poemless. a slap in the face of public taste.

August 12, 2009

what not to read. what not to wear. vampires!

I previously posted a diatribe about my blog being a place dedicated to the free exchange of ideas and words and about world peace and political theory and blah, blah, blah… So, if you are here for that, great! Don’t go! However, that will not be on the menu tonight. This evening’s menu is dessert only.

What not to read.

From time to time, I am prone to be intensely shallow. Maybe I am afraid of becoming too librarian. Maybe it is an evolutionary adaptation to ensure that I can navigate mundane social situations. Maybe I am trying not to become what a friend called “a literary bore.” So I watch re-runs of old Sex and the City episodes, the ones with Baryshnikov. Or I check out a book entitled, He’s just not that into you. “Oh, girl, no you did not!” Oh, yes. I did. Don’t worry – I am the one who has to live with that on my permanent Chicago Public Library record for all the NSA to know. It stings. What was I thinking?! I was thinking, the books currently on my nightstand are The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus, Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War and Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago and maybe it’s time for something silly. I was thinking, I need something I can pretend to read while I get a tan. I was thinking, the reviews of the movie were kind of good, and I really like Drew Barrymore. I do just adore her. I was thinking, “it is by the writers of Sex and the City and whe-he-ell, if they are brilliant enough to write for Baryshnikov…” I thought. Ok – I wasn’t thinking. Which was part of the point. Sometimes I need to not be thinking. So I read things like Vogue, or He’s just not that into you.

People say such things are bad for your self esteem. Whenever women do shallow shit is bad for their self-esteem. Or a sign of bad self-esteem. Or something. I am not certain, but I don’t think men are given lectures on their self-esteem when they read Playboy or watch the game on tv. Can any of the men in the house tell me if anyone has ever warned them that they cannot possibly live up to the expectations placed upon them by professional sports celebrities or Maxim, so they should walk away and go cultivate their inner gods by doing arts and crafts or something? I like the expectations placed on me by Vogue. In fact, I look around and am hardly worried that people are placing too much import on their appearance. Would you like to know what is truly bad for my self esteem? Not terrible relationship books with hot pink dust jackets. When I read crap like this, I exhale a sigh or relief upon the realization that I am already *far* better off than most people. Or the people reading it. And the people who wrote it. If you can call it writing. The whole point of that horrid little book, if it had a point and can be called a book, was that women should stop wasting time on people who belittle them because, even if they end up alone forever, and they will, it will be good for their self-confidence to ignore idiots. It was supposed to be empowering. And it was. I finished it and thought, “I should stop wasting time on crap writers who belittle women because, even if I end up a literary bore forever, and I will, it will be good for my self-confidence to ignore these idiots.” So I guess it worked, in some perverse way.

No, what really makes me question my worth is … Žižek. I know he has some brilliant point, but can’t for the life of me figure out what it is, exactly. There are people out there who claim to understand him, and I believe them. I also know that some of my problem with Zizek is that I’m removed from academia where theory has a language all its own. But it makes me feel like an idiot. I am not used to reading things and not easily comprehending them. That’s meant to be one of the very few things I can be relied upon to do: be literate. If I can’t do that – I am fucked. So fucked is how I feel when I read Zizek. And yet I don’t see any interventions in the offing to wrench the horrible habit of reading pop-philosophy from my routine, in order that I should stop feeling bad about myself and fly off into the sunset like a happy butterfly finally free of her cocoon. Nope.

What not to wear.

What the hell was I talking about? Oh, yes, dessert. Mmmm…

In addition to reading silly books and fashion magazines and going insane for Russia dancers, I also indulge by reading the news and going insane for Russian leaders. Which is why I am absolutely loving the avalanche of retrospectives on the past 10 years of Putin’s leadership. Men, fashion, polls, people pretending to be experts talking a lot of nonsense. It’s brilliant! It’s like Cosmo for Russophiles! For example, Kommersant offers up this gem:

“Кремлевская мода. Сезон 1999-2009.” ["Kremlin Fashion Season 1999-2009"]

Izzy -you know Izzy, right?- Izzy made me addicted to the website “Go fug yourself”, which has a really unnecessarily hostile name, given the volumes of constructive criticism inside. Anyway, you could play the same game with these, giving each photo a label like, “Oh honey, no!,” “Skin is not a shirt,” or “Well-played, Mr. Putin.” A black turtleneck paired with sportscoat is always well-played, IMO. You will have to click through for the fun ones, though, since Kommersant is combating legal nihilism by copyrighting its good fotos. But I assure you the all-white denim get-up is a not to be missed.

увеличить фото ...
Коммерсантъ. Издательский дом
увеличить фото …

In all, a fun collection of the good, the bad and the “Oh, who are we kidding? You don’t even need to wear clothes.”

[Update]:
More fun retrospectives of VVP’s tenure from “News from the Eastern Blog.”
~ “Collection of Rare Freaks”
~ “Lady Killer in a Kimono”

(Oh, did you want polls too? Here are some polls. “63 percent of those questioned were convinced that the concentration of virtually total power in Putin’s hands is ‘to the good of Russia.’” Shocked… Here are some more. “The 4% of Ukrainians who approve [of their government] is not only the lowest rating Gallup has ever measured in former Soviet countries, but also the lowest in the world.” Damn.)

Vampires!

Hopping aboard the Kremlin Fashion Week bandwagon, Eternal Remont wonders, “Who is dressing Dmitry Medvedev?”

Hm. Maybe Svet, the fashionista? I think he dresses acceptably well. A nice balance of business casual and business “4% Seriously? You should feel lucky I’m only starting a flame war with you on my blog and not a real one in your country, Viktor. Have I made myself clear?” serious. Though I have no idea why he insists on those creepy bible school blue suits. Yeesh… But the kids at Eternal Remont think he looks an awful lot like a vampire these days – and HE DOES! It is the hair. I don’t remember it always being so Dracula-esque in the front, do you? The more Putin’s hairline recedes, the pointier Medvedev’s becomes! What is up with that? What are those evil genius Soviet scientists up to now? It’s alive!

Psst. Dima, when they advised you to appear more like “Vlad,” I don’t think they meant the fellow from Transylvania, darling.

Speaking of vampires. Lukyanenko is writing Night Watch, the Opera for the Vienna State Opera. I couldn’t get into the books, and I am always annoyed by Bekmambetov movies. But I would absolutely go see the opera! Blood and arias and champagne. How romantic…

Ok, that’s all for now. Thanks for reading!

15 Comments »

  1. Doom very much enjoyed the third Nochnoi Dozor book.

    Comment by DOOM!!!! — August 12, 2009 @ 2:52 PM | Reply

    • I gave the first one a half-hearted attempt. Maybe I will try again one day. I assume you have to read the first two to understand the third? Or can they be read on their own.

      I’m totally bummed you didn’t go to Abkhazia with Putin, btw… ;)

      Comment by poemless — August 12, 2009 @ 4:17 PM | Reply

  2. Can any of the men in the house tell me if anyone has ever warned them that they cannot possibly live up to the expectations placed upon them by professional sports celebrities or Maxim, so they should walk away and go cultivate their inner gods by doing arts and crafts or something?

    Yes – my mother made me understand that junk lit was below me. It’s still the only kind I read, not that I read many books these days, with all the blogs to spend time on…

    Comment by Jerome — August 12, 2009 @ 3:55 PM | Reply

    • I think it is ok to pursue shallow pleasures so long as we remain cognisant of the fact that they are so below us. :)

      Comment by poemless — August 12, 2009 @ 4:09 PM | Reply

  3. i guess not all inner gods are necessarily deep ones
    :)

    sounds like you’re doing ok with placating the Great Bookworm daemon anyroad.

    what next, the pleasures of macrame?

    Comment by melo — August 13, 2009 @ 1:10 AM | Reply

  4. Well for all those who say that my Junk reading habits are terrible, I always ask why their habits are much better? invariably you find that they don’t actually read books nowadays, or they are basing their superiority on a literature course they did back in their schooldays, when they didn’t read because they hated their set books.

    I read to get material to think, I read to not think, the trash is for those days when my brain needs to be in neutral.

    Comment by ceebs — August 13, 2009 @ 4:29 AM | Reply

    • “trash is for those days when my brain needs to be in neutral”

      Precisely. Also, your comment has made me realize that I don’t only read for my own personal enjoyment or information. My job requires me to read a lot, and much of it, while interesting, can be a bit heavy. Most recently, I’ve had to deal with a lot of Nazi books. Not books about them, but by them, and it is seriously psychologically demanding. So perhaps that is why I’ve been curling up at home with books with hot-pink dust jackets and Ikea catalogs…

      Comment by poemless — August 13, 2009 @ 11:28 AM | Reply

      • “…Most recently, I’ve had to deal with a lot of Nazi books. Not books about them, but by them, and it is seriously psychologically demanding. …”

        Oh, my. You should definitely be reading alternative-enjoyable books on a 2:1 ratio. Tell ‘em I said it was OK.

        Comment by siegestate — August 13, 2009 @ 3:06 PM | Reply

  5. Not to divulge any state secrets from Guyville, but I don’t know of any men who have used athletes as role models to figure out the opposite sex. Mostly I think we read those sort of articles for techniques. (Techniques for what I’ll leave to your imagination, but you’re a woman so I suspect you can figure that out.) Thus, any attacks on male self-esteem from reading MAXIM are less from reading the articles and more from nursing the slaps to the face that signal “bad technique” and never to read MAXIM again for said techniques.

    As for topless Putins … I’d rather slug down a fifth of Stoli than even imagine it. In fact, the mere image of it makes me reach for the bottle …

    Speaking of good junk reading and romance and sex, though, have you picked up any of those TWILIGHT books?

    Comment by EdgewaterJoe — August 13, 2009 @ 9:12 AM | Reply

    • No, no Twilight Books. I’ve already gotten into trouble once for voicing my opinion about older adults who read young adult books. Though I was really into vampires and goth in my younger days. I don’t know if I should be pleasantly surprised or a little annoyed by the current vampire phenomenon in pop culture. Eventually everything sacred is co-opted and mass-marketed, I suppose…

      As for technique, the other person in the room with you is going to be the expert on that. That’s my expert advice, anyway. :)

      Comment by poemless — August 13, 2009 @ 11:36 AM | Reply

      • “As for technique, the other person in the room with you is going to be the expert on that. That’s my expert advice, anyway.”

        My point, precisely. And MAXIM, despite its Russian-sounding name, never seemed like the kind of source with successful technique advice that I’d use. At least not for the sort of women I’d be looking for.

        Comment by EdgewaterJoe — August 13, 2009 @ 2:58 PM | Reply

      • Oh, as for the vampire phenomenon, that’s one of those cultural symbols that gets re-defined and re-invented by each successive cultural generation. So the real analysis isn’t that vampires are back, but in what manifestation they come back and why some generations seem to embrace it more than others. They weren’t so big in the 1980s (the only vampire movie I can think of was THE LOST BOYS) even though that was when Bauhaus and The Cure roamed the earth, but now they’re making a solid comeback, only with teenage girls leading the charge.

        That’s where the cultural essayists should dive in, IMHO. That’s the new twist.

        Comment by EdgewaterJoe — August 13, 2009 @ 3:03 PM | Reply

  6. Doom is of the opinion that “vampires” who sparkle in the sun and pant after teenage girls are not vampires at all, but rather pedophile poseurs who would be held in contempt by any true Nosferatu.

    Comment by DOOM!!!! — August 13, 2009 @ 2:03 PM | Reply

  7. Writing shallow books with hot pink covers isn’t shallow, it’s a good way to make money off losers, oh wai…

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — August 14, 2009 @ 1:21 PM | Reply

    • I checked it out from the library. Your tax dollars at work!

      Comment by poemless — August 14, 2009 @ 1:25 PM | Reply


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