mokie: Stonehenge with the sun shining through the stones (holiday renewal)
My family always started the new year off with a Southern tradition by way of Africa - a meal of black-eyed peas and greens (cabbage, in our house), symbolizing wealth in the year ahead. It was a fartstravaganza, guaranteed to chase home any lingering relatives.

Alas, this year I'm down with the flu, which is not conducive to cooking, or focusing, or staying awake.* Maybe I can fudge it, and count six days after the Greek Orthodox Christmas...


* Or posting publicly: this post has been post-dated for quality assurance purposes.
mokie: Man with an old computer monitor for a head drinks through a straw (media pop culture)
#1. Room 237
The structure of this documentary about the search for hidden meanings in Kubrick's The Shining seems to intentionally mirror the movie: creepy labyrinthine rambling, and then someone whips out the crazy.

Long before the documentary rolled up on Netflix, I'd seen an article (or three) mentioning some of the more plausible theories, and did some back reading on them. That's why it's so odd that the film does a relatively poor job presenting those theories: the documentary is a long series of rambling interviews with voices we never seen, played over clips from the movie edited together, looped around, rewound and replayed, while the soundtrack jogs along being inexplicably more creepy than it was in the actual film. It could easily have been trimmed not just for a tighter pace, but to better cover the theories. Instead, the detached voices ramble, and the more they ramble, the more obsessive they begin to sound, like the famous director himself.

And then they get to the moon landing conspiracy theory, which sounds like it was added intentionally to make everyone involved sound crazy.

#2. Death Becomes Her
Death Becomes Her took the bones of Hollywood's classic monster movies and turned them into a Hollywood monster movie.

A disgraced surgeon working on corpses to give them the semblance of life? An inmate asylum who funnels their obsession into eating? A slinky and seductive foreigner offering eternal youth? Not one, but two brides? Even zombies get a nod near the end of the film.

The horror isn't shambling creatures rising from the grave in search of blood, but shambling stars emerging from the plastic surgeon in search of youth, part of an industry based entirely on the preservation of appearance, the rejection of reality and fear of the passage of time.

#3. Lilo & Stitch
Lilo & Stitch was the first Disney movie in which we see protagonists who are orphans and the implications of that.

The golden age princesses had their parents conveniently removed in favor of wicked stepmothers and fairy godmothers, and later animal protagonists lost their parents for drama points, but it never mattered: the princesses were content to sing and wait for their prince to come, the animals were too young to care or got a narrative cut-away to hit us with the death but spare us the grieving. (Damn you, Bambi.)

The Disney renaissance passed on stepmothers in favor of single/adoptive parents and wicked fairy godmonsters (hey, worked for Maleficent). Neptune's daughters appear to have no mother, but Ariel gets a little hand from Ursula, while Belle had only crazy old Maurice and a long-gone witch who thought it was appropriate to turn a castle's worth of people into furniture because someone was once rude to her. Jasmine's mother? Pocahontas's mother? Chief Powhatan's first on-screen act was to let us know she was dead. Hercules? Kidnapped, adopted by a nice couple, later reunited with his parents. Simba? Lost his father, adopted by a nice same-sex couple, later reunited with his mother. Tarzan? Orphaned (but too young to grieve), adopted by a nice couple (of apes), later reunited with his species.

Lilo? Orphaned, grieving, arguably acting out because of it.
Nani? Orphaned, grieving, trying to keep their tiny broken family together in spite of it.

Beside the fantastical half of the story, there's this small human story about loss and coping with it. No Prince Charming can come to their rescue, though David offers support; no evil monster is going to rip them apart, though a social worker threatens the family (out of concern rather than malice). The big scifi tale of an isolated special snowflake created in a lab (almost a shot at Disney's family-free princesses) gains its depth by smooshing it into this little human story.

#4. The Addams Family
The original comics, TV show and movies all show the Addamses as part of a community that accepts and even celebrates their weirdness. While the plot may be about the average Joe or Jane stumbling into weird Addams territory, the Addamses and their culture are always accepting and welcoming of these mundanes - more accepting and welcoming than the mundanes are, certainly.

Weird moment of synchronicity! I jotted that down several months ago intending to expand it into a whole ramble at some point. A day or two later, the_phredPhred shared a blog post arguing that the Addamses are the most well-adjusted family on television, because: Gomez and Morticia are clearly in love and enjoy spending time together while also giving each other space to pursue their own interests; Wednesday and Pugsley may play dangerous, but "seem to view one another as accomplices, rather than rivals"; it's an extended family, in which relatives and employees are clearly respected and cared for; and they didn't change who they were to please others, or demand that others change for them.

Another blogger expanded up on this with a brief comparison to the '60s other televised 'horror' family, the Munsters, and might have definitively explained why most people are either a Munsters fan or an Addams fan:
"On one level, the Munsters were a campy stereotype immigrant family, while the Addams' were strictly old-money. Two different spins on the American experience. On another level, the Munsters are 'externally validated' and live entirely for the approval of others. The Addams are 'internally validated' and totally comfortable with themselves as long as they live up to their own standards. The Munsters are ashamed of their unique qualities, while the Addams' celebrate and enjoy them. (Only Grandpa Munster is unabashed, and continually has to be reigned in). [...] In my experience, Business people, early risers, team sports players and dog owners all seem to like The Munsters while artists, night owls, individual sports players and cat fanciers see to prefer The Addams Family."
It makes me wish Mockingbird Lane, a very-Addams reboot of The Munsters, had been picked up. Ah well.

#5. Roseanne
In many ways, Roseanne is less about a working-class family than it is about the death of a small town.

The small town of Lanford, Illinois, is almost a character in its own right. Outline the series, and you'll see not just the changeable fortunes of the Conners, but the decline of Lanford: the closing of its primary employer, a loss of quality jobs, a slip in the local economy affecting local businesses, the town quietly fading into a trucker's stop-over point. It's part of why the last season rang so wrong, but for the right reasons (or, at least, right on paper): it wasn't a big fantasy about her husband not dying, but about the main character having the money to save everyone, culminating in saving the town itself by restoring its primary employer, Wellman Plastics. It all centers on one line in the monologue: "When you're a blue-collar woman and your husband dies it takes away your whole sense of security."
mokie: Sleepy hobbit Will Graham naps on a couch (sleepy)
Why do so many family fights and feuds begin with funerals? Because it's easier to fight than it is to feel.

Sadness and grief are helpless feelings. You can't do anything about them. You just slog through, and even if you slog through, it gets you nothing - it doesn't bring someone back, it doesn't undo the cause of your sadness. You just endure it. It's so much easier to feel angry, because it makes you feel like there's something you can do about it.

Being sad won't bring your loved one back, but you don't have to realize you feel sad if you're busy being mad at your brother. You're helpless in the face of your grief, but in your anger you can ban your brother's family from your home. A measure of that drowning wave of emotion is repackaged as anger, because you can do something about anger - you can hang it on someone else's neck and drive them out. When the emotion creeps up later, it tells you it's anger - Can you believe he did that?! - and you can tell yourself you've done something about it.

Once I saw this pattern in my own behavior - I'm frustrated/tense because [depression/grief/etc.] and I'm not dealing with it directly - I learned how to slow down and turn that energy towards the actual problem. I also learned that I'm not an emotionally stunted freak, and this is pretty common. Most importantly, I got a sense for my schedule - for example, that February was always terrible, and it had to do with being cooped up and oversocialized in December and then numb in January.

Between snow days and cabin fever, this month has been full of people throwing matches and punches. I don't know if this year is worse than most or if it just seems that way because I'm outside it this year, since the flu knocked me off my ass for two weeks (and wobbly for two more) and so I've had plenty of people-free time.

Or maybe I vent my grumblies through TV shows about cannibal serial killers and zombie presidents nowadays. That's healthy too, right? Sure it is.
mokie: Hannibal Lecter sits on his shiny blue couch (media viewing)
Sometimes you get a look behind the curtain, and you realize that the little man back there is pulling so many more levers than you imagined. Stephen King's On Writing, for example, opened my eyes to how he thought about and structured stories. Suddenly those weird elements in his stories that just don't work (you know the ones) made more sense: they still didn't work, but I could see the reason, the intention and framework behind them.

Other times, though, you pull back the curtain and discover that the little man has no clue what he's doing--but it won't stop him from congratulating himself without cause. That's what it felt like to read an interview with the creator of the classic Nick show Clarissa Explains It All.

"You have to remember that before Clarissa, girls were given outfits to wear. Matching clothes. Girls didn’t pick their own clothes and make their own styles. Now we take it for granted. Annie Hall was a good example for adults. People didn’t create their own styles except in minor ways. Punky Brewster wasn’t fashionable. She was being 'quirky, goofy girl.' She was really Pippi Longstocking." (Mathew Klickstein, "Inside Clarissa Explains It All with Creator Mitchell Kriegman," Splitsider.com 27 February 2012)
Bullshit.

We'll put aside the fact that kids bucking their parents' ideas of suitable hemlines and haircuts, and picking out their own clothing to make their own styles, is half the history of modern pop culture, most frequently and fondly remembered in the '60s tug-of-war between mod and hippie and the '70s war between glam and punk. Sure, as a Boomer, Kriegman should remember those days, but let's keep things closer to the era of the show in question.

Before Clarissa came along in 1991, we had three seasons of Becky Conner's fab fashion sense and Darlene's descent into demi-goth territory on Roseanne, not to mention Denise Huxtable, not just a fashionista but a fashion student, and her sister Vanessa, who seemed to change up her personal style a couple times per season.

What did Clarissa Darling do? The same thing Punky Brewster did: brought a watered-down version of a specific style to television five years after the hip kids started it. In Punky's case, it was defanged and pastelized punk, and yes, she was fashionable: the show hit as whitebread department stores began selling blue lipstick and multicolored converses to decidedly non-punk teens. For Clarissa, it was eccentric layers loaded with patterns and vintage and accessories, straight out of Pretty in Pink--of whose costume designer On This Day in Fashion's Ali Basye says, "Vance excels at capturing, without irony or kitsch, the instinctive thrift and experimental, sometimes awkward dressing that is distinctive to adolescents." (Emphasis mine.) ("The WTF Prom Dress of Pretty in Pink", 28 February 2011)

What Clarissa did was nail (not invent) the vest + untucked shirt + shorts + tights/leggings + boots look that is so very, very '90s, and which Kriegman seems to think is the first time teens picked out their own clothing. He's wrong about that.

"It was amazing that they accepted that first episode with Clarissa trying to kill her brother. In those days, people did not talk about sibling rivalry at all. It was kind of taboo. But we went right at it with her trying to kill him. No one seemed to give me any trouble about that. They just let me do it. I don’t think you could ever do that in a show now. But I think it was healthy to bring out the fact that people can talk about sibling rivalry in shows like this."
Bullshit.

Did this man not watch TV at all? Sibling rivalry is the bread and butter of sitcoms. Jan and Marsha, Marsha, Marsha (1969 - 1974), Thelma and J.J. (1974 - 1979), Raj and Dee (1976 - 1979), Willis and Arnold (1978 - 1986), Vanessa and Rudy (1984 - 1992), Mike and Carol (1985 - 1992), DJ and Stephanie (1987 - 1995), Bud and Kelly (1987 - 1997), Darlene and Becky (1988 - 1997), Bart and Lisa (1989 - 3043), Eddie and Laura and Judy, till she went into porn (1989 - 1997)... Not to mention every other TV show that has ever featured siblings, ever.

How taboo can something be if the Smothers Brothers built a comedy act around it?

Does Kriegman believe sibling rivalry is defined by acts of cartoonish violence? Even there, he's not even breaking new ground on television: Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp had him beat by nearly 60 years. Not even on modern TV, as Darlene's torment of DJ bordered on criminal and started three years before Clarissa first aired.

It's irritating. I want to give Kriegman kudos for an awesome show that legitimately did break ground: while it didn't invent the 'teen sitcom', Clarissa Explains It All did re-popularize it and bring the target age down a few years to include pre-teens; it was one of the first non-animated Nick shows to be carried by a single character instead of a concept that allowed for an ensemble cast; and it was one of the first teen-aimed shows to feature a female lead. Given how '90s Nick shaped the network and influenced later tween programming, that's a pretty big deal.

But I can't shake the annoyance of the irrational teen fashion claim, and the nonsensical sibling rivalry claim. It makes me want to offer less praise, because unwarranted pride is just arrogance. Sure, Clarissa was OK, but she wasn't All That...
mokie: Clue's Ms White saying, "Flames on the sides of my face" (irritated)
"Is that canned chicken?"

With two bowls of slow-cooked and shredded chicken breast in the fridge? No. Why would I open a can of shredded chicken when I already have shredded chicken?

Ugh.

I prefer fresh ingredients over tinned veggies and heavily processed boxfuuds, not out of a puritanical fear of any edibles that come from a container but because I'm cheap: ingredients go farther than prepackaged meals, and I don't have to worry about the sugar/salt/fat tango*, or the corn/dairy industry shoehorning in fillers to earn those subsidies. I keep a good supply of tinned and boxed food on hand for weather troubles and scheduling issues, but generally access to fresh food isn't an issue, since I live within walking distance of two supermarkets and a summer veggie stand. Time isn't even an issue: in the same time it takes a Pinterest mama to pull up a "3 cans + 2 boxes = homemade meal!" recipe, open her boxes, Instagram it and throw it in the oven, I can have my ingredients sliced, diced and cooking.

It just doesn't make sense to rely on boxfuuds in my situation.

If I don't tell older relatives what the meal is made of, it's the tastiest damn thing they've ever put in their mouths. If I reveal that a meal doesn't contain at least one can of Campbell's Cream Of Soup, or one box of Cheezy Noodle Product, they look at the dish like it's toxic. I don't know if it's generally generational or just my family, but there seems to be some kind of deep distrust of, well, cooking. Like it's not food unless someone opened a box.

And forget leftovers. Forget any big meal meant to store or stretch over several days, unless it's boiled (to death) ham'n'beans. "Eh. I'm not in the mood for that." Mood? You don't get to be in the mood to waste $15 of chicken that you requested.

"Is that canned chicken?" Would she know the difference without asking? Nope. And yet she didn't want it unless it came from a can.

No wonder my grandfather was such a cheap bastard, if this was what he was up against.

If you're not quite ranted out after all this, I offer: The Terrible Tragedy of the Healthy Eater


* It's difficult to maintain tastiness in a product meant to sit on a shelf for months at a time. Boxfuuds therefore rely a lot on salt, sugar and fat for flavor. If the box claims to be low in one, look over the ingredients carefully, because it's probably high in one (or both) of the others to make up for the cut.

Happy New Year!

Friday, 4 January 2013 08:55 am
mokie: Stonehenge with the sun shining through the stones (holiday renewal)
Three days late for a new year post. Well, so much for that resolution...

Let's get right to business, shall we?

NEW
YEARS
RULIN'S


1. WORK MORE AND BETTER. I've been very fortunate in my current line of work, but I need to buckle down and more actively seek more of it. This means overcoming my oddly specific fear of work-related scheduling conflicts, a result of having to fight at three different retail jobs to make them respect my 'unavailable' days.

2. WORK BY A SCHEDULE. A new soap or related product every week! This year, I will keep the shop stocked.

3. Here's where I break from the Guthrie list, because the man has eight different hygiene-related resolutions, which is a little worrisome. So instead, I'll take one from a very cool project manager I know: PUT ON A BRA AND GO OUTSIDE. Between working from home and working night owl hours, it's easy for me to forget to put on real clothes and go outside every so often. While the fresh air may be trying to kill me, I could probably use the vitamin D, and the socialization.

4. DRINK GOOD. With all due respect to Mr Guthrie, I want to expand my alcoholic horizons this year, from trying out more of the local beers to adding some of the better reviewed absinthes to my liquor cabinet.

5. READ LOTS OF GOOD BOOKS AND WRITE EVERY DAY. When scheduling gets crazy, one of the first things to fall by the roadside is my own writing. The next is recreational reading. I miss both, and so this year, instead of being something to fit around the schedule, they're going to be part of the schedule. That includes staying on top of the journals, and getting older entries properly tagged. All thirteen years of them.

And a corollary: read less tabloid fodder and media gossip, view fewer celebrity photos. This isn't a new resolution for me. I was never big on gossip rags, and working in retail during Britney Spears' Very Bad Year, seeing her mental illness played out over rows of magazines every day for entertainment, didn't raise my opinion of them. Unfortunately it's easier to get sucked into gossip online, where you're often looking at a row of links to news stories mixed with a row of links to stories that shouldn't be considered news at all. ("The Senate passed a bill requiring--wait a minute, Lindsay Lohan did what?")

It also weirds me out that our celebrities have WWF-style heroes, villains, grudges and sob stories that are wheeled out as a form of advertising every time they have a movie coming out. That can't be healthy for us as a culture.

But mostly, it's the idea that being a celebrity means someone gives up their right to common respect and privacy--that they don't have the right to sit in their own yard without cameras peering over hedges, that they can't walk their kid to school without hiring someone to first push the press out of the way, or that it's acceptable to put lives at risk chasing them through traffic in search of that perfect shot. And for what? For a picture to put in a magazine intentionally designed to make the rest of us feel old, fat, ugly and unhip so we'll buy products to fix what isn't broken. Why feed that beast? Why pay anyone to make myself and a handful of famous strangers miserable, when I generally feel better not knowing or caring who's seeing/breaking up with/stalking who?

6. DON'T GET LONESOME. I'm not just an introvert, I'm one of those introverts that makes other introverts uncomfortable. But I've been slack when it comes to maintaining my social ties lately, so this year I'm going to make an effort not to be such a hermit--from a family game night with the nephew, to taking a friend up on an offer to tutor me in local beers.

7. LEARN PEOPLE BETTER. I've seen some cooing over Guthrie's self-awareness, and even a project on Tumblr about interviewing people to learn them better. As a girl with roots in southern Missouri, though, I suspect Woody was using 'learn' in the rural sense--that this really means "Teach people more effectively." That's how I'm taking it, albeit in a personal direction.

Though I rant about random topics that rile me and get way too cozy with the TMI, I'm really a pretty private person. I don't open up often or easily about my personal life, feelings, beliefs, relationship status--anything, really.

In my hesitation to become that friend who won't shut up about their cause or their boyfriend or their faith, I've become instead something of a relatable blank slate. The end result is that I find myself fairly often with an angry ___ who is upset because suddenly my experience/feeling/opinion/belief doesn't mesh with what they've projected onto me, and I'm not an angry ___ too. (It's usually atheists. Don't know why.) I'm never whatever enough to fit the idea they've formed of me, so they want to push me to their position, or lecture me on how wrong I am to not be like them, or tell me what I really am/believe (and you would not believe how much that pisses me off). There I am, left with the awkward choice of smoothing things over and putting up with their crap for the sake of peace, or telling them to fuck off and dealing with the fall-out. I admit that I lean more toward the latter these days, because life's too short to cater to other people's personal issues. But anyway.

Essentially, I need to open up more, and get comfortable with expressing who I am and what I think (etc.) a little more, and not worry so much about becoming that creepy friend who nags you for wearing leather, or being targeted by that creepy friend if I reveal that I'm not also a Baptist/vegan/UFOologist.

For the record: I'm a relatively liberal blue-haired bisexual hammock-dwelling pulp-reading hippie-ish single neopagan who eats meat, listens to whatever damn music feels good at the time, and really only feels strongly about reproductive rights and single spaces after sentences. (Never double. It's a relic of the printing press and HTML ignores it anyway. Let it go.) There's probably more worth adding, but nothing comes to mind at the moment. If you're conservative, don't eat meat, don't dig hammocks, listen only to K-pop, etc., it makes me no nevermind.

8. STAY GLAD. I used to live within walking distance of one of the world's greatest gardens; now I'm a tedious bus ride from any of the city's fun activities. I used to live beside a well-planted park, in a picturesque neighborhood that I wandered with a camera in hand; I now live in a closely packed neighborhood with bland lawns, where I feel like an intrusive guest even without the camera. I used to have my own little garden, with plantings older than I was and a makeshift pond; now I have a tiny patch of weedy dirt that I share with a rotating cast of neighbors who always, always, take it over and ruin it.

I've let this vague, sulky, gloomy dissatisfaction rule my roost far too long. I need to zhenzhizhenzhify my outlook! To look up and find the beauty in the moment and where I'm at, to look out over the neighborhood not as an intruder but as an explorer, to take bootyloads of photos and share them, if only to remind myself that it's not where my body is, it's where my head is.

9. SAVE DOUGH. Enough said, right?

10. LOVE EVERYBODY. And I do, even when I don't.
mokie: Earthrise seen from the moon (melancholy)
What can I say that hasn't already been said? News of the shooting was devastating. The national discussions it started on gun control, mental health access and the role of the media have been frustrating, but were overdue. The national discussions some people tried to start using the tragedy suggest that any mental health care reform needs to start with our politicians and celebrities. Please, won't someone think of Victoria Jackson?

On the same day that a man shot 20 children and 7 adults in Connecticut, a man in China slashed at least 22 children with a knife, a man in Indiana was arrested after threatening to set his wife on fire and then shoot up a nearby elementary school, and a teen in Oklahoma was arrested after plotting to lure students and faculty into the school gym and open fire. In the week since, a man walked into an Alabama hospital and opened fire, a Maryland teen was put in psychiatric care after concerned students reported that he had detailed information on the school building and security, and a Utah elementary school student brought a gun to school and threatened his classmates, citing fear of being killed like the kids at Newtown.

Maybe the world is always this crazy, and we just spend so much of our time focused on our own little corners that it's usually easier to ignore.

Mental Health Reform
Yes, please.

Though speculation abounds about the attacker's mental health, his actions point to a larger societal problem, and if we can't see it objectively in our own backyards, we can observe it unfolding in China, where attacks on schools are on the rise. Some experts attribute these attacks to mental illness, while others talk about frustration with rapid social changes, unemployment and general disenfranchisement.

I don't think that's an either/or. Dismissing these attacks as mental illness fails to address seriously the debilitating stress that drives people to the point where exploding seems like a solution; talking about them only as frustrated men downplays the value of access to good mental health care in favor of talking up punishment and armed guards. We need a healthy middle ground, where a person doesn't need a diagnosis of mental illness to get serious help, and doesn't feel stigmatized for seeking out the help they need.

Gun Control
Social media has been rife with strife, hasn't it? In one corner, people waving photos of an armed Israeli teacher with her students as proof that we need guns in schools--nevermind that the photo is of a guard, not a teacher, and that under Israel's restrictive gun control policies, citizens wouldn't even have access to as much firepower as the attacker had that day. In the other corner, people pointing out that the 22 children involved in the Chinese knife attack will all survive, so eager to make the point that they gloss over the alarming larger reality that schools are increasingly seen as a viable target by the disgruntled.

To share my biases upfront: my grandfather was a hunter, my cousins still are, and I know people who work in dangerous vocations that have to be armed for their own protection, so I know that there is such a thing as a responsible gun owner. At the same time, I also believe there's no reason for your average everyday citizen to have an assault rifle in their home, and that the discussion about gun control in our country is muddled by an unhealthy combative mindset that has latched onto guns as symbols of power and agency.

Examples of that mindset? Start with politicians pushing to arm teachers, under the assumption that at least one teacher with a gun could easily take out a gunman and reduce the danger. In reality, all armed teachers would introduce to the situation is crossfire: statistics tell us that accuracy drops among trained police officers when shooting moves from target practice to real situations, and psychology tells us that humans are consciously unwilling and subconsciously sabotaged when firing on other humans. (Yes, that's a Cracked article. Their explanation is a more interesting read.)

This kind of thinking is dangerously related to the kind of thinking that says, "I'll get a gun and show them all that they messed with the wrong guy." This kind of thinking isn't the solution--it's the problem. It's the kind of thinking that got an unarmed teenager stalked and shot by an armed junior detective wannabe after the real police told him not to engage, and which had half the country arguing if the wannabe had the right to 'stand his ground' and fire on the unarmed kid that he was stalking through the kid's own neighborhood. It's the kind of thinking that led a grown man to fire into a minivan full of teenagers because their music was too loud.

Whether or not we manage to come to a consensus on the issue of accessibility to guns, we have to address the connection between anger and armament in our culture. We've gotten the idea that waving weapons around is a legitimate way to express our frustration, even to the point of bragging about it on cable news stations. Is it any wonder a segment of the population carries out that threat?

The Media, the Politicians, the Deities and the Wingnuts
By midweek, even the media was questioning its presence in Newtown, and the value of the story vs. the empathy of its actions.

Sadly, some of us have gotten so entrenched in the politics of empathy that we've started to lose hold of the real thing.

Politically and/or religiously-minded individuals tried to stick the tragedy to their favorite hobby-horses. On the right, Mike Huckabee blamed the 'removal' of God from schools (nevermind what that says about attacks in places of worship), Victoria Jackson tried to equate it with abortion, James Dobson blamed it (and everything else) on the gays, and Ted Nugent blamed 'political correctness and moral decline', if you're inclined to take a tongue-lashing about morality from a man who gained legal guardianship over a teenager so he could have sex with her. On the left, there were snark remarks about 'arming those evil union teachers' and a demand to talk gun control before the families even knew if their children were among the slain.

For me, none of that tops Charlotte Allen's error-ridden misogynistic New Review essay in which she blames the "feminized setting" of the school, stating that "women and small children are sitting ducks for mass-murderers," lamenting that there were no men on staff to leap into action, that "even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys" might have taken the attacker out had they not been pushed to hide like scared little girls. It's a batshit revisionist view of events that ignores two brave women who rushed to try to stop him, insults the custodian who saved lives not by flinging a pail at an armed man but by running through the building warning teachers and students to take cover, and denigrates teachers who saved lives by concentrating on getting kids out of the line of fire rather than throwing themselves into it.

And, on the other side, those pointing out that the heroes of Newtown were all women (sorry, custodian!), and waxing philosophical about the differences between the genders, as if male teachers would not have given their lives for their students in the same situation.

But can we say that they're at least learning? Between Anderson Cooper's refusal to use the attacker's name on the air, and the media's greater focus on the victims rather than the gunman, the media seems to have figured out that they don't have to feed that morbid curiosity or give the attacker a posthumous platform. If this holds up, it's already a great step forward.
mokie: A doll with an open torso featuring a diorama (yay for girls)
Abusive boyfriends and spouses run in my family. (Usually from the cops.) At one time, I thought it was practically destiny--that as a family, we were so collectively messed up in the head that I just couldn't trust my attractions. I actually warned one boyfriend that, before we got too serious, he needed to know I would kill him if he ever hit me, because I'd decided as a little girl I'd go to jail for murder before letting my man beat me.

Hell, that's still true.

But all of this is not about Chris Brown and Rihanna. It's about us, and how we've framed their story, because it is just a story to us.

We have our villain, the woman-beater. We have our heroine, the beaten woman. The media gathered its torches and pitchforks dutifully. Alas, the heroine refused to follow the script. So we townsfolks gathered around to gossip and berate her.

She ought to just do what she's told. Doesn't she know she's a role model now? That means she can't just decide things on her own. And the girl shouldn't be deciding things on her own anyway--everybody knows beaten women are all Stockholmy and too stupid to get out of a bad situation. She can't just be allowed to make her own decisions. What if she makes the wrong ones? Then all the other girls will get the wrong message.

That message? Sure you're a grown woman who can make your own choices and live your life as you see fit--up to a point. And then you're just a bewildered girl who needs someone bigger and stronger to step in and save you from yourself. You won't know, so we'll let you know when that point is.

And the heroine refused to fall in line, so the media shined its pitchfolks and grumbled. Maybe she's not a 'good' girl after all...

What could possibly be more offensive than Chris Brown beating Rihanna?

A police officer leaking photos of Rihanna's bruised face for money.

The media splashing photos of Rihanna's bruised face everywhere for entertainment.

Every blogging site associated with Gawker online posting rants about how Rihanna needs to get with the fucking program and start acting like a damn role model already, for hits.

That if Jane Doe from Nowheresville, Wyoming, were suddenly splashed across the front page of tabloids as too stupid to get out of an abusive relationship, we would be decrying this invasion of her privacy, the abusive tone of this coverage, and asking how the hell this was supposed to help her.

That people still rant about Chris Brown, but not about the two police officers who sold that photo escaping prosecution, or about the media exploiting Rihanna's abuse for money.

That every blogging site associated with Gawker online is still doing this paternalist posturing, shaking the "Silence is Violence" placard as justification for making this a big public story and ignoring that Rihanna's rights--to privacy, for starters--were merrily trampled along the way to it becoming a big public story.

Sure, silence is violence. Too often abuse is swept under the rug as a 'private matter' when neighbors and family should intervene and tell the young woman she deserves better and they're there for her. But while it's not a private matter, it's sure as hell not tabloid fodder either, and there's a world of difference between a neighbor's offer of support and some blogger's smug headshaking.
mokie: A girl in a bathtub wearing a snorkel (soap)
A while back, in response to a drawing of Steampunk Sailor Moon, sweetevangelinesweetevangeline posed a question: what would a Sailor Moon soap smell like?

Cherry blossoms! No, wait--basmati rice. Maybe cotton candy? But more importantly--swirls. SWIRLS!

Obviously, this required much deep thought.

The final soapy result: violet-scented cold process soap in white with pink and black swirls, topped with clear melt & pour soap in which iridescent pink glitter and tiny star glitter are layered for a holographic effect when the soap is tilted and turned.

Hologram soap!


It's an experiment at this stage. A few folks (including sweetevangelinesweetevangeline) have agreed to test it out when the cure's complete, to see how well the mixed bar holds up under regular use. (I have an immature sliver in the kitchen soap cup being used for that test. So far, so good!) A small bit of color lifted from the pink into the melt & pour on one bar, and fingerprints on glycerin are a nuisance. But so far, the only real problem has been photographing the effect: the illusion of depth comes from the twinkle of glitter at different layers, and there's no capturing that in a regular photograph.

Hologram soap, cut bar


Oh, and the part where I create an intensely girly soap, in pink and glitter and floral scents, only to have my 12-year-old nephew walk in, pick up a bar, admire the side colors and say he really likes this new flame soap.

Next batch will be bonfire-scented...
mokie: A book with scissors in them, and text, "Grrr... bad book!" (reading boo)
"The Great God Pan," by Arthur Machen
Edition: Manybooks.net's plain text

Info
Originally published in 1890, this is reckoned by many to be not just one of the greatest works of weird fiction--that is, anything nowadays described as 'Lovecraftian'*--but one of the greatest horror stories ever written. It was also "widely denounced by the press as degenerate and horrific because of its decadent style and sexual content," according to the Wikipedia article on the story, which may contain spoilers. For the curious, I'd suggest The Kind of Face You Hate's review, which definitely contains spoilers.

Story
Dr. Raymond believes that man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality, but there is, unseen by most, an underworld--a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit: a dark side. And by ever so slightly nicking the brain of his foundling (and why not? Finders keepers!), he can enable her to see that dark side, commonly referred to as 'the great god Pan'. Hijinks ensue!

Progress
Not much, but maybe you'll understand why if I offer a quote.
I saw a paragraph the other day about Digby's theory, and Browne Faber's discoveries. Theories and discoveries! Where they are standing now, I stood fifteen years ago, and I need not tell you that I have not been standing still for the last fifteen years. It will be enough if I say that five years ago I made the discovery that I alluded to when I said that ten years ago I reached the goal.
...yeah.

When youngsters grouse about old horror movies, half the complaint comes down to them expecting our post-modern horror experience. The girl doesn't go down to investigate the creepy noise in the basement anymore because the audience believes they wouldn't, because they'd know better than to do something stupid like that. This isn't true, of course--people investigate spooky sounds all the time, because we know we're not in a horror movie. Yet they expect characters to act with meta knowledge: to know they're in a horror movie; to know everyone else has died a horrific death, even if it was at a completely different location the character has not yet visited; to know there's a crazed man in a mask running around killing people, even if they've not yet seen him. Audiences expect meta knowledge, genre savvy behavior and stupid jokes, and then wonder why scary movies aren't scary anymore.

But that's a whole different rant.

The other half of the complaint comes down to the trappings of the story: the way the characters talk, the way the actors act, even the structure of the story. My own nephew, zombie lover extraordinaire, refuses to watch Night of the Living Dead because it's in black-and-white. Sometimes these trappings are just too great an obstacle, and the viewer can't put themselves into the story.

I'm trying not to be that person here, but I have to admit, old-fashioned writing just isn't my cup of meat. I find it tedious to slog through and obnoxiously affected. And yet I have no problem with faux old-fashioned writing as a stylistic device. Go fig.

[Reading "The Great God Pan": And I thought I was wordy (12 Nov '12) / All hints, no happenings (25 Jan '13)]


* Some draw a distinction between 'weird fiction' and 'Lovecraftian horror' as subgenres. The reasons why are many and varied, but mostly serve to point out how 'genre' is an incredibly sloppy, slapdash and ineffectual organizational system.
mokie: A vintage image of a girl and kitten smiling (pets)
Back near the end of July, during that fun 3-month heat wave/drought combo platter, I got a call from Zaphod, my nephew, asking if I would take in a stray kitten he found. It had been hiding under some bushes near his house, panicking at the passing cars and panting in the heat, and it had been out there for a while.

But you know young animal lovers. A baby bird on the ground must be in dire danger, a bunny out of its burrow must need rescuing from any potential threats, and a kitten under a bush must be lost and in need of saving. I gave reluctant and conditional permission: I'd bring the kitten in, check it out, and let it get some water and cool off, but in all likelihood it was simply an outdoor cat trying to dodge him.

A few minutes later, my sister came up the street with the boy and a couple of neighborhood kids, and I realized it wasn't just Zaphod being oversensitive. The kitten wasn't starved, but it did seem a little bony and dehydrated, and it was petrified by every sound, from random dog barks a block away to squealing tires a few streets over.

That's how Maynard came to us.

The fact that he was so affectionate, and so willing to be lugged around and snuggled by Zaphod, told us that Maynard was most definitely not a feral cat, but he did like to dodge out the door--and then freeze on the porch, as if asking himself what he'd just done. We were banking on Maynard being a local kitten who'd darted out one day and not been able to get back in, so we checked grocery store bulletin boards, looked for Lost Cat posters, posted notices online, and the nephew said he even put up a Found Cat notice near his apartment building.

Nothing. Poor thing. I'd only saddled him with the name 'Maynard' because I thought he'd just be here a day or two.

As the month creeped by, the other possibility started to look more like a probability. Maynard was (I would guess) eight or nine months old, at that gangly stage where cats stop being cute and start knocking things over in earnest, and we live in a neighborhood dominated by apartment buildings, with a lot of turnover in the summer months. It was all too possible that someone simply decided they didn't want a kitten anymore, or was moving and didn't want to lug him along.

Due to a human medical emergency earlier this year, Ming and Murphy's visit to the vet to be fixed ended up being pushed back, but with a second intact male in the house, procrastination was no longer an option. Last week I called the vet to ask if they check for microchips as a last ditch effort to find Maynard's previous owners, and made an appointment for all three cats to be vaccinated. (It's required at least two weeks before spaying/neutering, even for indoor cats.)

I didn't even need to fully explain to the vet. I started with, "There are a lot of apartments..." and she knew where it was going. How's that for depressing?

Ming's check-up included an ultrasound to be sure there were no surprises. While the vet saw some fluid in her uterus, there were no signs of kittendom, so she was vaccinated and yowled all the way home about it. Kitty PMS!

Maynard's check-up revealed no chip and no health problems. He's now vaccinated and officially a member of the family. He took it so well, the vet's assistant dubbed him 'loverboy'.

Murphy's check-up took place in the office sink, since he felt a little less exposed there. He's about as social as I am--we both hide when new people come into the apartment--so I was surprised he was willing to come out of the carrier at all. The exam revealed a blocked eye duct and problematic tooth, possibly allergy/sinus related since the weepy eye seemed to act up most often when the people-allergies flared up. The vet warned that vaccinations and antibiotics together could make him feel sick, but I figured a little sick was better than stressing him out with a string of vet visits. Two minutes after we got home, he felt so sick that he bounded up the cat tower, flung himself at Maynard, dodged a swipe from Ming and rolled across the rug chasing absolutely nothing.

And everyone was happy to be home.
mokie: A large white shark rearing from a tiny child's pool (devious)
When I woke up, the nephew asked if I would fix the router, since he'd been knocked off his game five minutes earlier. The router was fine, but the power strip that the modem was plugged into had been turned off.

Okay. Except the modem and power strip are both in my bedroom, and when I went to sleep last night, I was alone, I put the cats out and pushed a hamper in front of the door to keep them out. Yes, they open doors, and yes, I know how sad that whole line read.

So the nephew was using the Internet until someone turned off the power strip that the modem was plugged into about five minutes before I woke up, moved the hamper and opened the door.
mokie: A tiny, sad cardboard robot walks in the rain (sad)
I dreamt I walked into the old house to find three homeless junkies lounging around, one of whom I knew as a friendly acquaintance. I pulled family aside to talk, trying to get the idea across that they couldn't just let people come inside and hang, but they weren't getting it. So I retrieved $25 that I owed my sister and hid it in a glass.

The friendly junkie left, and I didn't dare look in the glass, but I didn't need to either--I already knew the money was gone.

You can like someone, even love them, and still not trust them.
mokie: The Dark Knight's Joker inserted into a scene from Beetlejuice (confused)
This afternoon, the mokiemama was in the basement talking to the neighbor. He has a bunch of hand-me-down furniture down there, which makes me nervous as we've already had one nasty bedbug infestation thanks to a former tenant's found mattress. This stuff can't be too old, though, since he's thinking of selling it to make rent. He and Mom talked loveseats and kittens and random bullshit, and the neighbor asked if we wanted that one over there, since he knew we were looking for one. Mom thanked him and said she'd need to run the idea past me.

Upstairs, I scoffed for I am done with inherited furniture. And shuddered, because you have no idea how hard it is to get rid of bedbugs in an apartment building unless you've had to do it. Besides, we're saving up for a nice double-seater papasan and maybe a hanging pod chair, because we like them and we don't have to pretend to be sofa-loveseat-recliner people anymore. Suck my milkcrate shelves, world!

A few minutes later there was a knock at the door.

Mom back holding two kittens...

All in all, much better than a loveseat.
mokie: A tiny, sad cardboard robot walks in the rain (sad)
Darwin died last night.

He was about 6 or 7 years old, which is around the average lifespan for a Dutch rabbit. He hadn't been sick, nor lost weight; he had been more shy recently, more inclined to find a quiet and cool spot beneath a shelf and not come talk to us. I thought the recent visits of some neighborhood kids had made him uncomfortable, but in retrospect it seems likely he was looking for a place to die.

My nephew Zaphod and I buried him in the yard, beside Jade and Serafina. This makes two summers in a row that the nephew has lost a pet he's known longer than some relatives. On my way out of the yard, a little black and orange butterfly flitted two steps ahead of me.

And as I reached the line above, the nephew came in to say a package had just arrived. It's from [livejournal.com profile] eekers; there's a bunny on the shipping label, and butterflies on the envelope inside.

Thank you, Eekchan--it was just the smile we both needed today.
mokie: A large white shark rearing from a tiny child's pool (devious)
Nephew is bored. And annoying.

I'm going to found a summer camp--30 city kids taken to Forest Park for three months, to learn to live off the land. I'll call it Camp Feral Child.*

"Tonight we eat gazelle! Quick, everyone over the fence before Zoo Security circles back!"

* By which I mean, I'm dropping him off at the park and coming back in August.**
** This was the original entry title. Thank desertwolfdesertwolf for the new title!
mokie: Firefies swirl beneath a tree on a moonlit night (happy)
Earlier this month, I gave up on the ancient mattress with unexpected springs that pop my back all out of whack, the futon mats that go flat in all the wrong places, and the inherited bunkbed frame that looks silly in an adult's bedroom and creaks with my every move. So terribly, terribly uncomfortable--especially compared to...

A HAMMOCK!

Not the taut rectangle of canvas or rope spread wide by wooden dowels and prone to flipping cartoon dads on the lawn, but a proper Mesoamerican humidity-defying cocooning sling, almost impossible to fall out of accidentally, and so comfy they're damn near as hard to climb out of on purpose. While I don't recall the specific train of thought that led to this decision-making process, I believe I remember the key points.
  • Comfort. Hammocks are comfy. That's one of their key selling features. My bed? Not comfy.
  • Custom. Lots of people sleep in hammocks. Gilligan, for instance. And Nicaraguan truckers. Astronauts, even, and they manage it without gravity.
  • Health. Some campers swear hammocks fixed their back problems. After lugging 30lbs of gear and sleeping on rocks, you'd better believe their backs were plenty problematic.
  • Money. It looked way cheaper than buying a new bed.
All true. As added bonus, you should see how much more spacious the room feels without a bed taking up half of it. Oh, and I never have to make a bed again. Not that I ever made it when I had one, but it's the principle, you know?

There are a few problems I did not anticipate in making the switch, though.
  • Insulation. Without a mattress or futon beneath me, I tend to sleep a little cooler. Since St. Louis usually flips straight into summer sometime around April, I didn't think this would be an issue, but apparently we're trying out that 'spring' thing, so I'm sleeping in winter jammies still.
  • Temptation. With a bed, even a moderately comfortable one, taking a break from work to watch the news or read a little is no big deal. With the hammock, I'm no sooner comfy than I'm dozing off for half an hour. Or an hour. Or three.
  • Invasion. When the hammock arrived, I'd not yet taken the bed apart or out of my room. I wanted to set up the hammock frame ASAP to be sure all the pieces were there, and my 11-year-old nephew Zaphod lent a hand. And then tested it out. And then spent the night and slept in it. And then protested me moving it to my room. And then begged me to move it back into the living room. And then decided the bedroom hammockroom was a perfectly cromulent place to lounge.
By moving the hammock out of the living room, I changed his perceived territory.

Upside: I know what to get him for his birthday. Downside: sleepovers will probably mean double-bunked hammocks.
mokie: Cowboy Bebop's Ed on a bike in hot pursuit! (energetic)
mokie: Come help me shred paper! Peeeeeer pressure! Peeeeer pressure!

Mom: Peer pressure doesn't affect me.

zaphoddityzaphod: Above the influence!
mokie: Ghostbusters' Vinz Clortho wears a collander and answers questions (nerdy)
The media likes to claim that the Internet has the attention span of a toddler.

Remember this. I'll come back to it.

Ezra Klein offers an explanation of why Facebook matters, which is really more a comment on a quote from a GQ article, Viral me:
"The big change, the big shift in the Internet that's happened in the past three or four years, is the shift towards social being the most important thing," Angus says. "So now increasingly you discover content or care about content in the context of your friends. Up until now, Google's PageRank has been the dominant way that content gets sorted, ordered, and found on the Internet. And the threat from Facebook is to say, 'wait, we're going to reorder the whole Internet, all the content out there. And instead of it being based around some algorithm that a search engine says is important, we're going to base it around who you are, who your friends are, and what those people are interested in."
Why has this shift happened in the past three or four years?

It hasn't.

When the media talked about the Internet a year ago, two years ago, five years ago, what was the context? Blogs. Memes. Viral advertising. Musicians who got their start on Youtube or MySpace, nerd bloggers who become minor stars in their own right. The power of 'word of mouth', and the Internet as the new grassroots.

When the media talked about the Internet ten or even fifteen years ago, what was the context? Forums. Chat rooms, and what your kids might be up to in them. How a cheap indie horror flick became a blockbuster international hit through 'Internet buzz'. People talking to each other over computers instead of the telephone!

The media likes to claim that the Internet has the attention span of a toddler, but it's the media and its less-than-nerdy target audience that are guilty of not paying attention. A few large social hubs burst onto the scene in the past couple of years, and where most other social hubs focused on users finding other users with similar interests, these hubs encouraged users to recruit their family, offline friends and acquaintances. Yes, thanks to this shift, the uncle who joked that the only reason you could have to own a computer is to look up porn is now asking to be your friend on Facebook.

The shift isn't social. The shift is personal.

It isn't simply that a lot of people who thought that Google was the Internet (and who, ten years earlier, would have thought that AOL was the Internet) are panicking because they can't find Facebook. It's that, oh my God, comment #6 is my mother!*

It isn't that your kid sister is now talking to people over the computer, and NBC wants you to make sure she does so safely! It's that your kid sister is talking to you over the computer, and your mother wants to know what she's saying on her Wall because sis defriended her after their latest spat.

It isn't about discovering or caring about content in the context of your friends. It's about discovering content posted by friends you made in high school, and by people you know by their real names, people who don't even know what an Internet handle is, much less what yours is--and that's the way you want to keep it.

God help the relative who finds my Twitter account.

* Rhetorical device. My mother did not comment to that article. I hope.

Profile

mokie: Earthrise seen from the moon (Default)
mokie

August 2017

S M T W T F S
  12345
6789101112
13141516171819
202122 23242526
2728293031  

Credit

Syndicate

RSS Atom
Page generated Sunday, 24 September 2017 07:18 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

About dream/reading tags

y-* tags categorize dreams.

For types: beyond the obvious, there are dreamlets (very short dreams), stubs (fragment/outline of a partially-lost dream), gnatter (residual impression of a lost dream).

For characters: there are roles (characters fitting an archetype), symbols (characters as symbols), and sigils (recurring figures with a significance bigger than a single dream's role/symbolism).

x-* tags categorize books.

Material is categorized primarily by structure, style and setting. If searching for a particular genre, look for the defining features of that genre, e.g. x-form:nonfic:bio, x-style:horror, x-setting:dystopian.

Tags