Snacking Universal with Snacks Quarterly

Alexander Barrett and Brad Simon don’t even seem to know each other that well. Both work for the advertising firm Wieden+Kennedy, which is how they initially crossed paths, but Barrett works out of the Shanghai office (where he reports snacks are “fascinating,” and either taste like “the best thing you’ve ever eaten, or taste like dust”), and Simon out of the company’s Portland headquarters. Yet together they’ve launched Snacks Quarterly (snacksquarterly.com), an art and literary online magazine devoted to the in between mini-meals—an area of interest in which any given pair of strangers can find common ground.

So when Simon ran across a poster on which Barrett was riffing on phrases involving the word “snack” (these things happen in a creative workspace) he initiated an email volley through which Snacks Quarterly, now just one issue strong, was given form. Designed by Simon and framed in Barrett’s language, the meat of Snacks’ content comes solely from outside contributors (well, mostly… more on that later). Drawing on their respective pools of talented friends, a host of designers were invited to submit original works of graphic art based on a loose “snacks” theme—from pink and yellow ribbons of harmoniously entwined taffy strips (Llew Mejia) to a cheerful sea-foam medley of cake slices, waffles, and ice cream cones (Jing Wei).

A set of six questions came as standard Q&A with each artist (“Which snack would you like to have on your deathbed?” “Which snack brings you fond memories?” Etc.), and reading through the responses conjures a rotation of nostalgia (Necco Wafers and Baskin Robbins Bubblegum flavor, anyone?), desire, and disdain (um… banana chips?). Other submissions take the form of short stories and other riffing ditties, including one that’s actually authored by Barrett under a pseudonym (I’ll let you guess which), though general Snacks Quarterly policy dictates the magazine be a place for the work of guests. And so we find Saehee Cho’s abbreviated meditation on genetically modified fruit, a mocking defense against the notion that Bugles are a tribute to the Ku Klux Klan by Justin Becker, and an Analisa Raya-Flores tale in which the crying-while-snacking phenomenon is brought to melancholic head on a Southern California roadway, to name just a few.

In its premiere incarnation, Simon and Barrett admit a generalized approach, with opportunities for greater specificity—a summer issue, a holiday edition—lying in wait. At the same time they’re brainstorming content diversification, such as snack-inspired mix tapes. And while they’ve leaned on friends—people Simon says he knew he “wouldn’t have to art direct”—they are open to pitches from outside their own circles. What they’re not interested in is pursuing the project as a source of revenue, letting it become “too big too soon,” or using it as anything other than a way to have fun and getting some creative ya-yas out. Guidelines are loose and non-discriminating—junk food, health food, vegan food, and meat food are all welcome; “there is no snack agenda,” affirms Barrett.

Given their modesty in remaining facilitators rather than spotlighting their own voices within the magazine itself, this piece seemed an appropriate space to turn the tables on them, with same set of snack-queries they’ve laid on so many others:

Which snack would you bring to the housewarming party of a good friend?
BRAD SIMON: Homemade guacamole and chips. Anything made, nothing store-bought. Making it yourself shows more goodwill.
ALEX BARRETT: Apple crisp. In my family, we eat apple crisp as dessert, a snack, or a meal.

Which snack would you like to have on your deathbed?
BS: Sour Patch Kids.
AB: Peanut M&Ms, because they have protein.

If you had to name your newborn daughter after a snack, what would you name her?
BS: Snickers.
AB: Dorita.

Which snack brings you fond memories?
BS: English muffin pizzas with Ragu sauce.
AB: Tastykake.

Which snack reminds you of heartbreak?
BS: Blue popsicles.
AB: Sour cream and onion chips.

Which snack would you bring to the housewarming party of a mortal enemy?
BS: Sweetbreads on toast.
AB: Circus peanuts.

Find Snacks Quarterly at snacksquarterly.com and on Instagram as @snacksquarterly.

Zberg Lament Exclusive

These are the days my friends, and these are the days my friends,
I write to you from six in the morning. I sleep on the couch for a week out of every month due to my night sweats, and it is odd to roll out of my dank sleeping bag and step directly into my coffee zone, but I’m not complaining (I complain ceaselessly).

Guess what? Readers of this Lament are hereby granted an EXCLUSIVE (or ‘sclusie, as Scott Aukerman calls them), not yet made public to the general readers of my blog. This ‘sclusie is as follows: …

PUBLISHER INTERRUPTION

Did you know that Zuckerberg’s Lament is also a monthly email? Well, it is. And normally we’ll send you just the intro to each of our wonderful articles and have you read the article on the web, but this month, in light of our POWERFUL EXCLUSIVE, we’re actually publishing the entire Letter From The Editor only in the email.

It’s April 4th right now and we’ll be sending out the email on April 5th, so…

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP NOW

Period.app

As we all know, one of the only advantages in being a woman in this dumb society is that you get to complain ceaselessly about your menstrual cycle. I was performing this god-given right at dinner with Mike recently, and my complaints led to more specific complaints about how I don’t like the app that tracks my cycle. Mike—who, whenever faced with a complaint (or really whenever faced with anything), likes to make a game, wager, or project out of it, immediately proposed that he would buy me $25 worth of period apps and I would write about them for this very Lament. I accepted the challenge, secretly thinking it would be easy because the apps were going to essentially all be exactly the same. Tl;dr helpful hint: I was correct.

Like most things aimed at women in our crap society, menstrual apps have not benefited from the same cutting-edge design focus as have apps for men, such as boner apps. On the one hand, sure, it’s great to finally have a way to track your cycle that doesn’t involve manila folders full of weird loose paper and hand-made charts or, worse, charts printed off the internet that have pregnant goddesses and moons on them; on the other hand all these apps seem to be geared toward 10 year olds and make you feel like a fucking idiot whenever you open one of them. This is especially disturbing in the ones that are obviously most intended to help you get pregnant, for you are forced to realize that these apps actually aren’t intended for 10 year olds, and that rather this is the way our cultural consciousness believes grown-ass women ought to be communicated with (emoticons and a vomit-inducing wash of different pinks).

(As an American woman, I am of course totally accustomed to being infantilized. Let us all remember Barbara Ehrenreich’s devastating chapter on breast cancer where she describes getting her diagnosis and then receiving a fun pink gift bag, given to all breast cancer patients, which contained fake diamond jewelry, a pink teddy bear, and a box of pastel crayons. She wonders if men diagnosed with prostate cancer get a blue bag with toy cars in it; it doesn’t seem likely.)

With my $25 gift card, delivered in a tastefully authoritative envelope from Apple including typed instructions about spending the gift card on period apps, I went shopping!

Most of these apps are $1.99, although there are a lot of free ones, and some weird outliers that are really expensive. I bought five for $1.99 and one for $16.99, and I also currently use WomanLog pro, which I believe was $1.99 also, and I’ll throw it in for comparison.

Here is what I want out of a period tracker:

  • a place to enter temperature every day, even though I don’t do this right now the cycle day listed on each day in addition to the actual calendar date, so you can see what’s going on in there (your body)
  • “night sweats” as a symptom option, which is quite rare as this is mostly a menopause thing and like I said these apps are for kids and people trying to get pregnant
  • user-friendly interface or whatever. I don’t want a billion screens to navigate through and “notes” in all kinds of different places
  • smart prediction of periods and fertility: my current app asks you to set the length of your cycle and then it doesn’t deviate from that—I want an app that can use all the data you enter to actually predict stuff
  • I don’t want any girly cartoon nonsense
  • most importantly, I want the symptoms I enter for each day to be readable in some way when I look at the whole month in the calendar. This is hard to explain if you are someone whose cycle is unproblematic, but for those of us who’ve developed crippling late-in-life premenstrual syndrome, it becomes of vital importance to be able to see and track patterns across the month. My current app (WomanLog, which, can I just point out that that is an insane name) just shows the “symptom” icon when you’re in month-view, so if you want to know what symptoms happened on each day you have to go into day view, and it’s impossible to really see patterns easily. I understand this is tricky because the actual size of the calendar is so tiny that filling each day with individuated symptom icons is probably really hard, but I’m just saying, this is the main thing I want an app for.

I chose WomanLog because it is not girly cartoon nonsense—in fact, its color scheme is BLOOD RED, which I appreciate—and it doesn’t rub its emoticon options in your face.

WomanLog

A word on the whole emoticon thing:
The designers of period apps believe that the thing women are most interested in is tracking their “mood.” I think this belief comes from two places:

  • the age-old association of women and emotional instability that has led to so much oppression in this modern capitalist nightmare. “The broads surely want to be able to track their insane mood swings and such-like,” says one cigar-chomping period app mogul to another. In my case this is not true, as my mood is as reliable as clockwork: cheerful, then hungry, then stressed out, then asleep. On weekends sometimes add “grouchy” if I am out late and I’m cold.
  • The assumption that the ladies love cute little cartoon faces and can have fun comparing and sharing them in the various weird forums these apps make available. Also untrue in my case but perhaps true of the general female zeitgeist at this time, in which case god help us all

Let me just say right off the bat that every single app I tried comes with an enormous selection of emoticons. See, each day, you choose one of these fun faces to describe how you’re feeling. Many of them are impossibly existential; they also beg the question: if you put the emoticon for “enraged” in your calendar does that mean you were enraged all day? These questions must remain unanswered, alas.

emoticons 4

Another complaint I have is that all of these apps, while giving you a fairly wide array of customizable things you can track, ALL assume you want to track your weight, which I find rude. The idea of weighing myself every day like some prize pig and then entering the number into a tiny judgmental computer is intensely depressing. I get that for some people, tracking weight fluctuations across their cycle would be helpful; I just resent that this is an automatic default thing that every single app makes available.

I’ll run through these apps from worst to best:

Apps That Tell You When To Have Sex If You Want A Boy/Girl:

I did not buy any of these but just wanted to let you know that they exist. My favorite one was called Maybe Baby, which uses an icon of a smiling sperm.

maybe baby 1

illustrated
Menstrual Cycle and Sex: $.99

I bought this one without really examining it because I liked how intense and bloody it was. After opening it I realized that this is actually not a period tracker, but rather a compendium of loosely-accurate “information” about sex and periods, and really primarily, about sex on your period. This made me laugh so hard that it was definitely worth the buck I wasted on it.

It includes gems like this:

oral

and helpful diagrams like this:

cup

Note: this app is telling you that if you have sex while wearing a Keeper, it will prevent your partner from getting grossed out by your horrible blood. Anyone who has ever worn a Keeper knows how outrageous this is. Unless your partner is not actually penetrating you, OR has a half-inch-long penis or something (which is fine; it’s not the size of the boat it’s the motion of the ocean). Keepers are gigantic and pretty much take up all the room in there. In conclusion, this app rules and I am keeping it forever.

Period Diary: $1.99

period diaryEach of these apps makes sure not to display horrifying words like “period” or “menstrual” on their actual icon that appears on your phone, lest a boy see such words and then, having learned that you menstruate, run screaming from you as from a witch or devil. Thus as of right now on my iPhone’s main screen there are all these apps represented by icons of flowers in different shades of pink and other colors soothing to all women, and each one has a mystifying title. This one is called “P.D.” Adding insult to injury, P.D., instead of opening onto a calendar when you click on it, opens onto a fucking GIANT FLOWER, where all your menu options are on individual petals of the flower.

  • calendar itself is okay, but you have to go into a separate screen (i.e. you have to click on a different flower petal) to put in the dates of your period, instead of clicking on the day in the calendar, which is unwieldy
  • doesn’t tell you the day of your cycle on each calendar day
  • doesn’t do individual symptom icons BUT there is a separate section down below (that changes as you change the date) where symptoms ARE listed, which is perhaps the best that can be hoped for
  • forum1

  • Like all these apps, P.D. has a “forum” where confused young women talk to each other about boys and whether or not they’re pregnant. One forum I looked at had a closed thread called “AM I FAT” in which the moderator said the thread had had to be shut down because it was filling up with hateful insults.
  • No “night sweats” option, so instead I use “crying spells” because the teardrop icon is evocative of my raging cyclical night sweats, which, if you think you’ve ever had sleep disruption problems, fucking think again my friend, as you don’t know what horror is

m-calendarM Calendar: $1.99

  • really unwieldy interface:
    • to say your period started you have to navigate through TWO additional screens
    • doesn’t give night sweats as a symptom; hardly has any symptoms in fact, so I had to write a “note” for each symptom, which means all your info is showing up in all kinds of different places
    • calls cervical mucus a “symptom,” which is gross; cervical mucus is beautiful in spite of its dreadful name
    • Mood options: happy, sad, sleepy, sick, angry. Pretty much covers it
  • The only reason this one didn’t come first (as in, it’s The Worst) is because Period Diary beat it out with its giant stupid fucking flower. One thing you can say about M. Calendar is that there are no flowers in sight.

PINK-PADPink Pad: $1.99

  • shows up in dock as “pink pad,” so boys won’t know you are a menstruating adult but they will think you are a goddamn baby
  • makes clicking noises when you navigate around in it, which I might like but I’m not sure
  • on the calendar, you can see IF there’s a symptom listed on a given day, but there’s no indication of which one, so to find out you have to go to a different view and read your month as a list, which is utterly confusing and useless for seeing monthly patterns
  • no “night sweats” option, so I use “hot flashes”
  • has a horrible forum where teen girls ask each other if it’s weird their boyfriend didn’t text them back yet

forums

M&O Calendar Premium: $16.99

Okay, so this one, which cost a whopping seventeen bones or clams, should be the real Mercedes Benz of period apps, right? That is a HEFTY price. Maybe I just didn’t use it for long enough, but I have to say that this price is utterly non-reflective of the quality of this app. Alas.

MO1PROS:

  • has the decency to show up on your dock as just a calendar icon instead of a flower or a baby’s face
  • doesn’t have a forum!!!
  • Is not cutesy at all
  • Does put individual symptom icons on each day. Unfortunately though they aren’t icons but LETTERS you assign to each thing you want to monitor. So on a day when you had cramping and a night sweat, it will put a “N” and a “C” in different corners of the date. Adding to the confusion, you also rate each symptom as “mild,” “medium,” or “high,” so next to each letter indicating a symptom they also put a letter indicating the severity. So in one day on your calendar you might have “NM” and “CH.” This is pretty confusing but I guess you could make yourself read it fluently

CONS:

  • VERY hard to read. Undifferentiated color scheme of purple. Very confusing icons:
    • I don’t know if you know how the female body works, but basically a few days after your period you start moving toward ovulation, as your body prepares to pitch yet another egg down into an ovary in the hopes of getting pregnant. As you get closer to the actual day of ovulation, your odds of getting pregnant get higher and higher. Your cervix comes down lower in your body and the opening gets bigger; your start producing more and more “cervical mucus,” which I’m sorry that’s such a horrible phrase but that’s what it’s called; your body temperature starts rising. So my point is that all of these apps chart your supposed “fertile days” along with your period. Some of them, inexcusably, depict this phase of your cycle with a little icon of a flower that gains petals as you get closer to ovulating and then loses petals as you move past ovulation and your egg slowly dies inside of you; another missed opportunity to become a fully functioning human being, alas.
    • So anyway, M&O Calendar depicts this fertile phase as a series of circles: one circle on the first couple days; two circles; then three circles for when you should ovulate. Needless to say this is incredibly confusing, visually. The other apps either use a flower, which is dumb but easy to read, or a different color shade to differentiate your fertile days from your infertile days (WomanLog just puts one symbol in the corner of each of your fertile days)

iperiodI Period: $1.99

I don’t know why this is called “I Period” but not only do I LOVE that name, it is also the BEST ONE. It’s so good in fact that I’m going to switch from my trusty ol’ WomanLog. News flash: I Period has SOLVED the “individual symptom icon in each calendar day” dilemma! Plus it looks good, is easy to use, and doesn’t give you any bullshit cartoon flower nonsense. It even gives you the day of your cycle in the section underneath the calendar, for each calendar day, which isn’t ideal (WomanLog still is the winner in this regard, with a small cycle-day number NEXT TO the calendar date in each day-slot (god that is confusing to type), but all things considered, I can settle for this one.

General conclusions:

After signing up with all these apps I started getting tons of notifications that my period was coming. Some of them are fucking insufferable:

auntflo

I also got notifications for drinking water, and for helpful add-ons like this:

mirror

Because my cycle currently is all fucked up, I also have been getting notifications like this:

uhoh

which if I weren’t so beautifully in touch with my body and so blissfully uptight about birth control, would actually be terrifying. Imagine being a 16-year old and getting a pop-up notification like this.

Plus, in light of the cutesy way these apps all try to hide what they really are so that boys won’t know you have a period app, I have to say that a giant “YOUR PERIOD IS LATE” message appearing on your phone is surely significantly more embarrassing than someone seeing a tasteful “period calendar” on your dock.

Period Euphemisms: Why are they? As a rule, we are so uptight about saying “period” or about letting anyone know we have a tampon in our purse. There is a whole huge market for ingenious bags and boxes and envelopes that you can have a tampon in without anyone knowing, and period euphemisms are as time-honored as cherry pie (sorry). From the gross “Aunt Flo is visiting” to the enigmatic “I got my dot,” Americans have found many delightful ways to avoid saying “I AM MENSTRUATING,” which is in keeping with our national pasttime of just giving uncomfortable things inoffensive names in the belief that this makes the uncomfortable thing go away.

Additional advice to Mike for making his period app:
One thing all of these apps lack is COMPUTING POWER. This is where I think you could actually make a huge difference. So in each of these apps you can enter all kinds of information for tracking purposes, but the app itself doesn’t USE your information. You can tell it about your cervical mucus and your body temperature and that you’re feeling horny, but it doesn’t make predictions based on this info. As far as I can tell, all these apps just use PURE MATH to calculate the dates of your period and your ovulation, whereas in a real human body, all these other indicators are much much more reliable. I wonder if an app could be powerful enough to take into account your night sweats, your mood, your temperature, etc., and be like “oh actually here is when you will ovulate probably.”

Future Exchange: RoboCop

From the atom bomb to the Hoverboard®, Science Fiction’s supernatural prescience in the realm of technological innovation is exceedingly well-documented—real world science increasingly intertwines with its imaginary counterpart in bizarre and uncanny ways. By contrast, the ways in which Sci-Fi portrays its speculative economic systems—though no less significant—have received considerably less scrutiny. In the new feature Futures Exchange, Zuckerberg’s Lament publisher K. Mike Merrill invites a re-examination of these imagined economies: a critical look at Science Fiction Cinema’s portrayal of finance.

RoboCop

robocop-2014

Paul Verhoeven’s original Robocop is a cynical, curiously revered 1987 film about a police officer who is also a robot. It’s also in some ways the Platonic ideal for what Futures Exchange hopes to explore in our semi-regular communiqués: a Science Fiction film whose fundamental conflict hinges on the social and political consequences of economic policy.

A movie often recognized for its prophetic portrayal of Detroit’s swift, dystopian decline (something that anyone paying attention to the city’s significant white flight at the time might have envisioned), the first Robocop’s apocalyptic socio-economic predictions were only magnified in its sequel — in which derelict Detroit hangs unthinkably on the precipice of bankruptcy. This is the kind of shit that we live for: cinema that suggests radical civil and societal revelations through economic policy — policy that by some unimaginable twist of fate finds itself tested in real life, in real time.

In the 2014 of our collective imagining, it’s telling that the idea of a superhuman bionic policeman seems somehow a hell of a lot less fantastic than that of a major international tech corporation headquartered in downtown Detroit. Set scarcely fourteen years in the future, one of the strangest things about this year’s Robocop reboot is how totally tone-deaf it manages to be about the plight of contemporary Detroit — significantly less conscious than Verhoeven’s was over a quarter century before it all actually happened. The new Robocop’s Detroit has somehow seemingly emerged from its current financial ruin, with few signs of the previous decade’s pockmarks. It’s a Detroit that appears in considerably better shape than both the Detroit of the original film and the Detroit of present day — an astonishing windfall that’s never addressed directly.

Michael-Keaton1

The one piece of evidence we’re given for Detroit’s economic recovery comes in the form of OmniCorp — a forward-thinking multinational with major defense money that seems not only to be shouldering the tax burden of an otherwise insolvent city, but also voluntarily field test their one-of-a-kind, two billion dollar investment in its corrupt and lawless streets. Lead by CEO Raymond Sellars (played sympathetically by Michael Keaton), OmniCorp’s noble mission is to remove the human cost from defense and law enforcement — replacing flesh and blood soldiers with mechanized, completely objective automatons. Though already successfully helping to police nations throughout the rest of the world, the U.S.’s bowtied, big government luddites uphold legislation that still ascribes value to subjective reasoning and the fallacy of free will — leaving American citizens in the regulatory lurch.

Sellars is an archetypical Silicon Valley Libertarian — riding an ever-cresting wave of progress, and fighting the good fight against the prohibitive powers-that-be and their inanely regressive policies. In an effort to fast-track the inevitable shift in social tides, Sellars deftly proposes a hybridization of man and machine — an undertaking that costs him a literal fortune in bionics, dramatically improves the well being of the city’s populace, and saves the life of an otherwise doomed Detroit police officer. (It’s important to note that R&D for this project takes place in China, presumably out of reach of the meddling American government.) What do the filmmakers assign him for his efforts, besides a triptych of Francis Bacons in his office? He’s villainized for cybernetically bypassing one dude’s freedom of choice — a dude who would be otherwise dead without him.

Robocop 2014’s intended moral appears to be that the civil liberties of the half-dead few outweight the well being of the many. The objective viewer can clearly access a great deal of merit in OmniCorp’s business stratagem — of financial and social advantage to both its progressive corporate architects and society as a whole. The film miscasts the company as a strawman for the Obama Administration’s drone strike policies, when in reality what they propose is a discriminating, impartial, and mutually beneficial solution to the many failures of the human condition.

The film’s greater failure is that in its heavy-handed attempt to pin the story to a political agenda, it ignores a perfectly fascinating reality just under its nose: the very real contemporary dystopia of Detroit itself.

Letter From The Editor 3

Marianna_2.181203Hello my dear, dear friends,

What a wild ride it has been indeed, lo this long and dreary month of February. It was cold again, then nice again, then we had an ice storm, then the wind blew so hard I truly thought we would die. The Night Of The Dread Winds I slept nary one wink, laying instead abed thinking with an odd sense of detachment about how the enormous tree in our yard was definitely going to fall on the house at any moment. I found out in the morning that the old man had been laying awake thinking the exact same thing. It was eerie to realize in retrospect that we’d both been awake thinking of our impending brutal deaths but we each thought the other was slumbering peacefully.

I will tell you that I have had some job interviews, without giving too many details as nothing is decided yet and I don’t want to fuck anything up or jinx anything. Job interview are horrible. I know I am prone to exaggeration but in this instance every academic agrees with me. My mentor describes her own long-ago job interview period as “the worst time in [her] life, next to when [her] son got cancer.” It’s bad news. It’s so thrilling to get interviews but it makes you so incredibly anxious. So much rides on your performance, for one thing, and there are so many variables you can’t predict. Furthermore, they are just intense experiences. You spend two full days on campus going to meetings, teaching students you’ve never met before, getting interviewed by the Dean of the entire college, etc., all while wearing clothes in which you feel profoundly awkward. So in spite of how amazing it all is and how lucky I know I am, I also essentially have been sick to my stomach, to varying degrees of intensity, for 2 solid months. There is never a moment when thoughts of the jobs are completely out of my brain, and sometimes they consume me with morbid dread. First there is the phone call inviting you to a campus visit. This is followed by approximately 60 seconds of total elation and shrieking. Then the realization of what-all you are going to have to do to prepare for the interview hits you and your gut flips over. You start imagining all the wildest questions they could possibly ask you. What if they ask me to describe a grad seminar on Sibelius? What if they suddenly start speaking to me in French? They send you the details—how long your job talk should be, what your sample class will be on—and you just dive in, prepping with intensity. Writing a 30 minute talk about your research; planning a lecture on, respectively, Debussy, the Protestant Reformation, and Wagner. Getting your suit drycleaned. Fretting about whether the pants are supposed to fit this way or should you get them tailored again. Researching the department, figuring out where everyone got their PhD and trying to read as much of their scholarship as you can. Memorizing their course catalogue so you can talk knowledgeably when they ask you, “so where would you fit into our curriculum” or “tell us about three classes you could teach here.” Wondering if you should use a PowerPoint or just wing it. Having no idea what the students are like—are you pitching your Wagner class embarrassingly low or alienatingly high? Meanwhile you are also teaching full time, grading, prepping your own normal lectures, etc. You have to re-organize all your syllabuses so that they can incorporate the SIX missed classes you now have to account for. You worry that your students find you aloof and think you aren’t committed to them. Then the interview itself. You fly across the country and take a cab to a hotel room where you put Best Show Gems on your iPhone speaker and iron your suit and try to calm down enough to sleep, which is impossible because you are so wound up about the terrible day(s) to come. At one of my interviews I took a melatonin and fell asleep at 10:00, then woke up thinking it was morning and time to shower and then saw that it was midnight, and then watched Steve Brule episodes in bed until 5:00.

So ANYWAY to make it to the final round at three good jobs is pretty epic, if I do say so. One of the jobs was SERIOUSLY epic, and I made it to the final two, and then they gave it to the other guy. I don’t have the kind of personality where I hate the person who beats me for a job or whatever, so I wish him well and good day to you sir. I am proud to have made it to the final round at such a dream job. I also comfort myself with the fact that I didn’t want to live in that city very much (sour grapes; it would have been amazing).

All is well; life is good; my career continues to improve, knock on wood. I am less of a dipshit than 2 years ago and 2 years from now I hope to be less of a dipshit still. My life goal.

More details forthcoming soon.

In other news, there is not much other news. I need to rejoin the gym and go to the doctor.

I hope you enjoy this month’s Lament. We are getting some great stuff submitted here at the office and we look forward to bringing you many more delightful tales, reviews, recipes, personal ads, and maybe like poems or music downloads or something, as the years advance.

Franklin was extremely ill recently and he is now recovered but I still have anxiety nightmares that he is sick again. I read The Marriage Plot and hated its guts. We are watching True Detective and it is a very well-made show. How many shows about naked raped dead women killed by serial killers can American pop culture support? So far the answer is “a countless number.” I am not made of stone, and freely admit to enjoying this genre as much as the next sicko pervert.

Goodbye to you dear friends. I hope you are excited that it is March. Soon the flowers will be bustin’ out every which way and we will reveal our lily-white thighs to the gawping of public culture!

Everything’s Comin’ Up Oscar!

Well this year’s snubs n’ flubs season rolled around and I didn’t even realize it was Oscar night until Steve texted me instructing me to be at his house by 5:00. Like most sane people, I have a love-hate relationship with the Oscars that I would describe as 99% hate and 1% love, with a 1% margin of error. Perhaps once every tens years something delightful happens at the Oscars–an amazing off-the-rails political speech; Frances McDormand eschewing all thank yous to direct her remarks to everyone putting strong women in films; the time Silence of the Lambs swept the awards and beat Beauty and the Beast for best picture and I gloated loudly and for way too long over all the twee ding dongs at my high school who loved that classic Disney garbage pile and were shocked by all the face-ripping-offage in the former film.

Mostly, though, Oscar night is a parade of clichés and self-aggrandizing capitalist flamboyance performed by outrageously wealthy people who make millions of dollars pretending to be other people, in films that MAYBE 12% of Americans have ever even heard of. Also, the films actually up for awards are often utter drivel, which is depressing, because if we’re going to honor classy “best” films that only 12% of American snobs have seen, can’t they be the actually good films and not, like, American Hustle?

I do enjoy seeing celebs interfacing awkwardly with one another and with the human pieces of shit who make their living doing red carpet interviews. I enjoy seeing which celebs bring their moms as dates (never dads! what’s that about). I enjoy seeing a classy dress and commenting on it like I know what I’m talking about (“that’s a good cut for her”<---WTF). This Oscar night was marred ahead of time by the incredibly tone deaf Jimmy Kimmel bit where he really cruelly mocks the audience for being fat and stupid and poorly dressed and eating cheese-puffs with our hideous swollen fingers, as he simultaneously earnestly enjoins them not to make fun of Cate Blanchett's dress because these people worked really hard to make great movies and who are you to judge. I basically have never seen anything so off-point and insulting in my life. Millionaire fashion snobs shouldn't be made fun of by their own audience because said audience is fat. Thank you, Jimmy Kimmel, I continue to be completely uninterested in your career.

“The listener is not childlike, they are childish; their primitivism is not that of the undeveloped, but that of the forcibly retarded.” TW Adorno

As for the actual awards, I just heaved a huge sigh as I typed those words. Gravity, a horrible film, won a bunch of awards because it’s hard to make something look like it’s in space. The Somalian dude who co-starred with Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips did not win an award; I also found out last night that he was paid $65,000, total, for appearing in that film, even though he had equal screen time with Tom Hanks and was arguably the protagonist we cared the most about. Sarah says he’s been staying at a hotel out by the airport and his friend who is a cabbie has been driving him around LA. Basically I wish everyone in the world would die except that guy.

I guess the high point of the evening was Matthew McConaughey’s actually insane speech where he thanked God really profusely, described his father in Heaven drinking Miller Light and making jambalaya and dancing, and then declared that he is his own hero and isn’t that so awesome. He also failed to thank or even mention the man he portrayed in order to win the Oscar, who suffered and died so horribly. He also didn’t mention AIDS. I have been seriously digging McConaughey of late and this speech only increased my enjoyment of his work. It is interesting to watch an actual lunatic pretend to be a sociopath (True Detective) or a dying person (Dallas Buyers Club) or an aging stripper (Magic Mike). It goes without saying that his madness obviously infuses his performances with some sort of serious zing that you can feel through the screen. I also find it batshit that he keeps delivering his catchphrase from 20 years ago (“alright alright alright”) as though it is charming. Also, he is very handsome. I like cadaverous leathery McConaughey much more than I liked his old hunky persona. What an odd career arc that man has had. I also think he is faking his accent. Overall, I believe that had he not found an outlet in Hollywood movie making he would probably be a serial killer.

I really hate all the songs that are up for awards. It’s so depressing to look back through the “Best Song” category over the years. Freaking West Side Story was in that category! Songs from “Fame”?? “Up Where We Belong?” The freaking song from Flashdance?? The incredible Giorgio Moroder Top Gun love song? GIRL PLEASE. And now it’s just some dipshit meandering content-less bullshit from Frozen or that inane nonsense from Her where the moment it’s over you can’t remember a single thing about it. Music in movies is getting so bad. And nobody notices! Even friends of mine thought the songs in the Jason Siegel muppet movie were good but they sounded like they were written by a machine using an algorithm. I’M SORRY BUT I AM PISSED

I didn’t understand why Liza Minnelli didn’t sing “Rainbow.” What does Pink have to do with that song? No diss on Pink, who I like.

I liked Ellen’s bit about J-Law falling down, I thought it was well-delivered. I also liked her pizza bit. I liked when Brad Pitt kept throwing twenties in Pharrell’s hat. I liked when Lupita Nyong’o won and I liked how great she looked and I liked how she brought her brother as a date. I liked how Jonah Hill and his mom look absolutely identical. I would french Bradley Cooper’s face off. I am sick of Christian Bale and his whole deal. I am glad Martin Scorsese lost again, hooray! I would rather eat a cockroach than watch that movie.

Well there you have it

And American culture continues its slow decline

Keeping The Dreem Alive

“The T-shirt is the ‘lowest form of self-expression.’” He can’t quite remember where he read it, but that idea sticks in Eric Mast’s mind as one of the interests behind Dreem Street. A loose series of limited edition tees, each Dreem Street design carries an illustration that has been hand drawn onto screens with drawing fluid and screen filler, and printed either in Mast’s basement workshop or at his co-conspirator Matthew Chambers’ headquarters in L.A. (Mast notes that L.A.’s climate has the advantage; things dry much faster there.)

SAMSUNG DIGITAL MOVIEThough Dreem has been around since 2010, it’s largely absent of the pressures of business, hewing closer to its identity as an art project, in part because Mast and Chambers—longtime friends who share a background in DIY punk and skateboard culture—are in constant motion with other, simultaneous projects. Mast, who also performs and DJs as E*Rock, has long been an established presence in visual art and music, designing poster art and animation as well as performing his own music and founding the Audio Dregs label in 1996. Chambers, meanwhile, works full-time as a painter, and the dichotomy between his big canvases selling for thousands of dollars while a Dreem Street tee will run you all of 20 bucks folds right into their amusement with thumbing around at the weak junctions between art, commerce, and lifestyle.

Part of the appeal of the Dreem system is the fact that Mast and Chambers can use it as a stomping ground for experimentation, punching out a few renditions of one idea before moving on to the next without having committed a significant portion of resources—a typical design only ever makes it onto eight to 15 T-shirts. “It’s a way to process ideas and make things that will end up in your friends’ houses,” says Mast—unlike, say, most of those pricier gallery canvases. Production is driven purely by competition between the two of them. Mast handles the web/commerce end, and will periodically receive boxes of new work in the mail from Chambers, thereby inspiring him to pick up his own pace and maintain what’s roughly a 50/50 ratio of output.

Designs range from painterly to a tighter, busier graphic aesthetic, but all are littered with cultural reference—Jackie Chan, The Anarchist Cookbook, Fred Astaire, Freud, Apple, and the Marx Brothers have all made appearances, alongside reflexology, Oktoberfest, I-Ching, ant farms, holiday wreaths, and a map of Italy emblazoned with the word “pizza.” Fake fan shirts are another specialty, including tributes to obscure cultural touchstones, Maison Martin Margiela, and Seinfeld.

tumblr_myw8v0Bv0T1rdrc74o1_1280One design that seems to be taking hold is the “Bands” T-shirt. It began with Mast wanting to make a back patch for a denim jacket, which led him to thinking of what a big deal it used to be to have the crustiest punk band represented across your shoulders—and what does that kind of music do at this point for the kids who’ve newly adopted it? What does youth culture even look like anymore? As part statement and part question, he wound up with what he calls a “band tee for the YouTube generation,” a collage of band logos chosen for visual recognition more so than Mast’s own musical preferences, with Suicidal Tendencies sharing space with Outkast, Aerosmith, and Slayer. A collaborative design with Yung Zine was also conceived in response, repeating a backwards Nike swoosh over names: Morrissey, Blondie, Aphex Twin, Mazzy Star.

Lest we get too caught up in cultural commentary, though, Dreem also does not remove itself from the expectation that these are pieces to be worn, and as such have tested the shirts to find the best for both lending themselves to the process and delivering the right fit. American Apparel was abandoned when the company dropped their preferred cut, with Kenya-produced Canvas shirts currently taking up the duty by virtue of their “neutral, not super stylized” look, though the ultimate goal is to create a pattern and produce their own.

tumblr_my4od7Om8C1rdrc74o1_1280The tees sometimes make appearances at shops like Rad Summer, but most people are left to discover Dreem Street by following crumb trails on the internet or word of mouth; there hasn’t been much in the way of marketing in the usual sense. The T-shirts have had one outing displayed at a Los Angeles art event, but have never been formally introduced in Portland. This month that is rectified, with Floating World Comics hosting a Dreem Street show through the month, featuring the shirts themselves, a selection of Mast’s prints on paper (a sneak peek of which reveals a nature motif rendered in varying combinations of contrastingly inorganic neon), photographic prints by Los Angeles artist Ben Goddard, in which the shirts make cameo appearances, and the possible inclusion of a proper essay on the “Bands” shirt’s meaning. (One gets the sense Mast wants to get it off his chest once and for all after having had to explain it too many times to drunk people at bars—a process he admits can be “hard.”) Dreem Street opens Thursday, March 6 with a reception at Floating World Comics, 400 NW Couch, 6-9 pm.

Letter From The Editor 2

Marianna_2.181203Hello friends,

DISCLAIMER: I wrote this a few month ago but is it not interesting that now the REST of the country has entered and left the POLAR VORTEX? Now you may all know how it feels to sand your door until it gets weird and won’t close.

First of all, I would like to point out that it is so cold in Portland right now that no one can believe it and it was so cold our house actually changed shape and now the door to our mudroom won’t close and Gary had to sand it down. And I am sitting in a coffee shop wearing my coat, hat, and scarf and my fingers are so cold I am typing awkwardly. It is 17 degrees, which I know is not very cold for Iowa or the Arctic, but is extremely goddamn cold for Portland, and everything is relative. In conclusion life is crazy.

Speaking of life being crazy, I thought I’d spend some time this Lament pondering how awesome it is that Anne Rice linked to my blog from her Facebook page, and also commented on my entry about her Charles Burney book. Like all weird female nerds, I went through a HUGE Rice phase in, I would say, like eighth grade maybe. Interview with a Vampire, all the other sexy vampire books, Queen of the Damned, the Mummy, I read them all and found them thrilling. Rice, for so many women I know, was part of that cadre of secret novelists we stumbled across in various epic library browsing sessions, who began showing us a window into Actual Grownup Sex. As cartoonish as some of this stuff was, it was still EXPLICIT in a way that I think I, and a lot of women I’ve talked to about this, really hungered for at a certain age. Rice, the sequels to Clan of the Cave Bear, Forever by Judy Blume…Crucially, these books actually told you WHAT WAS GOING ON, PRECISELY, with body parts and arousal and like the actual mechanics of the acts. PLUS they involved female desire—the C of the CB books are all narrated by a woman, as is Forever—which in retrospect is obviously a huge part of why they were so compelling. I guess nowadays kids just watch internet porn, which is utterly horrifying to me but what are you gonna do.

Anyway, so I will always carry a torch for Anne Rice, big time. Plus she has that kind of ooky gothic imagination that I’m obviously really drawn to. As a kid, those vampire books really obsessed me. They maybe were my first real entry into thinking seriously about the kind of supernatural themes and issues that continue to interest me and that I literally am like writing a book about right now. Well, them plus Stephen King, who I was reading at a much earlier age. I remember just sitting and pondering immortality—the way the dudes in those books go through phases of being tormented by not being able to die was intensely interesting to me. Remember when Lestat like flies up to the sun trying to burn himself up but all he gets is a rad suntan??

ANYWAY. So to go to Anne Rice’s facebook page and see her link to my blog, and say she is delighted by my delight over her Burney book, and to see all her adorable fans also being delighted, felt really awesome. A circle of delight, all of us delighted perhaps for some similar and some different reasons, but nonetheless. And I am really glad that I didn’t write anything off-handedly rude in that entry! Would have been very easy to make a vampire sex joke, and I’m glad I did not, for when you get down to brass tacks, I totally love Anne Rice. Plus, she is a cool interesting weirdo herself! Did you know she publicly announced that she is no longer Christian?

“Today I quit being a Christian…. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.” And later: “My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.”

Tight!!!

One thing I did want to point out is how interesting it is that all the commenters on her Facebook post assume I am a man. I’ve been thinking a lot about how the default person is still a man, even today in this year 2013, and even when women LITERALLY OUTNUMBER MEN on this planet. I am forever being mistaken for a man on the internet. I assume most women who don’t foreground their gender in their various screen handles (god, is that how you say that? I am so old) also experience this. I was looking at a tumblr somebody made to document all the examples of “men are people and women are women” in the world and it’s pretty overwhelming. I was especially struck by all the iconography on signs, all around the world, in which the stick-figure human depicted is always genderless unless it is doing something involving children, in which case it’s wearing a dress. So then to note how all her commenters are calling me a “guy” and “him” and what-not was really striking, ESPECIALLY because IN THE ENTRY I refer several times to my male spouse. How heavy is that? That even the fact that “straight” is the default sexuality (which is an assumption that at least is backed up by actual numbers) isn’t enough to outweigh man being the default person! It is easier to assume an anonymous person writing on the internet (about something other than “shoes and chocolate,” as Shayla put it) is a GAY MAN than that they are a woman.

Food for thought! And now I am thinking about 30 Rock, when Kenneth is talking about the mayor of his town and then proudly emphasizes her gender, like to indicate how progressive his town was: “…..and SHE…..was a horse!”

Anyway, all this has very much inspired me to go get Cry To Heaven and read it over break. I assume I will love it. In conclusion, Anne Rice rules, the internet rules, lets try to stop assuming people are men until proven otherwise, kids shouldn’t watch porn, it is cold as ice here in Portland, and here is a new issue of Zuckerberg’s Lament.

Enjoy!

A Christmas Lament

Hey everyone! First started this Lament a week ago, with a tiny little mason jar beside me, basically a thimble of white wine potentially three days past potency, to tell you a tale of pure Christmas joy, but got distracted. Now I’ve made the mistake of sitting on the experience too long, and it’s a bit of a struggle to remember all of the details while sitting in this gleaming Echo Park laundromat, charging my phone with my laptop, before I dine out at a Japanese curry joint with Filardo and Greg Campanile, who you may recall from a previous Lament is perfectly eligible for great dating opportunities.

I’ll do my best, I owe you that.

Cut to Christmas Joy: A few weeks ago Mike and Marijke were in LA for some business-related fun (which I think Mike would term fun-related business), and we got to take a vigorous winter hike in the Santa Monica mountains with Meagan and Evan that ended with Bloody Marys and Mexican plates at a British pub, where we sat outside and used our hands to shield our eyes from the nice sun beating down on us there. Somewhere along the way, Christmas plans came up. I had none, being a sort of lone wolf cub all my life, but off-handedly mentioned I had the errant desire to force myself to watch five theater movies on Christmas Day. Mike, being Mike, immediately offered to fund the project, his interest ignited I think by the potential athleticism of such a plan. Walking ahead of me down a dirt path, he added two stipulations: one, I was not allowed to leave the theater grounds and two, in accordance with classic theater policy, I was not allowed to sneak in snacks and only permitted to eat food at the theater.

I was stoked! It struck me as exactly appropriate that my first Christmas as an Angeleno would be spent indulging to excess in Hollywood’s largest export on the biggest box office day of the year. I also felt particularly suited for the challenge. Maybe even like I’ve been training my whole life for such an occasion. Last year, for instance, I watched Django Unchained 5x in the theater, twice on Christmas Day ’12. My friend Andy and I saw four movies in one day on Regal Cinema’s get-into-the-movies-for-three-cans-of-food-day, but I don’t remember any of the movies except that Nicole Kidman was in one and it maybe had a lot of lightning in it. I watched Magnolia back-to-back in the theater whenever that came out for some reason though it’s not my favorite movie or anything, and also in 2004 I didn’t sleep a wink for a few days because I was watching Seasons 1 and 2 of 24, an action/espionage show shot “in real time” (though that was one was mainly because I was so hopped up on the quasi-patriotic adrenaline and muted sexual tension–I’m a sucker for any viewing experience where a government agent has to say into her earpiece with a weirdly reserved urgency, “we’ve been compromised/there’s a mole!”). I really don’t know if Mike would have assigned any of this to me had he known about all my experience! In general, too, I love a challenge–recently Steve observed I like to make myself do hard things, then did an impression of me: “Maybe if I face this darkness I will know the truth.” Me, in a truly succinct nutshell, but also a perfect phrasing for this cinema adventure, the ultimate darkness, ultimate human truths.

The first task at hand was to select the five films and one theater to screen them all. I turned to Steve here because, in addition to his gifts of observation, he is incredibly efficient at Internet. I told him the films I most wanted to see, and with true Steve expediency, better than Domino’s, he narrowed it all down to Arclight Hollywood. I felt obligated at this point to ask Mike for his permission because Arclight Cinemas has a significantly kinder vibe than the average theater–cushy seats, an espresso-serving coffee shop, bar, and even a restaurant. Mike, in a charitable mood: “Less dark, but it’s ok.” So the only real setback we encountered was that it was impossible to find a theater showing both Nebraska and Wolf of Wall Street. I was disappointed for maybe like five minutes, but there are seriously so many excellent movies out right now it was hard to be too sad. Mike suggested I see the new Ben Stiller, but I watched the preview and not even Kristen Wiig could make me see that. I hate that weird slippage into mental fantasy, like Life Is Beautiful or Amelie or whatever (exception: Eternal Sunshine, but that was memory not fantasy). The final selection, listed in viewing order: Inside Llewyn Davis (104 min), Her (126 min), Anchorman 2 (119 min), American Hustle (137 min), and Wolf of Wall Street (180 min). First showing beginning at 9am, last film ending at 11pm. I added it up and the total viewing time is exactly 666 minutes, the number of the beast! So punk!

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Prior to settling on Arclight, I might have factored in a little illicit theater hopping, but Arclight features reserved seating so you run into the chance that maybe you’ll sneak into a theater and get caught early on by a theatergoer who actually paid to be in seat K28. Plus, I’m 36 and don’t want to be a sad old broad getting collared on Christmas Day. Instead I did an appropriately middle-aged thing and got the best bang for my buck. I found out Arclight was running a Christmas promotion for a free yearlong membership (plus two free movie tickets) if you buy $100 worth of gift cards so I purchased a $100 gift card with the money Mike gave me on Christmas Eve and received a membership voucher, which I tried unsuccessfully to redeem online and just wound up paying for the membership. When I told that to the box office, they not only refunded my $15 but also let me keep the voucher, which is good for $15 worth of movies or concessions. Then I purchased all five of my tickets online because you get a buck off each one if you are a member and purchase tickets online. Working it! That’s some boring grown up shit!

 With tickets in hand, two free tickets on the way, and $25 on a gift card for concessions, I had a very mellow Christmas Eve with some friends, pizza and wings and weed = very mellow. The next morning, I called a Yellow Cab at 8:30am to take me from Koreatown into Hollywood. The driver was chattier than I like–I prefer to just stare out of a car window–but it was Christmas and I tried to keep that in mind and not be a sullen asshole. He told me he was from Bangladesh and grilled me about my life, which was kind of brutal. He inadvertently asked hard-hitting questions like why aren’t you with your family for Christmas, why do you live so far from your father, then theorized that had my family never moved to the states my parents would still be together. Dark breakfast! He spit me out right in front of the Cinerama Dome, which I promptly ‘grammed to begin documenting the experience, dusted my shoulders off, and went inside to get full-on.



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Movie #1: 9am showing of Inside Llewyn Davis, Cinema 9, Seat K22

First things first, I needed coffee. Inside the theater, I made a beeline for the espresso bar and made my first official though non-traditional concessions purchase–an Americano, with soy milk as creamer. I walked around the theater for a minute too long looking at posters for upcoming releases (cannot wait for the new Rogen) and subsequently missed the Greeter and previews before Inside Llewyn Davis. Oh yeah, at Arclight each screening has a Greeter and that person welcomes you to the movie and reminds you to turn off your cellphones instead of playing that oft-animated 15-second reel experience where some popcorn with eyes tells you to throw trash away in the lobby. At this 9am viewing there were only two other moviegoers, but one left partway through and turned out to be a theater employee. Cool job, guy!

I absolutely loved ILD. Oscar Isaac killed it, though you have to admit Oscar Isaac is a funny name. Such a stellar foot to start the day off on, angst and all. I don’t have any intention of doing movie synopses here or even straight-up reviews, but will say a thing or two that got trapped in my brain while viewing so Spoiler Alert, for sure. I was totally fascinated by what the Coen Bros were doing with all of Llewyn’s displaced empathy for animals–from the first cat, Ulysses, to the wrong cat to the weird unspecified small white foxlike animal he hits in the car all the way down to when he passes a theater and stops to look at the movie poster for The Incredible Journey, a flick following two dogs and one cat who are lost and trying to find their way back home. Referencing the Odyssey and then all the constricted, long narrow hallway shots might have been a bit heavy-handed, but I don’t know I guess the concern felt so central to Llewyn’s struggle that it was ok. One of my favorite scenes was the part where Llewyn makes the pilgrimage to perform for Mr. Grossman to see if he’s got what it takes to cut it as a musician and Mr. Grossman’s stony unreadable expression the whole time Llewyn is singing, and after he’s done how Mr. Grossman just says without mincing words, “I don’t see a lot of money here” and advises him to get back with his dead former partner and that’s that. Brutal! Then contrast that with a later scene where Llewyn visits his father in some kind of home-care facility and performs a song for him and his dad just says “Wow” and shits his pants. So nearly something of a validation for what he does creatively, but it’s taken away immediately by the need to call someone to wipe his dad’s ass. Another thing I really loved about the movie and Llewyn’s characterization is that you could really feel how much making it as a musician, and surviving on past his former partner, was seriously the only thing that mattered to him. It would have been so easy for the Coen Bros to muddy the plot by peppering in more romantic entanglements, more mishaps, and it would have made the whole film feel less single-minded, to its detriment I think. The last thing I’ll say about it is that it was funny to see Vinny from Doogie Howser in a movie.


Movie #2: 11:05am showing of Her, Cinema 7, Seat M23

I wasn’t hungry at this point, but felt compelled by the challenge to visit the concessions stand and make a purchase. You know, make some news. I took so long to order, the concessions employee asked me repeatedly if I was ready and after the third time I said, “Sorry, there’s just a lot of choices” even though there really weren’t and the guy apologized to me and said he understood it was overwhelming. Haha, apologized! Anyway, I thought for some reason I’d be able to find something brunchy, but of course did not. I settled on a Sausage Baguette, which was listed above a separate offering: Hot Dog. What I received was definitely a fucking hot dog so I don’t know what’s happening in their minds. Then with my membership, I got $5 off my first concessions purchase so the Sausage Baguette only cost a buck thirty five. I was making out like a bandit.

By this time, there were significantly more people streaming into the theater, milling about the lobby. The audience for Her was probably a little less than half full. I had an awkward thing happen in that I set down my Sausage Baguette, preloaded with ketchup, on top of my bag. I wanted to wait until I was actually hungry enough to eat it, but an hour into Her, I still hadn’t eaten it and it smelled exactly like a hot dog with ketchup. No one could see it but we all knew it was there. I guess I could have just eaten it and taken care of it, but then I would be taken out of my engagement with the movie, everyone would know I had the stinky hot dog, and they’d be listening to me chew. Pretty gross stuff, but such is the path of the warrior in battle. Joaquin Phoenix is theee face I could stare at all day. I’m not attracted to him, I just think his is a good weird face. Her is a great movie, very tight screenplay, a future so well-imagined, relevant, and credible that it just floors me. I really loved seeing Slightly Future LA, the city shots were some of my favorite moments in the film. A major theme of this movie was also empathy, though explored in a different way than in ILD. Dark, sweet, and funny. Definitely left the theater wanting to fall in love, which means it’s working.

I walked out, still carrying my Sausage Baguette, the realization of how weird it was to walk out of a theater with food slow-dawning on me. I walked out of the Arclight building, but keeping in mind the need to stay on theater grounds, took the glass elevator with my Sausage Baguette to the top level of the parking garage, which has this phenomenal view of Hollywood and the San Gabriel Mountains. It was 80 degrees and the sun blasted me, my Sausage Baguette, and a few parked cars into a whiteness that felt wholly appropriate for this particular lunchtime idyll. I ate my cold dog while walking the perimeter of the roof, took a few pics, then elected to take the stairs down to keep my circulation going.

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Back inside, I went to the bar and ordered a Greyhound to also keep my circulation going. The bartender was a fresh-faced young man in all-black. He had a Columbus, OH vibe but was smoov as fuck. He was in the process of engaging this older woman, who prior to their conversation had just been looking around for kinda anyone to talk to, about having grown up with horses, but then a woman returned from a movie to thank him for his movie recommendation, and he gave her a slip of paper to write down her number, after which the first lady clammed right up. Wow.

Movie #3: 2:20pm Anchorman 2, Cinema 9, Seat K24

Before heading into Anchorman 2, I bought some peanut M&M’s that again I forgot to eat during the actual screening. This movie sucked. There were some minor saves–Kristen Wiig being one, the climactic melee scene was another. But if this was the worst part of the day, had to admit I was having a pretty good day.

Movie #4: 5pm American Hustle, Cinema 7, Seat L22

My entire American Hustle viewing was doomed (666!). First, I did a dumb thing in that I had accidentally purchased a ticket for the Dec 26th screening. I was sitting in the seat and then these people came along and said You’re in my seat. Ok. I went to the ticket counter and they were nice and gave me a new seat. But then there was a person in it and even another person standing there who also had been assigned the same seat. Three people all wanting to pile into X15. By now, the theater was completely sold out and previews were starting, so I stood to the side while the Greeter tried to solve the problem. He took care of the other people first and gave them tickets to see a different movie. I told him, Well I kinda have to see this movie and started to explain about my Christmas adventure, but he cut me off because he didn’t care even a little bit. He sat me down in a weird front row side seat that blurred out my eyes within 5 minutes, but the movie was great and got me hooked right from the start and I started to adjust and settle in. Then about 45 minutes in, the fire alarm went off.

It was insane to be in the crush of people that is all fourteen stadium-seating theaters emptying at once. We filled the entire lobby, people lifting their iPhones above their heads making vids of the spillage, and crammed into the courtyard. Some boner tried to start a round of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, but if it had caught on better I probably wouldn’t be calling him a boner, but singing the line about not being invited to play games with gusto. We were outside for maybe twenty minutes, watching through the tall platings of glass all the firemen stomp around on that nicely patterned thick movie carpet. It was clear from the way all the Arclight employees were readying themselves at the ticket counter we were going to be readmitted and dealt free passes, etc. Yours Truly tweeted at me that Andy Richter was somewhere in the masses with me. That felt good. A Greeter came out on a balcony and addressed the populace. Definitely an aspiring actor, he announced with kingdomly flair that we’d soon be readmitted, and all our movies would begin at the point 10 minutes prior to the fire alarm. The townspeople all cheered, even me, though I knew my schedule was totally fucked. My mission had failed. If I resumed American Hustle, I’d miss the first 30-45 minutes of my 7:30pm Wolf of Wall Street, which was definitely the movie I was most looking forward to seeing that day. I thought fast and got a free ticket for the 10:25pm screening of American Hustle, figuring that it didn’t matter if I missed the first 30-45 minutes since I’d just seen it. Plus, the movie lady threw in another free movie pass. At this point, I started to wonder if I was making money off this adventure.



Another plus of missing the rest of American Hustle was that I could enjoy some of the bar’s Wolf of Wall Street drink specials that were only available before Wolf screenings. I sat outside and drank a “Wall St. Julep” (Jim Beam maple, apple cider, sweet and sour). At this time, I realized I hadn’t eaten dinner so I opened my Peanut M&Ms and ate them. Also my phone died, and knowing I needed it to call a ride home at the end of the night, I hid myself in a handicapped, single-occupancy bathroom and charged my phone for like 10 minutes. Two people tried the door and I nearly died from guilt, but hopefully they used the one next door and got their needs attended to.



Movie #5, FINAL MOVIE: 7:30p Wolf of Wall Street, Cinerama Dome, Seat GG26


Before the movie started, the Greeter said her piece then called up to the stage a dude named Sergio to make a special announcement. Sergio got there and said Could my girlfriend Kathryn or however she spells it please come up here with me? Everyone ooohed because we all knew what was coming. She got up there and they clumsily, hastily went through a bended knee scenario and then Boom, they were engaged. It was rad but also kind of bizarre for Wolf to be their special remember when movie. But I do think it is pretty cool and efficient that they can just combine their anniversary and Christmas gifts into one easy exchange.

I loved this movie even though Yours Truly has correctly identified it as a glorifying-douchebag, Dad movie. It’s totally the kind of entertainment I desire. So weird to think of Leo’s career, my weird crush on him from when he was on Growing Pains and now he’s epicly great in Scorcese flicks. Jonah Hill was also so incredible, and I legitimately forgot he was Jonah Hill. I’m not going in any further than to say that because I think it’s too fun a movie to miss. Go see it now! I was thoroughly satisfied and getting out of the theater at 11pm, I chose to forego seeing AH. This might mean I failed Mike, but I had to make the decision in favor of the right climactic end note and Wolf was definitely that. All in all, my favorite movie of the day was ILD, but I bet you AH might have made it close had my experience of it had been full and purer. I called my Lyft and took it home, plenty tired from my visual workout, and the young man at the wheel played techno and gave me a tiny bottle of water, which I realized was the only water I drank all day.

Definitely going to do this again. It really wasn’t that hard and didn’t have any ill side-effects. I’ve tried to think of ways that it could have been harder. I think for one I should probably go to a grittier theater with fewer amenities next time. Also I am pretty sure I made it easy on myself by going it alone. There’s a pretty wide fear in our society of being alone–and seeing movies or eating dinner by yourself is too much an indication of that solitude for a lot of people, but I’m pretty good at seeing movies solo. It’d be much more difficult to have to undergo this experience with someone else, having to negotiate their sense of the passing time, their ideas on how to pass it, and perhaps their contrasting opinions about the movies seen. Like being stuck at an airport on a layover with someone is ten times more stressful than flying alone and getting screwed, right? The freedom to zone is a great freedom. I also think it should have been part of the challenge to not pick out my own movies, but you’ll notice I waited until after the challenge to say this out loud. So think of another person who’s game for this level of theater cruelty and have them call me up XMAS14 and we’ll see what happens when this Lamenter meets her match.

FUTURE EXCHANGE: CATCHING FIRE

From the atom bomb to the Hoverboard®, Science Fiction’s supernatural prescience in the realm of technological innovation is exceedingly well-documented—real world science increasingly intertwining with its imaginary counterpart in bizarre and uncanny ways. By contrast, the ways in which Sci-Fi portrays its speculative economic systems—though no less significant—have received considerably less scrutiny. In the new feature Futures Exchange, Zuckerberg’s Lament publisher K. Mike Merrill invites a re-examination of these imagined economies: a critical look at Science Fiction Cinema’s portrayal of finance.

The-Hunger-Games-Catching-Fire-ss-49

For the first installment of Futures Exchange, the author presents what might be described as a double-blind economic study of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire—doubly blind in that its author has not engaged any of the novels in Suzanne Collins’ beloved trilogy, nor does he purport to have really any idea what’s going on in either of its subsequent film adaptations. He is, however, hopelessly enamored with the impish irreverence of Jennifer Lawrence—a weakness he shares with all of righteous America—and as such is obligingly devoted to the series.

(It should be noted that the author regrets what follows—a tiresome recap of the series’ complicated back-story—of which, of course, the author is not the author, but merely the unfortunate messenger. It should, however, hopefully help to shed light upon some of the thorny reasons why the author/non-author is disorientated by the plot of a movie made for children.)

For the somehow uninitiated, here’s what the author can parse: an unspeakable (and thus mostly unspoken) nuclear catastrophe has undone most of life as we know it, leaving the remnants of what was once North America under the control of a sartorially effete totalitarian government. The ruling class, governing from a bristlingly tacky Gomorrah known as “The Capital,” has segregated its impoverished people into a series of twelve numbered sub-districts, each appointed to some form of industrial serfdom (e.g. District 11 is in charge of agriculture, District 12 mines for coal, etc). In addition to inhabiting a slave state, the people of the twelve districts must pay penance for a now-ancient uprising in the form of The Hunger Games: an annual lottery that selects a boychild and a girlchild from each district and pits them all against one another in an epic, televised fight to the death.

(Author’s note: phew)

The very nature of The Hungry Games’ populist lens allows for satisfying political interpretations from all swathes: to Tea Party adherents, it’s an indictment of over-reaching legislative authority; to Occupiers, it’s condemnation of America’s income inequity. Regardless of your sympathies, The Hunger Games fits easily within Science Fiction’s traditional attitudes toward enterprise; a genre whose allegorical strawman is so often the threat of apocalyptically unfettered capitalism—and where the cultural values and humanity of a moral proletariat are collapsed beneath the looming threat of free market totalitarianism. The author believes, however, that both poles of the American political debate might be mistaking their likeness in the films’ protagonist.

Much like globalization’s present, the future in Science Fiction is only a dystopian hellscape for a huddled majority of the populace. While capitalists are almost universally portrayed in Sci-Fi as vile and merciless villains, the noble aristocrats of The Hunger Games enjoy nothing more than the spoils of their obliviousness—reaping the rewards of an extraction economy while the Third World Districts work themselves to death. While the citizens of the Districts starve, the people of the Capital—contentedly unaware—swallow ipecac merely to consume more. The economic allegory of The Hunger Games seems to the author much more analogous to the inequities of the global economy than that of America’s alone.

In Catching Fire’s sanctimonious prophecy, America isn’t the ninety-nine percent; we’re the ones throwing up.