Friday, October 17, 2014

A Love Letter to The Field Museum

Dear Field Museum,

I was debating if I should write an entirely new post or if it's acceptable to pull from a previous post. It would be a raging pile of horseshit if I denied something I love the words it deserves, so in the end of course I have to write another.

The Field Museum's objective is "the accumulation and dissemination of knowledge and the preservation and exhibition of objects illustrating art, archaeology, science and history.” What's better than that? Answer: nothing. Nothing is better than that. 

The first time I went to the Field Museum, or the first time I remember, I was in first grade. The Nature Walk blew my fucking mind.

I knew about the pros and cons of a zoo at the tender age of seven: I loved the zoo because I loved the animals and I hated the zoo because they were caged. Let's not start a debate about zoos. 

Field Museum
The Field Museum was like a replacement zoo: it was full of these frenzied, gorgeously creepish dioramas piled with taxidermy animals, some of them living in their natural habitats, grouped by geography and species and like, foraging habits or something. There's a poetry to immortalizing an animal that most humans will never see in its natural habitat. They were shrewd and outlandish and I learned things.

There are greater and lesser gnus. Hyenas were the most bizarre and bewitching animals in all the kingdoms. Deer can be the size of squirrels. The streets near my parents' house are named after common North American birds: warbler, swift. I took notes and wrote an article about birds, streets, and what I learned at the Field, then submitted it to the neighborhood homeowner's association, and they totally published it in the local paper. I was seven.

Natural History Museum in Ireland
It's not as if I have a great appreciation for taxidermy as an art form, although I know that many people do. And there's a difference between the delicately prepared specimens at the Field Museum and the fucking fantastic bullet-holed nightmares at the Natural History Museum in Ireland, although both are hypnotic in ways that open up a world of questions...how did this animal die? Who skinned, stuffed, and mounted it? Are the bones on display somewhere else? Did it have a family? What was its last meal? Did it have a favorite tree? Why did the taxidermist choose to display it in that particular pose, with that snarl or furrow or bend? Is it because of a meticulous love for science, for art, or for both? Do they only stuff animals professionally for museums, or do they mount family pets in their spare time just for giggles? If an animal has a soul, would this animal feel pride or despair knowing what happened with its body?

We can google a diagram of bears and their relative sizes, we can go to a zoo and hope the bears are outside at the same time we are, but at the Field Museum they're lined up in a row and you can feel their sheer size, marvel at the biological diversity, wander around just generally overwhelmed. Full of whelm. There's so much goddamn whelm that if we measured whelm on a scale of sun bear to polar bear, my whelm would be arctic as fuck.

Then there are the cultural exhibits: everyday items are presented fat with memories and purpose, arranged in relation to other pieces that have their own story. Each object is used to create a narrative that helps visitors understand how things were made, used, valued, and discarded. But why is that relevant? Why...why does it matter?

I have a favorite piece in nearly every exhibit. I watch every single video and I try to imagine how to use each tool, because everything has a purpose. Every thing was chosen for a reason. Every damn thing is significant and part of the narrative, even if it's a needle or a spoon. Especially if it's a needle or a spoon. Now all other needles and spoons are trite in comparison yet fundamentally extraordinary, designed so efficiently they haven't been improved upon for thousands of years.

It matters because museums facilitate understanding. They exist not to pass judgement, but to share things that are extraordinary and true. Collect, question, display, involve, educate, connect: good verbs all.

Here's a chicken and egg scenario: do I love certain things because they fascinated me at the Field Museum when I was younger, or does the Field fascinate me because it exhibits things that I love? Animals and biology, evolution, travel, cultural exploration. I've always had a weird thing for jade...is that because of the Hall of Jade at the Field? Or vice versa?

Most likely I love those things because of the Field. A good museum should make you yearn for more knowledge and boost your aspirations, and no place, nowhere, does that like the Field. Fuck this, I'm going there tomorrow.

Love,
Rassles

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Love Letter to Zealous

Dear zealous,

It's the way you make me feel, it's the way you sound. You're a word I love to use and a word I love to say, probably because you're just so fucking rad.

If you're gonna do something, do it with everything. With punch. With fucking zeal. Drink the blood of the divine and burn it like fuel, let your purpose, your passion, your enthusiasm and intensity blaze until your only release is single-minded obsession. Become a radical. A fanatical. FANATICAL. Hashtag MusicReference. 

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit - That's from the Bible (nerds) and it's about the lord, but I'm not talking about god. Or maybe I am? I must be, in a way, because talking about the zealous without referencing religion is like amateur hour at the Sears Tower ("Can you tell me where the Willis is?" "I'll tell you where you can put it.").
 
Have zealous energy in your actions, because zeal is the action that fuels love. When someone is zealous they not only have something they love, but they pursue it with warmth. So love your obsessions. Fuck the shit out of them. Unless it's a person, then ask politely first, and if they say no then you have to suck it up and be all, "oh well, crumbling cookies etc" and then you need to redirect your fucking zeal. I might start saying that to people. "I'm with you, champ, but maybe you should redirect your zeal."

Like most things in the world, being zealous is only a good thing as long as you're also being nice to people. When we are properly zealous, our love is sincere.

The reason zeal is so damn enchanting are twofold:

1) Sincere zeal for a subject is way more interesting than irony.
2) Sometimes zeal can go a little too far.

When your zealousness is just scrambling on the edge of overzealous, dipping a toe in every once in awhile, that's when your shit gets excessive. And annoying. And WAY more interesting. That's when zeal moves into the zone of requiring analysis, that's when zeal becomes the focus instead of the subject, and let's face it: no one is interested in things that you only care about a little. We're interested in the things you care about a lot.

So...do I support aggressive advocacy of ones beliefs? EhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhYES. But see above: as long as you're being nice to people.

I think this subject requires further exploration.

Do you know what the super very best thing is about being a real live person who lives in a place and has thoughts and feelings? It's not just the layers, which I'm allowed to have. It's that I can change whenever I want.

Love,
Rassles

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Turn Signal

Why can't you use a turn signal? ANY OF YOU? Mad scientists built a lever into your wheeled robot house, on purpose, just so you could alert other robot drivers that you are moving laterally. And just to keep it simple, this lever lives next to where your fucking hands go.

Your assumption that you can just weave in and out of traffic all willy-nilly with little regard for your fellow travelers is fucking egregious. EGREGIOUS.

As with all things in life, when you make a decision, please take a second to reflect on how your decision is going to effect the people around you, and in the world. Even Ashton Kutcher knows that small actions make a difference, and he's a fucking dumbass. Then he made a shitty movie about it and made things worse. Don't see it. It's terrible and it doesn't make any sense. In a bad way, not in a good way. Ashton Kutcher did not consider the butterfly effect of his own movie back in 2004 that makes me feel angry today. The fucking nerve.

Thor 2 didn't make any sense either, but that movie goddamn ruled. Do you know why? Because the filmmakers didn't try to logic something that they didn't really understand, they were just like, "um, bibbity bobbity bifrost SCIENCE = MAGIC BLOODSMOKE" and then everything was fine.

Ashton Kutcher, on the other hand, tried to explain something that he didn't understand to serve his own agenda, like when Christians appropriate "science" for their religimagic, which is backwards. Technically not Ashton, but the guys who made that movie. You can't say "magic because of science." That defeats the purpose of fucking magic. Science will negate the magic. BUT! Undiscovered science? That is magic. Do you see? Idiots. EGREGIOUS.

Don't try to make sense of something you cannot fathom in the first place. Or...no, that's wrong. Always try to make sense of things. But do not flaunt your blatant misunderstanding of a concept on film. Talk to someone who knows what the what before you act like an idiot.

Then again, I got my shit on here, and I have absolutely no fucking idea what I'm talking about.

I didn't get in a car accident or anything. I just really don't like cab drivers. They're slippery bastards.

AND DO YOU KNOW WHAT? I don't think cab drivers really like NPR! I think I just get into a cab and they switch the radio to NPR because I have glasses and I dress like a hungover junior high school teacher. Well, your deduction is inaccurate, cabbies, because I like my ignorant pop music from time to time, and I'm only wearing these pants because finding pants I enjoy is very difficult, and I'm not as cultured as you think I am. BOOM!!!! Suck it.

GRYFFINDOR

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Love Letter to Quizzes

Dear quizzes,

I guess this can go back to assigning things, in a way, but not really. Because this is more...I don't know. This is more.

Yesterday my dad sent me an article called "Why Are Social Media Quizzes So Popular?" and my first thought was, obviously: um, because they're fucking awesome.

I love internet quizzes. At first taking them was kind of fun, but now it's a full-blown obsession. I'm fascinated.

I'm not linking the article my dad shared because it's stupid and it's basically an advertisement for the Chicago theater scene, full of clickable cues to determine which character you are from Sound of Music or Peter and the Starcatcher. Also, what the devil is Peter and the Starcatcher? The article doesn't let you know, but it's playing at the Goodman. No, sorry, it's playing at the Bank of America Theater. Honestly? Who gives a shit?

And then, in the most telling fashion, the article lists and links all of these quizzes you can take, and how theaters are using these quizzes to do absolutely fucking nothing. They're doing it for the clicks. Theater employees even explicitly admit they don't know how to use the data they're collecting to their advantage, which is probably why they're in media.

Well done, college. People like to write stuff, and no one can draw a fucking conclusion that isn't a personal preference. This, by the way, is why I hate Buzzfeed.

But I loooooooooooooooove their quizzes.

Sometimes I feel like the way a quiz is worded lets me understand the motivations behind changes in pop culture. When Buzzfeed asks which city we would like to visit, do their marketing algorithms change the ads I see to echo my choice?  I mean, if they're not doing that they're idiots.

Why do quizzes ask about food? Pick a Beyonce? Pick a social media platform? Pick a sunset? What is the relevance of these things now, after a year's worth of collected information? Do they write quizzes on a whim, or are they specifically tailored to learn something about their audience? I'm trying to figure it out. It's probably Google's fault. Fucking Google. Google is the worst.

Major money-making websites generate a massive amount of income by creating pointless quizzes that we choose to share. The company thinks anyone who pays attention is their target audience. They will pay attention again. "Keep them doing useless fucking crap," says the company, "maybe we can sell it to someone who knows what to do with aggregated data."

Apparently people cheat on these quizzes to yield an expected result. Because...why? They're trying to create a way for people to identify them, so people will see them the way they want to be seen. So as far as the audience is concerned, it's is less important for them to find they're own voice than to be told that they identify with an already substantiated voice.  That's just...it's so sad.

That meas we're a society of personal branding instead of a society of people. That is terrible. How is it that some 20-year old asshole that works at Buzzfeed is granted the authority to determine which character I am from Star Wars? Why do I believe Buzzfeed? Why am I happy or dissatisfied with my result? WHY DO I GIVE A SHIT?

The article, by the way, doesn't deal with any of these questions, and that pisses me off. But maybe the most telling thing about the article is that without saying anything, the message is clear: social media quizzes are popular because companies are telling us they're relevant, and we believe them. Pop culture is about money, which means it does not reflect the culture, it controls it. I give a shit because Buzzfeed and Facebook tell me to give a shit.

Look at that: they are telling me they are relevant, so what did I do? I spent an entire post trying to fucking justify their relevance.

Goddammit, they are villainous, dexterous, bastardous geniuses. I love quizzes.

Love,
Rassles


...

This Love Letters series is for true. Click here for the list so far.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Love Letter to Having a Day

Dear Having a Day,

Jesus fuck I love having a day.

Requirements for having a day include:

1) totally unplanned
2) probably hungover
3) two or more persons, at least one of which is displaced from their normal residence by at least 500 ft
4) hilarity

It's not necessarily that you are hilarious (although I'm always hilarious, natch) when you're having a day, it's more that, like, when you're having a day, everything is hilarious. Having a day is something we invented. A term we assigned? No, something we Named.

When we have a day we tend to speak in primitive basics: "We are people and we are having a day."

It's never "Hey, can we have a day tomorrow?" It's always "Come play! We are having a day." Sometimes we try to plan it, but whenever we plan we fail.

Sometimes we can see having a day up ahead like a silhouette at sunset, our terrible, inevitable future: "Uh oh, Rassles. We're going to have a day tomorrow aren't we?"

"Yes, Schmee. I'm afraid we might."

Bloomingdale Trail. I found this on the google, I have no idea who took it. Rad though, yeah?
Sometimes having a day is just wandering around petting strangers' dogs, or an impromptu bar crawl in rain, or deciding to get drunk but instead we just sit around watching Back to the Future MST3K-style. Sometimes we go to Chinatown. Sometimes we walk down the street and collect high-fives. Sometimes we accidentally end up at the Circus Museum in Baraboo. Sometimes we hike the Bloomingdale trail, but not anymore because they're turning it into a sensible, three-mile elevated park. Chicago loses its wilderness foot by foot, day by day.

Sometimes we go see a psychic who tells us that throughout our childhood our usually-absent father, with whom we do not get along, had a secret family in Georgia, and because of his sins we are cursed to never find love unless we pay the psychic $45 a week so she can light giant candles and meditate and cleanse us of our misfortune and woe. Sometimes that psychic describes, in detail, our damaging miscarriage (????????WHUUUT??????). She says we have good business sense, we love our job cuz its what we do best, we do not enjoy reading and are not terribly creative. Sometimes that psychic also says that no man will love us because we are too ugly and intimidating (it was 6pm and I smelled like PBR and my soft pants had schnauzers on them) so we might want to consider settling with a woman just so we aren't so lonely anymore. Sometimes psychics are stupid fucking cunts that try ruin our day, but they fail, and do you know why? Because we are having a fucking DAY, that's why.

Nothing can ruin a day. Spending $25 on a shitty tarot card reading is worth it, and plus? Awesome. She did not list a single accurate or recognizable trait of mine. It was like the exact opposite of a psychic, treading water in the toilet of lies. Seriously, did this witch divine vibes from a stranger on the sidewalk? Who was this stranger? Can I meet her? Would we be friends? I doubt it, we have nothing in common, and half of my apartment is books. Also, absent father? You kidding me? My dad worked from home. I saw him every day. Too ugly to be in a relationship with a man? Foolish, fuckeyed, gypsy harpy, your mystic science is stuh-rate up slander.

But none of that matters, because Sara and I were having a day.

Sometimes when we're having a day we buy all of the champagne at CVS and drink on the porch and yell at people on the street so they'll join us in our day. Sometimes we stay in and turn off all the lights and drink bloody marys and watch Buffy. Shooting the shit, being an idiot within the safe confines of your friends.

It occurs to me that the majority of them when I'm having a day, Schmee is there. Well done, Schmee. We are people and we are good at things.

Love,

Rassles


...

This Love Letters series is for true. Click here for the list so far.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Love Letter to Diner

Dear Diner,

I love you.

Sure, you're sexist. Then again, you take place in 1959. If you weren't sexist, this would be a fantasy, and your strength is your realism. 

If any movie perfectly illustrates the dynamics of friendship without relying on stereotypes, this is it. You can keep your buddy films and your bromances and your coming-of-age. 

Diner is one of the only movies that leaves me with: Yes. This is how friends behave. This is friendship amongst a group of equals.  It's not about heroes and sidekicks or mentors and students or rivals that 'respect' each other.


I think one of the main reasons I identify with Diner so much is because there are (please don't hate me for where I'm headed, here) so fucking few healthy female friendships represented in popular culture. Why is it that female friends are always jealous and backstabby? My friends aren't like that. If I met a person like that, I would just not be friends with them.

Hollywood has very, very, very low expectations of friendship, especially with women. Stories about camaraderie are usually better friendship barometers than stories about friends.  Movies about growing up that are written or directed by a person who is, simultaneously, coming into their own self, are always the best.
 
Diner's success lies in the level of comfort these actors feel around each other, how they ricochet and couple and strain. I don't think I have a single friend I relate to in the exact same way as another. Friendships are fueled by reflection. It's how you respond to each other, the unique phrases you use, how you reminisce...if you reminisce at all. Some friends are for arguing and debates. Some friends need protection. Some give the best advice, some spill out a slow reveal of our similarities or flagrant differences.

The things that I remember about my friends are the parts that were easy, and those are the things I tell the most.  Staying up all night in on the train to New Orleans with Bobbay, shaking creamers because Muffy told us that if you shook a creamer, it would turn into butter. What did we talk about? Shit, I don't know. Buttermakers? I just know it was effortless and rad, and my favorite part of that trip was getting there. One summer I remember drinking around a fire reading passages from erotic novels with CrazyLiz and Phil and Tyler: I remember the nuances ("You know what word I'm not comfortable with? Nuance. It's not a real word" - Modell, Diner) and stress that each of used and how differently we all read the text. Driving around with Schmee in college looking for cigarettes, refusing to buy our own, just having a day. We weren't out of control or fucked up or anything, we were just...us. Sometimes it's the simple lazy times, when no one is faking it, when you're completely at ease and you don't need to work at anything, when you're not trying, when you're just effortlessly idle. But tthings end, and people grow.

Diner takes place just before the minute hand strikes sixties: the world is about to change, to call out the boys' collective narcissism and smash it up. But no matter what, they'll always have the guys at the diner.

Then they're getting married, having kids, starting new jobs and leaving town. But you know that the next time they're together, Modell and Eddie are going to bicker about absolutely anything and everything, Shrevie and Boogie will remain friendly, but tensely competitive, Fenwick will probably be drunk and brilliant and pissing off everyone else.

And it's stories we all know: the universal, gap-mouthed look Eddie gets when he realizes he just lost a pointless argument, but he still keeps arguing because he must, because he is making a goddamn point, and then later on he brushes it off, why so serious?

Seriously, Steve fucking Guttenberg is a goddamn genius in this movie (words that have never, ever been spoken, and technically they still haven't since I typed them, but whatever jerk). As far as I'm concerned his role (Eddie) is one the most well-actualized characters I have ever seen - because we know him, we can tell how he's going to react to anything outside the sphere of Diner because he does such a fucking perfect job reacting to things. I could go on and on and on, but that shit's boring to list and dazzling to watch. I'll let the movie do it.

In a way, I guess, it's about taking shit seriously: my serious business is much more fucking important than your serious business. Nah, just kidding, super sors, we cool?

Maybe it's because, stripped of the question of masculinity and what it means to be a man and all that bullshit (which I could talk about, but don't want to) Diner is really about learning who you are and admitting those faults, and how none of it matters with the people you love. 

Maybe I the reason I love Diner is because it's like...it's like when an old friend gives you a confident a kick in the ass and tells you to fuck off, so you do a round of shots and make fun of each other for five minutes and feel better about the world. 


Love,
Rassles

...

So I guess I have a Love Letters series now.  I mean, I do. Click here for the list so far.