Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Energy and intimacy.


I talked to Stephen Michael Haas, an artist/musician who is also tremendously fun to talk to (I thought there was no way we talked for only six minutes, but lo - he is very on message). This was the first time I collected quotes for an article, and it was an appropriate occasion. A lot of good people with a more authoritative sense of what constitutes noteworthiness re: art in Harrisburg were ecstatic to talk about him. You, Wayfaring Googler, can read the whole issue of TheBurg where this article appears right here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Quarterly report.

Where I've been:

1. At the beginning of February, I went to see John Waters in York, a small city with a meticulously designed new regional magazine that I read in the lobby with a whiskey sour. It rained on our way there but I could have gone for a more intimidating storm so we could be stranded in the theatre with John Waters and have a madcap adventure. The theatre used to be a department store. My boyfriend was rapt with the usher, who served in the army under a former president - I think Roosevelt but I don't trust that memory. Since he was in state government, he lived over here and asked us about all these landmarks - mostly theatres - that were ruined or gone.

The joy I got from listening to John Waters was out-of-body-experience in magnitude. The show was not sold out, but the front was filled, and in an effort to manage all my feelings, I distracted myself by trying to figure out why the burly character to my left was there. He laughed at a Justin Bieber joke and a goiter joke and nothing else.

2. Today I went to an equality rally with my oldest friend. She's one of my closest. She was upset because she didn't bring a sign to the rally, but her hair is neon and everybody else looked like a lawyer. She was all I could see up the street.

I saw several mayoral candidates (good) but also a guy who looked exactly like Danny Trejo (better).

3. I saw Amour last month - I love Haneke and musicians even when I am sentimental for Haneke and sociopathic youths. The White Ribbon, I now understand, is the superior film because it has both.

4. My depression barometer is the stack of books beside my bed. I read fast. When I am not finishing books but starting them compulsively - I start them compulsively anyway - and they pile up, things are grim. I've jerked myself out of this negative trend by working, to my exponentially increasing joy, through the Dorothy: a Publishing Project catalog.

Renee Gladman's the Ravickians is one of my favorite things I've ever read. The tonal relationship between each book is so chilling and wild and tender and comforting. I am halfway through Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi's Fra Keeler now. I'm reading them in order.

5. I can't believe a documentary on Harry Dean Stanton premiered at SXSW and I didn't even know about it in order to freak out way, way in advance. It should be better this way, but I have so much freak out to make up for now.

6. I asked Amanda Owens questions and she gave me a recipe for a chum cocktail and a renewed appreciation for gold spray paint.

7. I have the new My Bloody Valentine album and I liked what I've heard but I haven't been listening to much of anything besides the Master soundtrack, which has a longer cut of Madisen Beaty singing "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else but Me)" and I don't need anything else right now. It isn't a pure, uninterrupted cut - her character is singing to Freddy, and he laughs at her and she gets bashful and he goes "no no no no" as the eerie bassoons or other such eerie instrument intrudes and begins the next track.

I ascribe an unrivaled creepiness to bassoons. Once, a good friend of mine was roped into a breaking and entering. She was remorseful and scared and asked for my help in coming forward about it. I went to her house to talk with her, and when she started to tell me about what happened - who she was with, what they were doing, why the entered the house - music started playing that absolutely perfectly complimented the very suspenseful story she was telling me. She did not react as if she could hear the music, and I started to act insane. I was ready to scream. I interrupted her and demanded to know the source of the music, and she tilted the door open and showed me her dad, sneaking around with the bassoon, which he did, I ascertained, when unwinding at home after work.

8. My internship ended today. I all ready cried, but I was pretty shaky and numb. It was the best experience I've ever had, and if I could have sustained it longer, I would have. The editors got me cake and a gift card and a beautiful card and a notebook, none of which is going to leave my person much for the next ever - except for the gift card, which is going to become a copy of Monsieur Verdoux this weekend. Looking at stills from the film at the Criterion Forum, I realize Chaplin resembles Henry Winkler. Maybe not everyone will see it, but I can't un-see it. I've been watching episodes of Law and Order: SVU and Winkler was a deeply unsettling villain in one episode. In others, I correctly spotted Keir Dullea and the woman who plays Lucy's sister, Gwen, on Twin Peaks.

9. Other books in the stack: Sempre Susan by Sigrid Nunez (reread, favorite), red doc> by Anne Carson (slowly, with feeling), the Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe (I paused and plan to resume this week that I've freed up and dedicated to luxuriating in it), many issues of the New York Review of Books and Bookforum (displaced, probably at my bedside forever), Maidenhead by Tamara Faith Berger (I am halfway through and so into the pace of this book but feel very sick reading it, just as it reminds me of a time, but there is so much to admire - I'm looking forward to having the whole picture), Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath (I keep taking it off the shelf and reading "Lady Lazarus" - I used to read it and other Arial poems aloud in college and at my old job I used to read my office mate poems by Catherine Wagner and Carrie Murphy).

10. I ordered Kate Zambreno's Apoplexia, Toxic Shock, and Toilet Bowl: Some Notes on Why I Write from the great Guillotine with the "NO MORE WIRE HANGERS" broadside. I framed it. On the place on my wall where I wanted to hang it, I hammered a nail that refused to be hammered in past a certain point. I tacked the framed broadside to the wall with double-sided adhesive. It lends a lot of suspense to that corner of the room, it and its precarious commitment to the wall.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I'm gonna write a whole book in a day.

The project of reviewing Girls season two has neatly encompassed a three-month hiatus I took in the aftermath of sustaining a trauma. As I'm about to take further methods to recover, I've decided that the greatest way that this project has contributed to the process of my repairing my thoughts is the delight gleaned from Hannah in episode thirteen informing Elijah of how fetching she found him the first time she saw him, with his "wet thermals over a chair." The way she says it. Everything about it.

This episode made me happy season three will be twelve episodes long. It demonstrated most resoundingly how tough a ten episode season is for such a loaded narrative.


Girls, Episode Twenty, "Together"

Hannah is just as bad as where the audience left her, in a heap in her bed, unwashed, demonstrating the side-effects of her debilitating OCD. She crawls into Google, hiding from the task of writing her ebook. Even though I like Hannah, I appreciate the right-hook that was spring-loaded by the last several episodes, during which Hannah was very sympathetically explored. She is just gross in this episode. She shirks the responsibility of her book contract, feeling put-upon by her inability to shirk that responsibility free of - I don't believe it's consequence, but the reassurance that she is loved even though she has messed up. That's what she talks to her parents about in the pilot: what is scary is not that her friend had two abortions right in a row, it's that no one came with her.

In his phone call to Hannah to reassert her contractual obligation, Hedwig does a thing I rant about a lot that is my least favorite thing to be found in workplace culture (and I am prepared to own that flight of hyperbole): the boss that says "don't make me be the boss." I don't know if it's caught on to those in management that this is the same naked insecurity implicit in the statement "I'm a cool mom." The children of one who utters such a thing are always the worst. The employees of "don't make me be the boss" bosses can't do their jobs. This is the basket into which all my eggs of sorrow and complaint are put.

There are moments in Hannah's story here that echo the last time she had an adult (non-Ray) boss: the Rich debacle from season one. When Hedwig tells Hannah he could sue her, it recalls Rich dismissing Hannah's threat with the quip "there's no suing app on your iPhone." The power shift is not dramatic - Hannah was at a disadvantage both times.

This episode's climax is a parallel between the actions that have led Hannah to her current state that reach as far back as that sexual harassment, and it depicts a real way incidents like that attain a ruinous permanence in lives besides the more overt triggers and other familiar, pyrotechnic side effects of dysfunction. Abusive scenarios have tangible outcomes, and they quickly become the devil you know, as opposed to the new and potentially better way of doing things that you have yet to discover. There isn't a lot of new in this episode at all.

This opening update on Hannah's mental health is followed by three brief and dialogue-heavy sex scenes: Marnie returns to Charlie's apartment, a symbol (for Marnie) of her covetousness over him, and she plunges their erotic exchange into an interrogation about where he learned to pleasure a woman like he can now. Their tension-ridden moment is juxtaposed by Ray and Shoshanna's much sadder, slower, quieter humping. Shoshanna reasserts that Ray's lack of ambition is a significant problem. Before anything is resolved, Natalia and Adam are having sex in her room - she'll never go back in his apartment - and her assertion and commitment to clarity recurs as a self-protective measure.

I will return to the point later, how Adam is a monster. I've discussed it, but I'm going to discuss it more, with verve, at the end of this review.

Hannah's dad provides a little expository insight as to Hannah's manipulative behavior. I could have gone without this scene since it states what is shown later. The one thing this scene does have going for it is its reference to Louisa May Alcott, which calls back to Ray and Little Women, which reinforces the likelihood that Hannah probably never actually read the book.

I also hope that the fact that Hannah is medicated will become a thing.

The next scene finds Marnie and Charlie having brunch. It's such a SatC moment; Marnie is beaming. A few things: Marnie and Jessa are behavioral parallels. This moment places Marnie, Marnie-style, in the same place Jessa was in last season's finale. Jessa did not get a chance to say it until this season, but she does it in the exact same way: she tells Hannah that if she just made some clear-headed decisions, she could enjoy what it's like "when the hunt is over."

It's almost as if young people were never repulsed by an adult in their lives. I say this knowing that the stress and terror of financial and social insecurity is a sure-fire inducer of the kind of amnesia that makes "settling down" worth this kind of self-inflicted mind-damage. Here, Marnie tells Charlie that this is exactly what she tells Hannah: you have your adventures but with the intent to then turn away from them and settle down.

I once knew a guy who was in pieces after the dissolution of a serious, long-term, long-distance commitment. He sacrificed a life in a community he enjoyed to come back to the rural area I'm from, and upon his return, she broke things off with him. He had some ideas for a small business that I helped him realize, but he was very reluctant to do anything until he was in a relationship again. I asked him if he didn't think starting up and running a successful ecommerce site would increase his viability as a date - since otherwise he was a waiter at a dearly departed breakfast place - and he said he couldn't think toward a relationship, he could only think up from one. A relationship was the foundational layer on his hierarchy of needs and he absolutely embraced the garbage rhetoric Marnie spins here about what it means to "settle down."

When someone mentions the phrase, I think of Harry Dean Stanton's mess of a trailer park slumlord in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me: "I've all ready gone places. I just want to stay where I am." Maybe if those places Marnie and the guy I knew had gone to were equivalent to David Lynch's black lodge, I would feel differently. But instead, I feel like this:

SECURITY IS WHEN EVERYTHING'S SETTLED.
SECURITY IS WHEN NOTHING CAN HAPPEN.
SECURITY IS THE DENIAL OF LIFE.
- Germain Greer, the Female Eunuch

And those who prioritize some abstract "security," particularly as it exists in relationships, are a uniquely deluded class. They're just about as batshit as cool moms.

There's a few bonus explosions of total Marnie-crazy in this scene beyond her sincere declaration that she and Charlie (the audience has no evidence at this point that they've done anything but have sex) can put experience (life) behind them as they are now settled down. She also uses the term "old fogeys" like it's a good thing, which only the worst people in the world do. Marnie is so awful I can't stand it. To wit: she's had the best arc this season and became much more enjoyable to watch (when she's destroying her own life and not the lives of others), even if her arc didn't have the nuance of Hannah's and lopped to the unprecedentedly ridiculous side. I could have gone for more sympathetic flashes of Marnie: the fall-out over her discretion with Elijah and its effect on her relationship with Hannah was seen primarily in Hannah's avoidance of Marnie, while Marnie sublimated her suffering into Booth/Charlie. As realistic as that is, I could have used a little more of what I absolutely believe she did off-screen, which is project onto Ray a new and completely uncomfortable best-friend-ness for want of a Hannah.

On Marnie's mental disintegration, the first episode of this season, and Hannah's rant later in this episode: starving absolutely provokes the kind of mania Marnie seems to have been experiencing. I would love it if this was touched on.

I love that Charlie looks like he's going to cry throughout this scene. Last bonus-nuts from Marnie: after she grilled Charlie for a run-down of where he picked up his new prowess as a lover, Marnie shows him something she learned from Booth: nothing is ever her fault. Her understanding that she and Charlie are in a relationship is based on hard evidence, and if he's going to challenge the claim Marnie has willed into being (the same will that powers a thought system deprived of nutrition), he's doing nothing but blatantly hurting her, and this has all been a ploy to hurt her.

"I'd offer to pay," she says, stamping off, "but that would be insulting to you." Money has everything to do with Marnie's decisions regarding Charlie. From her losing her job to getting immersed - momentarily - in the milieu of Booth Jonathan, the material is the one plane on which Marnie and Hannah's stories remotely converged. Marnie realized Booth's opulent life was what she wanted, and Booth's unwillingness to provide her that - he only offered to toss her $500 - sent her into a sharp downward spiral. In a grand apartment that she definitely enjoyed, Hannah realized what she was enjoying to a dangerous extent was that feeling of "security," that denial of life, and that it might be nice and worth wanting. This really shakes her.

About Jessa, Thomas-John, and money: I am of the belief that Jessa keeps money in mind as an incentive, as something she knows she needs, but that didn't drive her detour with Thomas-John in the way of the typical ulterior motive. The fact that he had money was a reason to make the decision she made, but not why she made that decision in spite of his awfulness. She knew what he was, and she could deal with that, and there was an upside. If she didn't get that thirty-and-a-half-thousand out of him, I doubt she tried to follow up.

Marnie would seduce someone for the money. But even then, she's just as busy manipulating herself in this scene. She can't even make it to the end of the scene without making her intentions known: "I just want you to know that I don't love you for your money...because I don't even know how much money you have."

Charlie and Marnie are willing to construct a reality in which the things that were problems won't continue to be problems, and this will cave in on them. Their reunion is played with all the characteristics of a romantic comedy - Lili Loofbourow has nailed this - and the episode's ending is, too. Both moments provide superficial impressions of goal-fulfillment and denial of the girls' respective dreams.

Alex Karpovsky as Ray gets a great close-up tracking strut-shot to Tame Impala's "Elephant" on his way to be informed by his manager that what Shoshanna wants is a man that can keep her in silly purses until the end of days, not a scholar. This remark is provoked when Ray reveals that his plan to get ambitious is to return to his Ph.D program (Latin Studies!). This scene sees Ray reaching after a father figure the way Hannah does on the phone to her own dad. Ray has stated that his parents are deceased, and when his manager makes reference to not being around forever, Ray probes with more tenderness than is expected from an employee, especially since his manager is so obviously trying to glide past the fact. Ray's vulnerability in this moment - "you'll be okay, though, right?" - is wild considering the season one scene where he invokes the fact of his dead parents while lamenting that he can't commit incest.

Hannah hides from a visit from Marnie - and I completely agree with Slate that she can't deal with whatever goodwill (however questionable those goods) Marnie comes bearing because she doesn't control it. Marnie finds Hannah's sad Pages document called "My Book" that reads only:

A friendship between college girls is grander and more dramatic than any romance...

Moved, before she leaves, Marnie steals a candelabra.

Hannah, in a state, tries to cut her hair, which has been an objective of hers since the second episode of this season. She does a hysterically bad, humiliating job, and in a wonderful move, invites Laird (!!!) up to help her round it out into bowl cut very evocative of a late nineteenth century asylum dweller's. Laird's pride in his work - "I think I nailed this!" - is the brightest spot in several episodes. He calls her "volumtuous." They exchange a really beautiful allegorical lament before Hannah ruins everything, making plain her manipulation of Laird's feelings. Laird delivers unto Hannah some realtalk. She knows to apologize and Laird accepts, but I hope he doesn't let her off the hook because I like him as a likeable adult who can recognize what a "dark scene" it is in her head. And when someone who has been through what Laird has been through recognizes a "dark scene," that is something to take to heart. This season started when Elijah's boyfriend George informed Hannah that she, contrary to what she thinks, is not a "nice girl." Laird says as much here, also.

What is the nice girl? She doesn't have ulterior motives, so she can't be manipulative. She just wants to be sweet to you. She doesn't want to have to talk to you like that. There's only one person who honestly thinks Hannah is a sweet girl because he attributes no human sense to her.

Before I get to that, another grim interior is explored: Ray and Shoshanna discuss his black soul. I'm glad Shoshanna has not revealed her tryst with the doorman. The fact that she kissed someone else is just a red herring: she isn't getting what she wants, and she has thought about it and the problem is Ray's anhedonia. Shoshanna Shoshes her way through an outstanding break-up speech. It does not come out of nowhere. She knows exactly how she feels. She thinks very hard about what she says before it fizzes out of her. When Ray protests her claim that he needs therapy, her tearful "YES YOU DO" is the logical convergence of Ray as he is with Shoshanna and Ray as the audience has seen him, complaining that he can't commit incest.

These scene really got to me since I've ended a relationship for the same reason. Although the audience has not seen it, I'm sure Shoshanna has voiced her dreams and seen them shot down by Ray, or any mention of aspirations is an occasion for Ray to grouse about his student debt or unfinished Ph.D. I would love to see some Ray-inspired PTSD in Shoshanna next season. That will makeup for how embarrassingly slim their development as a couple was this season. I could have gone for deferring both this and Marnie and Charlie's reunion until next season, in fact.

However, Ray does get a great line that made the episode on its own: "Maybe you need to change - maybe then you'll appreciate the difference between negativity and critical thinking!" As sad as this scene is - manipulating the viewer's emotions with moody mis-en-scene and screams - Shoshanna acts in the interest of her growth as a human and her dreams. Shoshanna, with the SatC poster, who seems to consume the most rom-com garbage, recognizes that her relationship is not what will make her happy.

As Shoshanna sobs, Hannah looks to unload her sorrow. She calls Jessa, whose phone - it is not clear whether it her own phone has been reunited with her or it is still in the hands of that guy from the Mexican restaurant as mentioned in "Video Games" - goes straight to voicemail.

Hannah's voicemail: "Oh hello (singsong) you fucker (aggression rising) - are you kidding me? Where did you go? And who am I supposed to talk to if you won't answer your fucking phone? Okay? That anorexic Marnie? Fucking Shoshanna? Or my stalker ex-boyfriend? It's not like any of them want to talk to me; I don't blame them cause I cut off all my fucking hair! And now you're off somewhere! Just livin' it up! Wearing a crop-top! You probably got your vagina pierced and you're not answering your phone and you're forgetting about everyone who's fucking it up here! So I hope you're having a great time! Love you!"

Adam, in his apartment, at work on his boat for sailing down the Hudson or the Mississippi, responds to the impulse to destroy it and scream "FUCK HER!"

Okay -

I have been in a state not much better than Hannah's over the Steubenville stuff. As Adam has evolved as a character, as he's been observed apart from Hannah, a fuller picture of how sociopathic he is has emerged. He is unwaveringly accepting of Hannah because he doesn't believe she possesses the sense to deliberately manipulate him. The end of this episode - with Adam rushing to Hannah's aide, kicking in her door, seeing her at her worst, and taking her in his arms - defers the resolution of her writing. Sadie Stein, in her Days of Yore interview, gave the phenomenon a great name: abdicating ambition. Hannah gives into the denial of life. She's taking Jessa and Marnie's advice: the hunt is over.

So the refusal to change, the freedom that comes with not having to change because they're loved to spite everything, closes the story that sees the potential for Hannah and Marnie to live their dreams (it is important that Ray and Shoshanna's relationship ended because necessary change was not taking place between the characters). The realization of their dreams comes in the trappings of disasters they've gone through since the show began. Not only does Hedwig's threat of a lawsuit echo Hannah's to her old boss, but the audience's greater exposure to Hannah's techniques of passive manipulation shed light on that whole situation's bearing on her life. When Rich was massaging and patting Hannah, he asked her to tell him if the touching ever bothered her. If she suffered, it was her fault for not saying anything. Hannah puts Adam in that exact position in the end, baiting him with her helplessness while asserting that he doesn't have to come to her. Marnie's reunion with Charlie comes as a direct result of her performance. Marnie may or may not have really believed she was being judged on the merit of her voice, but her total instability is what strikes Charlie as seductive. Their reunion is very much in the shadow of Marnie's first party on the show, when she fantasized about what erotic escape Booth might provide her.

I intend to revisit the whole season, but I like the note this ends on. I don't believe that the titular's individual regressions to their respective pre-pilot states means they haven't learned anything - they've learned, and based on that, they've made decisions to retreat from reality. Both Hannah and Marnie had in their sites the things they thought might make them happy. Now that they can't flail after an imagined dream - Hannah knows what a writing job looks like, Marnie has gone through the art world rigors - they'll have to reconcile their desire with the difficulties they can no longer imagine away. Meanwhile, Jessa and Shoshanna have a clear shot, unobstructed, to do good things for themselves. I am ready to meet those characters in those states next year.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

You can be my white Kate Moss tonight.

Let's get lost tonight.


Girls, Episode Nineteen, "On All Fours"

I. Adam

Adam has the titular line. Also, Google "girls on all fours" at your own risk.

Adam's conversation with Natalia as it exists in the shadow of Hannah and Adam is so rich and gives such a fuller idea of who Adam is. Adam is grateful for Natalia's clarity and directions about what she wants from their new foray into physical intimacy, but I don't believe he would have been as receptive to Hannah being that way. I think that Natalia's openness enables him to be in a completely different situation, and that's what he wants. He likes that his new relationship is reacting against his old one, opening him up to new possibilities that might contain not getting hurt. If Natalia's so forthright, she can't let him get away with his Adam-antics. Not if he wants to stay in that relationship.

Their next conversation, presumably the following morning, contains more reactionary easter eggs. Adam said in last week's episode that he did not like Hannah at first, and as someone who identifies with Hannah more than the other titulars, I projected thusly that he was not attracted to her physically. As Natalia voices a concern about her weight, Adam informs her he'd rather she be fat and healthy. I love watching his character evolve and love the portrayal of that kind of relationship that he and Hannah have: it is not fun or safe or healthy, but the kind of connection they demonstrate having is the kind of thing one is compelled to prioritize beyond all that. And that really happens, and it really happens with people who are lovable in many ways who are not cartoon villains but real and really damaged people. Every time Adam is lovable - and I am captivated by Adam Driver's acting - I am horrified. The conundrum - as observed by Kyle Kallgren, host of "Brows Held High," about a Serbian Film - is how anger is provoked at something succeeding too well.

When Adam walks right into the eleventh circle of romcom hell (girl-to-girl microaggressors, proper men, the mere mention of weddings), he is profoundly uncomfortable. When he tries to step out, he runs into Hannah. With a hospital bracelet and no pants on, the scene echoes Adam's season one fantasy about finding Hannah "in the street." That reference made the extent to which the encounter threw Adam off kilter even more extreme. He demonstrated in last week's episode how he does not ascribe any tangible sense to Hannah, so her teary, sentimental reaction to him calling her "kid" was - probably - for him a sign that she was arbitrarily changing her mind again, luring him to unwitting peril. He is so off his gourd at this point that when she tries to bait some praise for her book, the conversation is over on his end. Since his failure to be supportive in her creative endeavors last season was the cause of everything crashing down between them, this is a reminder of how there's no water down that well. Which is really not what Hannah needed right then after the hospital and all. I will return to the subject of Hannah, then, in a minute.

Their encounter compels Adam to order some alcohol. I take the fact that Natalia, a child of an alcoholic, allows Adam to drink as evidence of her character, more of which is glimpsed later and corroborates my suspicion that she's got some twattish tendencies. After the party, Adam takes Natalia back to that den of iniquity that is his apartment and, after a kiss, transforms into early-season-one Adam. He commands that Natalia crawl to his bed, where he picks her up and performs acts without her consent.

Hannah's self-perception does not hinge upon the situations she finds herself in. She's up for an adventure in a very different way than Jessa is, who feels she deserves to put herself through the rigors, and way more control on a consistent basis than Marnie, who can ONLY maintain control in very ideal conditions. Because of that, Hannah could abide when Adam's playfulness turned very dark. They could get in tune but not all the time, and I don't believe he was expecting to have this connection with Natalia at all. I do believe this was a test to see if she could be accepting of his "brand of weirdness" and I don't believe he expected her to pass, which is disgusting. This scene made me viscerally upset.

II. Marnie

Speaking of grim. Marnie hammers away at her relationship with Charlie. Her tactlessness - barging in on his life after Booth Jonathan explodes in her face - is read by Charlie as a sign of instability, and I like that he cautiously goes along with it. Although it could be his submissiveness towards her resurfacing, I would love to see it be that he is genuinely taking advantage of and enjoying - even if only on a subconscious level - what a mess she is. Charlie's own lack of insight into his crumbling relationship to Audrey piques Marnie's interest at the beginning of the season, and I don't believe Charlie's involvement with Marnie at present is without its ulterior motives. I think he likes that she is suffering - and I base this on the fact that he is not just horrified with her and telling her to leave, not on any blatant hint he drops - or, at least, he likes it until he sees how much her instability still has to do with him. That's what he assumes, but later on he is confronted by it.

Ray, who encouraged Marnie to follow her dreams, continues helping her - albeit reluctantly - in this episode. Last season he was in a very happy working relationship with Charlie with their band Questionable Goods. On no level does my dislike for Ray and Marnie individually add up to an interest in seeing them together, but I do believe they are suited to a rich and riveting friendship as her tactlessness breaks down some of Ray's reserves. His support of her, she may or may not realize, is one of the kindest - maybe the kindest - thing anyone else has done for her on the show and does not represent any seriously malicious intent on Ray's part.

I would like to pause and examine Marnie's story throughout this season. It isn't over, but I'm so impressed with it. At first, she seemed so shocked to her core by the loss of her job and demonstrated a real backbone by assuming her work as a hostess. I thought she had waded into a kind of zen, having lost it all and having to start over. Her soberness about this looked genuinely admirable, for once, compared to Hannah's feeble delusions: trysting with Sandy, pretending her friendship with Elijah was all smiles, that her job did not suck. But as soon as their fortunes changed - Marnie got a glimpse of life with Booth Jonathan, Hannah made some headway with her writing - the difference in their priorities and their mental health was stark. Hannah had the strength to eject Elijah and Marnie from her life and took the duel hits of the Joshua episode (whether it was literal or represented a change of course in her approach to her life and work, the results were the same) and the loss of Jessa by herself. Marnie's delusion that she is entitled to everything working out to a glittering and illustrious extent because she "has [her] shit together" has plunged her into a place of - in full view of everyone she knows - looking totally insane. This is the first episode where she admits she might not have it together, necessarily, and it's pretty bleak.

What is bleak about it is of a completely different flavor than Hannah's bleakness in this episode. While Hannah lands herself in the hospital, Marnie seems to be communicating with Charlie effectively, she lays down a track with Ray, and she isn't a manners-monster at Charlie's party. Charlie, by the way, has an office party to celebrate the success of the app that Marnie inspired. She pays him tribute with the surprise of a live performance that made me feel many things.

This is one of the few times I've felt strongly about Marnie in a mode besides revulsion. She pauses the iPod DJ to sing her very own truncated rendition of Kanye West's "Stronger."

Work it, make it, do it, makes us harder, better, faster, stronger

Now that that don't kill me
Can only make me stronger
I need you to hurry up now
'cause I can't wait much longer

Let's get lost tonight
You could be my white Kate Moss tonight
Play secretary, you're the boss tonight
And you don't give a fuck what they all say right?
Bow in the presence of greatness
'cause right now thou has forsaken us
You should be honored by my lateness
That I would even show up to this fake shit
So go ahead go nuts go ape shit
Especially in my pastel on my bape shit

I know I got to be right now
'cause I can't get much wronger
Man I've been waitin' all night now
That's how long I've been on you

It is so worth viewing.

This was a virulently awful gesture. Complete with a wave to Charlie, the owner of the business throwing this party to celebrate his success, while she sings, "Play secretary, you're the boss tonight." The original line is, "I'm the boss tonight," but by addressing Charlie in both parts, she makes a joke out of calling him the boss. Her bow is sarcastic, the lyrics are completely insane and spiteful coming out of her mouth, but that's not what is the absolute worst about it ("my white Kate Moss" - Marnie is insane).

I don't love Marnie, but don't wish ill of her. I used to know a girl who was in a very bad relationship. The guy she was with was flighty and dismissive but she would not move on, even when she would make a show of having moved on. She and I were watching a movie together with a really riveting seduction done to one of our mutually favorite songs. She responded to the scene by relating to me how much she'd love to take her revenge on him by doing that, by showing him how desirable she was. I think about that a lot because it made me feel how entrenched she was in her idea of the dynamic between she and him and how I could not do anything about it, even though bad things lay ahead (flightiness and dismissiveness were two of this guy's better qualities). Marnie can't let Charlie "turn that potential energy into kinetic energy" as Ray tells Marnie to do. Her she demonstrates how she is capable of it: she's a good singer and her performance is totally - objectively - meme-worthy. All those people in that office have no idea. I was completely on Ray's side in terms of enjoying her show. In fact, this is one of my absolute favorite moments on the show so far. But she obstructs Charlie's ability to move on and use the destruction of the security their relationship brought him by channeling that energy into a fruitful enterprise. With this gesture, Marnie symbolically takes credit for Charlie's success and posits herself as the star of the show, and the fact that that's where she sees her energies fit to be channeled is very sad.

Marnie's character has evolved most at parties. Her conduct in a crowd is what forces her to consider her actions and grow - sometimes (often times [always {forever}]) in terribly haywire directions -  as opposed to the moments she shares with other individuals, when she is ultimately purely defensive. The fact that she needs a crowd for her art, while Hannah toils away by herself, is so appropriate. When Charlie pulled her aside, her "I'm on a journey" spiel echoed her embrace of what she thought was Jessa's more carefree lifestyle last season. Marnie still pulls condescension when Jessa's name is invoked, and Marnie's envy of her is difficult to hide now: Jessa can get up and go and be on a journey. Marnie can't, and she'd like to, or she'd like Charlie to think she can.

I believe Charlie's reaction is an assertion of control. And even though Marnie likes it - she's wanted him to assert himself all along - I think it bodes ominously for the health of their relationship, which is much more interesting than if it seemed like everything would heal over. Marnie isn't going to be able to be with Charlie without Charlie seeing her as broken and taking satisfaction in her brokenness. If Marnie sees that and rejects that in favor of becoming unbroken or if she sees that and uses it as a means of avoiding the actual fulfillment of her potential sets her up for stories I can't wait to watch in season three. And I am prepared to have all of this rent asunder by next week's episode, since from week to week things have been a cyclone.

III. Shoshanna/Ray/Jessa

Ray appears in Shoshanna's peace sign Snuggy. Shoshanna's guilt about her transgression last week collides with her disappointment in Ray. There is another example of the intellectual rift between them - the word "nadir," the lowest point - which aptly corresponds the overall condition of the characters in this episode. Hannah hospitalizes herself, Marnie pulls her Kanye stunt, Charlie succumbs to Marnie, Adam drinks, and Jessa - who will not be omitted - is not able to trust Hannah to be there for her. Jessa arrived in New York in the pilot for Hannah. Marnie messing up last season after Jessa put herself out there and bonded with her made her very upset and even more reactionary than she was, but Hannah messing up fully ejected Jessa from even trying to be in New York with them. The greater understanding of who Jessa is that this season has provided the audience puts the significance of last season, especially the beginning, in perspective: Jessa tried to recover, embraced the new chances she had post-miscarriage, got a job, enjoyed forming bonds. These attempts disintegrated.

I'm glad that Shoshanna, for whom I feel so much tenderness, has not transferred her blithe adoration of Jessa onto Marnie - she is critical of Marnie. She might heap praise and call things "amazing" but not indiscriminately. Although the critical zeal is new, the audience is still getting to know Shoshanna. I just hope she doesn't lose that refreshing sincerity. I was distressed by her lack of directness with Ray, her avoidant behavior at the part, and hope it comes to a boil befitting of her next week.

IV. Hannah

Lena Dunham has such a distinctive silhouette.

She rides, OCD-ridden, up an elevator to see her publisher. Hannah was never a character I didn't care about, but her counting in this scene really moved me. Casually referring to one's neat-freak tendency as "my OCDishness" puts me in a rage.

I got the name of the publication wrong the other week, by the way, it is PUMPT Magazine, which is an excellent name. Hedwig delivers some obliterating criticism in the same slick tone he informed Hannah of her book deal. What he's read of her manuscript, which was barely any of it, is too friendship-oriented and not saturated with the bad sex he'd hoped for. I like that Hannah counters this with the fact of her tryst with Frank while she was visiting Jessa's family, while her time with Jessa was probably channeled into the few pages her publisher read. Knowing Hannah takes "notes for a book" in real time, I love the ambiguous interplay between her material and how it manifests in her writing and how that writing is only hinted at.

What makes me really upset (critical distance collapsing) is that Hannah, alone, writing in weird positions around her apartment, does not know everyone else she knows is out at a party. She only knows that Jessa is gone, maybe permanently, and she probably feels more than a little responsible. After mending a wound to her behind, Hannah irrigates her ear with a q-tip in the best acting Dunham has done on the show yet. To wit, I believe she does sad in a few different registers, and even though I didn't find her sobbing to Joshua as cathartic and easy to feel completely as the extent to which she is devastated all over this episode, crying and managing the expectations of basically a stranger who is still idealizing you is one thing - crying in that moment probably struck Hannah as absurd, which is realistic, and so she was removed from her own crying - but coming apart when you're all alone and there's no one around to care for you is another.

During Hannah's visit with a doctor, he safely dislodges the q-tip but does not balance Hannah out by inspecting her other ear, per her request. She takes the q-tip home with her on the lonely, pantsless walk home where, after her encounter with Adam, she takes the q-tip and proceeds to go at the opposite ear with the same destructive zeal.

The increased presence of Hannah's parents is one of the more suspenseful aspects of this season's end. I was disappointed last week that their appointment with Dr. Bob Balaban was not ambiguously located - I would have liked to wonder if they went back to Michigan for the occasion of the appointment as I assumed they did for a moment, when her parents brought up the success the doctor had had with a friend's son. She told her parents in the pilot she was so close "to the life that I want, the life that you want for me," and last week, in light of her OCD's resurgence, her parents brought up how they feared Hannah would never live a normal life. Will her parents exert more control over her after this mental deterioration? This was an excellent choice of penultimate episode: it made me want.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Literally the one thing I told you was not to ash in my mermaid.

Feelings alert.


Girls, Episode Eighteen, "It's Back"

The episode starts with Adam alone in bed. He calls Hannah, who is walking down the street looking beleaguered. The call from him ignites an attack of anxiety that manifests in a return of something the audience has never seen before: her OCD. There is precedent: Marnie knew Hannah had some compulsion associated with the number eight. But this is out of nowhere, and that's important.

For all its exposition-ridden-ness, the next scene of Marnie, Shoshanna, and Ray demonstrates that Jessa's whereabouts are a major concern for Shoshanna and Marnie's attitude towards Jessa - which is itself a useful benchmark of Marnie's clarity of mind - is back to the full-tilt petulance of the pilot. I was fooled by Marnie earlier this season! I thought she had lowered herself into such a rotten atmosphere that she'd achieved some zen perspective on herself and her behavior, but I think Booth Jonathan demolished any progress of that nature if it was ever there, if it wasn't Marnie just recharging her nightmare batteries.

Those batteries get another Frankenstein-jolt when Shoshanna blithely brings up Charlie's recent success as an app developer. This is out of nowhere, just like Hannah's OCD, and that's important, too. I'll be there in a moment. First, I want to thank this moment between Shoshanna and Ray - as Marnie flees to pursue her own undoing - for justifying my hatred of Ray that has receded for Shoshanna's sake but never disappeared. Shoshanna freaks out about people disappearing from her life and disappearing from the lives of others and Ray diminishes it by remind her not to air-quote, referencing that that's been a topic of discussion before. "Pantomime is a crutch," he decides for her. Step off, Ray. Step off. Endearing as their relationship is, I am happy and proud of Shoshanna by the end of this episode. I hope she can own her decision.

The reviewers at the Puffington Host were correct in their disappointment with Marnie for not getting in her party dress before she goes to stalk Charlie. However, I love that she just wanders into his office, gawking and admiring like she doesn't quite believe it's real, that it's inconsequential, just like she was able to detour through Booth's fabulous life. I get this feeling - that I will now project onto Marnie - when I'm at the office where I intern. I compromise my negative-security for a little bit of access to the place where I want to be. To which I add: this internship has been the best experience of my life. That flight of hyperbole is totally accurate. Today, one staff member came to me in the break room and asked if my life was anything like what she read about in the New York Times when they wrote about interns. It felt weirdly glamorous.

Marnie, though, is completely crazy. She cannot obscure her unhinged-ness. She flashes her scowl-smile at an employee when she tries to talk to Charlie. He triumphantly informs her that the app he developed, that he's made a lot of money for, that enabled him to hire employees, was inspired by her: Forbid is free to download and blocks the numbers of people you shouldn't call - your ex, your old boss - and to un-Forbid a number, you have to pay ten dollars. "People really respond to technology that protects them from themselves," Charlie says, creeping me out. 

I am so happy to see Adam at AA. He takes over the meeting as it dissolves into an argument over refreshments. His take on his relationship with Hannah has only been addressed to her or to people who know her, and here he talks to strangers. I enjoy how tonally precise his history of it is: at first he noticed her persistence but thought nothing very significant of her. Gradually, her presence became something he depended on. A thing he emphasizes is what he perceives as her lack of understanding of virtually everything and how he liked teaching her everything (Evan Kindley's on it with the Sheila Heti reference). Although I do believe it is a different variety of "everything" than Ray feels is his job to impart to Shoshanna, it represents another rift between characters in respect to the content of their intelligence. An example I use a lot to discuss this is Daria and Quinn on Daria. Daria is painted as the more intelligent of the two because she excels in school and can rhetorically take on complicated, abstract ideas. But the quality of intelligence Quinn demonstrates in how she deals with people is completely inaccessible to Daria. Unfortunately, if they were real, Quinn would have the superior job in today's market. Hannah doesn't need to know the street where Central Park begins just like Adam doesn't need to wear a shirt. It only represents what the person saying they have to lacks.

Adam does not understand why Hannah "changed her mind" about him - he has given no greater thought to why that might be because, I believe, he does not attribute reason to Hannah. Since she just kept hanging around him until he decided he wanted her there, he feels victim to her whim when the initial crisis between them was his dismissal of her reading, of her career. That he should call while she's toiling over her book makes the attack of her OCD totally appropriate. Last time Adam and writing collided, it sucked, but this project is imbued with so much doom, under the cloud of Jessa vanishing and Marnie being too completely insane to have around, and now her brain is trying to compensate.

On Carole Kane's appearance: I LOVE HER. When I was taking a remedial math class at a community college a long time ago, there was a very beautiful girl in the class who looked just like Carole Kane. I couldn't remember Carole Kane's name, though, so I referred to this girl in my mind as Allison Portchnik. One day out of nowhere she started talking to me an introduced herself as Allison. I just looked this girl up on the internet to reaffirm their clone-like qualities, and I was right, they look exactly alike. It felt like a good omen. But will this meeting be a good omen for Adam? Dun-dun-dun.

For Carole Kane sets Adam up with her daughter, and their date opens with the girl, Natalia, gasping, "I love my mom!" for the sight of Adam. The measured amounts of endearing and bonkers in their date asserts Dunham's total comprehensive rom-com genius. "You're very easy to talk to. I thought this was gonna suck ass."

Hannah's parents make good on last week's episode's appearance where they informed Hannah they were coming to see her. Her dad describes the "Hannah cushion" as the extra time it takes her to arrive anywhere and harkens back to Jessa's dad's girlfriend telling Hannah, "You're the cushion." It's not a super elegant echo of the phrase, but a lot of little echoes have gone off all over this season and created an atmosphere of conspiratorial psychic connectedness.

One of my favorite aspects of the show, even though it hasn't been plumbed as much as others, is the way Hannah interacts with her parents. Every scene with them puts the all ready momentous achievement that was the first scene of the series in an increasingly complex and interesting context. As symptomatic as spending one's parents' money is when embarking on a tough career today in a place with an astronomical cost of living, I think that cultural relevance is a red herring. I speak from some hard-won objectivity about this. Hannah does not represent all young people, all young women, all aspiring creative professionals, all writers, all broke New Yorkers, all broke residents of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, or anything, but her visibility as someone having that experience/those experiences blinds one to the fact that, as all those others in similar situations, there's more than that. Why it isn't an excellent thing to unpack is that the common plight has unifying external factors that should not be diminished. I do not want to diminish them. But there is one's childhood to consider. In spite of economic conditions, the complications borne of it prevail.

Hannah may or may not have been abused, and I only say "may or may not" because that's how she presents the fact. What is certain is that her mother accused her of lying, and abuse notwithstanding, that's the kind of communication transpiring between she and her mother. Hannah is smart and resilient and she has tried, over the years, to engineer her parents' care of her and manage it to accommodate what she needs because what comes naturally to them care-wise does not work. She knows they try. She acknowledges it. This is all ready one of the most sophisticated parent-child relationships I've ever seen fictionalized and they've barely been on the show. I think, should the economy ever evolve, that with time this nuance might become more pronounced for viewers who do not see Hannah's parents having paid for her to hang out and intern in New York for two years as being purely a thing of the times. Money is so many things, and it can be a way to quantify care.

Hannah's dad describes her as feeling "county." I love it.

There's a lot in this scene I want to talk about, how much this conversation is about control, but first I want to talk about things that come out of nowhere. By the time people get to their twenties, the crises about consistency and self erupt all over the place because of the mass amnesia that settles over people who believe that growth is over - hormones have compelled them to divulge and examine themselves so exactingly, they've probably settled on a mode of being known, and they don't know that that's not it. I say, broadcasting live from age twenty-five (as one who's afraid to be like I am now when there are as many years ahead as there are behind me and more - I didn't want to be the way I was at ten at fifteen and so on and that's not unrealistic but you know people, Wayfaring Googler, who think change is evil - they're all insane).

A few times in the past five years, I've told my friends some things they never knew about me. I told them it didn't mean we weren't as close as they thought or that I felt like I couldn't tell them. I lost half my friends for telling them what I did because they thought I was making up a problem that I decided I needed to be, I can only assume, more driven to angst-ridden art? Or art-ridden angst. Which, as you know, Wayfaring Googler - I bet you're very smart - problems get in the way of accomplishing things. This whole episode kept me off work I wish I'd started then. Abrupt change, revelations, besides being people, are useful reminders that people are the authority on themselves. Hannah has OCD because - well, here the audience can see clearly that she has it, but - she says she has it. At least by the episode's end, she says.

But she doesn't want it. Because it makes things hard. It's hard to have a mental illness - it does necessitate innovation because you can't do things the usual way, but that's exhausting. That doesn't mean it doesn't get done and come off as very interesting to people who get to do things the usual way.

Hannah and her parents' back-and-forth about whose pain it is calls back to the pilot when they spiral into a loop over Hannah's drug-fizzle ("Coffee's for grownups." "You're going to drink a strong cup of coffee!" "I'm twenty-four-years-old! Stop telling me what to do."). Here she deflects their encroaching concern by pointing out that she's the one going through it; the pain is hers. Her mother tells her it was painful to watch her grow up, concerned if she'll life a "normal life" or not, and how she and her father were put upon by determining what caused her OCD. They say it can't be them, and Hannah, who was trying to own her pain a second ago, says "It's genetic, which is the ultimate your fault." She likes to manage their pain, and that doesn't surprise me. Spending their money is managing their care. Her parents have boundary issues. That's what attracted Hannah to Marnie. As Hannah says, "So."

Judy Collins even tries to control her.

Shoshanna goes to a friend's party, Ray-free, and alights the doorman's desire. I'm sorry Radhika probably won't be a recurring character. Although she seems to be merely tolerating Shoshanna, she is refilling her drinks. I'd like to see Shoshanna with a real friend, a quality of which might be the ability to temper the verbal onslaught of Hurricane Shosh. "When is Shosh time?" she asks herself/Radhika. Marnie's neediness is making Shoshanna realize what it'll take for her to be a mother someday, which I love so much. When she realizes Radhika does not have time for her own Marnie-out, Shoshanna leaves, but is stopped by the doorman. He pursues her cannily. I love the flimsy pretense he gives for sparking any conversation and that he calls her beautiful! It's true! But what I love even more is what I sincerely hope Shoshanna gets from this experience, which is that she makes decisions about herself. This is not the least problematic assertion of control ever, but men trying to teach you things: I cannot abide. I was happy for this moment, even though it did not look sexy.

Ray, meanwhile, lies on Shoshanna's bed and reads in a pose most unmasculine. Unfortunately, his book is too slim to be Little Women, which, I hope, his godmother thought would be relevant to him because of his attitude toward women. Unfortunately, it looks like Ray really missed his chance at that book and maybe that insight. Or has he? Marnie comes in and complains about Charlie. How she can believe it when she says she has her shit together - I am aghast. Ray and Marnie rate so low for me that scenes between them work so well. And here, what Ray has to teach Marnie is important. Although her dream is not as out of nowhere as Charlie's success or Hannah's OCD, the fact that she wants to sing has not been as emphasized as her aspiration to be a curator, which may have been the Marnie version of the practical thing to do. And what Ray really imparts to Marnie is a different way of thinking, a different sort of intelligence. But oh, Ray at least has one to impart. Marnie has only what she's always believed. Belief is not intelligence. I do not like Marnie. I love that Marnie is in this show.

The episode ends with Hannah's parents taking her to a therapist. The conversation between she and her parents has so many layers, then Hannah sees Dr. Bob Balaban. She catalogs the specifics of her OCD: what gets counted, how it affects her concentration, that it was "really bad" in high school. When she tells Bob Balaban that she has a book deal, he justifies her anxiety. He really hears her. He reveals that he has written a series of books about a little boy and his bionic dog who save the world from disaster. They sold well. He's the best adult on the show to date, and his controlled compassion is juxtaposed by her dad on the subway, quietly watching her, prompting Hannah to remark how she hates that look of concern. In season one, she told Marnie she hates everyone who loves her and told her butt-fondling boss she was glad he wasn't her dad or her boyfriend. I hope Dr. Bob Balaban gave her hope that there's another kind of person besides them that she could have.

Friday, March 1, 2013

My thoughts to shining fame aspire.

I have a mentor now, who gives me guidance, who has achieved as an editor, who tells me when I do good work and shows me how to do better work, believing as she does that I can do even better work than I all ready do. I got the opportunity to express to her how much that means to me, when she told me how impressed the is with me. She is someone I fiercely respect. That quality of praise will buoy me for ages. It has to. Lately I've been in a disproportionate number of situations where I found myself wondering, does this person hear how he's speaking to me? with absolute consistency regarding that pronoun.

My first assigned piece of journalism debuted last week. The moment I got the interviewee on the phone, I realized I had no means of recording on equipment that didn't belong to me, and I not-so-slyly typed his answers as he dictated them. I used to, for the most part, write whole interviews or features as I spoke to others, which has its advantages. I transcribed an interview this week that was half me explaining how to use tumblr, with bits of real interview buried deep inside.

My series of Q&As with the MakeSpace artists at Harrisburg Magazine now includes Michael Fisher and Leah Yancoskie, who share a studio and together created an imaginary family whose portraits occupy distressed chair-backs converted into baroque frames. The photographer whose work is featured in all the individual Q&As is Danielle Lucas - her work annihilates me, and she was recently profiled at MODE. Yesterday, my interview with MakeSpace resident writer John Destalo was cross-posted to both Harrisburg Magazine and Lehigh Valley Magazine.

Fiction-wise, I have been focused on getting rejected by larger venues and sabotaging solicitations. I have a lot more written than I have circulating among editors and no explanation for that except extreme fatigue. I am an editor, I know what goes into the process, and I am plenty sassy, and even though I take seriously the editing of my own work and routinely wake up to facets of stories and passages that I've hung onto or accommodated for the wrong reasons, still, writing is something I do because I love it and it makes me feel good. Usually, when it comes to feeling good, I'm not operating on a negative balance. It happens that right now, I am, and I am to such an extent I've been very cautious about how I bring that to the attention of others. Most of the week, I work in a borrowed office and write. Otherwise I am being mentored as referenced in the first paragraph. These are healing measures. Being able to take criticism in the service of my work is an aspect of my work ethic that I'm proud of - I like to be objective because I like to do good work. Sometimes - not every time at all, and this has not been my experience across the board recently, only in some very pronounced cases - criticism is delivered with unnecessary, extreme, hostility that is not objective, therefore inhibiting my ability to deal with it objectively and collapsing the skillfully erected ability of mine, of most artists, to be objective about something that comes from such an internal place. This does not make receiving normal, objective criticism easier, either, which makes me feel ridiculous. What is really difficult is managing the reactions and communications with others when I need the work to help me be objective about things that have happened to me lately, so I can get back to a more organized, effective view of things.

Communicating with others is not my strong suit lately. I asked a couple for an interview, and I recorded them for over an hour before they realized what was going on. Also, I am on Sylvia Plath biography number two of three. I wrote about the 2013 throng of Plath biographies at WITF (and, for a few days, had it on the front page of the site, which, again, spirits buoyed). The effects are tangible.