Serena Joy, what a stupid name. It’s like something you’d put on your hair, in the other time, the time before, to straighten it. Serena Joy, it would say on the bottle, with a woman’s head in cut-paper silhouette on a pink oval background with scalloped gold edges. With everything to choose from in the way of names, why did she pick that one? Serena Joy was never her real name, not even then. Her real name was Pam. I read that in a profile on her, in a news magazine, long after I’d first watched her singing while my mother slept in on Sunday mornings. By that time she was worthy of a profile: Time or Newsweek it was, it must have been. She wasn’t singing any more by then, she was making speeches. She was good at it. Her speeches were about the sanctity of the home, about how women should stay home. Serena Joy didn’t do this herself, she made speeches instead, but she presented this failure of hers as a sacrifice she was making for the good of all.
Around that time, someone tried to shoot her and missed; her secretary, who was standing right behind her, was killed instead. Someone else planted a bomb in her car but it went off too early. Though some people said she’d put the bomb in her own car, for sympathy. That’s how hot things were getting.
Luke and I would watch her sometimes on the late-night news. Bathrobes, nightcaps. We’d watch her sprayed hair and her hysteria, and the tears she could still produce at will, and the mascara blackening her cheeks. By that time she was wearing more makeup. We thought she was funny. Or Luke thought she was funny. I only pretended to think so. Really she was a little frightening. She was in earnest.
She doesn’t make speeches any more. She has become speechless. She stays in her home, but it doesn’t seem to agree with her. How furious she must be, now that she’s been taken at her word.
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
Mister Lonely. Dir. Harmony Korine. 2007
You are not alone. Actually though, you are. If you believe you can fly, you can. Actually though, you can't.
The thing you’ve got to understand is that I grew up being marketed to, so there aren’t many advertising tricks that work on me. Seriously. Ever since I was a child, companies have been telling me to buy, buy, buy—making me think, on some subconscious level, that my needs are the only ones that matter. And I believed it all. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how lonely this had made me, and that mere accumulation doesn’t lead to happiness. I finally understood that no company or product or advertising slogan could provide the companionship I needed. But it was too late. Decades of being told what to buy—and what to feel, and how to think—had left me numb. I carry that numbness everywhere now; I fear that it will never leave me. So, anyway. Maybe write a funny jingle about that?
River Clegg: How to Market to Me
How effortlessly we forget the Spanish word for sprouts.
First of all, I want to say something about a pair of Parisian twenty-somethings I met at a street vendor’s crepe cart in 2010.
I was trying to remember French prepositions I didn’t learn in high school so I could ask for Nutella and coconut on my crepe when two sleek young black men who looked like dancers from Madonna's “Truth or Dare” introduced themselves like this:
“Hello. Please, please say aus coco, again.”
So I did and when they stopped laughing they lamented their lives in Paris with the same hopeless tone of street people begging for money for food. “Paris is so boring. Please, there is nothing to do here. We are dying of the boredom.”
They said they wanted to live in the United States, where life is like in the movies.
“You are from Arizona? Cow-boy!”
I thought about how when I was a teenager, all of my pals would have lived in Paris given the chance. Then I thought about how young people are bored no matter where they are.
Swagger. Dir. Olivier Babinet. 2016
“Swagger” is a beautiful environmental portrait of a group of African and Middle Eastern youth at a school in a rough neighborhood on the outskirts of Paris. The things they talk about are the same things young people everywhere talk about: Dreams, love, the future, and what it feels like to be an outsider.
But when they speak of being outsiders, it's with a bittersweet degree of understanding of the World that most of us don’t have the credentials for. They dream of being French and living in Paris; and even though they are, they aren’t.
So close and yet so far away.
If you like honesty, light, hope and laughter or even if you don’t like any of those things and the only thing in life you like is drone photography, see this movie.
If you've been alive anytime in the last 46 years, you've heard the song Popcorn in one form or another.
The owner of the market was cashiering and couldn't remember how to ring things up. He said, “This is my store, but every time I have to work the register it's like groundhog day.”
People have really warmed up to this analogy. I hear it a lot anymore.