Monday, January 17, 2011
Friday, January 14, 2011
Ah ha, yeah. That whole weekly blogging thing kind of fell apart once the holidays and finals at school started up. I put on 11.5 pounds from November to December, due to CRAZY holiday overeating. I mean, truly epic overeating. Thanksgiving and Christmas, my son’s 8th birthday (CAKE. I loathe you), major enabling behavior from my mother (you’re stressed, so I got you red velvet cake. Enjoy!).
As a result, I find myself in the position I had hoped to avoid: beginning a new weight loss program at New Year. Groan. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. That’s really, to me, always seemed like setting yourself up for failure. But the fact remains, as of January 7, I weighed 188.5 pounds, which is the heaviest I have ever been. Ever; even when I was pregnant I only hit 184. SO. Let’s start this over.
My plan is essentially the same:
* I will cut caloric intake to between 1200 and 1600.
* I’m starting on the Couch to 5K plan everyone seems to be doing this time of year.
* I will endeavor to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and to drink 4-6 glasses of water a day.
* I WILL write at least once a week on this blog, even if it’s just to post a progress pic, or to bemoan the dearth of healthy food choices in the campus cafeteria.
* I’m playing with the idea of joining a gym (possibly Curves? I had a very bad experience with Bally’s, so I will definitely not be going that route again).
* Once my financial aid $$$ comes through, I will begin the “Lego Diet”. (Lego Diet is a bit of a misnomer. This is a plan my family came up with to track our dieting/exercise progress over time. Basically, you buy a Lego kit with enough pieces to get you through a significant period of time, a couple of months to a year. Every day that you meet your goal, be it a diet or exercise goal, you put together ONE piece of your kit. It’s a good way to overcome the lack of visible improvement which is often a stumbling block to new health plans, because the Lego kit provides a clear visual independent of your body. I may not be able to see the 5 pounds that came off my ass yet, but I CAN see the tidy little Lego wall I’m building on Jabba’s Lego palace.)
I began my calorie cut on January 7. Since then, I have already lost 3.5 pounds, bringing my current weight down to 185 lbs, which is still horrifying, but at least its progress.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Standard disclaimer: this is not necessarily a list of “favorites” or “bests.” I suspect that this meme stands a very real chance of becoming “let me recount to you my childhood favorites, with some geekery thrown in for good measure.” Oh well, can’t be helped I suppose. Also, I refuse to stick to the concise, just-the-facts-ma’am-list format. That’s not how I work, baby. So, justifications ahoy. You’ve been warned.
1. Let’s just get this out of the way right now: “The Princess Bride” Loved it passionately as a child, still quote it frequently as an adult. I’ve read the book, I fangirl Inigo. I have “Storybook Love,” the film’s hard to find love theme, on my iPod. Don’t mess with my PB, kk? That would be a classic blunder, in line with getting involved in a land war in Asia or going against a Sicilian when death is on the line. ;P
2. “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” Wait, what? Yes. Yes, I have a guilty, guilty affection for this movie. Sure, Kevin Costner is a terrible Robin Hood (even worse than Russell Crowe). Its okay, I have Cary Elwes and Errol Flynn for that. This thing contains the pure, unadulterated awesome of Alan Rickman hamming it up like whoa and like DAMN as the Sheriff. And Christian Slater being the sexiest scamp of a Will Scarlett ever. Yum. Also? Morgan Freeman. And pretty pretty costumes and ponies. And did I mention how awesome Alan Rickman is? Because he’s pretty awesome. I wore a literal hole into the VHS of this movie in middle school. And I will admit that the Brian Adams song totally hit my mushy girl buttons when I was a preteen.
3. “Army of Darkness” This is a terrible movie. It is 100% synthetic rot your soul and mind film spray cheese. AND I WILL EAT THE WHOLE DAMN CAN EVERYTIME. Why? Do you really need to ask? Bruce Campbell is hilarious, sexy, and damn good at cocking a shotgun. This movie is stupid quotable, and just so ridiculous and bad that it actually comes close to awesome approaching from the wrong way.
4. “Hot Fuzz/Run Fatboy Run” Okay, I’m cheating. That’s two movies. But they’re both Simon Pegg, and I love them equally, and this is my list, so jog on. There are so many awesome little things about “Hot Fuzz”, and it’s still laugh out loud funny to me, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. I like it better than “Shaun of the Dead”. That may be blasphemy; I don’t care. “Run Fatboy Run” is achingly sweet and geeky, and has quickly become one of my favorite rom-coms of all time. But really, they had me at the shoplifting tranny.
5. “How to Steal a Million” This thing is a romp, and the clothes are gorgeous. You can’t really go wrong with Audrey. The film’s central crime is ludicrously implausible, but it’s so fun to watch, I can’t be arsed to care.
6. “Star Wars” The original trilogy, before Lucas decided he was clever and started pasting bullshit CG ‘improvements’ in and murdered the teddy bear picnic HEA of “Return.” I refuse to explain this one. If you don’t get it already, nothing I can say will help.
7. “Kiss Me, Kate” My absolute favorite musical. It has so many wonderful features: theater, play-within-a-play narrative, Cole Porter, Bob Fosse, “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”, and of course, Howard Keel. That man’s voice was spectacular. Also, the costumes are pretty sweet.
8. “Strictly Ballroom” Ballroom dancing, tango, and Aussies. What’s not to like? This is by no means a cinematic masterpiece, but it is kooky and fun, and I loved it in High School. It pleases my inner dance nerd.
9. “Pride & Prejudice” It should go without saying that I mean the old BBC version with Colin Firth, not that abomination starring Keira Knightley. Pitch perfect Austen-to-screen. Love the book, but this movie is a good P&P fix without the major commitment of reading time. Also, Colin Firth? YES.
10. “Krull” This is one of my geek cred movies. It isn’t good. I haven’t watched it in at least a decade. But the recollection of the movie sticks with me. Fire Mares, the Glaive, and young Liam Neeson? Good call. Promotional "Krull" themed weddings? Not so much. This is kind of a rite of passage film for me; you don’t have to like it, but until you’ve seen it, you can’t call yourself a fantasy/sci-fi movie nerd. Period.
11. “The Goonies” If you don’t like “The Goonies," I don’t want to talk to you. This is another one of those stupid fun movies I’ve loved since childhood. Super quotable, and just a good time all around.
12. “Young Frankenstein” So funny. Dammit Mel Brooks, why don’t you make ‘em like this anymore? I dare you to watch this movie and not laugh. I DARE YOU. But bear in mind; even if you succeed in doing so, I will refuse to believe you’ve managed it.
13. “Surf’s Up” Okay, seriously? I’m comfortable betting that more than half of this movie’s box office came directly from my pocket. Ev made me see this cartoon A MILLION TIMES. It was cute the first few times. Now, the thing is burned into my retinas. I guess it’s cute. I really like that they did a lot of the voice work in groups, with improv and actual actor-to-actor interaction. I just wish Shia LaBoeuf weren’t in it.Additionally, this is one of the funniest scenes ever. Seriously, I love this sea urchin:
14. “Willow” I told you beforehand this would turn into a list of my childhood favorites. Look, I don’t care if “Willow” is the poor man’s Lord of the Rings knock off. This is the first movie I can remember seeing in theaters, and I have a visceral recall of how shit scared I was of the Death Dogs. I love Val Kilmer in this, bad wig and all, and Warwick Davis is adorable. The shot of him on his white pony at the end still warms the cockles of my heart. So suck it, Tolkien. “Willow” is awesome, dated special effects and hackneyed plot be damned.
15. “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” Yeah, I drank the Kool-aid. I love me some Robert Downey Jr. And c’mon, this is a good movie. Funny, a little bit clever. I think of this movie like my morning latte of films. Familiar, invigorating, a good pick-me-up, and always satisfying.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Alright, onto the meat of the post: “while I think our country's obsession with physical perfection is unhealthy, I also think it's at least equally crazy, albeit in the other direction, to be implicitly promoting obesity! Yes, anorexia is sick, but at least some slim models are simply naturally skinny. No one who is as fat as Mike and Molly can be healthy.” I think it is fascinating that, having admittedly never watched the show, you feel qualified to judge the implicit messages of the “text”. Would you write an essay on sexism in Moby Dick without reading it, simply because you’d been told there aren’t any women in it? I would hope not. That is essentially what you are doing by suggesting implicit messages in a show you have never seen. Additionally, YOUR implicit message is that “naturally skinny” people are, almost by default, healthy. Ummm, no. (See what I did there? Fatties can play the “implicit” game too.) Fitness and health are not actually directly and exclusively linked to weight or BMI, as your implicit thesis suggests. And where did you get your medical degree, Ms. Kelly, to be making these generalizations with such conviction in the first place? Oh right, you didn’t. You just listen to the talking heads feeding our unhealthy media obsession with weight. Carry on, then…
Ms. Kelly goes on to say “I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room”, and then compares watching a fat person walk to WATCHING A HEROIN ADDICT. Wow. Are you trying to earn points for your asshole merit badge? (Setting aside the painfully obvious racist and homophobic echoes of this sentiment, because really, it is a little ludicrous to conflate weight with race or sexuality, since weight is, at least in theory, something which is within the individual’s power to change, unlike race/sexuality) Human beings are not subject to your personal aesthetic preferences. You don’t have to like the way my fat ass looks, Ms. Kelly, but you do have to treat me, and all the other “fatties,” like human beings. Your ill-considered blog doesn’t do that. It minimizes, ridicules, and dehumanizes us, reducing not only the stars of Mike & Molly but ALL fat people to simple ambulatory displays for your personal aesthetic evaluation. Fuck. You. Very much. I can’t be arsed to care whether the sight of my body disgusts you or not, and I sure as hell don’t want, or deserve, to hear about it. I’m fine with you being privately offended by my appearance, Ms. Kelly, but you should bloody well keep your sizeist bullshit in your head, where it belongs and hurts no one but yourself.
And then comes my favorite paragraph. “Now, don't go getting the wrong impression: I have a few friends who could be called plump. I'm not some sizeist jerk. And I also know how tough it can be for truly heavy people to psych themselves up for the long process of slimming down. (For instance, the overweight maintenance guy at my gym has talked to me a little bit about how it seems worthless for him to even try working out, because he's been heavy for as long as he can remember.)” Oh my purple-flying-monkey-god, tell me she didn’t. Did she honestly pull “But I’m not racist/homophobic/sexist because even though I am not an (icky) green/gay/woman myself, I have a FRIEND who is.” Also? Plump=/=obese. And you’re kind of a sizeist jerk for caring/noting your friend’s “plump”ness to justify your sizeist jerkhood. It’s a vicious cycle; see how that works? Final point: you don’t KNOW how hard it is, do you? Have you ever needed to lose even 30 pounds (or more) for health reasons? (I know, because of her apology and bio, that Ms. Kelly is a recovering anorexic. Which… kind of tells me she has NO IDEA how hard it can be to lose weight. Anorexia and extreme overeating are on completely different ends of the body control/dysmorphia spectrum.) You cite the maintenance guy at your gym as your reference for this knowledge? For reals? Wow. So… some guy you’ve watched mop up the showers told you in passing he doesn’t see the point in trying, and so you now, as result of these interactions, are qualified to comment on the invisible difficulties of weight loss? LOL, I think not, but thanks for playing. Or, y'know, not.
Finally, Ms. Kelly offers to give health and diet tips. “long story short, eat more fresh and unprocessed foods, read labels and avoid foods with any kind of processed sweetener in them whether it's cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup, increase the amount of fiber you're getting, get some kind of exercise for 30 minutes at least five times a week, and do everything you can to stand up more — even while using your computer — and walk more.” OMG, earth shattering news! Exercise more and eat better! I think I’ve lost 5 pounds just reading that thought, random MarieClaire.com blogger! What. A. Revelation. So, you insult my aesthetic worth, minimize my very real struggle with weight loss, and then condescend to my poor fat ass by passing along the advice I’ve been hearing since grade school. Seriously?
Returning to the initial problem: Ms. Kelly posits that Mike & Molly is implicitly suggesting that obesity is good, or healthy, or fun, or some shit like that. Without having ever seen the show, and knowing only that “I guess these characters are in Overeaters Anonymous. So ... points for trying?” If the only thing you know about a show is that it features overweight people falling in love and ATTENDING WEIGHT MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS, how exactly do you arrive at the conclusion that the show is PROMOTING obesity? I HAVE seen a few episodes of the show, and while I am not a fan of it for various unrelated reasons, I feel the show is more about people, regardless of weight, leading normal lives. Shockingly, fat people are just as capable of finding love and holding down jobs as skinny people, and this happens to be a show about such people. And hey, the fatties are ostensibly trying to lose the weight, so… they’re promoting obesity? Does. Not. Compute.
PS: the suggestion made by some commenters that Melissa McCarthy should be contractually obligated to lose weight on/for the show to mitigate the “yay Fatties!” effect? Should go suck on an exhaust pipe. When contracts start including weight clauses to prevent actresses from dropping to unhealthy weights during the course of a show, then you can TRY putting in weight loss clauses. When Lea Michelle and the 90210 girls stop melting away before my eyes, then you can start pressuring Ms. McCarthy to drop a few. Otherwise, stuff your hypocrisy up your puckered asshole, m’kay?
Monday, October 25, 2010
"I realized that sure, I was a divorced single mother. I belonged to that tribe. But I also belonged to the tribe of native Californians. And to the tribe of college students. And to the tribe of voracious readers.
And the tribe of fatherless daughters.
And the tribe of incurable theater nerds.
And the tribe of 80s babies.
And the tribe of coffee addicts.
And the tribe of procrastinators, the writers of last minute papers.
And the tribe of tattooed teenagers.
And the tribe of descendants of Mayflower pilgrims.
And the tribe of dancing in the rain.
And the tribe of beta readers.
And the tribe of recovering metalheads.
And the tribe of fandom artists.
And the tribe of pizza and beer gluttons.
And the tribe of perpetual clutter.
And the tribe of keep on moving. It was a huge realization. And that's when I knew I was going to be okay."
I promise, I'm going to stop this "lookit how smart I am!!" college work posting. I'm just trying to blog more often, and these are all things I've meant to post for a while, so I'm kind of clearing the queue so I can get to new content.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
“Everyone has a very firm idea of what the average romance reader is like. We bet you already know her. She’s rather dim and kind of tubby --- undereducated and undersexed --- and she displays a distressing affinity for mom jeans” (Wendell & Tam 4). For all the years that romance has existed as a separate and distinct genre in popular fiction, romance novels and their readers have been denigrated and undervalued. There is a clear and pervasive prejudice against the genre; the stereotypical romance reader is generally a pathetic lonely housewife or a spinster, who consumes large quantities of chocolate and possibly owns a great many cats. She is not particularly intelligent, nor is she vivacious. The novels themselves are characterized as hackneyed and formulaic, when they aren’t being called outright pornographic, and the genre is rarely granted any artistic or cultural value. As an avid romance reader (since age 12), I often find myself grinding my teeth over phrases like “but you’re too smart to read that crap! Aren’t you an English major?” “I can’t believe you read that chick porn,” or “all those books are the same; formulaic and badly written.” This is an incredibly frustrating and isolating experience. Fortunately, there is a thriving, intellectual fandom community to be found online, a forum which allows romance readers to cooperatively use the romance novel to “construct meanings of self, of social identity, and social relations” (Fiske 112). Participation in these online communities provides contributors and readers with a sense of identity as members of a subset of a larger romance reading community, and enables active debate, not only of the genre and its stigmas, but also of politics and the morality of the publishing industry.
For the purposes of this paper, I will be examining the online community surrounding the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog, created and operated by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tam. The basic premise of the site is that the authors and commenters are intelligent, if somewhat profane, professional women with advanced degrees, who nevertheless enjoy critiquing and reading romance novels. This particular blog is a very clear example of community and identity building in online fandoms. Fandom members take a commodity, in this case the romance novel, and use it, as well as their own reactions to it, to define themselves both as individuals and as a community. In this fandom, reviews of romance novels and discussions of romance novel tropes create a dialogue and a sense of commonality between commenters. Members are drawn to the forum because of a shared love of romance novels, and they stay and become active members of the community because they are able to relate to other commenters. They form social bonds, while still asserting their individuality, by posting their own preferences and thoughts on any given subject.
This fandom community further cements a sense of social identity through a combination of site specific lingo and pervasive hypertextual elements. Group members share a common vernacular which establishes them as members of the “in group,” the community of Smart Bitches readers and contributors. Commentary and blog posts are littered with “in group” vocabulary: the acronym TSTL (Too Stupid to Live, usually used in reference to a novel’s heroine), alphole (an “asshole” alpha hero), and mantitte/man titty (pecs, generally referring to cover models). Many of these terms are self-referential, and require a working knowledge of past posts or discussions to be understood. For example: the expression Napoli-ed is used as shorthand on the site for rape, and is used synonymously with the term “hella rape.” This stems from an incident in March of 2006, in which the Smart Bitches successfully instituted a Google bomb on Senator Bill Napoli after he made some unfortunate comments about the extreme conditions under which he would consider allowing abortion. Without the context and awareness of Napoli’s statement, the Google bomb, and the blog community’s campaign to institute said “bomb”, this expression makes little sense, and excludes one from the “in group.”
In addition to this “in group” specific vocabulary, the Smart Bitches blog and community relies heavily on hypertext, “the technological realization of intertextuality; with a click of a mouse, one text leads to another, and another;” frequent linking and referencing of outside sources, be they web-based or more broadly cultural, is a cornerstone of the Smart Bitches blog (Gwenllian-Jones 187). John Fiske says that, “intertextuality proposes that any one text is necessarily read in relationship to others and that a range of textual knowledges is brought to bear upon it” (qtd. in Gwenllian-Jones 186). This hypertextual element is both inclusive and divisive. On one level, links to other romance blogs, current events, and the Romance Writers of America contests and statistics are inclusive, providing at the click of a mouse much of the information necessary to process Smart Bitches posts, as well as a sense of membership in the broader romance community beyond Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. However, there are equally many somewhat obscure references to outside texts on the site, which require either prior knowledge or careful research into a wide spectrum of pop cultural and literary sources. Therefore, by frequently referencing past material, other blogs and media sources, as well as a vast array of pop culture references, from Howard Keel to “Spinal Tap”, Norse mythology to Britney Spears, and Sartre to keyboard cat, the Smart Bitches blog creates a complex fan community which requires certain prior and acquired knowledge to belong and fully understand the forum. Certainly at the most basic level any person who enjoys romance novel can join the group, but in order to get all the in-jokes and context, one must be equally versed in any number of seemingly unrelated external sources, which are not inherently relevant to romance reading. Membership in the Smart Bitches fandom community may also inspire one to explore these broader references, thereby both expanding one’s personal experience and frame of reference for self-identification, as well as reinforcing bonds to the fandom.
The Smart Bitches, Trashy Books romance novel fandom is often quite political. This is one of the most outspoken romance novel fandom communities when it comes to refuting the common stigma attached to romance novels and their readers, often posting notices of online media sources lambasting romance, which generally spurs a flurry of commentary from the fandom community, both on the Bitches blog itself and on the offending media link. In one recent post, Sarah Wendell wrote a strong criticism of a Huffington Post contributor, going into a point by point breakdown of just how the man was perpetuating stereotypes both of the genre and of the readers, which resulted in a flurry of articulate comments, both on Huffington Post’s website and on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, defending the genre and criticizing both the offending post’s author and the Huffington Post for perpetuating the stereotype. Although this may not seem overtly political, particularly in comparison to the community’s attack on Bill Napoli and his stance on abortion, it is important to note that this fandom often addresses the stereotype on romance and romance readers as a feminist issue. When discussing the question of why romance is so often denigrated, blog authors Candy Tam and Sarah Wendell ask, “Are you a woman? Look in your pants. That could be why,” suggesting that one of the major reasons romance is still so openly mocked and stigmatized is that it is “a genre written mostly by women, mostly for women” (126). When viewed through this lens of throwback patriarchal discomfort with female literacy and success, it is easy to see why any attack on the genre could be seen as an attack on women and women’s rights to produce art for the enjoyment of themselves and their fellow women.
In addition to politics, the Smart Bitches community is also keenly interested in the policies and morality of the publishing industry, particularly in the handling of plagiarism. Since the community is comprised not only of readers but also of authors and industry insiders, the community as a whole is greatly concerned with protecting the rights of authors and firmly punishing plagiarists. The most powerful example of this is the blog’s full scale campaign against author Cassie Edwards. In January of 2008 a reader spotted several instances of likely plagiarism in Ms.
Edwards’ books, passages seemingly lifted entirely unaltered from an article about black-footed ferrets, and pointed them out on the Smart Bitches forum. Within days the fandom community had mobilized against the author, sparking public exposure in the national news media and two statements from Ms. Edwards’ publisher first supporting, and then questioning and condemning, Ms. Edwards’ behavior. The Smart Bitches community aggressively pursues and publicizes any and all such cases that come to their attention, and is quite proud of their role in policing it. Interestingly, this was a divisive issue for some members of the community; some members criticized the blog community, suggesting that the attack on Ms. Edwards was out of proportion, and likely motivated by the blog’s authors’ well established dislike of Cassie Edwards’ books.
Ultimately, it is clear that romance novel blogs, and the fandom communities which spring from them, are multifaceted and complex collectives which, nevertheless, tend to be able to unify their members under a common group identity. Fandom members often achieve a strong sense of group identification, from which they derive a sense of belonging, of being understood and welcomed. Communities like Smart Bitches, Trashy Books help their members to create a cultural framework through which to view their own lives and role in society. However, perhaps more importantly, fandom communities also have the power to mobilize their members. John Fiske has written that “popular culture is always part of power relations; it always bears traces of the constant struggle between domination and subordination, between power and various forms of resistance to it or evasions of it . . .” (115). In the case of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, this power struggle is embodied by a lingering feminist defiance, and the bibliophile’s near religious disdain for plagiarists and the publishers who would protect them.
Brooker, Will, and Deborah Jermyn, eds. The Audience Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2003. Print.
Fiske, John. “Understanding Popular Culture.” Brooker and Jermyn. 112-16. Print.
Gwenllian-Jones, Sara. “Histories, Fiction and Xena: Warrior Princess.” Brooker and Jermyn. 185-91. Print.
Radway, Janice. “Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy and Popular Literature.” Brooker and Jermyn. 219-25. Print.
Wendell, Sarah, and Candy Tan. Beyond heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels. New York: Simon & Schuster,2009. Print.
---. Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Esosoft, 7 Dec. 2009. Web. 7 Dec. 2009.