Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Of all places

She looked out the window over the sink where she was doing the dishes, and all she could see was [redacted]. Flat, flat, flat, forever, and her with her hands in suds up to the wrists. She pulled the glass out of the water and stuffed the pink sponge into it. She thought, I need to get this clean, and wondered if she ever would. Later, she would sit up in bed when it was the middle of the night and her [redacted] was dead asleep beside her, and she would live in that place that was in between what had happened and what was now, and it seemed huge.

The hummus incident

The patient is unwell. The patient, limp but not prostrate on the examination table, complains of anxiety and depression. This, despite having witnessed an actual rainbow, not a virtual one, earlier that same day. Patient resists further verbal probing and demands treatment. Unfortunately, the doctor is out, although the patient is not aware. The doctor is, in fact, a "doctor," an orderly from another hospital on another planet who, bored, teleported to this location late that morning. The "doctor" is unsure how things operate here, so, grabbing at the few visual artifacts with which it is familiar regarding this civilization, it announces the patient must go to the supermarket. The patient sighs, thinking this stupid, removes the paper gown handed her with a single deft move, and drives to the nearest location. The patient finds herself drawn to the area where the vegetables and fruits are located. There, she presses overpriced and oddly perfumed mushrooms that resemble clusters of dog ears to her nose, and then replaces them. She picks up a prickled fruit, fondles an unwaxed, locally grown cucumber, plucks the green stem hat from every tomato she finds and inhales the tangy scent. She wanders into the bread area, closes her eyes, and is transported by the dank reek of yeast clouding her head. At the sauce bar, she is overcome and climbs aboard the counter, tumbling into once neatly arranged dishes, and rolls nude in the pesto, eating hummus by the fistful, her face a mess of mild guacamole and artichoke dip.

Monday, August 30, 2010


I decide I'm going to get rid of 90% of my stuff. That's the only way out of this mess -- to do it mathematically. I readjust for uninflation. I decide I'm going to give away 80% of my stuff and throw away 10% of my stuff, because there's no way a minimum of 10% of my life isn't junk. I divide my life into three parts: poor people stuff, garbage, and mine. The people who take poor people stuff can't come for a week and then only all at once, so I have to pull out all the poor people stuff, put it in bags and boxes all lined up in neat rows, and look at it. The garbage goes out bit by bit to not make the other people in the building mad. There are only so many garbage cans in the world, and we only have three. I sneak garbage out daily. The day the poor people collectors come, they show up at the door, and there are only two of them, and I outweigh each one of them. There is a skinny white older guy and a young black guy. The young guy has something either written on his arm or tattooed on his arm that involves the word GOD, which, for some reason, I think says, GOD'S ARM, and I keep meaning to check and see what it says, but I keep forgetting because the white guy keeps saying stuff like, we're not movers, and pointing at large pieces of furniture and saying, we can't take that. I'm not looking for a fight from people who take poor people stuff, so I say fine, take what you can. I think I'm pretty great for doing this, not only giving all this stuff to poor people that I will never meet, but for tolerating the angry skinny white guy sweating like a dog who doesn't want my poor people stuff anyway. Eventually, the skinny old white guy goes and hides in the truck, and I realize the only way I'm getting out of here is if I help the black guy, so I do. After a while, I tell the skinny old white guy to get out of the truck and help us, please, so he does, sort of. Finally, everything is in the truck, we're all sweating like dogs, and they have taken everything but the bed frame which is bolted to the headboard, a six-foot long sofa the color of a sorry turd, and a lamp that I need because otherwise there will be no light. The next day, a special delivery truck comes and takes all the garbage I left at the curb. I sit on the floor and think, I am going out the same way I came in.

Friday, August 27, 2010

I get email

Hey Susannah;

I'm working on an article for [redacted] Magazine about [redacted], and was hoping you'd be up for talking to me a bit. The piece is not about his [redacted] or [redacted] -- it is about my own sense of [redacted] at having [redacted]. I'm trying to figure out why I feel that way so much more with [redacted] than with others -- maybe I should, I don't know, or maybe it's the whole [redacted]. Maybe it's the [redacted]. Anyway, I met with [redacted] in [redacted] a couple of weeks ago and got his opinion on the matter (you can guess what it was -- he, incidentally, was the one who pointed me to you and your [redacted] -- you can guess what his opinion was about that, as well), and I'm going to be talking to some of his [redacted], so to speak, in the next few weeks as well. But I read your [redacted] on [redacted], and would love to get your opinion on it all as someone who has followed [redacted] for some time.

What do you say?

- [redacted]

(c) [redacted] 2010

Warning: No part of this communication may be reproduced or paraphrased in any medium without express permission.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I have a dream

I wake up in the middle of the night after watching most of blood simple while lying on a red sofa. In the dream I've been having, an office building of men is climbing out onto the ends of a series of branches extending from the world's biggest Christmas tree. They keep jumping off. They're all killing themselves. Their mentality seems to be, Oh, well. I wake up, write this, and wonder if I'll be going to back to bed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hey, cupcake

I walk up to the Airstream trailer parked in the corner of the lot. There's a big black guy sitting in a folding chair outside. Maybe he's looking at his cell phone. Maybe he isn't. He's wearing a pink t-shirt, but I don't put it together until I go up to the window, and it's closed, and he looks at me like he's not sure which cupcakes I want yet. But I do. Because I already looked them up online. I want a white-on-white one, a chocolate-on-chocolate one, and a red velvet one. He says something like, You know what you want?, from the chair, and I look at the menu, and I say, I think so, which I am, pretty much. He gets up, gets in the trailer, puts the cupcakes I say I want in a box like a baker would use. He opens the window. We talk. His name is Vince. He has a big tattoo on his arm, but I can't remember what. Maybe it's the continent of Africa. He tells me he's an "urban hippie." Then he tells me something about hugs, but I can't remember what later. I tell him my name, we shake hands through the window of the trailer with the rotating giant cupcake on top, and I take my box of cupcakes and go home. At home, I see the frosting has gotten on the sides of the box some. I stick my finger into the frosting of the red velvet one. I stick it in my mouth. It tastes good.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Bobby Mundy Story

I get an email and it says it's from somebody named Bobby Mundy, but I don't know anybody named Bobby Mundy. I open it anyway. The email reads, You have a big butt huh? You are blessed. Most white women don’t have a booty. Would you happen to have a pic of it you could send me? I wonder if I've gotten this exact same email before. Because I swear I've gotten this exact same email before. Only maybe it was an email like this one, but different, but it's so fundamentally the same, what lies in the white spaces between the letters, that I just think it's the same letter. I swear I've gotten the same email every year for the last 13 years, since the first time I was on TV. I vow never to send Bobby Mundy or anyone like Bobby Mundy any photos ever. I hope Bobby Mundy searches Google Image search for hours, looking for that for which he seeks, and never finds it. I hope this knight-errant fails, that his walkabout never ends, that every time he looks down at his hands, he remembers all over again that he is empty-handed and his emails are why.

Monday, August 23, 2010

We're all winners

I can't decide what to do with the rest of my life and everything is boring. I decide I'm going to win a National Magazine Award. I don't know when the awards are given out, or why, so I decide I'll win one between today and sometime next year. I figure there are three sure fire ways to win a National Magazine Award. Write about something sexy. Write about war. Write about something violent. I figure if I write something about someone stabbing someone, or someone who runs a titty bar, or someone who had something terrible happen to them or did something terrible or was in close proximity enough to something terrible that they became that something terrible's collateral damage, my odds are good. I vow to seek out all things sexy, war-like, and violent in the world. I don't know if I will win, but I will die trying, like 50 cent, if 50 cent were a freelance journalist.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Early signs of genius

Here's a story I wrote when I was 8:

"The Tiger"

The tiger prances on her prey. She hungrily eats up her wild rabbit in her cave. She bounds out on the wild jungle grass. Her sharp pointed claws rip the wet earth. She lies down and her silken coat shines in the sun as she takes a nap. When she wakes up she swiftly washes her thick coat and goes to sleep again.

When she wakes up she knows she is not in the beautiful jungle she once lived in. There are walls all around. She growls at the things that are looking at her, some scream and some run away.

She made friends with a lion and had cubs.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's Tricky to rock a rhyme

New video from Tricky, "Murder Weapon," off Mixed Race.
Murder Weapon is a reworking of the classic dancehall hit from Jamaican-born Echo Minott, originally released in the early ‘90s. Tricky first fell in love with the track when someone sang it to him as he walked into a shop, and has been obsessed with it ever since.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Sasha Grey American Apparel ads revisited

Since porn star Sasha Grey appeared on last weekend's episode of "Entourage" doing full-frontal nudity, it would appear that many visitors are coming here looking for an American Apparel ad featuring a naked Grey that ran on my old blog in December 2008. I've reposted that entry here. Images from the original flash ad are what you see above.
If you haven't noticed it already, I've got a new American Apparel ad up on the site. The model is adult film star turned star of Steven Soderbergh's upcoming call girl movie "The Girlfriend Experience," Sasha Grey. Won't you welcome Sasha?

The ads are part of a new campaign that only appears here, at my friend Debauchette's site, and on Last Night's Party. Debauchette's model is adult film star Charlotte Stokely, and LNP's model demonstrates the fun that can be had with personal electronics.

While some feminists like to spend their time caterwauling about the supposed sexism of AA ads, it bears mentioning these ads were conceptualized and shot by Kyung Chung, who, it also bears mentioning, is a woman. Previously, Chung got feminist knickers in a crack-splitting twist when she shot herself for a Manhattan AA billboard. Gee, it's a good thing feminists are ripping their hair out and clawing at their eyes and pulling down the drapes over supposedly sexist ads shot by a woman, or I'd have, like, no self-esteem.

According to AA's Shawn Shahani the new ads are "definitely our most racy web ads that we've ever created." And if you're confused as to what's being sold here, Shahani explains: "We're selling socks. Thigh-highs because it gets cold when you're otherwise naked."

You can read about my first ad here, find out what Fast Company has to say about the new campaign here, or buy some thigh-high socks here.

Update 1: Debauchette: "Two things I love about Susannah’s new AA ad. (1) It’s hot. And (2) Sasha Grey has pubic hair."

Update 2: Fimoculous: "In addition to that Sodebergh flick, Sasha Grey is also appearing naked in skyscraper ads for American Apparel around the internet."

Update 3: Gala Darling: "American Apparel have taken the leap to totally naked advertisements — well, except for the socks."

Update 4: Molly Crabapple: "Not a huge fan of AA ads, but oh the lovely Sasha Grey one one me over."

Update 5: Buzzfeed: "A young porn star lands a Hollywood Role and appears nude (like, totally nude) in a new American Apparel ad."

Update 6: Fleshbot: "As far as we're concerned, American Apparel can use sex to sell whatever they want—as long as 'sex' means 'naked Sasha Grey.'"

Update 7: Nerdy Grrl: "Let me just say I can’t think of an ad campaign in the history of ad campaigns that would make me want to buy socks, but, by golly I think I need to go and get me some socks."

Update 8: Nerve: "We always wondered when advertisements would feature nothing but naked woman and the name of the product ... "

Update 9: There are some rumors floating around that the ads are fake. They're not. They're real.

Update 10: SlackerTalk: "Sasha Grey does for pubic hair, what Justin Timberlake did for sexy."

Update 11: Pipeline: "Somehow, Charney's ads, which double as cheeky send ups of exploitation chic and clear examples of actual exploitation, have become targets for post-Feminist love and ire."

Update 12: URB: "However, they've pushed it to the limit this time and decided to just let it all hang out."

Update 13: Scanner commenter Lawston Found points to an amusing and relevant Bill Hicks bit on sex and advertising: "Drink Coke!"

Update 14: Examiner: "This isn't just some sexy model wearing some socks, after all: Sasha Grey is one of the most foul-mouthed females in hardcore porn, and she's somehow managed to take ownership of her own exploitation and twist it around into something like a feminist statement."

Update 15: NBC: "In a move that should not surprise anyone anywhere the latest (NSFW) ads from American Apparel feature a model wearing little to nothing at all."

Update 16: XBIZ: "The ad marks a continuing trend for Los Angeles-based American Apparel, which features many scantily clad models in its advertisements."

Update 17: AVN: "Is it still a 'mainstream crossover' if you're showing bush?"

Update 18: Portland Mercury: "Sex and youth selling clothes is ubiquitous, AA is just not bothering to 'beat around the bush' if you'll excuse the pun."

Update 19: LA Pretty: "And I also love how their ads at least attempt to deviate from the norm by actually portraying real-looking people, which is probably why they're so erotic and unnerving because that's something that we rarely get to see."

Update 20: mashKULTURE: "It was really the only logical next step in the evermore controversial ads that make up American Apparel’s marketing strategy that full-frontal nudity, and the use of porn stars would be inevitable."

Update 21: Debauchette: "If we’re talking about depictions of women, I want to see more of this, of women looking you in the eye and fucking owning their sex."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Talking is contagious

Two years ago this day, I was a private as part of the Canadian Charlie Company Battlegroup in Kandahar, Afghanistan - a part of the 2 PPCLI-led Task Force 1-08. We deployed on a patrol south off PSS (Police Sub-station) Spin Pir, and right away, you could tell that it was going to be a bad day. Men, women and children streaming north, pushing wheelbarrows and carrying possessions... Very strong combat indicators.
-- Boing Boing commenter

Monday, August 9, 2010

The War Project letters

There's a new component to The War Project: first-person accounts written by veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. The first comes from Sgt. Carlos Reynaldo Farias:
Sgt. Carlos Farias served in Charlie Company, 1st Platoon, 1-508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. He was deployed to Afghanistan from January 2007 to April 2008. "I wrote [this] days after the event," he wrote in an email. "The day was hell. ... I documented it to help me get over the situation, a venting process if you will. It did help some but even at that for weeks I could not sleep fearing that either one of the members of my team or myself would die in the coming missions."
An excerpt:
Well it was the morning of the 6th, D day to be in fact, June 6th 2007 and we were south of Musa Qala and the Kajaki dam. Wake up was at 0120 and that was shitty on my part cuz I couldn’t fucking sleep all night and only got a couple of good hours during the day. So damn hot that you couldn’t really sleep well and if you did you woke up dehydrated as hell.
Moving forward, the site will feature interviews, letters, and photos. If you're not yet familiar with the project, visit the About page. If you're an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran interested in getting involved, here's the email.

[Sgt. Carlos Reynaldo Farias]

Photo credit: Spc. Tyler Harrell.

Friday, August 6, 2010

When your subject finds you

It seems I may have found my next subject, or subjects, for The War Project, or, rather, my subject, or subjects, found me.

Here, filmmaker Alex Jablonski talks about finding stories in documentary filmmaking.
You learn that the more force you apply the less likely you are to get the results you want and when you do hear a ‘no’ you can either drive yourself crazy thinking about how great the piece could’ve been or to trust that there’s a different piece you need to make right now.
In The New New Journalism, Gay Talese, who wrote the best magazine article ever written, "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold," says:
I don't know who the characters are at the beginning, I don't know the story, but I do know the stage of the theater. I find the characters by simply showing up at the "theater." As I spend more time in there, they emerge. It's almost as if I imagine them, and then, they mysteriously appear.
Most of the time, that's how it goes. Interestingly, I suspect this next story isn't so much a war story, but a love story, which is, oddly, fitting.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

On (not) writing

"It's hard to write a novel when you're happy."
-- The Harpoonist

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I'm in a book

I'm happy to announce the story I wrote for Significant Objects, "Necking Team Button," will be included in the book version of Significant Objects, which will be published by the esteemed Fantagraphics.

Of the 200+ stories that appeared on the site, only 100 will appear in the book, so it's clear I'm special and superior to at least a very small subset of people. At their suggestion, I donated the small honorarium they paid me for the piece to Girls Write Now. About a quarter of the stories will be illustrated, I would assume by cool Fantagraphics artists, which will be awesome.

Thank you, Rob and Josh!
I reached my hand into the drawer, withdrew it, and looked at what lay in my palm. “ALL AMERICAN OFFICIAL NECKING TEAM,” the pin read. It was hard to reconcile the words with my father. At this point, he had been dead for nearly 15 years. After he had passed away, my mother and I had stood over the dining room table upon which sat a large box that contained what was left of him. Cremains, the man had called them. My father, I had longed to correct him.
[Necking Team Button]

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

In which my journalistic integrity is questioned

"Which is where we differ. Few print writers want to assign, edit or read the stuff [Susannah Breslin] covered. I didn’t find either of those qualities in her work. You did. But it was certainly sexy and flashy and got lots of angry comments, so it’s a great fit for the web. Does its popularity in that medium — where the loudest and most shocking win — make her, de facto, a great journalist? Not in my book." -- Caitlin Kelly


The first time I was on TV, I was a guest on "Politically Incorrect." Basically, it was a set up. At the time, I was the co-editor of an online magazine that had the word "postfeminist" in the title.

Sitting directly across from me on the stage was Erica Jong, whose Fear of Flying had long ago turned her into something of a feminist icon.

I knew what the deal was. This was a show. The intention was a cat fight. And a cat fight is what they got.

For the next 22 minutes, I insulted Jong, suggesting her feminist ideologies were woefully outdated, sad, and boring. Jong insulted me, positing me as an uppity idiot who was too naive to know anything of the world, a fool who had no appreciation for what her generation had supposedly done for me.

After the show, us four guests -- Dylan McDermott and Rita Rudner had spent the majority of the show gawking as Jong and I had gone at it -- walked off the set.

Backstage, I turned to Jong, who sneered at me with cool disdain. I smiled politely. She understood this was a show, right? Jong looked the other way, enraged.

It was no show to her. This was her life. And it was all too clear to her that she had been replaced.


Yesterday, Mark Dery wrote a wonderful post over on True/Slant: "Goodbye to All This: On Leaving True/Slant." In fact, I was going to write about that post on my blog today.

If you've not been following the True/Slant story as of late, the site was bought by Forbes Media a few months ago, and as of August 1st is no longer publishing.

Some of the True/Slant writers will be heading over to Forbes.com. Some will not.

Dery's farewell post was, as his stuff always is, complicated, brilliant, and too smart. Too smart for the internet, too smart for me, too smart for you. That's how Dery is.

I've written about his work here before. I enjoy it most not for his insights, his ability to be intoxicatingly complex and hilariously insightful at the same time, nor the way his prose dazzles on the screen like Nurevey danced on the stage, but because I always feel embarrassed when I read him. He's my own personal homo sacer, whom I can neither kill nor usurp.

This is why I like him: because he is better than I am.


What is Dery's post about? Well, it's about the current state of journalism. Although, it's as much about the current state of journalism as Penelope Trunk's blog is about career advice.

(Which is to say, Not much, and, Thank god.)

In a nutshell, the post is a pyre upon which he tosses journalism (dead), books (antiquated), magazines (over), and, of course, himself, for no man who kills something does not love it, too, love it enough to bother to kill it, for every man who kills knows when he does so that he kills not the Other, but himself in effigy.
"I was a desultory True/Slant-er, posting infrequently and at inordinate length, on topics that were sometimes topical but often not. I’m not immune to newsiness, but refuse to be stampeded trendward, along with the rest of the goggle-eyed media herd."
Dery's post in two words: fuck you. Or, more properly put: fuck you, because I love you.

To wit: Fuck your internet. Fuck your SEO. Fuck your page views. Fuck your what you're supposed to do. Fuck your flaccidity. Fuck your boredom. Fuck your ease. Fuck your dysentery of the mind. Fuck your unthinking idleness. Fuck your pablum posts. Fuck your verticals. Fuck your listicles. Fuck your PowerPoint presentations. Fuck your shit.

After I read it, I thought, oh, I know what I'll say about it on my blog. I'll say, Isn't it funny the best post on True/Slant was published after the site stopped publishing?

(Surely, the greatest post ever written on the internet will be the one written after the internet is gone.)

Then I read the comments.


Before my father left my mother, he would get home from work, and I would try and get him to wrestle me on the living room floor. I have no idea why. Invariably, these sessions would end up with me crying. I don't remember why that is the case. Years later, it occurred to me that I was entirely very likely attempting to get my father -- who had been raised by an Irish Catholic alcoholic father in the bowels of Brooklyn, and so, therefore, was not exactly what one would call physically demonstrative -- to touch me. That he was a writer, and that I became a writer who spent most of her so-called writing career wrestling with the act of writing, was to become all too obvious for far too many years.


When I began posting on my True/Slant blog, Off the Record, earlier this year, my posts would not infrequently, shortly after publication, show that a comment had been added by another True/Slant blogger, Caitlin Kelly.

I don't know Kelly. Her comments were sometimes if not oftentimes in disagreement with something that I had written. Occasionally, I read Kelly's blog.

So, I suppose I was not entirely surprised to see that Kelly had posted a series of comments to Dery's post that referenced me. In his post, he had mentioned me in flattering, surely undeserved ways as someone who wrote things that weren't, well, shit.

Among various other points, Kelly seemed to take issue with this idea. She argued that, no, my writing was shit, the worst kind of shit, really, because it wasn't even authentic shit, but manufactured shit, shit prose pumped out in hot pursuit of page views. It wasn't even good shit. It was shitty shit.

Not only, she seemed to be suggesting, was I shitty a blogger, but I was a shitty writer, and not even a shitty journalist, but not a journalist at all, as Dery had had the gall to posit. I was a shitty not-journalist.

"'Content' is just a pile 'o [sic] words produced in some order," she scolded him. "It does not demand thoughtful or insightful ideas. And, while you laud Breslin, much of her work focused on incendiary topics like porn — which attracted, as we all know it would, many prurient eyeballs."


In April of 2009, I spent a week in Los Angeles working on a story about the adult movie industry and the recession. I wrote it for a publication that I was writing for at the time.

I came home and wrote a 10,000-word essay about what I had done, and what I had seen, and what I thought about all those things. I submitted the story to the editor. The editor wanted to change it in ways that I believed would work counter to the truth of the essay. I withdrew the piece from the publication. I published it myself.

1. This is what is called "operating at a loss."

2. This is what could be called journalism.

3. This could be dismissed.

4. This (the story) could be misconstrued as a bid for page views (of which there have been over 1 million, but, hey, who's counting?).

5. This is the stuff of which vitamin soup is made.

6. This is what I'm trying to say:

7. Fuck you.


The other day, somebody wrote me an email. A woman. Someone I know only lately, and only a little bit. But I have the impression that she is very tough. Not tough. But solid. Solid like an Oak. Like an Oak in a hurricane.

This is what her email said:
Yeah, you are in there.

You do.

As you say and I concur, Folks just watch, they stare, they don't get moving.

Yeah, you engage. Keep doing that. It's good. And don't ever stop doing that.

A long time ago, I was on the set of a really crazy movie where a lot of really crazy things happened.

Driving home in the darkness, I was in a very strange state of mind. Years later, I would understand that there was a word for this state of mind, and the word was "dissociation." But that was later. Too late, really. But that's another story for another time.

I was driving out of the Valley, over the Cahuenga Pass, going back to the shitty little one-bedroom apartment I had on a boulevard named for the Happy People.

Well, at least I had balls. (That's what I told myself.)

At least I had something to say.

At least I wasn't a crashing bore.

At least I didn't waste my time on submitting pitches to the Times, on whining about my page views or lack thereof, on writing throw away comments tacked onto blog posts that I could never hope to write because I lacked the insight, the talent, and, perhaps most importantly, the balls to write them myself -- and, worst of all, I knew it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

What he (and she) said

"To be a warrior, one must engage." -- "The War Within"