mokie: A package of meat wishes you happy holidays (holiday of the day)
On my merry little calendar of daily holidays, today is listed as I'm Not Going to Take It Anymore Day. Given that the past week has been full of reams of legal documentation that is only English on a technicality - not because it's translated but because it's legalese, boo - that is indeed pretty much where my brain is at. "Words? No. No more words. NOPE."

So I took a look at what absolutely had to give today.

Someone trying to squeeze a manifesto into a tagline? NOPE. I can summarize, I can epitomize, I can capture the spirit of the thing, but I cannot take the client's list of eleventy things that absolutely must be mentioned specifically and squeeze it into a five-word tagline.

Glitchy file? NOPE. Pure stupid stubbornness on my part to keep fighting with it this long, instead of asking for help, but that's what legalese does to me - makes me irritable and bitey, even against software.

The flu? NOPE. Okay, it's not that easy. I wish it was that easy.

Maybe this should be 2015's theme song...



(No video embedded above? Sorry, journal sites are inconsistent that way. Try viewing it at Youtube instead.)
mokie: Vintage photo of a woman with legs crossed reading a book (reading smut)
So I was discussing fiction with a friend... No, that's not quite right.

So last year I started watching Hemlock Grove, but got distracted and wandered off. When I saw an advertisement for the upcoming second season, I thought two things: "Better to catch up and keep up, then," and "Wait, what? 'Emmy-nominated'? Hemlock Grove was nominated for a fucking Emmy, but there's no love for Hannibal?"

Because I like Hemlock Grove, more or less. Contrary to appearances, it's not yet another True Bloody Vampire Twilight Diaries teen romance soap opera with fangs, but a collection of Hollywood's classic Silver Screen movie monsters translated to a modern setting, and that's a pretty nifty idea. But I love Hannibal, and most of the critics who've bothered to watch it call it the best show on TV right now - better than Game of Thrones, better than Mad Men, better even, some thought, than Breaking Bad. And yet it was more or less snubbed by the mainstream American awards shows, and even the piddly media awards; for instance, it shows up only in vague "Best Villain" and "Best Show" categories on TV Guide's online awards voting. Why is that?

Because society is full of snobby assholes who take great pride in not watching horror... No, that's not quite right.

Because society is full of snobby assholes who take great pride in bragging about not watching horror. And the little committees that pick award nominees and winners are loaded with those assholes. This is no surprise to 'genre' fans - we're pretty used to the world looking down its nose at us - but it is a surprise to see so many vampires and werewolves sprinkled around out in the open and accepted. They're not horror anymore, but romance, the new soap operas, and the voters are totes cool with them as long as they stay sexy and don't look like, y'know, monsters.

Even so, I suspect Hemlock Grove's nomination had more to do with patting Netflix on the head for making its own series than the series it made.

But anyway.

So I was discussing that with a friend, and we wandered off on a tangent about romance novels, including paranormal romances, historical romances, the old-fashioned gothic romances, and all that jazz. Eventually we circled around to poking the fanfiction concept of 'id fic' with a stick, because that is a clever, clever way to look at literature.

Id fic appeals to the squat little reptilian pleasure-seeking part of brain, your id, the little masturbating monkey mind, the part of your brain that embarrasses you at parties with inappropriate thoughts and grunts, "Uhn, sexy!" at shit you know just ain't right. As one fanfiction writer put it, "Because 'good' stories often have to temporize, to maintain reality and your suspension of disbelief and the dynamics of the canon. But idfic says fuck that, let's turn this shit up to ELEVEN and SEE WHERE IT GOES."

See? That's brilliant. Instead of blushing through flustered and defensive explanations of how V.C. Andrews' hypermelodramatic incest porn has deeper meaning, or romance novels aren't really about the smut, or how pulp fantasy novels have deeper wish fulfillment blah blah blah, look at the freedom of just saying, "It's id fic" - acknowledging that the masturbating monkey mind loves its stories, too, and that this is totally okay.

But, at the same time, it also lets us see how V.C. Andrews' hypermelodramatic incest porn, etc., can have deeper meaning, because where you've got id, you've got context for the tight-laced and prudish super-ego to stroll in: the masturbating monkey mind likes it dirty, and what the masturbating monkey mind finds dirty has a lot to say about the culture and society and baggage of the mind it squats in. For instance, Wuthering Heights is a big ol' floppy melodramatic mess of id, crouched in the corner fapping furiously and leering at onlookers, but it's also a classic that "challenged strict Victorian ideals of the day, including religious hypocrisy, morality, social classes and gender inequality."

Would it be going too far to suggest there's also super-ego fic? Stories that consciously and purposefully poke at social constructs and cultural baggage, that get all up our noses about being a better person? Those stories certainly exist - they're the things we rarely read on our own, because they're preachy and boring, not at all as interesting as peering through a book-shaped keyhole with the masturbating monkey mind at things we know we'll later feel dirty for enjoying.

Maybe that's what I like so much about Hannibal - having both the monkey and the monk at the dinner table together, uncomfortably aroused.

Edited to add: Yes, I know, the id fic concept has been around for ages, but my circles don't overlap that way. Sometimes it takes a while for things to pop up on my radar. Also, when discussing some topics, particularly fandom or fan-adjacent topics, things work out best if I just assume that the other person has no idea what I'm talking about until/unless they say otherwise, and thus I need to explain from scratch without getting too slangful or complicated.
mokie: Original Bad Seed Rhonda is getting upset (womb of doom)
I don't know if I can take another guy saying the Hobby Lobby decision is no big deal.

Let's set aside that the Supreme Court has said it's OK for employers to insert their religious beliefs into an employee's private life, by specifically limiting that employee's options in areas where they should have no say. No, your employer should not have say over your health care decisions.

Let's ignore that the Court has given employers the go-ahead to insert their political beliefs into an employee's medical decisions, by ignoring how certain medications actually work according to doctors, in favor of their own 'interpretation' of how it works based on their political agenda - this even though that incorrect interpretation is still perfectly legal in this country. No, your employer should not get veto power over your perfectly legal health care decisions.

We can even sidestep the fact that the Court has said it's OK for companies to selectively ignore parts of laws they dislike by claiming a religious exemption, even if they're for-profit outfits and not actually people, and definitely not churches. No, your employer's religion should not affect your health care decisions.

Basically, your employer does not own you and should not have control of your private life.

Guys, the Supreme Court has given employers the right to veto preventative care for a specific class of employees.

If a woman gets pregnant and decides to have the child, she's going to see a doctor for prenatal visits, for tests and check-ups to ensure things are OK, and for intervention if things aren't going OK. When time comes to pull a human being out of her body, she's probably doing it in a hospital, and given statistics in recent years, she'll quite likely have surgery. Pregnancy and childbirth involves a chain of medical procedures and is very much a big deal, one that has permanent physical repercussions for the person doing it aside from the impact on their lives in general. That's why lots of women decide not to have the child, and lots more - 99% of American women at some point in their lives - take steps to avoid conceiving in the first place. That's what makes birth control 'preventative care'.

No, Hobby Lobby was not being forced to foot the bill for abortions. Don't forget that employees pay into these packages, which are meant to cover the health care needs of employees, not the political agenda of the employer.

No, it does not matter that Hobby Lobby covers some other types of contraception, because they've opened the door for other employers to deny contraception entirely, which gets us into the sticky fact that, apart from pregnancy being a real risk for some women, 'birth control' often has medical uses outside of preventing pregnancy - treatment of endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, and reduction of ovarian cancer risks, for starters. You should not have to sit down with your boss and prove you're not just horny in order to get medicine prescribed by your doctor, dammit.

No, "They shouldn't have to pay for you to have sex!" isn't relevant, because these insurance packages sure as hell cover prenatal care and treatment for STDs, so by that logic they're already paying for people to have sex.

No, "It doesn't cover my condoms!" isn't remotely the same thing, because even if the condom breaks, that guy is never, ever going to risk having a person pulled from his dick nine months later.

Yes, it is a big deal, because contraception is expensive, but so is getting pregnant, and if you're working retail at the fucking craft store level, in all likelihood you can barely afford either.

Update: Oh look, folks are already trying to use Hobby Lobby's "sincerely held religious belief" precedent to skirt LGBT anti-discrimination legislation.
mokie: A doll with an open torso featuring a diorama (yay for girls)
May started with a terrible essay (broken down fabulously over at Captain Awkward and by Dr. Nerdlove), in which a man tried to shame his ex for refusing to maintain a relationship with him. Not the relationship, but any relationship. By his own account, she had moved on and found someone new, and she didn't want to hang out with him and rehash the drama of their now-defunct relationship over and over. She did not want to be in a relationship with him, and she did not want to be in that dysfunctional not-relationship with him, either, and so she called it quits - except he doesn't think she has the right to do that. He believes he has veto power over an ex-girlfriend's right to decide who she associates with, because he hasn't got closure (read: the change to debate-to-death her decision to end the relationship). His response to her cutting off contact was to ignore it, keep poking, keep popping up, even after being threatened with a restraining order.

And he painted her decision to cut contact with him as abusive. Yes, seriously. He suggested it was abusive of her to expect to decide for herself who she did or did not interact with. He also suggested that abusive men are abusive because they feel powerless, hint hint, ladies.

Y'know, in case you wondered why she threatened him with a restraining order.

Then, less than two weeks after that essay made the rounds, an asshole declared war on women, and a world that would give women to other men but not him. He killed his roommates, grabbed his guns, and set out for "the hottest sorority" on campus, because. Because girls never approached him, and would have rejected him had he ever bothered to approach them. Because girls pick jerks (who actually ask them out) instead of 'gentlemen' like him (who sit around waiting for ass to be handed to them, like Sleeping Booty, and never put themselves out there for outright rejection). Because when he attempted to assault some women months earlier (what a gentleman!), some nearby men had intervened and kicked his ass. Because he was a misogynistic shitstain driven to obtain riches and women, and frustrated with a life that did not magically hand him these things. Because he was an entitled, spoilt rotten adolescent piece of walking, talking crap who'd had everything handed to him, and his response to adulthood and the requirement that he grow up and work for things was magical thinking (use The Secret to win the lottery!) and an inevitable tantrum.

Because girls aren't psychic - but thank God for instinct and intuition.

And the apologists poured out. It wasn't misogyny because look, he killed more men! - despite the videos and the manifesto and forum posts in which he declared his hatred for women and that he was going to kill as many as possible, and the fact that he only failed because he was utterly incompetent even at being a super-villain. It wasn't misogyny, because look, he had Aspergers, and oh why did no one get him treatment! - despite the fact that autism isn't a mental illness, the mentally ill are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence, he was receiving help and his family did attempt to get him committed out of fear he was a threat to himself and others. It wasn't misogyny, because he was probably gay! - and what the fuck is in the water over at Fox News? Seriously now.

And worse, there were the creepy comments. "If even one girl had put out..." What? Pussy would have cured him? No. Or the NYPost's naming and shaming of a girl from grade school that didn't even remember the asshole, though her father did - specifically, he remembered him as a creepy little fuck.

May ended with women on Twitter sharing times they were harassed, intimidated or assaulted - and being harangued by men who were upset because this conversation about women being harassed, intimidated and assaulted was not taking place within the context of how it hurt men to be associated with this and discussed this way. They insisted that the conversation must begin with how feminists discuss men, and must include caveats that specifically let certain men (them) off the hook, because somehow, simply saying that a man raped you and the police didn't take it seriously is slandering all men, because this is really all about men's feelings, isn't it?

So let's start June off better, with Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds, in which a nerdy guy calls out the pop culture nerd narrative as insulting to and unhealthy for nerdy guys and women alike.
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: John William Waterhouse's Pandora peers into the box (disbelief)
If you ever needed a clear example of what's wrong with society:

A 20-year-old man in Oklahoma was arrested for rape after it was discovered he'd been engaged in sexual activity with a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old. He played Truth or Dare with the two girls and dared them to engage in sexual acts with him and with each other in his room at his parents' home. The reports don't say why the girls were there, but they do say that the 15-year-old "was successful in fending off one other sexual attack," and that the charges include forcible sodomy, so they're not just alleging statutory rape here.

The facts: an adult engaged in sexual activity with two minors.

Society: those wicked girls!

"He's still a kid himself!" says someone trying to justify an adult engaging in sexual activity with two minors.

"Why did they keep coming back?" says someone who assumes the girls were sneaking in to play games with an older guy, ignoring other possibilities - like that the girls were relatives spending the night, pressured into playing games with a creepy uncle that also lived in the house. (That's a scenario that also explains his parents' reaction: they immediately kicked him out of the house, and are on the record stating that these 'games' took place when they were asleep or not home. That doesn't sound like they were unaware of the girls' presence - or, possibly, their son's proclivities.)

"Those girls aren't so innocent," says someone who's never met anyone involved in this story, and who assumes that the female teens bear responsibility rather than the adult male.

I emphasize the gender because the gender is important - it's why the teens are being demonized, and why their rapist is being excused. He's just a poor boy, barely out of his teens, but they're teenage girls, and therefore brazen hussies.

It's bullshit, ladies and gents. The adult is always responsible. That's what being an adult is: being responsible. I don't care if the teens were willing participants - and remember, the charges specifically say they weren't. (No, being in a man's room is not the same as consenting, even if they were old enough to consent, which they weren't.) But even if the girls were up for it, it was still his responsibility as the adult to say NO and to not take advantage of the situation.

Concentric Kvetching

Saturday, 8 March 2014 03:27 am
mokie: FLCL's Naota silhouetted holding a guitar (impressed)
I want to save this forever and ever.

Psychologist Susan Silk came up with a handy visualization of concentric rings to help people avoid saying the wrong thing to a person going through tough times.

At the center of the diagram is the person at the center of the situation - for example, a man who is seriously ill. The people in that person's life are arranged outward from the center in circles of ever-decreasing intimacy: his spouse and immediately family are one circle out from center, their close friends a circle beyond that, then extended family and aunties followed by co-workers (or maybe vice versa, depending on how the family feels), then acquaintances, then that sales clerk who always says hello and the guy who sometimes reads the ill man's blog, ad infinitum.

The rules: care goes inward, venting comes outward.

The sick man needs a shoulder to lean on, not to have to support everyone else and make sure they're okay with his condition. At the same time, his immediately family needs support from their extended family, not to have to comfort a distant aunt who wants to wax dramatic about how this illness devastates her. And if that aunt happens to be in town and stops by the shop, a sympathetic word from the sales clerk would be great, but not a lot of fretting about a customer he barely knows.

Given that so many of us worry about what to say, saying the wrong thing, what we think we'd want to hear if we were in those shoes, etc., this is a nice reminder that we're not at all in those shoes, and that some situations shouldn't be about what we need or want, but about what someone else needs from us.
mokie: Red-haired punk Vyvyan makes rude gestures at the viewer (snotty)
An odd trend popped up and caught my eye over the last decade: failing businesses requesting donations to keep from going under. I mean donations literally: not an exchange of goods and services, but outright requests for money to pay off outstanding rent and utility bills. They were usually from bookshops under three years old, crossing my path because I am bookish and frequented bookish sites and forums where the requests appeared.

What the requests suggested to me, depending on the details:
- The owner did not have a viable business plan and knew diddly-squat about running a business.
- The owner confused their daydreams about what they'd do with 'the keys to the candy shop' with having a business plan.
- The owner confused being a business in the business of [whatever] with being a church in the service of [whatever].
- The owner confused being a business in a community with being a community center.
- The owner should have started a club instead, as it seemed they wanted a place to hang out with fellow [whatever] lovers rather than a business.
- The business was already beyond saving.

Bookshops aren't really the point here, but they do illustrate it well.

First, more than half of all new businesses fail by their fourth year, simply because new business owners are inexperienced. Successful business owners usually have a few failed businesses under their belt; their failures taught them the pitfalls of business, how to mess up and pick themselves up and eventually succeed. Bookish people who've long daydreamed of having their own bookshop look from a customer's point of view, seeing a lack of bookshops as a need for bookshops, but missing the obvious counterpoint: shops with decades of experience in successful operation were put out of business by Amazon and the chains, and those that survived did so because they had advantages others didn't (like a great walkable urban location) or because they made changes that brought in a wider range of people (like bric-a-brac hunters).

Second, these small business owners overestimated the importance of their interests to the local community, and their role within the community. To bookish folks, a refrigerator is just an appliance, a bath towel just a flop of cloth. They're just things. Books are different, sacred vessels to which we entrust ideas, containers for other worlds and lives. Opening a bookshop isn't just like having the keys to the candy shop - it's like being entrusted with your own church. A church of candy, even. That lends itself to unhealthy expectations, because to the rest of the community, a book is just a thing, and even dedicated bibliophiles are going to have to pay their own rent first.

That's why new and troubled bookshops take to their blogs and Facebook pages, asking for $15,000 in a month to cover their outstanding debts so they can stay in business. They do a little interview with the local paper about how they'll have to shut their doors if the community doesn't come through and show it values its bookshops, and keep Twitter abuzz with updates. They'll certainly get a few more customers, mostly looking for really good going-out-of-business sales, but I haven't seen a single bookshop yet saved by begging the community to keep their dreams afloat.

For some, as the deadline looms, the bitterness creeps in. If all the people offering supportive comments were regular customers... If they were real book lovers, they'd have been there all along, and the shop wouldn't be in trouble. They get huffy at what they see as invasive questions, because who do you think you are, asking them about their business plan and how you can be sure they wouldn't be asking for donations again in a few months? How dare you want to make sure your money wouldn't be wasted? They forget that they run a business, not a charity or a church or a fucking community rec center, and that nobody owes them a goddamn thing - certainly not to be rewarded with free money for their incompetence, no questions asked. "Show us you value our business" is the customer's line.

The community sees a business begging, and a business begging for donations is a business that's bad at businessing. Why throw good money after bad? That hardly gives them any confidence in the business owner's competence.

The community wants to see the business taking steps to fix its own problems, and telling them how they can help - not that it's dead in the water unless its customers come up with a load of cash. People will happily help someone raise money to start a business (and I will, because St. Louis needs Dr. Dan's Pancake Van). People will gladly patronize a business if they like it and it fulfills a need or want for them. People don't want to be blamed for a business they've never heard of going under, however, or shamed for not taking up the flag in someone's personal cause, be it books, raw dog food or organic produce.

To be clear: the point is not bookshops, failing bookshops, how many bookshops turn to donations/crowdfunding, that small businesses should not ask for help, that small businesses should not be given help, or that one should write off troubled businesses as, "Oh well, do-over." It's that the community loves to give businesses support, but asking for charity makes a business look non-viable.

All of which brings us to the inspiration for this ramble!

A local organic grocer's expansion fell through, and now the business is in debt and at risk. Though only five years old, they are pretty well established on the local food scene, and increasing their business steadily. On social media, they're sending a business message that suggests confidence and capability: we're responsible and well-run, not asking for donations but having a sale to raise funds to fix an identified issue. Not a hand-out, just a hand-up - that sort of thing.

It's perfect! It should appeal not just to the organic church and choir, but also to the community. Except, in local print media...
Horine says it would defy the Local Harvest ethos of building a stronger local-food community to close without first turning to that community for help.

"We've always stuck with it," he says. "We believe in what we're doing. It sounds cliché, but we feel like it's bigger than us. So we're going to give the community a chance to try to save it." (Ian Froeb, "Local Harvest Grocery and restaurants face imminent closure, seek help", St. Louis Post-Dispatch 27 January 2014)
Give the community a chance to... Gah!
The Scoop talked with Earnest about her fund raising plans. “What we built the [Local Harvest] model on was building a local food community,” Earnest said. “People will have the chance to say…whether it’s important that we continue to exist. Whether it’s worth it. Whether it’s right for them. Obviously we think so, but do they?” (Ligaya Figueras, "The Scoop: Local Harvest launches community fund raising campaign to avoid closure", Sauce Magazine 27 January 2014)
Whether it's worth.... Gah! 'Cause' wording undermines any sense of confidence and capability. By shifting all action to the consumer, it doesn't tell us how (or if) the business is trying to fix its problem, if there's a plan besides "beg for donations help", if the problem has even been identified or if this is just rescheduling a crisis. It's all just "Support my church of candy! Don't you love candy? Prove it!"

Besides, who says something like that when they're asking you for money? "I need $1000 to pay my rent and heating bill and buy food. You have the chance to say whether it's important to you that I don't freeze to death homeless and starving on the street." And why am I hearing Sarah McLachlan?

To the owners, local and organic is its own little church of candy. To the 'church and choir' customers, it's local, it's organic, but it's also asking for a lot of money, while using language that puts responsibility for its success or failure on the people it's borrowing from. To the community that might have been persuaded to help a local business out, it's a goddamn business, and they do not need to prove any goddamn thing to a goddamn business. The community does not have to prove its love, prove that it cares, prove that it values a certain kind of business. The business has to prove that it's not going to tank and leave people high and dry with worthless gift certificates. Because it's a business, not a cause.

SPACEBALLS: THE CLARIFICATION! (and update): Yes, this entry was edited to clarify the intent (I hope), eliminate some repetition, and address my lack of caffeination when it was written. But more importantly, on February 1st, LHC met their funding goal, and the villagers rejoiced!
mokie: Ghostbusters' Vinz Clortho wears a collander and answers questions (SCIENCE!)
A conversation observed, paraphrased and annotated:

Naive poster: "My friend is a nurse and washes her hands all the time, but I looked at her lotion and it's full of all these chemicals. I'm going to make her some all-natural homemade lotion! With coconut oil, and sunflower oil, and..."

Note: Many medical facilities use latex gloves and barriers. Oil-based products break down latex. This is a bad, bad idea.

Helpful people: "Since your friend works with sick people, sterilizing your equipment and using a preservative is a must. This is usually the problem people run into with homemade lotions."

TRUE. Lotions are water-based, and water-based products are almost guaranteed to succumb to mold and bacterial growth eventually, even with a preservative. Products made without a preservative should be refrigerated and used within a month, and not on broken skin, because seriously y'all, cooties.

Naive poster: "How does a preservative keep someone from spreading infection? Pshaw!"

...ungh.

Helpful people: "It keeps bacteria from growing in the lotion. The lotion she spreads on her hands. The hands she touches equipment and sick people with."

Not at all helpful people:
- "You can just use vitamin E."
- "Or grapefruit extract."
- "I like rosemary oleoresin."
- "Essential oils make great natural preservatives."

Helpful people: "No, none of those things are preservatives. Several are antioxidants. They prolong the life of the oils, but they don't stop bacteria and fungi from growing in the product."

Not at all helpful people: "I don't use water in my lotions, just aloe juice, so it's not an issue for me."

Helpful people: "Aloe juice is water-based. Juices in general are still water-based. Is your lotion made with liquid? Then you still need a preservative."

People who work in an actual medical setting: "Guys, the products we're allowed to use are strictly regulated for exactly these reasons. Also, oil-based products break down latex."

See?

Scoffing scofferson: "Don't all lotions contain oils? Harumph and pshaw."

No. For example, products made for industries that use latex--

Scoffing scofferson: "Sounds like more chemicals to me."

And this is why you should be a little more cautious when buying handmade personal care products, especially from folks throwing around the terms 'all-natural', 'preservative-free', 'herbal', and (especially) 'great for kids': because good intentions are no substitute for actually knowing what the fuck you're doing before you put the health of total strangers at risk.
mokie: Man with an old computer monitor for a head drinks through a straw (eljay drama)
The old joke is that Livejournal users hate Livejournal.

Most of it isn't really a Livejournal thing, but an Internet thing: once a website reaches a certain size, long-time users begin to reject all change to it. Not just the big stupid changes to functionality that break the way they've always used the site, either--even small, trivial changes get blown out of proportion. Every foaming-mad comment is really the user saying, "This is to please those new people, isn't it? What about me? I was here first!" It's not so much a rejection of change as it is a rejection of that loss of insider status.

But anyway.

What about this phenomenon at LJ makes it seem so silly?

How about a comment thread where an admin essentially reassures a Russian-speaking user that they can ask questions in their native tongue and be understood, and the English-speaking users wig out and accuse the admin of attacking the user for not asking questions in Russian?
mokie: Thelma Harper glares at the viewer (stfu)
I'm medicated, because it turns out I'm allergic to coconut. (Ooops.) It also turns out that Benedryl makes me chatty--more so than liquor, surprisingly. And thus you get the benefit of my doofy wisdom!

#1. Vaguebooking is punishing everyone who reads because one person pissed you off. It's throwing a rock into a group because you're angry and you want someone to pay attention. It's an act of verbal aggression, and should be met with equal aggression--call that shit out when you see it.

#2. I don't mean privately. Those "Are you OK?" private messages and emails are what the poster wants, someone to come and coddle them so they can spread their misery around without actually asking for help or dealing with the person they're upset with. It just feeds that godawful behavior.

#3. I don't mean nicely, either. Vaguebooking is punishing everyone because you're mad at one person. That's not nice behavior and it doesn't deserve a nice response.

#4. At the same time, I know sometimes folks are just looking to vent. They're not trying to passively-aggressively lash out at someone, they're not asking for help, they just need to release a little steam before the auto-smacking starts. The problem really comes in when they fail to notice that all of their blog posts or status updates or tweets or [insert next big thing in social media] are this kind of venting, because they're never actually socialling in their media--they're just sticking anyone who reads in the position of having to be their ear for venting, without ever giving anything but venting.

#5. And who the fuck wants to read a non-stop negativity engine, just churning out nothing but misery and spite? Fuck, at least toss people a cat picture once in a while.

#6. Ironically, this looks very much like vaguebooking. I'm aware of that. Two minutes before I loaded Semagic, the free-form rant flowing through my wobbly grey bits was all about avocados, so at least this is moderately relevant to the medium.

Edited for clarification: I could have also mentioned in #6 that what sparked the vaguebooking rant was some Buzzfeed article in passing, but that would have made too much sense.
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.
mokie: Cartoon of an angry tea pot raging (drink tea)
Is there anything more fun than being slammed with a cold/sinus infection and still having work to do? Besides being dangled from a tree like a piñata full of phlegm and hit with sticks by small children, that is. Being sick sends me back to my comfort teas, one of which is Eastern Shore Tea Company's Plum Good, which can be ordered from Baltimore Coffee & Tea Company.

In the Bag:
This tea also sends me back to that problem of unlisted ingredients. The site describes Plum Good as, "Deep, rich, satisfying flavor, highlighted with soft cinnamon, for an intriguing aroma. Flavored black tea. Contains caffeine. Loose tea in 1 lb. (454 g.) bag." It mentions nothing of cloves, which are plain to see, or finely red shredded petals that a recent Steepster review called hibiscus. [ETA: the company confirmed the ingredients by email as black tea, soft cinnamon, clove, hibiscus and plum extract.] Both are ingredients that make people wary--hibiscus is my mortal enemy, for example--and neither is present here in significant amounts, so I can see leaving them out of the tea's sales blurb. Omitting mention of them entirely is a different story.

(Curiously enough, I knew there were cloves in it when I went to order, and was surprised that they weren't listed. It makes me wonder if the 3oz 'ribbon bags' I used to buy locally do/did have a full ingredient list.)

When I open the bag, the scent is a burst of bubblegum. Bubblegum flavor itself is a blend of wintergreen, vanilla and cinnamon (or cassia), so I wouldn't be surprised by a bit of vanilla in the ingredients/flavoring, too, though it may just be the fruity plum and cinnamon scent playing off my mental scent pre-sets.

The Steepening:
For the first cup, a teaspoon (eyeballed) in a mug with a mesh basket infuser, boiling water straight from the kettle, steeped about 2 minutes, and topped with a small dollop of mixed local and orange blossom honey for my sore throat. (Because I hate having 2 tall jars each with a half-inch of honey left, when I can have one smaller jar with plenty. Also, local honey is clover-heavy, and clover honey is an affront to all that is good and teaful.) For the second cup, the tea resteeped, no honey and untimed because I'm easily distracted. The scent is warm and fruity, all cinnamon and plum, as advertised.

The Verdict:
Not as deep and rich as you'd expect from the description, nor as complex or spicy as you might expect with cinnamon and cloves in the mix, but very satisfying nonetheless--not unlike a tea-incarnation of the Doors' "The End" perhaps. (Sorry, Boomers.) Sure, it's got a little bass and depth, and isn't the high and bright one-note tea many fruit blends are. Its spicy side is nicely warm and mellow and supports that fruity depth like a wonderbra or a really mixed metaphor, where many spicy blends are just heat, or just spice for the sake of being spicy. It plays well with both milk and sweeteners, but has a natural sweetness if you want to forgo the extras.

But it isn't all that deep or complicated, and that's a good thing, because sometimes you just want the tea equivalent of a warm blanket. A warm, bubblegum-scented, 10-minute groovin' Space Coyote blanket. Okay, maybe that last bit's the decongestant talking.

If the red petals are hibiscus, I'm impressed that I don't taste it. I'm used to companies overusing it as filler, and letting it overwhelm the taste of their blends, but if it's hibiscus, it seems to be only accentuating the fruitiness of the plum in this blend. For those suspicious of cloves, they're not a supervillain here either: SeriousEats suggests that clove boosts fruity flavors, adds a little heat and plays well with cinnamon, and it just seems to be doing just that and only that. And adding a little Christmas vibe, but I don't think it can help that.

It's the perfect cup for waking up from an 11-hour nap and considering going back to bed.
mokie: Red Dwarf's Rimmer does a very embarrassing dance (people are crazy)
Yes, seriously.

First, there's the very popular "Hitler took everybody's guns! If the Jews had guns, maybe the Holocaust wouldn't have happened!", which Salon answers nicely:
Proponents of the theory sometimes point to the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising as evidence that, as Fox News’ Judge Andrew Napolitano put it, “those able to hold onto their arms and their basic right to self-defense were much more successful in resisting the Nazi genocide.” But as the Tablet’s Michael Moynihan points out, Napolitano’s history (curiously based on a citation of work by French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson) is a bit off. In reality, only about 20 Germans were killed, while some 13,000 Jews were massacred. The remaining 50,000 who survived were promptly sent off to concentration camps. (Alex Seitz-Wald, "The Hitler gun control lie", Salon 11 January 2013)
The same article also points out that Hitler did not come for everybody's guns, as the much-cited 1938 law actually deregulated gun ownership for most residents. It restricted gun ownership for Jews, but was just one of many restrictions on the Jews.

(Those wondering when Jews became non-white might as easily ask Google when Italians became white, or when the Irish became white, or ask why some Iranians get upset when referred to as non-white. Race isn't as simple as skin color--it has lots to do with social and historical context and power, us vs them dichotomies, and at times with who is and isn't considered fully 'people' at all. You can find books on it from the Jewish perspective, if you're curious. In the meantime, you can think of it as 'ethnically specific tragedies', if you find that easier.)

Then there's Gawker's story, with a title that speaks for itself: "Al Sharpton Rips Into ‘Gun Appreciation Day’ Chairman Who Thinks Slavery Might Not Have Happened If We Had Just Given Black People Guns"

Yes, seriously.

Of course, it was a different story when groups of black people actually were arming themselves, and the NRA helped to draft gun control measures instead of fighting against gun control. Meanwhile, remember when the neo-cons argued that slavery wasn't so bad, bred mutual respect between the races, and at least kept black families together in 2-parent households? Or when Quentin Tarantino decided he was an expert on history and declared "Roots" 'inauthentic'? Okay, that last one's unrelated...

Except that, for both "Inglourious Basterds" and "Django Unchained", Tarantino has been criticized as exploiting another race's past tragedy and rewriting it as a revenge fantasy, ignoring history and, some believe, implying that the oppressed could have taken care of themselves had they just grabbed those bootstraps and gotten a little more inventively violent.

Huh. Guess it does apply.

And this is just the headline-level racial fuckery emerging from the gun control debate. It's not touching on comment sections, where eyes are rolled, racial slurs are tossed out, and the threatening specter of the gangbanger is waved. It comes together as a disjointed vision of a Mad Max future, in which armed and melanistically-rich criminals roam free and run Bartertown, formerly known as the US of A, and by the way, their ancestors could have saved themselves from us pasty bastards in the first place if only they'd had guns.

Except nobody is enslaving us. Nobody is forcing us into concentration/re-education camps, or sending us off to Thunderdome.* There was a whole lot more going on in pre-Civil War America and the Third Reich than the oppressed parties not having guns, and much of that had to do with those parties being considered barely (or not even) human by the Powers That Be.

Guns aren't what's keeping society from suddenly imploding on itself. Society isn't imploding because, despite all the gloom, doom, school shootings and terrible cable reality shows, it works pretty well for the most part. Rethinking our stance on guns to take military weaponry off the streets isn't going to change that, or leave us bare and defenseless against barbarians at the gate. It might, however, stop a mass-murdering fuckhead or two from donning body armor and walking into a school to make himself famous.

Meanwhile, as some folks are suggesting that the only thing those other folks needed to fix their problems was more guns, completely different folks are uncomfortably wondering exactly why killers who arm themselves and walk into schools almost always turn out to be young middle-class white men. Is it just statistics? A dramatic rise in mental illness, or a dramatic drop in effective treatment? A pathological reaction to stressful times, changing demographics and social norms, and/or loss of status?

This is progress of a sort, given that a decade ago, we were uncomfortably discussing whether these killers were monsters created by video games or monsters created by bullying. Now that bullying is an openly discussed issue, video games aren't just for easily-demonized geeks anymore, and more killers clearly fall outside the stereotype of the kid playing out his revenge fantasy in real life, we can stop asking why that person committed this one horrible crime and start asking what it is about our culture that's incubating this trend.


* I know there's a tangent on the American penal system in here waiting for someone, but I've only got the one rant in me today.

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)
Feminism exploded all over my Internets from unexpected sources!

The other day, Cracked offered a lesson in tough love with 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person, and in the process nailed Nice Guys: "Don't say that you're a nice guy -- that's the bare minimum. Pretty girls have guys being nice to them 36 times a day. [...D]on't complain about how girls fall for jerks; they fall for those jerks because those jerks have other things they can offer."

Today, Gawker points out [the now-defunct site] "Nice Guys" of OKCupid in all their glorious douchebaggery, complete with a handy flowchart.

I'm surprised. I mean, you expect it of Jezebel, which even offered a field guide to Nice Guys recently, but Cracked? That's dude-central!

Edited for clarification: In much the same way that 'killer whale' as a term refers to a specific breed of whale and not just random homicidal cetaceans, 'Nice Guy' is a term for a specific type of guy engaged in a specific type of behavior, which is described in-depth at the sites linked above.

Essentially, a Nice Guy is a manipulative man who befriends a girl but has ulterior motives in doing so. He has a sexual/romantic interest in her but fears he'll be rejected if he asks her out directly, so instead he attempts to weasel into her circle of friends. There he encourages her to rely on him for emotional support, and often tries to sabotage her relationship by badmouthing whoever she's with ("Why are you with him? He's a jerk!"). The Nice Guy does these things under the mistaken belief that the girl will have a magical epiphany about how great he is, and he'll be upgraded to boyfriend/rewarded with sex. Unfortunately for him, girls can't read minds either, so the object of his affection generally thinks of him as a friend—you know, since that's how he's putting himself out there.

Since he's not actually her friend and it's all a sham, he will eventually turn on her for being a bitch who only likes jerks, and then wander off to whine about friend-zones and how girls only go for assholes who treat them like shit by, oh, asking them out directly and interacting with them like people instead of "machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out."

Naturally, Nice Guys don't grasp the difference between themselves and actual nice guys.
mokie: Ghostbusters' Vinz Clortho wears a collander and answers questions (nerdy)
First I flood you with dream entries, then my social ineptness, and now nitpickity book talk. I bet this isn't the exciting chronicle of chronic excitement you thought it would be.

For those who believe there's nothing as boring as hearing someone else's dreams, let me reassure you that I don't usually remember and record them this often, and this recent burst of dream entries probably won't last. For those uninterested in my social ineptness, you and my mother both. For those who don't care what I'm reading, take solace in the fact that I at least cut the spoilers. Unless you're reading by RSS, which I hear ignores cuts, in which case...oops?

Now, onto the nitpickity book talk!

I've made no secret of the fact that I'm twitchy about genres. There are genres for settings (westerns), genres for audience (young adult), genres about types of relationships (romance), genres that include unreal elements (fantasy), genres that include unreal elements that could be real maybe (science fiction), genres about types of relationships that include unreal elements (paranormal romance, though arguably chick lit would fit here too), genres within genres, genres overlapping genres, an entire wide swath of fiction dismissively dubbed 'genre'. It's chaos!

It irks me.

I look upon my shelves of science fiction/fantasy and sigh with relief at the convenient compromise that is 'speculative fiction'. I glance at the horror shelves and wince at the idea of a genre based not on the book, but on how the reader reacts to the book. I organize my nonfiction shelves by the Dewey Decimal System because it makes sense.

So I was happy to stumble on The King of Elfland's Second Cousin's entry "Ephemeral Horror and the Diffusion of Genre Markers" even if it wasn't about ephemeral horror, as I thought, but about horror as an ephemeral genre, which is something of an ephemeral horror. This will start making sense any minute now, I promise.

The following points made my inner M&M sorter very happy:

#1. "[W]e categorize stories based on the conventions they employ and the devices that show up within their texts. Spaceships, time travel, aliens? Let’s call it science fiction. Magic and knights? Let’s go with fantasy. [...] These devices, the objects and tropes of most genres, can easily be slapped on a cover to communicate the story’s category to booksellers and readers."

Sometimes, in my flailing about order and chaos and systems for big cohesive pictures, I lose sight of the tiny common sense trees--namely, that 'genre' is just a fancy French word for 'kind', and is not, never was, and never will be some high and mighty literary infrastructure. It's just a big mental box into which vaguely similar stories are tossed so that the stuff you like is near the other stuff you like, so you can find more stuff you like.

#2. "Horror lacks the constraints that more solidified genre conventions impose. We can write a horror story – like Shirley Jackson’s classic 'Flower Garden' – without a single element of the supernatural or the inexplicable. [...] This freedom means that – in order to be effective – horror must sneak past the reader’s natural defenses, must directly speak to the reader’s perceptions, values, and fears. This is the kind of deep-seated, emotional and perceptual communication that the literary fiction genre has traditionally claimed for itself. But where literary fiction uses such emotional and philosophical intimacy to explore comfortably distanced morality, horror uses a highly sensitized point-of-view to get as close to the nerve as possible, to map even the most painful experiences from the inside."

It's a fantastic parallel: like a good horror story, the horror genre is about wandering into the dark and unfamiliar room to check out that bump you just heard.

I've argued the merits of horror with haters before, and pointed out that like fancy pants literary fiction, good horror says something about the viewer and society (and not just "We watch movies with naked co-eds taking a hatchet to the face"). To play on our fears, horror has to be able to get into our heads and push the buttons it finds there.

#3. No quote here, because it's a bit too spread out, but the point is brilliant: there are (of course) horror tropes, except when we become too used to them, they stop being horror tropes.

When horror begins relying on tropes to define it, those tropes cease to be scary, and in a fundamental way, the works that feature them stop being horror. Once the tropes are no longer new and unsettling--once we know them by heart--we begin to redefine and re-imagine them. We turn vampires into moody romantic leads, disfigured undead serial killers into comedians, and the lonely werewolf from an alienated loner into a member of a highly organized underground society of walking AIDS metaphors.

It won't make me change how I organize my reviews, but it does have me rethinking the horror movies of my youth.
mokie: A stack of old letters, tied with twine (dear letter)
Dear World:

I have a terrible sense of humor that skews dark and moody at times--especially in dark and moody times like these. I crack jokes not because I'm a bad person, or an insincere person, or an unsympathetic person, or because I can't take serious things as seriously as they need to be taken. I crack jokes because I can't walk around all gothy with my naked lacerated soul exposed to the salty, lemon juice-covered whip o' fate. I'm not wired for that kind of emotional exposure.

One person's wailing and gnashing is no more or less moral than another person's stiff upper lip, but realize that neither is more or less moral, either, than still another person's daring to crack a joke at a funeral. People cope in different ways.

As if this weren't bad enough, I also tend to slip into thinky-thinky headspace instead of emotional space when emotions are running very high, because I need things to make sense, and in some ways I think my emotions better than I feel them. It's hard to explain, but again, no less legitimate than anyone else's reactions.

The relevance to you is that I may respond to long rants about the evils of evil things with something that starts, "Well, technically..." and goes downhill from there.

I'm not trying to pick a fight or piss you off. I'm usually good (I think) about realizing when a rant is a rant and not a dialogue or an opening to a discussion, and staying out of the way. But sometimes my radar on this slips up, and I try to debate when you're trying to stomp, and it gets all fucked up. It's not personal, and I welcome you to tell me you're in rant mode--I'll back off and we'll both be spared some hard feelings.

The one thing I will not do, World, is let you chastise me for how I feel during troubled times, criticize how I express those feelings, or dictate to me the proper way to 'be'. Try it and I'll show you some emotion, starting with rage and ending with my foot up your ass. (It's one of those German emotions we don't have a name for: schoedenrump, the mortification of finding your moral superiority suddenly lodged in your colon.)

In closing, World, I know we don't always operate the same way, but that's the beauty of this whole Earthling experience. Some of us put it into song, some of us put it into action, some of us put it into a pint of ice cream and a sad movie marathon, but at the end of the day, we're sharing it, and that's the important part. Except the ice cream. Get your own.

Yours truly,
the always socially inept mokie

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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.

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