Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Well, it's certainly uncontaminated by customers."

Dear used bookstore proprietor person:

Yes, you did remember me correctly as the same person who had sat down with a handful of books for roughly half an hour, and then left without buying any the other day. Yes, I was about to sit down with a handful of books again when you told me that unless I were going to buy something, browsing was not okay.

Speaking as someone who owns roughly a metric fuckton of books, I feel obliged to point out (again: yes, I did say something to this effect and I realize you were resolutely unmoved): generally speaking, most bookstores cheerfully allow for, even encourage unlimited browsing. This is not because they are kind generous people; this is because they understand that in bookstores, generally speaking, the people who sit there and browse are repeat customers; and yes, most of them do buy something, if not this time, then next time, or the one after that. For example, today I went and browsed in a different used bookstore, and they left me the hell alone, as they always do, and I ended up buying two books. See how this works?

Well, no, I can see that you don't. Okay. What I didn't say: you may also want to consider that maybe the reason you remembered me was because I was, that time, like this time, pretty much the only person in the store.

I mean, I'm not suggesting your attitude is the only reason for business being slow: the economy's bad, used bookstores aren't necessarily always exactly booming, and also your selection is kind of crap. But yeah, there was one book of food lit/crit I'd never seen elsewhere and I was seriously thinking about buying it. Even with the plastic on the cover and the relatively high price. Still, I'm sure it was worth it not to have to deal with the annoyance of watching someone look at books, in a bookstore, that you run.

You know what would really solve the problem? If you just got rid of all the books. You could have, like, those dummy copies they have in furniture stores, you know? It'd be great. And the customer could come in and be like, "Do you have anything in red?" and you could lead them silently to the back and glower at them until they found the right one to match their drapes, and paid for it.

Addendum: if you were even half this entertaining in your churlishness, I would have gladly let it pass. Sadly, you are not.

Dear political robocallers of various ilk ("live" included):

I am currently registered Apathetic. I am going to vote for (or against, respectively) the people and measures who/which seem least likely to fuck shit over even more than the alternative(s), based on what I READ from sources I trust, and that is It. No donations, no forwarding the emails to four thousand of my best friends, no joining your zombie blob campaign for no remuneration so that I can feel like Lucy with the football when you inevitably break the promises about the issues I most care about.

No, calling me twenty times a day and leaving long messages on my crap answering machine which doesn't fast forward do NOT make me more likely to want to vote for you, much less do anything else. Likewise, filling up my email box with spam about races I have not the slightest interest in/candidates I couldn't vote for anyway on account of I do not live in those places. They do make me more likely wish you into the fucking cornfield. Hope for your sakes I do not, in fact, have that ability. Thank you and piss off.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

All you can eat

So apparently the world championship for karaoke singing (you knew there was one, right?) was in Moscow this year. Some guy from New Mexico won (Usher: "DJ Got Us Fallin' In Love," if you want to know). The prize: a million dumplings.

It seems wrong, somehow, that the gastroenterologist was only the runner-up.

There's video somewhere, but it's not that interesting. At least not compared to what I was imagining, which was that the guy finishes his song and, instead of applause, he's promptly buried under an avalanche of the entire doughy prize at once.

Possibly this idea was prompted by vague memories of this cartoon.

(If you have ambivalent feelings about Eastern European dumplings in general, perhaps you can relate to the kreplach joke.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

I etn't dead

but, I'm not sure if/where this blog is going at this point. I have some vague thoughts of clearing out the blogroll and redesigning this as a writing/fan blog, with some food, or something along those lines. Maybe.

Basically, I'm busy with real life, and I've been rethinking a few things. I'm not posting about them because, bluntly, in the inchoate form I'm in it'd basically come out as a lot of wank. And, I'm trying to cut down on wank. That kind, at least.

Politically, it's kind of...a combination of laziness and denial, and depression at least wrt U.S. political headlines, which can basically be summed up as something like:

"Republicans: 'NO!! Suck our teabag.'"

That's not even it, though. It's not this subject either, although I thought about a response to this post (and seq. linked) at various points these last few weeks. Briefly. Maybe I will at some point. Maybe.

Mainly though I'm in a different mood, and I would to talk about something...else. Mostly I've been doing that somewhere(s) that's else, but I have a certain reluctance to throw shit away, and I put a lot of energy into this blog. So, we'll see.

Meanwhile: I'm never going to be an adult either, but I need to have this woman's little cartoon children.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Spam spam spam spam

You know, if blogger came up with a way to ZOT all the spam comments that have been collecting on my blog like dust bunnies in one go, that'd be ace.

Just saying.

and yeah, I think I *will* buy that Nigerian term paper about Viagra, thanks.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


I've pretty much given up trying to update my blogroll-it seems to have fallen to classic Hoarders'/Clutterers' Syndrome-but I need to say that this woman and her blog are full of win.

Saturday, May 08, 2010


A riff from elsewhere, on the general mantras regarding "you're too fat" messages, which in turn was based on this article with the shocking news that Bullies Target Obese Kids (who knew?):

I'm just thinking: the "it's for your health" crap. I mean, even besides the whole, it sort of gives the game away that someone doesn't necessarily have your best interests in mind when they also call you an ugly old hag or "bitchcunt" and other hilariously witty epithets. But, yeah, sure: health is a good thing. Eat better, if you can, get more exercise, assuming you're able. All over it. Eating more fruits and vegetables and fiber and fish. Haven't had fast food for quite a while. Doing Pilates twice a week now. Getting back into dance and yoga. Signed up for pole dancing next week, yah rly. Because it makes me feel better, physically and mentally. Health, yes. And yeah, I don't actually eat all that much, amount wise; mainly this has to do with the meds I'm on. Will it result in weight loss eventually? Maybe. Maybe not. All I know is, if I made that my priority, I'd make myself nuts, so I'm not. Again: in the interest of health. Mine.

So, but yeah, in terms of ingesting shit that's bad for you? Today it occurred to me: y'know, I could eat McChuck's three times a day and wash it down with a donut milkshake, and I'm betting it still wouldn't be as bad for me as swallowing the toxic go-ahead-and-hate-yourself-for-not-being-thin-enough (along with every other reason, of course) bullshit being shoveled at us from all sides. I mean, you can't not swallow any, fuck knows. But, just sucking it up undiluted? In the apparent belief that it's, I don't know, a health drink? Might as well go out into the Gulf right now and take a nice big gulp out of the noxious oil slick. And fuck yes, that eventually takes a physical toll, too. The more I learn about mind-body-well, that's another thread.

I got a fair share of bullying as a kid, surprise. The main theme wasn't fat, although that was certainly a motif through at least some years. I hovered around the "high end of normal" until I was 21 or so, except when I was dieting. Which, the first time I did that, I was 10. Yeah, ten. Why? Three guesses. It didn't quite develop into an eating disorder, but I have a feeling I was well on my way; for whatever reason, at some point the suggestion by a doctor that if I remained as underweight as I was I wouldn't hit puberty upset me more than the prospect of getting fat, so I started eating again, and that was that; by the end of sixth grade I was back to normal, if not well before that. There are pictures of me from that proto-anorexia or whatever it was period, though: you can count all my ribs through the T-shirts I'm wearing. I'd throw away lunch and exercise till I was dizzy and nearly passed out.

Then, when I was 17, Mom and I decided to do Jenny Craig together, (Mom's idea, natch) because we'd both hit the horrifying weight of-what was it? 138? At 5'4? My god, we were sometimes into the double digit sizes. Thank fuck we straightened that out in time, I say. Mom's instructor was a "former" anorexic who would lecture about how she trained herself out of having a glass of wine at the end of the day by chanting about how she didn't need it a hundred times. Something like that. But by the end of it I was wearing a size 4, at least for a year or so; no one made fun of me for being fat at that point.

So, instead, for instance, the same boy who'd started our acquaintance by randomly calling me a "bitch" in class back in junior high, before I'd so much as spoken to him or he knew my name (it took me till much later to realize it had happened when I knew the answer to something he didn't) prank calling me drunk in the middle of the night and making remarks about, like, the shape of my face. Seriously. Or the shoes I wore. Like that. In itself? No big deal. Years and years' worth of that kind of shit? It gets old.

I know a bunch of people who don't like the Judy Blume book "Blubber" because it's depressingly-some would say gratuitously-true to the way kid harassment works: the name calling, the hazing, the sheer thoughtless nastiness. It seems to suggest that the bullies are right, is the argument from those people. Personally, I still think it's one of her better ones. There's a point where the title character has brought a "diet" meal to school, and when the ringleader points it out she says something like, she's going to lose weight and then they won't be able to make fun of her anymore. To which the ringleader responds by forcing her to repeat that "My name will always be Blubber" and then telling her not to forget it, because "even if you only weigh fifty pounds you'll still be a smelly whale." It is rather instructive, at that. And then when the protagonist stands up to the ringleader, she becomes the goat for a while. She fights back, and she manages to get off the hot seat, but it's not really a moral victory; life just kind of goes on.

And yet, of course, it's not pure randomness that the designated goat is the "fat girl." You do get a glimpse behind the scapegoating impulse that can, in fact, land on anyone; but fact is, it does land more often on some people than others; this is was we call "structural" shit, of course.

As for not standing up for yourself...well, it's an interesting set of mixed messages out there, for sure.

Frex: vacations, I'd go to my grandparents' house in Arizona, a "safe space" for me, on the whole. I liked to read the books on her shelves-I was always a reader; most of them had been around since the year one. She had the original "Weight Watchers" book from 1960, beehive do's and pointy boobs on the front cover, glowing testimonials on the back. One of the chapter titles, as I recall:

"You Have To Hate Yourself Enough."

To lose weight, that is. Motivation to go on a diet starts through hating yourself. It was that bald.

Oh, they've softened that line since then, I'm sure, have WW. That, and bits like the inspirational little stories sprinkled throughout like:

the one of the sweet but painfully sad and alone (what else would she be?) fat woman who began to "blossom" as the pounds came off. And then, one day, she Met A Man! And it was wonderful and romantic! And he proposed to her! Swoon! But, he also told her he could "never marry a fat girl." Panic, when she hit the dreaded "plateau!" She'd "never make it to her wedding," she cried to her WW buddies! But, somehow, they got her through it, the pounds started to come off again, and she wore her beautiful size seven wedding dress to marry her wonderful husband, and they lived happily ever after^. Seriously. That was in the book. I remember it well; I read it over and over again, along with the Dr. Spock book and the ten year old guide to the best restaurants in Phoenix.

(^That is, he carried her over the threshold with one arm, no doubt, and they lived happily ever after until she gained the weight back again and he dumped her for his secretary, or she didn't gain the weight back and he dumped her anyway because she got too old for him or she got breast cancer and it was too upsetting or he didn't like the way she snored, or he didn't leave her but he beat the shit out of her or just wore her down till she took a wee fistful of Valium every day, or...yes well they left that bit out, never mind, moving on)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Quote of the day, 3/18/10

Listen; there's a hell of a good universe next door: let's go.

--e. e. cummings

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fucked up books of my childhood

Respectively, the Sweet Valley High (and satellites) books, as examined at The Dairi Burger

and VC Andrews (Inc), Trapped in the Attic.

If you, too, had your formative years at all warped by these literary classics, and had blissfully put most of the details out of your consciousness, now's your chance to have it all come flooding back to you, with hilarious commentary.

If you don't know what I'm talking about...check the sites out anyway. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll spork. Most important, you'll realize "Twlight" had nothing on the 80's for professional Mary Sues. Tragic orphans! Terrible accidents! Murder, even! Ghosts, werewolves, and vampires! And that's just the Sweet Valley series.

Perfect size six suburban twins with sparkling blonde hair! Perfect helpless heroines locked away in secret-and-spider-riddled garrets! With sparkling blonde hair! Many, many lovingly described outfits and other material details, which were of course in no way why I read the things in the first place. And of course, a whole shitload of men, some of whom are teh sexxy and buy pretty things before revealing themselves to be as bastard-y as all the others, not that there is ever any other ultimate goal besides landing one.


Edited to update:

A conversation elsewhere got me thinking more seriously about this essay by Joanna Russ in To Write Like A Woman on the modern Gothic, "Somebody's Trying To Kill Me And I Think It's My Husband." It's basically second-wave feminist analysis applied to lit crit, but she's by far one of the better ones out there.

More details and quotage shortly, but essentially her point is that in the Gothic the female "subject" position isn't really much of one; the protagonist doesn't really initiate plot, she stands there and things happen to/around her. Her main task is figuring out the "mystery" of what the hell is going on around her. Much of which involves figuring out other peoples' feelings
(especially the Man, natch).

It's interesting because her thesis not only fits the gothics she was writing about as well as the more sensationalistic VC Andrews books that probably came out after she wrote the essay, but also applies to True Blood and of course Twilight, no doubt among other contemporary hits.

As far as that goes, I was snarking when I first noted that the Sweet Valley Books, once they started not just jumping the shark but doing trapeze acts with it, eventually have all the elements associated with more standard "gothic" books like the VC Andrews books, but actually, it's not that dissimilar. There *is* no real action in SVH as such-the girls don't really *go* anywhere, despite having cunning plots to defeat rivals and hook boys and career aspirations and such-they stay forever frozen at a perfect age, and they don't ever really set anything in motion. So in order to be "exciting" it has to get soapier and soapier...

I had figured that the reason for this in the SVH books was more because having them actually change and grow would defeat the magic fantasy stasis of Perfect Teen Suburbia, but actually the Mary Sue-ism isn't at all unrelated to that fetish. I mean, it's specifically a woman's fantasy Perfect Teen Suburbia (Francine Pascal, more or less, via her many ghostwriters), a retro one, I mean. So the "waiting for something exciting to happen, which will almost certainly come from a Man" is probably kind of implicit in that.

Anyway, here's Russ in her own words:

The Modern Gothic is episodic; the heroine does nothing except worry; any necessary detective work is done by other persons, often the Super- Male. Whenever the Heroine acts...she bungles things badly. [Hi, Bella!] There is a period of terror, repeated sinister incidents, ominous dialogue spoken by various characters, and then the sudden revelation of who's who and what's what. In terms of ordinary pulp technique, these novels are formless. Even so, they obey extraordinarily rigid rules. There must be a reason for these rules.

I would propose that the Modern Gothics are a direct expression of the traditional feminine situation (at least a middle-class [white] feminine situation) and that they provide precisely the kind of escape reading a middle-class believer in the feminine mystique needs, without involving elements that either go beyond the feminine mystique or would be considered immoral in its terms.

...and here she puts a finger on the Mary Sue phenomenon in all but name:

Most striking about these novels is the combination of intrigue, crime and danger with the Heroine's complete passivity. Unconscious foci of intrigue, passion, and crime, these young women (none of whom are over thirty) wander through all sorts of threatening forces of which they are intuitively, but never intellectually, aware. Most of all, *they are of extraordinary interest to everyone*-even though they are ill educated, ordinary, characterless and usually very hazily
delineated (as one might suspect) as a stand-in for the reader.

Sometimes Heroines are very beautiful (although they don't know it) or heiresses (which they don't know, either) or possess some piece of information about the Secret (which they are incapable of interpreting). Their connection with the action of the novel is always passive; they are focal points for tremendous emotion, and sometimes tremendous struggle, simply because they exist...

In the face of this really extraordinary passivity-for if the protagonist of a novel is not active in some way, what on earth is the
novel about?-it is tempting to see these books as genuine family romances, with the Heroine as the child who is trying desperately to figure out what the grownups are up to...At their best Heroines merely stand (passively) for love, goodness, redemption, and innocence. They are special and precious because they are Heroines. And that is that."

This becomes a lot more evident with VC Andrews, who made the "family romance" part way more explicit than any of the earlier goffics Russ was examining.

As per the Mary Sueism, passivity and all, I think that's what had irritated me so much about True Blood, more so in the first season. Sookie is a *classic* of the type. And she only gets more special and precious and besotting of others as it goes on.

BTVS, whatever its flaws, was satisfying because it explicitly *doesn't* do this: Buffy really is a true protagonist, a Hero with a journey, not just someone who radiates goodness while all the fighting takes place all around her.

That said, I'm digging True Blood more in its second season probably precisely because there's so much more focus on all the subplots and secondary characters, most of whom have a more interesting "story" imo than Sookie.

So Russ concludes:

"The Modern Gothic, as a genre, is a means of enabling a conventionally Heroine to have adventures at all. It may also be a way that conventionally feminine readers can see their own situation...validated, justified, and glamorized up to the hilt, without turning Heroines into active persons or into sexually adventurous persons, both of whom violate the morality of conventional femininity.,

[It'd be interesting to see her take on the later Judith Krantz and such genre. wherein the Heroines do become much more sexually adventurous-within certain strictures-and nominally have careers, but a lot of this still applies. The "Lace" books as I recall them could be termed the Cosmo Gothic. More sex, more designer name dropping, the women become successful fashion designers or that sort of thing, and the rest is still pretty similar]

1. Housework, etc. is banned. I'm on holiday.

2. I'm upper-middle class, not lower-middle class.

3. My upward mobility is achieved through marriage.

4. I'm a good girl-modest, not too pretty but quite pretty, not too rich but rich enough, womanly, loving, dependent, and somehow "average" (even though I am uniquely precious)

5. The Super-Male *really exists* (all evidence to the contrary)

6. He really loves me, even though I am not strikingly beautiful, brilliant, talented, famous, or rich. I do not see why he loves me, but he does. He may appear to treat me badly or brusquely; still, he loves me.

7. I do nothing. I do not have to do anything. Merely because I exist, violent emotions and acts spring into being.

8. I am rewarded for being good. Aggressively sexual, beautiful, worldly women are wicked and are punished accordingly. Men don't *really* like them.

9. I have intense emotional relations with places-houses, weather, nature. (Scenery-painting is often the best-written part of these books).

10. I have pretty, romantic clothes (but not sexy or flamboyant ones). Clothes really are very important.

11. *My sexual value is my personal value and is respected by all but villains and villainesses.* Men's desire is a testimony to my personal, individual worth. I have no character, interests, or achievements, but those who do come to a bad end (if female).

12. I am a virtuoso at interpreting faces and feelings. [Sookie in True Blood takes this one further by being actually *psychic.*] This ability is not "wasted" on the everyday drudgery of infants' needs or husbands' grumpiness-it is vital in saving my life and the happiness of all about me. (Even if I come to the wrong conclusions, my intense over-reading of everybody else's emotions is still justified).

13. If I don't know what's happening, that's all right: my man does.

14. I can't save myself, but my man will do it for me. [More often torqued these days, if not consistently; Sookie's killing Rene in self-defense has shades of Final Girl, but she still has the men running to her aid, the distraction helps enable her to defend herself, and they do outright rescue her on many other occasions]

15. Life with the Super-Male is *really satisfying.*

Sookeh! SOOKEH!!!...


*sparkle out*