Elevate Difference

Reviews by Brittany Shoot

Brittany Shoot

Brittany Shoot is a freelance writer, editor, and critic based in Copenhagen and Boston. Her work has been published by Salon, The New York Times, Bitch, make/shift, RH Reality Check, ZNet, and AlterNet, and she's worked for WhoRunsGov, a project of The Washington Post. She has a master's degree from Emerson College and loves Scandinavian thrift stores, dance-punk, her 1987 diesel Mercedes Benz, and taking photographs with vintage film cameras.

These Here Are Crazy Times 2

Every so often, I’ll be on the phone with my ninety-one-year-old grandma and she’ll reveal a tidbit I’ve never heard before. The most recent revelation—admittedly several years ago now—was about her only serious boyfriend before meeting my grandpa. He hadn’t been interested in religion, and my gram just couldn’t envision a future with such a man, much as she loved him.

Possible Lives (Las Vidas Posibles)

As a geologist, Clara’s husband Luciano often travels to Patagonia for work. After calling Clara from the road, he stops answering his cell phone. Once she’s confirmed that he failed to check into his hotel, Clara leaves a note and sets out to find him. Thousands of miles from home, she checks into the room herself. She meets with a police inspector and asks for help finding her husband.


Brittany: I’m one of those lit geeks who has long loved Jonathan Franzen. I read How To Be Alone on a solo trip to Japan when I was twenty, and it particularly spoke to me as an introverted writer. The better part of a decade later, I’m still so infatuated with that particular collection—though I’ve also read Franzen’s three previous novels, memoir, numerous pieces in The New Yorker, and his longtime partner Kathryn Chetkovich’s Granta essay “Envy” before it was so publicly associated with Franzen—that it was no stretch to know I’d like Freedom. I’ve also read a lot about Franzen’s process as a writer, and frankly, it seems few people have the commitment to churn out the type of work he produces. That doesn’t mean I think it’s above critique; it’s just that I admire his work ethic and generally, the end result.


Warren Spooner is an underachiever in a remarkable family. As a child, he sneaks around town peeing in people’s shoes and watching things burn in the city incinerator. As an adult, he first becomes a major league baseball player and then a writer, seemingly destined for early demise as he eagerly enters into questionable situations with his boxer pal Stanley Faint. After a string of surgeries, he has enough metal in his body to warrant concern about the weight of his coffin when he eventually dies. There has never been a lovable black sheep quite like Spooner.

Please Don’t Bomb The Suburbs: A Midterm Report on My Generation and the Future of Our Super Movement

Depending on your age and your social/political circle, you may not know the name William Upski Wimsatt. In his youth, Wimsatt was the youngest Utne Reader “Visionary” award winner. In the last two decades, he’s written several books about the suburbs, the prison industrial complex, white urban subculture, hip-hop, and graffiti.

Scam: The First Four Issues!

Is it punk to drink when you’re flat broke? Is selling plasma or sniffing glue revolutionary? Is throwing shit off a Macy’s rooftop ever cool? Nearly twenty years after his zine was released in a series of diatribes about scamming the system and living on the edge of society, Erick Lyle’s writings as zinester Iggy Scam have been edited and bound for the masses.

Living in the End Times

Reading Slavoj Žižek for the first time is not unlike being stuck on a bar stool next to a slightly inebriated, repentant MBA who just read a Karl Marx biography and thinks he has the world figured out. An aside about the deeper meaning of 3:10 to Yuma, a diatribe against Slovenia’s failure as a communist state, and praise of the five stages of grief seem like disconnected nonsense unless taken as a larger, comprehensive analysis of the failure of global capitalism. After a while, you’re either also drunk or so bewildered by the onslaught of information that you begin to see the reason behind this grizzled young man’s ramblings. Now just imagine that this is one of the most gifted living intellectuals.

The Social Network

Every day, my partner gets up and goes to work with two other guys who live next door to us. Along with a handful of monied investors, some super dedicated programmers who regularly work nights and weekends, and a few risk enthusiast entrepreneur types who jet around Europe seeking out investment deals, the group makes software they believe will change the way people work. No one’s making a lot of money (yet)—but someday we expect they will.

Apple Core

So much folksy lady rock, so little time. Add Kendl Winter’s Apple Core to the ever-lengthening list of guitar-loving, country-inspired singer-songwriters with a flair for bluegrass. It may not be terribly original, but Winter makes a fine effort on her fourth solo album. At times, her work is hauntingly beautiful; at others, it’s frustratingly cliché.

The Air is on Fire, David Lynch (9/24/2010)

A couple of years ago, David Lynch spoke at my graduate school. At one of the top communication colleges in the country, he refused to take media questions and would only talk about transcendental meditation. Flanked by men in suits who sat in high-backed chairs behind him on the stage, Lynch urged us each to dive into the reflecting pool of our soul. One woman stood at a mic in the auditorium aisle and said, “I meditate, and I understand your films.”

Old Punch Card

Over the past few years, Chicago-based singer, songwriter, photographer, and painter Sam Prekop has dabbled in all sorts of music. He’s collaborated with Broken Social Scene, Prefuse 73, and even had his work sampled in a toilet paper commercial. Most well known as frontman for The Sea and Cake, he set out to make a brand new kind of record, in no way resembling anything he’s ever done.

Cold Snap: Bulgaria Stories

There is hardly anything more satisfying to read than well-crafted short stories. Cynthia Morrison Phoel’s debut collection of tales from Bulgaria intertwines the stories of several families living in fictional Old Mountain, many sharing a concrete post-Communist apartment building, neighbors in crumbling plaster houses; and often, surviving similar struggles in their attempts to find love and meaning in life and to escape the poverty they have always known.

The Other City

Most cities are comprised of at least two distinct sub-cities, so to speak. It’s particularly appalling that Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital and symbolic of the triumph of democracy, has a higher HIV/AIDS rate than Port au Prince, Haiti or Dakar, Senegal. A one percent infection rate of a city’s population is considered an epidemic; D.C.'s can be estimated between three and five percent.

Muzzling a Movement: The Effects of Anti-Terrorism Law, Money, and Politics on Animal Activism

There isn’t another contemporary nonviolent activist movement that is so routinely dismissed as too radical, mocked as too extreme, and so actively condemned and persecuted across the political spectrum as the animal rights movement. If you believe the media bias when reading reports about animal liberation, “victims” are often corporations and research facilities that abuse and slaughter animals, and the “terrorists” are those seeking a peaceful end to our destructive lifestyles and appetites.

Happy Now?

Claire’s husband Jay killed himself on Valentine’s Day by jumping off a balcony at a colleague’s party. He didn’t leave a suicide note; he left a binder with detailed information about life insurance, their cat’s veterinary records, and a short, cryptic note under the tab marked “Claire” that revealed almost nothing about his decision. A long-suffering depressive, Jay had never displayed signs he would end his life… at least, not any Claire or his therapist had noticed.

Utera Maxima Giant Uterus Plushie

My uterus and I have a complicated relationship. Recently, I had elective surgery and did away with her ability to ever carry a child. She responded by stressing out and not sloughing off anything for an extra month, making me slightly panic that instead of being forever sterile, I’d become unintentionally pregnant.

Strange Weather, Isn’t It?

I will travel far and wide to see !!!, a band named for three staccato sounds (“chk chk chk” is the preferred pronunciation, though you can also say “pow pow pow” or “bang bang bang” to a fellow fan if so inclined). In the past five years, I’ve seen them at least as many times. From a slightly awkward but riotously fun gymnasium show in Chicago to a slam dancing mess at Boston’s Paradise, I’ve been there. I’ve seen related side projects and new ventures from Out Hud to Free Blood to LCD Soundsystem, and loved every minute of madness each show brought to my life.


Manchester is taking a photograph of his girlfriend Noon. She’s asleep. He develops the film while she naps and goes outside to lay on a dingy blanket on the gravel driveway that leads to their makeshift garage-turned-apartment. Did she consent to being documented? No one seems to care. When Noon wakes up, she goes outside naked and has sex with Manchester in broad daylight. A seemingly enviable hipster couple sequestered from the world in their own squalid little space, it doesn’t take long for things to go south.

At Last

It seems counter-intuitive by now that women rappers would rhyme about anything other than leftist politics, feminist ideals, empowerment and sexuality, and anti-corporatism.


Sandy Bloomgarten is a writer you either envy, pity, or outright hate. In theory, she's an excellent reporter, but often, to pay the bills, she resorts to working for gossip rags like The Enquirer. Who of us in a bind hasn't resorted to similar means?


Who can hate Kylie? She’s an Aussie superstar in Europe, Britain’s most beloved celebrity, and a global gay icon. She survived several decades in the entertainment business, even flourished there, and perhaps most impressively, also beat breast cancer. After she finished chemo in 2006, she headed back to the studio.

Sons of Perdition

Exiled boys from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) have been making news and showing up on the pop culture radar for a while.

The Last Days of Emma Blank

Emma Blank believes death is eminent. Surrounded by a sulky if compliant staff in her large home near the Dutch dunes, she shouts absurd orders in between bemoaning her fate. “Don’t worry,” she assures her impatient employees. “Before winter, I’ll be dead.” Emma’s character is frustratingly distempered. Seemingly with no idea what is good for her, she demands an eel for breakfast, then violently vomits while her staff stands around shaking their heads with annoyance. It’s clear no one in the house has any sympathy for her condition, whatever mysterious ailment it may be.

Made The Harbor

It’s deeply problematic that my first thought it is to compare the Mountain Man ladies to the men of Fleet Foxes. Why must my point of reference be boy bands, so to speak? But truly, Mountain Man sounds like a fusion of two bands, both gender-segregated, that I adore: Fleet Foxes and Au Revoire Simone.

Entre Nos

Mariana and her children, Gabriel and Andrea, are stranded in New York City. Two weeks after her husband Antonio asked them to leave their native Colombia and join him in Queens after a lengthy separation, he left $50 in an envelope, headed for Miami, and stopped answering his phone. A family friend tells Mariana that he isn’t coming home. Undocumented and completely broke, Mariana tries to sell homemade empanadas on the streets while also accepting random jobs as they come.

Maniac Meat

Sometimes I can send off a record review in ten minutes. Excited by the tunes in my headphones or emanating from my computer’s tinny speakers, my fingers fly across the keys with artistic inspiration. Other times, it takes time and a few repeat spins of the disc to let the music settle into my brain. Tobacco’s Maniac Meat is one such record. You could ask, what’s happening here? A better question is, what isn’t?

Alone With You: Stories

For years, I read The New Yorker for the politics and music reviews more than for its fiction.

This Is Happening

This can go one of two ways. You can put this album on the loudspeakers of your choice and busy yourself with life until the best beats drop and you are unable to stop yourself from dancing around wildly, close to whatever said speakers you chose. Or, you can do as I do: ready the tunes, put on the headphones, and sit down. You’re going to need to fully absorb the genius before you try to dance to this record. How does one come to produce some of the greatest ironic dance music of the decade? As co-founding producer of DFA Records, James Murphy certainly learned from some of the best.

Black Wave: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez

In light of the recent devastating oil spills along the southern U.S. coast, it seems unfortunate but appropriate to revisit the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989. Black Wave is a documentary that looks at both the environmental and personal economic impact of the disaster on the small fishing village of Cordova, Alaska, twenty years after the spill. The story of the Exxon Valdez is as convoluted as you want it to be. Some maintain that the vessel’s captains were drunk and/or overworked when they ran the tanker aground in Prince William Sound.

From A Basement On The Hill

My indie cred—if you want to call it that—is this: I was at one of Elliott Smith’s last shows. At the Northwestern University A&O Ball in 2002, Smith attempted to open for Wilco, fumbling with his guitar, breaking a string, complaining that his hand fell asleep, and never really finishing a song before trudging off stage an hour later.