June 7, 2013
Undelivered speech

I actually knew I hadn’t won this award before I got to the ceremony (I was a finalist in an award for media reporting), but I still indulged in a bit of speechwriting in my head, because, right? (Am I alone in constantly imagining speeches so vividly that I write them all the way through in my head down to the last word and then remember them later?)

Anyway, I did not win. But some news reports today made me feel like posting it here anyway.

Here goes:

I was reading the New York Times the other day. It was an article by Nick Bilton about the self-indulgence of Silicon Valley. There was a line that said something like, “sometimes reporters write about other reporters.” I thought the line was a little gratuitous, but we’re used to that abuse on the media beat, aren’t we?

I sometimes like to indulge myself with the observation that a writer writing that writers write too much about other writers is one plank lower in the abyss of his own logic than we are. Isn’t he?

But if I’m as charitable as I ought to be I take Nick Bilton as just another reader with a complaint. And after all, we should be sympathetic to the project of the complaining reader, since we are adjuncts in it. It’s our job to tell readers why a trusted newspaper was traduced into believing that Iraq was producing weapons of mass destruction, why they are about to lose their local newspaper, why they are suddenly seeing articles on their favorite newspaper that for some reason say “SPONSORED CONTENT” on top, and what that means. We help people complain better about the media. So we should embrace the complainers, even or especially if they are complaining about us.

That’s what I try my best to do at any rate. And now I do it for Capital. It’s a bit weird writing for a publication you run. In the near-decade I worked for Peter Kaplan at the Observer, I think he had one byline. He never liked to go into why, but I think he thought there was something unseemly about the person who runs a publication writing for it, as though your parents had rented out Carnegie Hall so you could play chopsticks to the applause of relatives on your thirteenth birthday. I mean, does it really matter that David Remnick is good?

There are three things that have made me not feel that way about writing these columns for Capital. The first is Josh Benson, who does everything humanly possible to remove my writerly self-indulgences from the raw copy; whatever remains is just evidence of how much was dripping off the original. The second is our reporters and writers, who set a standard it’s irresistible to try to meet, even if one frequently falls short. The third is our readers, our regular, loyal, grumpy readers, who want to know why the media sucks; I like to think I serve them. I even get inspiration from a subset of them, the ones who feel the need to remind me in the comments section that I write too much about the media, and media people are shit. Your complaint is heard, it’s just that heeding it makes me want to write more of this stuff.

Thanks everyone.

May 8, 2013

There are lots of songs I could pick to emblematize the many hours I spent at an apartment at 136 East 64th Street around 1987-88, where a friend of mine lived who had lots and lots of room for us to hang out and parents who didn’t seem to care or hear what we did.


But this cassette definitely would have been de rigueur in an evening of drinking with the full complement of our friends on a weekend, after trips to Jimmy’s at MacDougal and Bleecker for drinks which were generally served without reference to IDs but were too expensive over the long haul.


Eventually this thing that we called “The crouton” would be unfolded and put on the floor and between the many couches in my friends’ living room and the Crouton we’d all have a place to pass out as the music played. We’d wake to the smell of eggs and bacon and her cheerful parents in the formal dining room, cooking for all of us, insisting.

May 8, 2013

In 1994 I moved in with my college boyfriend to a 2 bedroom apartment on 17th Street between 4th and 5th avenues in Brooklyn—“South Slope” it’s now called. Our two-bedroom fifth-floor walkup was $760 a month (split two ways!) and seemed exorbitant. We had parties. I did drag. I sang this, mimicking these gestures, in a cream-colored A-line dress and chin-length auburn wig parted in the middle and cat-eye makeup. (I was skinny then.) I played the line “But don’t go in!” for laughs, because it’s an absurd and badly written line, and also “such … a cold finger!” (The gays liked it.)

May 8, 2013

… But when I cleared my head, and a friend at the Observer turned me on to Soulseek, I found a giant universe of actually fantastic stuff that I then just retired to my room to to listen to on my headphones. Like Chirs & Cosey, Throbbing Gristle, and a lot of French and Belgian stuff.

May 8, 2013

Have to admit I had this song in my headphones a lot during a particularly tweaky period of hanging out in/living in South Williamsburg. It’s not a particular credit to me that I can’t quite place the year.

May 8, 2013

We used to listen to (and sing!) this song a lot while working on that loft in Wiliamsburg (Bushwick some of you will persist in calling it). I can’t listen to it without being back in that giant room with the big big windows overlooking the entire city.

May 8, 2013

Jobs I held or applied for in the Upper Midwest that made me start listening to this album an awful lot: An anthropology journal at the University of Chicago; a small press in Minneapolis (letterpress apprentice); Twin Cities gay weekly; Minneapolis bookstore; also solidified in a visit to Chicago friends relocated to the Research Triangle.

May 8, 2013

I associate this song with the apartment I lived in on Baltic between Smith and Hoyt around 1996-97 or so. I had lots of gum problems—they’d bleed a lot overnight, and I was sleeping on the couch in the living room a lot. The landlord would knock on the door asking for the rent and I’d open it looking like I’d been beat up, then shut it after we were done and blast this.

February 3, 2013

Taking Tiger Mountain: A title never so over/underestimated a song.

February 3, 2013

… and Sealand by OMD.

February 3, 2013

OK, so now, two songs that are not quite crowd pleasers. This is Vienna by Ultarvox … They reward attention span!

February 3, 2013

The tragically underappreciated, over-sampled John Foxx, formerly of Ultravox fame.

February 3, 2013

Wire The 15th!

February 3, 2013

OK, let’s bring some guitar back in. But many of the same ideas, I think.

February 3, 2013

Truly weird—but a great song in the mode of Bryan Ferry.