A night in 2008

Sitting at a table, legs pulled up to my chest; my jacket is black and oversized, a bit of red-and-black plaid peeping through the thick unzipped planes of dark wool. I'm listening, but not really. Good people, a lot of laughter. Good haircuts all around. We're passing around Pearl and Pabst Blue Ribbon and Miller High Life--horrible beers, but this is before I was picky about what beer I drank. Cigarettes and a few discarded cans crowd a small terra cotta pot in the center of the wrought iron table; faint smoke rises, but we're all talking and smoking and the hot breath and the cold air and the cigarette smoke are all just a jumbled mess, but it's not messy--it's destined. Artful even. I'm sitting in a cold green leather wing chair, the best chair on the porch. The roof is gone, so we can see stars through spindly tree branches and when I look up everything disappears. I don't hear the bits of conversation I was already ignoring and I don't think of whether or not I'm being looked at and I don't really feel anything physical, just an overwhelming sadness--sadness that this moment doesn't last forever, that a night like this only exists in most peoples' memories, yet everyone has it. Everyone, including my parents and theirs, has experienced this night, and that makes it even more sad. There's solidarity between me and the versions of me that lived in the eighties, and the sixties, and even before, but still I hate that it doesn't belong to me only. But that also makes it special. I look back down and color returns. Faint light. Someone's putting on a record, which I assume I'll most likely detest, and I wonder why we cannot just continue to sit here in quiet and stare at each other and why we aren't all in awe of how perfect this night is. I stare at a boy who's just moved in from Mexico, and his mattress is propped up against the wall in the yard. Can't really see it. Too dark. But he has just enough light on him from the cigarette-beer can candle to show off his long straight nose and thick eyebrows. Cute. Into me, maybe. A new acquaintance, one of the girls who has a neat haircut, leans over and whispers, "You two would have the most beautiful babies." I want to snicker something back but my heart jolts, and while I say nothing I feel suddenly ashamed and ugly and young. I've never learned to take complements. And this girl doesn't even know me, so her statements are weightless, despite their basis is strictly physical appearance. I suddenly hear the leaves under my feet and shuffle back and forth, crunching and sliding on the sandy porch. Perhaps it wasn't sandy, but in winter it seems everything is covered in a thin, imperceptible layer of cold dirt, and I feel this cold dirt as I slide back and forth. I can see that my Moment is fading and I look up at the sky again in hopes that I will feel alone again but I don't.

This is one of my favorite memories of my life, and it happened in Austin in late 2008. I had met a new group of friends, and with those friends completely found identity. I was no longer Dustin Is-He-Gay or Dustin Is-He-Smart: I was smart, friendly, gay Dustin. And that was nice. I'm often nostalgic about this one night in particular. You just can't recreate some things.


Shakira's Body: Altered for American version of "Loca?"

Shakira's new single, "Loca," is one of her best efforts in recent memory, as is the album it's selected from, but I am disturbed by a difference I noticed in the American and Spanish-language versions of the single's music video.

The Spanish version:

And the English version:

Is it just me or did Shakira lose a few pounds between video shoots? Oh, wait, that's impossible; it's the SAME SHOOT. So, what, we American's can't handle a beautiful woman? She has to be photoshopped ANOREXIC to be objectified? NOT FAIR.


Projections in the sand

This is the kind of art that makes me jealous.
"Go all out in romance and let the chips fall where they may."
"Exceptional people deserve special concessions." (e.g. I don't know, me?)

This is the kind of art that makes me jealous.

Simple, meaningful, and aesthetically interesting.

I'm unsure of their origin, but I'm thinking Singapore. (via my friend Evan's Facebook.)


Marc Jacobs, 2005

Amy Larocca of New York Magazine wrote a quietly riveting article on Marc Jacobs in 2005 and I only stumbled upon it a few days ago. As is typical, I'm never interested in something immediately, and stashed it away in my left-of-the-screen-oriented menu bar for a rainy day. Obviously, the "rainy day" idiom is just that, but today it's pouring.

A few highlights:

On his clothes:
“It’s more psychological,” Jacobs says. “For people that don’t have any interest in the psychology of nuance, who need everything to be in their face, who don’t want to analyze . . . those aren’t the people I romanticize about dressing.”

“I don’t have any problem with what people refer to as sexy clothes,” Jacobs says. “I mean, everybody likes sex. The world would be a better place if people just engaged in sex and didn’t worry about it. But what I prefer is that even if someone feels hedonistic, they don’t look it. Curiosity about sex is much more interesting to me than domination. Like, Britney and Paris and Pamela might be someone’s definition of sexy, but they’re not mine. My clothes are not hot. Never. Never."

"I like romantic allusions to the past: what the babysitter wore, what the art teacher wore, what I wore during my experimental days in fashion when I was going to the Mudd Club and wanted to be a New Wave kid or a punk kid but was really a poseur. It’s the awkwardness of posing and feeling like I was in, but I never was in. Awkwardness gives me great comfort. I’ve never been cool, but I’ve felt cool. I’ve been in the cool place, but I wasn’t really cool—I was trying to pass for hip or cool. It’s the awkwardness that’s nice.”

“When I first moved here [Paris], my life was just like a frustrated version of what my life had been in New York,” Jacobs says. He didn’t (and still doesn’t) speak French. He didn’t like the food, the pace, the absence of multiethnic, all-hours takeout food. But, sober, he began to enjoy the city’s gentler rhythms: the quieter nightlife, the diminished options and temptations. Now his life is centered around two dogs and an apartment in a bougie corner of the 8th Arrondissement by the Champs de Mars, surrounded by families and diplomats and the odd tourist on his way to the Eiffel Tower. “I always get this certain anxiety when I’m in New York,” Jacobs says. “I see these billboards and Websites and movie openings and galleries and everyone’s like, ‘Have you seen Desperate Housewives? Have you seen The O.C.?’ I start hyperventilating. How can you stay on top of the art scene and what’s on TV, and read all those books? In New York, I just feel paralyzed by all that I’m missing. I feel stupid, uninformed. I don’t feel like that as much in Paris. It’s healthier for me.

[Ed. Around this time in 2005, everyone should recall the worldwide proliferation of neon-tinted Louis Vuitton prints printed on white or black traditional bags. They were designed by someone arguably more creative than Jacobs' himself, Takashi Murakami, who recently collaborated with Kanye West.]

“It’s not like I can make the Murakami moment happen again,” he says. “It’s not like if I went to the beach for a week and thought about it, I could come back with an answer. There are moments where it’s like, Oh, God, everything’s okay right now, but if I don’t come up with something soon, how are they going to feel about me then? This is the root of my psychological problems. There’s an exercise that I learned in therapy to be present, to be open to new experiences and then let go of the results. That’s what’s worked for me in the past. Of course, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work for me in the future."

“There are nights when I can’t sleep. I go into a fantasyland and tableau sort of thinking, like, Tonight would be the perfect night to say, ‘Honey, I’m really tired and worried about work. And tell me about your day. Do you think someone will read this and try to get in touch with me?” He looks hopeful. “If I read that about someone, I’d drop him a note.”

Well, my day was fine, Marc, what about you?


Art in iTunes

So I designed this album art for a really talented friend of mine, Jennifer Sullivan, and it released on iTunes this week! Super cool, even though it's my worst work yet. But she looks gorgeous and the EP is fantastic. Everyone buy it here, if you like Norah Jones and Fiona Apple.


The Death Penalty

There is no need to retype or explain this story; its speaks for itself.

From Wikipedia.

"Virginia Christian (1895 – August 16, 1912) was the last female juvenile offender executed in the United States.[1] She was also the only female juvenile executed via electric chair and, to date, the last woman executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia.[2]

Christian, an African-American maid, was convicted for the murder of her white employer Mrs. Ida Virginia Belote, a white woman, aged 72 years, in her home at Hampton on March 18.[3] It is said she confessed shortly after she was arrested.

Belote frequently mistreated Christian, and in mid-March 1912, a violent argument ensued between the two in which Belote accused Christian of stealing a locket and a skirt. Belote hit Christian with a cuspidor—commonly called a “spittoon”—which sent Christian into a violent frenzy. The altercation escalated when Christian and Belote ran for two broom handles Belote used to prop up her bedroom windows. Christian grabbed one of the broom handles and struck Belote on the forehead. In an attempt to stifle Belote’s screams, Christian stuffed a towel down Belote’s throat, and the woman died by suffocation. When Christian left the house, she stole Belote’s purse with some money and a ring. One newspaper reported that police found Belote’s body “laying face down in a pool of blood, and her head was horribly mutilated and a towel was stuffed into her mouth and throat” (Streib & Sametz, 1989, p. 25; see also Moten, 1997). The police soon arrested Christian, and during questioning she admitted to hitting Belote but was shocked that Belote was dead. Christian claimed she had no intent to kill Belote. With a lynch mob looming in the background, an Elizabeth City County Court tried and convicted Christian for murder and the trial judge sentenced her to death in the state’s electric chair. One day after her 17th birthday in August 1912, a short 5 months after the crime, Virginia authorities executed Christian at the state penitentiary in Richmond.[3]

Governor William Hodges Mann declined to commute the death sentence, despite a plea from Virginia's mother, Charlotte Christian, who wrote to him:

My dear Mr. Governor: Please forgive me for bothering you ... I have been paralyzed for more than three years and I could not look after Gennie as I wants to. I know she done an awful wicked thing when she killed Miss Belote and I hear that people at the penitentiary wants to kill her. But I am praying night and day on my knees to God that he will soften your heart. If you only save my child who is so little, God will bless you forever.[3]

Christian was electrocuted in the state prison in Richmond. She was 17 years old. The paper reported that her body was to be turned over to the state medical school, because her parents did not have the money to transport the body from Richmond."


Sometimes, it really sucks having a blog.

Sometimes, there are feelings inside of me that even verbal discussion cannot rectify. Written language is far more distilled, more real. I'm sure someone somewhere would tell me I'm wrong. But either way, I can't even write out these emotions; the risk of peo- no, specific people taking my words out of context is too great.



The "HAPPIEST" Activist


Longwinded Mantra

Line by Baz Luhrmann, design by me.


New Music: Kylie Minogue's "Outta My Way"

I have been obsessed--literally--with Kylie Minogue's hot-as-a-flaming-rainbow track "Get Outta My Way" since late May. That's four straight months of repeat plays. I dance to it, run to it, drive to it, dress to it, dream to it. It's a bubblegum anthem without any of the deep stuff that so easily wears us thin. (Some popstars take themselves too seriously when they reach Kylie's age. Case in point: The "introspective songwriting" of the American Life album.)

The preview for the video is below. This is major.


Oito Dias de Português

Portugal is hard to describe in words. Or, rather, it would be unfair to explain it in words exclusively. When I returned from Paris last year--feels like last week--I was so heartbroken I could literally cry on cue. Luckily, my feelings this time are of immense fulfillment and hope for future visits. I am, without a doubt, returning to Portugal before I go anywhere else in Europe. (I say that now, of course.) It is a perfect place. A place of both serenity and energy, of love and sadness and longing. The Portuguese have a name for this infectious emotional ebb: saudade. It is why they sing Fado, why they can sit and watch a sunset every night of their lives, and why they never leave.

The Alfama district, dating back to the fifteenth century.

At Cascais, outside Lisbon. There were dancers in the square, and of course we joined in at one point.
Sunset for the eurovacationers in Cascais.
Even the dogs feel saudade. (Alfama)
This picture is relevant for some reason. I promise.
In Portugal, this is called, "a wedgie." Except, their wedgies can occur in crystalline Atlantic waters in the rocky coast of the Algarve.
Maria's boyfriend and I having an intense staring match.Plaia Dona Ana at low tide.
My favorite girl, Carolina, at Costa de Caparica.

In Lagos. Local red wine, three courses and a thick tuna steak in a tomato broth. One of the best meals I've ever eaten.
Sunset in the Algarve.
The Pradas and Bo's leg at sunset at Cos(h)ta de Caparica.
All night long (all night)!
"Bo, hurry the hell up" face. (Lisbon)
In the female tween Myspace vernacular, this is "< 3"
The view at Sintra's nothing to write home about, really.
Posing at the Torré de Belém.
"Quick, let's sit on these tables!" Sin, sin. (That's Portuguese, not holy-speak.)
To conclude. Lisbon by night, the fire that burns inside of me and will never extinguish.


Suitcase for Portugal

Leaving for Lisbon tomorrow, and I'm super excited about my suitcase this time around. I mean, the picture doesn't do it any justice--my favorite pieces aren't even in the shot--but I'm going international for Lisbon. All-American Sperry's hi-top sneakers, a Tiger of Sweden pant, Havaianas flip-flops, Ralph Lauren blazer and Prada swim shorts and sunglasses. I am also bringing a Mexican skull scarf and an African necklace, as well as a pair of tan trunks I bought in Stockholm last year. The general theme is striped, loose, and short. Lots of denim, too.

Of course I'm bringing some great reads for the beach. Jack Kerouac, Bret Easton Ellis, some novel my friend Emily lent me called Dry.

I'm super nervous for Lisbon. Hope I can fit in the inevitably large pile of clothing I buy once I'm there...



A few nights ago I saw Rihanna in concert. Her performances were fiery, angry. She was believable as a whip-toting badass, strutting onstage in thigh-high hooker boots and chain-mail hosiery, a vision of 21st Century femininity: I'm sexy, but don't touch me. It was a drastic change from her opening show for Kanye West in 2008, which I was also lucky enough to witness.

When I saw her at Kanye's Glow In The Dark Tour, I wrote, "No amount of costume changes or stage dancers can make up for [Rihanna's] obvious lack of hip-hop credibility." How amazing, then, that she arrives onstage in 2010 riding on the barrel of a hot-pink tank blaring lyrics about how hard the game has transformed her.

I'm a huge fan of her last album. Looking back on her ranking on my Happiest Albums of the decade list last December, I should have added Rated R to the top ten; with it's perfectly coalesced emotional ingredients--defiant anger, scorned-girl brattiness, heart-wrenching sadness and reverse-cowgirl sexuality--and admittedly addictive singles (namely "Rude Boy," easily among my favorite songs by Rihanna), Rated R was a near-perfect mainstream pop album.

Somehow, though, a lot of listeners find Rihanna phony and her lyrics empty. Even Pitchfork, the only music review website with any credibility, called her new direction "expected" and unoriginal. See, that's just sad. Christina Aguilera may have released a defiant second album, and Janet may have The Velvet Rope, but to say Rihanna's bitter verses are expected is offensive to female musicians everywhere. Drake just recently released an album full of self-conscious admittances and crumbling-ego confessions, yet no one pointed out the obvious comparisons to every single Kanye West album. Do you want a full album of "Pon De Replays?" Because I will choose "Rockstar 101" over anything on A Girl Like Me or Music of the Sun.

Oh, and there's this.


Teenage Dream

Last night I was at a summer party for the agency I worked for last year. I've stayed in touch with nearly every employee, and regularly do contract creative work for the company.

The creative director, whom I admire for more reasons than I can count, is one of the biggest influences in my life. My relationship with him and the other creatives at the office form an essential component of my ego, and is why I work hard to impress anyone I respect. Of course, I was also given one of his Prada bathing suits recently, and wearing it in his strobing hot tub with his partner and our friends at 2:00 a.m. is entirely surreal; one of those, "I live a good life" kind of moments.

But, aside from a hangover, I woke up today in a melancholy haze. Something about being 21, about entering the senior year of my University education, about moving on and out and up and over--I wouldn't say I'm scared, but I am feeling a bit jarred in regards to my future, out of harmony with what I so easily picture in my head. I feel focused, and being with people I imitate always serves to remind me of What I Ultimately Want, but in all seriousness, how the hell am I going to get it?

This morning will be marked as a turning point. I'm going to work harder than ever; I will only accept flawlessness in everything I do, and I can't afford to wait for opportunities (as if I've ever waited around for anything). I need to be what I want to be today, not next Monday. Not once finals are over. Not "once I've balanced out my schedule."

I guess I am kind of scared. I'm worried that I won't be able to live up to the life I've built for myself, the reputation I've secured and the expectations of the people I would die for. (I'm not even dramatizing here--I have problems with obsession.) I am cleaning up my squeaky-clean act, adding a second hitch to my star and riding this out in hopes of surprising even myself.


I Pity The Haters

The most intense and divisive conversations I have with people nearly always begin with, "I have a song I want to play you."

Pop music is a litmus test in the process of young adult coolness authenticity: "You listen to Bon Iver?" [You're cool.] "You listen to Kylie Minogue?" [You're lame, unintelligent, out-of-the-loop, immature, self in-actualized.]

Essentially, pop music can be enjoyed by girls aged in single digits, so if you listen to pop music you have the taste of a nine year-old. Of course, there are exceptions. Lady Gaga, for instance, has been scratched off the Guilty Pleasure list by Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, the birthplaces of indie cred and tectonic divergence zones for what is and is not acceptable to have on your iPod. Other exceptions involve music sites like Hype.fm and Pandora. ("If Taylor Swift plays in my Pheonix channel, I can't help that. I only have so many songs I can skip per hour!")

You can also be so out you're in, like Fergie. I'm not sure how that works, but everyone loves Fergie. I know cokeheads and band agents and American Apparel employees alike who will lose their shit when "Glamorous" comes on. "This is my jam!"

The irony is that many artists with a massive "underground" (i.e. depressed hipster) following like Uffie have pop sensibilities stronger than major aboveground musicians. "DVNO" by Justice is more radio-friendly than anything Gwen Stefani ever released, and she has multiple #1's and a legion of teenage fans.

Acceptable music acts like The Gossip, Tokyo Police Club, and Surfer Blood are the aural equivalent of nails being repeatedly driven into my skull. If I was a cave man, I'd love the grating chorus line of "Keep The Car Running" by Arcade Fire, but I heard Britney Spears' "Crazy" as a preteen inside a Chuck E. Cheese and know that pop music can change your life.

Pop music doesn't alter your life in the same way Fiona Apple does, however. Pop music is so frothy you don't even need to filter the lyrics. With our intellectual webs disabled, pop music hits directly at our pleasure (or pain) centers. The sensation can be so real even the most jaded of hipsters will, I guarantee you, dance when "Rude Boy" plays. They will belt out Mariah's "We Belong Together" in private. They will play Katy Perry's newest single, "Teenage Dream," and tear up in their rooms reflecting on high school memories.

"Teenage Dream" is a perfect example of Pop That Changes Your Life: "You say I'm pretty without any makeup on/...let's go all the way tonight." Damn. Have we not all lived through this? Why cast hate on a story told through this medium? As if hipsters speak more eloquently than most pop music is sung. "You make me/ feel like I'm living a/ teenage dream." There's no pretense. Come as you are, listeners, because we've all been teenagers and you don't need a degree from Columbia and a longtime pretend relationship with "a fashion designer from Brooklyn" to appreciate the first time you woke up and realized you were a little less innocent than you were the day before.

I pity anyone who can't appreciate the sugar rush of Kylie Minogue's "Get Out of My Way" or the electric bounce of Leighton Meester's "Your Love's A Drug." A good pop song, on first listen, can be better than sex. Just as pop can give life, however, pop also taketh away; I remember listening to Usher's "Love In This Club" (a painfully mediocre pop song, really) in the car for the first time and nearly getting into a wreck due to my temporary ecstasy.

We cheat pop music out of whatever potential it has to effect people when we label it the way we do; "deep art" can often be even more transparent than pop, which has a sense of irony and is rarely serious. There's more humor in Perry's "California Gurls" than in any song The Heartless Bastards ever conceived, more tangible emotion in Robyn's "Should Have Known" than any sculpture in the MoMA. (This may or may not be an exaggeration.)

I can't convince anyone to like pop music. You understand the appeal or you don't. However, like someone born with a poor sense of smell can never understand the appeal of French food, I can only try my best not to rub it in.


What is happening?!

Today I woke up at nine after a full nights' sleep. I watched Ellen and drank two cups of coffee.

After breakfast, I meandered over to the office where I worked six hours designing; I made $100.00. Got compliments from my boss.

During my lunch hour, I planned a trip to Portugal with my brother. Dad said, "Yes."

I then came home to see I had received a new book two days ahead of schedule. ("Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man," by Bill Clegg.)

I washed down a beer and drove to Central Market; saw an old friend of mine who has a crush on me. (Tonight, my friends were having a vegetarian barbeque by the pool, so I picked up my favorite salsa and a pack of Blue Moon beer.)

I drank more, ate decent tofu kebabs, and we talked about relationships and the rapping style of Nikki Minaj.

At ten, I left for home to watch my favorite Bravo show and finish reading Bridges of Madison County.

Two years ago, I would call this a very full and satisfying day. The perfect summer evening, spent with friends and flies and frothy sweet alcohol. Money in the pocket, a trip quickly approaching, and a pretty decent tan.

I'm still "happy." Yet, right now, I am frightfully discontented with my life.

American Glamor?

I've recently become obsessed with the style of paparazzi photos. The spontaneity, their rough quality; I find the way in which they're captured fascinating, as well. Obtrusive, uninvited photographers capture people at their most vulnerable. CSS Lewis once said somewhere, "If someone is caught off guard they're true soul is shown." Or, you know. Something like that.

This photo is of Mischa Barton, someone I have never actually seen act or sing or dance in any capacity whatsoever. I don't care about her. The photo, however, is stunning. It's actually a paparazzi shot I gave a quickie edit to reveal the composition. Mischa is now kind of a fatso, which makes this even more interesting; her golden moments are gone.

If only I had been there to watch her glow fade!



Shot for my friend, musician Jennifer Sullivan. More to come...


21 Years

Tomorrow, at exactly 12:07 a.m., I will have been alive on this earth for 21 years.

Twenty-one years of love, and family, and laughter. Twenty-one years of phenomenal friends, the best mother in the world, a loving and accepting father--a best friend in my brother.

But it has also been 21 years of tears and heartbreak. Melodramatic and ultimately minor, in truth, but I have felt pain so suffocating I could not breathe, so painful I could not open my eyes. I have "seen the light," but it was so bright it left me blind. I have also felt fear, a lot of fear. An inordinate, unnecessary amount of fear.

But right now, on this night, I am alive. I am alive with the soft yellow light of my room, the fan blowing air like passing phantoms; I am alive with three glasses on the side of my bed--one for water, one for coffee, one this evening's wine; I am alive with my floor completely camouflaged in old art prints and khakis, a copy of Interview splayed open to a shot of M.I.A.

I love fiercely and only know love that is obsessive, grasping, under the skin. Detriment--likely--but a Universal Truth of Dustin O'Neal at Twenty. Maybe I'll learn casual love later.

As I teeter on this brink, the true, last moment of childhood, I feel nothing. I am happy, but I was happy yesterday.

And I'll be happy tomorrow, as long as everyone shows up to my party.


Lady Gaga's "Alejandro"

Gaga's new video has been on the air for less than an hour and "LADY GAGA OFFENSIVE VIDEO" headlines are already flowing like the freshly spilt tears of Pope Benedict XVI.

When something is offensive it must provoke and upset not by default but by intent, so do not mistake Lady Gaga and Steven Klein as accidentally ruffling the alms-paid-for feathers of the Catholic church. In a perfect world, or just an educated world, the word "offensive" would never coincide with a comment about art. Art is supposed to be offensive and I dare anyone to name a piece of art, whether a play or a song or a sculpture made of discarded placenta, that gave a distinct emotional impression without provocation.

But controversy aside, the video is just okay. Which, in the context of the video's pop cultural importance, is a fairly brutal criticism. "Alejandro" is, after all, a much-anticipated collaboration between one of the most talented American photographers and the most exciting musician in the world as of 2010 and yet, there isn't much of a story or even anything remotely pleasurable to look at. What I saw was a dark, unsurprising collage of interesting (but ultimately--and this is the worst part--pointless) imagery that would be better suited for the centerfold of W or Arena and not reeled into a projector and placed onscreen.
There are a few amazing moments. Near the end of the video, with Gaga standing alone in what seems like the demure outfit your salsa instructor would wear at any small-town ballet studio, there are sparks of real inspiration. Marching and snapping her alabaster fingers, she is defiant and beautiful. The following dance sequence is another strong moment, and the story of the track itself--modern women, the struggle and judgement of society towards homosexual men, and the torturous relationships between these entities--becomes at least somewhat apparent. With her gay soldiers marching at her side, preparing for their incoming battle against the brilliant critiques of Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck, she transcends her human body as Lady Gaga and, in a move that is becoming increasingly easy for her, transforms into a kind of religious icon, an image of something otherworldly. The video ends with her being obsessively disrobed and tossed about, finally exposing her breasts to her acolytes. This is disturbing, but fame is disturbing, and when interpreted this way, the lyrics of "Alejandro" seem disturbing.

Hopefully her next effort, for "Monster" I presume, will be more original. Gaga's already worshiped, but pop-cultural holiness requires a few miracles now and then.

And, as a big fan of Steven Klein, I couldn't help but notice the similarities between the video and a past shoot of Klein's for French Vogue in 2009, picture below. Even the haircuts on the male dancers are identical. Copying your art for the Queen of Pop? Now that's "offensive."



I haven't posted anything about music in months. Or, like, years.

But sometimes you have two diet cokes and five cups of coffee before noon and, all of a sudden, writing a few words on new music is more an obligation than a distraction.

On the whole, the pop music world is sort of at a standstill. The invention of Lady Gaga has placed a lot of new artists immediately on the shelf of Been There, Done That. The Gaga effect is so clear, songs like "OMG" by Usher are actually getting airplay. Actually hitting #1 on Billboard. Actually being illegally downloaded. Like tasting a filet mignon and being sentenced to Wendy's square meat patties for all of eternity, we as a pop audience have to dig a bit for anything even relatively tasty.

The food metaphors are a perfect lead-in to "Treats" by Sleigh Bells. Seriously, what the fuck is this? The duo--composed of some death metal musician and a girl group dropout--has created some exceptionally bizarre music. The album is aggressive, almost scary, with crunchy guitar sound effects and bass hits that sound more like boulders colliding in low gravity than an 808. I normally don't listen to "alternative"

(Sorry, a shudder just ripped through my body, sending me awkwardly to the floor of Thunderbird Coffee. Caffeine effect?)

As I was saying, Sleigh Bells is not my usual fare, but the songs are irresistible. My favorite track is "Riot Rhythm," probably because of the cheerleader chants. I just love cheerleaders. If Sleigh Bells had an owl on their album cover I probably wouldn't like them so much, but I continually picture the old McQueen ads and, as I grow deaf blasting "Tell 'Em" and yelling out my car window, I picture her doing cheers and flirtatiously (i.e. sluttily) dancing to the industrial sound of Treats.

The new Crystal Castles is pretty sick, too. "Baptism" is my favorite of the new tracks. I think this is a record that, if Lindsay Lohan had any foresight or taste or culture, would have been wise of her to collaborate on. "Baptism," and the album's lead single, "Empathy," are the kind of accessible underground that propelled Justice to international fame. (Or, at the very least, Youtube fame.) Ambitious, not so much--the album is standard CC fare--but it's enjoyable if you aren't in your room with the lights out.

May's seen more than a few killer singles. Kelis' "Flesh Tone" has already unloaded "Fourth of July," "Brave," and impossible-to-hate "Emancipate Yourself," Kelis' answer to Madonna's "Sorry." B.o.B. is boring as hell, but "Magic" (featuring the insanely sexy vocals of Rivers Cuomo, who is hot by rule of his moniker alone) is bouncy fun without any JoBros musical reference.

Xtina's "WooHoo" is one of those embarrassing tracks you can't imagine being approved ("you don't need a plate/just ya face/ahh") and Keane still sucks ass. No surprise there; being relegated to soft-rock radio play in Applebees is a sure sign you should never have a rapper featured on your album. Like, ever.

To conclude, I recommend that no one ever listens to "Freaky" by Koda Kumi. It is horrible and I somehow bought it on iTunes and have no recollection of the purchase. Don't suffer with me.


Miley Cyrus

I cannot help it. I love Miley Cyrus.

I haven't listened to any of her music, aside from "Party In The USA," and I've never seen any of her movies nor her television show. The only Miley I know is a Hollywood brat who speaks with what sounds like a half-eaten Quizno's in her mouth and walks like she's way hotter than she is. (And who wouldn't with the guys she gets? Justin Gaston? He may be annoying and vapid but look at his...er, cheekbones!)

Last summer, a time of post-Paris depression and heartache, had one bright moment, and that was The Kid's Choice Awards. Miley Cyrus pole-danced to what would soon become one of my favorite songs of 2009, and it moved me. She made me wish I was straight just so I could lust after her properly. Miley isn't Hannah Montana. She is a young, virginal temptress and I will lap up any drops of pop culture she drools onto the public consciousness.

Since TKCA, she's gotten a tattoo as a seventeen year old, dirty danced (well) on a 44 year old man in front of her family, and literally cannot be seen without her hotpants and Fry's. The "Party In The USA" vid should have been evidence enough that she was taking the non-Hillary Duff route to long-lasting fame, and even if I'm the only fan left, I will be there when she takes her Lindsay Lohan tumble into cactus.

Here's to you, Miley. Hopefully I can dirty dance with you sometime. Perhaps to "Can't Be Tamed."



Summer LITERALLY starts NOW

I love everything about this.



Mister Donut

A preview of my Mister Donut brand revamp. All creative materials are mine but still in progress. (Mister Donut himself is hot, too--tattoos and everything.)



Lately, my feelings have been extremely slippery.

In short bursts I feel clarity, but it's of the happy variety, the easy variety. Clarity is easy to come by when life seems perfect (and life only seems perfect when, by the function of an intensely pleasurable moment, you forget the peripheral imperfections). In no time at all, I resume my neutral state, sometimes slipping into "deep" thought, which is another way of saying "no thoughts, just an all-consuming emotional weight."

That guy did end up calling me back yesterday and we enjoyed a semi-wonderful brunch this afternoon. What does that say about the profound sadness I felt yesterday, and will most likely feel again once my ego-bucket has emptied?

(Do not mock the ego-bucket. We all have one, and they empty easily, like the cones at water parks that overflow and tip on willing passerby. The tipping is hardly noticeable, but once the buckets are drained of their life-giving nectar we are left with skinless emotions, like a peeled tomato after blanching. Everything is tender and sensitive to prodding.)

Whoa, too many similes.

If I like this guy, than I should want him. If I am going to spend a day moping, at least let it inspire me. If I'm going to feel joy, it should last more than an hour. So, essentially, I am done with the slippery. I need concrete from now on.


A Sad Day

LORDY. I swear I'm not as sad as this blog impresses you--but why write when you're happy? I don't even need a blog when I'm happy. Happy times are for reading, not writing.

I have learned that true sadness is only felt after a seemingly unjust tug-of-war with love. The guessing games, the fleeting attractions, the steps taken to either prevent seeming overeager or ensure your interest is properly interpreted. I am in a tug-of-war, and losing. Or perhaps I've lost.

It's not a game shared with anyone else, even lovers, but one you play only with yourself--God knows what the other person is feeling. It really doesn't matter. Even if he is head over heels and you occupy his every free thought you'd never know, and it isn't important to know. How you react to your suspicions of his feelings tells you the most about how the game will end. Are you anxious? Are you aloof?

If you're aloof, well, lucky you. I envy aloof. Even in relationships where I couldn't give a rat's ass about the other person I cannot manage aloof. I equate aloof with guilt. In fact, I attribute guilt to any emotion other than affection or respect. As in, I feel shitty when I'm not totally fair with the other person.

Flashback: The week before spring break, I end a thing with a guy I had been dating for about two months. Because I never allowed the thing to become more than a thing, I didn't have to drop a whole breakup bomb on him. I just left a trail of sulphur and let the burn reach him slowly. Not cruel, but possibly heartwrenching (I mean, I'm kind of a catch, you know, with my emotional stability and all) and definitely dishonest. Just left him one day on his porch without a kiss and never spoke again.

Flashforward: Meet the most amazing person. Flirt for a week, go on a date that redefined Good Dates, flirt for another week, and here I am writing. On a Friday night. I'll let you guess the intervening details.

Perfect guy, and I blew it by doing nothing. Fickle. So I pulled too hard on this tug-of-war and fell straight on my back. I'm not sure if I'm in the mud yet, but for now, Fitzgerald is my only numbing agent and, much to my dismay, Amory Blaine is having his heart broken, too.

There isn't lesson from this, and that may be the worst part. Perhaps I am just reeling from the effects of karma--getting what I deserve for leaving someone without giving them confirmation of my departure and, therefore, never freeing them to live their lives without expectation of a sudden return. (Again, I doubt the situation is this dramatic, but God am I sad right now.)

Conclusions have always been the weakest component of my writing, but I'm going to try with this one: After getting off the phone with my mom, ranting all about this boy and lapping up any consolation she had to give, I saw a cloud in what has literally been a cloudless sky. It was so beautiful I stood up out of my reading and wine-induced stupor to look at it. (I've posted it below in what appears to be the highest quality my Mac can afford) The cloud, I hope, is a metaphor. This moment in my life is so sad, in so many different ways aside from missing out on Mr. Perfect, but it is beautiful. And like a cloud, this time of deep introspection and growth will pass, and life will be a spotless blue. So I should appreciate them now, before they dissipate.


Faking It, pt.2

I love to fake it.

Example: Calling up six different high-end stores in a search for Givenchy's studded men's sandals.

First, Maxfield in LA: "Call Bonnies!"
"I'm sorry, Bonnies?"
She hangs up.
Hm. Guess she meant Barney's?

I am a casual high-end shopper. As in, I don't shop too often, but the second I see a "spare" (i.e. existing) few hundred dollars in my bank account, there's a new Marc sweater in my closet, or Ferragamos, or my most recent purchase, a Ralph Lauren sportscoat.

It's hard to fake creativity. It's hard to fake European heritage. It's hard to fake intelligence. But it's unfairly easy to fake wealth and style.

So how did my search end? With a flirty sales assistant at Barney's on Madison who "snuck in a reservation" for size 11 Givenchy sandals. I don't know the price. So let's hope I have a spare few hundred dollars once my phone vibrates to "212."


Nasty, naughty girl

Took this at a barber shop on South 1st. The barber said he hadn't a woman in panties inside his store in fifty years...

It's best viewed with the Suntones playing in the background.


Three Needs, 2nd ed.

1. Givenchy men's studded sandals. (I'd sell an arm for a pair; they're at Barney's NY and if I win the One Shoe I'm buying a pair with the prize money)

2. A camel coat for fall.

3. Light, tight denim jeans. (Getting these tomorrow, actually.)

Current inspiration



Love is the weirdest thing. I've been in a few relationships, and have felt "in love," but I don't think I truly understood what It was until this past summer. The few weeks following my return from Europe all I could think about, write about, talk about, was love. Love is everything: love is motivation, love is pain, love is happiness, love is physical satiation.

Time has passed, though, and I've surrendered Love and am allowing It to do what It wants.

I've been dating someone for about six weeks now, and there isn't any spark. There's comfort, and we get along well. I see it as a shared journey in search of Love, which we will not find in each other but are sharpening our senses and preparing our minds for when It does come.

Today, Valleywag posted a series of accidentally-published Facebook messages obtained during a recent security goof on the website. No matter how "public" our culture seems to be--reality shows, webcams, blogs like the one you're reading--the truth is rarely told. These messages touched me, even through their grammatical errors, enough that I cried. I've included a few below.

Below: I feel like I've been through this exact scenario, but was never honest enough with myself to express it.

Below: They're the lyrics from Blink182's "Down," and end with a wrenching addendum in Spanish.
Below: Fairly certain this is from a young boy in England. Don't we all want to be told this?
Below: This one made me cry. Not a single period in the entire letter, which makes me wonder if the lack of grammar adds to the emotional effect. This is clearly a man in love.
How many of us experience this kind of love? Maybe I'm naive to even consider this Love, but I know I want to have this. And, likely, not everyone finds It in their lifetime.


Prince Pelayo

Sometimes inspiration can come on so strong I feel stifled. The sheer power of the inspiration breaks my bones and crushes the more gentle organs, and leaves me feeling empty and unimportant. I am so many things, but so many things I want to be I am not.

Now is the time for change, and I'm going to fight through the oppression of observed brilliance to make my own.

And if you're in the mood to be destroyed, just take a peak at Kate Loves Me.


A Single Man

Too many heavy movies too close together. Recently, all movies about love seem heavy. First, Up In The Air, and now Tom Ford's A Single Man, a truly heartbreaking story about a British professor whose partner of 16 years dies in a car crash. And, of course, it being set in the 1950s, our Single Man, named George, (an impeccably dressed and tender performance by Colin Firth, looking more handsome here than any man his age) cannot be open about his love, nor is it considered legitimate by even his closest friends, even after Jim, his partner, is killed. So when Jim dies, not only is our Man shunned from the funeral ("family only") but must suffer entirely within himself. In one striking sequence, Firth seems to literally crumble under the vacuum-like force of George's loss.

Of course, Tom Ford throws in his own delusional group of youngsters, all doe-eyed and strikingly similar to those in Ford's fashion campaigns, as potential distractions for our Man, but it doesn't matter one bit, ultimately: Jim's death signified the end of all importance on Earth for George, as his love was the most intense and sincere feeling he's ever experienced. The world of George is muted and lonely.

Love is so rare. And love is the greatest thing in human life, but also the most painful. And sometimes, a life without love is no life at all.


10 Happiest Albums of the Decade

Two-thousand through 2010 was a thrilling decade for entertainment. Videogames continually defied storytelling expectation, film delivered both brains and brawn (albeit more clumsily), television consistently impressed both the public (the behemoth that is American Idol) and critics (Big Love), and novels like and Away and The Post Birthday World proved great authors still exist. The most creative growth, however, took place in the realm of music. From the anthem pep of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Stadium Arcadium (2006) to Britney Spears' darkly futuristic pop in Blackout (2007), Shania Twain's genre-bending Up! (2002) and the solemn free-by-download In Rainbows by Radiohead (2007), music in the 2000s was as diverse as it was frighteningly similar. Shimmering electro-pop (Madonna's Confessions on a Dance Floor, 2005) and slinky throwback (Solange's Sol-Angel and the Hadley Street Dreams, 2008) were trends both widespread and pervasive, from superficial pop to underground hip-hop. But ten albums stand out in my mind as excellent, innovative from a creative standpoint and, as is most important to The Happiest Activist, a hell of a fun listen.

10. Kings of Leon, Only by the Night (2008)

It's rumored Caleb Followill wrote Only in a single night, beginning with the haunting, desperate "Closer," about a vampire looking to feed. This is not their Happiest record of the decade, but the general tone and musicality of the album wins with major style points.

Happiest Track: "Revelry"

9. Sam Sparro, Sam Sparro (2008)

Sparro's debut is unabashed 80's-style pop, but occasionally-deep lyrical content appears when least expected.

Happiest Track: "Too Many Questions"

8. Robyn, Robyn (2008)

Simple, perfect pop.

Happiest Track: "Handle Me"

7. Feist, Let It Die (2004)

Happiest Track: "Inside and Out"

6. Lady Gaga, The Fame Monster (2009)

I was tempted to rank this higher on the list--no other female pop record was quite as fun in the 2000s--but the album is still fresh.

Happiest Track: "Bad Romance"

5. The Postal Service, Give Up (2003)

Possibly also the Happiest Album Art Award?

Happiest Track: "Nothing Better"

4. Lily Allen, Alright, Still (2006)

Lily Allen was and still is the most believable pop music brat. And her brand of humor has been copied again and again...(Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Kate Nash...lot's of K's, for some reason)

Happiest Track: "Knock 'Em Out"

3. Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine (2005)

Happiest Track: "Better Version of Me"

2. The Killers, Hot Fuss (2004)

There are a lot of faux-Brit rockers in the music world, but none as slick, sexual or pared down as Brandon Flowers and his less-relevant band members.

Happiest Track: "Smile Like You Mean It"

1. Amy Winehouse, Back to Black (2006)

Cutting selections from this list--which began much larger than the ten you see here--took a lot of careful consideration and research. I wanted to include a Madonna album, simply for the impact she's had on my life in the past decade, but no single album is better than the above ten (2000's Music came close). I also wanted to throw in Rihanna's Rated R (2009), which is altogether a better record than The Fame Monster but, let's all be honest, the Lady deserves a spot here. There were a hundred others--Shakira (for She Wolf, 2009) and John Mayer (Continuum, 2006), M.I.A. (Kala, 2007) and even electro-pop goddess Annie for the dazzling, whirling disco of Anniemal (2004). But when I had to make a choice for Happiest album, there was no doubt in my mind. Amy Winehouse is a legend in the making. She has a voice without peer and an ability to write lyrics as sharp as shattered glass--and as heartbreaking as the worst breakup you've ever been through. Paired with Mark Ronson's addictive beats and as-of-yet-unmatched talent at mimicking the rasp of vintage recordings, one can only hope her heart is broken again. And that's black.

Happiest Track (of the Decade): "Back to Black"