Jeff Sheng's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" gay military personnel photography project
"Jess, Bend, Oregon, 2009" by Jeff Sheng
Another fascinating Los Angeles Timesstory yesterday was about photographer Jeff Sheng’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" project. (click that link if you’d like to participate in the project)
But in the case of L.A. photographer Jeff Sheng’s latest project, capturing his subjects’ faces would almost certainly put their careers in jeopardy. That’s because Sheng has set about to photograph U.S. military service personnel who are gay but closeted in their work lives. Titled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the ongoing project consists of a series of stark, sometimes sad, portraits of U.S. soldiers who are forced to hide a part of who they are.
"I want to give an invisible community some visibility, but at the same time, to keep them invisible," said Sheng on the phone from Vancouver, where he is working on another project.
"There’s already a lot of journalistic work on gay people in the military who have been discharged. My project is more about people who are still serving."
To conceal the identities of current military personnel, the photographer has used lighting and shadow effects to mask part or all of their faces. Sometimes, the subject will conceal his or her face with a hand, as in the photo above, titled “Jess, Bend, Oregon, 2009.” (The names and towns of the titles are fictional for the protection of identity.)
MONDAY 11/30: An Evening with n+1: The Unfinished Work of Feminism is Love. Join Slate culture critic Meghan O’Rourke, authors Carlene Bauer and Meghan Falvey, and documentarian Astra Taylor for a discussion centered around the question, “Why can’t feminists agree on love?” The discussion will be moderated by Allison Lorentzen, editor-at-large of n+1, the distinguished twice-yearly print publication that merges politics, pop culture, and literary theory. The Kitchen. 512 W. 19th St. Free. 7:00pm.
Also worth reading: Against Love by Laura Kipnis and A Vindication of Love by Cristina Nehring. From Meghan O’Rourke’s Slate review of the latter:
But her book is not just a defense of vulnerability. It is a critique of domesticity. After all, distance is a form of eros. In our embrace of the companionate marriage and our fear of anything that smacks of a power difference, Nehring argues, we dismiss the erotic, the mysterious, the mythical elements of love as never before. “We must transgress against our own fears,” she urges, “—against the narrowness of our vistas, the modesty of our wishes, the slightness of our altruism.” What looks like inequality is often more complex than we think: A professor may be “older” than a student, but a student has youth and beauty on her side. Emily Dickinson may submit to her Master, but in doing so, she claims all the imaginative power for herself, dictating the terms by which the relationship will be described and, even, experienced.
Just got off redeye, heading straight to work, then have short video/audio interview tonight. Any styling tips so my skin doesn’t look as haggard/I don’t sound as dreadfully nasally as I have all weekend are much appreciated! (rachelkb at gmail.com) Otherwise, I’ll just wing it - have a new plan which is to see an actual shrink because, well, I’m about a decade overdue. Week of madness lies ahead - I am looking forward to Saturday morning is all I can say about that.
I can go long stretches, days or weeks, without a major outburst. Then, without notice, I’ll grunt and thrash about, confounding those in my path. I wish I could think of these episodes as wild lovemaking with my stoned muse, but in the end, my body is left utterly depleted and spent on the floor, my throat raw, sheets of paper left blank and without a single idea.
Whether my body is twitching or calm, my mind is working full-steam, toying with words, repeating phrases. My muse is also capable of connecting two or three completely unrelated concepts, and combining the elements in unexpected ways. Usually, these efforts are time wasters. But it’s that diamond in the rough I count on, the cartoon or song that emerges from the nonsense.
And am very honored by it - I hope there will always be new attendees, whether they’re lured by the smut or the cupcakes! I’m quoting liberally because I’m thrilled that this is what she got out of it, but do read the whole thing on Stacked Blog.
What I wasn’t expecting was something a little more akin to the burlesque shows I’ve been frequenting. The after work crowd of 30 and 40-something out for the entertainment of a reading. Maybe it comes with the territory of unabashed sharing that is erotica, but these women can perform. Abiola Abrams shouting out her joy and confusion at the whore/not-a-whore conundrum that was inevitable a few generations after the sexual revolution where double standards still prevail or Desiree up there in her pearls fantasizing, and getting off, to the hot flight attendant to Tess Danesi flipping on a vibrating something-or-other as she began.
There was nothing sleazy as the reputation of erotica and porn tends to conotate. These women offered writings about women strong and proud of the sexuality – enjoyers and participants of sex. Where there was submission it was about learning and enjoying a fetish, quite different from the acceptable “if she’s moaning it’s okay” rapes that happen all to often in romance novels, the setting a place where sex and sexuality are dangerous.
Although most of the audience mingled exclusively with friends during the breaks, there was a feeling of comradary that is absent from other readings. At Writers House this past Wednesday, I felt out of place amongst the little groups of hipsters while at In the Flesh my arriving alone didn’t exclude me from the laughter and cheering of the giveaways (particularly the 24 Karat gold vibrator that everyone insisted go to the virgin).
I’m all for supporting fellow writers but…$70? $84.95? Who can afford that? Dare I say especially for a book called Feminism, Inc.? Hello, New York Public Library, New Amsterdam branch (which has an amazing YA section, fyi). I’m torn because of course, equal pay for equal work, and I do think artists should be compensated fairly for their work. I just think any books priced that high are pricing out a lot of consumers who might be interested in the topic. I know those are probably average prices for hardcover university press books. Just saying.
I had a bellini last night at Roger Room (which I keep wanting to call Romper Room). It’s this Speakeasy-style bar, and we were there for over an hour before I finally gave in. I cannot express how much I wished I were at home, where it’s easy to not drink in part because it’s easy to escape. I was surrounded by all these super glam, beautiful LA women and while since I’ve been here I’ve heard several men say something to the effect of, “I don’t like super skinny women, I like zaftig women” (not to or about me, just in general), I find it a mix of both envy and desire. There were some beautiful women around me and I won’t say I wasn’t attracted to some of them, from afar.
But because I didn’t have my nails done and have just been eating eating eating and am really stuffed up from something in the house where I’m staying, I felt really not glamorous. I had heels so at least wasn’t super short but I was just not having the best night. Frankly, I was sad. I can try to be all tough and stoic and moving on, and I kindof am, but I just had this wave of missing this person and I almost texted them and then maybe because I was thinking about them so hard - but probably not because I have other times - I got an email from them. And I didn’t read it because I sometimes do that, when I get emails that I’m not sure I’m going to like what they say, I don’t read them. Anyway I was with one friend and his friends, who I didn’t know, and worried that I was being really antisocial and finally finally got my bellini and it was delicious. Peach puree and champagne which, when the bartender opened the bottle, splashed onto a few of us, which made me laugh.
My point is…well, I’m not sure, but mostly that I was mainly drinking it to cheer myself up, which is why I tend not to drink. I wish I could be a normal drinker and just drink champagne because I’m having fun and in a good mood, but those aren’t really the times I want to drink. And all I wanted in that moment was to be tucked away somewhere, anywhere really, with this person. And that’s the thing that I miss - that sense that we had something that wasn’t about sitting around showing off to anyone else but turning inward.
I met this couple here, family friends, and two separate people let me in on the fact that the wife has asked the husband for a separation. It was so odd to me, that these strangers, whose kids I doted on at Thanksgiving, I was now privy to something that I see as rather personal. It struck me too that all the naysayers who go on and on about the evils of blogging and oversharing, well, we already overshare, about other people. We gossip, and maybe that word is too harsh, because it wasn’t said in a “omg, let me tell you this juicy tidbit of news,” but more like, “Isn’t it sad that, are they going to work it out?” But still, the fact was, I now had this information about these strangers and I kindof didn’t want it. It made me wonder at the way once you do have any kind of public relationship, it becomes very very public. People have no qualms about asking what is going on in my relationship and honestly, I don’t always know. It’s not like we check in every five minutes for a status update.
It’s not that I have no idea, but it’s not like I have some easy-to-round-up story fit for public consumption. Life is a little messier than that. Yet I appreciate that my family wants to know, that my uncle is the one who’s met more of the people I’ve dated than anyone else. I stayed at this house in 2003 with K. and will never forget us driving around (well, her driving around) to In-N-Out and being silly here. I came here last year with J., my own perhaps misguided idea to go to BEA. My boyfriend met my uncle in New York earlier this year and apparently my uncle’s been talking him up to the rest of the family, making my New York cousins jealous and asking me, “Why haven’t we met him yet?”
Anyway…the point is, my bellini. At least, that was my original point. It was good, but it hit me really fast. I of course drank it in part in the hope that I would suddenly not be clutching my iPhone like a lifeline and would instantly perk up and be magically as bubbly as my drink. It was more like hoping to make it home and not have to puke, and then I lay in bed and the ceiling swam around a little and I hunkered under the really plush covers and still had no more clue about anything than I did before.
“And it takes a confident, exceptional man, to be on board when you write about the two of you, to take a deep breath and let you glide your pen like a razor blade over the seams that join you, exposing the deformed parts, the parts that you hide from the neighbors and stuff under the couch cushions when you have guests.”—All that reminds me of Diana Vilibert’s amazing post about writing and relationships and support. And Lorrie Moore.
And if you have a burning question you want me to ask Julie Powell tomorrow night, let me know and I’ll see what I can do. (rachelkb at gmail.com) As it stands, I have plenty of questions in my head already.
From USA Today, which I post to point out that I do recognize that it’s complicated to write about your personal life - that would be a giant understatement. Of course I do; the potential to hurt someone is sky high. I just think it’ll be interesting to see how all this plays out (there have been plenty of affair/infidelity memoirs out recently, from Julie Metz’s Perfection to Isabel Gillies Happens Every Day, etc.):
She blames the “dark void” in her marriage on marrying young and, in part, on the changes that Julie & Julia and surrounding publicity brought to her life.
"D," she says, is completely out of the picture. The woman with whom Eric had an affair is history, too.
Since the Powells’ marital problems were happening during her apprenticeship, Powell felt she needed to include them in the book. She left the final decision to Eric.
"We talked about this long and hard," Powell says, "and I would never have published the book if Eric hadn’t given his blessing. I’m so extraordinarily lucky to be married to a man who’s so courageous and so generous to let me write about our personal lives so frankly."
That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been hard.
Eric, Powell says, has only “skimmed” Cleaving. “He knows what’s in it,” she says. “He knows there are relatively explicit passages in which I talk about sex. He’s choosing not to relive the experience. He lived years visualizing this kind of stuff to himself.” (Eric declined to be interviewed for this story.)
Although the book ends with a revived passion for her husband, the lewd details of her affair are difficult to read, especially for fans of the first book. In “Julie and Julia” (both the book and the movie), we fall in love with Powell’s husband, Eric, a fellow former Austinite, who is patient, witty and sensitive, the calm to her crazy. She went to such great detail to portray him as the near-perfect mate, it’s hard to have sympathy for her when she falls (back) in love with a fling — or at least his preference for S&M sex — from college.
Marriage isn’t perfect, and Lord knows we need more realistic looks at what and what does not constitute a modern marriage, but there’s something to be said about modesty when it comes to writing about extramarital sex, the painful details of which I’m too embarrassed for her to share, just in case her family or friends are reading this.
Is this what our sadly puritanical fanatically pro-marriage country has to look forward to in reviews of Julie Powell’s new memoir Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession? If so, UGH. I’m looking forward to interviewing her tomorrow night. But I will keep on saying that her essay “Lost in Space” in Paula Derrow’s anthology Behind the Bedroom Door is one of the best pieces about sex (and kink) I’ve ever read, and far and away my favorite piece in that anthology. That reviewer should stay far, far away lest the horror of kinky sex be too “realistic.” G-d forbid “realistic” be a way to describe a…MEMOIR. Madness, isn’t it?
Actually, there’s a lot to pity in this review. It’s pretty offensive to me not so much as a kinky person, but as a writer. “[T]he painful details of which I’m too embarrassed for her to share, just in case her family or friends are reading this?” Because they’d never read the book, of course, in which, let it be said, she thanks Eric and D. (her husband and the man she had said affair with) “for your generosity and grace in handling a situation difficult and not of your choosing.” I do not have room in my piece to get into other reviewers who are saying the most ridiculous things a la above, but no wonder we are so crazy about sex and monogamy when we cannot even handle someone deigning to discuss the reality that, um, hi, marriage isn’t always perfect.
Well…I had a moment of doubt about posting this because I just actually took a second to read the byline and it’s by someone I know and like, Addie Broyles. At the same time, I’m going to post this because I find it an offensive way to approach a memoir, any memoir, by basically saying that the topics discussed therein aren’t worthy of discussion. Lately I shy away from writing so many things lest person X or person Y be reading and take it the wrong way (I probably censor about 50% of the things that flit through my mind and perhaps that’s why I haven’t written anything of substance in weeks!), so I’m going to stand by my gut reaction to that review. I will still totally go for barbecue with Addie in Austin at SXSW, I just can’t at all agree with that take on writing about one’s personal life.
I made the choice to dine at Cafe Sushi based soley on the fact that I once saw Lauren Conrad and Lo Bosworth eat here on an episode of “The Hills”.
I’m not just a loser. I’m THAT loser.
Dubious decision making skills aside, the sushi I had here was really quite good, and the service was friendly and attentive. Highlights included uni and mirugai nigiri so fresh and sweet, devouring their amazing tasty deliciousness almost made me want to throw on a little Natasha Bedingfield and dance about with joy. Almost.
I was, however, deeply underwhelmed by the shopworn decor. Thanks to the meticulous art direction of the television triumph that is “The Hills”, this place had WAY more atmosphere in hi-def Panasonic than it did in real-life PanaTsada. Tsigh.
And sadly, I didn’t see one reality TV nymphet upon my visit to Cafe Sushi.
”—Yelp review of the restaurant where I’m having dinner tonight. They do have spicy lobster miso soup…I may have to try that. Photos TK. I doubt I would recognize most reality TV stars.
Since the Android OS is completely open source, that means there are not restrictions of any kind for anything, including porn. That’s why a company called MiKandi has taken the liberty to create and launch an unofficial app store for adult content only for mobile Android devices.
The pornographic content will be organized in different categories such as Fun and Games, Adult News, Erotica, and Eye Candy. As is expected, the app store will be available for users 18 years of age or older, though it’s not clear how the rule is going to be enforced. The app store can be downloaded directly from an Android phone by visiting MiKandi.com on your mobile browser.
From The New York Times: (the article is basically about how one powerful person’s accusation held so much sway…brings up the question of whether the authorship truly matters, and to whom. also didn’t know about the U.S.O. thing)
Niebuhr, who lived from 1892 to 1971, was a prophetic, politically attuned preacher who often spoke at universities and Y.M.C.A.’s, where he was more welcome than in the many churches that considered him too controversial. He influenced generations of theologians and political thinkers. Barack Obama said of him, “He’s one of my favorite philosophers.”
The Serenity Prayer was adopted by the U.S.O. in wartime, and by Alcoholics Anonymous, which uses it in its 12-step program. But even in Niebuhr’s lifetime, he faced accusations that he was not the prayer’s author. A magazine article in 1950 quoted him as saying: “Of course, it may have been spooking around for years, even centuries, but I don’t think so. I honestly do believe that I wrote it myself.”
Niebuhr’s family long maintained that he wrote the prayer in 1943, in the midst of World War II. But using Internet search engines, Mr. Shapiro found newspaper articles, pamphlets and a book that cited versions of the prayer and dated from as early as 1936. None of those materials attributed the prayer to Niebuhr (or, for that matter, to anyone else).
It’s still gorgeous weather here, hoping to go hiking today or tomorrow. Learned there are two Arclights…when, a la Brooklyn/Manhattan confusion, I got dropped off at the wrong one. Missed movie but orked out well though because I got to chill with my aunt and my cousins and get some time with them without a ton of people around. The whole needing rides everywhere like a teenager thing though is something I’m over. I miss the subway and the possibility of getting anywhere I want to all by myself. It’s nice to visit, sure, but when my uncle suggets moving out here, it’s so not me I can’t help but laugh. Also learned that Zappos has the shoes I want from Fluevog (Precious black and gold heels) for way cheaper, so I ordered them after trying them on on Melrose (out of loop - just learned last week Amazon bought Zappos for $1.2 billion).
I met an adorable 1-year-old on Thanksgiving and heard that her mom was talking about how good I was with her, which warmed my heart. Anyone can always feel free to tell me I’ll make a good mom. We went up and down lots of stairs and I made her laugh by plopping her on the pool table and throwing balls around.
Today’s plan is waiting for cupcake delivery, then hitting up Sprinkles for tour/interview, then sushi and drinks with friends. Also, um…catch up on all the writing I’ve been neglecting. Next week’s going to kick my ass but I deserve it. Not gonna lie, still haven’t quite weaned myself from thinking about person I was seeing earlier this year. Surreal enough to tell married friend was having affair with married man; moreso for her to say, “You know who’s obsessed with your blog?” Yes, but still strange to hear it like that. I stupidly was looking at our old emails and realized that more sad than the fact that he decided he wanted nothing to do with me was my response, which was to lose interest, or rather, that kind of interest. It’s all for the best, I know that, but still surreal and feels like ages ago. Good fodder for next novel, though wish very much that it weren’t. On that note, must go get a few words out; I haven’t finished an erotica story in weeks, let alone writing that might actually earn money. Have been hoping the sunshine would help but what I do instead of writing is lie in bed and think about the words I would write…if I were to turn on the computer.
Not only did I make my 8:15 flight, I discovered that JetBlue has free wireless at JFK (discovered it a little too late) and am now in Sherman Oaks and going to sit outside in the beautiful sun. Already the pace of life is totally different. My uncle’s porch is also bigger than my whole apartment. I will do a full count later but…in my mad packing dash this morning, while watching the end of What Happens in Vegas, I think I now have 10 books with me. Just in case.
Last week at Epicurious, whose recipes come from the pages of Gourmet and Bon Appétit, there were a few search surprises. Brussels sprouts were in the top 10. So was pumpkin pie, which peaked earlier than usual.
People who work at the site attributed the rush to news reports of a possible canned pumpkin shortage.
For companies interested in driving deep into the psychology of cooks, this new insight into Thanksgiving cooking habits is a potential game-changer. Now, someone selling turkey-frying kettles or frozen pie shells can more easily figure out what people need and, perhaps more important, why they need it.
“Almost every human emotion could possibly start a search,” said Kevin Kells, head of consumer packaged goods for Google. That could include the thrill-seeking cook looking to make a turducken (a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey) or the jittery novice who cannot bake.
“When you marketed in the past, you had to guess at the consumer’s motivation,” Mr. Kells said. “Now you have the answers to that right in front of you.”
I so don’t need a new blog and am not actually starting one, but I thought one documenting my gajillion Google News Alerts, with a news item from each one, would be cool. Only problem is I have so many I’d be doing it all day/night!
I mean, who doesn’t want to picture rats drinking like college students? (Thank you, alert on “alcoholism.”)
Rats that drink like college students at a frat party are teaching researchers about how alcohol affects the growth and death of brain cells and providing insight into how alcohol produces addictive behavior. They may even point to ways to help alcoholics reach sobriety.
For decades, neuroscientists believed the number of new cells, or neurons, in the adult brain was fixed early in life. Adaptive processes such as learning, memory and mood were thought tied to changes in synapses, connections between neurons.
More recently, studies have shown that the adult human brain is capable of producing new brain cells throughout life, a neurogenesis resulting in formation of hundreds of thousands of new neurons each month. “Prior to our work, everyone merely assumed that glia, the supporting cells of the brain, regenerated or that existing brain cells altered their connections,” said Nixon. “We have shown a burst in new cell birth that may be part of the brain’s recovery after the cessation of alcohol.”
Chronic alcoholism, a disease affecting more than 8 percent of the adult U.S. population, or more than 17 million Americans, produces cognitive impairments and decreased brain volumes, both of which are partially reversed during abstinence.
Science and I never really got along in high school; I think I got Cs in physics, barely, cause I could do the math. I approach it more from a selfish point of view - how can I work on my own brain/thinking patterns for maximum happiness? But I also know/care about so many alcoholics that reading about what they deal with is very interesting. Which brings me back to my languishing Modern Love piece…
Maybe I should be stressed, frantic, had meant to go to the gym but didn’t, telling myself I will use my uncle’s treadmill, even though I never have. Trying to get my anthology Orgasmic out to my assistant. There are things I should be frantic about probably, but the prospect of a rare day off (I very dumbly went on a ton of trips and used up all my 2009 time) and soaking up the sun and seeing friends and just being somewhere else, not somewhere new but somewhere not New York, with no subway or waking up early or lugging things around, feels feeing. I also just feel free…I am hoping that clearing my mind of all the negativity that was cluttering it the last few weeks will mean the writing floodgates will open. I’ve had a Modern Love idea for over a year and have been too chickenshit to finish it. Same for…tons of things. I need to take a class or learn how to pitch because, well, the hoarding thing really needs to be written about…as I prepare to pay more than I’ve ever paid for something. But mostly what I’ve been working on is thankfulness and gratitude. This year’s been full of ups and downs and I don’t know, I just feel like I turned a corner, in my heart. I don’t know how or why I just feel freer, like I am ready for…I don’t know what. I think that is sometimes the hardest thing, admitting that I cannot micromanage anything except my own behavior and actions. Sometimes that makes me want to hole up and not interact with people, which is kindof my natural tendency anyway, I just fight it and surround myself with amazing, supportive, awesome people. But not knowing what’s going to happen, well, I realized the last few weeks that I thought I knew certain things, but I didn’t, and I’m grateful for that lesson, very much so. It was a good reminder that I have to be happy with myself, not just myself in conjunction with what someone else thinks of me, because that is so subjective.
There are a lot of other Big Things I’m wrestling with, like getting old and wanting kids and, you know, to monogamy or not, and “what to do with my life,” but I’m trying for more baby steps, like getting through each day and doing something I can be proud of. A lot of days I just float along and do absolutely nothing, just exist, and that sucks. That’s not who I want to be. So in addition to an essay that is way way late, ditto for a novel, this weekend I want to finally write that essay rather than assuming nobody would care. Because I care.
Call for Submissions Best Bondage Erotica 2011 To be published by Cleis Press in late 2010 Edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel
Best Bondage Erotica 2011 will collect the best bondage erotica stories, original and previously published, focusing on a range of techniques, implements, characters and scenarios, from newbies to seasoned bondage players and everything in between. Bondage should be a central focus of the erotic element of the story. As befitting the title, I’m looking for the best, hottest, most creative bondage erotica for this collection. All genders/sexual orientations. Original stories preferred, but reprints of work published (or slated to be published) between September 2009 and December 2010 will be considered. All characters must be over 18; no incest or bestiality. Please see my other kinky Cleis Press anthologies (Bottoms Up, Spanked, Yes, Sir, Yes, Ma’am, He’s on Top, She’s on Top) for an idea of the kinds of stories I prefer.
How to submit: Send double spaced Times or Times New Roman 12 point black font Word document with pages numbered (.doc, not .docx) OR RTF of 1,500-5,000 word story. Indent the first line of each paragraph half an inch and double space (regular double spacing, do not add extra lines between paragraphs or do any other irregular spacing). US grammar (double quotation marks around dialogue, etc.) required. Include your legal name (and pseudonym if applicable), mailing address, and 50 word or less bio in the third person to email@example.com. If you are using a pseudonym, please provide your real name and pseudonym and make it clear which one you’d like to be credited as. I will get back to you by September 2010.
Payment: $50 and 2 copies of the book on publication
I’ve been seeing numerous recent submissions that do not conform to my guidelines. They are there for a reason. Please read and follow them or risk your submission being rejected or returned for reformatting. If you have any questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the editor: Rachel Kramer Bussel is the editor of over 25 anthologies, including Peep Show, Bottoms Up, Spanked, The Mile High Club, Do Not Disturb, He’s on Top, She’s on Top, Tasting Him, Tasting Her, Crossdressing, Dirty Girls, and is Best Sex Writing Series Editor. She is Senior Editor at Penthouse Variations, wrote the Lusty Lady column for The Village Voice, and has hosted and curated In The Flesh Reading Series, named Best Reading Series by New York Press, in since October 2005. Her writing has been published in over 100 anthologies, including Susie Bright’s X: The Erotic Treasury, Best American Erotica 2004 and 2006, and Zane’s Purple Panties and the New York Times bestseller Succulent: Chocolate Flava II. She has written for Cosmopolitan, The Daily Beast, Fresh Yarn, Mediabistro, Newsday, New York Post, Penthouse, Time Out New York, Zink and other publications.
As evidenced by my utter lack of tagging back in the day. I still have no idea if I should also be Technorati tagging in addition to Blogger tagging. Much as I hate Blogger though, I think we’ve had success despite it, or, to some, because of it. Who knows? All I know is that after 5 years, I’m very ready to take Cupcakes Take the Cake to the next level. Once I, you know, finish my novel. Ha ha ha ha ha.
There is no Cupcake Manufacturers Association keeping count, but anecdotal evidence indicates that stand-alone cupcake shops have been spreading not just in the acknowledged cupcake meccas of New York and Los Angeles but also in Boston, Denver, Austin, Tex., and lots of smaller places. Nationwide, cupcake sales, according to the market research firm, Mintel, are projected to rise another 20 percent over the next five years at a time when other baked goods are expected to grow in the single digits.
“Cupcake Wars,” a series pilot in which four bakers vie to create the most interesting concoctions, will soon have its debut on the Food Network. “Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes” (Clarkson, Potter), a collection of 175 recipes, was published in June, and spent 11 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list. And the most popular of the cupcake blogs, Cupcakestakethecake, is visited by some 9,000 people a day. At least a dozen blogs chronicle each new flavor — from bacon to s’mores — as well as the best frostings, the quirkiest decorations and the newest twists (so far, the meatloaf cupcake with mashed-potato frosting seems to have been contained within Chicago).
Unfortunately I didn’t have this information by the time I had to file my story - I posted my photo on BeautifulPeople.com for my story "8 New Internet Sex Fads" for The Daily Beast. I used the photo by Anya Garrett that I use as my author photo on the site. I think this is hilarious!
Here’s the reply I got yesterday:
Unfortunately, your application to BeautifulPeople Network was not successful. The members of BeautifulPeople did not find your profile attractive enough.
Please note, only one in five applicants are currently accepted into BeautifulPeople.com.
BeautifulPeople welcomes you to apply again, perhaps with a better photo or a more interesting profile text.
To modify the contents of your profile and resubmit it for rating, simply follow these quick steps:
“The result is the theatrical equivalent of a jelly doughnut with vinegar-flavored frosting, a dish fit only for the tasteless.”—
Terry Teachout’s review of Sarah Ruhl’s In The Next Room, or the vibrator play
I post this not because I agree with his F- (!!!) rating but for this sentence. Wow. Click on review above for other reviewers at Critic-o-Meter - I do think those in the sex field and who are familiar with Rachel Maines’ book The Technology of Orgasm will like it even more than others, but it’s not necessary to know about any of that to see it.
Apparently it’s not so easy…maybe I’m being overly picky BUT when my name is correctly spelled on our cupcake blog, it seems pretty lazy to misspell it. And yes, I’ve made spelling errors, but I do try very hard not to. FRUSTRATING. While I’m happy for the press, I’m NOT happy with these very, very, very easily corrected mistakes. (College papers should have fact checkers, no?)
Rachel Kramer Brussel, one of the three cupcakes queens and uber-bloggers behind the trend, cupcakestakethecake.com told The Observer that the cakes are here to stay. “Cupcakes just sell themselves…because the trend is always evolving,” said Brussel. “There is plenty of room for innovation.” Innovative is certainly one word that can be used to describe the cakes she has tasted, which include nacho-flavored, lemon artichoke, pulled pork and cookie cupcakes with holes for milk.
My best selling book is Dirty Girls: Erotica for Women
After lots of very disappointing royalty checks, I’m thrilled that my Seal Press anthology Dirty Girls: Erotica for Women (of the crazy hot Merkeley??? cover) has sold over 10,000 books according to my latest statement, complete with much-needed check. I don’t know why that sells so much better than the spanking or kinky erotica or whatever, but I’m hoping this bodes well for the 4 women’s erotica books I have lined up with Cleis Press. A little insight into indie erotica publishing - that’s very good for a book that came out last April…would probably be breaking even or whatever in big publishing. I’m happy, but always trying to figure out how to better market/promote/spread the word. With this one, I have no clue other than that women’s erotica is popular these days. I wish there were a more accurate way to gauge why certain books do well, but for now, I am just excited to be able to say that. Somehow, 7,000 sales for Spanked (even with a book trailer I spent $ on that’s gotten over 168,000 views) doesn’t sound too impressive).
Here’s some more info on Dirty Girls:
What do women really want? To be sensually seduced or pressed up against the wall for a quickie? To be tantalized by a peep show or the chance to join the mile high club?
Acclaimed erotica writer and editor Rachel Kramer Bussel knows: They want it all. They want to be worshiped, ordered around, sent blindly into ecstasy, and made hot in front of a mirror. They want strangers bearing ice cubes on a hot day and to be the party favor passed around among guests. They want sex at the office and in the great outdoors and on trains and airplanes. They want sex with the whole United States of America (or, at least, part of it). They want to be wooed, seduced, flirted with, taken. They want to handpick their lovers and make them do their bidding. They want men, women, and sometimes both at the same time.
In Dirty Girls, the country’s best erotic writers explore their sexual psyches. With contributions from Carol Queen, Alison Tyler, Sofia Quintero, Shanna Germain, Lillian Ann Slugocki, Tsaurah Litzky, and many others, this collection will set your heart racing as you savor these intimate, shocking, and passionate female fantasies.
“Finally⎯a book about what girls REALLY think about. Well, maybe not every one, but the dirty ones…and those are the ones who really count.” — Joanna Angel, CEO, BurningAngel Entertainment
“Dirty Girls is the post-feminist generation’s answer to Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden, a collection of erotically charged short stories that reveal that, in the 21st century, good girls are dead and dirty girls are the new black.” — Susannah Breslin, author of You’re a Bad Man, Aren’t You?
“A spanking good collection of smart erotica assembled by always exciting ringleader Rachel Kramer Bussel, Dirty Girls begs the question ‘What are those dirty girls thinking?’ and answers with insight not just to how women want it, but why.” – Lisa Beth Kovetz, author of The Tuesday Erotica Club
“This is an outstanding collection of hot women’s stories. That’s hot stories by women and stories by hot women. The table of contents reads like a who’s who in the best erotica writers around, an All Star team who deliver the raunch and punch the reader deserves. Rawr.” – Cecilia Tan, author of Black Feathers and White Flames: Erotic Dreams
Table of Contents
Introduction – Dirty and Sweet Wrapped Up in One
1. Fucking Around by Marie Lyn Bernard 2. Live Tonight by Saskia Walker 3. Just Another Girl on the Train by Catherine Lundoff 4. Beautiful Creature by Kristina Wright 5. In the Name Of… by Isabelle Gray 6. Cheesy Boots by L. Elise Bland 7. Truck Stop Cinderella by Lillian Ann Slugocki 8. The Dream of Life by Tenille Brown 9. The Mile High Club by Kate Dominic 10. Like a Good Girl by Alison Tyler 11. The Garden of Sinn by Darklady 12. Bag and Baggage by Teresa Noelle Roberts 13. Icy Hot by Rachel Kramer Bussel 14. Dreams by Marilyn Jaye Lewis 15. Shocking Expose! Secrets Revealed! by Carol Queen 16. To Dance at the Fair by Donna George Storey 17. The First Deadly Sin by Gwen Masters 18. El Mar de Encanto by Sofia Quintero 19. Flight by Suki Bishop 20. Lily by Tsaurah Litzky 21. Opera Gloves by Maddy Stuart 22. Party Favor by Andrea Dale 23. Carn Euny by Madelynne Ellis 24. A Prayer to Be Made Cocksure by Melissa Gira 25. All About Hearts by Sage Vivant 26. The Next Thing by Gina de Vries 27. Until It’s Gone by Shanna Germain
Introduction: Dirty and Sweet Wrapped Up in One
“I can be dirty and sweet at the same time” reads my self-proclaimed motto on my MySpace page. When I wrote that, I meant that not so deep inside me lurks the soul of a highly perverted, kinky, dirty girl who can get aroused often by a single word whispered in my ear or a solid smack across my ass. Once someone gets me into that zone, I’ll do anything, no matter how depraved, to be with them. I’ll find myself fantasizing about all the wicked things we can do together throughout the day and night, waking from wild dreams with the wish that they were beside me. I’ll see their name in my inbox and get instantly wet. I’ll tell them in public exactly what I want them to do to me, and vice versa. Yes, that’s what I mean by “dirty.”
Yet I don’t think my sexual interests make me any less of a well-rounded, kind-hearted intelligent person. I’m “sweet” in the sense that I care about my friends and family, like sending cards and random gifts, strive to be a good person (also, I run a blog about cupcakes). I’m as likely to kiss a lover’s forehead tenderly and offer to tuck them into bed as I am to throw them down on the floor and strip them naked. For me, the sweet and tender and down-and-dirty go hand in hand; I’m most turned on, and most slutty, when I’m partnered with someone who brings out my sweet side. Once, I visited a boyfriend who was sick with a fever, and did the one thing I could think of to make him feel better: sank down on his bed and took his cock in my mouth. Playing the slutty nurse, horny yet doting, is another aspect to my dirty/sweet motto.
I’d originally meant the phrase as a throwaway line, but more and more I’m realizing that everyone (or almost everyone) has a dirty and a sweet side. All too often we denigrate the dirty girls⎯the ones who dare to publicly show their naughty sides⎯as incorrigible sluts, rather than realizing just how much exciting it is to tap into our lustiest selves. Once you crack the surface of those who are seemingly prim and proper (the demure suburban housewife, the suited-up banker, the quiet secretary, the curious bookworm, the shy computer nerd), you’ll very likely find that the simplicity of the word “dirty” doesn’t go anywhere near far enough to describe the kinks that lurk within them.
The women writing here don’t apologize for being dirty. They know who and what they want and they go after the objects of their affection in all kinds of different ways. Reading this collection⎯whether from start to finish or skipping around to your favorite authors or the most eye-catching titles⎯will give you a glimpse into what makes women wet, what makes us feel and act dirty, what makes us slick our lips and spread our legs. Maybe, just maybe, their stories attempt to answer Freud’s infamously infuriating query: “What do women want?” To judge by the twenty-seven tales you hold in your hand, they want to be worshiped, they want to be ordered around, they want to be sent spinning into ecstasy and then come crashing back down. They want strangers bearing ice cubes on a hot day, and to be a party favor passed around among guests. They want hot vacation sex, visits to peep shows, and a man who’ll lick stinky cheese off their boots. They want power, and they want to give up power. They want sex at the office and in the great outdoors and on trains and airplanes. They want sex with the whole United States of America (or, at least, part of it). They want to be wooed, seduced, flirted with, taken. They want men, women, and sometimes both at the same time.
Of course, there’s more to what women want out of sex than any one book could possibly capture. What I’ve done with this anthology is highlight some of the best erotic writing I’ve found from authors who show you exactly what makes their hearts beat and their clits stand at attention. What they’re up to is, as Marie Lyn Bernard so aptly puts it, “Fucking Around” (which I briefly considered as a very fitting alternative title to this book). When I first heard Bernard read this story tag-team style at my reading series “In The Flesh,” I was blown away. She captures so much of the drama of sex⎯the high highs, the low lows, the awkwardness and the intensity⎯in a playful yet totally hot way. And when she writes about the Big Apple, it’ll make you want to hop the first plane or train to get here: “New York fucks me. New York fucks me so hard that I cry. My pussy opens like the long throat of a flame-swallower. Her fingers make love to the inside of my bellybutton. I am sweating so much that our bodies glide against each other like fish underwater.” You’ll find yourself drawing a map of your own sexual conquests, marking your territory right along with Bernard.
But for every feisty babe here, there’s another just in the process of discovering what turns her on. “Dirty” can be a state of mind just as much as it can be a description of one’s bedroom antics. Carol Queen’s peepshow virgin protagonist Abby doesn’t quite know what she’s getting into with her new friends Daniel and Lila, but she desperately wants to find out. “Lila’s lips covered hers right away, soft and wet, licking and nibbling in one of the most arousing kisses Abby had ever experienced,” writes Queen. “Dirty” doesn’t always mean depraved, either; these stories aren’t all wham-bam-thank-you-sir (or ma’am) quickies. Many of them evoke the intensity of emotion sex can bring with it, the ways having a lover know you literally inside and out can throw your life completely off balance, as if they can read your soul like a map, using fingers, toys, tongues, and cocks to navigate you until they own your internal compass. The thrill of giving yourself over to someone, of giving up control for that deliciously delirious sensation of pure erotic adrenaline, surfaces throughout this collection.
The women you’ll find here are complex; they’re by turns playful and bashful, horny and haughty. They want to share much more with you than just the details of their latest screw. They want you to know what makes them tick, who haunts their dreams, why they can’t quite forget the man who fucked them senseless, even when they’re with someone new. They like to watch and be watched, to take risks, to live out their long-held fantasies. Some are in loving, committed relationships, ones that allow them room to get their freak on with the person who knows just how to push their every button. Others, like my “Icy Hot” protagonist, don’t even want to know their bedmate’s name: “I forgot about the fact that I didn’t really know him at all. Sometimes, in a city of millions of strangers, you just have to take a chance and let your body make the decisions for you, as I’ve learned over the years. And my body was saying yes, please, more, harder.”
“Dirty” doesn’t preclude poetry, the kind where the words roll off the page, roll from your tongue, so beautifully it’s like they themselves are making love to you. Writers like Marilyn Jaye Lewis, Suki Bishop, and Melissa Gira probe the twisted places women go in search of sex⎯and themselves. In “A Prayer to Be Made Cocksure,” Gira elevates the art of the blowjob to new heights: “I sucked your cock as if it was the last cock. I trusted you to let me keep breathing, to never take that final bit from me, to tell me that getting any air at all was your choice just by reaching your hand down the length of your chest to me, to cradle the back of my neck, to run your fingers across my lips, softly, as you plunged suddenly and held me at the edge.” She takes you right into that moment, where this intimate act is dissected, treasured, hoarded, and missed.
You’ll find a range of motivations here, from women looking to spice up a lackluster relationship to single girls on the prowl to kinky couples, daring dommes, and sultry sirens intent on performing on a sexual stage of their own creation. You may read their stories and ask yourself: Would you ever write your name across your lover’s cock? What about pick up a stranger at a rock concert or screw a doctor in a hospital? Get fingered at the opera? Go to a bondage club? These characters do all this and more, always making sure their wanting, lusting, panting, and perversions are met with equal fervor.
Take a hot and steamy trip with these writers as they unlock your deepest desires, or perhaps give you some new ideas to try out next time you shut your eyes and part your legs. From tender to tempting, sweet to sadistic, loving to lascivious, there’s something for every reader who wants to go to bed with images that’ll surely make you blush and just may spark some brand-new, unique fantasies of your very own.
“Isn’t she beautiful?” he said. “Yes,” she said back. Then they kissed. I watched, a little, but mostly I heard. Felt. Touched. I wanted to believe it was doubly true because two people said it. I’m infinitely more of a voyeur but yes, sometimes, especially the vulnerable times, the what-did-I-do-wrong-where-the-hell-is-my-life-going-what’s-wrong-with-me-why-am-I-so-fat/lazy/messy/broke times, maybe I am a little bit of an exhibitionist. I don’t know. That was just one moment out of many that were, in a word, perfect. Suspended in an endless night where everything, in fact, was beautiful, especially the whispering. And the kissing. But mostly just the being.
Two women I admire and have interviewed…and Monday night I’m interviewing Julie Powell again, this time a little differently. Will be up next week I think. I can’t make this reading (plus the idea of being packed like a sardine in KGB for this isn’t so appealing) but still, wow. Also, Anna’s latest status update is the cutest: “landmark day: ida can now eat her toes.” Well, I think the photo of her and her baby rivals it.
Julie Powell: After a misspent youth involving loads of dead-end jobs and several questionable decisions, Julie Powell, author of Julie & Julia—made into a major motion picture by Nora Ephron starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams—has found her calling as a writer-cum-butcher. She lives in Long Island City, Queens, when she isn’t in Kingston, NY, cutting up animals. Her most recent book is CLEAVING: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession (Little, Brown & Co.).
Anna Lappe, author of DIET FOR A HOT PLANET: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do about It (TK from Bloomsbury, 2010), is also the coauthor of Grub and Hope’s Edge (with her mother, Frances Moore Lappé). She is currently host of MS N’s Practical Guide to Healthy Living and is cohost for the public television series The Endless Feast. Named one of Time magazine’s “Eco-Who’s Who,” she is a founding principal of the Small Planet Institute. Anna’s writing has been published in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune, and Canada’s Globe and Mail. She writes a bimonthly column on sustainability for Spirituality and Health and contributes book reviews to the San Francisco Chronicle and the New Scientist. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Online book promotion requires more than a marketing assistant’s willingness to drill down through 20 screens on Google. To be effective, it requires imagination, the out-of-the-box quality that in-the-box people like to think can be turned on at will. Not so.
Authors are beginning to grasp that the job description of “writer” has changed. Writers may be artists. They are also brands. And restless brands at that; it’s the rare writer who stays with one publisher for the long haul. More typically, publishing contracts are for one or two books; in that truncated relationship, a publisher can only do so much for its writers. The heavy lifting of a career will fall to writers and their agents, or it just won’t get done.
So unless they are geniuses—and recognized as such—writers who want attention for their work need to cultivate some 21st-century media skills. They should be camera-ready, because they’ll want to make YouTube videos. They should know their way around social networking sites. They should have some experience with book clubs, and they should be willing to spend as much time there as they used to spend on book tours.
I have to make a payment to my publicist today, so this is certainly on my mind. I have a little better idea of what the reality is and also that you can as easily waste thousands on publicity with no real tangible anything to show for it as you can kick ass.
The Japanese actually invented karaoke (singing popular songs to pre-recorded backing tracks). The term means “empty orchestra” and is pronounced kah-rah-okay— not karey-okie, which makes my ears hurt when I hear it pronounced that way!
By now I was a frustrated vocalist who had performed for peanuts (and less) with my unsuccessful bands. So I jumped at the chance to learn Japanese pop songs (J-pop) and perform them without the need for backup musicians. No more worrying about drunk guitarists or no-show drummers. Like the protagonist Celeste Duncan in my novel, LOVE IN TRANSLATION, I found singing in Japanese to be easier than speaking it, and it was fun to pretend to be fluent for the duration of a song.