Tuesday, June 30, 2009

So You Think You Don't Like Poetry

I'm feeling like a rebel today. I planned to do laundry today and then just totally didn't. SUCK IT, laundry!

In honor of my anti-establishment behavior, I give you "Punk Pantoum," by Pamela Stewart. It follows the rather strict rules of a pantoum just enough to count, but cheats just enough to make it, well, punk.

This is a tough form; the repeating lines are an obstacle to advancing any sort of narrative because the poem keeps circling back in on itself. Traditionally, the first couplet in each quatrain is an image and the last couplet, an explanation of the image, but Stewart plays with that balance and tweaks it to suit her poem. The end result is pretty f*cking spectacular. I hope you like this poem as much as I do.

Punk Pantoum

Tonight I'll walk the razor along your throat

You'll wear blood jewels and last week's ochre bruise

There's a new song out just for you and me

There's sawdust on the floor, and one dismembered horse

You'll wear blood jewels and last week's final bruise

I got three shirts from the hokey-man at dawn

There'll be sawdust on the floor and, ha, his dismembered horse:

Rust-stained fetlock, gristle, bone and hoof . . .

They'll look good hanging from the shirt I took at dawn.

Bitch, let's be proud to live at Eutaw Place

With rats, a severed fetlock, muscle, bone and hooves,

George will bring his snake and the skirt Divine threw out.

For now, I'm glad we live at Eutaw Place

Remember how we met at the Flower Mart last Spring?

George wore his snake and the hose Divine threw out—
Eating Sandoz oranges, we watched the ladies in their spats.

Remember how you burned your hair at the Flower Mart last May?

I put it out with Wes Jones' checkered pants,

The pulp of oranges and that old lady's hat—

I knew I loved you then, with your blistered face and tracks

That I disinfected with Wes Jones' filthy pants

There's a new song out just for you and me

That says I'll always love you and your face. Let's make
new tracks

Tonight, dragging the white-hot razor across our throats
and back...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ten Great Make-out Songs

It's summer, which is in my opinion, the best season for making out. Not that making out is a seasonal pleasure, but there's something about sun and beaches and fruity cocktails that makes me especially keen to lock lips. So here's my list of all-time favorite songs that are well-suited for smooching. Feel free in the comments section to add in your own picks!

1. Crimson and Clover (Tommy James and the Shondells)
2. Succexy (Metric)*
3. Everybody Here Wants You (Jeff Buckley)
4. Father Figure (George Michael)
5. With a Girl Like You (The Troggs)
6. This is Not a Love Song (Nouvelle Vague)
7. Can't Stop Thinking About You (Martin Sexton)
8. Tear You Apart (She Wants Revenge)
9. I've Got To See You Again (Norah Jones)
10. You Know I'm No Good (Arctic Monkeys)

*Really, every song on Metric's album Old World Underground, Where Are You Now is great for making out.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The obligatory MJ post

Where were you when you heard the news?

I had just arrived to my 6 pm class and some girl was like, "Isn't it crazy, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, in the same day!"

And I was like, "blerg, what, huh, really?"

The girl showed me the headline on her iPhone triumphantly, clearly thrilled that she got to deliver THE NEWS to someone. When I checked my cell phone during a break in class, sure enough, I had 5 "Michael Jackson died!" text messages. I didn't understand until later that night, at a bar:

Me: "Guys, we should toast to MJ!" [cheers erupt]

My friend Claire: "Why are we toasting Michael Jackson?"

Everyone else at the bar: "BECAUSE HE DIED, omg, DIDN'T YOU HEAR???!?!?!??"

There is something oddly satisfying about being the bearer of important, internationally relevant bad news. Another friend told me he was walking down Boylston St. and a guy was slowly riding his bike, stopping everyone to tell them. My friend speculated that he wasn't actually en route to anywhere, but just wanted to be the guy who told people that Michael Jackson was dead.

How affected am I by the King of Pop's death? I am shocked and sad-- I would have liked to see him succeed in his latest planned comeback tour. Like everyone, I love his early hits and was obsessed with the "Black or White" video for years. I had the "Bad" album on cassette and "Dangerous" was one of the first CDs I bought with my own money (along with Madonna's "Immaculate Collection" and Paula Abdul's "Spellbound").

But my life proceeds pretty normally minus Michael. I do feel a bit bad for Farrah -- until 2:26 pm PST on Thursday, she was definitely going to be on the cover of People this week. Now I'm guessing she'll get a sidebar photo.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Menupages FAIL, Child Trafficking WIN


As my friend Dave surmised, "In this tough economy, exotic kids have to be priced to move!"

Special thanks to Tim Cooper for LOLgraphics assistance.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Grey's Anatomy Face

First, let me start off by saying that I regularly watch Grey's Anatomy, despite the fact that it's a ridiculous, wildly unrealistic and emotionally manipulative soap opera. To quote Bill Murray from
Tootsie, "That is one nutty hospital," that Seattle Grace.

Still, I've come up with a fun new game relating to what I consider to be one of the more absurd elements of the show: its soundtrack of treacly, twee indie-hipster rock. To see what I mean, check out this list. Now, not all of the songs/bands featured on Grey's suck -- I'm very fond of Tegan & Sara, whose music has apparently been featured in numerous episodes. But Grey's Anatomy also ruined the band Keane for me -- between Grey's and that sappy trailer for The Lake House, I just can't listen to them anymore.

But I digress. The game is simple. Whenever you're out and about with friends and you hear a song that qualifies as Grey's Anatomy music, you have to make your best Grey's Anatomy Face. What is a Grey's Anatomy Face? Let me give you some guidance:

You have to look intense but also sort of vacant. Like you're thinking about something really important, but also maybe about what you had for breakfast. Like this:

You can look a little surprised and trepidatious, like you've just been asked to perform an extremely risky surgery involving adult conjoined twins who share a heart and are in love with each other's spouses. Or you can look a bit forlorn and vulnerable:

See what I mean?

I hit the Grey's Anatomy Face jackpot with this rejected headshot:

My friend Monte describes my expression here as "surprised-yet-confused-yet-curious," as if I were starring in a musical entitled "I'm Sorry But I Don't Believe You're Who I Think I Am."

Anyway, I find this game highly amusing, especially after a few glasses of wine. Feel free to e-mail me (katievagnino@gmail.com) your best Grey's Faces and I'll post them on the blog!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

No One Called Jones

No time to write today (or this weekend most likely), so I'll just post this hilarious Rowan Atkinson clip. Should make your rainy day a little more tolerable!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

So You Think You Don't Like Poetry

Today's selection is by a poet I discovered last semester: Dean Young. Young's poems are often experimental and surreal, and yet they do not alienate the reader as one might expect. Former Poet Laureate Charles Simic said of Young's work, "The language, the invention, the imagination and the sheer fun of his poems is astounding. It's not all dazzle either. The poems are also moving. This man reminds us that there is nothing more serious than a joke."

The poem I chose for today is indicative of Young's humor and style -- and from a craft perspective, there is a lot of internal rhyme that is very masterfully done. Finally, as someone who often struggles coming up with good titles, this is one of my all time favorites. It suits the subject matter and launches the reader (no pun intended) right into the heart of the poem and its meaning.

Thrown as if Fierce & Wild
You don’t have a clue, says the power drill
to the canoe hanging from the rafters.
Is life a contest everything plays
by different rules for different prizes?
You’re really worthless, aren’t you?
barks the cherry tree covered with eponymous
fruit to the wagon lying on its side.
Unfair! Wasn’t that wagon not two days ago
leading the parade, the puppy refusing
to wear her hat? Can’t you just leave me
alone? says the big picture of Marilyn
Monroe behind her nonreflective glass.
Is the universe infinity in ruckus
and wrack? The third grader loose
in dishwares, the geo-tech
weeping on the beach. Mine, mine,
says the squirrel to the transformer,
unclear on the capacities of electricity.
String of Christmas lights tangled with
extension cords, can’t you work things out?
The young couple takes a step toward the altar,
increasing the magnetic force that sends
ex-lovers whirling off into nether nebulae
but attracting mothers-in-law. In one wing,
the oxygen mask taken from the famous writer
of terza rema glee while in another
an infant arrives, loudly disappointed
to have to do everything now himself,
no longer able to breathe under water.
Will we never see our dead friends again?
A motorcycle roars on the terrible screw
of the parking structure, lava
heaves itself into the frigid strait.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Anatomy is destiny

I consider myself to be a fairly progressive, forward-thinking woman. A feminist, even, loaded and complex as that label has become. I have read "The Second Sex" and "The Feminine Mystique." When I worked for Glenn Horowitz Bookseller in New York, I handled a lot of amazing feminist-related documents, like Susan B. Anthony letters, suffrage posters, and early birth control literature by Margaret Sanger. Fascinating stuff.

But I'm just going to come out and say it-- feminism is complicated. It's got more waves than Kirk Cameron's hair circa 1985. And sometimes I like getting different treatment because I'm a girl. Like the other day, when I got a cup of coffee at a gas station and tried to pay, only to have the guy at the register wink and say, "For you, free." I'm guessing this doesn't happen as often for dudes.

I guess this technically makes me a supporter of cultural feminism, which "emphasizes the difference between women and men but considers that difference to be psychological, and to be culturally constructed rather than biologically innate." In other words, I like to celebrate my femininity and in some social situations, I don't want to have to act like a man or expect to be treated like one.

When it comes to having doors opened for me, I certainly don't expect it -- but when it happens, I can't say I'm not charmed by the gesture. I always sincerely offer to pay for my half of a date, no matter if it's date #1 or date #307. But if a man insists on treating me...well, I'm not really in a financial position to turn down a free meal.

Do I think it's fair to be paid less than a man for doing the same job? Of course not. But I'm not thrilled about the prospect of being, say, drafted into the military, which liberal feminists would see as fair in an equal society.

Anyway, not sure why this is on my mind lately...."feminism" is a term thrown around a lot, and while few women I know would object being called feminists, it's a word that means different things to different people and should be used judiciously.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, blog!

One year ago, I lost my blogging virginity. When I first created The Vagnino Monologues, I thought it was entirely possible and even likely that I would get bored with posting within a month. But it's been a whole year! Hooray! And a teacher friend of mine told me that she's using some of the poems I used for my "So You Think You Don't Like Poetry" posts for her high school students because she thinks they are accessible and appealing. So apparently, my blog is serving an educational purpose.

I'm pretty wiped out this week, from waitressing, stage managing and nonfiction writing, so I'll just wrap this up and say thanks for reading!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Who Am I?

(hint: the answer is not Jean Valjean)

In my nonfiction writing class, we've been reading excerpts from memoirs and personal essays by authors ranging from E.B. White to Maxine Hong Kingston. For my first workshop piece, I'm focusing on the question of identity by telling the story of my crazy freshman year suitemate, Bashe, who desperately wanted to be British and spoke with a phony accent 24-7. Issues pertaining to my own concept of identity tie into the essay (what college freshman isn't unsure of who he/she is?), which got me to thinking about how others perceive me vs. how I perceive myself. What I am discovering is that context is everything.

For instance, I have recently been detecting something unusual from Ali, the balding overweight man who runs the corner bodega by my apartment (the Linden Superette). The look in his eyes when he rings up my items....could it be pity? Why does this man feel sorry for me? Then I realized that I always come in alone, often unshowered, without makeup, and wearing sweatpants. And I regularly buy cat food and frozen Lean Pockets. He thinks I am a lonely cat lady! When this dawned on me, I felt compelled to dress up and enter the store flanked by an entourage of attractive friends...but this guy probably doesn't feel superior to many people, so I think I'll continue playing the role of single, homely, cat-owning woman.

At my new waitress job,
Exotic Sushi and Tapas, they clearly have a different perception of me. Those of you who know me have heard me gripe about this place -- I'm trying my damndest to stay positive because the food is delicious and I think the owners mean well -- but the fact remains that I have worked there for 6 weeks now and not seen a paycheck. I'm making tips and my hourly wage is only $2.67/hr so it's not like the check is going to be that helpful, but still, it's the principle. Many employees have quit because they weren't getting paychecks and it's hard to understand how/why management believes they don't have to pay their staff. The only conclusion I can come to is that in their eyes, I am slave labor.

(In a meek act of protest, I have started giving my customers free miso soup. I fancy myself a sort of Japanese Robin Hood, distributing miso soup to the masses. We only charge $2 for the soup, but considering how cheap it is to make and how much gets thrown out, I think the end justifies the miso.)

Finally, let's examine how one other party perceives me: my cat Maude.

Not to brag, but I am the center of Maude's universe. Maude is mesmerized by my presence -- I am all powerful. When I come home at the end of the day, she is always, without fail, waiting by the door, meowing. The unconditional love pets provide is pretty nice -- no matter how shitty I may feel or how people may treat me, I know there is one living creature who will always crave my affection and attention. It's almost enough to give me a God complex. Almost.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Boston, what do you have against brunch?

There is a dearth of brunch places in Boston. In NYC, brunch is HUGE. Entire weekends are planned around brunch. There are restaurants that specialize in brunch. There are hundreds of awesome prix fixe deals where you can get a cocktail, a coffee, and Eggs Benedict for under $15.

Brunch is my favorite meal. Like Christmas, it doesn't happen every day -- only on weekends. That's what makes it extra special. Brunch also combines three of my all-time favorite things: sleeping late, midday drinking, and breakfast food. Brunch is about freedom. It's about choices. You feel like a burger and I'm in the mood for french toast? No problem -- at brunch, we can both get what we want! Isn't freedom delicious?

And yet in Boston, home of the Freedom Trail, it is downright difficult to find a good brunch place. In Allston, there are breakfast spots (like Herrell's, which serves breakfast all day) but only one place that serves an real brunch and has a brunch menu. This, sadly, is Big City and the brunch is sub-par and geared toward extremely hungover frat boys. They have a horrifying egg-and-bacon-pizza that will raise your cholesterol just by looking at it.

You'd think in bourgeois Brookline, brunch places would be as common as baby strollers and cute dogs. I mean, brunch is obviously an upper-middle class invention. But shockingly, Zaftigs is really the only option -- and because it has no competition, the wait to get a table for brunch is often over an hour. And the food isn't even all that good.

There is a brunch niche that needs to be filled, Boston. I shouldn't have to go into a bar to get a Bloody Mary on a Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

She Got Lonely

Don't have time to post much this week (busy with stage managing, slinging sushi, and writing nonfiction), so I'll just post this amusing video. As my friend Steven pointed out, it's funny and reasonably well-acted, which is rare for a sketch comedy video on YouTube.