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Haut Takes

I write about music, politics and pop culture.

Ladycation, Weinstein Outed and a History of the N.R.A

Haut Takers!

And just like that, Ladycation came and went. You know that feeling when an event that you’ve looked forward to for months is abruptly over? The residual haze of glitter from seemingly endless conversations between four bad ass women fueled by too much wine, Patron, sunshine and incredible food still hovers, but the concrete wall of reality is definitely encroaching on it and my suntan. Somewhere between this glitter bomb and a very hard place (on a Southwest plane some 30 minutes outside Dallas milking this $8 WiFi for all it’s worth, to be precise) is where you find me this Tuesday evening. 

I just spent the last 5.5 days soaking up SoCal #vibes at the glorious Diggs residence in La Jolla. Jenna is a bodacious babe of a superhost, enabling Gilly, Skye, and me to do nothing but eat, sleep, drink, laugh and sprint between lifeguard stands for an entire weekend. These ladies are incredibly smart, hilarious, game, beautiful POWER women, and I am very proud to call them my fellow LadyKs. One day I hope we will all live in the same city, or compound. This weekend set in motion a future of bi annual Ladycations far into old age. Let me know if you want to join, we are making t-shirts.

I’ll share with you a few reflections on traveling across the country. Anyone who has watched at least one episode of the O.C and the documentary film Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is well aware that SoCal is far different than NYC. I won’t bore you with redundant descriptions of palm trees and blue skies (although those skies are really fucking blue- see picture below). I often feel that some of the most resonant travel experiences happen in the airports and means of transportation that exist between point A and point Paradise. Never is this truer than during a multi-leg airplane itinerary across these United States.

I began my journey before dawn at one of NYC’s infamous mounds of trash and rubble- LaGuardia Airport. Even at 5:15 in the morning the place teems with anguished travelers earnestly trying to find precious items lost at the security checkpoint (at any other airport I would blame human negligence for the number of lonely debris left behind*KIM* but at LGA it is far more likely that the malfunctioning conveyor belt is home to a present day traveler’s Upside Down sustained by the flip flops and Transitions lenses it devours) while the TSA agent’s/warden’s passive aggression bombards them from all sides. At LGA your sheer presence in the security line transforms you into a convicted inmate surrendering your possessions in an intake line at a local prison. Once you manage to make it to the terminal you are forced to make the Sophie’s Choice between a stale breakfast sandwich from Au Bon Pain or a stale breakfast sandwich from Dunkin Donuts. At least the modern marvel of a filtered water station has finally been installed outside the one stall bathroom #luxury #blessed, giving us all something to celebrate.

But let’s bring this back to me, as this is Haut Takes. My itinerary took me first from the gates of Hell described above to the fair city of St. Louis. Upon arrival, I realized that this was the first city between the two coasts I had touched down in (besides Denver and New Orleans- but I’ve been told those don’t actually count) in probably five years. I was immediately proud of myself for skirting the ominous label of “coastal elite”. This pride was fleeting. I began to notice that the airport patrons who noticed me at all, were shooting me looks of both confusion and horror. I realized that in my stumbling AM stupor I had worn this Supreme tee that prominently features the refracted faces of screaming nuns who appear to be suffering torture by melting. On the streets of  Brooklyn, this is considered “cool streetwear”, its irreverence “ironic”. Not so in St. Louis. I was an interloper in middle America and my shirt an affront to its way of life. I was obviously cast as a tone-deaf, diehard Hillary fangirl similar to those who invaded the Midwest to stump for our lady just a year ago, our eyes glittering with the ignorant, hopeful certainty unique to the aforementioned “costal elite”. The looks (and some whispered benedictions) continued through my 2.5 hour layover and my four hour flight to San Diego. I eventually buttoned my acid-washed jean jacket over the melting nuns and covered the “NYC votes” sticker on the back of my iPhone in order to avoid total insurrection. Oops.

This four hours of judgment in the sky landed me in sunny San Diego where literally everyone is smiling (I would smile all the time too if clouds were merely a coy suggestion that surfaced every 6-8 weeks and humidity was never a factor in managing my Jew curls). There were at least SIX filtered water stations in my immediate eye line. Damn. The first overhead announcement was from the cheery voice of an angel advertising an abandoned hoodie that was “folded and secured” at baggage claim waiting for its rightful owner. While my natural cynicism would dismiss this overture as bizarre, this lady on vacation embraced it- and the SoCal lifestyle-wholeheartedly. Within an hour I was greeting strangers on the street while eating an acai bowl and thinking things like, “humanity is amazing”.

While I’m incredibly sad that my weekend in a suspended, sunny reality has come to a close, I am never regretful to return to the frenetic, nun-shirt appreciating city I call my home. I guess some labels are meant to stick.


I. A Note on the Newsletter: Thank you for subscribing! The reception has been unexpected and heartening. It is always daunting to start a new project and then immediately put it in front of the eyes of many people you love and respect. This has given me an outlet to flex my atrophied writing muscles, indulge my interests and stimulate my intellect. I also now understand the term “24-hour news cycle” in a completely personal way. The tricky part about producing a weekly newsletter is that news and content moves so damn fast. As a result, I know a lot of you are probably already well informed on the topics covered in Haut Takes. As a result, I am going to try to cover topics from fresh angles and experiment with format. Send feedback! And please forward!


II. Weinstein’s a pig and apparently all of Hollywood knew it: Unless you have been completely off the grid for the past week or the rock you live under is so large that your smartphone no longer picks up reception, you have heard that behemoth Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has now been accused of both sexual harassment and assault by an incredible number of women. He has since been ousted from The Weinstein Company, the production holding company he started with his brother, as the allegations barrel in. This is yet another (as Roxanne Gay called it “dully grotesque”) tale of a man in power exploiting that power to oppress women whose success in their given field depends on his support. If you are unfamiliar with Harvey, just watch this clip of the thinly veiled Weinstein caricature (Harvey Weingard) from HBO’s Entourage-it should tell you all you need to know. A summary of his power: Weinstein paraded through Hollywood as a declared champion of liberal causes like Planned Parenthood and even employed Malia Obama as an intern last summer, and at least one of Weinstein’s movies has been nominated for an Oscar every year since 1990. An incredible amount of analysis can and will be done on this topic, but I wanted to provide you with the best coverage on the topic I read over the weekend.

Start with the New York Times article that broke the story last Thursday and hear from one of its writers why it was such a hard story to break and why it will continue to unfold for weeks. Then shudder at how wide he cast his net of perversion while you read these accounts from Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and several other women. Think about, and feel disgusted by, how deep this cover up ran while learning that Matt Damon and Russell Crowe allegedly helped bury a 2004 Times article detailing Weinstein’s ways. Next, consider Lena Dunham’s argument that it is time for the men of Hollywood (and any men who are witnesses to sexual mistreatment of women) to stop being silent. Lastly, feel heartened that Hollywood heroes like Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet are speaking out against a man who admittedly shaped their careers in support of his accusers.

If you are asking yourself the question, why didn’t these women come forward sooner? Immediately stop asking this question (like literally, right now) and watch HBO’s Confirmation which features Kerry Washington as Anita Hill during the senate hearings accusing Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment and read this. Hopefully that answers a question that shouldn’t need to be asked again, unless it is posed as why does our society make it next to impossible for women to come forward about sexual assault while still maintaining their dignity?

An answer in summary: For decades, the reporters who tried to tell the story of Harvey Weinstein butted up against the same wall of sheer force and immovable power that was leveraged against those ambitious actors, the vulnerable assistants, the executives whose careers, salaries, and reputations were in his hands,” Rebecca Traister.

III. The NRA hasn’t always been a lobbying group with the GOP’s balls in a money clip (I appreciate this Kimmel soundbite SO much and will continue to use it shamelessly): It’s been a week since the terror in Las Vegas. The tragedy has been covered from a number of angles and its remnants are only poking through the burlap sack of the Weinstein fiasco. As we know, the lingering story will likely revolve around legislators attempting to advance gun control and being blown back by the raging frat boy’s wet dream that is the NRA. For my entire existence, the NRA has been a powerful second amendment lobbying group with the financial power to make or break a candidate. But the October 4th edition of the Times’ daily podcast The Daily shattered that perspective. In the episode, Robert Draper traces the history of the NRA from a group of hunters interested in protecting their recreational hobby to what it is today. The last ten minutes of the episode feature a chilling interview with the remorseless gun shop owner who sold the weapons to the VA Tech shooter (a mass shooting he blames on the one professor and two students who didn’t report the shooter’s “squirrely” behavior). Here are the salient points:

  1. 1871: The NRA is formed to train former Union soldiers as hunters, and exists for the purpose or promoting hunting culture for nearly 100 years.
  2. 1960s: The social unrest of the decade which resulted in the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK led to the first stringent legislation against the purchase of guns, now described as “arbiters of violence.”
  3. 1968: An act is passed in congress to restrict interstate gun commerce and instituted an age restriction on gun ownership. In response, aptly named, John Dingle a Democratic senator from Georgia sounded the alarm on anti-gun hysteria. He led the first lobbying group to protect second amendment rights against “oppressive” legislation.
  4. 1975: The NRA rebrands itself as a 2nd amendment lobbying group. All existing leadership was ousted and replaced with 2nd amendment absolutists whose platform revolved around the “slippery slope” argument- one check on the sale of guns will quickly lead to the prohibition of guns altogether.
  5. 1986: The Gun Ownership Protection Act is passed, which effectively reversed the legislation of the 1968 legislation. At this point, the sale of machine guns to civilians was still banned. Constituents and gun’s rights activists continued to “hold a grudge” against the NRA for “giving in” to a restriction on any weapon.
  6. Present Day: The NRA operates under the philosophy of “doubling down” on anti-gun conversations because if “you give an inch, they take a mile.” Meaning, if semi-automatic weapons are banned on the general market, the NRA will blast to its supporters that this is the first step towards the complete erasure of the 2nd amendment from the consitution. 2,500 different weapons still remain exempt from any ownership restrictions whatsoever.
  7. The “playbook” response to mass shootings: Draper argues that after each American mass shooting, the NRA predictably follows the following steps: remain silent for an appropriate amount of time, seize a “soundbite” that out of context would seem like legislators are promising to eradicate guns completely and pump it to their supporters through media campaigns, check political headwinds to see which legislators are in favor of restrictions, take action by flooding media markets with an NRA friendly audience with creepily patriotic radio ads advertising discounts on membership dues, and then create an indefatigable lobbying campaign that eventually defeats legislation.

And from The Washington Post:

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IV. TV: Indulge in The Good Place.

I don’t often partake in 30 minute comedies that aren’t 30 Rock, but my boss recommended The Good Place to me. In a week’s time, I watched the entire first season and the first two episodes of the second season of the NBC comedy and thoroughly enjoyed it. It stars a Kristen Bell as a lovable asshole who ends up in an afterlife called, you guessed it “The Good Place”. Along with Ted Danson, also a lovable asshole and architect of said “Good Place”, the most diverse cast on network TV (besides Bell and Danson its three other principals are respectively Nigerian, Pakistani and Filipino) churns out the sardonic humor any Tina Fey fan will love (sample joke-actions that could land you in the “bad place” include: talking about your veganism unprompted, feeling emotionally invested in The Bachelor or any of its offshoots, and/or posting about your emotional investment in said shows on social media). It moves fast and feels simultaneously fantastical and relatable (and is rich in pop culture references). Season 1 is on Netflix, season 2 is on Hulu.

V. Music: Chill out, but maybe feel your feelings too.

Kelela is a newcomer on the synth R&B scene. Her song LMK was popular on the indie scene this summer. Her debut album Take Me Apart hit streaming services over the weekend. Sometimes she sounds like SZA, sometimes FKA Twigs, and sometimes she just sounds like herself.

VI. For Funsies: Food!

Y’all know I don’t cook, but I love to eat. I also love reading about food, and how I could theoretically cook it. Here’s a roundup of my favorites in food related media from the past week or so: Spiciness is not actually a taste and here is how you should eat it, how to properly cook garlic even if your dinner date sucks, and the controversy over vodka sauce (it mainly seems to be a completely American bastardization of Italian cooking and often doesn’t include vodka).

And one more thing… One of my best gals, Alex Hayes, is a skin care expert and her skin care routine was featured on Into the Gloss the beauty blog created by Emily Weiss who then founded “skin is in” makeup Godsend Glossier. Check her out!

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 Haut Out

 

Alexis Haut