Friday, September 30, 2011

No Church In The Wild: An Advice Column

My boyfriend stares at other girls in front of me. I don't mind a peek if a girl has a lot of skin showing, but I mind a lingering stare. Should I say something to him, or just accept it, or do something like stare at other guys in front of him?

Men are pigs, eh? Except some cursory Wikipedia research tells me that pigs actually have pretty poor eyesight, so maybe we should start saying men are eagles. MEN ARE EAGLES. They're often bald, most are patriotic, and they tear up forest creatures with their razor sharp claws. We're fucking awesome, I know.

But yes, our wandering eyes are our gift and curse. I can describe the forty hottest women I saw on the street this week in excruciating detail—it's a hell of a party trick—but I can also show you where my wife clawed my face (JK, my wife is great and she stares at men more than I stare at women. Especially black men. At first I hoped it was just latent racism and she was staring at them in a hateful way, but no). The other thing is men are constantly at risk for getting hit by cars. We try to look both ways before we cross the street, but sometimes there's a cute ass in the way! It's scary.

And I wish, for your boyfriend's sake, that it was still the 1950's so I'd be able to give you a bogus scientific explanation as to why men stare at pretty women. Something about a special nerve that attaches the testicles to the eyeballs (I mean, they're similar enough) and makes “the up and the down” involuntary, maybe. But it's not the 1950s anymore, so we can't claim special balls-attached-to-eyes privilege, and I can't sell you my patented eye-straightening serum as a cure (it's liquid adderall and corn syrup). We stare because we like pretty women. There, we admit it! We like boobs, we like butts, we like certain crotches. And for what it is worth, we really like YOUR boobs, butt and crotch. That's why we stare at other women and stay by your side.

That's the shittiest consolation in the world, right? Sorry, it's the best I can do. I had a good answer for you, but a girl with an ass like WHOA walked by and I lost my train of thought.

Whenever I end up dating a girl, I tell them I've not been in a lot of real relationships so I might do something stupid. They seem cool with it but then after not very long break up with me (this continually happens) for reasons I can't understand other then they think I was acting like an idiot?

Wayne Gretzky once said that you miss 100% of the shots you don't take. It's also true that you miss about 80% of the shots you take while thinking to yourself There's no fucking way I'm going to make this shot. You're going into each relationship expecting to fuck it up. Why? There's no need to start a relationship off with a disclaimer like that. For one thing, it's annoying, like people who say “I'm being sarcastic” in their status updates. Oh, are you? And for another, you're artificially framing the narrative. From the get-go, girls will have this idea of you as a freak, and therefore everything you do will seem freaky. That might be an advantage in bed, but you have to like, get there first. And you won't get there at all if you spend all your time telling them to brace themselves because of what a shitty loser you are. Perception isn't everything, but it's a lot of the things. I think Gretzky said that, too. Or maybe he said “Perspiration is everything. Drink Gatorade.” Yeah, that's the quote I was thinking of.

Every relationship is a brand new thing for both people involved. Nobody's an expert at it. Stop worrying, and start the game with clear eyes and a full heart. Just do it. Drink Gatorade.

Hey I turned 21 this past Wednesday and naturally I'm kind of curious about alcohol. Why do people drink? Is it the taste or how it makes you feel? What does it feel like to be drunk? Any favorite alcoholic beverages?

Here's the truth about booze: Being buzzed is awesome, and being drunk is pretty terrible. Walking that tightrope between two states is one of the major challenges of adulthood, along with taxes and raising children. But like those other challenges, it's totally worth doing. (Happy birthday, by the way.)

I can't speak for why other people drink. Some seem to deliberately get drunk, I mean trashed, and that has never been my style. Well, it's very rarely my style. Occasionally, it is exactly my style. But I never know why I do it, especially the morning after, and right now I am having a whisky so I can tell you why I do THAT, in moderation, almost every night:

First and foremost, it's a taste thing. I mean, I don't know what performing oral sex on an angel tastes like, but I'm pretty sure Johnnie Walker got the recipe somehow, you know what I mean? And maybe it doesn't taste good to you yet, but you should develop your palate and learn to enjoy it because IT'S SO GOOD and also, again, that is what adults do. Adults who drink like, milk and juice and soda? That's weird. Society frowns upon them. An adult who likes the taste of soda better that alcohol is like an adult with red hair.

There's also a certain element of ritual and relaxation to the whole thing of coming home and pouring yourself a drink, Don Draper-style. I admit to being totally susceptible to this, and to other characteristics of an addict. But I don't actually think I'm addicted, which is another characteristic but STILL. I dabble in the trappings of addiction, OK?

Speaking of rituals: going out with your friends and drinking in bars can be OK too, but that is something I do very rarely. For me nights like that usually seem to entail constantly searching for bathrooms, shouting over loud music, and looking for girls' earrings on the ground/in gutters. (I prefer drinking socially at home, because A. it's cheaper B. I can control the music and/or volume C. I know where the bathroom is and D. I know where all the earrings are.) So if you're not into the “drinking scene” I really cannot blame you. But don't mix up “going out drinking” with “drinking” because they are two very different things, and “drinking” shouldn't be unfairly saddled with all the baggage that “going out” brings. She's too good for that.

But...what were we talking about exactly? Should you drink? Yes, you should. Not much, but you should know about booze and know how to make a few drinks and it should taste good to you or people will think you're a pussy. I hope this makes sense. That line I was talking about? I'm skirting it right now, a little. It's great. I think I love you.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

ASK NICK SULLIVAN: Letters To Esquire's Fashion Director, Answered by Zac Little

When is it appropriate to wear a sport coat and tie versus a suit? I go for the “when in doubt, opt for the suit” statute. Do you have a simple rule of thumb?

Jon Carlock, McKenzie TN

In the future when you write to me I'd like your metaphors to remain consistent. If you have a statute, ask me to provide stare decisis from previous casework, not for a rule of thumb. Because I'm going to make like a tree and overrule you: When in doubt, do not wear a suit. Do not even wear a tie, unless it's a novelty tie! See, my personal feeling is that one can never be too casual; it's called the soft bigotry of low expectations, look it up. I mean, imagine you're taking a girl out to a fancy restaurant: The other diners are in tuxedos, you show up in an Ed Hardy shirt and a Members Only jacket. Who stands out like Antonin Scalia's thumb? YOU DO, baby! Only dead fish obey precedent, Jon. Fuck what you heard.

Is there a rule of thumb on how much you can have a suit altered? I wear a 37L. I'm pretty sure I can have a 38L taken in to fit me, but how about a 40L or a 42L?

Gabriel Lichtenstein, Los Angeles CA

The rule of thumb on suit alterations is that you can't have them altered so much that they have those thumb hooks on the sleeves that some hoodies have. They're comfortable, I know, but they're also kind of weird and make you look combative. Otherwise, I mean, I'm in full support of fucking with your tailor. Make them do whatever you want! Buy a fat guy's suit and take it in! Buy a child's suit and tell him to expand it! Have him cut a big hole in the back to "raise awareness about spina bifida"! It's your dime, and most of those dudes are assholes. So go wild! “Hey guy, I want this pant leg to stop a foot above the other one. Capeche?” Oh man, that would be fun to do and I'm going to try it sometime.

Why the reemergence of the button fly? It provides zero in the way of aesthetics, it's difficult to button and unbutton, and during the Chicago winter, it lets in the cold air. Thoughts?

Michael Gold, Chicago IL

You don't get an awful lot of blowjobs, do you Mike?

My girlfriend got me a charcoal houndstooth suit vest as a gift. I don't have the matching suit jacket. Can I wear it with a different colored (or even patterned) jacket? Also, can I wear it with jeans?

Taylor Hamill, Denver CO

I don't want to alarm you, Taylor, but I think your girlfriend might be an elderly gay man.

I have run into the ridiculous problem of getting holes in the crotch of nearly all my pants. Even heavy-duty jeans. Is my crotch acidic?

Eric Hafner, Kansas City MO

This is weird for me, because until now, in my head, everyone in KC walked around with their legs spread two feet apart, John Wayne-style. I mean, you want to have a strong center of gravity if you have to use your sidearm when you step out of the saloon, right? But clearly you must be walking around in such a way as to stress the fabric in your crotch region. This runs counter to everything I have been taught. Have you not been in a duel lately? Are you the saloon's piano player or something?

I am considering purchasing a dress watch—sleek and elegant but not too thin—and my budget is $3,000 tops. Any recommendations?

Jim Dickey, Charlotte NC

You fuckers with your watches! Have you seen these Wall Street protests, Jim? If you don't keep your head down, someone is going to literally kill you. How are we supposed to keep from eating the rich when they keep rolling themselves around in marinade? Holy shit.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

BLOGGING THE HUNGER GAMES pt. 16: Pyramid Scheme

Last time, Katniss and Rue formed an alliance. And obviously alliances are temporary when there can only be on Hungerlander, but Katniss points out that the odds are still not ever in their favor; reaching the point where they'd have to kill each other is still a remote possibility. Sure, but I wonder for how long that will be true? Previous entries can be found in the directory.

Chapter 16

Rue cuddles against Katniss and sleeps while our narrator plots against the Careers. They're going to pull off an Ocean's 11-style heist, and it's going to be badass. I'm excited. But first, she reiterates the implications of destroying the food stash: The Careers have been well-fed their whole lives, and being a black belt in punching or whatever doesn't help you figure out which mushrooms you can eat and which ones will kill you (and which ones will expand your mind, man). Katniss says that in previous Games poor districts have prevailed only when the rich kids have been robbed of their food. This is why I have repeatedly said that I'm cool with the recession, as well as the woes of the entertainment industry. The continuation of the status quo doesn't help us scrappy folk much, you know? Let it burn! Go Katniss go!

Of course the next morning when Rue asks Katniss what her plan is, Katniss says "No idea." Weren't you lying awake planning, girl? We hear that the Careers are employing a scrawny kid from District 3 to watch over their stash, and Katniss and Rue puzzle over why that could be. (Just a wild guess: he's made out of bees!) They make tentative plans as they make their way toward the base, and on the way there they Get To Know Each Other. Rue has a bunch of siblings and says she likes "music" more than anything in the world. Katniss finds this to be frivolous, but uh, she's the one who asked the "what's your most favorite thing" question. What the fuck is her answer? "A carbonite double-bonded fast-action bow with filter-tip arrows." Shut up, Katniss.

Rue rhapsodizes about mockingjays and the way she used to sing back and forth with them. Katniss tries to give her her pin, but Rue suggests she hang on to it. "It's probably a magical MacGuffin of some kind and you should hang on to it for later plot reasons," she says. Once they have a plan, they part ways with intentions to meet up later and Katniss walks down the stream wondering about (guess who) Peeta ("I don't know, something about the stream and being soaking wet make me think of him"-Katniss). She tries to remember the hallucinatory moment when Peeta saved her but says "the fact that he was sparkling" is making her doubt it. What's so hard to believe about that?
Katniss reaches a bush where Rue usually hides to observe the Career base camp (for some reason I'm trying to come up with a sentence that ends " worth Rue in the bush") and finds four of them lingering about, a huge "pyramid" of food nearby. Other supplies are spread around the pyramid, mimicking the pattern of the original Cornucopia. So it's definitely booby-trapped, and Katniss daydreams about all the bloody, Saw-like ways it might work. Katniss is kind of a creep sometimes.

So there's this dude Cato who is shaping up to be the major villain from the Career gang, and he's the kind of villain who talks about his plans all the time, apparently. So just from plopping down a few yards away Katniss finds out that Peeta is on the run and was wounded badly by Cato's hand ("wounded by Cato's hand" sounds like a line that was in thousand Victorian-era plays. Do you think those playwrights maybe did have like, a stock phrase they put into everything, like a Victorian version of the Wilhelm Scream?) and that Cato wants the pleasure of killing Katniss himself:

"When I find her, I kill her in my own way, and no one interferes."

PUT THE FUCKING LOTION IN THE BASKET, KATNISS! So this dude is sort of a psycho, but Suzanne Collins manages to split the difference between an adult sociopath and a kid throwing a tantrum. He's threatening in a pathetic way, in other words. That's especially true for when he snaps the pencil-neck of the kid from District 3, but that's later. Somewhere Rue is off setting decoy fires, and Cato sees one and leads his pack (including the still-living nebbish from D3) toward it. Katniss chills for a while observing, wondering what she could do to destroy the pyramid. Would a flaming arrow work? Some other item she's received? Maybe if she plays a certain song on her Ocarina? Then the Foxfaced chick turns up, does a weird hopscotch dance toward the pile and picks off a few rations and other items. Katniss concludes from her practiced, careful dance that the pyramid is surrounded by land-mines. My first thought was "Oh, you have to dance the whole time to avoid waking the dragon!" (See, what happened was I used Occam's Razor to open a bag of Doritos a few days ago and misplaced it.)

So for a few weeks when wifi was spotty in my office I became addicted to this iPod app called Bunny Shooter. It's a pretty simple Angry Birds knockoff, just swap out the birds for a variety of arrows. You aim your bow and kill bunnies and that's more or less the whole deal. And yet it's oddly transfixing, especially when you get to fuck around with exploding arrows and other IEDs. I don't know what vestige of agricultural society is lingering in my lizard brain that makes me enjoy blowing up a bunch of cartoon bunnies so much, but there it is, I do. And I was a little surprised when this chapter basically turned into an iPod app, but here it is, it does.

Katniss looks over the pile for a while longer and sees a sack of apples. With a few well-placed shots, the apples come tumbling down, the mines go off, and a series of explosions propel Katniss backward and onto the ground.

The Hunger Games is a pretty decent book that's going to probably make a better movie. There aren't many works in that category. Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go is one, and Stephen King's The Green Mile is another (though that dude basically writes screenplays in the form of novels half the time). The first Twilight film is another one, but after that I think they draw even(ly bad). I haven't read Mario Puzo's The Godfather, but I bet it fits here too. The criteria is essentially novels with a decent plot (Green Mile) or a clever world (Never Let Me Go) or both (The Hunger Games) that don't necessarily make much use of the tricks exclusive to literature* or that don't have particularly strong or distinctive prose. What makes David Foster Wallace's writing compelling is, mostly, the way he writes. Which is why there isn't going to be a movie of The Broom Of The System anytime soon.

(*Unreliable narrators, multiple narrators, stories where most of the plot action is internal--hell, the stuff S. Meyer does in Breaking Dawn where she plays around with narration, telepathy and dialogue can't be rendered as effectively in any other medium.)

But in reading this chapter and thinking over where we've been so far, I was struck my an even stranger thought. The Hunger Games is a decent book that will make a good movie that could potentially make for a GREAT videogame. The reason for that is that even though the characters and human interactions are compelling, they are not so nearly as compelling as the rules, problems, and solutions presented by the games. In this chapter Katniss gets to know Rue, but in a totally general and boring way. Then they part ways, and Katniss has to travel through the woods undetected, observe the enemy camp, consider how she'll destroy their food supply, and then carry out the objective. Meanwhile Rue is traveling through the trees, stopping to start fires in key locations. The tasks are more interesting than the people. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's not exactly a testament to the necessity of the novel, either.

Maybe something will happen sooner or later that will make me change my mind, but we're pretty firmly in videogame territory right now. Thoughts?

Stray Notes & Questions

Monday, September 26, 2011

There But For The Grace Of God Click "Like": Twilight Confessions

OH NO! Have you guys seen this Tumblr Twilight Confessions? It's like My Life Is Twilight only somehow worse, because people take the time to alter screencaps and yet somehow they don't use that time to THINK ABOUT WHAT THEY ARE FUCKING SAYING.
Earlier today Reddit was flooded with activity as people signed on in droves to post to a thread about their secret but honest racist opinions. Something about this site feels similar, and really, the rationale behind some Tea Party activity isn't altogether different. Tell us how you really feel, and don't worry, because we feel the same way. But some of it is just like, "What?"
It isn't even caramel anymore! This site is scarily vast, so go check it out if you feel like feeling crazy. Not that it's all bad:
But it's still MOSTLY bad. New Hunger Games tomorrow.

Friday, September 23, 2011

No Church In The Wild: An Advice Column

Dear Zac, I'm a 25 year old woman who has never been asked out on a first date. I've been on nondates, like to parties, or watching a movie in the dorm. I was in a relationship for a year, but he never asked me out. We went right from hanging out to bf/gf, but he never planned any of the dates. One guy asked his sister for my number and then only texted me once. I'm a bit of a homebody and average looking, but have huge boobs. I don't have an annoying voice. What is the deal?

Just how big are your boobs? Maybe you're intimidating people. No, but actually, the reason is that I think you have a kind of antiquated notion of "dates." What you have (the hangouts, the parties, the texting) is how dating works now, in 2011, and what you want (to be asked out on a “date”) is how dating worked in the seventies/in movies in the nineties. You are a victim of your own time, that's all. In a way, that's kind of noble. You're like a big-titted Galileo!

Nobody really comes a-courting these days, which maybe sucks for the ladies, but I have to say it's kind of great for me (and Mr. Frog). I'm kind of socially awkward and not very assertive so when I was single it was nice to like, just sit down down with a person and watch a movie and then suddenly be fingering them. None of the silly formality! You're better off without it, kid. Sure, it makes for some awkwardness when you're like, “are we dating or fuck buddies or what?” and the other person is like “Zac, we're married!” but it's nothing compared to the awkwardness of asking someone out on a DATE.

(Look at the tone of rom-coms Then vs. Now: THEN it was all silent pining and journal entries and John Cusack and sadness. NOW it's Justin Timberlake smoking weed with his friends going “So I had anal sex with Mila Kunis but I'm not sure like, what we ARE, you know?” Okay so I haven't seen Friends With Benefits but I think that's a cogent synopsis anyway.)

It sounds like you're also dissatisfied with the quantity of relationships, not just the quality, but I think these issues are connected. Do you approach a lot of dudes or are you always waiting for them to approach you? Don't wait. Ask them! I mean, adhere to the current values of Our Time; don't get all Mrs. Darcy on them and be like "May I formally request your presence accompanying me forthwith to said dancing occasion?" Ask them out 2011 style: Shrug, adjust your hoodie, twitch nervously and be like "So uh, do you want to do a thing or something or whatever some time maybe?" But certainly ask. Always Be Asking.

And if you really must be the one who is approached, just pull your huge tits out in public places more often.

I'm just about to start dating a guy, but I'm having some issues. The problem is, he's a Jesus fanboy. And I have no problem with that except for the fact that he actually believes it which means I'm questioning his mental health. No offense to the strict believers, but I am a Darwin fangirl. So, should I ignore the flashing red lights and date someone who worships a zombie?

You've got too choices: convert or abort. You dating him AND his beliefs if not an option. I know we liberal types pretend there's no culture war when Conservatives start freaking out, but there IS a culture war, and we have to WIN. We are right, they are wrong and scary. We are the future, they are the past. Religion MUST be pushed to the margins of society lest it BECOME SOCIETY again. I mean how many times do these fuckers have to kill all the philosophers and scientists and let the artists die penniless before they figure out the formula isn't working? But anyway the good news is we have an important weapon on our side: sex.

Look at your vagina. Now look at me. Now back to your vagina. Now me again. Your Jesusfreak BF sees it as a baby-making factory that he has to work at every 9 months until you reach menopause or die during childbirth. He also probably thinks you should get started soon. Scary, right? You need to flip the script on him. His perception of pussy is a pancake; you're a short-order cook. Flip it around on him! I'm not saying you need to have sex—I don't know how old you are, maybe you're not ready—but you need to do some STUFF. Even if it's just making out and dry humping. And you need to make it clear that all that good boner-giving stuff he is experiencing is antithetical to religion. Jesus hates dry-humping! Jesus hates ejaculation outside of the vagina! Jesus hates sexy underwear! Make him love dry-humping, sexy underwear and ejaculation more than he loves Jesus. That should be pretty easy, they're awesome.

Are his parents religious too? You might need to make them hate you. Again, this is easy. Wear slutty clothes and/or Lady Gaga t-shirts. Have dinner with them and take the Lord's name is vain a lot. When they start pressuring him to dump you, and they will, your boy will have a nice visual metaphor in front of him. Young, sexy, kinky secular humanism, or old, boring, hateful, nagging religion. And he will have to choose!

All of this conversion work takes time, and even though the end result is a good one—another member for our team—I understand if you don't want to do it. But if you don't want to make the effort to change his beliefs, you have to dump him. Don't put yourself through the shit you'd have to deal with otherwise. Church picnics, bible study, discussions about faith and temptation, sneering condescension toward art and public institutions... I want to kill myself just THINKING about it.

And when you dump him you have to be honest about why. Tell him you're dumping him because he has an imaginary friend and that creeps you out. Brutal? Yes. But helpful in the long run? Maybe. It could just make him retreat into religion even more. But it might be a helpful shock to his system. And it will be sort of fun for you either way, I think.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

BLOGGING THE HUNGER GAMES, pt. 15: There's No I In Hunger Games

Last time Katniss went on the offensive, knocking a killer wasp nest down on her foes and earning two kills for herself. So, uh, we have a protagonist who has murdered two people! That's a big deal, to me. Sure, she was boxed in by the system and sort of HAD to do it, but I bet Rick Perry would say the same thing.

Chapter 15

Katniss has a REALLY bad trip on the venom, which is what she gets for doing needle drugs. OK, so maybe she didn't really have a say in getting stung by that tracker jacker, but addicts have all sorts of excuses. So she hallucinates her way through a few bloody deaths and then wakes up feeling miserable in a ditch full of dead leaves. First of all: I'm pretty sure that's the plot of about a dozen Tom Waits ballads. Second of all: I had a remarkably similar experience this past Saturday, except I woke up feeling miserable in my dad's bed. Thank god he wasn't home, otherwise that would have been weird. Anyway unlike me Katniss didn't have to turn up for the 8am shift at a busy diner, but she does have to keep moving. So she rallies and wonders how long she's been out. A day? Two? Hey I never saw The Hangover 2 but wouldn't it have been great if they'd been unconscious for TWO days this time? Clever, right? I mean, as far as Hangover-level standards of cleverness go. (Did any reviewers make a joke about how writing a sequel is difficult when you're hungover on the success of the first? I'm just full of belated good ideas today! Hey, what if they made a Titantic 2? Oh wait, shit.)

Katniss's thoughts turn abruptly to Peeta, as they often do. She's not sure what to make of the way he saved her in the last chapter, and wonders what Gale made of the whole thing, watching at home. Then she pushes that thought aside; “Gale and Peeta do not coexist well in my thoughts,” she says. Unless everyone's naked. Speaking of nudity, Katniss finds her way back to the stream to hydrate and decides to strip down and wash her clothes. Hot. Do the Hunger Games cameras capture all of this? I mean, obviously they do but do they wait to broadcast the sexy footage until after 10pm or are they cool with showing the kids? Or do they blur it and release an uncensored DVD later? It's very important to me that we get answers on this front. Also: why doesn't she wonder what Gale makes of THIS?

Katniss gets dressed, kills some kind of wild turkey with an arrow and starts heading upriver. She's cooking dinner when she hears something in the woods. It's Rue, and Katniss calls to her and says they can form an alliance (that word is starting to sound as silly as it does on reality shows) and travel around together. Shit, I hope they build a raft and go all Huck Finn on us! She offers Rue food, mentioning that she's had “two kills today.” Which made me at first think she was offering Rue a chunk of the girl from District 4, but no. Rue then produces some leaves that will heal Katniss's wasp stings. Things get kind of kinky:

“Ohhh.” The sound comes out of my mouth before I can stop it. It's as if the leaves are actually leaching the pain right out of the sting.
Rue gives a giggle. “Lucky you had the sense to pull the stingers out or you'd be a lot worse.”
“Do my neck! Do my cheek!” I almost beg.

Damn Katniss, you're into some weird shit. But whatever, I'll do your neck. No judgment. Rue mentions the scarcity of meat in her (agriculture-centered) district, and that prompts a discussion about life in various districts. In a nutshell: in some places you get whipped in public, in others you don't. It's not terribly interesting, but more interesting is Katniss's offhand remark that their words will probably be silenced in the broadcast to keep people from knowing about life in other districts. (“They can never know about the whippings or lack of whippings! That's the secret to our power!”-some guy)

Rue knows about the berries and plants that can be eaten (which is funny because a few chapters ago Katniss was really good at that but isn't anymore?) and also informs Katniss that some sunglasses she's been carrying around for days are actually night-vision goggles. Whoops, Katniss! But what this chapter reminds me of more than anything is a videogame. An RPG, like Legend of Zelda or Secret of Mana. (Sorry guys, my videogame references stop in 1996. Mist? Anybody?) You meet knew people, they pass on valuable information about items that you will probably use later, and that's pretty much the essential element of the interaction. It's not the worst way to write a story, but it's hard not to just think what's going to happen next what's going to happen what's going to happen next! because you're not getting much to hold on to in the present. I don't necessarily want the experience of reading to feel like taking amphetamines.

Katniss and Rue snuggle up in her sleeping bag (awww) and Rue catches her up on a few things. Peeta has broken off from the Careers and is on the run, probably as a result his dramatic gesture at the end of the last chapter (IF IT WAS REEEEAAAAAL OK obviously it was). Katniss is like “That was probably because of how he's pretending to love me” and even Rue is like “bitch please.” They start talking about the food stockpile the Careers have, and Katniss observes that without it those corn-fed rich kids probably wouldn't be able to fend for themselves. And lo, Katniss begins to form a plan.

Stray Notes & Questions
  • This chapter has some weird digressions, including a part where Katniss muses about how nice District 12 really was after hearing about a mentally retarded boy Rue saw get murdered once. She thinks about her home town and “one of Greasy Sae's grandkids” who was simple but “treated like a pet” by the townsfolk. How quaint! "Come to District 12! At least we don't murder our retards!"-Mayor Gunderson
  • Suzanne Collins only makes us aware of the ever-watching cameras in fits and starts. I'm not sure if this is good or bad. Like, when Katniss tells Rue about Peeta saving her, she waits for the nightly anthem and then covers her mouth with her hand to avoid detection. But earlier, when Rue mentions ruefully (!!!) that she doesn't have any sponsors, Katniss observes that people will figure out how wily she is sooner or later--with no mention about whether or not she said it for the benefit of the viewing public. I understand that showing multiple meanings in everything Katniss says could be exhausting, but I still don't have a sense of how the Hunger Games are actually, logistically broadcast. Incidentally The Truman Show had the same problem. Are people just staying home and watching this show ALL DAY? I'm pretty sure there's a character in The Truman Show who is sitting in a bathtub watching for several days. And I know it's supposed to be a parable or whatever but still! That shit will give you toxic shock syndrome, buddy! I think.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Puking Into Computers With Ivana XL

Ivana XL has been my Internet friend forever. I mean, we met on MySpace for fuck's sake! I stumbled upon her music, loved it, and asked if I could use it in my videos. Because she's a little crazy, she said yes, and we've tried to mutually support one another's artistic careers ever since. I really got the bargain out of that deal, because Ivana is crazy talented and the fact that she hasn't become super-famous and lifted me to success on her coattails is a source of constant bemusement to me. What are you waiting for, Quincy Jones types? Discover her already!

Anyway, I had this idea a while ago that I was going to write about some of my favorite songs for this blog. And I never got around to it. But since some of my favorite songs were written by Ivana, I started talking to her about them on Facebook. (Yes, we moved our relationship to Facebook after having a long “what are we” talk and deciding we should take our relationship to the next level.) Here, therefore, is some of what she said. We'll have to do this again some time soon because there is not nearly enough praise for this lady on the Internet yet. Also: I'm pretty sure I can get some bizarre Ryan Adams stories out of her if I get her drunk or something.

"Sweetie Pie" [listen here] is super old, but it was about this guy I dated and lived with when I was 21. My first love, or what have you. He had (simple) tattoos and left me so that he could be in a touring emo band and date other girls.

I think it was an "emo" band? We are still friends and it's all water under the bridge.

The Ryan Adams mix [of “Sweetie Pie”] [download here] is sort of a long story but: After I kind of lost my mind over that guy I moved to Brooklyn and started working in a fancy shoe store. My co-worker's boyfriend was a club promoter and was friends with the guy who runs Electric Lady Studios. He gave my stuff to that guy, that guy gave it to Ryan Adams, and then I started recording back up vocals for him for this double CD he was planning on putting out but never did. He must have thousands of unreleased songs. One day I went to his apartment and he re-mixed "Sweetie Pie" on GarageBand because we were talking about him producing my first EP. We got into an awkward falling out shortly after and never spoke again!

Yeah, Ryan Adams is weird.
“White White” [listen][buy] is about this other ex-boyfriend who rode a motorcycle. I was always worried he was going to crash so I wrote that song pretending he did and died so I could like, live it and forget it if that makes any sense. To stop worrying about it. We did it in someone's living room, [but we wanted it to sound like a church] so we added a lot of reverb. Tricks!

I think I would take opportunities such as having my soul-sucked [and] making money for it on a case by case basis. I don't think I could bring myself to dress up like a jerk and sing some horrible song for money in Real Life, but I'd totally write some BS and let someone else sing it, or sing it and not really advertise that it's me, for $$. I'm sort of no stranger to doing embarrassing or degrading things to survive, like waitressing or being the mouse for Chuck E. Cheese (yep). There was a time when I first moved to Brooklyn that I was being courted by some of the big labels but they wanted me to completely change into like, Regina Spektor, or worse. There was just no way.

I would probably think about marketing myself in a sexy way since I have a little bit of that inside of me already, but it would have to be done in a very simple and classy way. And it would have accompany the music with reason.

I did make a little money from the VW ad. That was exciting. I bought a new tooth!
I get very obsessed with one or two musical things at a time and it goes for months. Right now I'm into Kurt Vile, and watching interviews and performances of Vladimir Horowitz. I've pretty much been living AND breathing these two for the past few months. Someone recently mentioned Liz Phair's girly tapes which I was obsessed with when I was like 19, and it's happening again NOW.

The best thing people can do is tell other people about my music. I'm planning to slowly release every song on my free bandcamp page and delete the albums from iTunes. I just want people to have the music and spread it easily like an STD. There are some other more professional things in the works (touring/recording) for the fall and winter time. Otherwise I'm still puking songs into my computer. Forever.

As a person I'm pretty reserved. I have a few very close friends, like I can count them on one hand. I have had long difficult periods of depression throughout my life, which has been a blessing artistically, and a total fucking tornado otherwise. But I wouldn't change a thing. I love my mom and my cat.

Ivana XL is playing October 5th at Death By Audio in Brooklyn. If you live there you should go! Tell her I sent you. Give her a hug.

Monday, September 19, 2011

ASK NICK SULLIVAN: Letters To Esquire's Fashion Director, Answered by Zac Little

I've noticed a lot of models in suits wearing knit ties. Please advise if knits are indeed in.

Johnny Garcia, San Jose CA

ARE THEY EVER. You haven't hear about recession couture yet, Johnny? I hope you saved all of grandma's ugly sweaters because that shit is all over Fashion Week. At Javu I saw two models doing blow off a doily, Johnny. A DOILY! How the fuck do you explain that? The recession is deep in our culture now. The breadline is the new runway. Poor is the new black.

What are your thoughts on sweater vests. Like?

Jill Haney, Cincinnati OH

Could I BE in support of them more? Could Chandler Bing references BE any hotter right now? Could this answer BE more cloaked in impenetrable irony? But really, Jilly (can I call you Jilly?): sweater vests are dapper as fuck. I'd give them my seal of approval, but I usually attach my seal of approval to sleeves. So I guess we're at kind of a standoff here.

I have an allergic reaction when most metals touch my skin, so when I wear a watch, my skin turns red and itchy by the end of the day. What are my options as far as nicer watches go?

Jonathan Shenk, Pittsburgh PA

Oh shit. Jonathan, I don't want to be the Christian Bale to your Sam Worthington, but I think we're dealing with a Terminator Salvation-type situation here. I know you FEEL human, but all the signs are pointing to some kind of cyborg. Don't panic. Seriously, don't: existential crises have been known to cause mechanical failure in some models.

There's nothing I can do about the fact that you don't have a soul and your perceived sentience is actually a computer program. That sucks hard, bro. But I can do something about your fashion problem. In fact I will be able to do A LOT for you when my new book So You Just Found Out You're A Cyborg And You Don't Know What To Wear hits shelves this fall, but I'll give you this one for free: Wristwatches are OUT for cyborgs. In some fashion circles, important circles, it's seen as garish. I mean, I wouldn't be so crass as to wear a little HUMAN on my wrist, and that's more or less what you are doing when you think about it. Keep your person (or whatever) totally free of robotics. Wear a lot of plain linens and maybe a classy leather strap where someone in possession of a soul might wear a timepiece. If you're concerned about losing track of time, look in the upper right corner of your field of vision. Above the readout with the weather conditions and below the part where you identify friends and potential targets should be the date and time. If you don't see it there you may need a software update. Hey, what do you call it when a cyborg gets an erection? A SOFTWARE UPDATE! You can use that one, Jonathan. Self deprecating humor goes a long way with your kind.

I recently bought a male friend of mine a black dress shirt to wear with a black suit, but some women think it's awful. But is black on black really not a good option?

Krista Smith, Atlanta GA

I don't want to be the Christian Bale to your Christian Bale's mom, but it sounds like you have some cunty friends, Krista. Who told you black on black was a bad idea? GIVE ME HER NAME. I'm reporting her to the Southern Poverty Law Center. I have a friend in their fashion department. Wait until you see the SPLC's fall catalog,by the way. Amazingly, Klan robes are IN this year! This is why I love fashion. You can expect the unexpected.

I'm the Sam Worthington to Nick Sullivan's Christian Bale. Previously: "What are you doing in Lynchburg, Brother Khoury?"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

BLOGGING THE HUNGER GAMES, pt. 14: The Girl Who Kicked The Killer Hornet's Nest

Last time, after a very confusing forest fire, Katniss was cornered in a tree by Peeta and the Careers. That night, mid-stand-off, she noticed Rue just chilling in another tree nearby. So what's the deal with Rue? She seemed so small and delicate and Prim-like at first, but then she got a Gamemaker score of seven, and now here she is showing up in the thick of it all! Also, her name seems like it would be SO EASY to work into a pun, and yet I don't have anything good yet! She's such a mystery! Anyway, Rue indicated that something was over Katniss's head. Peeta's motivation, you mean? Hahaha no it's a wasp's nest. WAIT THE HUNGER GAMES ARE TAKING PLACE IN THE HAMPTONS?

Chapter 14

I know what you're thinking: a wasp's nest is not very scary. Katniss will survive a few stings, right? Unless these are some kind of like, genetically engineered deadly super wasps with homing capability and hallucination-inducing venom. And what are the odds that they are those? THE ODDS ARE ONE HUNDRED PERCENT, BITCH! That's what you get for thinking a wasp's nest is no big deal. Let that be a lesson to you: never trust wasps. First Enron, now this! Okay I'll stop.

Yes, Katniss says the nest above her head holds a species of wasp created specially by the Capitol, who apparently weren't content with suppressing the proletariat with EFFICIENT killing methods like bombs and artificially intelligent fire. Variety is the spice of modern warfare, after all, so they invented these things, Tracker Jackers. Not the most fear-inspiring name, I know. I keep thinking “Buy me some peanuts and...” but Katniss is freaked. She also sees her only real chance at escape, and thus early in the morning she climbs closer to the nest and begins to saw the branch off the tree in order to knock it onto her sleeping pursuers.

Before that, though, two things happen. Katniss finds a box attached to a small parachute in the tree, her first gift from a sponsor: a salve to treat her burns. She quietly thanks Haymitch for what she assumes was an expensive and hard-won favor (“I just wanted to send you a bottle of bourbon, but everybody thought this was a better idea. I use it to treat the burning sensation on my balls. Fuck you.”-The note Haymitch probably included). Then she signals Rue and lets her know what's up. Rue disappears and Katniss hears rustling sounds and we realize she is leaping from tree to tree. LIKE A BOSS. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Rue am I right? YES (what?). Next I want to see her land on someone's shoulders and break his neck.

Unfortunately a few Tracker Jackers figure out what's up too, and Katniss gets stung on the knee and FACE while she makes the last few frantic hacks and sends the nest hurtling down on Peeta and the gang. And then shit gets MOTHERFUCKING CRAY CRAY. Most of the Careers (including Peeta) flee for the lake in a panic, but two of them get stung too many times to get away. One girl stumbles into the woods and dies and Glimmer only makes it a few feet. Katniss watches her “twitch hysterically on the ground for a few minutes, and then go still.” So I guess the question of whether or not Katniss will kill anyone has been emphatically answered!* Yikes! Those bitches are DEAD!

(*I guess I don't know why I thought she wouldn't. Because I grew up reading bloodless comic-books and just spent two years reading a toothless YA vampire novel? But anyway, I was surprised.)

Katniss returns to the pool where she was after the fire but then remembers the bow Glimmer was holding when she went down; she fears that when the Gamemakers have her body removed the bow will go with it and she'll lose her best shot at survival. She's feeling pretty woozy from the venom, but drags herself back to the scene using essentially the same instinct people use to get home when they're really drunk. But none of your friends' drunk stories compare to what's about to happen here: By the time Katniss gets back, Glimmer is a swollen bag of pus. And she's lying on top of the bow.

I try to roll over her body by pulling on one arm, but the flesh disintegrates in my hands and I fall back down in the ground.

OH SHIIIIIT! Katniss is like “am I tripping balls or what?” But the hovercraft shows up to collect the other dead girl and Kat kicks into high gear, yanking the bow free even after it gets tangled in Glimmer's fucking BONES. But it takes her long enough that one of the bad guys comes running back and she's too weak and drugged out to run away.

I'm helpless as the first hunter crashes through the trees, spear lifted, poised to throw. The shock on Peeta's face makes no sense to me. I wait for the blow.

That's an unfortunate rhyme, but Peeta drops his spear and hisses at Katniss to run. She's like “OK now I'm legit tripping balls,” but she DOES run, and takes shelter in the woods. She's somewhere near Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the venom begins to take hold. And then shit gets very “Un Chien Andalou” on us:

The world begins to bend in alarming ways. A butterfly balloons to the size of a house and then shatters into a million stars. Trees transform to blood and splash down over my boots. Ants begin to crawl out of the blisters on my hands and I can't shake them free.

And somebody points to Katniss and says “it is hers.” And she says “what's mine?” and they say “WELL WHAT IS?” But seriously, you guys I didn't know there was going to be a drug sequence in this book! I hope “White Rabbit” plays over this scene in the movie version.

Stray Notes & Questions
  • So that last part is when the venom REALLY kicks in, but how much do you think it affected Katniss's perception of everything else? Was Glimmer really as gross and swollen and disintegrated as we heard? Was Peeta really there? I mean, of course Peeta was really there but will Katniss think so?
  • Do you think this was an interesting tack to take, writing-wise, or was it sort of cheap? There are only so many ways you can drag out the mystery of Peeta, and I sort of feel like this was one of the better options. But generally speaking, confusion based on being drugged is a pretty irritating device.
  • In New Moon, Bella puzzles over the mystery of what Jacob is long after it is totally clear and obvious to everyone reading along, even the ten-year-olds who should not have such an evil piece of misogynist trash in their dumb little hands. But contrary to what some of you have anonymously implied, I DON'T think the answer to The Peeta Question is obvious at all. Yet. I mean he clearly is helping Katniss, but whether it is because he has a crush on her or because he's involved in a bigger political plot or because he's doing it so he can double-cross her in the end, I don't know. All of them are equally plausible. Or maybe it's something else. And that's great!
  • Film adaptation question: There's obviously some question as to how gory this movie can be. Do you think the hallucination stuff helps or hurts the movie, MPAA-ratings-wise? Do you think the filmmakers can/would get away with more if they played it up as a nightmarish dream with less realistic effects/gore? Context matters a lot. You can show a penis in an R-rated movie but not an erect one. I know that doesn't seem like it applies here, but it sort of does.
  • Friend of the blog Suzette just asked something interesting. What would be a "no homo" for feminism? "No femmo" was her suggestion. I proposed "no gyno." And would it work like no homo where you accidentally say something that sounds feminist or would it be the opposite? Like you accidentally say something sexist and then say "no gyno" (in this case invoking misogyny more than anything else). Like if you had a female friend who was a chef and she was unemployed and you said "she needs to get back in the kitchen. No gyno." Would that work? Got a better word/set of rules?
  • On that note, I just found this Tumblr about why gay activist Dan Savage is horrible. It's kind of the self-destroying shit I've been fruitlessly and stupidly lecturing the queer community about for years, right? I mean, Dan Savage does some good. A lot of good if you fear the political ascendancy of Rick Santorum like I do. If he's committing some kind of new age faux-paux by suggesting that people who have sex in 2011 should be OK with oral sex (SEEMS LIKE A REASONABLE REQUEST!) well, I don't think it really warrants creating an entire website to attack him. There are much more horrific people out there to attack, activists! You're doing it wrong! Also, the sidebar on the site reads like a parody of modern liberal insanity: "Fuck No, Dan Savage was created to showcase the cissexist, sexist, sexualist, monosexist, classist, racist, sizeist, and ableist douchebaggery of Dan Savage, of "It Gets Better" (for privileged queers only) fame." SEXUALIST is a thing now? Anyway, my question is does anybody have a little more background on this?

Friday, September 9, 2011

No Church In The Wild: An Advice Column

I'm starting my freshman year of college tomorrow. What should I keep in mind? I'm a little worried about new friends and the amount of work I'll be faced with.

Oh, don't worry about WORK. Didn't anyone ever tell you the work in college is OPTIONAL? What you need to be concerned about are the Dementors.

No, but seriously: you should definitely beat the shit out of someone on the first day. Otherwise people will think they can push you around. AND THEY CAN'T. Make 'em get it right.

No, but seriously (for real): college is pretty easy to navigate. Petty high school shit has or will very soon melt away for almost everyone. People in college are cool because everyone is eager to make friends, have sex and get booze. There's no time to be a dick when it's so important to GET DICK, am I right?

Say yes to everything, or as much as you can reasonably say yes to. I mean, don't say yes to the Army recruiter. Or the guy with the meth pipe. Or the improv troupe. But join the other clubs. Go to weird events! Strike up conversations with people before class! Hop into random beds! Invite people into the shower with you! It's college!

We recently got a new coffee machine in our office that brews one cup at a time and my manager keeps "forgetting" to clean it out after he's finished with it. What is a tactful way of dealing with this so I don't get in trouble? I kinda like my job but I hate bad coffee.

Oh god, what THE FUCK is with this K-cup trend? They're so stupid! If I'd finished reading Shop Class As Soul Craft (I started it, at least) I'd probably be able to show how the K-cup trend is just another way we distance ourselves from the LITERAL nuts and bolts of technology. It's alienating us from the physical world, but we keep doing it with every new device. Think about it: You can't see inside a fucking iMac. What's in there? Nothing? Magic? Pretty soon cars will be like that, too. Some of them already are.

We want to believe we have a knowledge economy, that everyone can get jobs working at think tanks or some shit, and our phobia of the down and dirty mechanics of our everyday appliances* is a symptom of that delusion; the new American dream is "you don't technically have to do anything for a living." That's only true for a select few, but those select few are cultural gatekeepers who can't see beyond the narrow band of their experiences. People still have to make shit, and if we keep denying that all of the rest of our manufacturing jobs will vanish and a lot of Americans will just fucking starve to death. And starving to death is more intellectually stimulating than working in a think tank am I right but still, fuck. We're fucked. I wish I knew how to fix shit. I wish I worked with my hands more. Whenever I do, I feel so much more alive.

(*We've retreated so far from the physical into the technological that even PHYSICAL KEYBOARDS on computers are too much for some people. "Ugh, why can't I just THINK the text onto the screen?"-people)

Fuck, I worked in an office for three years and now a few days a week I wait tables and it feels INCREDIBLE, just putting that much effort into a job, it's totally restorative in a spiritual sense, you know? I'm drunk, a little at least, as I write this, so fuck guy, I'm sorry if I'm throwing you off the trail a little.

The point is, why are we afraid of COFFEE GROUNDS? What the fuck is wrong with us? This is the end of the American Empire.

But I digress. I think it was Benjamin Franklin who once said "A passive-aggressive anonymous note keeps the doctor away." This is when he was working as a file clerk at a doctor's office in Philadelphia, but it works for your situation too. Leave the bitchiest anonymous note you can muster. SOLVED.

Boyfriend's ex-girlfriend still talks to him about her problems like they're dating. She can't understand why I hate that. He understands entirely, but is still kind of overly nice to her about it. How do I stop this? She has her own boyfriend now to talk to, but she says my boyfriend is "the only one who has anything interesting to say." I even told her boyfriend about it because we are good friends and he doesn't like it. But no help there. So I come for hilarious advice instead. Help?

First of all, I dig the jazzy first sentence of your query; I picture you getting up on a stage and reciting this question while you snap your fingers and someone plays a walking bassline underneath. Secondly: murder her.

Also, um, YOU TALK TO HER BOYFRIEND about this? Think about that for a second and get back to me.

So, I'm a junior and it's time to start looking at colleges. My mother who is somewhat of a control freak is pushing F.I.T on me, because she never followed her "dream" of designing jewelry. And thus, it's my job to do so. I have no interest in this whatsoever. I personally want to go to either Emerson or Amherst to study marketing or publishing. Her compromise is "go to F.I.T to learn how to market the jewelry you'll design." How do I get her to realize that she's trying to live though me?

There's no easy way to say this: your mother sounds pretty self-centered and oblivious and now there's only like an 80% chance that I'd want to fuck her. You've got to be direct with her. Sit her down and say "I don't want your life." And please do your best James Van Der Beek impression when you do. Do you guys remember Varsity Blues? You probably just remember the whipped cream underwear scene. Fair enough! (Health-wise, the whipped cream underwear seems unsafe. Ladies, put down a base-layer of shaving cream, okay?)

Anyway, it's possible that she won't hear you out even then. What you need to do at that point is apply to Emerson and Amherst and really ROCK the application process AND THEN really do a job of the financial paperwork, which is just as important. Especially at Emerson. Those fuckers will do everything they can to keep from having to give you any financial aid at all; I know because I went through the ringer with them twice. Fuck Emerson! Whoops! I mean, uh, it's a cool school and you can go there if you want?

Now here's the fun part: apply to FIT and botch the application HARD. When they ask about your SAT scores, leave the last digit off. When you fill out financial aid forms, attach a sticky note that says "I hope you're not going to try and Jew me out of my money like those Greensteins at Emerson." When they ask questions like what you want out of a college experience, write that you just don't want to have to talk to any fucking wetbacks. Tell them jewelry making is your passion, in fact, you'd like to give their mother a pearl necklace. And so on.

Got a problem? Hit me up here. You have the option to submit anonymously, and in fact I encourage it. Got advice for these people? Comment!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

BLOGGING THE HUNGER GAMES, pt. 12: Vampire/Forest Fire

The next few chapters are long and interesting descriptions of more or less single events, one after another. They're fun to read, but they sort of defy summary. Now, hitting chapters 12 and 13 in one go throws off my perfectly synced numbering system (you have no idea how proud I was of that!) but fuck it, it needs to be done.

Chapter 12

Katniss observes Peeta and the Careers (my new band name) from her tree. Peeta's bruised and cut up, and she realizes that he probably fought it out at the Cornucopia even after he (probably) warned her not to do so. Peeta leaves to go kill the girl they left behind and the Careers whisper about whether or not they should kill him soon. Most of them want to let him tag along because he's their best bet at finding Katniss. They start talking shit about her then, about watching her twirl around in her dress, about how simple she seemed. They see Katniss rollin', they hatin.' Anyway Katniss wonders how aware of their intentions Peeta is, if he's exploiting her to stay alive. At this point it's pretty much just safe to say that nobody knows Peeta's motives, he's like Snape times 1000, and we should just throw up our hands. Not that Katniss is going to do that.

Is he still pretending to love me for the audience? What is going on in his head?

Nobody knows, girl! Don't waste the column inches! But it does warrant mentioning that Peeta comes back and announces that the girl wasn't dead but is now, and a cannon goes off to confirm it. So Peeta just murdered someone. Do you think she had been poisoned by a horcrux and was going to die anyway? Probably not, right? I don't know how Team Peeta can be a thing after that.

The bad guys go in one direction and Katniss goes in the other, seeking water and considering the consequences of Peeta's alliance. It would be considered quite the betrayal in District 12, she says, siding with the rich kids from the upper districts (It's pretty much the same where I'm from). She also considers whether or not it will cost them sponsors, if the “star crossed lovers” angle still plays.

(In New Moon, Bella awkwardly and stupidly invokes Romeo & Juliet, wielding literary allusions like a blunt object. Suzanne Collins has repeatedly referenced this line, one of the more famous ones from that play, for several chapters now without calling attention to herself. Are you taking notes, S. Meyer?)

The need for water becomes more and more severe as the chapter goes on, and Katniss's thoughts become more and more dedicated to her thirst. It's a nice little structural trick; with respect to Katniss's brain, this chapter is a narrowing funnel. A throat closing up. She realizes that Haymitch could arrange for sponsors to send her water and wonders why he hasn't done so yet. For a while she concludes that he's just going to let her die because he's a jerk. Then she concludes that he's not cashing in the sponsor chip because she's close to a water source anyway. Then when she can't seem to go on she collapses, planning to die. She runs her fingers through the mud, decides it's not a bad death venue, then realizes what mud means.

She struggles to the nearby pond and carefully and safely rehydrates herself, purifying the water with iodine and waiting a half hour before starting to slowly drink it. If you're keeping track of the ways in which I would be dead already, “forgetting/being too impatient to wait for purified water” would be another check in that column. So Katniss spends a while recovering in the pond and plans to spend another peaceful, restful day there. Not going to happen, sister! was my first thought. But if you even for a second thought our girl would have a moment of peace, the chapter ends with a “wall of fire” coming abruptly at her. No church in the wild, baby!

Chapter 13

The last chapter was a visually/spatially coherent and clear depiction of a pretty basic series of events: Katniss looks for water, Katniss finds water. This chapter, not so much. Though most of it consists of Katniss running from a fire created by the Gamemakers to shake things up, it's unclear exactly what this fire is or how it behaves. To hear Katniss describe it at first, it's a literal wall of artificial flames of uniform height. But she manages to find shelter from it occasionally? It's moving fast enough that Katniss has to run, but slow enough that she briefly plans to run parallel to it in order to get around it? She surmises that the fire was created to bring the tributes all to the same place, but how does a wall of fire start in such a way that it could force a bunch of far flung people in a forest into the same spot? Her jacket catches fire, she vomits a few times, and a fireball catches her in the leg. Those parts are clear. The rest of it is not, really.

But anyway the important part is the wall of fire creates the desired effect, and the Careers and Peeta catch up to Katniss while she's treating her burns in a spring. She climbs a tree to get away from them, because one thing a bunch of burly, trained-from birth killing machines are not is particularly light or agile (they're also, like Katniss, suffering from burns and the effects of smoke inhalation). Then this happens:

“How's everything with you?” I call down cheerfully.
This takes them aback, but I know the crowd will love it.
“Well enough,” says the boy from District 2. “Yourself?”
“It's been a bit warm for my taste,” I say. I can almost hear the laughter in the Capitol.

Oh Katniss, you're such a cut up! (That will go double if she throws her knife at any of these jagoffs.) So a guy named Cato tries to climb the tree and falls, then a girl called Glimmer (Katniss mocks her name, which is sort of funny but then again “Katniss”) gives it a shot. Literally: they have the bow and arrows, but Glimmer's not good enough to hit our girl. Were the situation reversed it would be raining dead meatheads am I right? But anyway, it starts to get dark and the Careers decide to wait for Katniss, who as always makes her bed high up in the tree (if there's a tree sex scene somewhere in this bitch I'll be impressed). Just as she's about to fall asleep, she sees a pair of eyes in another tree that are too human to be like, a raccoon or whatever. And guess who it is? Well, there are only like three people it even COULD be. (“Katniss! I have a new outfit for you and it was too good to wait!”-Cinna) Rue is there, watching, and then she points to something above Katniss's head. That's kind of a weird cliffhanger, but there you are.

Stray Notes & Questions
  • There's a fun recurring motif of media manipulation in these chapters--Katniss often considers whether or not the live cameras are showing her and reacts accordingly. After spying on Peeta and the Careers, she drops from the tree and smiles. When she's worried she's about to die of dehydration, she tries to remain strong for Prim. When she examines her burns, she keeps a poker face because sponsors don't like wimps. Kat is savvy to the games beyond the game, in other words, and it's awesome.
  • I wrote semi-coherently about a long and elaborate prank my roommates played on each other in college. Since lots of you are probably back in school now, you should feel free to attempt a variation on this.
  • If you've been reading The Hunger Games and wondering, like me, if or how society could become morbid enough to enjoy an actual television event like the Games, please watch this clip from last night's GOP debate in which the audience breaks into applause at the news that Rick Perry executed 234 people as Governor of Texas. We are already there, we are already doomed.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

ASK NICK SULLIVAN: Letters To Esquire's Fashion Director, Answered by Zac Little

I'm turning 40, and I have the opportunity to choose a watch as a present from my family. I'm looking for one that can be worn on all occasions and that I can one day give to my son. I like the Omega Seamaster ($3,870) and the TAG Heuer Monaco ($2,270)—any other suggestions?

Bennie Rheeder, South Africa

Do you really need another memento mori at this point, Bennie? Look, you're going to die someday. A watch you pass down the generations won't change that. In fact, between now and the time you give it to your son, that fucking watch will only make things worse. You'll look down at your wrist and see it tick tock tick tock tick tocking your life away. (And I know, I know, they say a watched pot will never boil. But it will! I've conducted a series of experiments.) That goes double for the TAG Heuer, which can actually calculate your life expectancy with 94% accuracy. So I guess what I am saying is, if you MUST, go with the Omega. Those fuckers at TAG are crazy.

I have a great black suit that fits me like a glove, but I sat down on an iron patio chair and somehow ripped a small hole in the slacks. I'd like to get a new pair of pants to match the jacket, but my tailor said there's no way I could match the jacket perfectly and that I'd be better off getting a contrasting pair of slacks. Is this true, and if so, what color slacks should I wear with the black jacket?

Sean Olson, Greensboro NC

Sean, haven't you seen that Mentos commercial where the guys sits on the bench and it's covered in wet paint and so he gets stripes on the back of his suit so he rolls around on the bench and makes it pin-striped? What I'm saying is: MAKE LEMONADE, DIPSHIT! Get the most out of that hole! (I copied and pasted that last sentence from my sex advice column; works in this context, too!) Make a bunch of matching rips in your suit and hit the town, head held high. You're on the right track, baby. You were born this way! I'm not sure how that applies here, but whatever.

I am looking to get a pair of boat shoes, but I'm not sure when and where it is appropriate to where them. Should I go with “drivers” instead?

Lucas Provencher, Portland ME

I can tell I'm not going to sell you rich douchebags on the versatility and staying power of Chuck Taylors, so I guess what I should tell you is when in doubt, consult Kanye lyrics. From "See Me Now":
I’m in a speedboat in my boat shoes, ha!
I swear my whole collection’s so cruise
I might walk in Nobu with no shoes
He just walked in Nobu like it was Whole Foods!
What did we learn? Boat shoes are for speedboats. Kanye has a lot of shoes. He has so many shoes, sometimes he doesn't wear any at all. Maybe try that? I mean, as long as you wear the Dior Homme Skinny black suit (in accordance with Kanye's Rosewood Movement) at all times in public, people might not even notice you're barefoot. Or maybe Kanye West is crazy? I'm not sure what to tell you.

As a bow-tie wearer, I find your suggestion in the June issue that a pre-tied bow-tie is acceptable abhorrent. I say grow up, be a man, and learn to tie a bow.

Joseph B. Khoury, Lynchburg VA

I find the construction of your first sentence abhorrent! But anyway, I'm a little lost, because you're writing from a place called Lynchburg and using an irritating phrase like “be a man,” so at first I'm conjuring the image of an old, hateful, rich white guy watching his grip on the aristocracy slip away to the likes of the Rosewood Movement. But then I realize your last name is Khoury, and suddenly I'm thinking I'm dealing with a militant black Muslim. (What are you doing in LYNCHBURG, Brother Khoury?) Since we're talking bow-ties and general condescension, you could be either! Hmmmmm. Well, at any rate, I'm going to start telling people that a self-tied bow is for gays only. That way I'm guaranteed to piss both potential versions of you off. How do you like me now, Joseph?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

BLOGGING THE HUNGER GAMES, pt. 11: The Clash At Demonhead

And now everything starts. OK, so I know we've been reading for like 150 pages, but this still feels abrupt, somehow. Maybe it's BECAUSE we've gone 150 pages instead of diving right into the Games; when I first started reading I assumed we'd have gotten here earlier. But you have to have something going on other than a bunch of kids killing each other in a forest—from a writing standpoint, I mean—otherwise what separates a novel from an arcade game? So we developed this complex relationship between Katniss and Peeta (which gets—wait for it—even more complicated), met a bunch of other characters with varying and shifting motives, and did a little (but not much!) world building. Now, we get down to the business at hand.

And in the end, waiting this long achieves a pretty cool effect. Katniss is standing there and genuflecting (about Peeta, mostly) and genuflecting some more, and suddenly: BOOM. KILLING.

Previously: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

Chapter 11

The Hunger Games starts with all of the tributes coming up from underground a few hundred yards away from a huge stockpile of provisions and weapons (with some other supplies strewn about). They can go grab the swag and risk fighting with all the others in close quarters (not unlike a gifting suite at an awards show) or they can bail. Haymitch has advised Katniss to run and find water, but she's tempted by a gleaming bow and arrows she sees in the pile. While this is happening, everyone is standing on platforms and waiting for the go signal; Katniss says if you move too early, landmines blow your legs off. Shit, my Mario Kart 64 training would not have served me well in The Hunger Games (if you tap the gas right before the green light you get a speed boost you know what never mind). Also, that seems a little extreme, Gamemakers. Land mines?

(And if you're keeping track of the new tech/old tech balance, put another check in the old tech column. This chapter features bows, arrows, land mines, and... disappearing hovercraft!)

Katniss starts thinking about charging into the “bloodbath” that always results around the "Cornucopia," but catches a glimpse of Peeta possibly shaking his head at her. It gives her enough pause that the buzzer goes off and she doesn't make a move fast enough. Story of my life, right? So she lunges for a nearby backpack with plans to grab it and run, leaving the bow for some n00b she'll have to kill later, I'm sure.

(That's actually a question I've had for a long time: will Katniss actually KILL anyone? Or will she find some way around it? Don't answer that.)

But some jabroni starts fighting her for the backpack like an idiot (don't mess with Katniss “Eleven” Everdeen, kid!) and then coughs blood all over her face. Interesting attack strategy, buddy. “Ha! Now you might catch type II diabetes too!” Actually, it turns out someone threw a knife into his back (symbolic) and he's dead. Whoa! Already with the dead children and the blood coughing, eh? Katniss runs from the knife throwing bitch, who is coming after her now, and uses the backpack to block a knife from, you know, going into the back of her head. I'm a little squeamish, you guys. Am I going to be OK in future chapters?

Katniss gets out of the clearing and runs until she's sure she's not being followed. She spends the rest of the day getting as far away as possible, but eventually starts to stress over her inability to find water. There was a lake near the starting point, and she's worried that's all there is. Did you start to get thirsty when you read this? I did. And I'd left my metal water bottle thingy in the car that day. It was really bad timing. I had to walk all the way to the water bubbler in the lobby of my office. But enough about MY problems! Katniss climbs a tree and sets up a sleeping bag from the backpack in some branches. Turns out they project the names and faces of the dead into the sky (which might be an actual sky or might be like, a Truman Show type deal) at the end of each night, which surely gives our contestants nice dreams. Anyway, Katniss is relieved when she sees that Peeta is not dead yet, and then she feels weird about that relief.

A few hours later, she wakes up to the sound of someone setting up a fire nearby. She's furious at whatever idiot is attracting attention to their area and plots killing them in the morning (what happens next really triggered my “is Katniss going to kill anyone” nerve-center) but soon hears approaching footsteps. Then she hears (this is quite the radio play, really) a girl screaming in pain followed by the sound of several people laughing. Yes, in true reality show fashion, an alliance has been formed. AND HERE'S THE KICKER: The group gets closer to Katniss's tree and then wonders why they haven't heard cannon fire, indicating the death of their most recent victim. After they argue for a while, someone speaks up and says he will go back and finish the girl off and then catch up. GUESS WHO IT IS? Seriously, guess. PEETA! AHHHH! Party foul, bro.

Stray Notes & Questions:
  • Survival tip: Katniss doesn't want to eat the provisions in her backpack yet, so she eats the inner bark of a pine tree. Did you know you can do that? CAN YOU do that? Should I take the survival tips in this book with a grain of salt or should I save my salt to preserve any fish I might catch (what)?
  • Eleven tributes die on the first day. ELEVEN! Also, is that going to be a significant number? Is this an illuminati thing? HOLY SHIT THIS IS PART ELEVEN OF THIS SERIES! I'm part of the problem.
  • They're streaming the new St. Vincent album, Strange Mercy, over at NPR. Go listen to it, it's great! Annie Clark's music gives me the WEIRDEST chills ever. Also, check out the great/creepy/funny video for “Cruel.” Also, check her out covering Tom Waits at SPIN. Annie Clark doing a mild Tom Waits impression is basically the sexiest thing that has ever happened.

Friday, September 2, 2011

No Church In The Wild: An Advice Column

Alright, I’m turning 16 in a couple of weeks, and everyone is going on about driving and permit tests and shit. I have no interest in driving - I really, really don’t like cars, I won’t like paying for gas, I don’t think I’ll be good at it and I really have no where to go in my idiotic town. Should I just not get involved?

Oh shit, my sixteen-year-old self found a time machine! But seriously: I am either the worst or most perfect person to ask about this, because I am 24 and have never had a driver's license. Not for lack of trying, originally--I failed the driving test three times. No joke! But I haven't really tried in the years since; I relied on friends in high school and MY WIFE as an adult to drive my ass around instead. Also, I made driving as unnecessary as possible by living in cities and walking and doing all that shit. But the fact of the matter is, as geopolitically troubling as it is or whatever, we are a driving-obsessed society. Most of our movies are about cars. To name two: Cars and Cars 2. See?

I'm probably going to have to get a driver's license soon (look out, pedestrians!) because even though I live in a walkable town I can only really walk to retail & restaurant jobs. And I don't want to do those kind of jobs forever. Do you?

What I'm getting at is that (unless you live in a major city) you are going to have to drive sooner or later to be a contributing member of society. So I think you should just go for it. The other thing is cars are great places to fuck. So keep that in mind.

As someone who is confused about their own sexual or gender identity, how do you suggest finding this out?

The sexual part is easy and fun: reach into the pants of a few other people and see what you like! Most of the gay people I know dated/fucked a member of the opposite sex at one time or another--it's okay if you make a mistake. From what I understand about the gay community, lacking that "gold star" certification will only bar you from attending a few choice parties.

OK, here's the part where I am going to get angry letters: If you aren't sure what your gender identity is, it's probably whatever your genitalia indicates. Crazy, right? I'm a strong and vocal supporter of gay rights, but I have a very realpolitik, unhip way of thinking about them. If homosexuality is genetic, and I believe it is, I'm not sure how we can properly defend the spectrum of genderqueer whateverness that is all the rage on Tumblr right now. I've been trying to think of a way, I promise! But I think the Trans community gets thrown under the bus by gay rights groups for a reason. They're a bargaining chip. And that sucks, but that's life in the NFL.

Also: (and this is distinct from people who are trans, now I turn to the more ambiguous genderqueers) the idea that gender is a cultural construct is crazy. I have a penis and other people have vaginas! It's hard to get around that fact. If you want to be "out" at work and not get hassled, I totally understand. If you believe you are a woman in a man's body, I mostly understand that too (though I think in some ways you are screwing gay people over). If you want to dress like a man but be referred to as she, well, I mean, why? I get (or, I think?) that we're making a political statement about gender constructs but generally speaking you have to make political statements on your own dime. And people look at you funny sometimes. Which comes with the territory! That's the point you're trying to make, right?

"Words, words, words!"-Hamlet, making a more coherent point about language/culture than the genderqueer movement

I guess I have already written at length about the incompatibility of our language system and the queer movement, but try as I might to come from a grammarian/realpolitik place and not a homophobe place I always get misinterpreted. So I will just say that if you have a penis you are probably a boy and I love everyone and everything and I will stop now.

Well there's something that's been bothering me for... well, years really. So, if you're dishing out the advice, here goes. I am not, and never have been, a risk taker. I keep my head down at school, get good grades. I've never had a boyfriend because it seems trivial; my friends get boys, split up, cry, repeat... so I've never bothered. I'm 16 now and I'm thinking, is it right that I'm so careful all the time? Most adults talk of their childhoods as that crazy, care free time where they didn’t have to worry about things, had their heart broken, took risks and learnt from them. I’m worried that because I’m not letting go, I’m not living life as well as I could, wasting this time. Will I regret my teenage years when I’m 30, and suffer because I didn’t make mistakes when I should? I want to do more, but I’m scared because I don’t want to become someone I’m not. I've never even been drunk. Are the teenage years, in hindsight, really that important?

I don't want to inadvertently denigrate the adults who have been conveying to you your teenage years should be the wild ones you look back on with fond shame or whatever, but adults who act like high school was the best time in their life are fucking assholes whose lives are (most likely) terrible now. I'm much happier and I have way more fun today than I did in high school, and I do my best to never look back.

That said, you should get out there a little bit. Just the tip, literally and figuratively. At 16 I'd never been drunk either, and I don't regret that at all. But I'd also been through a lifetime of dramatic, ridiculous relationships--I have the tortured poetry to prove it (though I've been meaning to throw those notebooks away)--and I don't regret those either.

You don't have to change anything. You can keep your head down for now and save all that sexual energy for college (you're going to have to cram your whole gay phase into sophomore year or take classes over the summer to catch up, but it can be done). Are teenage years important? No. They're mostly terrible, and it's mostly awesome when they're over.

Then again, here you are writing to me and expressing this fear of future regret. Which means someday YOU might regret the kind of thing I'm not considering. Bruce Springsteen made fun of people who obsess over high school in "Glory Days," but maybe he and I are just wired differently than others. Did I just write this whole paragraph to compare myself to Springsteen? Sort of.

I'm in love with a musician. On the plus side, she responds to my email and is grateful for the gifts I sent her. On the minus side, she lives far away in another country and she is a lesbian. I'm a guy. How can I get over her?

Well, first of all, I'm a huge fan of your film Mallrats, Mr. Smith. But seriously: what? How do you get over her? You were never really UNDER her, my friend. Online relationships with people can be tricky things, and they can serve a purpose or whatever (though I'm not really sure what purpose) but the most important thing to remember is that they're not real, really.

My advice is to have sex with someone who lives near you and who likes having sex with men. That should work.

Got a problem? Get at me here. Make use of those FB/Twitter share buttons, and feel free to offer your own advice in the comments. Previously: "It kind of sounds like God is giving you lemons and you're just stubbornly refusing to set up a threesome at your lemonade stand."