Tuesday, December 27, 2011

top 11 of 2011

The more parents of young children I know, the more I hear some version of the following sentiment: Oh, I used to try to keep up with what was cool, but now I spend my days listening to [annoying kids’ album of the moment] and wiping up puke.

AK and I have all but pinky sworn that we won’t do this. It’s not that we don’t expect—even hope—that the puke-to-museum-going ratio in our lives will change once we convince someone to give us a kid. But for us, the arts aren’t about having something cool to talk about at parties. (Lately I would feel a thousand times cooler if I could talk about wiping up puke.) Books and movies aren’t some kind of shorthand for how edgy we are or aren’t. They’re as life-sustaining as friendship and work.

Coolness is about what’s new, something I gave up on long ago, as evidenced by my list of favorite books this year, one of which was published in 1905. But culture is forever.

So with that overly sincere intro, I present my annual, completely-irrelevant-to-anyone-but-me list of the best stuff I read and saw. The common theme seems to be trauma and its aftermath, or Shit Happens And We All Muddle Through And Sometimes Laugh Or Make Art.

Books

1. Room by Emma Donoghue

2. The False Friend by Myla Goldberg

3. More Than it Hurts You by Darin Strauss

4. By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham

5. Bossypants by Tina Fey

6. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Honorable mention: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow, Pinko by Jen Benka, Stealing Angel by Terry Wolverton

Movies

1. Take Shelter

2. Young Adult

3. The Future

4. The Poetry of Resilience

5. Martha Marcy May Marlene

Honorable mention: Hanna, Bridesmaids, Melancholia, Urbanized, Beginners, Unstoppable, The King’s Speech (occupying the regular spot of Movie From Last Year That I Didn’t See Until Late January But Really Loved And Now I’m Not Sure Where To Put It)

the devastating effects of happiness narratives, or: this movie knows me

Movies about misunderstood artist-types finally breaking away from small-town hell and following their dreams are outnumbered only by movies about career-obsessed shrews who rediscover the simple charms of their hometowns.

Together, the genres seem to encourage the following narrative: In order to live a perfect life, you should grow up in a small town, hate it, escape, build your fortune in the big city (where you are most likely an editor for a glossy magazine), feel something is missing, return to your hometown for reasons beyond your control (funeral, etc.) and run into your old boyfriend. From there, the options are 1) settle down with him and make babies like a good girl (but one who already has an amazing résumé under her belt), or 2) see how good he is with his surprisingly cool new girlfriend, leave him to his new life and settle down with the hot, quirky, intellectual funeral director you just happen to have been flirting with throughout, and make babies like a good girl.

The Surprisingly Cool New Girlfriend is a new-ish type in movieland, different from the Manic Pixie Dream Girl but not unrelated to her. She’s been invented to help us understand that women should not have adversarial relationships—just one of many things women should not do if they want to live the aforementioned perfect life.

Leave it to Diablo Cody to subvert a genre that was only just solidifying. In Young Adult, Charlize Theron follows the above narrative up to the last fork in the road, at which point she comes to understand the stupidity of the various narratives we cling to. (This is subtly underscored by the clips of Keeping Up with the Kardashians and other reality shows she watches throughout—TV shows in which messy real lives are edited to make neat stories.)

But let me be clear: The way Theron’s YA-writer character, Mavis, becomes enlightened to the pitfalls of narrative are anything but redemptive. She’s a little too obsessed with high school and her ex, but when she moves on, it’s not for something better. It’s not really even moving on. It involves a humiliating scene a la Bridesmaids that explains part of her obsession, which I won’t give away here. Suffice it to say that when we left the theater, I told AK, “This movie knows me.” She said, “I think it knows all of us.”

The movie is a lovely, holiday-time Fuck You to the Surprisingly Cool New Girlfriend, our own bitch selves whose big-city glamour jobs actually sort of suck, and the notion that anyone’s life doesn’t.

There are lots of great little moments that made me laugh, like when Mavis is lying on the bed and her Pekinese runs across her chest, making her utter a helpless oof. Also great: Patton Oswalt subverting the Cheerful Gay Best Friend role as a classmate who was permanently disabled after being beaten by a bunch of hater jocks. He is not cheerful, and, in fact, he isn’t even gay, making him not a noble hate-crime victim but, he says, “just a fat nerd who got his ass kicked.” His rival is Mavis’ cousin, whom he calls the World’s Happiest Cripple—a super-fit guy in a wheelchair who plays a mean game of pool and is celebrating his sixth anniversary with a presumably amazing girl. Yeah, fuck that guy too.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

inspiration, issues

Some things that are inspiring me today:

My friend Devoya, who just opened what might be the most affordably priced Etsy shop ever, at least in the non-Regretsy genre. If you like small, cute-but-not-precious things—like little boxes with hidden treasures inside—and have a passion for the likes of Marvin Gaye and Erykah Badu, this is the shop for you. I have to admit that I need to do some Googling before I can appreciate all the references in her collages, but the best kind of art is the kind that makes you learn.

My student, Chopper, who is a candidate for The Most Interesting Man in the World (other possibilities: Sara, Jamie’s dad, AK’s friend Adrienne [I realize a couple of them aren’t men]). I met him in person for the first time last night because he was in town for the holidays, and I got to hear his amazingly unbraggy stories about building a house with his bare hands on 35 acres of land in rural Virginia, following the Grateful Dead for years, touring with his own band and developing his own karate technique. Writing a novel is just the latest chapter in his life. In a world (well, a very small but vocal world) of 25-year-old MFA prodigies, it’s nice to meet someone who has shit to write about; someone who knows that we live a bunch of lives in our lifetimes.

The Inspiration Issue of P&W. Okay, I haven’t actually cracked it yet. Even though (or maybe because) I work for the organization, I sometimes feel strangely intimidated by the magazine, like it’s full of 25-year-old MFA prodigies reminding me of all that I’m not. Inevitably, I put off reading it, and then I read it, and the prodigies mostly remind me of what I could be, and I get envious in the best way. I’ve been fluey and unproductive this week, so it might be the exact kick in the pants I need to do something other than watch TV via Hulu (see below).

Project Accessory, which is Project Runway with handbags and earrings. One of the challenges was to make accessories out of shit from Coney Island. Another was to incorporate a dead insect into a red carpet ensemble. You can try telling me it’s a trashy reality show, but there is something truly transcendent about watching a guy pour resin over a beetle and make up a story about extinction.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

cookie bars and other holiday magic

I’m pretty sure our living room is the same size as the closet Mariah Carey has just for her shoes, so we have to have friends over in shifts. Yesterday we had eight people over (well, more like seven and a half, since Kohana is small and only ate Cheerios and grapes), and it felt like a rager.

Sweet potato pie with premade crust aside, my holiday baking attempts have been notoriously disastrous, so when Sizzle posted her favorite recipes, I asked her for the most foolproof one. Magic Cookie Bars, she assured me, barely even involve stirring. Since I’d already used our only 9” x 13” pan for the lasagna, I lacked the bakeware the cookie bars called for. I was tempted to throw it all in two 8” x 8” pans, but I was like, This is the kind of thinking that results in hard/overly crumbly/strangely onion-flavored cookies.

So I did math!

I fenced off a little piece of one of the 8” x 8” pans with foil so the overall square footage would be the same as a 9” x 13” pan. Mr. Ninnis my tenth grade geometry teacher would be so proud! I owe him a cookie bar (which turned out great, by the way, in really intensely sweet way).

Things got festive. Jennifer reprised the actual Christmas tree skirt that she wore to her office’s Ugly Christmas Sweater party.*

She’s also doing a special project that I can totally see becoming a blog that becomes a book that gets sold at Urban Outfitters: Her mom sent her an amazing green-and-white mongoose-print dress that she supposedly wore when she was a baby, saying that her dream was to see a grandkid in it. Jennifer doesn’t want kids (I know! I can’t tell you how refreshing, as a baby-hungry person who doesn’t have one, I find the company of people who don’t want ‘em, don’t got ‘em). So she’s taking a series of photos of kids she meets in the dress. Luckily Kohana was game.

But maybe that was just because she was drunk.**

Other things that happened: People wore cute clothes.

I wore silver lamé, cuteness being in the eye of the semi-blinded beholder on that one. But I felt festive.

Joel made a volcano cake in the microwave, which is apparently possible (and, for the record, tastes amazing). Joel is a cook after my own heart—he threw in half a banana, an Easter chocolate bar that said “He is risen” on it and two Tootsie rolls just for the hell of it. Here are Joel and Alberto carefully flipping the cake out of its bowl.

People sat around and talked. I always like it when people hang out long enough to get past the middle-class-adult conversational basics of work and travel and house-buying and baby-making and, like, gardening tomatoes. Sometimes it’s hard to know so many overachievers. So when it got late and we found ourselves speculating about how, exactly, one consumes meth, I really started to feel like we’d thrown a good dinner party. Even if we were so nerdy that none of us actually knew and we had to look it up on Wikipedia.


*So, I guess this is a thing now. eBay, my new best frenemy, has a ton of sweaters listed under billings like “FESTIVE FROCK FOO FOO LIGHT-UP TACKY UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATER.” I will not pay $65.99 for irony.

**Note to the adoption police: just kidding there! Not only were all adults and one-year-olds sober, we also made sure Kohana stayed away from glass ornaments and electrical sockets and other things that make a party fun.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

writers' row, off the row

If you’re on my “L.A. lit list” Gmail contacts list, you know that I was supposed to do a reading last night and it got cancelled. (If you’re not and want to be, let me know.) As a consolation prize, Jessica, the hostess of Writers’ Row threw a little party/open reading at a friend’s loft at the Brewery. It was also a birthday party for her other reading series, SoapBox Poets. In fact, I was a little confused about the role each series played and how the two intersected, and I felt like one of those guest speakers who gets in front of the mic and is basically like, “Where am I? How did I get here?” I usually think those people are snobs who didn’t do their homework.

(Once, a guy considered to be very funny by many people emceed my organization’s benefit dinner. His whole schtick was that this was the most coveted gig in town, because ha ha, of course it wasn’t. It was pretty funny the first time, but grew progressively less so throughout the evening. When he hosted again the next year, he had the exact same schtick. I felt like, Okay, at this point it’s more about your own laziness and inability to get a better gig than our hilarious unfamousness.)

I’m getting off track because really, last night was just a fun little party at the loft of a photographer who puts wax over her photos and makes them look all cool and painterly. I usually read prose, but because the whole thing felt kind of off the record, I read a poem. A new and angry one. I hoped no one noticed that I was shaking when I read it, but I think at least AK did. India Radfar, the poet I was supposed to feature with read prose. A woman read a beautiful poem called “Dear Iceberg.”


At one point, AK nudged me and pointed to the window. Two paws were against the glass. It was a highlight. Then the cat ran off. But we did get to meet the photographer’s two Rex cats, who were strange and wonderful. (Go to nicolefournier.com and click on “encaustic portraiture” in Nicole’s portfolio if you want to see an amazing Rex glamour shot.)


There were small cupcakes and a big chalkboard full of poetry. It was a nice night.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

this will happen again (or, brooding as prose poem-type thing)

You think you’re over it, and it’s a normal day, and you congratulate yourself for reentering this land. You don’t believe in normal, but you’re back to a place where you can contemplate semantics, and that means something. You watch a baby bat drink formula from the tip of an eye shadow brush. Your to-do list says Christmas cards.

Tonight there will be no choreography of preparation and acceptance, of reprimanding yourself for not being a Nice Person while taking care not to pressure yourself to be a Nice Person. You’re just here for some cake. And then it hits you. When they say like a freight train, what they mean is: It’s not the train’s fault. It never saw you. Or, if it did, it couldn’t stop in time. Stopping wasn’t its job. But then the train moves on and you’re peeling yourself off the tracks, a flattened cartoon, thinking I’m so sick of this until the next train comes along.

Friday, December 09, 2011

get behind me, libra moon

For years I read descriptions of Aries traits and didn’t really relate despite my April 3 birthday. I’m stubborn, independent and (sometimes) energetic, yes, but I’m not a leader who has trouble taking orders, I don’t really have a temper and I don’t have problems with follow-through. If anything, I’m compulsive in my follow-through.

To which people always said, Yeah, but what’s your rising sign? Because the explanation could not possibly be that astrology was a bunch of bullshit.

So when Thomas McBee, in his IBC post about dressing for your sign, included a link to a site that would do your chart, I had it do mine.

This explains so much! (Because astrology cannot possibly be a bunch of bullshit.) My rising sign is Cancer, which sounds a little ominous, but I do like crabs as food, pets and pretty much anything but an STD. My crabbiness explains why I’m fiercely loyal to my family, a sentimental fool and overly sensitive to criticism. Basically, I dish it like an Aries but take it like a Cancer. I’m a good time.

My moon sign—also important, apparently—is Libra. This makes me artistic, but the site warns: “You are not a self-starter. Be careful of a tendency to be overly self-indulgent (i.e., lazy).” I felt strangely vindicated. All my life I’ve told people I’m lazy and they kind of haven’t believed me because, I guess, my laziness is tempered by my rammish determination. Meaning, sometimes I force myself to drink lattes and make up stories.

If any of you out there know about this kind of stuff, maybe you can tell me if, like, my Libra moon is at a particularly influential place in the sky right now, if that’s even how it works. Because damn, I’ve been lazy lately. I spend 15 minutes of every writing hour searching “statement necklace” on eBay and 15 minutes of every yoga class talking to my sister on the phone in the car. I’m only fifty pages into our book for book club, which meets Sunday. And I keep trying to count pumpkin pie and apple turnovers among my recommended five-a-day fruits and vegetables.

This is a slow time of year at work, and I have a theory that humans are like goldfish when it comes to time. If the only thing on your to-do list is going to the post office, it will take you all day. (Okay, bad example since it’s the holidays and post offices are closing right and left. It easily could take all day.) If you have to pick up your kids, walk your dog, sweep your backyard, finish a novel, make dinner, see your friend’s play and write ten thank-you notes, you probably will. So right now my body has clicked into some kind of slow-ass rhythm where it balks at the notion that it might take me less than an hour to write an email.

Another theory I have is that I spent a year working very hard for something I didn’t get, and on some level I’m like, Fuck it, I’ll just be a couch potato. But I think the Libra factor is the most likely explanation, don’t you?

I know that December isn’t really known as a time for getting one’s shit together—that’s more of a January thing—but I just made an informal list of things I plan to get done (sorry, AK) during my time off, and things I plan not to do, which mostly involve fucking around online and shopping, and combinations thereof. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

confessions of a jury duty reject, plus what i read in november

So I got booted from jury duty. Is it weird that I feel bummed about it? Especially since it was a child molestation trial, and did I really want to spend my day listening to thirteen-year-olds testify about creepy, thoroughly traumatizing incidents?

The judge asked, as they always do, if there’s anything that might bias you one way or another in this particular case. First, let me say that the number of people who said they didn’t know anyone affected by child abuse was ridiculously high. Do these people not talk to their friends? Aren’t the statistics like one in three?

So I mentioned a young woman I know, whose abuse was more recent and seemingly life-shitifying than that of my friends who’ve figured out how to be strong, functional adults in spite of someone’s best efforts to prevent it. I figured that, if I got dismissed, it would be by the defense. Because clearly I had a beef with child molesters, right? And I did—part of me thought, I want to put this guy in jail! The other part of me strongly believes child molesters are not sub-human; they have a right to fair treatment. Also, maybe this guy was innocent.

See how balanced I am? I would have been a great juror.

But then the prosecution dismissed me! The really focused, down-to-earth attorney with cool tights, whom I’d already decided I liked. I was like, What about me says to you that I’m on the side of child abusers?! And it tapped into all my the-universe-thinks-I’m-not-equipped-to-parent issues. But it’s all good, I went to therapy today. Hopefully the poor kids who have to testify about their trauma to a room full of strangers have a good therapist too. We all deserve one.

Here’s what I read last month:

Mamas and Papas, edited by Kelly Mayhew and Alys Masek: Most anthologies strive for inclusivity, but never have such editorial decisions made me cry just reading the table of contents. In this collection, people who've lost babies are parents too; parenthood is hard-won and not always won at all; papas are not just bumbling sidekicks; and even when everything goes right, the dirty little secret behind the joy is its fragility. As Maureen A. Sherbondy sums it up in "Things That Get Lost," a poem about a brief grocery store separation, "Even after I heard his cry,/ that tone-specific inflection, mama,/ pieces of me were so far gone,/ I could not get them back." There is no shortage of humor, as in Sam Apple's blend of myth-debunking journalism and personal essay, and lyrical beauty, as in Dorianne Laux's wintery poem "Augusta." Together they create the world of this anthology, which is, refreshingly, not a world of new plastic products and squealy baby showers but one I actually recognize--of humans, some of them small, some of them big and searching.

Spook by Mary Roach: As opposed to a serious discussion of science and the supernatural, this book is in the Sarah Vowell tradition of "Hey, want to hear something crazy?" histories. But as the latter, it's lots of fun (and more focused than Vowell). History has provided no shortage of crazy; I was particularly entranced with the chapters about women who produced "ectoplasm" from their ladyparts during seances. There's something to be written there about harnessing female power for purposes other than sex or motherhood. Roach hasn't written it here, nor has she done a lot to dismantle the binary of science VERSUS the afterlife. For example, the fact that various believers who've promised to make contact post mortem have failed at the task doesn't say to me that there's no afterlife; what if our capabilities and priorities just change radically? (I mean, how could they not?) As a philosopher, Roach didn't impress me, but as a storyteller, I enjoyed her very much.

Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta: I think most non-famous artists have asked themselves whether their work will make noise in a forest if no one is around to hear/read/view it. The sparsely populated forest in the book is inhabited by Denise and Nik, a brother and sister who grew up as semi-feral rock 'n' roll kids in L.A. Nik is a talented and prolific songwriter, but he only shares his work with a few people and in his "Chronicles," a meticulous documentation of a parallel universe in which he is the (not infallible) king of rock.

But despite the novel's Jonathan Lethem-worthy pomo pop culture savvy, Stone Arabia is first and foremost a book about memory--Denise's narration is intercut with Nik's Chronicles and her daughter's blog, among other sources. And memory is always about the inevitability of loss. Loss comes into play in more immediate and suspenseful forms as well, which made this book a page-turner. I liked its kindness and I empathized with Denise's neuroses (which include a tendency to over-empathize) and her conclusion that people can't be anyone but themselves. But something about the ending left me feeling drifty. I feel like it bears a reread, but until then I'll hold off on that fifth star.

Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts by Laura Benedict: This book may be the final straw in my habit of browsing the sparse shelves of my library's books-on-CD section for novels to listen to during my commute (next time I'll place something on hold that comes with good credentials). The subject matter--black magic, sinful priests, possession--is sensational, but the book is surprisingly boring. The prose lacks the shimmer of mystery that much less explicitly supernatural books deliver.

Mr. Lonely Hearts is the story of three Catholic schoolgirls who ruin a priest's life by accusing him (not totally without warrant) of sexually assaulting them. He seeks revenge, and we get to watch their adult lives destruct. I'm always drawn to stories about how girlhood friendships evolve into adulthood, and this one seemed ripe for metaphorical examinations of morality, culpability, envy and revenge. But while Benedict tries to make the characters three-dimensional by giving them all negative and positive traits, they all feel flat, and there's no real protagonist. Above all, I think this novel is just kind of tone deaf. It doesn't help that the male characters have names like Thad, Jock and Varick (hi, daytime soap/porn!). Or that Benedict traffics in one of my new least favorite stereotypes: the brittle, unhinged infertile woman (her pregnant foil is earthy and innocent). Or that the actress who narrated the CD did inconsistent accents and pronounced "santeria" to rhyme with "cafeteria."

Monday, December 05, 2011

call of jury duty: a non-live live blogcast

Right now I’m sitting in the Clara J. Something Criminal Justice Center downtown. I feel about jury duty the way I felt about wearing our drill team uniforms to school in tenth grade. I know you’re supposed to hate it and complain, but secretly I think it’s kind of cool. It’s a change of scene, a day off work and a great chance to people-watch. Examples: woman wearing houndstooth pants and matching houndstooth shoes…and…well, actually, most of the people around me look pretty normal. That means nothing, of course, but they could conceivably be a jury of my peers.

Now a guy is guiding us through the juror questionnaire: “Where it says ‘number of people in your household,’ Ima ask you to go ahead and write how many people are in your household.”

I almost never have the urge to Tweet, but now that I’m trapped in a room without internet access, I do. So I think I’ll periodically log into this notebook (not a notebook computer, an actual paper notebook) and type it up later.

8:12 a.m. JUROR: “What if you’re a student and have a final today?”

JURY INSTRUCTOR GUY: “You need to postpone, dude. Your finals are important.”

8:23 a.m. Just learned they only do criminal cases here. The judge who’s speaking says, “Criminal cases are much more interesting, and shorter. You won’t end up on some long asbestos case.” Last time I was on jury duty, I got assigned to the case of a guy named Bruce Bible who was accused of running a crack house. They ended up settling before opening arguments, but I agree with the judge when she says, “People get into it, as we used to say in the seventies.” (???)

8:30 a.m. Jury instructor guy is back. He just referred to “the section where you write down if, you know, you’re deceased or something.”

8:41 a.m. They have W and Vanity Fair in the jury room. The chances of me finishing our book club book just went way down.

8:56 a.m. Raiders, Lakers and Dodgers jerseys aren’t allowed in court. This morning on the Red Line a guy was wearing an L.A. Rams jacket. I wonder where the court stands on vintage Rams wear.

9:22 a.m. Sometimes when I encounter expensive things that are not quite my taste, I play a game in my head called “But If Someone Gave It To Me For Free, Would I Keep It?” Just so you know, I would keep Prada’s coral-rose and crystal bracelets.

10:36 a.m. A woman is showing her friend an 8” x 10” photo of a horse wearing a large, feminine straw hat. I have so many questions! 1) How do they already know each other? Can you schedule jury duty with your friends? 2) The obvious question.

11:09 a.m. I just read an article about Justin Bieber. Anything to stay awake. For the record, I don’t think lesbians who look like him are all that cute.

11:45 a.m. Fifteen minutes till lunch. The vending machines in the jury room are plastered with signs advertising the courthouse cafeterias on the fifth and thirteenth floors. They’re like, “Look, we know you’re not really into Famous Amos cookies.” I already ate the mealy apple I brought with me. Blech. It better have been full of fiber and vitamins.

11:53 a.m. Things people are reading: a biography of Cleopatra, a book open to a chapter called “Starting a New Life,” Makeup Artist Magazine, newspapers, tablets, phones.

11:55 a.m. Despite the highly advertised fifth and thirteenth floor cafeterias, I’m going out. There are so many good places to eat downtown. Maybe I’ll have one giant Big Man cupcake.

1:07 p.m. Eating yaki saba bento from Marukai, which, okay, is like a Japanese cafeteria. But so yummy. I didn’t know what all the names of the bento combos meant, so I read the ingredients. They included equally mysterious items like “wiener” and “croquette.”

1:19 p.m. Jury duty spawns ad hoc, half-assed solidarity. We’re all in this together! Or at least you probably won’t steal my bag while I’m in the bathroom. That might just be because we’re all non-felons, though.

1:30 p.m. Security guy working the metal detector, while scanning the metal studs on my jeans: “Women these days! They can’t just be simple. Why they gotta be all complicated?”

1:42 p.m. The cop seated next to me is talking about a Bill O’Reilly book: “There’s no political slant in this one. It’s pretty much just historical facts.” I am not feeling solidarity. Neither is the guy next to the cop, a man in his sixties with a dapper messenger bag. When the cop says, “He makes a lot of sense,” the messenger bag guy says, “Well…not always. But who does?”

And then I was called into a case. The judge told us to quit our whining re: civic duty and proceeded to read an obituary of a soldier who’d died in Afghanistan. I have to admit it was effective. And from there the day took a bit of a sober turn, as he read the charges against the defendant and I remembered that not everyone was in court to read W.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

live etsy

Recently I’ve developed a strange obsession with eBay (no one ever accused me of being an early adopter). It has a little bit to do with my love of clothes, a little bit to do with my tendency toward compulsion (and hey, searching online for Seychelles wedges is much less self-destructive than playing symptom roulette on WebMD)…and plenty to do with the excitement of winning.

So what if the baby gods and the literary agent gods have rejected me? With eight dollars and a bit of good timing, the Madewell utility zip pants gods will smile upon me.

Because I’m a cheapo, my new hobby hasn’t cost me much in the way of money, but I’m pretty sure I would have read an extra novel last month if I hadn’t been busy stalking these amazing Fenton/Fallon for J. Crew jaws earrings.

As any recovering alcoholic/current competitive bodybuilder knows, the best way to squelch an obsession is with another obsession. And Unique L.A.—which Amy accurately described as “live Etsy”—is a good antidote. Instead of dirt cheap brand names, it offers one-of-a-kind goods for prices ranging from reasonable to, well, what brand names go for at retail.

I got a handful of holiday gifts about which I’ll keep mum, plus a few irresistible things for me. They’ll help me get hooked on truly interesting pieces that are ethically made, I told myself. That’s how I justified a lace-print batwing shirt; a necklace woven from metal and orange string; and a felted flower headband that makes me feel a like a felted Frida Kahlo when I put it on.

What those in sustainable crafter circles don’t really talk about is that there’s a lot of very cool, highly useless stuff at places like Unique L.A. The cheese plate made out of a melted Grey Goose bottle, ceramic “barnacle vases,” beautiful cut-paper maps of Silver Lake. I mean, I guess you could put cheese on them or flowers in them or use them to get around Silver Lake? I lusted after them all, but quickly realized that I don’t have nearly enough tabletop or wall space in my life for them.

A 117th necklace for my necklace collection, though? Totally necessary.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

oc goes soho

Back in the day (sorry, Stephen—I know how you feel about that phrase) my organization shared a lovely brick building in SoHo with a fellow literary nonprofit called Poets House and the corporate headquarters of Marc Jacobs. Although my coworkers are generally snazzy dressers, it was always clear in the lobby who worked for which company.

My org was a holdover from the days when SoHo was home to actual artists, not just high-end galleries. Sometime in the mid-2000s, rent crept up so high that Poets House had to leave.* Shortly thereafter, my coworkers overheard a couple of Marc Jacobs employees talking in the elevator: “One poet company down, one to go.”

Within a year, my org was out of there as predicted (to very nice but unnerving digs near Ground Zero), and Marc Jacobs took over the whole building.

So it was more than a little ironic when they opened up a bookstore on Bleeker Street, called Bookmarc. Now there’s one in L.A. too; AK’s friend from school works there. She’s a former model who now has the two best jobs in the world, working at a bookstore and GETTING PAID TO WEAR MARC JACOBS CLOTHING. Not necessarily in that order.

But if Bookmarc really wants to establish its arty bookstore cred, it will need a bookstore cat. OC is auditioning for the job.



*They had the last laugh, though. This is their new location.