January
5th 2012
Hoarder Barbie, plus some other updates

Posted under: American history, art, Dolls, unhappy endings

detail from Carrie M. Becker's "Barbie Trashes Her Dreamhouse"

Via Susie at Suburban Guerilla, we learn of “Barbie Trashes Her Dream House” by artist Carrie M. Becker.  Be sure to click the previous link and marvel at the level of detail and layers of junk that Becker meticulously crafted, including an extremely disgusting toilet in the Dream House bathroom.  (I’m only slightly ashamed that my office looks a bit like this detail, at right, only with many more books and many fewer cardboard file boxes.)  If you live in or near Witchita, you can go see the installation yourself in September 2012, when Becker takes hoarder Barbie to the Riney Fine Arts Center Gallery at Friends University.

Speaking of real life in miniature:  remember that miniseries about the Kennedys that was protested by Kennedy loyalists and then dropped by the History Channel?  I’ve watched 6 episodes so far, and it’s really quite entertaining.  I can’t speak to its historical accuracy on the fine points, as I’m not a modern U.S. political historian, but Greg Kinnear’s performance as John F. Kennedy is pretty good and rather sympathetic.  It looks like all of the men who play JFK’s inner circle–McGeorge Bundy, Robert McNamara, Bobby Kennedy, etc.–are having a blast playing dressup and Situation Room together.  Those of you who remember fondly The West Wing and 24 will appreciate the similar style of the script, cinematography, and musical score.

There appears to be nothing libelous in the movie–all of the less attractive stuff about the Kennedy family saga is very well-known and extensively documented:  Joe Kennedy’s history as a bootlegger and adulterer, his softness on Nazism, and his political ambitions for his sons; John Kennedy’s Addison’s Disease and orthopedic problems stemming from his war wounds; JFK’s other women.  If anything, the movie downplays JFK’s extramarital sex life inside the White House because (I think) it wants us to see Katie Holmes’s Jackie in a favorable light, and if it portrayed the full extent of the President’s priapism she’d look like too much of a victim for modern audiences to still like and respect.

The actors do their best to imitate the unique Kennedy diction.  All I can say is that their Kennedy accents are less annoying than most other attempts to mimic them.  If any of you have seen The Kennedys, I would welcome your opinions in the comments, especially those of you who can speak to its historical accuracy.

Finally, have any of you seen my watch?  It went missing two days ago, and I can’t tell you how out of synch I’ve been ever since.  Maybe I should mow that pile of crap off of my desk, and see what turns up.

23 Comments »

23 Responses to “Hoarder Barbie, plus some other updates”

  1. Sweet Sue on 05 Jan 2012 at 10:13 am #

    The Kennedys was a guilty pleasure for me and Barry Pepper was amazing as Bobby. The performances were all good.
    Why Caroline Kennedy fought this miniseries and released the tapes of her mother talking scant months after Dallas is a mystery.
    Because it was such a short time after the assassination, I’d give Jackie a break but, really, the tapes made her out to be everything one hoped she wasn’t-vapid, snobbish and as feminist as Phyllis Schaffly.
    Give me the Clintons anyday.

  2. truffula on 05 Jan 2012 at 10:15 am #

    Barbie Trashes Her Dream House is superb. The many details are captivating and it made me feel not so bad about the clutter in my own home. Compared to Barbie, I am just fine.

  3. Historiann on 05 Jan 2012 at 10:55 am #

    My theory is that a clean house (inc. a clean desk) is a sign of a wasted life. My clutter is evidence of my busyness and active life.

    I agree, Sweet Sue, that the release of the Jackie tapes diminished her, but I think Schlesinger, her interlocutor, bears some responsibility for that. He could have asked her to steer clear of gossip and cattiness, but clearly he enjoyed her in that way. He could have asked her to be more statesmanlike if that’s what he wanted, but that’s not what he wanted.

    As to why CK said no to The Kennedys and yes to releasing those rather embarassing tapes: all I can figure is that Caroline Kennedy wants the Kennedy brand all to herself, and that she doesn’t want anyone else making money off of it. She has done very well by the brand herself–her main occupation in adulthood is cashing in on her name and family history.

  4. Historiann on 05 Jan 2012 at 11:02 am #

    p.s. I found my watch! It was in the laundry hamper, and luckily I found it before the laundry was washed. Now I’m back on schedule!

  5. Indyanna on 05 Jan 2012 at 11:35 am #

    I only knew it was “time” for more Barbie blogging; I was saying that to myself just the other day, I swear. I’ve washed more cheap Walmart watches than I could stand, so now my cell phone is my watch, and fortunately I haven’t run that through the spin cycle. Yet.

    I bet not too many people know that Old Joe Kennedy had a weekend hideout at Legoland when he was Ambassador to St. James’s Court. Cheap-stunt Google puzzle of the day– Google: Joe Kennedy. Legoland. St. Leonards Hill, United Kingdom. Windsor Great Park. Clewer

    Astonishing prizes. No relatives or employees of the Kennedys, me, Windsor Castle, or the Clan Cosby of Stradbally are eligible for the final drawing.

  6. Janice on 05 Jan 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    Those hoarder shows freak me out (and inspire me to tidy like a demon). Barbie hoarder, even as art, is about as upset-inducing. I think I need to purge my nightstand again!

    I’m glad you found your watch. Mike thinks I’m strange for wearing my constantly (even while sleeping at night) but I tell him that there’s almost no way I can see the clock with my poor eyesight so I rely on a wristwatch (thank you, Indiglo feature!).

  7. Feminist Avatar on 05 Jan 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    When I first looked at the above image, I though ‘wow, I want one of those board things to put post-it notes on – that would be so useful’. Then I realised it was meant to be her computor monitor, which bears a striking resemblance to my own!

  8. Historiann on 05 Jan 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    A-hahahaha! You are a hoarder, Feminist Avatar. (Or is Hoarder Barbie your avatar?)

  9. truffula on 05 Jan 2012 at 8:47 pm #

    watch

    We have a number of classrooms with no wall clock. The rooms sport discolored patches where clocks once stood guard against run-on lectures. Some of the clocks still clinging to their walls work, others do not. A few work but incorrectly. I carry a 10″ diameter analog clock with me to lecture, and sometime to meetings. This pleases me immensely.

  10. Feminist Avatar on 05 Jan 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    I really am a hoarder. I inherited it from my grandmother, who lived in one of those houses where there wasn’t an inch of clear surface space and you had to walk down little paths around the ‘stuff’. Not as disgusting as hoarder Barbie; she kept it relatively clean, but just so much stuff. It literally took weeks to empty her house when she needed to downsize for health reasons. As a result, I have a real problem saying ‘no’ when people are giving away free stuff (isn’t that useful? Of course, it is); I had to get rid of bags and bags when I emigrated and am trying to be a more minimalist me (which isn’t very minimalist in relative terms).

  11. Historiann on 06 Jan 2012 at 7:13 am #

    There is a point where the lines between commited recycler/antiquarian/sentimentalist cross the hoarder line–but I think it’s often difficult to discern.

  12. Indyanna on 06 Jan 2012 at 8:10 am #

    My desktop still sometimes looks like that; it’s those brown paper-covered boxes wedged laterally into the upright cabinet with the unclosable doors that crosses the painful line in my imagination. My father, who was anything but a cultural analyst–to say nothing of a culture critic–used to sneer that my room looked like a “Collyer Mansion.” I never had any idea what that obscure reference was to until I learned the story about the two eccentric adult brothers who literally starved to death in their Harlem townhouse because a collapse in the piles of stuff they had collected blockaded them from the doors, or the telephone, assuming they had one. It was a big story in NYC in the late 1940s.

  13. truffula on 06 Jan 2012 at 9:15 am #

    I inherited it from my grandmother

    I once knew an off-kilter (her family said crazy, with a mixture of love and resentment) old lady who hid things away everywhere in her home–canned food in the shoe boxes, money in the mattress, jewelry tucked up in the lampshade, that sort of thing. I used to think that was hoarding until I saw an advertisement for a hoarding TV show. The old lady, she had been a young mother on an occupied Pacific island during WWII. I think she learned to do what she had to do and carried it with her the rest of her life.

  14. squadratomagico on 06 Jan 2012 at 10:22 am #

    I cannot think in the midst of clutter. Though I honestly don’t care how other people keep their spaces, and am comfortable in cluttered homes that do not belong to me, I have a very deep horror of clutter in my own space. In fact, though I don’t usually think of myself as rigid, this is one area where I would describe myself as *deeply* rigid and uncompromising.

    In fact, I had a huge writing block precisely because my study had become excessively cluttered over time. There was hardly space to move, so encrusted was the room with books, file furniture, and piles of paper. Once I cleared out that space, purchased a smaller desk, revised my book & file storage to a cleaner look, I began writing again immediately. I find that being anti-clutter is not just an aesthetic preference, it’s actually an intellectual necessity for me.

    As I said, though, I really don’t care how other people approach their own spaces. I often am surprised by how… programmatic people are in expressing their opinions about clutter. I recall a discussion in the blogosphere some time ago about how people without clutter lack soul, &c. Even you, Historiann, accuse us anti-clutterers as having a “wasted life”! Why should you care how other people live? To each hir own!

  15. Sweet Sue on 06 Jan 2012 at 10:28 am #

    I never had any idea what that obscure reference was to until I learned the story about the two eccentric adult brothers who literally starved to death in their Harlem townhouse because a collapse in the piles of stuff they had collected blockaded them from the doors, or the telephone, assuming they had one. It was a big story in NYC in the late 1940s

    Thanks for reminding me of the Collyer Brothers, there’s an E L Doctorow novel about them that I wanted to read but forgot about. Nook, here I come!
    My mother used to reference them, too, and the story was so fascinating. Only one of them died because of the hoarding so the other brother was living with his corpse for a while. Did you know that among the hoarded things in their apartment was an automobile!

  16. Historiann on 06 Jan 2012 at 10:28 am #

    I’m sorry, Squadratomagico. Chalk it up to anxiety about my clutter!

    To clarify: I don’t think that tidiness is *necessarily* a sign of a wasted life. I guess I’ve learned to live with my anxiety about my clutter, but your example of how office makeover = book progress is one I must think about seriously. My office is the only room of our house I’ve never done anything to at all–not even a lick of paint. So I wonder if that wouldn’t be a way to force a clean-up, clear-out, and help me reconnect with my research mojo.

  17. Sweet Sue on 06 Jan 2012 at 10:52 am #

    Oops, I stand corrected; both Collyer brothers were found dead in their apartment. They died within days of one another because the brother with crippling arthritis couldn’t bring food to the blind brother.
    Shudder.

  18. Tenured Radical on 06 Jan 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    I have a horror of clutter — which doesn’t mean that my office is neat all the time. What I have come to recognize is that clutter paralysis often results from the fact that much of that crap actually represents a lot of half-performed or incomplete little tasks. Hence, decluttering often frees my mind to write because I am not nagged by the reminders of these things.

    Sometimes I think that blogging also represents a de-cluttering of the brain. I either have to write about it or let it the f^ck go.

  19. LadyProf on 06 Jan 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    Doctorow’s novel about the Collyer brothers = v. disappointing. Many liberties taken with the record, which I guess is okay, but the saggy plot, not so okay. SweetSue, the setup of the book precluded the true ending you mention.

    Historiann, I agree that Caroline Kennedy has distinguished herself mainly by adroit cashing in. Her brief quasi-candidacy for the U.S. Senate a few years ago made us New Yorkers cringe. She couldn’t say why she wanted the job but implied she was doing us all a big favor. Public service, yadda yadda.

    But she seems to have a good work ethic, and I’ve never read anything negative about behaviors in the Kennedy-Schlossberg household. Plus I tend to cut Kennedy women some slack because of the intense misogyny in that extended family. It has to have left scars.

  20. Historiann on 06 Jan 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    Good point, LadyProf: unlike some of her male relatives, she never killed anyone in a plane or car crash. And, whatever her privilege, her natal family’s history is quite sad. She was left at a relatively young age alone as the sole survivor. It’s sad that she has no parents or siblings who remember her childhood.

  21. Contingent Cassandra on 07 Jan 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    An excellent book on hoarding and the extent to which it may have biological roots (with an introductory chapter on the Collyer brothers): Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Gail Steketee and Randy Frost. They question a lot of myths/assumptions about hoarding (including that it stems from earlier deprivation and/or goes along with a basically antisocial personality), but do think that it may result from particular difficulty making decisions about what to do with/about things (which would tally with TR’s observation).

  22. Feminist Avatar on 08 Jan 2012 at 2:52 am #

    I tend to see hoarding stuff as conceptually different from ‘clutter’ like TR means it. I mean if I have a lot of icons on my desktop, I know that represents a lot of half finished tasks and so that can be stressful, and I aim for a minimalist desktop (this also applies to post-its on computor monitors, except some of them contain passwords and things so are semi-permanent).

    And, I consider myself ‘tidy’ (well tidy-ish) and am very good at using cleaning to proscrastinate writing. But, having stuff, in its place, is comforting. It doesn’t matter that there is a lot of it, or that other people might see it as ‘mess’ or claustraphobic. And while there are people who live in their own filth (literally not cleaning or throwing out garbage etc), a lot of hoarders are quite organised and methodical. My parents bought a house that had belonged to an old man hoarder who died. And they said he had a room full of clean but used tin cans; another of clean but used jars etc. There was vast quantities of ‘rubbish’, but it was still orderly.

  23. New Year’s Resolution: Hundreds of pounds gone, overnight! And a promise to keep them off. : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 12 Jan 2012 at 9:01 am #

    [...] weight, that is, not body weight.  Our recent discussion of clutter, inspired by the super-detailed and super-creepy installation “Barbie Trashes her Dream [...]

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