Smart Girls Who Do Stupid Things

Sometimes…

A(nother) Case Study On The American Obsession with Prostitution

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A new addition to the voices surrounding America’s obsession and repulsion with prostitution has recently been sounded. Photographer Mark McAndrews is publishing a book called Nevada Rose, featuring photos and essays about all 29 legal brothels in Nevada, creating what he considers to be the first complete portrait of these institutions. He’s using Kickstarter to raise the funds to print digital copies of the photos for distribution, but the itself book is being published in 2011. McAndrews’ past work seems focused on working-class American life, featuring motels, mechanics, and waitresses, to name a few of his landscape and portrait projects.

In the video, McAndrews’ says that he’s “…always been drawn to the uneasy mix between reality and fantasy that exist [in brothel life]”, which I think accurately describes the appeal of work like this to many Americans. How else can we explain the popularity of the HBO show Cathouse, about the Bunny Ranch (which is featured in the book, with interviews with owner Dennis Hof and Brooke Taylor)? Or with other forms of prostitution, from glamourous shows like Secret Diary of a Call Girl, to the research Steven Levitt did about prostitutes on the South Side of Chicago?

McAndrews describes his interest in this fantasy, explaining that “…the interactions have the choreographed feel of a mini-play, all the time set against a backdrop that’s meant to evoke a sense of extravagance, or of a false familiarity of a home-away-from-home.” But he also believes that, “The work itself is very much a cultural survey of a slowly fading chapter in American history,” which I have a very hard time believing.

While I think any work that exposes truth behind a commonly misunderstood industry like the brothel system is admirable, I wonder how much books like this accomplish. McAndrews takes beautiful photos, but perhaps if his work wasn’t considered so taboo or rare, our society would be better off. Of course that’s not his goal; he is an artist first and foremost, which removes a lot of political agenda from it. But despite the complications behind the work that these women do, I can’t help but think that their lives must be safer and happier than those of the women Steven Levitt researched.

I will always remember being in Baltimore late at night, walking back to my friend’s dorm. We passed a van, where a woman was crawling out of the back, pulling down her skirt and adjusting her fishnets. The van quickly sped away, and she kindly said “Hello, have a good night,” with a real Southern drawl, and then walked off. It was a split-second of a moment, but both my friend and I knew what she had been doing. I know nothing else about her life, and her choices. But I do know that the demand for her type of work isn’t going away. But I’m certain her support network could be better. At the very least, she could get out of that van.

Factual Trash

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I love it when you read an item that you know is actually true. Case in point:

Not in a general, everybody-knows-John-Travolta-is-gay way. He actually does hit on and have affairs with men in spas and at the gym — he propositioned a good family friend of mine probably ten years ago. I don’t even care about why Kelly puts up with it, or whether they have an understanding, or if he is actually gay. BECAUSE THIS COVER OF STAR IS ACTUALLY TRUE. I wonder if this throws off Gawker’s Lie-O-Meter?

I think this is a great example of something that if I didn’t know it was true, I would never believe it. And it’s articles like this that almost make me wish I didn’t know, that John could just hit on men in spas and Kelly could do what she wanted about it, and no one else would be concerned. But we are involved, they’ve decided we should be involved enough in their lives that they participate in interviews and take photos, and we reciprocate by being interested. This seems particularly poignant because I recently watched the trailer for Adrian Grenier’s documentary for HBO, Teenage Paparazzo (just premiered Monday) about the relationship between celebrities and paparazzi. The story is all seen through Grenier’s eyes, while focusing on the life of one very young paparazzo. I know it’s his own celebrity, but he’s gotten interesting people to talk about Hollywood culture in the film. Maybe he is smarter than I thought, though years of watching him portray Vince on Entourage, the most boring character that has ever existed, have definitely made me biased.

No, Seriously

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The fun fact I repeat about the QWERTY keyboard even though everyone knows it…I learned that here.

More Accurate Titles for This Semester’s Reading List [College Humor]

Television Catnip

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I love Emily Nussbaum of NYMag, perhaps enough to watch My Generation, despite the fact that it relieves events I really didn’t enjoy that much in the first place, like Enron or 9/11. I especially love that she understands the subtleties surrounding “good” and “bad” TV. Sometimes, there really is a grey area, and sometimes there’s just “TV catnip.” The best part of her review of the show that discusses both reliving the past and recognizing where a show lies on the “good” TV spectrum is as follows:

“I realize I could just watch Parenthood — a quality series, but one that also meets my catnip needs. But I’m weak. I will be watching My Generation, hoping for the best. Lots of shows take a few episodes to grow. Either way, I’m looking forward to the montage of everyone having sex on the night Obama was elected. Ideally, scored to ‘Hallelujah.'”

Seriously the best idea I’ve heard in a long time. Also I just did a little light research about whether there was a surge of births nine months after Obama was elected, and the Chicago Tribune says no. So there goes that theory that I had for about two seconds and apparently lots of other people had about two years ago.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for my rundown of the good, the bad, the the stuff I’ll be watching anyway, as Fall premiere season continues. Read it to save time by not watching shows that you probably wouldn’t have watched anyway, but I will of course be watching no matter what!

Steal This Book

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Actually, buy it.

Robert Mapplethorpe, 1975

I just finished reading Just Kids, Patti Smith’s memoir of growing up in New York City, with her best friend Robert Mapplethorpe. Though after reading the book, I almost feel as if describing their relationship as just that is too simplistic. If there ever was a time for the use of the dreaded word “soulmates”, this would be it. For much of their lives, they lived and worked in tandem, and to Smith, Mapplethorpe was the driving force in helping her create her art. To read Smith’s book is to understand that there are certain people without whom we could never have become what we are.

Of this image, which graced the cover of Smith’s first album Horses, she says,

“I had my look in mind. He had his light in mind. That is all…When I look at it now, I never see me. I see us” (251).

Smith is a true artist. She manages to sound like less of a jack of all trades, and more like someone who was talented and flexible enough to have found dozens of ways of expressing herself. Her dedication to collecting, to creating from the bare minimum, flows through the entire narrative and made my fingers itch to produce things. She is incredibly honest about her life, without oversharing. Despite the drastic differences in the New York City’s we have grown up in, I felt connected to Smith by her commitment to the energy of the city. I almost envy the hunger she had to stay here, which was enough to get her through the times when she was, in fact, very hungry.

One of the driving forces of her narrative seems to center around belongings, despite often having very few of them. They were her art, her way of remembering and creating. She often describes shifts in her life around moving and leaving things behind, around the importance of what she chooses to bring with her. In describing the impact Mapplethorpe’s death had on her, Smith says,

“Why can’t I write something that would awake the dead? That pursuit is what burns most deeply. I got over the loss of his desk and chair, but never the desire to produce a string of words more precious than the emeralds of Cortés. Yet I have a lock of his hair, a handful of his ashes, a box of his letters, a goatskin tambourine. And in the folds of faded violet tissue a necklace, two violet plaques etched in Arabic, strung with black and silver threads, given to me by the boy who loved Michelangelo” (279).

As much as I feel overwhelmed by my pack rat tendencies, and as much as a show like Hoarders sickens me, belongings are always going to define us. They remind us of where we have been, and where we want to go. Though I admit that keeping my calculus notes doesn’t fall under the same category as collecting polaroids of my life, Smith seems to sadly acknowledge that when we are gone, all we have to hold onto is what we left behind.

As a bonus, my favorite Smith song, with Bruce Springsteen, of course. Listen up:

Because the Night – Patti Smith

Britney Through The Ages

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And Glee is showcasing it all next week. Maybe her greatest hits, plus a cameo, plus Heather Morris, will make me not give up on this show, like I did that other G show Gossip Girl at the end of Season 2.

Amy Heckerling Strikes Back

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She wrote/directed Clueless. And did the same for the movie I Could Never Be Your Woman, which came out in 2007 but never quite made it. And this scene, where Paul Rudd breaks it down, makes the film. I dream that this wasn’t choreographed and that he just improve-d it. Thanks HBO On Demand, I’ll miss you when I’m poor and can’t afford you.

Get A Twitter Just To Follow Mindy Kaling

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She’s so into Rom-Coms. An excerpt:

“NYMag: Do you believe in soul mates?
No. I’m really practical, which I think people don’t think about me because I love romantic comedies so much. But you need it in movies, otherwise there’s nothing to watch. I don’t need to see the movie about the people who just settle for each other because they were the right age and the closest approximation of their ideal. That might be what life is all about, but I don’t want to see it. I want to see the rich populist and the artsy tomboy fall in love despite their differences and just make each other laugh.”

Vulture Watches You’ve Got Mail With Mindy Kaling [NYMag]
Also:
The Funny Side of Love [NYMag]

Then and Now, From Frederick’s of Hollywood

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Let’s take a trip down lingerie history road with our good friend Frederick, of Hollywood.

THEN (1963):

Pretty basic. Fans of both the water bra and water bed will note that in the former, air was soon replaced by water for its more “realistic” feel. In the latter…well, those just went out of fashion because they made people seasick and they leaked.

THEN (1991):

As I had previously understood the history of trends in women’s bodies, the ’90s were a period of celebration of the athletic female form. These undergarments indicate otherwise. Air-padding has progressed to nylon, and with it, the magic of “lift” and attempting to defy gravity comes into play. Truly a feat of engineering.

NOW:

Less is more, a wise man once said.

Lin-Manuel Miranda Was Not Enough To Save Vows

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There are still more hopelessly awful couples, back at it again! This time, it’s a Rockefeller. And we’re going to play a game called, if this VOWS was a Rom-Com, which one would it be?

BATTLE: Runaway Bride vs. The Notebook

1. “It was supposed to be only a summer romance.”
Uh oh! DARK FORESHADOWING. Also, I’m feeling influences of The Notebook.

2. “But like characters in a Nicholas Sparks romance novel, their courtship was complicated.”
Complicated enough for A Walk To Remember-style courtship, where leukemia is involved? Or complicated like The Notebook, where family gets in the way? Or that one about old people, Nights in Rodanthe, where I have no idea what happens because the combined efforts of Richard Gere and Diane Lane, with a cameo by James Franco, were not enough get me to the theater…

3. “She took note of his six-foot athletic frame, but what most intrigued her was the weight of his words.”
Let’s be real: He was a hottie, she wanted him.

4. “‘He wanted to make something of himself,’ she said, contrasting his aspirations with those of men she’d met who ‘just want to live off their parents’ trust funds.'”
Oh, so it is like The Notebook. Sigh. Why can’t we all just get along? Because then there wouldn’t be a love story about boys and girls from different sides of the tracks who just want to be together people!

5. “’He’d try to hold my hand in movies and things like that, and I’d skillfully get out of it,’ she said.”
Okay, actually good call. Hand-holding is gross. Hand-squeezing during Scream is totally okay though.

6. “He also learned how easily she could flee when she abruptly departed college, and the continent, to live in northern Brazil, where she volunteered at an elementary school, run by a nonprofit organization there. ‘I’m a Gemini,’ Ms. Rockefeller said. ‘I love to change things up.'”
Translation: I’m flaky and expect people to cater to my every whim! Also I believe in astrology!

7. “Days of swimming in the ocean followed nights of stargazing in each other’s arms. ‘I was having the time of my life,’ she said.”
Stargazing? “Like in Grease, when Sandy says they stayed out until 10 o’clock, but Danny says that they made out under the dock?

8. “‘I freaked out,’ she said. She also relocated to a surfers’ shack in Hawaii.”
She found another hottie who wanted less commitment but an equal amount of “stargazing.”

9. “He was determined to win her back, and he decided the way to do that was to improve himself…He set out to be that person, crossing tasks off his ‘to do’ list, including continuing his education at New York University and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.”
While she was off in Hawaii, doing god knows who. Note part of The Notebook where Ryan Gosling is slaving away over the house he must build to prove his love for Rachel McAdams, but she’s off getting engaged to someone else (James Marsden, who for a number of years played only the guy who gets gilted).

10. “But then the old doubts of losing her independence crept in…In February, she informed Mr. Bucklin that she was moving to Los Angeles. ‘I wasn’t quite sure if she wanted to run away from me, or just wanted to feel chased,’ he said. A chase is what she got when he followed her to L.A.”
No, I’ve changed my mind…this is Runaway Bride. She’s always on the lam!

11. ‘He keeps me grounded,’ she said, ‘and I keep him on his toes.’
Julia Roberts would say, “I’m turning in my running shoes.” But she’s Julia Roberts. So she gets away with that.

VERDICT: TIE. The groom’s tendency to stalk the bride, and the bride’s UP-upper-class background make this one part The Notebook. But the constant peacing out when anything gets good…yup, that’s definitely Runaway Bride. Add a dash of a musical number with some lyrics full of double entendres… and you’ve got your new movie: The True Story of Ariana Rockefeller and Matthew Bucklin, may they live happily ever after.

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