Relationships in a Time of Excretory Trouble

Photo by Alex Wright, Flickr

Dating is laborious and embarrassing. Irritable bowel syndrome is, too. In Narratively in March 2014, food critic and memoirist Gwendolyn Knapp wrote about both, detailing the humor and stamina involved in dating with IBS in a city of spicy food like New Orleans.

When you feel the need to shit uncontrollably, dating is tough. Like your mind, your whole existence is in the toilet, has been for years, and you certainly can’t expect to drag someone down there with you. One poor guy, Michael, contacted me after I hadn’t spoken to him in two years. He’d just moved back to New Orleans after a brief bout of grad school and veganism and wanted to know if anything cool and cheap was happening on Saturday night. We met up in Mimi’s, where most of these horror stories begin. It’s a popular bar in the Marigny that has great tapas and nightmarish bathrooms. The ladies room has two toilets that practically face each other and no stalls. There’s always the chance some crazy bitch will follow you in and lock the door, drop trou and sit down on the pee pee drops, looking at you like, “What, you pee shy or something?” Sucks for you.

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Nothing Beside Remains (of the Space Jam Website)

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Last week, Rolling Stone came out with a fantastically detailed and weird deep dive into the history of the Space Jam website. While technically operating under the purview of one of the world’s largest entertainment companies, a ragtag group of unsupervised young coders built something really revolutionary. The site was a pioneering example of how a studio could market a film online, way back in 1996 when very few movies even had websites.

And then it just sat there for a decade and a half—etched in time and completely untouched—before being rediscovered and going viral in 2010. It was an antique visitor from a distant land, a riveting and slightly horrifying reminder of what the web once was. In other words: it looked aesthetically very similar to the unauthorized Harry Potter fan site that I maintained on GeoCities for most of third and fourth grade (flashing gif icons for every section, bright red Times New Roman text on a black starry sky background, et al).  Erik Malinowski’s entire account of the site’s history and legacy is fascinating, but perhaps most interesting is the fact that this oft-mocked website has outlasted nearly everything else surrounding the highest-grossing basketball movie ever made:

Today, the Space Jam site’s popularity has outlived almost everything to which it has been connected. The Fifth Avenue [flagship Warner Bros.] store shuttered in 2001. Both stars of the movie’s stars made forgettable exits in 2003 – Jordan with the Washington Wizards, Bugs with Looney Tunes: Back in Action. And every person directly associated with the site’s creation has now left the studio.

But the site lives on, aging for 19 years but free from influence, to our enduring delight.

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Breaking the Mold

A co-housing community. Photo: Tim Pierce
A co-housing community. Photo: Tim Pierce

Jessica Gross | Longreads | August 2015 | 17 minutes (4,402 words)


Bella DePaulo, a Harvard-trained social scientist who is now a Project Scientist at UCSB, started her career researching deception. But it was when she delved into singlehood, her personal passion—she describes herself as “single at heart“—that she first felt enormous synchronicity with her research. “The singles work was something entirely different,” DePaulo told me over the phone. “It is really where I live in the literal and the figurative sense.” She has chronicled this work in scholarly papers, blogs for Psychology Today and PsychCentral, and written books including Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After and Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Stop It.

In her latest book, DePaulo continues to examine lifestyles that don’t quite fit cultural norms. For How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century, she traveled around the United States, looking at alternative—that is, non-nuclear—ways of living. One example of this is co-housing, in which people live in separate dwellings but meet regularly in a shared common house. Another is Golden Girl Homes, an organization that helps “women of a certain age” live together. There’s also CoAbode, a registry for single mothers who want to live with other single-mom families. And there are even multigenerational homes, which function today in very different ways than we might imagine. Throughout, DePaulo stresses the balance between autonomy and community, and how our relative needs for each are so individual. The upshot is that, finally, no matter what our predilections, there is increasing space for us to create lifestyles that suit us.

* * *

You’ve written a lot about being “single at heart” and knowing that you love being and living alone. Why were you drawn to study alternate living arrangements?

Well, part of the interest was other people’s interest: It was a topic that other people just really liked to talk about. There was a blog post I wrote, “Not Going Nuclear, So Many Ways to Live and Love,” that got a genuine response of people wanting to hear each other’s stories. I also noticed that it was a topic that was appearing not just in casual conversations, but in the media, too. It seemed to be something that was resonating.

As for me, I feel so, so committed, and always have, to living by myself. I wasn’t really exploring for myself—although I wonder if, at some level, I was wondering whether, if I ever really couldn’t continue to live by myself, there was some way out there that really would work for me. Read more…

Developing Strawberry 2.0

Photo by Vishal, Flickr

California produces 29% of the world’s strawberries, but the ample water, cheap labor, chemicals and climate that support the state’s output are changing. In Bloomberg Business, Dune Lawrence writes about a breeder at Driscoll’s who’s trying create a strawberry that requires fewer chemicals, less water and less oversight.

Having spent decades building a brand known for consistent quality, Driscoll’s thinks consumers are ready to pay more for super premium varieties. “You have that kind of segmentation in many other products—like cars—and you begin to see the beginnings of that in berries,” Bjorn says. “We think that’s sort of where the next frontier is.”

The U.K. market is especially encouraging. There, Driscoll’s Jubilee line, marketed as “the Queen of Strawberries” and featuring a rich ruby coloring, commands a 30 percent premium over other varieties. In the U.S., the company has introduced a blackberry variety that’s especially flavorful, which it sells as “Season’s Finest” for just a short period each year at a steep markup. Stewart is working on doing the same for domestic strawberries. “Fundamentally it starts with the genetics,” says Bjorn. “If you don’t have the genetics to support that, you can’t make the product better.”

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The ‘Artificial Intimacy’ of Reporter and Subject

Photo: Ali Wade
Photo: Ali Wade

What “The End of the Tour” dramatizes—why it will be added to journalism professors’ curricula—is the seduction phase of the profile-writing process…the very structure of the reporting process, with its enforced proximity, can engender a precarious intimacy, even while the ultimate purpose of this intimacy—an article that is to be written by one participant about the other—is never forgotten.

Any reporter may fleetingly fall in love with his or her subject during the process of researching a magazine profile…But for the work to be any good, the writer’s greatest libidinal pleasure must be discovered afterward: when the back-and-forth is over, and the recorder has stopped recording, and one is alone at the keyboard at last.

— Rebecca Mead lauds Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of journalist David Lipsky in the new film “The End of the Tour.” While working on a project for Rolling Stone, Lipsky accompanied literary paragon David Foster Wallace on his publicity tour. In the film, Eisenberg captures the quintessence of the profile writer—the tics, motivations, and rapport—and underscores the challenges of getting too close to a subject.

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The Harsh Realities of Being a Woman in the Music Industry

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On Monday, Jessica Hopper (music writer, culture critic, author of the recent and wonderfully titled The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic) asked her Twitter followers a simple question:

“Gals/other marginalized folks: what was your 1st brush (in music industry, journalism, scene) w/ idea that you didn’t “count”?”

Needless to say, more than a few people responded. After a short period of writing back encouraging, personal responses, Hopper started retweeting the stories en masse.

Over the past 48 hours, Hopper’s timeline has filled with hundreds of individual stories; specific events, conversations, and aggressions, relayed in 140 characters or less. If you were hanging around the internet yesterday—or at least certain corners of the internet—you probably heard people talking about what was going on, and urging you to head over to Hopper’s page for a look.

A Twitter user named Laupina put together a Storify of Hopper’s timeline from the period in question. It’s a brutal, intimate, moving, difficult to read, and also inspiring testament to what it’s like to a be woman in the music world.

And what’s it like to be a woman in the music world? You will be mercilessly hit on, sexually harassed, endlessly accused of being the girlfriend/sister/mom, treated like an imposter, made to justify your presence, possibly threatened with violence, and constantly on the lookout for whatever fresh hell (and/or groper in the mosh pit) might be coming your way next. And that’s just the very short version.

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Los Angeles Is Itself — and Everyplace Else

Photo by Boston Public Library.

In memoirs, in documentaries, in conversation, people often describe pivotal, fear-triggering events as having “changed Los Angeles overnight.” After Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson family, people in the city started to lock their doors “overnight.” I was at a Christmas party when someone said to me that on the eve of the O. J. Simpson ruling everyone in Hollywood became a gun owner overnight. Nothing in Los Angeles happens overnight, but this is how people like to talk. Why, I don’t know, but I think it has something to do with wanting the city to be either a dream or a nightmare, like in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Psychologically, there are two L.A.’s. One is where Naomi Watts gets to be the sunny aspiring actress Betty and have beautiful teeth and a gorgeous lesbian relationship with an amnesiac Laura Harring. The other is where Naomi Watts is Diane, with fucked-up teeth, an unrequited romantic obsession, and a bullet in her head. They’re both the same movie, and none of it makes any sense. But it says something about how the city sees itself: things are one way, or suddenly another.

Dayna Tortorici writes in n+1 on growing up in Los Angeles, a city everyone can identify — but that has no identity.

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