Friday, May 25, 2012

Weekend Web Series: Anyone But Me

Anyone But Me (season 1, episode 10: "Enormous Changes at the Last Minute")

Vivian is leaving NYC. Will her relationship with Aster survive?

*

Anyone But Me is a teen lesbian drama created by Susan Miller (whose credits include The L Word) and Tina Cesa Ward. The series ended this March and you can watch all of its three seasons on YouTube.

I must admit I was very close to stop watching Anyone But Me after merely two episodes. Not exactly stop watching it - just bookmark it and save it for later, which usually means that I would stumble upon it again about two years from now and be like "oh yeah, I've meaning to watch this". But you know how it is: one more episode, one more episode, and then I really got into it and before I knew it I had watched the entire series. I should also point out that this is the very first web series I've watched in its entirety. Well, except for Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, but that was a while ago and besides, that's Joss Whedon we're talking about, so at that time I didn't really think of it as a web series; and okay, I have also seen that very short first season of Vag Magazine, so Anyone But Me is really the third. But my point is: this is the first series that has immediately gotten me excited about watching other web series as well.

Anyone But Me was a pretty random find. The show is featured in the tv series category on YouTube, and since my YouTube homepage is my personal page, I rarely notice the featured content. But I still thought I had discovered an obscure web series and I couldn't wait to write about it and maybe achieve my goal of convincing at least one person to watch it. Yeah. It turns out Anyone But Me is a very popular web series that has gotten a lot of press and awards and has over 11 million global views. That's pretty huge, especially for sth that is not comedy (because I have this theory, which I don't really have arguments for: comedy is easier to do in this medium, YouTube users will choose comedy series over drama, and if it's comedy and animation, that'll work even better; I might be wrong, I don't really know).

When you start watching Anyone But Me you should keep in mind that the first season was filmed in 2008. And in the world of web series (I know, I know, I'm annoying - I've only recently started watching them yet I sound like I already know everything there is to know about web series), a 2008 production that didn't shy away from shooting on location and in poorly lit high school hallways basically means a not so great image quality. However, by the beginning of the third season, the improvement in production is substantial.

I loved the writing on this show. The series finale left a few loose ends, but nothing really relevant to the story of Vivian and Aster. The good writing would mean very little though without the amazing chemistry between the two girls, between Rachael Hip-Flores (Vivian) and Nicole Pacent (Aster). I'm not one to place a lot of importance on the chemistry between actors, but in this case, this is the glue, it's what holds this show together.

In addition to Rachael Hip-Flores and Nicole Pacent, Jessy Hodges's (Sophie) good acting needs to be mentioned. Their bios suggest they're more focused on theater, but I do hope they're going to get more parts in tv/film because I would like to see more of them. Rachael Hip-Flores has such a warmth about her that her presence on screen is so soothing and heartwarming. And don't you think Nicole Pacent is a dead ringer for Eliza Dushku? (And there's another Joss Whedon connection for you.)

Since I'm on the topic of acting, sort of, I can't lie by omission, so I'll have to say I was pretty annoyed with aunt Jodie (Barbara Pitts). Oh, aunt Jodie is simply awful. You'd think this is her first time in front of the camera. And no, she doesn't get that much better by the end of the series.

ATTN Gilmore Girls fans! Liza Weil, or Paris, was a special guest star on Anyone But Me. She plays Aster's shrink. I didn't count the number of episodes she's in, but they are quite a few. (Hm, her bio on the ABT website says she was in a movie called Neal Cassady. I had no idea about it, I should watch it. Till On the Road comes out I guess I have plenty of time to do so. I'm dying to see On the Road, but more about that some other time. Btw, these days you can see Liza Weil in the first few episodes of Shonda Rhimes's Scandal.)

One of my favorite episodes of Anyone But Me was the first season finale, especially the library scene. Vivian pulls a book out of a shelf (the 07:57 mark), the book she was pretending to read when she first met Aster. The book is Jennifer Egan's Look at Me. I had read about this book at This Recording and it sounded really interesting, so I put it on my very long to-read / to-buy list. After having identified the book in this ABM episode, I couldn't believe how appropriate the choice of the book was. As Sarah Labrie at This Recording points out, there is a passage in Look at Me that can be linked to the 9/11 attack, even though the book was released before September 2001. And in Anyone But Me, the reason for Vivian's moving from NYC is the illness of her dad, former firefighter, an illness he contracted because of 9/11. On the day I watched ABM, I was thinking of placing an order with BookDepository, so after having identified the book in this episode, I couldn't help myself and ordered Look at Me, even though it wasn't one of my priorities. Just as Sarah Labrie mentions in her text, you can't find the 2001 edition of this book. I couldn't even find the edition you see in ABM, so I bought the newest edition, from September 2011, published by Corsair.

One last thing: Tina Cesa Ward already has a new project: Guards of Dagmar, starring the same lovely Rachael Hip-Flores. I see they're pretty far from reaching their goal on KickStarter, but I do hope they find the resources for this project because it sounds really interesting and geeky.

*


Monday, May 21, 2012

A Case of Hysteria

From Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth:
The Walking Wounded

The cosmetic surgery industry is expanding by manipulating ideas of health and sickness. There is a clear historical precedent for what the surgeons are doing. “Healthy” and “diseased,” as Susan Sontag points out in Illness as Metaphor, are often subjective judgments that society makes for its own purposes. Women have long been defined as sick as a means of subjecting them to social control. What the modern Surgical Age is doing to women is an overt reenactment of what nineteenth-century medicine did to make well women sick and active women passive. The surgical industry has taken over for its own profit motives the ancient medical attitude, which harks back to classical Greece but reached its high point in the Victorian female cult of invalidism, which defines normal, healthy female physiology, drives, and desires as pathological. “In the traditions of Western thought,” write Deirdre English and Barbara Ehrenreich in Complaints and Disorders: The Sexual Politics of Sickness, “man represents wholeness, strength and health. Woman is a ‘misbegotten man,’ weak and incomplete.” Historian Jules Michelet refers to women as “the walking wounded.”

The relation of doctors to women has been less than straightforward for most of their history. Healing and tending the sick were primarily female skills until the Enlightenment; women’s medical effectiveness was one catalyst for the witch burnings that swept Europe from the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries. But the ascent of science and the exclusion of women healers from the childbed are connected, and the professionalization of medicine in the nineteenth century deliberately barred women from their traditional healing role.

The Surgical Age took over from the institutionalization of female “mental illness,” which had in turn  overtaken the institutionalization of nineteenth-century hysteria, each phase of medical coercion consistently finding new ways to determine that what is female is sick. As English and Ehrenreich put it: “Medicine’s prime contribution to sexist ideology has been to describe women as sick, and as potentially sickening to men.” The “vital lie” that equates femaleness with disease has benefited doctors in each of these three phases of medical history, guaranteeing them “sick” and profitable patients wherever middle-class women can be found. The old edifice of medical coercion of women, temporarily weakened when women entered medical schools in significant numbers, has gained reinforcements from the beauty doctors of the Surgical Age.

The parallels between the two systems are remarkable. Both arose to answer the need for an ideology that could debilitate and discredit middle-class women whose education, leisure, and freedom from material constraints might lead them too far into a dangerous emancipation and participation in public life. From 1848 until the enfranchisement of Western women in the first decades of the twentieth century was a time of feminist agitation of unsurpassed intensity, and the “Woman Question” was a continuing social crisis: in backlash, a new ideal of the “separate sphere” of total domesticity arose. That ideal came, like the beauty myth in a parallel backlash against women’s advancement, with its socially useful price: the cult of female invalidism, initiated by “a constriction in the field of vision which led doctors to focus, with obsessive concern, on women as organs of reproduction…a distortion of perception which, by placing primary emphasis on the sexual organs, enabled men to view women as a creature apart.” Showalter also notes that
during the decades from 1870 to 1910, middle-class women were beginning to organize in behalf of higher education, entrance to the professions, and political rights. Simultaneously, the female nervous disorders of anorexia nervosa, hysteria, and neurasthenia became epidemic; and the Darwinian “nerve specialist” arose to dictate proper feminine behavior outside the asylum as well as in…and to oppose women’s efforts to change the conditions of their lives.
The Victorian woman became her ovaries, as today’s woman has become her “beauty.” Her reproductive value, as the “aesthetic” value of her face and body today, “came to be seen as a sacred trust, one that she must constantly guard in the interest of her race.”

Where Victorian doctors helped support a culture that needed to view women through ovarian determinism, modern cosmetic surgeons do the same for society by creating a system of beauty determinism. In the last century, notes Showalter, “women were the primary patients in surgical clinics, water-cure establishments, and rest-cure homes; they flocked to the new specialists in the ‘female illnesses’ of hysteria and neurasthenia, as well as marginal therapies, i.e., ‘mesmeric healing,’” just as women are the primary patients of “beauty therapies” in the current backlash. These attitudes, in both ideologies, allow doctors to act as a vanguard in imposing upon women what society needs from them.

Health

Both the Victorian and the modern medical systems reclassify aspects of healthy femaleness into grotesque abnormality. Victorian medicine “treated pregnancy and menopause as diseases, menstruation as a chronic disorder, childbirth as a surgical event.” A menstruating woman was treated with purgatives, forced  medicines, hip baths, and leeches. The regulation of menstruation was pursued obsessively, just as the regulation of women’s fat is today: “The proper establishment of the menstrual function was viewed as essential to female mental health, not only for the adolescent years but for the woman’s entire life-span. Menarche was”—as the weight gain of puberty is now considered to be—“the first stage of mortal danger.” Maintaining reproduction, like the maintenance of “beauty,” was seen as the all-important female function threatened by the woman’s moral laxness and mental chaos: Just as they do today, doctors then helped the Victorian woman maintain her “stability in the face of almost overwhelming physical odds,” and enforced in her “those qualities of self-government and industriousness that would help a woman resist the stresses of her body and the weakness of her female nature.”

With the advent of the Victorian women’s doctor, the earlier religious rationale for calling women morally sick was changed into a biomedical one. That in turn has changed into an “aesthetic” one, bringing us full circle. Our rationale is even more subjective than the “vital lie” of the Victorians. While their medical terminology had at least to gesture at “objectivity,” today’s aesthetic judgments about who is sick and who is well are as impossible to prove, as easy to manipulate, as a belief about the stain on a woman’s soul. And the modern reclassification makes more money: A woman who thought she was sick with femaleness couldn’t buy an ultimate cure for her gender. But a woman who thinks she is sick with female ugliness is now being persuaded that she can.

The nineteenth-century version of medical coercion looks quaint to us: How could women have been made to believe that menstruation, masturbation, pregnancy, and menopause were diseases? But as modern women are being asked to believe that parts of our normal, healthy bodies are diseased, we have entered a new phase of medical coercion that is so horrific that no one wants to look at it at all.

The reclassification of well and beautiful women as sick and ugly women is taking place without hindrance. Since the nineteenth century, society has tacitly supported efforts of the medical profession to confine women’s lives through versions of this reclassification. Since it is socially necessary work, now as in the last century, fewer reality checks apply to this than are applied to medical practices in general; the media is tolerant or supportive; and the main functionaries, whose work benefits the social order, are unusually highly compensated.

The purpose of the Victorian cult of female invalidism was social control. It too was a double symbol, like “beauty”: Subjectively, women invalids exerted through it the little power they had, escaped onerous sexual demands and dangerous childbirth, and received attention from responsive doctors. But for the establishment, it was a political solution as useful as the Iron Maiden. As French writer Catherine Clément puts it: “Hysteria [was] tolerated because in fact it has no power to effect cultural change; it is much safer for the patriarchal order to encourage and allow discontented women to express their wrongs through psychosomatic illness than to have them agitating for economic and legal rights.” Social pressure demanded that leisured, educated, middle-class women preempt trouble by being sick, and the enforced hypochondria felt to the sufferer like real illness. For similar reasons today, social pressure requires that women preempt the implications of our recent claim to our bodies by feeling ugly, and that forcibly lowered self-esteem looks to the sufferer like real “ugliness.”

The surgeons are taking the feminist redefinition of health as beauty and perverting it into a notion of “beauty” as health; and, thus, of whatever they are selling as health: hunger as health, pain and bloodshed as health. Anguish and illness have been “beauty” before: In the nineteenth century, the tubercular woman—with her glittering eyes, pearly skin, and fevered lips—was the ideal. Gender and Stress describes the media’s idealization of anorexics; the iconography of the Victorians idealized “beautiful” hysterics fainting in front of male doctors, asylum doctors dwelt lasciviously on the wasted bodies of anorexics in their care, and later psychiatric handbooks ask doctors to admire the “calm and beautiful face” of the anesthetized woman who has undergone electroshock therapy. Like current coverage by women’s journalism of the surgical ideal, Victorian journalism aimed at women waxed lyrical on the sentimental attractiveness of feminine debility, invalidism, and death.

A century ago, normal female activity, especially the kind that would lead women into power, was classified as ugly and sick. If a woman read too much, her uterus would “atrophy.” If she kept on reading, her reproductive system would collapse and, according to the medical commentary of the day, “we should have before us a repulsive and useless hybrid.” Menopause was depicted as a terminal blow, “the death of the woman in the woman”: “The end of a woman’s reproductive life was as profound a mental upheaval as the beginning,” producing, like the modern waning of “beauty,” “a distinct shock to the brain.” Then as now, though with a different rationalization, menopause was represented as causing the feeling that “the world…is turned upside down, that everything is changed, or that some very dreadful but undefined calamity has happened or is about to happen.”

Participation in modernity, education, and employment was portrayed as making Victorian women ill: “warm apartments, coal-fires, gas-lights, late hours, rich food,” turned them into invalids, as today, as the skin cream copy puts it, “central heating, air pollution, fluorescent lights, etc.” make us “ugly.” Victorians protested women’s higher education by fervidly imagining the damage it would do to their reproductive organs; Friedrich Engels claimed that “protracted work frequently causes deformities of the pelvis,” and it was taken for granted that “the education of women would sterilize them” and make them sexually unattractive: “When a woman displays scientific interest, then there is something out of order in her sexuality.” The Victorians insisted that freedom from the “separate sphere” impaired womanhood, just as we are asked to believe that freedom from the beauty myth impairs beauty.

Vital lies are resilient. Contraception, for example, is defined by the medical profession, depending on the social mood, as making women ill or “beautiful”: Victorian doctors claimed that any contraception caused “galloping cancer, sterility and nymphomania in women;…the practice was likely to produce mania leading to suicide.” Until the 1920s, it was considered “distinctly dangerous to health,” sterility and “mental degeneration in subsequent offspring” being among its supposed effects.

+

“The myth of female frailty, and the very real cult of female hypochondria that seemed to support the myth, played directly into the financial interests of the medical profession,” according to Ehrenreich and English. In the nineteenth century, competition in the medical profession rose. Doctors were frantic to ensure a reliable patient pool of wealthy women, a “client caste,” who could be convinced of the need for regular house calls and lengthy convalescences. Suffragists saw through to the real impetus behind women’s invalidism—the doctor’s interests and the unnatural conditions that confined women’s lives. Mary Livermore, a suffragist, protested “the monstrous assumption that woman is a natural invalid,” and denounced “the unclean army of ‘gynecologists’” who “seem desirous to convince women that they possess but one set of organs—and that these are always diseased.” Dr. Mary Putnam Jacobi traced women’s ill health directly to “their new function as lucrative patients.” As Ehrenreich and English put it: “As a businessman, the doctor had a direct interest in a social role for women that required them to be sick.”

+

Western sexual surgery is not new. Normal female sexuality was a disease in the nineteenth century, just as normal breasts are operable today. The role of the nineteenth-century gynecologist was the “detection, judgment and punishment” of sexual disease and “social crime.” Pelvic surgery became widespread as a “social reflex,” since “orgasm was disease and cure was its destruction.”

Victorian clitoridectomy made women behave. “Patients are cured…the moral sense of the patient is elevated…she becomes tractable, orderly, industrious and cleanly.” Modern surgeons claim they make women feel better, and that, no doubt, is true; Victorian middle-class women had so internalized the idea of their sexuality as diseased that the gynecologists were “answering their prayers.” Says a face-lift patient of Dr. Thomas Rees’s, “The relief was enormous.” One of Victorian Dr. Cushing’s patients, relieved by the scalpel of the “temptation” to masturbate, wrote, “A window has been opened in heaven [for me].” “It’s changed my life,” says a rhinoplasty patient of Dr. Thomas Rees’s: “As simple as that.”

Victorian medical opinion varied on whether female castration worked in returning women to their “normal” role. A Dr. Warner conceded, as do modern surgeons, that the results were probably psychological, not physical. A Dr. Symington-Brown conceded that, but insisted that the operation was still valid because it worked by “shock effect.” The Surgical Age likewise reinforces women’s submissiveness to the beauty myth with the unspoken background fear: If she is not careful, she will need an operation.

+

The modern sexual surgeons display their work with pride; Fay Weldon’s The Life and Loves of a She-Devil reproduces a current fantasy of the completely reconstructed woman shown off to fellow surgeons at a cocktail party. Victorian doctors boasted of the numbers of ovariotomies they had performed and displayed ovaries arranged on silver platters to admiring audiences at meetings of the American Gynecological Society.

The removal of the ovaries was developed in 1872. The next year, it was recommended for “non-ovarian conditions,” especially masturbation, so that by 1906 about 150,000 American women were without ovaries. “Non-ovarian conditions” was a social judgment aimed to prevent the “unfit” from breeding and polluting the body politic. “The ‘unfit’ included…any women who had been corrupted by masturbation, contraception and abortion…from the 1890s until the Second World War, mentally ill women were ‘castrated.’”


*****

I was somewhat disappointed with Hysteria (Tanya Wexler, 2011). The movie has feminist themes, it has a feminist character (Maggie Gyllenhaal as Charlotte Dalrymple), yet I can't say the movie itself is feminist. Yes, I'm going to be one of those complaining about how this movie is not subversive enough. While it's true Hollywood (as an institution) still has an issue with the representation of a woman's sexual desire and pleasure, Hysteria barely challenges that idea. It also barely scrapes the surface of the deeply institutionalized misogyny that created the fiction that was/is hysteria. But you know, this is a romantic comedy, so the light approach was to be expected. In all fairness, Hysteria is the most women-friendly romantic comedy I've seen - and that in itself is a major accomplishment.



Saturday, May 19, 2012

But I Digress...

At the beginning of the year, I made this list:

Simone de Beauvoir, Mémoires d'une jeune fille rangée
Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
Susan Sontag, Reborn: Journals & Notebooks, 1947-1963
Patti Smith, Woolgathering
Marilyn Monroe, Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters
Kristin Hersh, Rat Girl
Cherrie Currie, Neon Angel
Pauline Kael, The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael

I'm indecisive, so I haven't bought any of these books. And now I need to go on a book-buying ban. For at least three months. Maybe towards the end of the year some of these books will find a home on my bookshelves. Maybe.

But I digress. And so does Patti Smith. Except her digressions are lovely and interesting.

Patti Smith reads from Woolgathering and The Coral Sea:

Friday, May 18, 2012

Weekend Web Series: Nights in UltraViolet


The first thing you'll hear about Nights in UltraViolet is this: Twin Peaks meets Seinfeld. It's a fairly accurate description - some of the characters are based on Seinfeld characters, with Virgil (hello, Kramer 2.0!) being the most obvious one, and a lot of weird stuff is going on.

This series has plenty of ingredients to keep one watching: books and struggling authors, heartbreak, mystery and quirk. Also: it's well written, and I think both the acting and the production do the writing justice.

Nights in UltraViolet is a ten-episode series (with seven already available online). (I'm not hearing anything about a second season, so again: time-wise, it's not that demanding.)

+ http://www.nightsinuv.com/
+ behind the scenes


Tina Fey on the Nerdist Podcast (with Footnotes)

Artwork by Jenny Fine

Tina Fey was a guest on the Nerdist podcast (you may have also heard of the Nerdist channel).

"What the what" moment: you call yourself a Tina Fey fan, you finally have her on your show, and you're only halfway through Bossypants? Oh, that is simply unacceptable. Then again, I'm also a bad fan (and/or poor) 'cause I don't own a copy of Bossypants, I only listened to the audiobook. A book that I highly recommend in exactly that format. The brilliant delivery adds quite a bit to the comedic value of the text.

Footnotes:
  1. Sleepaway Camp was mentioned. This was among a batch of horror movies I was planning to watch on one occasion. It's also the only one that I didn't watch in the end. I do want to see it at one point but errr, I don't know, I've had sort of a fall out with horror movies after... (what's the equivalent of leafing through?) having randomly seen a few scenes from A Serbian Film. The little that I've seen of that movie hurt me so much! It's one of those things that make me feel like a piece of my soul died. Since then I've watched and loved the first season of American Horror Story, yet I still find it difficult to get excited about watching horror movies. So for now, Sleepaway Camp has to stay on my to-watch list.
  2. Also mentioned was Stephen Colbert bombing at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. This is from 2006 and I had no idea about it because I don't follow Colbert's work. I should, though. This was absolutely hilarious, I was laughing with tears at one point. And it takes a lot of... you've guessed it: guts to do a material like that with Bush sitting right next to you. (Speaking of Bush's gut, SNL just had a sketch about that last week, when they had Will Ferrell as a host.) The embedding for the video is disabled, so just follow the link: Stephen Colbert at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner (+ the Wiki entry).

Friday, May 11, 2012

Weekend Web Series: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

It's only recently that I've started watching web series regularly, and in this very short time I've gone from being kinda meh about them to being an enthusiastic fan. It's driven by this enthusiasm that I'm starting this blog series on web series. (Frankly, I don't know anyone who's interested in web series. Some of my (Internet) acquaintances probably watch web series, but since I don't really talk to anyone anymore, I couldn't say for sure whether or not they do.)

Watching YouTube videos is like getting sucked into a black hole. But if you can control yourself (not this moi, no) you can easily find the time for a web series. You can watch an entire series in two hours, you can watch it during the weekend, you can watch one episode per daily breakfast. Whatever suits you. The point is: you just have to give it a chance and stick with it. You have to stick with it because although many of these web series are created by professionals (usually with a background in television), they do have their problems - all stemming from low production costs. In the end though, it's really satisfying to follow a series and see it improve along the way.

Post-YouTube-Brandcast, there's going to be a ton of web series and original YouTube content. More mainstream content. Which I'm not sure is such good news for those who want to create a web series but have less resources. I mean, how will a low-fi video look next to a high-end production? While I can't promise anything, I hope this blog series will offer a mix of both very popular and lesser known series. I'll start with a new and already popular one.

*****

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was one of Felicia Day's recommendations on the Flog, so I'm proud to say I knew about this series and subscribed to it before having watched said Flog. (Sometimes, things like this can do wonders for my pop cultural ego.)

Based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, the Lizzie Bennet Diaries is the creation of Hank Green and Bernie Su; Lizzie Bennet is Ashley Clements. At first, I actually thought the series was made by the actress playing Lizzie, so imagine my disappointment at finding out it was created by two guys. Anyways.

The adopted format is that of video blogging, which besides the fact that it keeps the production costs at a minimum, it actually makes sense in this case. The format is dictated by Pride and Prejudice itself - vu que we get the story from Elizabeth Bennet's perspective.

I'm still quite amazed that Pride and Prejudice is remixed and adapted in so many ways. (I still haven't read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but considering my latest reading digressions, I probably will.) Honestly, I don't quite remember the plot of Pride and Prejudice. I read it in high school, mostly during classes, under my desk, so my memory of it is pretty hazy. This however allows me to say that the Lizzie Bennet Diaries is not just for fans of the book. In addition to the popularity of Pride and Prejudice, I should also note that in the context of Downton Abbey fever, I expect this series to attract quite a lot of viewers.

For now, ten episodes are available online. New episodes are released twice a week, with the next one scheduled for Monday. Two more things before I leave you with the first episode: (1) Read an interview with the creators of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries at Tubefilter & (2) Charlotte is my favorite character right now (Lizzie can be a little too intense sometimes).

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Filter

Sang sattawat / Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)

*****
This morning I had my two left wisdom teeth out. At 9 A.M. I walked  into the dentist's office. Quickly, with a heavy sense of impending doom, I  sat in the chair after a rapid, furtive glance around the room for any obvious  instruments of torture such as a pneumatic drill or a gas mask. No such  thing. The doctor pinned the bib around my neck; I was just about prepared  for him to stick an apple in my mouth and strew sprigs of parsley on my  head. But no. All he did was ask, "Gas or novacaine?" (Gas or novacaine. Heh, heh! Would like to see what we have on stock, madam? Death by fire or water, by the bullet or the noose. Anything to please the customer.)  "Gas," I said firmly. The nurse sneaked up behind me, put a rubber oval over my nose, the tubes of it cutting pleasantly into my cheek. "Breathe easily." The gas sifted in, strange and sickeningly sweet. I tried not to fight it. The dentist put something in my mouth, and the gas began to come in big  gulps. I had been staring at the light. It quivered, shook, broke into little pieces. The whole constellation of little iridescent fragments started to swing  in a rhythmic arc, slow at first, then faster, faster. I didn't have to try hard to breathe now; something was pumping at my lungs, giving forth an odd, breathy wheeze as I exhaled. I felt my mouth cracking up into a smile. So that's how it was... so simple, and no one had told me. I had to write it, to describe how it was, before I went under. I fancied my right hand was the tip of the arc, curved up, but just as my hand got into position, the arc would swing the other way, gaining momentum. How clever of them, I thought. They kept the feeling all secret; they wouldn't even let you write it down. And then I was on a pirate ship, the captain's face peering at me from behind the wheel, as he swung it, steering. There were columns of black, and green leaves, and he was saying loudly, "All right, close down easily, easily."  Then the sunlight burst into the room through the venetian blinds; I  breathed hard, filling my lungs with air. I could see my feet, my arms; there I was. I tried hard to get back in my body again... it was such a long way to my feet. I lifted my hands, to my head; they shook. It was all over... till  next Saturday.
- Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath (edited by Karen V. Kukil)

*****

Filtered through (pop) culture, even something as mundane as a visit to the dentist can become... less mundane.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Keep Your Ear to the Ground

Destroying me today:

Bright Eyes. Listening to Conor after a long break. Listening to Conor like I haven't in a really long time. The story is in the soil, keep your ear to the ground.

Cat and Frankie. The impossibility.

Sylvia Plath's journals.

Jack Kerouac's restlessness. Jack Kerouac reminding me how much I've missed, how much I needed Conor's music/lyrics.

Time. Not knowing TIME. Limited time for falling apart.