Archives for posts with tag: lena dunham

I am all about a new profit model and  System D. My father was a big Green, and I grew up composting and recycling and worrying about the archipelagoes of pellets floating on the surface of the Atlantic, which he started talking about  in the 1950s, composed of shit and petroleum emulsified with detergent.

Me, my father, and the ocean. Puerto Rico, ca. 1950.

I am still researching the piece on Edward Espe Brown as the most influential cook of the 20th century. I am encouraged by my research into the source of his recipes — forensic evidence noone else has — that research into the ripoff use of his recipes by Waters, Tower, Katzen and Batali will reveal similar unarguable lines of descent, Waters being the alleged most influential chef of the 20th century, Tower being her main early influence and employee, Katzen being the east coast hippie chef who now serves on Harvard nutrition panels, and Batali the current rage of Manhattan chefs. Like Brown’s,  Katzen’s hippie chef/vegetarian books were and are massive best-sellers. Unlike Brown, she did not sign all her profits over to the Moosewood collective. (Maybe she did. I have to check that out. I bet she didn’t.)

Always been a foodie, worked in a restaurant for a couple of years, avid reader of a wide range of cookbooks. With EEB, I’m getting to the place where it’s all porn and what I eat is simpler. Last night I had cantalope, smoked local Tucumcari Gouda, artisanal sourdough and Costco butter for dinner. (Got to check that out and go for the humane butter.)

So I was very interested to see people I suspect of the punk, straighter edge, food distribution, Gen X Gordon Edgar  and Rainbow Grocery ilk, pace old hippies, featured in the NYT piece on small farmers. Some of them are now former migrant workers who have been taught organic microfarming by awesome organizations like Viva Farms.

And some of them are Lena Dunham dead-end urban job Gen Z refugees, living in an RV without internets and television, doting upon the doggie their rural setting now permits them to keep. They’re 25 and they met in college.

Jenny and Alex Smith, Matthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times.

They remind me a lot of the permaculture hustlers blog of young Australians I read. They make a living by inviting people to come and learn permaculture on their farm — while paying to farm it.

Planting freedom is a burgeoning idea, and not just at Viva Farms, which seems to be specializing in training former migrant workers. Black Americans returning to the south and planting Juneteenth emancipation gardens is one thread. Another is the discovery, preservation, and promulgation of nearly waterless vegetable crops and techniques, like pre-Colombian water catchment structures, developed by Native Americans in the southwest and sold as Noah’s ark crops, standing tall and dry against genetically engineered, faraway, water rights war-inspiring, unsustainable agribusiness.

I keep wondering if I plant the Tohono O’odham garden, will they prosper? I did plant their melons this year and await them with pleasure.

On the EEB research, one of the key pieces of the puzzle is Sibella Kraus, Alice Waters’ first forager, who was a line cook at Chez Panisse and went on to study agricultural economics and become a food activist.

This is one of the punk, System D, locavore jobs of the future. My father spent his life teaching sustainable fish farming in the Third World. Now it comes down to doing the same in the New World.

Watched Girls last night.

It reminded me of nothing so much as Larry David. The ultimately repellent characters of Seinfeld and the entirely repellent character of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

As I am very easily entertained, I thought I’d dash my response in here and then Google it. I was chuffed to find George Packer, for example, a straight-arrow reporter of apocalypse, backing me up on the creepy frivolity of Mad Men, if not the very nearly pornographic use of anachronism. I think the falling man credits approach obscenity. Aaaaaaaaaaaanyway, let’s see who thinks Lena Dunham is Larry David.

Watch this space.

Apparently there’s a Conan ep with David and Dunham. Let’s see if they acknowledge one another.

Nope, David is as repellent as ever, touting a neo-Three Stooges movie — Stooges a landmark abyss between the sexes, men loving them and women finding them disgusting. Go, Lare.

Dunham appears at about 30.12, can’t get it to stream for me yet.

The recent face-off in New York magazine of the best TV shows of the last 25 years had the Sopranos and Mad Men and The Wire coming down to the wire, hehehe, and serious scholars of TV writing about it. (The fans had their own massively gendered version of the playoffs, which, like the fans’ list of the best 100 non-fiction books of the last 25 years was deeply wack. The fans drama derby had Breaking Bad vs. Buffy as finalists, and Breaking Bad won.)

Buffy is the only non-criminal among them. Sort of. And while the Sopranos, of which I’m resuming my study after a three-year hiatus, has something deeply frivolous about it, interspersed with excellent writing on character development, pissing corpses and closeups of septic wounds, Mad Men is even more frivolous and also pernicious. When I finally grokked the whole falling man thing, I fell out, and will have to think about this some more. All of them, except Don Draper, are vigilantes of the subway vigilante Bernard Goetz ilk — the libertarians’ wet dream. Make my day!

But the repellent hero — from the Larry David/Seinfeld character, through Tony Soprano, Don Draper, Walter White, and now Lena Dunham (she directs! she creates! she writes! she stars! she takes her clothes off! she grifts her parents! she sleeps with nasty men!) — has held sway now for 25 years. Was it Puck on MTV’s Real World who led the way, through Punk’d and Jackass to Don Draper and the lads? Or was it Maj. Nelson and all of the characters ever played by Larry Hagman?

I have to think about the persistence other repellent heroes in American life: Ishmael, Hester Prynne, Nick Caraway et al., back to the Aristotelian value that the devil has all the good lines.

But for this cluster of amazingly violent television shows, I’m blaming Gen X, their Prozac, their nihilism, their ironies.

Lena Dunham’s Girls has been on the tom toms for about a year, I think, with spreads on the actresses in the ladies’ magazines and Gen Y buzz based on Dunham’s indie film success with Tiny Furniture.*

Alessandra Stanley, who has had her own Carrie Bradshaw life in Manhattan, comments wonderfully on the differences and similarities between the Sex and the City generation and the Girls generation. Men haven’t changed since Haight Ashbury, she points out, which revolution was withered by Stokely’s observation that the only place for women in the movement was prone. Joan Didion, Stokely’s equally conservative sidekick, quoted somebody as saying the whole ’60s phenom was about Hippie chicks fuck. For Carrie Bradshaw’s generation, coming up just behind the boomers and before Gen X, one could still reasonably maintain expectations of a satisfying sexual encounter, a satisfying career, and summers in the Hamptons.

Author and star of Girls, the Gen Y Sex and the City, Lena Dunham.

She writes, “Sex and the City,” which began in 1998, when its heroines were already in their 30s, placed boy trouble in a satiny frame of glamour, cocktails and pricey real estate. On “Girls,” the women are in their 20s, and boy trouble comes with cramped apartments, S.T.D.’s and dead-end volunteer jobs.

I’d like to pause here briefly, and think about the thrill of subscribing to The Observer and reading Candace Bushnell’s original SATC columns in the 90s. The Observer, like the Financial Times, was a peachy pink color. It had all the news I wanted to know, including a wonderful column hitting the hi-lo, mandarin/Lawn Guyland realms that only Ron Rosenbaum, the last true downtown Village Voice flaneur, could discern. I mean who knows as much about the iambics of Horace, the incarnations of Hitler, J. D. Salinger, Sid Vicious and Joey Buttafuoco as Rosenbaum? What other beat is there?

Sex and the city is the other beat. The idea that people from St. Augustine to Gogol through Flaubert to Mishima go to the city to get some, and that sex — not the dark Satanic mills or storming the Bastille — is what makes life on the sidewalks the very center of revolution and modernity itself had kind of escaped me. And the anthropology that my friends, our mothers, our grandmothers had been discussing, as Bushnell’s girlfriends do, in the kitchen within the 100 years of living memory I can claim direct knowledge of, had finally hit the front page of a newspaper. Candace Bushnell and her girlfriends, like Seinfeld, worked the taxonomies out around the Formica tables of midtown coffee shops. She said it, based on her own experience and that of her clever and adventurous field workers, that there were modelizers and Peter Pan men and that men treated women ruthlessly as a matter of course. How the gay television auteur Darren Starr changed SATC into far more a feral cruising narrative (and, I believe, ripped off Bushnell in the process) would be, should be, just another anthropological field study of men for fans of the Bushnell column. She once said she strove to be Edith Wharton; while Wharton’s nearly Marxist critique of woman’s lot is a worthy and plausible aim, I think the only equivalent of her ’90s SATC columns,is Kingsley Amis’ misogynist masterpiece, Jake’s Thing. Certainly the phallic emphasis later limelighted by Darren Starr stripped Bushnell’s narrative of its more Whartonian affectional and social critique.

Candace Bushnell marries Charles Askegard, 2002.
Photograph by Jodi Hilton.

Now comes Lena Dunham. I am very interested in how it’s going for Gen Y, because it strikes me that’s how it’s going for the boomers, and how it started for the boomers. The point which struck me in Stanley’s review which made life easier for us boomers was that men — and women — were still grateful for, and not entitled to, sex in those days. Stanley writes:

Adam lets her visit his apartment for sexual gratification — his own — and ignores her desires; most of his sexual fantasies seem borrowed from video games and porn videos. He is just as callous about her feelings, grabbing her stomach rolls and asking why she doesn’t lose weight.

Those sex scenes are shocking not because they are graphic, though they are, but because the sex is so unsexy: they are as clinical and coldly funny as the seduction scene of Dottie in McCarthy’s novel “The Group.”

I am grateful that never happened to me. And I am grateful for the compliments I just remembered, reading this piece, and will not be writing down here or making a movie about, compliments that even the most worthless or chemistry-free boyfriends were dishing out to the body St. Francis (and I)  called Brother Ass. They liked him a lot and were grateful and said so. I married somebody because I was grateful, and because he could dance. For about six years I went nowhere without being spooned into that man. That’s the truth.

I also ended the war and invented rock and roll, civil rights, jobs for women, free love, Gandhi, pantyhose (those miniskirts were hell), and smoking marijuana. I feel it happening, as if Gen Y and the boomers are uniting against the truly joyless generation, Gen X. Irony, like Charles Manson and speed, kills.  Be grateful. And if you are, you will storm the Bastille and turn this bad time into a counterculture worth giving up heaven for.
*[This reminds me of nothing so much as what it felt like, graduating from college into a world which didn’t hire girls and sent your boyfriend to Vietnam, watching The Graduate.

[Not to be a boomer buzz kill, but that’s a different post. Someone on Jezebel has just been complaining about boomers bitching about not being able to retire. You try looking for work with an oxygen tank, little missie. And forget about a rent-free berth on this fucking ice floe. You want to bitch about boomers? You can do it on Medicaid. If you’re lucky. Note to self: post on the rise of intergenerational meal-ticket nut-cutting.]

(c) Jeannette Smyth, 2012-2017, all rights reserved

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