RIP, Robin Williams: There’s Isn’t Any Punchline Here, Instead Just a Hole in My Heart.

Robin Williams
I’m sure you’ve already read the news today, oh boy (just as I have). Robin Williams, star of stage and film, has passed away. This one hit me like a gut punch, if I’m being completely honest. For the sake of transparency, I’ll admit that upon finding out I cried my makeup off while sitting alone in my bedroom. And while, I have had friends pass away in the past (too many) either by their own hand or sheer accident, this felt just as personal. Williams, a comedy legend, and cultural wallpaper, felt like family.

For most of us of a certain age, Robin raised us. He was in films that shaped our childhood: “Aladdin”, “Mrs. Doubtfire”, “Hook” and had a memorable turn in “Faerie Tale Theatre” as the Frog Prince. He influenced us as we grew older in classics like “Goodwill Hunting” and “Dead Poets Society”. Robin felt like a father figure. And in a way he was. Normally, my course of action when presented with news of this sort, would be to head to the nearest bar and drink myself away to oblivion. That not only felt inappropriate given the circumstances of the loss as Robin battled with substance abuse and depression for most of his life, but also because I have a complicated relationship with sobriety as well. As a result, I’m writing this instead in order to deal with my feelings.

Robin Williams

I’ve written before about moving as a result of having my family be career military while growing up. What I’ve neglected to mention, and I don’t touch upon as much is the loneliness and isolation (whether literal or figurative) of constantly moving up and away from the people that you’ve connected with on a regular basis. Frankly, it’s not as glamorous and no one wants to hear about that. Nevertheless, it’s shaped me. I had a father who I didn’t see or speak to for months at a time, and was raised by a mother who was emotionally withholding. Not only that, but when I wasn’t alone, I was an only child surrounded by adults. This Victorian way of child-rearing creates a certain type of adult later on in life. And then there’s Dakota Fanning.

I learned early that despite being shy that I was funny, and used that to charm people into liking me. My earliest career aspirations weren’t that of a doctor, a scientist or a ballerina, but instead a comedian (I’ve since grown out of that aspiration, as I also have an intense fear of public speaking ironically enough). I admired his fearlessness, his manic energy , childlike glee and raw sensitivity that he brought to his craft. When I was younger, I used to pretend that my parents weren’t my actual family. Robin was really my father, and that one day he’d find me. It wasn’t until I was a little older that I realized that this a childish idea, but by then I saw enough parallels with Robin in my life. Like myself, Robin was an only child. Like Mork, I lived briefly in Boulder, and had a roommate named Mindy. I’ve also wrestled with personal demons of my own, and I’m saddened to see that Robin lost his battle with his. He was a dynamic and memorizing performer, and there will never be another like him.

My thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends. I am so sorry for you loss.
RIP Robin Williams. I’ll be sure to commit a run-by fruiting on your behalf tonight.


Recommended Filmography: “Good Morning, Vietnam”, “Dead Poets Society”, “Toys”, “The Birdcage”, “One Hour Photo”, “World’s Greatest Dad”.

If you, or someone you know, is feeling depressed or experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255; operators are available 24/7.

Immersion: Or How I Drowned Once, and Discovered Both MTV and Pop Culture.

I remember falling. Sinking deeper into a field of green, my body floating further and further in silence. The only things within my field of vision on my way down where my arms waving in front of me and sunlight breaking through the waves until an arm appeared in front of me, grabbing onto me and then nothing.
When asked what my first memory was, I always reply with “Drowning”. I was three years old, and I fell into my godfather’s pool in Phoenix at a party until someone noticed that I was missing and fished me out.

Years later in the early 90’s, I would sneak out of bed in my family’s apartment in Yokota Air Force Base, nestled in the heart of Tokyo, after my parents had fallen asleep to watch MTV. The first music video that I remember watching is Duran Duran’s “Come Undone”.

The video features toys beings smashed by a hammer, a man who we later discover is a crossdresser, and a woman frantically trying to free herself from chains as she’s drowning. The image has always haunted me. That early reintroduction to American television might’ve have warped other children’s psyches, but for me it instead inspired a love affair with television and pop culture in general. I think that might’ve been the moment when I realized that other people have either experienced the same things that I had, or something similar to it, and television was the medium which these moments could be shared with other people.

I spent the remainder of my childhood and adolescent years moving from country to country, and within the U.S. from state to state. My father was career military, and until the summer of my thirteenth year we had never stayed in any place longer than three years at a time. Usually it was a few months here, maybe a year there. I’ve had the opportunity to constantly reinvent myself in every city that I’ve lived in, to make friends and to navigate the unknown waters of my peers. I became an autodidact. Already a voracious reader, I was reading at an adult level in elementary school, I became obsessive. I had to know everything that was current in comics, music, television and film. In retrospect, my avid consumption of pop culture could be linked to an innate desire to understand social cues by observation, and that having a shared common interest could lead to interpersonal interests.

In hindsight, because in order to move forward, one must occasionally look backwards (I’m paraphrasing Kierkegaard here, bear with me), I think that’s one of the reasons why I still have a fondness for awards shows, as most of my television habits have fallen either evolved or fallen by the wayside as technology’s evolved. As television viewing habits have grown more fragmented in terms of content via new channels and platforms, this is still for all intents and purposes a shared and communal experience, and probably the closest thing that have we as a 21st century audience have to this side of Roosevelt’s fireside chats. It’s that sense of community I think that I crave the most and informs a lot of my interactions both within and without pop culture. Growing up as a “third culture kid” with no real roots, or a hometown I wanted to meet others like me. Unfortunately, leading an existence without any real sense of permanence until highschool makes the actual ability to connect with someone almost impossible. Thank god for social networks, and for twitter. Not only is communication immediate, it’s ephemeral. Individual thoughts and emotions appear as drops in a universal bucket that are constantly refreshed and carried away by the tide unless you’re keen to deep-dive for them…

It’s been twenty-some years since the first time I went under. I hope I never surface.

Spike Lee and Internet Daps.

So Spike Lee thinks I’m funny. That’s good to know.

This was on the heels of Spike wearing an unintentionally hilarious outfit at the Knicks/Heat game on Thursday night:
MamaSpike

To provide perspective, Lee is an avid Knicks fan. You kind of have to be to live in New York*. Also New York and the rest of the East Coast was/is** in the midst of a Polar Vortex– which means that Lee’s bright orange sleeveless zip-up shell and blue turtleneck were not only practical but demonstrative of his love for his hometown team. Unfortunately, his demonstrative poses and visibly irritated stance during the game likened some comparisons to Will Smith’s “mother” in the title credits of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
MamaSpike2

This naturally set Black Twitter off, who then created #mamaspike, which might be my my favorite hashtag outside of #talesfromblackfriday and the now defunct #barrioolympics. Buzzfeed, the cultural aggregator that is immediately picked up on it and compiled a best of list of the hashtag, which I then tweeted about. And this is why I love Twitter. It’s an egalitarian platform where anyone and everyone can weigh in on any topic provided it’s 140 characters or less and you’re not cheating by using a shortener like Twitlonger. Furthermore, there’s an immediacy to the medium that lets you communicate in real time on an international level. And just like that, I got a near instantaneous reply from Mookie himself.

Full Disclosure: I am an avid Twitter fiend, and with my recent bout of unemployment I am almost always online. I spend a good portion of my day tweeting in between either looking at or applying to an obscene amount of job applications which means my verbosity and carefully pointed tweets have either led to members of the Twitterati either following or replying to my queries and bon mots. Still, it’s pretty cool to have someone that you admire respond back to you regardless of the circumstances.

As a result, I’m revising my resume again to reflect as a minor (emphasis on minor) Twitter celebrity. Hopefully, this will lead to some job offers or tickets to the next Knicks game.

Please baby, please baby, please baby, baby baby please!

* I think it’s an unspoken bylaw that upon being born or transplanted here, you need to swear allegiance to one of the major sports teams that are here. On that note, I follow the Mets and the Knicks despite my American League affiliation with the Angels and no more Linsanity. Remember Linsanity and how much fun that was?
** I say this as the weather right now is currently in the 50s when days ago we were dealing with negative something temperatures.

Ghost B.C. Made Some Dildos and Buttplugs.

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[Author’s Note: I’m trying to organize all of the stuff I’ve written on different sites onto one site where it’s easily accessible. This has also been published at Noisey. You can read that here.]

So the metal blogosphere is all atwitter about Ghost B.C., the anonymous prog-metal act formerly known as simply “Ghost,” who had to change their nom de rock after some legal issues. Turns out the band is selling buttplugs and dildos on their official web store as merch. In itself, this isn’t “weird,” as they aren’t the first band to sell sex toys to their audience. Anyone else remember the Rammstein dildo six-pack from 2009? Clearly, there’s a precedent for this.

What I’m mostly curious about isn’t the what, but the why. Why dildos and sex plugs? Is this a bid to tap into the underrepresented female and gay headbanging demographic? In that case, where the hell were all the Judas Priest buttplugs? Were there some occultists and spooky enthusiasts who were quietly wondering, “I wonder what it’d be like to fuck a ghost?” Maybe now there’s a tool to do so. Which is stupid. Ghosts are incorporeal by nature, and unless you’re Ke$ha or Mrs. Muir (from the 1947 film, the Ghost and Mrs. Muir) that’s impossible. Even the latter was told in no uncertain terms to find a real-life man to satisfy her fleshy, carnal desires. As for Ke$ha, homegirl is cray.

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The Ghost Phallos Mortuus Ritual Box Set, which comes in five different sizes, from “Men’s Small” all the way up to “Men’s Extra, Extra Large.” 

Whatever the reason, Ghost B.C. dildos and buttplugs are here. They are now real things in the world. The Ghost Phallos Mortuus Ritual Box Set comes with an exclusive Papa Emeritus II Dildo Puppetmaster t-shirt which is super sick and only comes in the box set. What frightens me is that the entire set comes in different sizes, from “Men’s Small” all the way up to “Men’s Extra, Extra Large.” In addition to the silicone dildo and metal buttplug, you also get a divorce paper scroll with customized Ghost foil emblem (divorce from what? Life? Mortality?), and a brushed metal charm. The full box set is going to set you back about $200, but if you’re not entirely into committing, there’s also an option of purchasing the Ghost Phallos Mortuss Ritual Bag Set, which contains Papa Emeritus dildo and a velvet pouch to hold your Magic cards and 20-sided dice for 75 bucks. Ghost conveniently enough has a “Phalluses” section on their website that’s made writing this infinitely easier.

Whether you end up using them for their intended uses, or as a cool conversation pieces in your home, the fact remains that Ghost B.C. made creepy little dildos in the shape of a “bishops wearing a turtlenecks,” which might be a little too realistic. This isn’t the first blasphemously shaped sex toy either though. For that, Divine Interventions has got you covered with their Jackhammer Jesus dildo, and the rest of his Super Best Friends: Buddha, Shiva, Mary, the Devil, and the Grim Reaper. Hell, there’s even a pocket pussy in the shape of the Good Book for those of you bible-thumpers that’s bound to get you speaking in tongues by the time you’re finished.

That being said, I am a little curious about how well this little guy performs. And thankfully, based on the way he’s shaped, there’s absolutely no way that you’d be looking down and making eye-contact with the little dude. And I have no doubt that he’d right at home with my Mastodon running shorts, and all of the weird metal-themed tchotchkes around my apartment. So if anyone wants to send a box set to the VICE offices, you’re more than welcome to.

[Update: As I am no longer at VICE if you still want to send me stuff, please reach me via twitter at: @jessiepeterson.]

Katy Perry Does Not Care About Asian People.

It’s been a little more than twelve hours since last night’s broadcast of the AMA’s or American Music Awards, which is light years in a new cycle that continually spirals without stopping or pausing for reflection. I’m writing however, because I can’t stop thinking about one of the performances and why it’s bothered me so much. So much so that I’m inclined to write about it. I’m sure by know you’ve read a handful of articles about the AMA’s and race, and more particularly Katy Perry’s performance, how “racist” it is and moved on with your day. Me, not so much.

The problem with Perry’s performance of “Unconditional” at the AMA”s is multifold. First, there’s the issue of her costume. On first glance, she’s wearing a kimono while singing her song in a what Angry Asian Man calls a “cultural dragfest“. He’s not wrong. The cherry blossoms, paper parasols, lanterns, etc. read as Japanese, however, the cut of her dress itself most notably the collar, fit, and slits resemble a Chinese cheongsam. Sure, there are issues with Katy performing in as close to yellow-face, via powdered face, this side of Mickey Rooney’s turn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. It’s the combination of that and her ability to mix different aspects of East Asian culture without much thought or consideration as if all Asians are monolith. But that’s only the first layer. Katy Perry is a repeat offender. She’s worn “Asian drag” before at award shows:

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Perry at the 2011 AMA’s wearing a Vivienne Westwood dress inspired by Chinese calligraphy and flower paintings.

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Perry at the 2011 VMA’s wearing another cheongsam.

But you wouldn’t know it as every new outlet who reported on last night’s outfit and all of the ones she’s worn previously as “geisha-inspired” because if it’s Asian, it must be Japanese, and therefore something that geishas would wear. I’m not going to even address her her performance outfit from the 2009 Japanese VMA’s– but I mean really?
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I’m going to let that sit there.

While we’ve established that Perry exhibits some obnoxious cultural appropriation when it comes to what she wears, it doesn’t become fully disturbing until we line it up with her words, and her actions. Last year, Perry went on Jimmy Kimmel Live! where she talked about Japanese foreign exchange students that her parents housed when she was a teenager and her “obsession” with Japanese people:

Jimmy: Oh, you are?

Katy: Yeah, because-

Jimmy: In a good way?

Katy: Well, yeah, totally obsessed.  I love everything about them and they’re so wonderful as human beings.  But, the reason why I’m really obsessed is because … we had exchange students come in and live with us at our house, and I was just like “You’re, like, everything is Hello Kitty and it’s perfect and clean, and you eat with sticks!” It was so incredible, watching them as a culture, and so now I’ve been obsessed with them ever since.

Jimmy: So did you try to eat with the chopsticks?

Katy: I still have- they bring you, like, a housewarming gift (she’s cupping her hands and miming bowing while giving a gift with both hands) and they’re very polite, and she brought me these Hello Kitty chopsticks and I still haven’t opened them- and I was, like, 13, and I just like, I will always forever have them.

Jimmy: Do you keep in touch with these people?

Katy: No.

Jimmy: You don’t?

Katy: No- I mean, I was just too young and I- you know what-

Jimmy: Maybe they’ll find you now-

Katy: I asked to borrow one of their clothes one time, they were very, like, weirded out by it.  It was like, “So cute!  All your little outfits!  Can I borrow one?”

Jimmy: They’re probably telling this story over in Japan, like, “Yeah, we lived with this family and the girl would wanna wear our clothes, it was a very strange experience.”

Katy: (Speaks in a weird voice and widens her eyes) I’m so obsessed with you I want to skin you and wear you like Versace!

Later on that same year, Katy appeared as “Royal Empress of MSU Hello Kitty Appreciation club, Kirstie Davenport” on SNL’s “J-Pop American Fun Time Now”, a sketch that skewers Caucasian racists who objectify Japanese culture and their people. Her character speaks with a fake Japanese accent, mistakes a French word for a Japanese one, and confuses Yao Ming, a Chinese basketball player for a Japanese one. And while the sketch is played for laughs, I find it objectionable that Perry’s playing this character. Katy, you can’t be on a show that pokes fun at racists when you’ve already made similar if not creepier racist comments that same year, or do you not understand that?

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(
Not pictured is the author’s lack of sheer disbelief).

That being said let’s go back to Perry’s performance at the AMA’s. We’ve got an artist dressed as a “geisha” singing a song about “unconditional love”. The lyrics of “Unconditionally” go as follows: ”

“Unconditional, unconditionally
I will love you unconditionally
There is no fear now
Let go and just be free
I will love you unconditionally

So come just as you are to me
Don’t need apologies
Know that you are all worthy
I’ll take your bad days with your good
Walk through the storm I would
I do it all because I love you
I love you l love you”

If there wasn’t the dress, the backdrop, the Taiko drummers, etc. this could be a heartfelt  torch song for perhaps her estranged ex-husband, Russell Brand. And as much as I’d like to think that, that probably isn’t the case. What Perry is doing instead is reinforcing outdated and harmful stereotypes about Asian women. One of the most insidious is the “Lotus Flower”, which portrays women as subservient, docile and ultimately disposable. The “Lotus Flower” is a woman who will love you unconditionally (see, what I did there?) despite you not loving her. More examples of this pop culture would be “Madame Butterfly” by Puccini and its updated turns in “Miss Saigon” and “The World of Suzie Wong”. As a woman of Asian-American descent, I find this hurtful and problematic as there are so few representations of us in pop culture, and to have Perry perform this minstrel show on the national stage is further reinforcing a Westernized worldview of Asian that isn’t accurate and further dehumanizes a culture that isn’t her own.

What’s more is that Perry’s “Prism” is supposed to be a thoughtful, more adult followup to “Teenage Dream”. It’s her “enlightened” album following up a “party album” full of bangers like “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” and “Peacock”. However, her lyrics in songs like “Legendary Lovers” are filled with cringe-worthy bon mots like:

“Under a silver moon, tropical temperature
I feel my lotus bloom, come closer
I want your energy, I want your aura
You are my destiny, my mantra”

She drops concepts such as “karma”, famous lover Cleopatra (of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony) and other exotic keywords that sounds like she skimmed one aisle of the the self-help aisle of a new age store and an Asian-studies student’s syllabus. For an album that supposed to represents Perry’s departure from kiddie-pop into an adult artist, it only highlights that Perry might have some growing up to do.

Her tweet from the AMA’s twitter account, which Samsung retweeted, isn’t helping matters either:

The allusion to The Vapors “Turning Japanese” is itself a racist comparison to how the art of masturbation makes you look Japanese further reinforces this.

Transformation and Regrowth.

After a terrible dream on Sunday night (DM me for details), a shock to the system on Monday, I’ve decided to give Art Brut(e) a dramatic makeover.

Please contact me if you know of any talented and cheap web developers. Otherwise, you’ll have to bear with me. That’s my warning. I figured I needed a better way to organize everything on here. Cheers.

Photos from Today’s Evacuation.


This is like a goddamn Rockwell painting.


Hard hat convention. “So uh, Lou. You ever suck another man’s dick before?”


Press conference! All of these reporters and no Pat Kiernan?!


Herp.


Derp. Notice my shitty slumlord landlord and his brother in background (the Hasids).


Red Cross swag.