On real vices

From the exhibit at the Great Apes House, Bronx Zoo, circa 1963-67

From the exhibit at the Great Apes House, Bronx Zoo, circa 1963-67

9:27 pm ET, Delta flight from Atlanta to Shanghai

One of the best things about long-haul flights is catching up on films I don’t have time to watch because, you know, life. It only took a 14.5 hr flight, but I finally got around seeing Adam Mckay’s Vice and I am fucking amped up.

My brain is exploding with all the emotions and thoughts, so this may be the most incomprehensible dribble I’ve ever typed on screen.

(Thanks for joining.)

Originally I started writing an entirely different diatribe because I found myself in such anger and disbelief towards what we allowed the Bush-Cheney administration to get away with. But of course this is a McKay production and it wasn’t going to be one-note like that. No, they’re going to add some clever twists and turns and hold a mirror up to us, the viewer, and ask “don’t you think you’re complicit, too?” Thus, I had to trash draft 1.

First, some praise: Like The Big Short, it’s clever. It’s smart. And it had an unbelievably elegant and cheeky way of addressing some pretty fucking dense and boring content, like politics, international policies, and world relations. It was entertaining and moved at a quick pace. Would you expect anything less from Adam McKay, his creative team, and actors like Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, et al?

Now before I was hurtling through the air in a tin can across the Pacific Ocean, I had a bumpy check-in. The seat upgrades I tried purchasing from the Delta app didn’t go through, causing my charge to dance in some weird AMEX limbo and no seat change. Which was exacerbated by an unwelcome lecture from my mom for how her idea of handling the situation would be better. I bite down on every smart ass retort bubbling up to the surface and try to recall every piece of advice on patience from my therapist. We get through security and Nancy gets held up because of her belt. Then her watch. Then nail clippers in her pocket (what?). We’re walking out of the security area when she suddenly realizes that she doesn’t have her phone.

All this to say I was not in the mindset to consume anything that would make think. I very much wanted to tune in and tune the fuck out.

(In case you were wondering, the family friend who drove us to the airport was able to drive back and drop Nancy’s phone off. And AMEX is taking care of the weird charge. Thank you for your concern.)

So.

Tuning out did not happen. McKay shined a bright light on all of Cheney’s shady dealings, but what was the real vice here? Was it his desire for power? Or was it something else entirely? Perhaps it was our own apathy, the quietest and most insidious of all the vices. On the surface, it seems harmless. It wields no weapons and draws no blood. But it’s no less dangerous. Because it feeds on our desire to avoid life’s unpleasant realities. Our desire for greed. Our desire to want a comfortable life, even if it means sacrificing our civil liberties and compassion.

There’s bound to be a few casualties when it comes to the common good. This is the story we tell ourselves. We tell ourselves stories every day — I had a long day at work today, so I deserve a night in instead of going to the gym. A woman stops responding to a man’s texts anymore, so the man thinks “She must be a lesbian”.

Apathy is truly a vice. Choosing to stay with the status quo or denying a reality because the truth is too much to bear or fix. There are some people who insist on separating their lives from dirty things like politics. But politics is personal. Every decision you make is a choice of how you see yourself in the world and the kind of reality you want to live in. And honestly it’s fucking overwhelming and exhausting to consider this. I don’t want to think about how global warming will result in climate refugees. Or that the bees are dying and we won’t have avocados anymore. Or how wars may be waged over clean water.

This is a constant struggle for me and one of the many subjects that compelled me to start this little blog. I don’t know what the answer is. All I can think of is the story of the guy walking on the beach that’s scattered with starfish that have been washed ashore. He sees a kid throwing them back into the ocean, one by one. “Hey kid,” he says, “There’s too many starfish on the beach. There’s no way you can save them all.” And he said “I know, but I can make a difference in the ones I can save.”

Like the kid, I feel like I’m on a beach surrounded by starfish gasping for air, living, breathing things that need care and attention. I can’t care or attend to them all, no matter how much I want to. But I can make a difference in this one. And that one. And this other one. And that will have to be enough.

So maybe the antidote to apathy is to remain open and care. And to question. To always question “why?”

Originally posted on May 1, 2019 at Alwaysatodds.com.


On simple pleasures

Fresh sheets

  • Walking through a grove of tea olive trees.

  • $5 dollar peony bouquets from Trader Joe’s

  • Strawberries at the peak of summer

  • Tomato sandwiches

  • A deep belly laugh — the kind that reverberates through your body and makes you feel simultaneously alive and close to death.

  • Freshly baked biscuits

  • Quiet evenings at home

  • A roaring fire and steaming cup of tea

  • A cherished pet sleeping soundly on your chest

  • Tomato and mayo sandwich

  • Air conditioning

  • Crossing an item off a to-do list

  • Perfect timing

  • The golden sheen of freshly baked rolls

  • My cousin’s kid telling me I’m the best cook she’s ever met

  • Accelerating onto an open road

  • Voices in harmony

  • The kindness of strangers

  • Crisp winter air

  • A space to call your own

Originally published on January 16, 2019 at Alwaysatodds.com.

On "It's not personal. It's business."

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Alt: Not another goddamn Hedi Slimane/political/OMG what a time to be alive think piece.

One of my favorite movies of all time is You’ve Got Mail. There’s a scene where Tom Hanks (Joe Fox, the owner of a Barnes and Noble mega bookstore at a time when Amazon was just a twinkle in Jeff Bezo’s eye) apologizes to Meg Ryan (Kathleen Kelly, a small children’s bookstore owner) for putting her out of business:

Joe Fox: It wasn’t… personal.

Kathleen Kelly: What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s PERSONAL to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?

Joe Fox: Uh, nothing.

Kathleen Kelly: Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.

I’ve been thinking about this scene a lot recently. There are so many people saying, “it’s not personal, it’s politics” and as a form of self-preservation in this dumpster fire of a time we’re living in, I try to tell myself to stop taking things so personal as well.

But try as we might, it’s nearly impossible to separate your feelings from what’s going on in the world — even fashion.

Last week, Hedi Slimane’s first collection for Celine was unveiled to a cacophony of outrage. Critics were lambasting his designs for being out of touch, even anti-woman. Many fans considered his pieces to be antithetical to Phoebe Philo’s Céline, which was beloved for its feminine tailoring and sophistication. On the surface, the intensity of the reaction was extreme, but given that the show happened in the middle of all the Kavanaugh circus, was it truly surprising?

Maybe if there were different circumstances, the sound and fury for Slimane’s Celine would have been at a 5, but it was at an 11. Bluster is the accessory du jour and outrage is the new black. Slimane is a more than capable designer with a strong point of view and LVMH trusted him with an idiosyncratic brand. He is not deserving of the level of outrage that occurred, but dismissing his critics without considering the context or lens they viewed his work with is short sighted (and it’s a little disappointing that Slimane himself is not sympathetic to that). CONTEXT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. What we wear and how we style ourselves is woven into the fabric of our lives (ALL THE PUNS 100% INTENDED AND I APPROVE THIS MESSAGE), and perspectives and politics will inevitably be woven in as well, making it all exceedingly personal.

I don’t believe Slimane was attacking women — he just designs for a different woman — and I think comparing him to Trump is a far-reaching claim. But I do think LVMH is sending a confusing message to customers of Céline. I think Slimane revealed a collection that was so drastically different and lacking of past Céline, it was jarring for many people (honestly, give the guy his own label, for fuck’s sake). I strongly believe that the timing of his show was noteworthy, albeit completely unintentional. I think many American women, upset at the hearings in DC and realizing that they didn’t recognize their own country any more, looked to Paris Fashion Week as an escape. And when they realized they didn’t recognize one of their favorite fashion houses any more either, it got too much. And the flood gates opened.

It’s easy to look back on the good ol’ days and wax nostalgic about how there was more civility and people worked together for the common good. Those days were also slower. People had more time to process their thoughts and how they felt. But now, gut reactions has replaced reason and I find it pretty devastating. Is sympathy or consideration for another person’s environment/circumstances dead? There’s still a part of me that holds onto the believe that no, it’s not. That civility and consideration happens more than the news feeds and chyrons let on.

This is the Age of Outrage. And like fire, outrage can be stoked to burn, but it can also be captured to warm and transform. Of course it’s easier said than done. Even as I write this, I struggle with my containing my anger. The ego in me wants the last word in every debate, to crush anyone who voices an opposing view. But isn’t it just as powerful to slow down? Maybe we can take the first step of acknowledging the context a person is operating in before deciding to engage or walk away.

Again, easier said than done.

P.S.

This fascinating article on the shipping company of the fashion world. (NYT)

If you’re filled with despair, a reminder of the things you can do for your community or to get people out to vote.

This tweet is hysterical.

Originally published on October 5, 2018 at Alwaysatodds.com.

On moving

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Months of planning and prep and getting all your ducks in a row won’t prepare you for the colossal loss of your old life.

Sure, you’re heading towards the unknown. Hell, these aren’t even uncharted waters — you’ve been here before! In a way, you’re going back to a life you’ve known before.

But it’s different. Because you’re a different person now.

Like your vocabulary has expanded — you know how to identify your feelings a little better. You’ve learned how to draw your boundaries a little stronger, and when people try to cross them, you know how to push back a little harder. You’ve learned that speaking up for yourself isn’t self-indulgent; it’s a goddamn right.

And you’re still learning. Like how to be kinder to yourself and allowing yourself to feel all the emotions. You don’t have to apologize to other people for crying. It’s ok. It’s also okay to have your own political convictions. And it’s incredibly ok to say “NO I WILL NOT DEBATE YOU” because as Laurie Penny writes, thinking that you can change someone’s mind by debating them is a lot like teaching a goat to dance — the goat will not dance and you’ll end up pissing him/her off.

So that means realizing that certain relationships have limits. You are incredibly lucky to have relationships with people where you can be unapologetically you and they will love you no matter what. For the sake of some relationships, you will have to bite your tongue repeatedly because 1) you don’t have to debate them (see above) and 2) going into the same argument and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

Even though you’re returning to a place you called home for most of your life, these are big changes. You want this and you’ve been looking forward to this. But you’re also saying good bye to a path you thought was going to be a forever direction. And you’re closing a door on a career you’ve been thinking about since undergrad, when you’d occasionally skip classes to watch The West Wing on Bravo (before you bought the DVD box set and eons before Netflix did everyone a favor and streamed them). Ghost ships. This is a loss and you’re allowed to grieve. Not giving yourself a chance to sit and feel everything is just delaying the inevitable.

In a few months, the dust will settle and you will get your bearings. You will look back on the initial months and wonder why you fought it. Things are not perfect, but everything is okay and that will do for now.

Originally published on September 28, 2018 at Alwaysatodds.com.