly swept a strand of lauren’s hair across her forehead.
  • everybody’s talking about that ginia bellafante review and all i can say if that she is crazy, then i am like the unabomber probably. my favorite line in the review was the one about whitney as a shakespearean mute.
  • 5 ways “the hills” in which the hills is JUST LIKE an antonioni film. so good. we should all have a cahiers du conrad; our cinematheque francaise can be mtv overdrive (sponsored by dove).
  • this whole episode made me want to reread “things: a story of the sixties” by georges perec, which i read when i was in college. you should totally read it, it’s basically a narrative which defines this young parisian couple by the things they buy. it has a dated marxist ending that i don’t really agree with, but it’s short and otherwise good. if you want something about women in paris but lighter and more fun, you should read “the dud avocado” which is proto-chick lit. or you could read what is probably one of my top 3 favorite books, gertrude stein’s “everybody’s autobiography.
  • writing this was both great and frightening for me. it was great to write about it because i felt my brain working in a way that it hadn’t worked in weeks, noticing things, making connections, etc. it was frightening because my brain hadn’t worked that way for weeks. like, does my brain only work for “the hills” now? is that quotation i have at the top right corner of this blog totally accurate, is it killing me?
  • there is so much more to talk about (check out this site, it is crazy)
  • the song i recorded this week is called “us, weakly.” i know, someone should beat the shit out of me for that kind of wordplay. i always write some kind of explanation or story in this space and i have something, but this is too long already and i am tired so i’ll save it for a little later

 

 

“They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense.”

– barack obama, 3/08

I don’t believe that life, or especially dating, is a zero-sum game

– julia allison, 9/07

1) Immigration (Dad’s against it, Mom thinks everyone who has a job should be able to stay here, I tend to agree with Mom, because I don’t see immigrant-citizen employment as a zero-sum game.)

– julia allison, 8/07

But does that mean that good looks and mixed-gender friendship is a zero-sum relationship? If Nietzsche is right, the answer would be yes – the less attractive one is to one’s friends, the easier it is to maintain that friendship in a non-sexual manner. Perhaps the question should be rephrased to: “Can one really be friends with someone you’re sexually attracted to?

– julia allison, 10/02

🙂 Anything with color, I like, so I was happy. See? Fashion’s not zero-sum! Mary & I can BOTH win. haha

– julia allison, 3/08

To be quite clear, I believe in win-wins – I don’t think everything has to be at either your expense or someone else’s. Life doesn’t have to be a zero sum game.

– julia allison, 1/08

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.

– julia allison, 1/08

she knows how to stay on message. so am i right yet? JA is obama, LC is hillary. (spencer is romney – a glossy villain, interestingly bizarre yet, where it counts (in terms of plot) a nonentity. heidi is huckabee – a fundamentalist christian who can appear on tyra and the tonight show. whitney is john edwards – lovable and adorable yet completely unelectable because she’s not enough of a politician. i don’t think any of julia allison’s friends are interesting enough to warrant this treatment.)

i love LC and i feel close to her and, thus, to hil. i feel more like her than him because she is more flawed and complicated and human and real, with all the connotations that word has, that her story is more scandalous and gawkable and worthy of telling, that it is not some dated rags to riches alger narrative but is a real contemporary gossipy chick lit rag, that at heart she is not cool and suave and able to make people faint and swoon with a wink and a smile but is basically a boring and ordinary everyday person who works hard and wants people to like her and has to try to make people like her and has caught the cameras and gleam and has liked the feeling of the cameras and gleam, that these cameras and gleam and this attention have had an effect on her, have made her so self conscious and neurotic, that she is the fucking “bridget jones’ diary” version of a politico, trying not to look fat in an ugly suit while she eats hamburgers and chili and state fair winning barbeque. at the same time, i don’t like her because i feel that, like LC and like me, she is neurotic and self conscious, she is prone to lose, she is prone to fail, to be screwed over, to be neglected or hated, she is prone (with good reason) to cynicism and negativity, to not believe, to not hope, and that she is trying to hold on so tight to something not even necessarily because she really wants it, but because she’s scared not to be holding on to it, because she doesn’t know what to do if she’s not holding on to it. i hate her like i hate myself. i know i’m not a woman, but i still get to have feelings, right? we are all having a moment now. i am more like LC and hil but i know that those parts of myself, even if they are the most myself parts of myself, aren’t the best parts – i know that the feelings that JA and BO represent, i know that even if those feelings are empty that, well, empty feelings are better than feeling empty. is that phrase trite or will it hold for five minutes or so? i know that the fact that i am equating JA and LC with BO and HC could be taken as a sign of the vapidity and stupidity of the young, of the image politics that have replaced the politics politics, of the triumph of surface over substance. whatever, it probably is all those things, but it’s really just a sign that i stretch metaphors way too far.

anyway, SAT analogy:

mary rambin is to “newport harbor: the real orange county” as julia allison is to “the hills.”

(this is complicated by the fact that mary rambin was apparently on a “laguna beach” knockoff on ABC called “one ocean drive,” as documented in this clip.)

i have to learn to write again in time for next week. it’s scary. i’m scared. are you scared? the audacity of hope.

the grave of love

March 9, 2008


we shall have everything we want and there’ll be no more dying


being able to read julia allison’s blog every day is like having a chocolate fountain in my heart that never runs out.  except it just did.  don’t stop believing.

wow this story just keeps going.

““The biggest problem I see is you are sacrificing the biggest strengths from each of the genres,” said Edward Wasserman, Knight professor of journalism at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. “You are losing the veracity of journalism, and you are losing the imaginative license of fiction. You run the risk of ending up with something that is neither true nor interesting.”

James Frey. David Sedaris. Augusten Burroughs. Truman Capote. Norman Mailer. That bitch from last week who said she was gangsta but then not and everybody paid attention to her. That other bitch from last week who said she was raised by wolves but then not and everybody paid attention to her. Phillip Roth. Jack Nicholson. Professional Wrestling. “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.” “On The Road.Gangsta rap Woody Allen. “Curb Your Enthusiasm.Christopher Hitchens. Mumblecore. Michael Winterbottom.   the French New Wave. “Once.” Paris Hilton. Perez Hilton. “The Hills.” For that matter, all reality television, the dominant paradigm of mainstream entertainment. Other things that are interesting or popular or awesome or make a lot of money. Other things off the top of my head, or yours.

that’s not as good as the real opening to that movie, but he says, “all the stories i wrote were true, because i believed in what i saw,” and so i had to, sorry.

y0, tom chiarella! tommy boy, tom tom, tommy tutone, i saw that heath ledger story in ur mag, d00d! whoah, heavy! it really made me think and stuff. i totes write fan fiction about real peeps 2, just like lisa taddeo. LOL! its kind of inspired by that story by DB about batman that was in ur mag back in the dayz, back in the 60z. u know, “the joker’s greatest triumph” ? WHOAH, heath ledger is the joker in that new batman movie@!#!@ #@! heavy, br0, i bl0w my own mind sometimes. hey, will u put me in ur mag? u can call it “reported fiction,” i don’t care – i did lots of reserch (sight sources: the hills, mtv, wikipedia!) so it’s like half true at least, maybe 60%. i will write it on a napkin if u want.

“In a much less epochal way I tried with ‘The Uniforms’ to avoid the short story’s blander landscapes. I consider this piece of work a movie as much as anything else. Not my movie, however. No, the work is an attempt to hammer and nail my own frame around somebody else’s movie. The movie in question is ‘Weekend,’ made of course by the mock-illustrious Jean-Luc Godard. After seeing this film for the first and only time, I walked the two miles or so from the theater where it was playing to the monochromatic street I live on and immediately set to work remaking what I’d seen and heard. Took out the boring parts. Added a few brand names. Two sittings later I had ‘The Uniforms.’ It was right there before me in black-and-white with my name above the title. What does it all mean, signify, or demonstrate? I guess I was just trying to find one small way in which literature might be less rigid in the sources it uses. Thousands of short stories and novels have been made into movies. I simply tried to reverse the process. Until elastic type is perfected, I submit this mode of work as a legitimate challenge to writers of radical intent.”


A Friend Comments on K’s Aloneness

The thing you have to realize about K. is that essentially he’s absolutely alone in the world. There’s this terrible loneliness which prevents people from getting too close to him. Maybe it comes from something in his childhood, I don’t know. But he’s very hard to get to know, and a lot of people who think they know him rather well don’t really know him at all. He says something or does something that surprises you, and you realize that all along you really didn’t know him at all. “He has surprising facets. I remember once we were out in a small boat. K. of course was the captain. Some rough weather came up and we began to head back in. I began worrying about picking up a landing and I said to him that I didn’t think the anchor would hold, with the wind and all. He just looked at me. Then he said ‘Of course it will hold. That’s what it’s for.”‘


I never met Robert Kennedy nor did I talk to people who had. The story was begun while I was living in Denmark in 1965…the only ‘true’ thing in it was Kennedy’s remark about the painter. I happened to be in the gallery when he came in with a group; I think the artist was Kenneth Noland. Kennedy made the remark quoted about the ruler—not the newest joke in the world. The story was published in New American Review well before the assassination. I cannot account for the concluding impulse of the I-character to ‘save’ him other than by reference to John Kennedy’s death; still, a second assassination was unthinkable at that time. In sum, any precision in the piece was the result of watching television and reading the New York Times.” (Donald Barthelme, July 16, 1977.)

hiatus, part 6

March 5, 2008

Heidi is cooking dinner and watching “Dharma and Greg.” Really she’s cooking dinner but really really she’s watching “Dharma and Greg.” She’s trying to do both things at once, which is hard, but she’s trying, which is good, it’s good to try. It’s 5:25. She’s watching the episode of “Dharma and Greg” where Greg takes Dharma to a football game and then Dharma becomes obsessed with football and then Greg gets annoyed and hurt but in the end it all works out. She saw the episode yesterday and now she’s watching it a second time today. “Dharma and Greg” comes on two times every day, at 5:00 and 5:30. The first episode is a repeat of the episode from the day before and then the second episode is a new episode. Well, not really a new episode, they’re all reruns, but Heidi didn’t watch “Dharma and Greg” when she was younger so a lot of the episodes are new to her, except of course the ones she’s already seen. Lauren used to say that they weren’t reruns, they were vintage television. Lauren could wear vintage things and pull them off, but that’s not Heidi’s style, she has to wear new things. Like on “Project Runway” they say “make it work,” but for Heidi, it’s “make it new.” Heidi can’t watch “Project Runway” anymore because of Lauren, because of what it makes her remember and think about and feel. Heidi and Lauren used to go to vintage stores together even though Heidi could never find anything she liked at them except one time a pair of earrings. Heidi could never find anything she liked at them, eventually she just gave up on finding anything she liked at them – she would pretend to look for a couple of minutes and then she would sit down and watch Lauren in dusty mirrors for hours. The mirrors were always dusty, Heidi always coughed at vintage stores because of the dust, that was how she knew she didn’t really belong in them.

“Dharma and Greg” comes on at 5:00 and 5:30 and Heidi always tries to watch it both times, at 5 and at 5:30. It’s a repeat from the previous day at 5:00, but Heidi’s memory isn’t that good so when she watches it at 5:00, it feels almost brand new but more comfortable, softer. Sometimes they’re filming or she has to be at Bolthouse or they have to do some pictures for PCN or she has other important things to fit into her important busy schedule, but most days she tries very hard to arrange her life so she can be home between 5:00 and 6:00. Between 5:00 and 6:00 is when Spencer goes to the gym for his second session, lower body, so Heidi likes to be home then so she can have her personal time, all alone, and during her personal time, which is hers, which she owns, which belongs to her, Heidi likes to watch “Dharma and Greg.” Spencer doesn’t like to watch “Dharma and Greg,” in fact, Spencer thinks “Dharma and Greg” is stupid and crap. That’s a fact, he said it, he came home early from the gym once and looked at the TV and said, “This is stupid, why do you watch this crap, Hides?” He said she should be watching something more educational and contemporary and important to her future and then they had a fight and she yelled and slammed the door and now he doesn’t come home from the gym early anymore. He also doesn’t call her “Hides” anymore, at least he tries not to, he swears.

Heidi knows that maybe “Dharma and Greg” is stupid, that other people like Spencer think that “Dharma and Greg” is stupid and even though Heidi doesn’t think it’s stupid, she understands that it’s a possibility that it’s stupid. But then other people think that Heidi is stupid, sometimes Spencer thinks Heidi is stupid, sometimes he says Heidi is stupid, but Heidi knows she isn’t stupid, so maybe also “Dharma and Greg” isn’t stupid even though other people say it is. That’s logic, like computer programming. Heidi likes to watch television but at the same time she knows that watching television isn’t a constructive activity, it’s entertainment, so she tries to do other things while she watches television in order to better use her free time. Like for example she will read her book about history while she is watching “Dharma and Greg” or she will clean the living room while she is watching “Dharma and Greg” or she will call her mom while she is watching “Dharma and Greg” or she will move the cofee table and do some light aerobics and crunches while she is watching “Dharma and Greg.” This can be difficult, it’s sometimes difficult to do two things at once, the thing and the other thing, sometimes she gets distracted, it’s easy to get distracted, but Heidi thinks it’s important to challenge herself because that’s how you grow.

Heidi’s not doing those other things today, though, she’s cooking dinner. Heidi’s cooking dinner, but she’s not really cooking dinner. Cooking dinner is a difficult activity that a lot of people find intimidating. A lot of people don’t cook because they find it intimidating and difficult. There are so many things that can go wrong when you’re cooking, like it might not taste good and fire and you might not have all the ingredients you need and food poisoning and cutting yourself and salmonella. You don’t get salmonella from salmon, you get it from chicken — why don’t they call it chickenella? Heidi’s cooking dinner but she’s not really cooking dinner, she’s reheating dinner. She’s reheating dinner from Don Antonio’s last night. They always order dinner from Don Antonio’s on Tuesdays – Spencer calls it Taco Tuesdays. On Taco Tuesdays, Brody and Frankie and the boys used to come over and play video games, but now they don’t come over so Spencer just watches CNBC and Fox Business and looks at his laptop like every other day. Heidi doesn’t even really like tacos – when she did the Taco Bell ad, she actually spit out her bite of taco into a napkin, why waste the calories – but Heidi knows how important tacos are to Spencer, how much he cares about tacos, so she makes a sacrifice and eats a taco salad and pretends to like flan. Heidi puts Spencer’s tacos on a tray in the oven so they’ll be crispier for him, they get crispier that way, she saw it on the Food Network. Compromise is important to a successful relationship.

A new episode of “Dharma and Greg” comes on. Heidi loves the theme song to “Dharma and Greg.” Really, Heidi usually likes theme songs with words, theme songs she can sing along to, like “Friends” or “The OC,” she loved that song from “The OC,” California, California, but she also likes theme songs without words, like the “Dharma and Greg” theme song or the “Sex and the City” theme song. Heidi thinks that the “Sex and the City” theme song sounds like drinking a mojito tastes. The theme song to “Dharma and Greg” makes a feeling in her that is like a key unlocking something, it’s a feeling like the feeling she got when she was a kid and her parents let her stay up an extra hour after her bedtime, that’s what the theme song feels like to her.

Even though Heidi isn’t really cooking dinner, she really is cooking desert. Or baking, that’s the right word, that’s the one you use for desserts, that’s proper. Baking. She’s baking apple pie, she’s baking her mom’s recipe for homemade apple pie, from scratch. Her mom bakes apple pie from scratch in Colorado in the small town where Heidi is from, where Heidi was born, and she mixes the ingredients in an old wooden bowl that was her grandmother’s or her great grandmother’s or somebody’s. When Heidi was too short to see over the kitchen counter, she thought that making pie from scratch meant that her mom used her fingernails to scratch the dough and the apples and the butter. She thought that the holes in the top of a pie crust were the scratch, that the scratch was what made it taste good.

Making and baking a pie is difficult and intimidating. Not all of making a pie is like that, part of making a pie is easy. The part of making a pie that’s easy is the part with the apples and sugar and cinnamon, the filling. You just cut up the apples and you mix everything together in the bowl and you can’t really mess up, you can’t ruin it. Even if you don’t get the measuring exactly right, it is still butter and sugar and apples and cinnamon that tastes good no matter what. Brown sugar, how come you taste so good, oh yeah. Sugar and spice and everything nice. The hard part of making a pie is making the crust. Heidi’s doesn’t like having to press the butter and the flour and the shortening together, she doesn’t like having to squish it to make it come together, it’s gross and it makes her hands feel gross and it doesn’t smell good like apples and sugar and cinnamon. And that’s not even the hard part. The hard part is when you have to roll out the dough with a rolling pin. Heidi bought a rolling pin, she liked that part, she liked going to the store and picking out her rolling pin, but you roll it out and you have to be really careful and then you have to make the bottom crust and the top crust. The bottom crust is easier than the top crust because you have to lay the top crust on top of the pie and you have to measure exactly how big the pie is and you have to focus and then the pie crust tears. Heidi’s crust tore so much that she couldn’t use it any more, she had to go the store with flour on her clothes, with bad hair, to buy more ingredients and make another crust and then that crust was hard to make too and Heidi didn’t know what to do.

But now it’s over, it’s done, Heidi has done it, Heidi has made the pie perfect, it is a perfect pie – all she has to do is bake it, after the tacos are done. Heidi looks at her pie, it looks beautiful. Obviously a pie can’t be perfect, nothing can be perfect, no one can be perfect, people and things can try very hard to be perfect and never succeed, but Heidi’s pie is very close to being perfect. She wishes she had made the pie from a recipe in a magazine instead of her mom’s recipe card so she could compare her pie and the picture of the pie in the magazine, because they would probably look exactly the same, that’s how perfect her pie is. Heidi takes a picture of the pie with her phone so that she can e-mail it to her mom. Her mom will be so proud. Her mom is always proud of her, but when Heidi does good things, her mom is extra proud of her, Heidi can tell. The difference in proudness is like the difference between white sugar and brown sugar.

It’s 5:45. In the new episode of Dharma and Greg, which Heidi actually saw a couple of weeks ago, Greg is depressed because his boss gave him a “Very Good” rating instead of a “Superior” rating at work. Heidi thinks there is a difference between very good and superior but that people should be happy when other people think they are doing a good job and not worry about being the best. Heidi knows that she’s not “superior” at a lot of things but she would be happy if people thought she was “very good” at some things, just a few things, just the things that are most important to her. In the other part of the episode, Dharma starts a business that doesn’t sell anything. This makes Greg frustrated and more depressed because it doesn’t make sense to him. It doesn’t make sense to Heidi either, but Heidi’s not very much like Dharma. Dharma is such a free spirit. Some people would say that, that Dharma’s a free spirit, but what does that mean, a free spirit? Does her spirit come out of her body at night and fly around her bedroom like a ghost? How is it free? Does it have something to do with money? Do other people have to pay for their spirits, does it cost them something, but for some reason Dharma was a lucky person and hers came free? Heidi saw on the Discovery Channel how in Ancient Greece people were buried with coins over their eyes to pay to get into heaven – they had real video of the coins being put on the Ancient Greek peoples’ eyes. In some religions, like Ancient Greek religions or Ancient Egyptian religions, which Heidi also saw a show about, you had to pay for your spirit. In the past they used coins, but maybe nowadays you have to get a loan or a high interest credit card to pay for your spirit because of inflation and the Euro. Heidi feels lucky to be a Christian, that Jesus died for her spirit and that she doesn’t have to pay for it because He paid for it. She wonders if he paid for it with dollars or Euros and how much did it cost, how much was it worth? But at the same time that Heidi is happy she doesn’t have to pay for her spirit, it doesn’t feel free, it doesn’t always feel like she totally controls it and can do with it what she wants. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, except sometimes Brent buys them for her.

Dharma has a free spirit and that causes a lot of problems for Greg, like in the episode where she gets put in jail for starting a fight at a hockey game or like in the episode where she almost burns their apartment down or like in this episode where he doesn’t understand her business that doesn’t sell anything. Greg is the opposite of Dharma; he is serious and important and he cares about business and money and important and relevant and serious and contemporary things. But at the same time, Greg loves Dharma and her free spirit. How does it work? How can two people who are so opposite find things between them that are unopposite? Heidi worries sometimes that she doesn’t have enough in common with Spencer. Heidi read in Cosmo that it’s important to share some activities with your man that he enjoys doing. Heidi tries to watch the business channels and the politcal channels on television with Spencer, but she doesn’t like them. It’s just people talking at each other or arguing with each other or shouting at each other and Heidi doesn’t believe in arguments and shouting, they make babies cry. She tried to play video games with him for awhlile but he always won so she quit. When Heidi played board games with her dad sometimes he would let her win, she knew, she knew he was letting her, and it made her feel nice that her dad cared enough to let her win.

Heidi likes the end of “Dharma and Greg” best. At the end of “Dharma and Greg,” everything always works out. Everything always works out except sometimes when it’s a two-part episode, like a cliff hanger. Cliff hangers are called that because they make you feel like you’re hanging off a cliff, which is not a good way to feel. But most of the time, almost all the time, everything or almost everything works out. In the last two minutes of the episode, the problem that Dharma has with Greg is solved or the problem that Greg has with Dharma is solved and they find the way they love each other again and usually they touch each other too, Heidi always notices, like not sexual at all but just because they can’t help but feel the other person, and the audience claps because they are all watching and the feeling the feeling too. Sometimes Heidi starts to clap or go “oooh” and then she realizes she is alone on the couch and not in the audience, but Heidi loves the feeling that the ending gives her, like a pretty pink ribbon is being tied up inside her heart, into a bow like little girls wear when they dress up for church.

The end of “Dharma and Greg” is the best part, but also it’s the worst part because it means that feeling ends until the next day and Heidi has to live without that feeling until the next day. It fades away so fast. Heidi wishes she could stretch the feeling out like dough and it wouldn’t tear, it would just keep stretching until it covered everything and everyone in her life. Heidi wonders why seeing herself on television doesn’t give her the same feeling. It seems like if seeing Dharma and Greg be happy on television makes her happy and gives her the feeling then seeing Heidi and Spencer be happy on television should make her happy and give her the feeling, but it doesn’t and she wonders why. She thinks about that episode that showed them when it was her birthday and Spencer gave her her presents at dinner, the shoes and the coat. It’s not that it doesn’t give her a good feeling to see herself on television, it does, it gives her a good feeling, it gives her a great feeling sometimes, but it’s not the same feeling. Heidi feels something when she sees herself on TV or in a magazine or on the internet, she feels a good feeling, but she doesn’t feel enough, it doesn’t fill her up, it’s just a snack. It’s like measuring spoons and measuring cups. Heidi wants to feel as much as in a measuring cup but all she feels is as much as in a measuring spoon. What is the recipe for happiness, how many ingredients does it take, how much? Heidi wonders if maybe you can’t have that feeling about yourself, you can only have it about other people, like Dharma and Greg.

“Dharma and Greg” ends. It’s 6:01, the news is on. The news is saying something about Britney, there is some video of her in a car at night and there are flashes of light, so many. The news is saying something about a hospital. Heidi doesn’t understand. Did Britney get struck by lightning? Lighting never strikes twice. Or does it, is that the saying, which is it? Heidi feels warm. She hears the front door open. Spencer is home. It’s 6:02. Heidi’s time is over, personal time is over, now it’s time to be together, now it’s time to be a couple. A couple means two, it’s a number and it’s also a relationship. A couple is like a pair but in a pair, the things are the same, they match, but in a couple the things don’t have to be the same, they don’t have to match, in fact, a lot of the times they don’t match because finding a thing that matches another thing is hard to do, very hard. A pear is a fruit you can use to make pie, a match is a stick you can use to make fire. Spencer says something but Heidi isn’t listening, she isn’t looking, she’s not ready to listen to him or look at him yet, she’s not ready for personal time to be over yet. It’s 6:03. She’s trying to stretch the feeling over her like a blanket, like a fort, like a snow day. “Heidi,” Spencer says and he grabs her shoulder and he shakes her, he pulls her back and forth. Heidi looks at him, she has to look at him, but she can’t see him because of something. What is it, why can’t she see him?

It’s smoke, there’s smoke, smoke is everywhere, smoke is filling the house. It’s not a house, it’s a home. It’s not a house, it’s a condo. The night she moved in, Heidi made dinner for Spencer. Really, she tried to make dinner for Spencer, she wanted to make dinner for him, she thought it would be a nice thing, like a thing people would do in a movie when they move in together. Heidi tried to make spaghetti but the pot wasn’t big enough and the water kept boiling over the side. She would blow on it and stir it and it would stop but then she would turn away to talk to Spencer or just look at him for a second and it would boil over again, it kept boiling over. Heidi wondered how it could keep boiling over, there was only so much water, where was the water coming from?

In the smoke, Spencer is running across the room to the kitchen, like a fireman about to put out a fire, like a hero in a movie. My hero. A hero is a sandwich, but a sandwich isn’t a hero. That first night in the condo they had sandwiches because the pot wasn’t big enough to make spaghetti in. They were good sandwiches, Heidi remembers, with fresh baked chips, barbecue flavored. Heidi gets up from the couch and goes into the kitchen. It’s hard to lift her legs, it’s hard to move them, it’s like she has to remind them, “left, right, left.” Doing two things at once is difficult because sometimes you forget about the one thing or you forget about the other thing; there are two things to remember and that’s twice as many as one. That’s hard, that can be hard for anyone, anyone can make a mistake, everyone makes mistakes, no one is perfect, even if they try really hard. In the kitchen, it’s smokier. The tacos are burned, they’re black – Spencer pulls them out of the oven and puts them onto the stove next to her perfect pie. The pan is touching the edge of her perfect pie and Heidi wants to say something or move it but she’s afraid, it doesn’t feel right, she doesn’t feel like she has permission. The condo is filled with smoke. It’s not a house, it’s a home. It’s not a home, it’s a condo. When Heidi put on the apron that first night in the kitchen, in their kitchen, in the condo, in their condo, which they would share together, Spencer grabbed her around her waist and he said, “Well, look what we have here, Miss Heidi’s playing house,” and he swung her around a little bit in the kitchen, like a ride. She said, she remembers exactly what she said, she said, “Well, uh, actually, mister, this is a condo, so really, I’m playing condo.” When she said it, Spencer laughed and while he laughed, he looked at her with this look in his eyes like, you are funny, you are smart, you are unique, you are an individual, you deserve my love. He looked at her like all those looks and she felt like a genius, like a superstar, like Madonna and Julia Roberts and some kind of fancy scientist, she felt important and true and real, she felt like she was giving an acceptance speech for an award she had won without even trying. It’s not a home, it’s a house. It’s not a house, it’s a condo. Heidi looks at Spencer, but he’s not looking at her and even if he was, he wouldn’t look at her like that, not anymore, he doesn’t look at her like that, not anymore. It’s not a house, it’s a condo. Heidi looks above her perfect pie, at the stove, at the clock, at the numbers. It’s 6:05, now it’s time to be together.