Currently viewing the category: "Love/Hate List"

esq-megan-fox-cover-0213-lgShe sits across from you in the dark, bright, busy, empty restaurant cafe bar. Her familiar face from that number one critical darling TV show movie is so beautiful you would weep if you weren’t a man. She’s got a personality, so don’t feel guilty or anything. She contains multitudes, which you see reflected in her soul when she plays the fearless, nagging, comforting wife of a damaged spy soldier cop each week.

She expresses opinions and also she does a kind of exercise every day. She has voted. But that’s not really the point, is it? The point is that she is deep, like chocolate or wine.

By her, we mean her face. And tits. Not that the magazine that once published Frank Sinatra Has a Cold and The Falling Man would be so indelicate as to mention those lightly shaded mounds peeking out from the top of that girl next door, rock star, sex kitten blouse. Those breasts like femininity in 2015 America.

Also her face is symmetrical. Which is literary. It’s like a lyric essay, how her face is like that. The symmetry of it speaks volumes about late capitalism. She says things out loud, but it is her face that speaks in deeper, more fundamental tones, like a cello or your mom’s comfort food.

You see her in her underwear on the cover, right? But you didn’t see how comfortably she posed in that dripping, transparent tanktop. You, because you don’t know her and also live in Middle America, will never truly get that she is just as luminous while bare-assed in our studio as she is up on the big and also small screen.

She is poetry. Her thighs especially. They’re like molasses and cream and your first tentative erection. You haven’t studied poetry since high school because real poetry is in the calluses on your hands when you hold your son’s hand and you’re both playing baseball. But her skin and lips are the kind of literature that we have today in 2015. Metaphorically, you will study her vagina in English class tomorrow. Also literally.

We put her in that unbuttoned man’s shirt and loosened tie and nothing else because we know — we know — about the tumultuous state of gender roles in 2015. We see her laughing refutation of the archetypical American pinup girl, and we want to fuck her even more for it, and then give her another Oscar.

But we would fuck her respectfully. No — with reverence. Because she’s a sonnet about a lost, sexy deer, and she is a rich Bearnaise sauce. We would fuck her like we did in our minds while she fiddled with her phone in that cafe, almost like a person would. But she is not one. She is an essay. She is a limpid-eyed, babbling brook that you and your grandfather visited as a child. A strangely arousing painting of Elvis. A vintage sports car in a black and white portrait. A wounded sparrow you would totally do.

He is standing manfully, staring at other manful actions like maybe a pickup sports game or a beer tasting happening a short distance away. He would join in with lithe confidence, if he weren’t being profiled right now by the magazine that published The Falling Man and Frank Sinatra Has a Cold. Look at him relaxing, yet vigilant. He’s dripping with masculinity there in a t-shirt and jeans that you can purchase for 1500 dollars. Look at his face. His jawline is being a man today. Because he’s strong. But the kind of strong that exists in 2015, with its myriad post-feminist complexities and hunger for perfectly cooked meats.

He does stuff. It’s movie stuff, or possibly niche TV stuff, but by God he is just DOING THINGS ACTIVELY all day long. Now he’s leaning, and also standing with his legs apart, and also sitting confidently — like a man who knows how to play Mass Effect while wearing an eight thousand dollar suit and eating a rare steak. A man who has read Gravity’s Rainbow and feels it in his entire being as he lifts. A man who doesn’t hunt, but totally could.

He’s a metaphor for masculinity, this man. Manning about there. He’s kind of like Hemingway. But someone way less trite than that. Steinbeck, maybe? Yeah, he’s the kind of man who could wear a mustache like Steinbeck. The kind of man who invented mustaches. No, he’s someone more truly American than that. He’s like Captain America watching Humphrey Bogart wrestle Steve McQueen. But also like a cowboy detective racecar driver. But less hick than that. Because the essay on the decline of the American farmer, and what it means about your father, and all our fathers, is actually on page 68.

Anyway, he’s a man.

Manhood in 2015, can we ever dissect it? Can we — or he — ever figure out masculinity in a post-9/11, post-Obama, post-bailout, post-man America? Maybe. But that would be too navel-gazing for him. He’s thoughtful, but not in a way that would distract him from going skydiving while wearing jeans and a blazer that’s surprisingly appropriate for work or the bar afterwards. He knows manhood in his fingers, which he can use to please any woman, especially the ones you lust after. But he wouldn’t brag about that, he’d celebrate it with confidence.

Fundamentally, he is too much of a man to stop being a man today. He is manhood in the most fashionable past, and also its bold, unpredictable future. That’s why we took his picture in black and white for the cover! In short, he is you in all your contradictions and nuances. But better than you. But also surprisingly humble and also every single other man in 2015. Whiskey is great, isn’t it?

downloadThe rule about Esquire is the issues with men on the cover are better. Esquire on masculinity is pretentious, but strangely earnest, but also sort of vulnerable at the end of it all. They’re over-thinking manliness, but it’s better than when they get into sonnets on the symmetry of Megan Fox’s face. Esquire on women is dressed-up lad magazine atittude. It’s all about looks, but Esquire swears it’s because these B-list actresses are just so captivating, man. The way they eat their salad in the cafe in which the interview takes place is totally art. Like, sexiness is art. This actress who played minor parts on several network TV shows is like a canvas.

And men are well-dressed, well-fed, well-read; tough, but real, human beings.

The April issue of the magazine — starring Jimmy Kimmel with a sharpie mustache drawn on his face — has an intriguing list, “84 Things a Man Should Do Before He Dies: The Life List.” I figured as a well-dressed, well-fed, well-read, not super tough, but working on it real human lady being, I would see how many manly things I have done so far.

1. Apologize.  Should work on my skills there. But boring.

2. Construction related man stuff, nope. Never ripped down a wall.

3. Lost 15 pounds without talking about it — literally everyone losing 15 pounds should stop talking about it.

4. Take one stunning train trip. The more nights, the better. Done! And awesome.

5. Say “I’m sorry, too” in the middle of a “vicious argument”: Uh, not sure off hand. Boring.

6. Spend an uncomfortable amount of money on a really good suit. I haven’t. But I would.

7. Leave a tip big enough to upset you. I am poor and nice, so yes.

8. No, I have never been to Bonneville Salt Flats, but it sounds great. Possibly even greater than this Charlie Parr song called “Bonneville.”

9. I haven’t taken a little girl to see The Nutcracker, but I have been a little girl who saw it. Hell, I was a little girl who listened to a tape of the songs and made my stuffed animals dance. This was when I was six and thought “rock and roll” was loud and grating.

10. Nearly die, then don’t. I almost died from asthma and pneumonia as a six-month-old, so sure.

11. See a band’s last show ever. Not yet, hopefully. I did see the very last Old Crow Medicine Show concert that Willie Watson played with them, however. Tears. Unmanly tears.

12-13. I lose major man points for not being able to drive.

14. Volunteer. Obligatory entry, and not as much as I should. I should do some Food, Not Bombs. I did pass out Christmas toys in Zagreb once, on the other hand.

15. No, I haven’t taken a tiny sea plane in Vancouver. That sounds like something I would be terrified and delighted to do.

16. Love something other than yourself (with picture of dog). Well, of course.

17. Shoot a Glock. No! But I have shot a Colt .45 and a dang semi-automatic SKS. I think I have more man points than John H. Richardson, who wrote the brief.

18. Write a poem. Fuck yeah, man. I once earned $50 from a poem, which probably puts me in the top three most successful poets of our time.

19-21. Drug and casual sex suggestions. Boring.

22. No, I do not make incredibly important decisions quickly. Nor do I make inane ones. It is not in my genes.

23. Coach kids what? Sports? God help them.

24. Vacations with friends are good, annual ones would be great.

25. I have better than a personal uniform. I have style.

26. I cannot tell a joke. But I will keep telling the one I made up. What do you call a frat boy who enjoys making up new words by putting two together?

27. I haven’t met a lot of newborns, and I haven’t yet held their hands.

28. I have been lost, both on purpose and by accident.

29. No, I cannot change a tire. Have definitely never done it without telling someone.

30. I haven’t toasted my father.

31. Write a country song? Ah, fuck you, Esquire. Stop trying to win my heart. Joke ones, sure.

32.  Build an irresponsible fire. I was with some disreputable 25-year-old punks, and I was 17, but we did have a trespassing bonfire on a muddy night in God Knows Where Woods.

33. Shovel soil onto a casket. Oh, Jesus, Esquire. It will happen, do we need to put on the official list?

34. Take a month off? Not really on purpose.

35. Face your own mortality by taking a physical risk. I have climbed some Montana boulders and hills that were not so safe, and I was not so skillful.

36. Drive cross country the other way — from Great Falls, Montana to Austin, Texas. Great one! I have been across country by bus, train, car, and plane, AND my mom is from Great Falls, but I have not yet done the sideways venture. It’s going on the list.

37. Walk somewhere at least 50 miles away. This has long been on my list. It has to be if you grew up on a diet of children’s books filled with runaway orphans and stranded Alaskan travelers.

38. No, I haven’t been to or climbed Angels Landing in Zion National Park. Sounds Biblical.

39. Drive a Glacier National Park road! Shit, who in Esquire loves Montana this much? Tragically, I haven’t been to Glacier yet.

40.  Hondle. A word I have never heard in my life. It means haggle, basically. I am so bad at haggling that when I saw a $100,000 Reichmark bill for sale at a flea market, I said “I WANT THAT NOW, NO HAGGLING, NOW. TAKE MY MONEY.”

41. Quit your job. I haven’t had a lot of them.

42. Kill your dinner. Not even been fishing. Feel like I should, though.

43. Put your phone down. People always call when you do that. But I love to ignore my phone as much as possible.

44. Be obsessed. Have you met me?

45. Make enemies. Working on it, darling. And all the right ones.

46. Sleep outside, next to a fire. Done. You tend to wake up cold.

47. Sleep outside, in a public park. Not yet. Not even after reading Evasion.

48. Try really fucking hard to be great at one thing. I should try a lot harder.

49. Help to bring life into the world. No thanks. But I would like a puppy. Or to make one in a lab.

50. More driving.

51. I can’t do much while drunk, no.

52. Live your nightmare. Non-specific, but the piece is about dying at a comedy club. No, thank you.

53. I can’t make an old-fashioned, but the last one I had was made by a Southerner who is a foreign correspondent in Haiti. I cam eto his party clutching my Christmas Rye, and he made me one old-fashioned out of the last dregs of it. It was delicious.

54. Never rode a horse. Mom says I rode an elephant in LA once. It was probably well-tethered.

55. I really am not handy.

56. Make a sandwich at three in the morning. This is just an excuse to show Jessica Pare in her underwear. On the other hand, she has a friendly pin-up girl smile and is not posing in an impossible way, and for a man magazine, that is true enlightenment.

57. Swim naked. More Jessica Pare juxtaposition excuses, but again, she looks friendly, not deadly-sexy. Fair enough. And yes I have gone skinny-dipping. Love those cold Montana creeks.

58. I have never busked! Which is part of my sneaking suspicion that I will never be great. Wait, once I was sitting on the sidewalk for my mom and I began fiddling with my viola, because this was after junior orchestra. One of the directors throw a quarter into my case, so there you go.

59-60. Meet your hero/have a hero. I have met several of mine, musical, ideological, journalistic, and otherwise.

61. No, I have never been to that specific place either.

62. Walk away from a conversation you’re not enjoying, without explanation. Yes. It’s hard for the shy, but it’s good practice for the woman getting creeped on at a Justin Townes Earle show.

63. Get fired, with cause. I was much better at that work study in the ELS office at Chatham than the one girl. But dammit, last hired, first fired. She slept at her desk, man!

64. Talk to your father about back in the day. Not for a while, but I was THE child for this sort of story of back in the day.

65. Sail continuously for three days and night on the open ocean. Oh, come now.

66. No, my left hand is rubbish. I am way far from ambidextrous.

67. Never been married, don’t really want the state to endorse my relationship. We’ll see.

68-69. Never hired or fired someone.

70. I still laugh at Cookie Monster, and the lesson from Sesame Street I learn is that eating inanimate objects with glee is hilarious. Enthusiasm. Let’s say I learned enthusiasm.

71. I would be glad to attend the launch of a rocket.

72. Be a true believer, then believe in the opposite side of the thing. Unless I become a fundamentalist or a fascist, seems unlikely to happen.

73. I like LA, and I have always wondered about chicken and waffles, so okay, maybe that one. I will visit that restaurant.

74. Walk around New York City all night. I thought not, but actually Pamela Stubbart, Todd Seavey and I just made it to dawn in January, 2013. Bam!

75. Commit a petty crime. Sneaking into a Pittsburgh city park swimming pool at night. Twice. Very rewarding crime.

76. Reread highschool novels you skimmed. Plan to.

77. Read Huckleberry Finn. I was literally just thinking today I should do this.

78. Read 50 Shades of Grey. Oh stop it, hipster-contrarians.

79. Do something awesome and not get paid for it. Sorry, “refuse to monetize it.” This blog post counts.

80. Have a pair of shoes made. I should, because my leg is all fucked up. Do $700 orthopedic insoles count?

81. No, I will never win an office.

82. I could definitely lose at running for office, but it seems unlikely I will ever bother.

83. I would like to go to Detroit for journalistic reasons, but, uh, it’s a little weird that Esquire thinks you can do most of the things on this list with impunity there.

84. Don’t have a life list. Edgy. Manly and edgy twist there.

Sadly, there is no way to tally your man score at the end. The magazine that published “The Falling Man” and “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” would never be so quantitatively lowbrow, so unliterary, man.

Let’s just say I am relatively manly.

I haven’t ever seen a Cosmo, etc. version of this list, but I suspect it would be 1) have a sweet boyfriend/have kids or don’t, but decide!!! 2) buy clothing that makes you feel good (hint: this thing from our advertisers), 3) A wild stab at topical feminism with “uh, ask for a raise, I guess.”

Esquire‘s life list is both a demonstration of its conventions, and better than it might be, all things considered, and much better than any general interest magazine for ladies. In short, Esquire-y.

1000992_10100888966231447_827789867_n1) Every knee-jerk patriot who so loves his loyalty to flag and country is celebrating treason right now. Yes, treason.

2) The Declaration of Independence is a dynamite piece of work, it really is.

3) Bill Pullman’s presidential speech before the final battle in Independence Day. Tell me he doesn’t give his all.

4) The X version of “Fourth of July”, which I played on my radio show yesterday afternoon. It’s such a gut-wrencher in many different ways. What a ridiculously great song. In order of quality of versions it goes 1) X 2) Drunk Matt Welch 3) Dave Alvin, for what that’s worth.

5) Maybe the bad-ass words of the Founders have melted into offensive hypocrisy, perhaps they did right away (or by the time John Adams rolled into office with his Sedition Act shenanigans), but again, that Deceleration is a kick-ass “fuck you” to people getting involved your business of living.

Hell, the World War I Christmas Truce failed, but I still think about and toast it every December 24. Maybe I could celebrate, if nothing else, the sheer audacity of people throwing off their King and saying, nah, we can do better. Henry David Thoreau wasn’t the perfect American woodsman, but his Civil Disobedience does the poetry of liberty better than anything. There’s a place for the pretty words of even the Founders. They knew. They knew so well the dangers of government tyranny and they still were all awful presidents — thereby proving their warnings that it’s the power that’s the problem.

6) Yes, six. I think under my libertarian anarchism there is some stupid, poetic core that wants America to be what its reputation says it is. You know, that wacky, anti-collectivist nation. The world’s cool Bohemian cousin who is kind of scary, but captivating. The life of the party. Can you imagine if we really were the bad-ass, individualist, cranky, cool nation of only Lysander Spooners and Rose Wilder Lanes? Who kept to ourselves, but always left the front door open to immigrants?

That’d be nice.

The fact that I have a lingering disappointment in America always surprises me. We’ve got such great geography, history, folklore, culture. We could have been a contender…We could have been the America that conservatives tell themselves that we always were and are and forever will be. (But better, cause we’d also have Mexicans and gay people.)

And now my patriotism for the year is done. Because again I’m wondering and worrying over where America’s trimmings of liberty are what keeps people from realizing how bad it is, and how much worse it can get. We have the amendments, we have that wonderful document of (mostly) negative liberties (God, what an awesome idea), and then we have a million tiny chips in each one. The Fourth is in particularly bad shape, but since it’s still there in law, are we going to notice if it becomes utterly meaningless, like my friend Bob’s sandals that were eventually held together only with duct tape?

Is it ever going to feel like a people in the street, this time it’s serious, this time we make a stand moment in a nation devoted to pretty words about being the freest place in the world? Are we just lulling ourselves to sleep by repeating what we were supposed to be as a country? What kind of shield is a piece of paper, anyway?

esq-megan-fox-cover-0213-lgEsquire, oh Esquire. You’re the confederate vampire character Jasper in Twilight — compared to  the other characters/magazines (Bella/Cosmo), you are the weightiest, most literary thing.  But there you are, somehow still being terrible and shallow. You’re always there, a reminder of how bad you are, but don’t have to be, but how much better you are than things that are worse.

But first, a list. Cosmo and associated lady magazines think that women are interested in sex, men, make-up, clothes, things that will kill you, and not much else. Esquire, according to their February issue, believes that you, a Man, are interested in the following things:

Megan Fox’s weirdness and her hotness and her sadness (more on that later), Barack Obama’s second term, how the Post Office is the Best Thing in the World and is Also America, Everyone Should Calm Down About Sex Scandals, head injuries in the NFL,  Kevin Bacon wearing a 5,000 dollar suit, Alan Arkin’s life advice, how to make mushroom gravy for your steak, various sexual things, short stories, poetry — one poem is even by a lady, alcohol, which smartphones have the best cameras, the war in Afghanistan, jokes told by scantily clad women, clothing, the World Trade Center, Chris Christie.

Yes, they are selling you lots of shit, same as lady magazines do, but nobody who has given even a cursory glance at both general interest men magazines and lady ones could ever argue against this summary; that men’s magazines, even the most shallow ones, suggest a lot wider, and meatier range of interests than any women’s ones (even more than, say, Bust, which is just a little too into knitting and shit). You, a Man, have a lot of interests. Sexy ladies are just one of them. Sexy ladies are interested in their looks and in men, men are interested in doing things and thinking things and, yes, getting sexy women. This is not new. This is still frustrating.

Thankfully, Esquire also has some really solid examples of appalling sentences and paragraphs. Their fault, intriguingly (again, when contrasted with Cosmo, which is written at probably a fifth grade reading level) is most often that they are pretentious.  And so, presenting the top five most awful piece of writing in the February Esquire —

1) No reaction to the cover profile of Megan Fox could beat Caity Weaver’s blog for Gawker. Her headline, “Megan Fox Speaks in Tongues and is Symmetrical” is an impressively accurate summary of the content. Weaver’s takeaway, that Fox alludes to a lot of weird, fascinating beliefs, mentioning Pentecostal church, leprechauns  aliens —  but the writer — Stephan Marche — is much more interested in her face, is correct. The worst part of Marche’s writing (read it out loud in the most theatrical tone possible):

The symmetry of her face, up close, is genuinely shocking. The lip on the left curves exactly the same way as the lip on the right. The eyes match exactly. The brow is in perfect balance, like a problem of logic, like a visual labyrinth. It’s not really even that beautiful. It’s closer to the sublime, a force of nature, the patterns of waves crisscrossing a lake, snow avalanching down the side of a mountain, an elaborately camouflaged butterfly. What she is is flawless. There is absolutely nothing wrong with her.

As previously noted by The Awl and Jezebel. Marche also calls Amy Adams and Adele and Lady Gaga “perfectly plain.” This is obviously ridiculous. But says Marche, they are basically signs that ugly women have been okayed by society now. That leads him to his thesis — not that Fox believes weird shit and hates her body being used as dissected and that could be interesting, np — that it’s hard out there fore the symmetrical-faced.

Marche also has to put “I” in his lede. Every single profile of a sexy celebrity needs to start with the author sitting next to or across from their subject. It’s very important. It’s key. I am there, the sexy celebrity is there, look how she eats food, how she curls up her feet onto the sofa, look at her.

(All of this makes me realize how God damned good that New York Times Magazine article about Lindsay Lohan actually was.)

2) I am not reading your article about Barack Obama, Charlies Pierce. You are boring. Okay, fine, here’s something:

“The personal victory he won over most of the things that are cheap and lazy and stupid in our politics has given him the power to disenthrall the public from those same things, and to disenthrall his own administration from its notion that there was some good to be found in the people who so fastened themselves to the cheap and the lazy and the stupid, and that there was some patriotism to be found in the politicians who so profited from them. In his second term, it should be Barack Obama’s job to make that personal victory ours as well.”

Shut up.

3) “This isn’t a story about whether we could live without the post office. It’s about whether we’d want to.” Gawker, my God, your talents could be so great mocking this ode to American postal greatness, if only Hamilton Nolan wasn’t a God damned commie he could skewer this absurity so well.

The name Lysander Spooner sure never shows up in this piece. Nor is a query that maybe private folks could do this easier ever answered. It just hangs there for a paragraph. There is just a worried collection of numbers about privatization — we have 110,000 military contractors, private companies house 16 percent of federal inmates — that have nothing to say about efficiency or morality or public versus private. The person who wrote this piece had better be 150 years old, or we are doomed.

4) “He was the Martyred Jesus of Oral Sex with Interns…” No. Fuck you. Stop it. Your writing makes my my teeth itch. And if you’re pleading for a less puritanical America (fair enough!) do not include Eliot Spitzer in your list of fallen, free love heroes. You get to go to prostitutes, or you get to use your powers as attorney general to crack down on sex workers. You do not get to do both and not be awful. (Though, of course, cracking down on prostitution is gross either way. ) Author, your good points are buried under my urge to punch you.

5) Turns out everything else is tolerable. Tom Junod wrote about head injuries in the NFL, and Junod is overrated, but also not so bad. However, I already read about concussions in sports in Rolling Stone, and I cannot read two articles about sports in one day.  Pleasantly enough, many of asides and briefs are even funny. Something about this issue is slightly more charming than usual, but only the bits and pieces — which, as I know from Reason days, take plenty of time to ensemble, too.

And three out of nine poems aren’t bad — that’s a whole lot better than The New Yorker does.

The laundry list of wide, interesting subjects, the occasional humor, the excessive need to be literary about everything (calm down, we know you published Salinger, you don’t need to get so swoony about Morena Baccarin)… Esquire, you try. I want to like you more than I do, every damn time. This is why you’re are on my love/hate list. I want to write for you, but you piss me off at least half the time. You’re like the Red Eye of magazines, but with much, much worse politics. And yet, every time I start to rant about you, Esquire, I get even more depressed that women’s magazines aren’t even close to being as good as you.