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.
Dear Formspring: Make it easier for Me to Answer a Fuckton of Questions All at Once, Please? K, Thanks.
Would you rather be rich or famous?
Rich. If I ever get depressed over my lack of fame, I'll console myself by buying an island. Thanks.
If you could have been the author of any book, what would it have been?
Either Stardust or Agnes and the Hitman. Or y’know, Bounty, the book that’s got its main characters burrowed into my head without a shot in hell of ever getting onto the page…
What video game have you played the most?
Marvel v. Capcom. Addictive. You don’t even have to be good at button mashing to do okay in this one, and that’s what I like about it, because I am an incurable button masher.
If you could date any celebrity, who would it be?
Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Or Bruce Campbell. At any age. Shotgun a plus, but not required.
Were you a Michael Jackson fan?
When I was 5, yes. I watched Captain EO so many times back then... Now I'm just kind of sick of hearing about him and his death. Yeah, he died, boo hoo, move on.
Would you rather be really hot or really cold?
Cold. Let it rain, give me some layers, and I'm a happy camper. Summer just pisses me off.
Would you rather be a vampire or a werewolf?
Werewolf. A) I wouldn't want to be anything that was even remotely associated with crafter's herpes skin, B) un-death does NOT appeal, C) I’m pale enough as it is without throwing solar urticaria and photosensitivity into the mix.
If you won a $1,000 shopping spree for any store, which store would you pick?
Target. $1000 bucks isn’t actually that much money for a shopping “spree”, either. Gimme $5000+ and you’ll have a different answer.
What one thing are you exceptionally good at?
Writing last minute essays. And by last minute, I mean 3-6AM the morning before a paper is due, I start writing/brainstorming. Admittedly, this only works for papers under 8 pages in length, but I am a queen of procrastination and bullshit.
Would you rather have the ability to fly, or the ability to breathe underwater?
Fly. I don’t go into the ocean if I can help it, so… yeah, being able to breathe underwater wouldn’t be terribly useful unless I found myself living in a bathtub… And if I could fly, I could go anywhere I wanted, without paying for gas. Win, says I.
If you had to cook dinner for someone tonight, what would you make?
I would either run down to Ralphs and bust Buitoni spinach tortellini in Alfredo sauce, or I’d try to make Bernie’s meatloaf: sausage, pork, and beef, with creamy melty cheese inside and bacon on top. Goddamn, the pure, unadulterated YUM of that meatloaf… I’m sorry, what were we talking about?
If you could go back in time 10 years and tell your younger self something, what would it be?
You’re skinny and hawt. STFU and get over it with this fat nonsense. You have NO IDEA. PS: get the stick out of your ass and stop sabotaging yourself. Get your act together, do well in school, and go to a real college.
Who's the most overrated actor?
Julia Roberts. I hate her. She sure as hell isn’t MY American sweetheart. I just want to kick her in the shins, honestly. She always plays the same character, herself, and it has gotten boring after 20 odd years.
What is your guiltiest of guilty pleasures?
I watch a lot of terrible reality TV. I’m not talking contest shows or "Real World" knock offs here, either. If it were only that... No, I watch those stupid A&E shows, like “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and “Paranormal State”. Because they are AWFUL. I don’t even really know what attracts me about them. I love how fake and bullshit the “evidence” they find on PS is, and Dog is the same kind of voyeuristic, there but for the grace of god buzz of "Cops", but with a wacky, trashy protagonist family! It is pure, pure crack, and it isn’t even remotely good for me, but I can’t stop.
What was the last book you read?
Improper English. It was awful. The female protagonist is an entitled, selfish idiot. She gets pissed that her boyfriend, a COP, decides to stay on his stakeout and bust CHILD PORNOGRAPHERS rather than run to her side when she’s mopey over the manuscript of her book being criticized. The book hit the wall when I read that. I’m sorry, but if you don’t get that busting child pornographers > your weep-out over constructive crit, you aren’t worth my time.
If you could become any fictional character, who would you be?
So many… Annith in my little sister’s novella, The Minion and the Mistress, because dude, Ruuk is hawt, and I would take a piece of that. Elizabeth in P&P. Matilda in Faking It. Um… yeah, that’s a list of romances, isn’t it? I think I need to find myself a boyfriend, stat.
If you could instantly become fluent in another language, which language would you pick?
French. Even though I SHOULD be practical and learn Spanish.
Where's your favorite place to buy clothes?
Target!! Or Crossroads in Berkeley, CA.
What was the worst job you've ever had?
Selling pizza at Hurricane Harbor when I was 17. Some people shouldn't be allowed to wear swimsuits in public. And some men should be required by law to wax their chests and shoulders. *shudder*
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Like most women, my weight has fluctuated drastically throughout my late teens and early twenties (I’m currently 27 years old). I’ve weighed as little as 135 at 3 points in my “adult” life, and I spent a good few years comfortable chubby in the 150 to 160 range. I loved being 135 (and a size 7 jeans), but it takes a level of exercise which I have found personally impossible to sustain to keep me there. The last time I weighed that little, in 2005, I was running 8 miles on the treadmill 5 or 6 days a week, religiously. I felt fantastic, and could eat any damn thing I wanted, but finding 85 minutes every day to dedicate to that was difficult. And then I sprained my ankle during a show at college, and since then, my right ankle gives out relatively often, and can’t take the kind of running I was doing. Needless to say, the weight has flown back on since then, both because I have stopped running, and because I never modified my diet during that time. I loved running, but I can’t do what I was doing then. Further, my wild success back then is a stumbling block to me when I do try to begin running again, because my brain still thinks I’m capable of running 8 nine minute miles back to back, when I am in fact capable of MAYBE 2 twelve minute miles. It’s frustrating, because I know what I used to do, and I rush myself to get back there, exhausting myself and causing my body to mutiny. And then I get depressed and start eating horribly again, because food is comfort. This is, how you say, a vicious cycle.
So, why are we here? Well, I’m sick of this extra weight, and need to do something about it. My 10 year high school reunion is coming up next year, which is horrifying for any number of reasons: one of which being that if I can’t be a professional success yet, I’d like to at least look good, damnit. Better than I did then, if possible. Further, I will be thirty in a little over two years, and yikes, I don’t want to be a fat-ass when I hit that big scary number. I’m also chronically single (nary a date since that play in 2005. Hook-ups, yes, but no dates, and certainly no boyfriends) and while I don’t attribute this single state to my weight, I recognize that I personally don’t feel great and hot at this size, so I am not exuding the same confidence I do when I am even 10 pounds lighter, which IS less attractive.
Which brings us to this blog. I want a mechanism to keep me accountable. I need to record my progress and setbacks, and privately noting my weight and measurements hasn’t been cutting it. Hence, weight-loss blogging, which I recognize is horrendously over-done and boring to read for those not currently struggling with weight-loss themselves. To which I say suck it, it isn’t like anyone is reading this blog regularly anyway, so if I want to moan to myself and the walls about my fat ass, then I’m going to do it. K?
The plan: I will blog at least once a month, on a Tuesday if possible, to record my progress and thoughts on my weight/body image/the general suckiness of the weight loss machine. My goal is to lose 10 pounds by Christmas, which means I need to drop about a pound a week between now and then. Ultimately, I would like to reach 140 pounds, and stay there, which means I have 37 pounds to lose. My plan is to monitor my calorie intake in a food journal, staying between 1200 and 1600 calories a day. I’m living a fairly sedentary lifestyle at present, but if I begin exercising regularly, I will readjust this number. And of course, I will keep “Stuck” updated on my progress on Fat Tuesdays. Excellent. Hopefully this won’t be the only Fat Tuesday post I ever write. ;P
Thursday, October 7, 2010
This was my status update to Facebook yesterday, as a part of a silly little meme to raise awareness for Breast Cancer Awareness month (October, for those of you playing along). The idea was to post a sexually suggestive “I like it” sentence describing where you keep your purse. It’s a quick, light-hearted meme, and it DID get a fair few women talking about BCAMonth. This is precisely what irritates me about the counter response to the meme. Several of my male friends posted today, and late yesterday, bitching about how keeping the meme’s meaning a “secret” ran counter to the meme’s supposed purpose, and PS, men get breast cancer too, so maybe we should’ve let some of them in on the joke too, hmm?
Calm the fuck down, boys. And to begin with, let’s put the bitchy generalizations aside for a moment, shall we? I, personally, did send the message regarding the meme to some of my male friends. I did not spam EVERY man, woman, and child on my FB, however, because let’s face it, not everyone is receptive to this kind of silliness, as the backlash to this meme so clearly illustrates. Furthermore, the complaint that women weren’t explaining the meme when queried is ridiculous. Do you know why I personally didn’t explain the meme to any men on my page? Because not a damn one of them ASKED. If you don’t ask and can’t remember how to Google It, then it isn’t really my fault, it’s yours. Thanks for playing though. Or not. Additionally, it only took 24 hours or so for the message to get to y’all, so as a result of this meme, you DID hear about BCA month. You just didn’t get to be in on the joke. That wasn’t the point. This was obviously and unashamedly a stunt to get media attention, for both the meme AND THE CAUSE.
This last point is what I find most ridiculous about this blog post some of my male friends have been linking to criticize the meme. She says “This entire thing was just a stunt to get in the news. And congrats, by the way. It did.” Exactly. What’s your point? By getting on the news, the meme brought attention both to itself AND TO THE CAUSE. You can’t discuss the meme without discussing its purported cause. So the meme succeeded, just not in a way that you personally find palatable. Suck it.
A final thought: I am offended by the douchebags out there saying I’m an asshole for joking about this, that I’m somehow sexualizing breast cancer. Excuse me? First, don’t assume that everyone grieves or deals with disease in the same way. I know breast cancer survivors, I know people who have lost loved ones to breast cancer, my grandmother had it, and I have myself lost loved ones to cancer. I’m sorry your personal grief is rubbed the wrong way by this, but I find, to be horribly trite, that laughter often is the best medicine, and if joking a little bit alleviates some of the pain this subject elicits, then I think that’s all to the good. A little innuendo never hurt anyone.
It’s a facebook meme. Get the fuck over it. Facebook is not serious business.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Cole Porter’s 1953 MGM musical “Kiss Me, Kate” is ostensibly a movie about a theater company putting on a play. The movie employs the classic play within a play conceit and features a cast of philandering, vengeful actors and a musical adaption of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”. The show is also replete with bright, beautiful, and often quite funny, musical numbers, including one of Bob Fosse’s first efforts as choreographer. Superficially, this musical is about the theater, celebrating and satirizing its people and culture. However, the show is really about relationships, about our culture’s mythology of courtship, perfect love, and marriage.
The main characters of the musical are Lilli Vanessi and her ex husband Frederic Graham, who play Katherine and Petruchio in the play within the play. Graham presents the typical macho, womanizing alpha male, while Lilli is, like Katherine, a bit of a virago. Their characters play on classic tropes, and so their relationship, and its ultimate rekindling into love, is a performance of our cultural myth of passionate, hate-tinged lust/love and jealousy. The secondary romance, between Lois Lane (Bianca) and Bill Calhoun (Lucentio) plays on this same mythology, particularly the passion and jealousy. In both relationships, the respective partners are unfaithful to one another: Lilli is engaged to another man, Graham is courting Lois. Lois is a bit of a floozy, available to the highest bidder, and Bill has a gambling problem, which he tries to conceal from Lois. These relationships normalize jealousy and suspicion within romantic relationships, and are built upon our unquestioning acceptance of this interpersonal mythology. Clearly, in some ways, this musical espouses conventional mythology, but it is also interesting to note the ways in which those myths are challenged. Although the show does adhere, ultimately, to the standard monogamous, happily married myth of heterosexual intercourse, it also challenges this mythology. The musical plays with and picks at the myths of marriage vows and fidelity, in the cheerful, unchecked glee with which Lois, and to some extent, Graham, pursue their flirtations. In fact, two of the cheeriest, bounciest (literally) numbers in the show are “Why Can’t You Behave”, and “Always True to You”, both songs about Lois’ cheating and Bill’s gambling. The lovers lament their infidelities in the songs, but with a kind of winking good humor which renders the very idea of fidelity, and the expectation of that fidelity, ridiculous. In a way, the musical is poking fun at the very myths it ultimately espouses.
Another interesting element of this musical is its treatment of sacred space, the theater and its surrounding culture. This show gleefully violates the sanctity of the stage and dressing room. Lilli’s maid is constantly trying to defend Lilli’s dressing room from the violation of Graham’s presence and activity, trying to preserve the sacred pre-show routine Lilli usually performs in that space. The dressing room is an actor’s personal sacred site in this movie, and the way that sacred space is repeatedly violated, first by Graham, then by mobsters, and then a clueless Texan fiancé, ultimately defiles a space once sacred for Lilli. But the largest violation of theater’s sacred spaces occurs on stage. Conventionally, the theater is a space with much proscribed behavior, both for audience and actors. While silence, stillness, and attention is expected of the audience, in their regimented, dark seats, the actors themselves are no less constrained in their behavior in this space. Although actors are free to speak and move in this space, their every move is choreographed here, blocked and scripted. Their personal lives are expected to remain behind the curtain, only their characters and scripts to be performed on the sacred stage space. This space is violated repeatedly within the musical. Lilli ad-libs, throwing flowers at Graham while onstage, flowers she has mistaken as a love token from him to herself, which in reality were intended for Lois. Her personal rage is exorcised on stage, violating the illusion of the play. Later, mobsters are dragged onstage, disrupting the play yet again, and both Graham and Lilli ad-lib wildly as the play progresses. The stage becomes common, a performance space for personal grievances, rather than narrative. Interestingly, although the stage’s sacredness is violated, the audience is never breached in the movie, so while the performance space is violated, the spectator spaces are not. This seats a certain inviolable power in the audience, wresting power from the actors and the play and resettling it in the audience.
Another interesting violation present in this play is upon the sacredness of Shakespeare. There is a tendency, even today, to treat Shakespeare as sacrosanct, the highest of high drama and literature, a pinnacle of language. In the song “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”, the two mobsters sing of using Shakespeare’s words as pick-ups and put-downs, reducing the bard to something common, and accessible, through their sometimes vulgar use. Shakespeare is not sacred in this play, and there is much fun to be had in violating his cultural weight.
Ultimately, I think this musical could be reproduced today with little change (although it would be a shame to make this movie without Howard Keel’s voice and Fosse’s early choreography). The themes, and the glee with which the show violates conventions and myth, would fit nicely with our modern cynicism, with just a little more winking self-awareness to help us get past the need to suspend our disbelief. There is a certain expectation, in our modern musicals (Chicago, Moulin Rouge) that the musical will be always vaguely satirical, and a little sarcastic, especially in its silliest, most musical moments. We still want to watch the dancing, but we want to be able to sit back feeling smug and superior while we do it.
(seriously, this guy? Rawr)
Monday, May 3, 2010
The Invisible Bear: Parental Deceit and Creating the Other in The Little Mouse, The Big Hungry Bear, and The Red Ripe Strawberry
One of the most popular and widely taught books in Don and Audrey Wood’s vast picture book oeuvre is The Little Mouse, The Big Hungry Bear, and The Red Ripe Strawberry. The book is widely used to teach preschoolers about friendship and sharing, as well as early fraction concepts (half of a strawberry). Originally published in 1984 when I was only one year old, this book is also one of my own personal favorite early childhood reads. However, since I began reading the book as an adult to my own son, I have been struck by the absence of the Bear from any of the many beautiful illustrations of the story. Since the villain of the book, the Bear, is essentially invisible in the visual narrative, the Bear becomes a possible lie, an adult deception used to manipulate a child-like Mouse into sharing his meal with the Narrator. This omission of the Bear can be a catalyst to a deeper examination of some of the ideological paradigms of the book, particularly those ideologies which are shaped in the book by the Bear’s looming “presence”. In The Little Mouse, The Big Hungry Bear, and The Red Ripe Strawberry, the Bear becomes a symbol of parental deceit, as well as a tool of social identity construction, the outsider Other to the Mouse and Narrator’s insider duo.
At the surface, The Little Mouse, The Big Hungry Bear, and The Red Ripe Strawberry is a book about sharing and friendship. The Mouse is convinced, whether it be by trickery or truth, that the Big Hungry Bear is after the strawberry, and in order to save the berry from the Bear, the Mouse comes to trust the Narrator and shares the strawberry. However, it is interesting to note that the trust and friendship which develops between Narrator and Mouse is founded on what seems to be an untruth, or at least, an inflated sense of danger. The Bear is an invisible enemy, never physically appearing on the page in the illustrations. In fact, the only evidence of the Bear’s existence at any point in the book is derived from the Narrator’s own assertions that the Bear is coming, “tromp[ing] through the forest on his big, hungry feet, and [will] SNIFF! SNIFF! SNIFF! Find the strawberry…” Is there a Bear? And does he want the Strawberry? Possibly, but given the Bear’s significant physical absence from the book, it seems that the imminent threat he presents to both berry and Mouse is overstated, and that the actual threat may in fact be the Narrator.
One of the other significant, implied ideological thrusts of The Little Mouse, The Big Hungry Bear and The Red Ripe Strawberry is both the creation of, and the cultivation of fear for, the Other, the Bear. From the third opening on, the Narrator builds a case against the Bear, escalating the Mouse’s fear of the Bear until the Bear has been solidified for the Mouse as a shared enemy, and a threat worthy of thwarting by consuming the berry with the Narrator’s help. This creation of a shared enemy, an “Other,” against which to cast one’s self is a critical element of group identity building. In order to cement a unified social identity, a group singles out an out-group, a set of people which appears or behaves differently, or aggressively, toward the in-group, and comes to define the in-group in relation to the out-group. Essentially, by casting the Bear as aggressor, the Narrator is establishing a commonality between themself and the Mouse. The Narrator knows of and is separate from the Bear, and by telling the Mouse about the Bear, stoking the flame of the Mouse’s fear of the Bear until Mouse is literal sweating and panicked, the Narrator creates a social bond with the Mouse. This us-against-them paradigm bonds the Mouse and Narrator, and allows them not only to establish a friendship, but also enables the Narrator to achieve their ultimate goal, eating the strawberry. The berry becomes a kind of communal property, produce which the Mouse and Narrator have acted together to protect from external aggressors (the Bear), and as such it is shared between the members of the in-group, Mouse and Narrator.
This enacting of social identity building is largely implicit, in that there is no concrete statement of social unity or identity between the Mouse and Narrator, and even the more obvious general theme of friendship is never explicitly addressed in the book. However, if it can be argued that the Mouse and Narrator are friends by book’s end, then it is equally true that they have entered into a social union, as friends, against the Bear, the enemy. Indeed, this process of social identification and “Othering” is largely subconscious, operating on a large social scale and internalized, left unexamined by the lay person, so it is unsurprising that this social construction of the Other should appear as an implicit, unspoken, and possibly unconscious, ideological process in The Little Mouse, The Big Hungry Bear, and the Red Ripe Strawberry.
The creation of the Other is a form of social control, establishing not only social bonds but also cultural norms, and presents a device for policing deviation from those norms, providing rich ground for pejorative slang and punitive threats; “if you’re not with us, you’re against us”, “Limey bastards”, etc. In the case of the book, this drama of the corrective potential of Othering is largely absent, although there is certainly an implied danger that, should the Mouse deviate from the Narrator’s direction, the Bear may get the berry and, by extension, the Mouse. In other words, if the Mouse fails his social group, he may well be left to the tender mercies of the Other, the Bear, which the Mouse’s social conditioning at the Narrator’s hand has given him every reason to fear and distrust. In this way, The Little Mouse, The Big Hungry Bear, and The Red Ripe Strawberry becomes not only a sweet tale of friendship and sharing, but also an enactment of parental social conditioning and, possibly, the construction of prejudice. The Mouse’s fear of the Bear is, after all, unsupported by evidence in the book, built solely upon hearsay testimony from a trusted adult against an invisible and unknown enemy.
At its core, The Little Mouse, The Big Hungry Bear, and The Red Ripe Strawberry is as much a book about friends and sharing as it is a book about lies, covetousness, social identity and child-rearing. The narrator creates an unseen enemy, an invisible Bear, to trick the Mouse into sharing his strawberry. This simple story reflects many unspoken ideological standards, both in a larger social context and within the more nuclear parent-child dynamic. It is a story of blind and unquestioned faith in a parental figure, and an unexamined fear of the Other. It is also, at its simplest, a funny story about a scared Mouse possibly getting tricked out of half of his lunch, a slapstick comedy of berries in be-schnozed spectacles, and a preschool thriller about looming unseen hungry Bears.
Wood, Don and Audrey. The Little Mouse, The Big Hungry Bear, and The Red Ripe Strawberry. Swindon: Child’s Play Ltd., 2000. Print.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
The movie is, essentially, the bastard love child of a raunchy, possibly drug-fueled threesome between The Fugitive, The Running Man, and The Matrix which Hackers had a grand old time videotaping and posting to Youporn.com. It is fast, and dark, gritty imagery, spliced together with super shiny Sims eye candy. The games themselves, and the society in which the film is grounded, are very tongue in cheek send-ups of our contemporary culture. Really, the games are just the Sims, and every 1st person shooter EVER, writ large. There are a lot of relatively big names in this (in addition to the scrumptious Mr. Butler): Kyra Sedgwick, Ludacris, John Leguizamo*, Keith David**, Michael C. Hall***, and Amber Valletta. That, my friends, is, how you say… a big old waste of casting budget. Seriously. Too many familiar faces with too little character development.
In the film, the conceit is that Butler, death row inmate John “Kable” Tilman, whom we know from the beginning probably is innocent of, or justified in, the killing for which he was imprisoned****, is a Real Life video game character, being controlled by a 17 year old rich kid, in a Real Life shooter game. Like gladiators, these characters, “Kable” and his fellow inmates, are fighting to the death, hoping to win their release by surviving 30 battles in the “Slayers” videogame. A familiar concept, acceptably executed. A bunch of nonsense neurological hackers vamping commences, Butler makes an improbable escape using regurgitated liquor and piss, and reunites with Amber Valletta, who plays his vacant, uninteresting, and one dimensional wifey. Yawn. Butler and Valletta have zero chemistry, and her character is so underdeveloped she’s a nonentity, even AFTER Butler’s Tilman gets her brain hacked to free her from the Big Bad’s programming. Blank. Fucking. Slate.
One final thought on casting: the little girl playing Tilman’s daughter? Even blanker than Valletta. She’s a cipher. I kept thinking they were setting up a twist ending, and she was going to murder her parents as they drove off into HEA, but no. Just a really, really bad child actor. Check. Cute, but about as engaging and emotive as a box of rocks. And because both of Tilman’s family members were completely uninteresting, I was not particularly invested in, or interested by, their inevitable happy family reunion. “Yawn. Is Gerry ever going to be taking off his shirt?”
(mmm. I needed that...)
The final scenes of the film occur in the mansion of digital puppet master Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall) and include an actual honest to god song-and-dance number performed by Castle and his burly murdering man puppets. I laughed. So fucking hard. The number has no place in the movie (or at least, is MUCH too long), but it’s funny. Really, the tone of the entire movie undergoes a major shift at this point, and one can almost see the writer, crew and director just collectively throwing up their hands and yelling “bugger it, how much sense does any of this actually have to make?”
My biggest problem with the movie comes at the end. It’s the final showdown and Castle has reactivated Tilman’s puppet programming. Again, a really common movie trope, hero against baddie against self. Can the big mean crazy Castle force Tilman to kill his own daughter? Himself? Well, of course not. The predictability isn’t what bothered me. I don’t expect a lot of originality in shoot ‘em up action films. What pissed me off is that in the final showdown, Tilman succeeds ONLY because he has been taken over again by the 17 year old gamer, who, through his shiny new Tilman puppet, foils Castle’s plans and knifes the madman in the gut. Tilman loses all autonomy and personal utility, and it pisses me off, and robs the hero of his victory. It cheapens the whole thing that the ultimate world-saving gesture isn’t actually Tilman’s, but the gamer brat’s, through Tilman. Unsatisfying. Deeply unsatisfying, and unnecessary.
*who is WASTED in this. I kept waiting for his character to do something important or interesting, or at least for his arc to be completed or explained, but… no. Wasted.
**as a… lawyer? Maybe? He’s not really a big name, but I’ve loved him since "Gargoyles", so he’s a “big” name to me.
***is he ever cast as anything other than a total psychotic? No? Carrying on then...
****the heroes in these kind of films are never guilty. They are ALWAYS wrongly accused. This is such a common trope that any suspense or question on this score is completely dispelled without any work or craft on the part of writers. We expect it, and it barely need ever be explained in these kind of films.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
2.Where was your profile picture taken? Zuma Beach
3.Can you play Guitar Hero? Never tried, but if I had to guess? No.
4.Name someone who made you laugh today? Evanie at the grocery store. (the cashier, seeing the kid's Bumblebee action figure, asks if Ev can make him a car. Ev says "Yes!" BEAT. Hands mom the toy "Mom, can you make him a car?")
5.How late did you stay up last night and why? 5 AM. I was reading and lost track of time. This is not an uncommon occurrence...
6. If you could move somewhere else, would you? I would kill to be in my own place again...
7. Ever been kissed under fireworks? Fireworks do not make me feel particularly amorous. So, no.
8. Which of your friends lives closest to you on facebook? Camilo (actually, it's Beth at the moment, as she is currently "living" on an air mattress in the living room, but as this is a temporary living arrangement, I will stick with Camilo)
9. Do you believe ex's can be friends? Yes. I do not myself generally remain friends with exes, but I am aware that it is POSSIBLE. (Sidenote: I am tempted to ask who is ex, and what of his/hers are we talking about. Learn the proper punctuation of the possessive v. plural, people)
10. How do you feel about Dr Pepper? I don't drink brown sodas anymore, but when I did, the Dr. was my favorite.
11. When was the last time you cried really hard? Dr. Who marathon on BBC America last weekend. Damn you, David Tennant!! The show is cheesy and ridiculous, and yet it nails me in the tear ducts on a regular basis.
12. Who took your profile picture? Camilo.
13. Who was the last person you took a picture of? Most likely Ev or Beth during the holidays.
14. Was yesterday better than today? Meh.
15. Can you live a day without TV? Of course. I am a little concerned for the sanity of the creator of this questionaire that this question is even on here...
16. Are you upset about anything? I'm kind of pissed that CSUN hasn't sent me my money yet...
17. Do you think relationships are ever really worth it? Yes.
18. Are you a bad influence? That depends.
19. Night out or night in? Both in moderation.
20. What items could you not go without during the day? ... this is a stupid question. Pass.
21. Who was the last person you visited in the hospital? I don't really do the hospital visit thing... so the last time was probably in the 8th grade, when Bridget passed away. :(
22. What does the last text message in your inbox say? Fucked if I know, and I can't be arsed to go dig out the phone to check. I don't text frequently.
23. How do you feel about your life right now? I feel a bit stuck and directionless, actually.
24. Do you hate anyone? Not really. Although there are certainly people I could do without, hate implies a much stronger emotional investment than I'm prepared to apply to any of them.
25. If we were to look in your facebook inbox, what would we find? A couple messages I forgot to reply to. I am absolute shyt at replying ...
26. Say you were given a drug test right now, would you pass? Probably. I haven't actually taken anything myself, but I have been in proximity to others while they were smoking out in the last 3 months...
28. What song is stuck in your head? The answer to this question is always "Breakfast at Tiffany's" by Deep Blue Something. It is an earworm of staggering longevity.
29. Someone knocks on your window at 2:00 a.m., who do you want it to be? Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Naked. With booze.
30.Wanna have grandkids before you’re 50? Ev will be 30 then, so it isn't outside the realm of possibility. I wouldn't say I'm terribly concerned about it right now, although I would like a grandkid or two eventually.
31. Name something you have to do tomorrow? Strongarm Ev into finishing his leftover homework.
32. Do you think too much or too little? A little of both, from time to time.