Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Well, east coast girls are hip (that's right; we're back)

The American West coast is without a doubt the worst thing to happen to our nation since the American East coast.
That being said, it is definitively important to remember that the East coast, unlike its sunburned, smug little brother, is not all bad, having brought us, after all, not only John Adams, but also milkmen, lunch pails and Melungeons, as well as our very first liasons with the Canadians. Back in the day, Virginia claimed throne of sophistication and luxury, while the west loomed a slovenly wilderness of gophers and poorly surveyed homesteads. We could console ourselves with the land's savagery; what it lacked in refinement, it made up for in boll weevils; what it craved in intellectual discourse, it fed with sprawling fields of grass. There were barn raisings aplenty.

But the glorly couldn't last. The west changed. We built square gray buildings; we discovered surfing. Cowboys and Indians has been replaced with Xenophobes and Mexicans, and the murderous broods of horse thieves that once roamed the land have settled down to manage L.L. Bean outlet stores. Nary a mail-order Chinese bride, and all we have to show for ourselves in the betrothal department is Bristol Palin. And although Governor Sarah makes it look easy to shoot game, disenfranchise women, and establish reckless dictorship over an isolated town, I can assure that not all the grandeur of Gunsmoke has been so well preserved. Sure, Idaho was the tops in 1838; I'll grant it that: it was the place to be, especially for frustrated young men with a taste for ruthlessness and no hope of sexual satisfaction anyway. But we have anime for that now.

Meanwhile, the East has lost none of its glory; still industrial, still smoke-sooted, still stressful, incomprehensibly diverse, overcrowded, and painfully cerebral, it remains the gilded gloryseat of urban fulfillment. Why waste your years doing pilates and sipping yerba mate when you could be profiting from every espresso-jacked moment? Why ponder canyons when you can fall into electrically-charged subway tracks? People, please.
There comes a time when every woman must choose her heroes. This is not a question of land, of space, but of the human spirit, and we must ask ourselves, once and for all: Dr. Weil or Dr. Oz? Shwayze or T-Pain? Leno or Letterman? These are the chasms we must cross, both spiritual and intellectual, before we can achieve unity once and for all. But we must first remember what will unite us in the end: deep and enduring scorn for the midwest.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Go West, Young Man!

By Lauren Wood

A wise philosopher, Andre Romelle Young (known affectionately and professionally as Dr. Dre), once said "Cali is where they put they mack down."

I'm not really sure what this means, but I do know that it is meant to affirm the glory of the American West Coast. A land where cities are not merely industrial clusters packed with convenience-seeking residents, but meccas of culture and scenery. It is no wonder that the brightest stars of our generation have come to California to create their fate.

The West Coast is the Promised Land.

I chose this topic in light of my recent experiences on this half of our fine nation. I should point out that I have always been an East-Coast Girl. I was born and reside in Atlanta, Georgia. I go to school in a major Northeast coastal capital. I celebrate my birthday in that most infamous of American metropolises. And I vacation in/loathe Florida. As a result of all this, I am uptight, busy, rude (to be fair, Southern girls may not actually be your face), and direct. I am also focused solely on commercialism.

However, my co-op position with Campus MovieFest (the world's largest student film festival! sign up today!) has recently brought me across the Mississippi, and out to the Golden State, where the atmosphere is decidedly different. Californians, and West-Coasters in general, I feel, do not trouble themselves with silly things like deadlines or social boundaries. When you run into a fellow pedestrian on your way to class in California, you do not push them to the ground without a word. More often than not, you have launched a beautiful friendship based on mutual appreciation for the the surrounding nature, marijuana, tie-dye, and hair (all of which probably distracted you in the first place). And if the collision does not lead to friendship, but hostility, than you need not pay it any heed. It's his/her journey, man. Let it go. Peace.

This is not to say, of course, that California is not without its quirks, eccentricities, or just-plain weirdness. Why, just today, when I was at UC Berkeley, I saw:

-A man in makeshift pharaoh attire (complete with snake-shaped shaft)
-A large dog without an owner who frolicked in the fountain
-A girl dressed as a bottle of KY Jelly dancing with another girl dressed as a condom
-A crazy Christian railing against the devil
-A man standing on a chair saying "Happy happy happy happy happy" over and over again
-A campus group for every Asian nation and major (Laotian Philosophy Majors Student Association!)
-A student who actually bought food for a homeless man

My conclusion on this score is that while East Coasters are also crazy, their insanity is based on a hypersensitivity to reality and its pressures, while those on the West Coast choose to completely disregard reality. This is a far superior defense.

So while I doubt that Andrew Jackson had Mr. Happy Happy Happy Happy Happy in mind when he advocated for "Manifest Destiny," I am sure he would not disapprove. This belief in the American ability to reach its own outer-limits is perfectly demonstrated by the weirdly wonderful kooks in Cali.

Maybe one day, I'll have the courage to be kooky, too. For now, I'm just enjoying the trip.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I am woman, hear me whip!

By Lauren Wood

In 1558, Queen Elizabeth I became Queen of England, and led her nation into a golden age (or so says the film.

In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment was passed in the United States of America. If you don't know what this amendment says, then go ahead and vote for lace, to your right.

In 1963, The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan was published, and those liberated women who read it were encouraged to further liberate themselves, and condescend to their lace-y housewife friends.

Finally, in 2004, Halle Berry became Catwoman. The movie may not have done extraordinarily well in the critical realm, or at the box office, but it reflects a continuation of times that are a-changin' when it comes to women's roles in society.

We no longer must disguise ourselves as bedding in order to entice men (or women, if that's your choice, soul sister!) Women of the 21st century can convey strength, and dominance. Our choice of textiles need not trap us in a delicate netting of traditional gender roles, instead our second skin can be as impenetratable as our spirits and sexual appetites (yes, that's right!), and can tear at flesh when flicked in violence (cue whip noise).

Leather can endure the elements just as easily as it can endure a mosh pit, and so it is a uniform of those who dare to be as tough as tanned animal hide. Cowboys wear leather as they lasso and ride the wild, bucking bulls in the harsh environment of the American Southwest. Punk rockers wear studded leather jackets as they ride the wild, bucking bulls of substance abuse (often both heroin and cocaine!) and sing before the great unwashed swells of violent, misguided youth. Tough New York professionals wear leather accessories as their own quiet reminders of the tough skins they acquire as they face the jungle of the corporate world.

Lace, try as it might to be "deceptively" innocent, simply lacks the wherewithal to endure the world's dangers. It is fragile, intricate, teasing, and pretty. In other words, it is everything women were supposed to be before the dawn of feminism. The women of Dickens, Austen, and Shakespeare all decked themselves in gentle lace, usually in an attempt to ensnare a suitable husband, so that they can lose their identities for the sake of family.

Or so says Betty Friedan, anyway.

Anyway, Catwoman's leather-clad superheroine is strong, enticing, sassy, agile, smart, and yes, sexy. And it's all because of the leather. Or so I gather from the trailer and wikipedia article. I didn't actually see the movie.

So, in the words of another feminist icon, Helen Reddy:

I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman.

Hear me whip.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Holier Than Thou


It is the soul and cloak of sensuality. It is delicate; it is coquettish; it is hopelessly and proudly romantic. Provincial and urbane, antique yet ageless, lace is a beautiful and confounding mystery almost as enticing as those who wear it.

Lace is without peer in sophistication and expression. Versatile, joyful, and sheerly pretty, it queens over every false pretender to the great upholstered throne. Cotton is dull, wool impossible, polyester obscene. And leather! Leather is brutal, blunt, and impenetrable; it shouts hostility and self-absorption in the clumsiest way. Leathercladsters do not extend the hand of mercy or drink from the cup of kindness; they have no opportunity to surprise or deviate from the frowning visage their garment cuts out for them.

Lace, on the other hand, is more than a ready-made punk megaphone. It can be dark, certainly, and heartless, icy, and predatory. But it can also be sweet, fitting clean on the hem of girl’s Sunday dress or a grandmother’s hanky. Yellowing and frayed, lace promises nostalgia, history, earl gray tea, the impossible romance of dying refinement. But black and premeditated, it can be a vixen’s miracle. And what greater pleasure can there be than in transforming your grandmother’s nightgown into a weapon of mass destruction?

Leather’s rumored appeal is only a reflection of our masochistic society’s desire for cruelty and dominance, a manifestation of our guiltful self-hatred and bourgeois thirst for direction. Its gross texture and putrid origins can never compare to the precise craft of lovely, lovely lace.

If I did not loathe PETA and object to animal rights as much as I do, I might frame leather as the dark twin of fur, a needless, superficial robbery of life, and point out our absolute piggishness in demanding bestial satiation for our own vain insecurities. But I’d hate to fall in with the wrong crowd there.

Speaking of the wrong crowd, please also take note of the lace-related

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ask a Wood: Tragedy for a New World

Dear "Sandra,"

You are very, very right to believe that your demise is imminent. I'm sure it will come as uplifting news that you need not carry the pressure of trying to find your fault (as it is apparent) or waiting listlessly for ill fortune (as it is precipitate). As anyone with half a brain knows, hubris is the most common hamartia, and you, my friend, are chin-deep in it. In words a plebe like you would understand, this means that the great gum-gobbed shoe of tragedy is already on its way down, and only a deus ex machina could stop it.

 You are blind to the truth of your doubtlessly dissipated family life (just how "little," curiously, are your boys? Is this a genetic inheritance (perhaps you yourself are a "fox" in stature alone?), or is it the result of syphilis or drug use?). You are indecently vain about your corporeal charms, and your "husband," "Ronaldo," has plainly blindsided you in all but the most obvious of arenas. He is probably having multiple affairs with men and women of all social classes; the best you can hope for is that he's not paying for it (or, more aptly, that they're not).

Allow me to help you out. As fine tragedists like Euripides, Shakespeare, and Middleton labored tirelessly (but usually unsuccessfully) to prove, a hubristic downfall is not always entirely predictable, and it is crucial that you have a gameplan. I shall now go about suggesting a number (2) of possible tragic scenerios, and you can decide which sounds like the most fun.

1. You, in your foxiness and desire for revenge on "Ronaldo," begin a torrid affair with one of his brothers, Geraldo and Craig, only to discover that they have been abusing your sons for years with the help of your avuncular priest, hence the boys' crippling syphilis; you contract the same infection from said Craig, dying dramatically in the vestibule at the very moment you hear your husband confessing to said priest that he did, once, plan a liaison with a prostitute, but, out of fear and shame, backed out and passed the reservation off to his brother, and that he has felt guilty ever since Craig fetched the Syph the very same night, and that he wishes his penance to be a life of unfettered service to his wife's whims


2. You, in your vain quest to look a bit less like a fox and more like, say, a Brazilian fox, decide to have every hair plucked from your body; the resulting pain forces you to use your societal connections to acquire an under-the-counter prescription of Oxycontin; your drug-thirsty son, finding the stash, overdoses and dies, after which your bereaved husband subtly poisons you, only to marry a young, fearlessly furred fox in less than three months, commenting all the while that he has always preferred more "natural" women.

I personally recommend Option 1. 2 just sounds heinous.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A question for Caroline...

Anxious (surely) Readers,

I have sifted through the multitude of troubles provided in your many, many e-mails. Unfortunately, none were sufficient. You all must try harder to be pathetic and interesting. A difficult balance indeed, but if you dream you can achieve!

Take the following as an example. A very delightful woman managed to catch my attention, and I think that none but Caroline Wood can assist.

Dear Miss Wood,

Help! My name is "Sandra," and I am a very happy woman in the prime of my life. I have a wonderful husband, "Ronaldo," and two lovely little boys. I enjoy healthy relationships with my family and friends, and (if I do say so myself) I am quite a fox (still!) My one crippling concern is that something must give. Perhaps I read too many tragic novels, perhaps I am a paranoid schizophrenic, but regardless, I am concerned that in a minute my world will collapse. Will it now?...Or maybe just the next time I walk outside? Will you help me feel content in my life, or at least realize some flaws so I don't have to wait for a shoe to drop?


P.S. I don't mean to say that I'm perfect, of course...Just ideal. Oh dear, am I sounding conceited? I don't mean to sound conceited. Oh, do help, please!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dear Despondent "Don,"

Welcome to Ask a Wood! (tentative title), the new monthly segment of friendly advice from Caroline and Lauren Wood. Today, I'll be addressing the query posted to us (quite anonymously) from a fellow called "Don." If you'll remember from Caroline's previous post, in which she so graciously forwarded his plight, "Don" has a thing for staples, and a fledgling romance. Will he be able to reconcile the two? Read on!

First, though, I should like to invite anyone and everyone to write in to Wood vs. Wood at No real problems please, we just don't care.

So, "Don," I am so very sympathetic to your problems!

You should know that you are by no means alone in your specific brand of fastenerphilia. Remember Stephen Root's brave performance in Office Space, or that of Mackenzie Crook in the (far superior) British version of the television series, The Office. Which reminds me, do you work with an idiotic boss?

But I digress. Given my finite knowledge of your life and personality, I think I can say with absolute confidence that the staples are the problem in your burgeoning relationship (I'm a bit psychic).

You see, your "Deena" sees your fascination with these toothed tools of togetherness, and understands that this stems from a psychological need to attach (this is also evident in your dedication to your beard). While your other acquaintances only recognize your undue interest as a simple quirk, this potential Romantic Interest reads the deeper implications, and is therefore intimidated by your commitment to keeping papers (or wounds) together. She knows that you'll work tooth and nail to keep her attached to you, and that's enough to scare anyone!

My advice: Give her time. It's highly likely that she'll soon meet, date, and be mercilessly dumped by some good-looking cad, and your commitment to fastening will suddenly become the sexiest trait to ever grace her cubicle. As for you, Darling "Don," you adorably wayward Random Gentle Love Dreamer, staple on! without fear of judgment or censorship. It is cute!

Just don't hurt anyone, and especially not "Deena."