Lady Inspiration: Greta Gerwig

greta gerwig

This weekend I was catching up on (very) old episodes of Bullseye, and I listened to this one with Greta Gerwig. She was a delight, as always, and she said so many great things about studying ballet, acting, and getting obsessed with stuff. About her role in Lola Versus:

“There was a lot of worry about “Is she likable?” or “Are people going to like this character?” or “Will people think she’s arrogant at the beginning?” I always veer towards trying to make it as truthful and as grounded as I can, and I really don’t worry about how likable I am or if I look good. Those are two things that I just can’t get interested in.”

I think she’s great, and not just because she plays the Liza Minnelli role in the remake of Arthur (I haven’t even seen it, I just respect any woman who has the guts to try to fill Liza’s sequined shoes).

PS: This episode also features a wonderful interview with Ice-T.

Celebrity Crush: Paul Schneider

paul schneider

Wednesdays are traditionally a day for links in many cultures (or just on this blog, whatever). Today, I’m just sharing one link and one glorious picture. Maybe you just know Paul Schneider from Parks and Recreation, which he left in the second season. I know that Parks and Rec was/is a great show, but Paul Schneider was honestly too good for Parks and Rec. Have you even seen George Washington? It’s one of the best, most upsetting, most affecting movies I’ve ever watched in my entire life (seriously, go watch it right now) and he is a stone cold fox in it. The point of the film is definitely not “Paul Schneider is a stone cold fox,” but still, his charm shines through.

Anyway, this interview is one of the most delightful things I’ve read in awhile. He talks about acting and, of course, America’s Funniest Home Videos, about which he says, “I mean, Nincompoop’s Corner? They have segments on that show that are unbelievable. The Internet has not cornered the market on witty voiceover and fun music.”

It’s a perfect interview. You can read it here.

Make This Tonight: Drunk Blondies

Do you ever do something and think, “Oh my God, I’m just like my mom/dad”? I do all the time. Although I didn’t inherit my mom’s cleanliness (seriously, my place is always a mess), her perfectionism, or her aptitude for cake-decorating, I did get her obsessive need to feed people. H. and I always joke that when we go to my parents’ house, my mom is definitely going to make him a turkey-bacon sandwich, whether he’s hungry or not, and there will be at least one type of cookie in a tupperware container on the counter. That’s just how it is. Even if you’re a surprise guest, my mom always has something to feed you.

I guess that’s why I always feel bad when people come over and I don’t have any snacks for them. Our friends Mindy and Sam come over every week to watch Game of Thrones with H., and last week I worried that I didn’t have any snacks for them. This was dumb for a couple of reasons, firstly that they’re adults and they’re all perfectly capable of finding food, and secondly that no one even asked me for snacks! But still, I channeled my inner Mama W. and set to work making some Drunk Blondies, the baked good with the best name in the world. These are a good go-to cookie because they’re simple (they don’t even require a mixer!), they involve booze, and they will make you think of the LCD Soundsystem song Drunk Girls. Well, maybe they won’t make you think of it, but that’s what always happens to me.

This recipe comes from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook, which I highly recommend. Of course, I altered this recipe to make it dairy-free. If you aren’t baking for anyone with allergies (lucky duck), feel free to use butter and chocolate.

Dairy-Free Drunk Blondies
adapted from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

Ingredients:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup Earth Balance, melted (I bet coconut oil would be really great, though)
2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons bourbon
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
1/4 cup carob chips

Directions:

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking pan and line with parchment, allowing the ends of the paper to hang over two opposite edges of the pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

Put the Earth Balance and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl and stir with a spoon until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and bourbon, and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in the flour mixture, followed by the pecans, coconut, and carob chips.

Put the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack. Cut the blondies into bars.

Here’s Why I Don’t Really Like the Bechdel Test

Doesn't fit the Bechdel test, still looks sort of awesome.

Doesn’t fit the Bechdel test, still looks sort of awesome.

If you spend any time at all on feminist websites, you know what the Bechdel test is. And if you don’t…well, for starters, you’re probably very bored by my blog. But allow me to explain the Bechdel test to you anyway. Named for writer/cartoonist Alison Bechdel (who writes great books like Fun Home), the Bechdel test requires that a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. It will not surprise you at all that many (maybe even most) films do not pass this test.

I definitely agree with the idea behind the Bechdel test, which you could probably gather just by reading the title of my blog. Frankly, movies where women only talk about men aren’t very realistic to me. I mean, what do you and your lady friends talk about when you’re together? Work is by far the primary topic of conversation among my friends, followed by things like vacations, our families, food, books, house or apartment hunting, bitchy things other people said to us, and yes, dudes. Although I enjoy nothing more than some quality girl talk about boys, I know that women spend most of their time talking about other things.

And, obviously, I support media that shows the broad spectrum of women’s lives and interests. So that’s not my problem with the Bechdel test. I’m glad it exists and it starts some great conversations, which I think is really the point. My problem, however, lies in how a lot of people have interpreted the Bechdel test. I’ve seen people on Twitter writing off a film or book because it doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, and I’ve seen blog posts that criticize movies that the writer hasn’t even seen, basing his/her criticism solely on the Bechdel test.

I’m pretty sure Alison Bechdel herself never thought that something she wrote/drew in a comic would catch on so much, and I doubt she meant for it to be the end-all, be-all of a film’s merit, so I’m not trying to blame her for anything. I am, though, saying that I wish people wouldn’t judge films quite so harshly by whether or not they pass the Bechdel test.

For example, I recently watched The To-Do List, a movie starring Aubrey Plaza. It ended up being really disappointing to me for reasons that aren’t worth getting into here, but it was about Plaza’s character’s quest to complete a sexual activity checklist before she goes to college. So, basically, the entire movie was about her making out with dudes. I don’t know if two female characters in that film ever talk about anything other than guys (or maybe having sex with guys is in a total different category than guys, and I’m just wrong), but the movie’s message was explicitly feminist and sex-positive. It might not have passed the Bechdel test, but is that enough to mean we shouldn’t watch it? There are lots of very good, very interesting films and books that don’t pass the Bechdel test, and I don’t think they’re any worse for it. I like a lot of films that don’t pass the test, and I would never say, for example, that Five Easy Pieces is a bad movie (Five Easy Pieces is the best movie and we can talk about Rayette all damn day if you ever want to).

And then we get into the old argument that I really feel like I’ve run into the ground: there isn’t anything wrong with pursuing love and talking about your romantic interests and problems. Too often, we dismiss women in books and movies who want to fall in love, as if this is some sort of foolish pursuit that we should make sure our daughters never mimic. And I really do agree with the principle behind this. I want girls to know that their career goals and personal goals are important and they shouldn’t abandon them for a dude. But I also think that falling in love is pretty important, and there’s nothing wrong with being open about wanting it. Why is it so silly to watch a film about someone who just wants a deep human connection? That’s a pretty basic need, one that almost all of us have. No, every film shouldn’t be about this…but is it really so wrong if some films are?

Here’s where I feel like my feminism and my enjoyment of arts/entertainment/culture start to split me in half. A lot of internet feminism is very black and white. A person says something sexist, so that person is bad. A movie has a scene that doesn’t line up with your beliefs, so that movie is bad. And all of that is useful, to a point. I don’t think that evaluating your entertainment choices through a feminist lens is bad–in fact, I think all of us should definitely do this! However, when we get to a point where we automatically shut down works of art or entertainment simply because they don’t meet our arbitrary rules, I think we’re missing out on a lot of culture that might really benefit us. Art isn’t black and white, and that’s the way it should be.

Examining what we watch? Yes, I’m into that. Talking about the Bechdel test and whether or not our favorite films pass it? Of course. Seeking out films that do pass the Bechdel test? For sure! Please do this! But simply writing off a movie because it doesn’t pass the Bechdel test is, I think, the wrong thing to do.

Image via Sequential Crush

Creative Ladies: Wendy C. Ortiz

wendy sept.2013

Wendy C. Ortiz’s writing has been featured in many, many places, and in July, we’ll be able to read her book Excavation. Wendy took time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions about her process, her inspirations, and her role models. You can find Wendy on her website, on Tumblr, on Goodreads, and on Twitter @WendyCOrtiz.

What’s your main creative gig (this can be your day job, your freelance work, or both)? Describe what you do on a normal working day.

I don’t have a normal working day. My days are an amalgamation of activities depending on the day of the week. I’m a parent of a toddler, which is my first job. I may see clients in my psychotherapy internship (I’m a registered marriage and family therapist intern), I may be working at the counseling center where I set fees for new clients, I may be writing, or I may be hiking.

What are your creative, just-for-fun (not money or career advancement) hobbies?

Reading. Television. Watching my cats (also known as “Cat TV”). Hiking.

What inspires you? Feel free to be as literal or as figurative as you want.

Books, art, music, performance, and intelligent rabble-rousing. People. Complexity. Ambiguities.

In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.

Into the depths.

How would you describe your creative “process”? Does it involve a lot of staring into space, doodling, or candy eating?

My process typically includes mood music depending on what I’m writing. I may spend weeks, and months thinking about an essay before I start writing it. Hiking regularly clears space in my head so I try to do that often, even at the expense of my actual writing time.

writing space

What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of my first book (to be released in July 2014), Excavation: A Memoir (Future Tense Books). I’m in the final editing stages for it. I started writing a version of it in 2000 so it’s seen many changes and incarnations. I’m ready to release it into the world and see what will happen.

excavation cover

What’s a big creative challenge/failure/embarrassment you’ve learned from?

In the last few years I struggled with finding my audience. I published a few pieces in places where I thought I “should” publish and then felt like I had made some small nicks in my integrity for doing so. It’s taken me years to realize that I do not write for ‘general audiences’ and I myself am not a ‘general audience’–so why should I expect general audiences to get into my work? Not knowing or understanding this about myself and my writing has caused some sense of challenge/failure/embarrassment but what is there to do but move forward with this new knowledge?

Who’s your Creative Lady role model (this can be a person you know, a celebrity, a fictional character, etc.)?

Writer Lidia Yuknavitch, hands down (or hands up in the air). Poet Rae Gouirand.

What time of day are you most creative? Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Definitely a morning person! My ideal writing time would be 9am-1pm every day if my schedule would allow for it.

Being an awesome Creative Lady can be overwhelming. What do you do to relax?

Watch compelling television, hike, spend time with friends, visit the ocean, get bodywork when I can, and, when I remember, meditate.

What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?

Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins. The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch. Fun Home and Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel. Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko. Everything by Eileen Myles. Everything by Cynthia Cruz. Everything by Verónica Reyes. Everything by Joan Didion. Everything by Dodie Bellamy. This list changes from day to day but these are my current recommendations.

What advice would you give to other Creative Ladies who want to do what you do?

Have a career or livelihood NOT based on writing. Pay attention to your gut, your instincts, and if you feel out of touch with those things, get in touch. Note synchronicities and follow up on them if possible. Consider how you develop grace & patience while juggling 20,000 things (it’ll happen).

What’s your Creative Lady motto?

Hmmm, I don’t think of myself as having a motto…but when pressed, I’d say integrity is all important to me. Everyone’s sense of their personal integrity differs and I consider my own often as a compass, a way to connect (and also disconnect) from people, situations, offers, ideas…it’s really that important to me.