Ask Natasha | How do you art?

Q: How do you art?
—Stephanie, 22

A: Other #AskNatasha Natashas include @natashacalis—“I play Claire in the TV series The Firm and Emily in The Possession”—, @natashabure (daughter of Candace Cameron Bure, or Full House’s DJ Tanner)—“…CALIFORNIA. 16. JOY”—, @inatashamarie—“HWIC of Natasha’s Nook™ | Militant WOMANIST | Being Colored is a metaphysical dilemma I have yet to conquer. I KNOW YOU CARE!™”—, and @natashafarani—“Maaf, ada yang bisa dimantu?” I am not jealous of these other Natashas and their followings (I don’t have Twitter). I’m not jealous, either, of their youth. I am, however, extremely jealous of their answers. On December 28, 2014, @summerjuly12 writes, “@natashabure my nose/ cheeks often gets extremely red. What are some beauty products I could use to cover the redness? #asknatasha.” The reply? “a great BB cream or concealer.” Four months earlier, @iamnatashamarie (her profile name) answered the question, “Haitian pussy pops severely don’t it?” with, “Only when I throw that ass in a circle.” Brevity does not come easily to me, and this gets me into trouble at cocktail parties, as they say (I had a professor of linguistics, who used to finish almost every anecdote with, “you can use that at a cocktail party, as they say”). As John Barth wrote in his 1987 foreword to the Anchor Books Edition of his 1963 book of short stories, Lost In The Funhouse,

Short fiction is not my long suit. Writers tend by temperament to be either sprinters or marathoners, and I learned early that the long haul was my stride. The form of the modern short story—as defined and developed by Poe, Maupassant, and Chekhov and handed on to the twentieth century—I found in my apprentice years to be parsimonious, constraining, constipative. Much as I admired its great practitioners, I preferred more narrative elbow room.

Barth goes on to explain that he admires each form of writing for what it is, that “the clown comes to want to play Hamlet, and vice versa; the long-distance runner itches to sprint.” I see an effortless answer appear under an efforted question, and I long to be able to dust my hands of a discussion as well. All other things aside, the children are good with brevity. They can tackle a punchline, can’t they? Is there too much of it, though? Do you see brevity, brevity, ad infinitum, and sometimes wish you were looking instead at bound book in an encyclopedia series? We waffle, with our reading and our writing, wanting summer when it’s cold out and fall when we’re tired of summer clothes. I’m jealous of the kinds of people who can, when they are in the mood to, shut up, and who can, when they are not in the mood to, shut up. But truthfully, all of our insecurities about length, structure, time spent, etc, stem from these lessons we’ve remembered from times that were less about being productive, and more about research. Kill your darlings, fight your urges, challenge your beliefs. Perhaps this was a way to say, stop making for a while, before you understand what’s happening (what’s happening is, the medium is changing drastically, so take note). Now, you’re making something. Don’t kill anything, which is another way of saying, if you’re going to only fight one urge, you might want to fight the urge to revise, if revision comes naturally to you. Everything can fit into something, eventually. Or fight the urge to continue. With that, I’ll leave you with an excerpt from Saul Bellow’s Herzog (1964):

Late in spring Herzog had been overcome by the need to explain, to have it out, to justify, to put in perspective, to clarify, to make amends. At that time he had been giving adult-education lectures in a New York night school. He was clear enough in April but by the end of May he began to ramble. It became apparent to his students that they would never learn much about The Roots of Romanticism but that they would see and hear odd things. One after another, the academic formalities dropped away. Professor Herzog had the unconscious frankness of a man deeply preoccupied. And toward the end of the term there were long pauses in his lectures. He would stop, muttering “Excuse me,” reaching inside his coat for his pen. The table creaking, he wrote on scraps of paper with a great pressure of eagerness in his hand; he was absorbed, his eyes darkly circled. His white face showed everything–everything. He was reasoning, arguing, he was suffering, he had thought of a brilliant alternative–he was wide-open, he was narrow; his eyes, his mouth made everything silently clear–longing, bigotry, bitter anger. One could see it all. The class waited three minutes, five minutes, utterly silent.

At first there was no pattern to the notes he made. They were fragments—nonsense syllables, exclamations, twisted proverbs and quotations or, in the Yiddish of his long-dead mother, Trepverter—retorts that came too late, when you were already on your way down the stairs.

He wrote, for instance, Death—die—live again—die again—live…

Herzog scarcely knew what to think of this scrawling. He yielded to the excitement that inspired it and suspected at times that it might be a symptom of disintegration. That did not frighten him. Lying on the sofa of the kitchenette apartment he had rented on 17th Street, he sometimes imagined he was an industry that manufactured personal history, and saw himself from birth to death. He conceded on a piece of paper, I cannot justify.

Q: No one has any manners these days. Where have they all gone? Is there any hope for manners making a comeback or should I just roll with it and start being more of a dick?
–Carole, 31

A: This might be rude, but I’m going to assume you’re not referring to etiquette, since you did say manners. As an advice columnist, I devote much of my life adhering to and researching etiquette, and can speak to that at length. But, manners? It is impossible for one to act without manners. One’s mannerisms frame her personality, as an accent or dialect does. Everyone has manners. I leave you with a section from Robert Walser’s Jakob Von Gunten (1909), in which the boys of the fictional Benjamenta Institute act out a play:

The Loving Girl: “Mamma, I must ask you, with all due respect, to speak more politely to the man whom I love.” The Mother: “Silence! One day you’ll be grateful to me for treating him with ruthless severity. Now, sir, tell me, where did you do your studies?” The Hero (he is Polish, and is played by Schilinski): “I graduated at the Benjamenta Institute, gracious lady. Forgive me for the pride with which I speak these words.” The Daughter: “Ah, Mamma, just see how well he behaves. What refined manners.” The Mother (severely): “Don’t talk to me about manners. Aristocratic behavior doesn’t matter a fig nowadays. You, sir, please would you tell me this: What did you learn at the Bagnamenta Institute?” The Hero: “Forgive me, but the Institute is called Benjamenta, not Bagnamenta. What did I learn? Well, of course, I must confess that I learned very little there. But learning a lot doesn’t matter a fig nowadays. You yourself must admit that.” The Daughter: “You heard what he said, Mamma dear?” The Mother: “Don’t talk to me, you little wretch, about hearing such nonsense or even taking it seriously.”

Ask Natasha | Who am I supposed to look up to anymore?

Who am I supposed to look up to anymore? —Kim, 30 A: As females, we’re supposed to read/watch fem-genre entertainment. Let’s look past the gender-normative and diminutive titles we’ve given Chick Lit and Chick Flicks and instead look at the trends within these groupings and how they describe us. No longer are we choosing a SATC character to be, or a Liz vs. Jenna (or for the younger generation, a Liz Lee from My Life… [read more »]

Ask Natasha | Is everything an expression?

Q: Has honest journalism come to an end? Jeff, 18 A: Short answer: Yes. Long answer: As Vladimir Nabokov said during an interview with Herbert Gold for The Paris Review, “How can I ‘diminish’ to the level of ciphers, et cetera, characters that I have invented myself? One can ‘diminish’ a biographee, but not an eidolon.” And all biographees are diminished, and the more so the better, for entertainment purposes. There are arguments that reality… [read more »]


In 2006, the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, Mike Jeffries said that sex appeal is “almost everything.” He went on to say: “That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that. In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go… [read more »]

Ask Natasha | Solipsism and (Un)Certainty

First off, let me say: And: Q: How are u? — Abdur Rouf A: It might interest you to know that I am in a recurrent phase, which, perhaps ironically, means I am tired of postmodernism and all of its iterations. I mean recurrent in the way a dream is described; I have returned to a nostalgia for melodrama and teenaged feelings. The glittering value of an icy post-post artform is clear, but its… [read more »]

NYFW = LAFW / Sammi Sweetheart’s Fake-Fit / Avril Does Edgy / Daisy Fuentes is DISplaced

Regarded as one of the best, or at least the most commercially viable, and if not that than the somethingest of all fashion weeks, New York’s has risen above all that pressure lately. Have you seen LAFW? Did you know there are FWs in basically every city in the world? And what makes ours so much better than the rest, and how could it possibly compete with that many? No longer is NYFW so desperate… [read more »]

Ask Natasha | Pathos, Perichoresis, Platony, Precautions

Q: I am already sexy/ hot… But I’ve had trouble finding love the past four years; what can I do to make myself more socially available without the Internet? PS I’m not a crazy bitch so WTF? Can I also say that I’ve attracted everything from twinks to married men but nobody who will commit. Kim, 26 A: I will let you in on a secret if you promise not to tell anyone. I, although… [read more »]


Scambaiting is a term used to describe the action of scamming a scammer, in particular a “419” or Nigerian fraud perpetrator. Websites like Scamtacular and 419 Eater provide open forums for scambaiters to discuss and post evidence of the humiliation inflicted on primarily Nigerian scammers. It’s difficult to parse out who is being victimized in these scenarios. Even the rhetoric used on Wikipedia and mission statements on the above-mentioned websites gets conflated, questioning its own… [read more »]

Ask Natasha | Language Barriers and Loveless

Q: I live in a basement. Is this cool? Sam, age 28 A: André Martinet writes, in his essay, “Structure and language,” that structure is “not a matter of the building itself or the materials of which it is composed, from foundation to roof timbers, from facade ornamentation to the refinements of interior installations. Neither is it even a matter of certain of those materials considered more essential: supporting walls and roofing trusses in old-fashioned… [read more »]

Ask Natasha… She Practically Lived Through Everything

Q:Why do all of my friends want to be famous? Adam, 26 A: You probably think I’m going to say something about fame being the best possible thing. You probably want me to tell you that fame is the bread and butter of the internet, that the world spins because it is counting one and another and another fifteen minutes, that anyone who ignores this basic instinct to gain as much attention as possible is… [read more »]

Behind, Beneath, and Between: Tracing the Thong

I can still remember being confused by the thong when seeing it in stores. Once, in Victoria’s Secret, as a teen, I asked a clerk how one should wear an example of the strand- of-pearls thong. “You just, put it on,” she said. There was something too real about the way those pearls would have to expand the crevices about which I was conditioned to try to forget. The thong brings up anxiety. Like all… [read more »]

Ask Natasha… She Practically Lived Through Everything

Q: Is there such a thing as “nice” flip-flops? I’ve seen people wearing them to restaurants and it seems just one step removed from the double-wide? Vicente A:The closer you are to the ground, the faster the earth rotates. The tale of the princess Rapunzel was originally intended to be an allegory for enlightenment. Instead of reaching higher, she had to grow her hair long enough to gain access to the bottom of her tower.… [read more »]

Khaki wishes and khookie dreams…  from Prague

There is nothing like a tourist city in a central European country in a summer month for a reDIScovery of khaki. My latest thoughts on this summer’s wackiest color-scheme: 1. We think of khaki as safe because we think of Target. But what is safe about Target (in this economy)? 2. Khaki is the color, soft rubber is the feel, and Christian Audigier champagne is the drink. Think about anti-fame, air conditioning, and skipping class… [read more »]