Friday, December 31, 2004

Things to Do Tomorrow

1) go jogging

2) write a story that Ellen Datlow will buy

3) start reading Susan Bordo's The Male Body

4) lounge around and drink coffee

5) be thankful for this life, cause it frickin rocks

Media Dump

Note: there really needs to be another person in this house to eat the rest of this Thai food. Any volunteers?

Napoleon Dynamite:

I'd heard how wonderfully funny this movie was, so I was surprised that it wasn't so much laugh-out-loud funny as it was quietly amusing. As my buddy Stephanie said, "It's just like highschool... you feel like a dork the whole time, you want the wrong girl who doesn't like you and end up with the more sensible girl..."

Though I would have preferred the sensible girl to keep her dorky off-kilter ponytail even there at the end. My favorite scenes: when the cow gets shot (I'm from a rural town, after all), when Napoleon does his dance, and "Pedro offers you his protection."

Bourne Supremacy:

I've always had a thing for Matt Damon (my dad's officially said that if I dated Matt Damon, that would be OK. This is a big step for my dad), so as someone who's watching it as an action movie about Matt Damon, it was OK. As usual, I was irritated that people keep casting Julia Styles in lackluster nothing roles. If you want to see her shine, watch her and Stockard Channing in The Business of Strangers.

They killed Franka Potente, but honestly, the only thing she's ever had me swooning about was Run Lola Run. She just hasn't gotten anything powerful since, at least that I've seen.

Rambo II:

Ah. The 80s. When men were men and the Russians were Evil. Such a simpler time. And it's got a script co-written by James Cameron, so there's a chick with a gun; but the other co-writer was Sly Stallone, so she had to talk like "Me love you long time" and die. Because it's a masculinity movie. Not that there's anything wrong with masculinity movies about saving your buddies and fighting for what you believe in. In fact, that's what the good masculinity movies are all about. Hence, the reason I watch them.

I've also been playing Myst IV, Revelation, which is neat-o. As expected. This was a good thing, cause Uru kinda sucked, as I'm not really into multi-player interactive games, and frankly, not having any digitized people in it was a real turn off for me. There's something about these Myst worlds that I really adore. I don't play any other computer games (except Cossaks, but that's Jenn's fault), so whenever the Myst games come out, I pounce on them. I also take about a year to actually beat them, so I get my money's worth.

It's good practice in patience, which, as many know, I really need.

Tonight's Vintage

Is a Rancho Zabaco zinfandel (2002). Unlike most zinfandel's I was familiar with, this one's actually a deep, meaty red. Quite tasty. Not only that, but you can get yourself a bottle for $10.

Went bike riding today, and went wandering around the ice floes at the beach. I love living near water.

In case you can't tell, yes, I'm rather bored out of my mind, which is why I'm sitting here at the computer, waiting for some brilliant story idea to come over me so I can afford to go to Glasgow in August.

Brilliance remains illusive.

It's going to be a long weekend. Bear with me.

Clean Up

Cleaned up my blogroll and deleted all the blogs that I just don't get to regularly. My blogroll doesn't neccessarily serve as a "read this" list, but an "I read this" list. I also added a bunch that I've been swinging over to more recently. A couple of these - Echidne of the Snakes and Bitch Ph.D. - were a long time overdue, and I'm sure that most of my regular readers are familiar with them.

I've also added the LJ Feminist Forum. Where are the all the women bloggers? Well, there's a shitload of people on LJ who don't get any props, either.

Finally, I decided to add a couple of guys who I keep up with regularly but never added to the blogroll. They're more personal blogs written by liberal-leaning twenty-somethings, and they don't update very often, but if I keep going over there all the time, it's dumb not to add them to my bloglist.

Brendan of These Days is a pschology major living in Brooklyn (in addition to being a fanatic sports fan, he's also done some intern work with NOW, as I recall), and Simon Owens is an English major at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania and a slipstream writer. He's got a link portal called LitHaven that showcases great speculative fiction/slipstream stories and articles.

Finally, I've added Jason Kuznicki, a history graduate student, an atheist, and a libertarian. His site, Positive Liberty, has got some cool stuff up worth thinking about.


I'm going through my blogs, and I checked out the Big Fat Blog cafe press store. They've got these stickers and a tote bag that say, "The average American woman is a size 14."

And it occurred to me that what I really wanted was a tote/bumper sticker that said:

"The average American woman is a size 14... and she can kick your ass."

I'm easily amused this morning.

No, Sir, I Love My SUV

Holy crap, it's 56 degrees outside.

In Chicago.

On New Year's Eve.

Global warmings great as long as you don't live on the coast!


Yes, I've just rolled out of bed. I think I'm still on PST. I knew I was still asleep when I tried to dump my protein powder into my coffee grinder. WTF, they're all in the same cupboard.

It's going to be one of those kinds of days.

News from on the Ground

I just got an e-mail from Ginmar, a self-described "blue-collar feminist" currently serving in Iraq. I'd found her lj sometime back through - of all channels - the science fiction circles, where TNH of Making Light re-posted one of her combat posts, and a huge comments controversy ensued (a woman couldn't have been under fire, women aren't soldiers in Iraq. Yea. Serious blah blah bullshit).

And I realized I didn't have Ginmar on my blogroll.


Check out her lj.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Confessions of a Binge Eater

At 3pm, I broke out the Belgian chocolates.

I should have been eating my 3pm protein bar, but there was that whole box of Belgian chocolates, and the HR manager and my new boss were trying to figure out who the hell was in charge of getting me to Denver (my credit card is maxed out and can't be used even if it's later company reimbursed), and I was filling out applications for my own corporate credit card (limit: $3500), and I'd been doing some paperwork for my new boss and getting weird reactions, and then he e-mailed someone else to take care of my travel info, and said I was going to be doing even more traveling to oversee document controls at other locations, and oh, Belgian chocolates...

I ate four of them before forcing myself to close the box, and it was an immensely sad moment, because I knew in that moment that I'd have to throw them all away now. And I'd have to throw away the rest of the brownies at the house. I tried to figure out how to keep them in the house until Jenn got home on the 5th. I hate wasting food, and my only out for these treats was to have her take them to her fellow Ph.D. candidates when she got back. I thought I could tie them up in a garbage sack and hide them under her bed... no. No, that won't work.

Believe me. I know.

I've mentioned several times in this blog that I'm a binge eater, but I don't know that I ever really discussed what that means for me.

My buddy Jenn knows that when I go out to buy some sort of treat I'm craving and eat my fill of it, whatever remains - whether it's the other 11 cookies in the dozen box, or the remaining 1/4 lb of the 1/2 lb of gingerbread - either has to get thrown away (and, if it's a *really* bad day, I actually have to take the garbage out to the street - yea, I'm one of *those* binge eaters), or she has to take it in to her fellow students, or she has to hoard it for herself in her room (she's an amazing hoarder).

I can't have it in the house.

Because when I feel out of control, when my confidence starts to break, when I despair, I go straight for all the processed crap food I can find. And if I get a taste of it and there's more to eat and I'm in freak-out mode, I'll start shaking like some sort of strung-out drug addict. The physical need for that entire box of chocolates becomes overwhelming.

When I finally made the decision to get my shit together (again) last January, I remember how difficult it was to walk past the shit-food stand by the train station where I'd allowed myself to pocket crap once a week. I mean, hey, I was doing my two or three days a week on the elliptical machine, and some free weights in the morning, so what did it matter, right?

Well, it did and does matter, because sharp increases in glucose are immediately followed by really shitty depressing lows - the old, binge eat and then lie around feeling like you want to kill yourself afterward because you've been so "bad." I realized that if I really wanted to get control over my mood, I had to start controlling what I was eating. That didn't mean being a Nazi: I go out to dinner, have a sweet and coffee on Sundays. But it means no binge eating. No stocking-up. No more highs and lows.

In South Africa, I was a chronic stressball. 1) I was truly living on my own for the first time (outside a dorm) 2) I was going to grad school 3) I was living in a 3rd world foreign country.

I must have eaten enough food for a family of four, smoked enough cigarettes for an army, and downed enough wine to put any alcoholic in my family to shame.

And I told myself when I was there: this is how I'm going to get through this. If I have to eat too much and drink too much and smoke too much, so be it. But when I leave, it's done.

The smoking was easy to kick, but the eating, being a lifelong way of dealing with stress (and something you have to do to survive, at a basic level), was a lot harder. And I struggle with it now and will for the rest of my life.

I think I always hoped, growing up, that one day I would just get it all figured out. For three years - in Alaska and a year just before it - I really thought I'd figured out the fat girl thing. I was eating well and exercising and staying at a good weight in a strong body... I loved being outside. I biked everywhere. I lived mainly on eggs and rice during the week and some pizza and coffee treats on the weekends. But I forgot that being better is something that you have to consciously reaffirm every morning. I forgot that if I'm left to my own devices, I'll fall back on my old ways to deal with stress and uncertainty, and that involves overeating.

In my mind, if all else goes to hell, I know it'll all be OK as long as I've got food, as long as I can eat.

And today at work I was starting to realize what was going to be asked of me in this new job, and I seriously doubted myself.

"What if I can't do this? What if I totally fuck this up?"

I thought of how many millions of dollars these projects are worth, and how being in charge of getting all that documentation means I decide when we get paid, and I thought how easily I could lose my job.... and I started shaking, and needed chocolate.

I got as far as the train station after work before I had to dump the chocolates. It was painful to do. I hate throwing away perfectly good food. I hate being wasteful.

But when those chocolates were in the garbage and I was on the train with an empty box, I felt incredibly light. I felt like somebody'd been pushing down on my shoulders since 3pm, and they finally got off.

I went home and dumped the brownies, too.

And I thought about my job.

And I thought:

What's the worst that can happen?

I can fuck up and get publicly humilated and laughed at in a meeting where I am then fired, and people throw things at me, call me fat and stupid and totally ignorant and unworthy of love, and then toss me out on my ass and refuse to give me a positive reference for my next job.

And I was like, "Oh, is that all?"

Because really, that's the worst that can happen. And somehow, imagining the absolute worst that can happen really frees you up to just take what comes.

So I went home, ate some sushi and had a cup of hot cocoa, rented a bunch of movies (Bourne Supremacy, Napoleon Dynamite, Rambo & Midnight Cowboy - how's that for eclectic taste?) then went out and bought a 2005 wolves calendar, a copy of Bitch magazine, and the extended edition of Return of the King.

And I am prepared for a good, long, weekend of media excess.

You get up every morning, and you start again.

Into the Wild Blue Yonder

Yes. I should be writing. You should be too.

"I worshipped dead men for their strength,
Forgetting I was strong."
- Vita Sackville-West

"Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you."
- John-Paul Sartre

"As long as there are entrenched social and political distinctions between sexes, races or classes, there will be forms of science whose main fucntion is to rationalise and legitimize these distinctions."
- Elizabeth Fee

"Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else."
- Gloria Steinman

Fixing Up the Fighting Life

So, I'll be 25 this year.

So, I have a lot to do.

The idea is to go on a deep-burn: that is, three days a week of fighting classes, two days a week of jogging. I've got the three days of fighting classes down fine - it's the damn jogging routine that I need to get into.

I'm also fiddling with my diet again, because I'm so incredibly sick of protein bars, and because they're damn expensive. I'm moving to meat & vegetables, relying more on mixed-nuts and veggies for snacking, cutting out my week-long rice and whole-wheat pita routine and moving those "treats" to the weekends (with the Thai food), and getting rid of some of my sillier craziness, like macaroni & cheese and white bread.

In April, when the weather's better, I'd also like to start biking to work at least once a week. In June, I'll need to decide if I want to stay at my MA school or move to another gym that offers boxing and rock climbing classes (it's also closer to my house). We'll see what sort of shape I'm in by then.

Pick somebody you want to be. Be that.

Dusting Off the Old Books

Liberated a copy of Gloria Steinem's Revolution From Within from my mom's bookshelf. I don't relate to all the inner child stuff because, well, I really do have fantastic parents, and I didn't have to deal with childhood abuse, but she's got some really fascinating stuff in here about self-esteem and how teaching people self-worth can acutally topple empires (Steve Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement did great things for black South Africans. Her biggest example was Ghandi and the liberation of India).

The idea being that when you're told you're not worthy, you're at the bottom of the pile, when you don't see yourself represented as smart, as worthwhile, you're more likely to act like a loser.

What I found interesting was when Steinem compared the women she'd gone to college with who *then* either got a job, got married, had kids, to the women who'd stayed in her home town, got married, and raised kids. She felt that the women who *didn't* have the higher-end education learned *over time* to have a greater sense of self-worth than the women who'd gone to college.

Her thoughts on why?

College women:

"- Being taught to rever "the classics" of Western civilization, most of which patronize, distort, denigrate, or express hatred for the female half of the human race.

- Learning systems of philosophy that depend on gender dualisms at best and female inferiority at worst; surveying a tradition of art in which women are rarely artists and often objects; studying biology that focuses more on human differences than on human possibilities; [my emphasis] absorbing ethical standards that assume masculine values; and learning theologies that assume all-male dieties.

- Reading history books in which almost all power and agency is assigned to men and being graded for memorizing male accomplishments - with the deep message that we can learn what others do, but never do it ourselves.

- Seeing fewer and fewer females in authority as we climb the education ladder: fewer as faculty, fewer still as deans and presidents, and fewest of all in the fields of science, engineering, poiltics, business, foreign policy, or other specialities valued by the world at large. And if we are of the "wrong" race or class or sexuality, perhaps seeing no one we identify with at all.

- Finally, being isolated from other women - perhaps respended by them - because we are educated like men."

Some interesting stuff to chew on.

Just Work For Free

Can you believe this?

What's Education About, Again?

Poor repressed conservative students. Forced to read the Quran. Having liberal teachers "suggest" that homosexuality might have to do with our biological makeup. Might. Ha.

You know what one of the books we used in one of my women's history courses was? The Bible. Did I start screaming and crying that I was being indoctrinated by conservative professors?

No. I didn't. Why? Cause I was in school to learn stuff. Stuff that I would never have been exposed to outside of college life. Are colleges liberal leaning? That is, do most colleges preach inclusiveness and tell people that hating other people based on their beliefs is bad?

Sure they do.

You run into problems when you get people whose beliefs say that I have to die because I don't believe what they do. If I can tolerate people who think I'm going to hell, why can't they tolerate me?

Oh, that's right:

Because their strength of belief isn't quite so strong as they'd hoped.

If you've got faith: REALLY got faith, learning about what other people think isn't going to be dangerous to you and yours. In fact, it might help you get along better with others. And isn't that the whole point of reaching outside your comfort zone anyway?

The Worklife

I'm back in the office today, and I discovered a box of Belgium chocolates on my desk from one of my male coworkers.

No, not from Yellow. It's never from the one you'd like it to be from.

They're from the most annoying guy in the office, the workaholic who doesn't date because he's at work all the time (in fact, I think he's a 7 on the sliding sexuality scale, but he's got a picture of George and Laura Bush in his office, so I feel he may be sexually repressed in his leanings toward boys).

In any case, I'm really, really, hoping he got *everybody* in the office some Belgium chocolates. Or, knowing him, all of the *women* in the office some Belgium chocolates.

I'm just trying to figure out what the hell to do with these things. I guess I'll put it in the "food items that can't live in my house so Jenn will take them over to her colleagues" pile.

I've also gotten a summons to Denver for next week: I'll be in meetings there the 5-6th and again for a daytrip on the 12th (happy birthday to me) for the project "kickoff."

Wow. Working for a living is really gonna suck.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Oh. It's. So. Good. To. Be. Home.

Praise be to wirless internet.

Falling into my own bed now. G'night.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Some Random Shout-Outs

I do want to mention that I'm really proud of the people of the Ukraine. That's the power of the people.

And a bowing-out to Susan Sontag, who fucking rocked the house.

And for those living in and around Portland, OR there are two copies of Jeff Vandermeer's Veniss Underground and two copies of Secret Life over at Powell's bookstore. Pick `um up. Also, KJ Bishop's The Etched City is now out in mainstream paperback from Spectra. She's got some wicked thoughts.

And start harassing Amazing Stories about buying the third installment of my buddy Patrick's boy-talks-to-sword stories. They're damn funny, and the third one's a hilarious parody of cliched warrior women in fantasy... I'll let you know when it's up, cause you *must* get yourselves a copy of that issue...

Monday, December 27, 2004


The weather's finally gotten sunny here in lovely rural BG, I've been jogging a couple times (one more time tomorrow, and I'll hit my three-times-this-week-goal), the three-days-of-eating fest is over and I'm back to omelettes (oh, thank goodness), had dinner last night with my parents and my brother at Portland City Grill for my soon-arriving-birthday (quarter century, baby), and now it's off for some holiday gift-card spending.

All said, I'll be happy to get back home on Wednesday and get back into my old routine. This has been the perfect sort of break for me: I needed to gear myself up for a really busy year, and I think the events of the week have been a great motivator.

My favorite bit of dialogue at last night's dinner. My family owns a pizza franchise where everybody works, and the dialogue went something like this:

Dad: I know, I treat them like crap. They drive me nuts.

Brother: You should. They deserve it. They're such losers.

Me: How can you treat your employees like that? No wonder you have trouble getting good people.

Brother: Oh, we're not talking about the employees. We're talking about the customers.

I love my family.

Saturday, December 25, 2004


Well. Thank goodness that's over.

Anyhow, via my brother, France is adding anti-gay and anti-women remarks to its anti-racist and anti-semetic remarks list of "things people can say that'll encourage us to send them to jail."

Free speech crosses the line when you threaten violence against somebody else, but you know... I'm glad I live in a country with a first amendment.

Now I understand why the French just don't get stand-up comedy. What would they be allowed to say?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Jet Plane

I'm about to get on a jet plane to the West Coast, but stay tuned:

Tomorrow I'll be ranting a lot about sex, and delivering my much-promised scream-fest about the sexist assumptions of an author's hope-filled matriarchy-cum-S&M-child molestation-rape fest.


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

My Brain's Gonna Explode

Bah. What a frickin' long day.

I'm getting on a jet plane tomorrow afternoon. Got the place all packed up and all is ready to go, and you know what? I'm going to bed. Bed... bed...

I'm so exhausted.

Who Cares?

You know what my response is to the "men want to form long-term relationships with subordinate women because it's biologically good for men" thing is?

Who cares?

And who the hell is asking these questions? Did anyone ask how biologically useful it was for women to be weak and malnourished and grow up hating their bodies? Did anyone ask the guys if they found the idea of being ridiculed by their peers for being "pussy whipped" a factor in their dating choices? Did anyone ask what biological advantage women have for going out with men who enjoy beating the crap out of them?

Why, no. No one asked this. Cause this is about men and what men like.

Who cares about the women?

To which I reply, then why should I care about men?

It's studies like these that try and make it up that men and women should hate each other, that men will always "naturally" be assholes and women will always "naturally" be victims. And these are dangerous images to go selling people.

Blow me.

Fuck the Fucking Fuckers

Boring, boring meeting. Now I know why all the managers are fucking insane.

Corporate says: How many people do you need to do the job?

We say: we need this many people to do the job.

Corporate says: you lie! That's not what we budgeted!

We say: if you're only going to give us what we budgeted, why are we having this conversation?

Corporate says: fuck you, you fucking fuckers!

Anyway, I met Piper today, my new boss, and it looks like I'll be taking on all of document controls. I really want to stay top dog on this particular aspect, and I made it clear I can handle it. So I'm now a Document Controls Manager, with a part-time sort-of staff and at least one full-time staff member who'll we'll pick up in Denver.

Unfortunately, in order to keep this position (and get the right compensation for it), I need to really wow them with how I handle this huge influx of work. It ain't gonna be pretty. In fact, it's gonna suck. The sheer amount of shit they're going to funnel at me is phenomenal.

And yes, I want to do it, cause I HATE being a lowly admin. Document Controls is a slightly less gender-obvious position (which means it involves a lot more "you fucked this up and now everything went to hell" responsibility, and as such, it's better paid). There's also some murmuring about flying me out to Denver for the occasional trip, or relocating me to Denver at a later date, which I don't mind. I'm young and free: now's the time to do it.

I'd really rather I sold a book or something, but if nobody's buying the books, I've gotta figure out how to get what I want the old fashioned way, until something finally hits for me.

Bah. Fuckers.

Gotta Love Lunch

I've got a couple posts up at Alas, A Blog.

Come join the fun.

Somedays, I Work for a Living

Stuck in corp. meetings all day. More tonight.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Guest Blogging at Alas, A Blog

Starting tomorrow, I will be guest blogging over at the always-amazing Alas, A Blog. My partner-in-guest-blogging crime will be Lauren of Feministe.

I'll be doing some crossposting; hopefully producing a good post a day over at Alas in addition to my usual mixed bag of goodness over here.

Should be fun. Hope to see you all there.

One for the Road

Philobiblon has a post up about unisex sport/women in sport (one can't have an interest in women in war and not keep one eye on women in sport), which I'll be addressing tomorrow.

In the mean time, I've got a painter story I need to work on. Today's story reject was from an editor who found one of my women & war stories too "didactic."


Well, I'm just screwed, then.

Someday, when I write better stories, I'll actually get paid for what I write.

Until then, it's bugs, painting, violent women, and a love affair at the end of the world in my latest must-get-it-into-the-mail story, which I need to be working on... right now.

See you all tomorrow.

If I Wasn't at Work, I Would SCREAM

Must. Contain. Myself.

(why the fuck does Jenn send me these links? Satire? Or not? Want to wage a guess?)

The Fellowship Baptist Creation Science Fair is a fair that promotes children's interest in science from a Creationist perspective.

Sounds great, doesn't it? Of course, I thought, nodding happily along, we must include all views of...

And then I saw the "science experiments" that the children engaged in, using thier powers of deductive reasoning:

Elementary School Level

1st Place: "My Uncle Is A Man Named Steve (Not A Monkey)"

Cassidy Turnbull (grade 5) presented her uncle, Steve. She also showed photographs of monkeys and invited fairgoers to note the differences between her uncle and the monkeys. She tried to feed her uncle bananas, but he declined to eat them. Cassidy has conclusively shown that her uncle is no monkey.

2nd Place: "Pine Cones Are Complicated"

David Block and Trevor Murry (grades 4) showed how specifically complicated pine cones are and how they reveal God's design in nature.

And... wait for it.... Here it is!!

Middle School Level

2nd Place: "Women Were Designed For Homemaking"

Jonathan Goode (grade 7) applied findings from many fields of science to support his conclusion that God designed women for homemaking: physics shows that women have a lower center of gravity than men, making them more suited to carrying groceries and laundry baskets; biology shows that women were designed to carry un-born babies in their wombs and to feed born babies milk, making them the natural choice for child rearing; social sciences show that the wages for women workers are lower than for normal workers, meaning that they are unable to work as well and thus earn equal pay; and exegetics shows that God created Eve as a companion for Adam, not as a co-worker.


[EDIT NOTE: I have since been informed that this site is SATIRE. The scariest part about that, is, though... it fooled me. There are enough wingnuts in the world that you just can't go over the top enough to prove a point]

A Short Shout-Out

Thanks to all those coming in via Alas, A Blog (thanks for blogrolling me, Amp) and Pharyngula. And, as usual, hello to everybody reading offsite at the LJ feminist forums and friends' lists.

Good to have you here.


Had a nightmare last night that Yellow found this blog.

Really must rein in my work posts. I have a history of prescient dreaming.

Revenge of the Wingnuts

I've been keeping up with Jeff Jarvis over at buzzmachine and his research into complaints about television programming, FCC censorship, and the like. What's interested me about it is just how few crazies it takes to freak out networks, sponsers, and get television shows slapped with FCC fines.

Just how few does it take?

In a country of about 260 million, about 23.

His latest rant is about wingnuts and religion in America:

There is a debate supposedly emerging -- even raging -- in this country:

One side says that religion is under attack in America.

Another side says America is under attack from religion.

Jeff goes on to say that too much is being made out of a few wingnuts. They're getting too much screen time with the media and bloggers are spending too much time screaming about them. It makes the nutty crazies in the country look like a majority.

My worry? That the nutty crazies will scream so long and so loud that they start to look normal. In response, I'd like to remain screaming loud and long on my own end, as a sort of counterweight.

I think that's fair.

Writing & the Word

John Rickards, "making a shameless bid for linkage again" posted some thoughts on why writers write. Being someone who makes a living writing crime novels, he went straight for the jugular:

To quote 'Fight Club', "You're not your job". And that, when it comes down to it, is what writing professionally is. It's a job. It's fun, it's interesting and it's varied, but it's basically a cool way of earning a living. That's all.

"Looking at it that way, sure, but what about the whole 'writing as a calling?' aspect?" Sarah said in the original backblogs. "Art vs. livelihood. I mean, I'd love to make a living writing, but even if I couldn't, I'd still do it because at least when it comes to fiction, my brain would probably explode if I didn't find a way to write about it."

To which I say, for most writers, bullshit. We're no more 'called' to it than that mechanic. We enjoy it, we get a great deal of fun from it, but that's all.

I always seize up with I read these "you frickin' pansy-ass writers" things, cause I'm an elitist snob just as much as the next word hack, and sure, money is great for a writer who can get money that way, and if you're not making money (like me), you're sure as hell looking to *get* money by writing... but no more than anybody else looking to get money for doing something they like...

And... and...

Well. Then you read something like this, and all of that cynicism just sort of bleeds away.

You write because there's a power in the telling of stories. The rest is just details.

A Lady in the House

I was channel surfing last night and saw a familiar-looking room getting decorated for the holidays. I paused and realized where it was -- First Lady Laura Bush appeared on screen looking perfectly coiffed and dainty, hands folded demurely in her lap.

Ah. Yes. The Lady's House.

I had found HGTV's special on the decorating of the White House for the holidays, an apparently immense affair that filled Laura will no small amount of joy, this being a chief first lady duty this time of year.

And it got me to thinking about what a perfect first lady Laura Bush is. She's just got it all down: stay in the background, push appropriately lady-like programs like the education of the young (yes, there's a devaluation of "women's work" - note our American incompetence when it comes to education). Give substanceless but uplifting speeches about women being able to vote in Afghanistan. Smile. Wear heels and knee-length skirts. Never, under any circumstances, raise your voice. Host tea parties.

She's a brilliant woman, I've gotta give her her props. You won't find Laura heading a committee on healthcare reform and getting lambested the way Hillary was. You won't find her raising her voice like Hillary. And you sure as hell won't ever hear her tell somebody to "shove it" like the admirable Teresa Heinz Kerry.

So what's wrong with this image of the first lady as cookie-baker and White House decorator? What's wrong with the image of Laura in her proper wifely role as nurturer and house-beautifier? After all, Martha Stewart made an entire industry of her own out of it.

I was watching Laura Bush smiling warmly and speaking about all of the Christmas displays, the "vingettes," and coyly implying how clever she was to put the vingette of "I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus" underneath the portrait of former first lady Barbara Bush, and I thought, "This is all fake."

All of it? No, of course not. But it's fake in the way it matters. That house has been full of ballsy women, from Eleanor Roosevelt to the amazing Abigail Adams, to Nancy Reagan (who ruled the White House for better or worse), to Hillary "I don't bake cookies" Clinton. And I just don't buy that all of them are real keen on giving teas. Hilary was the first one to actually say so. Laura, though, Laura knows her place. She knows the part she has to play, she knows *she* wasn't elected, just her husband, and she's happy to play the lady and be America's wifely role model.

But you know, I believe in the power of images. Seeing Laura give her little speech about the holiday decorations, I wondered what else she would rather be doing than supervising the decorating of the White House, which is likely down to a science by now and doesn't really need her to direct it anyway. I know that if I was First Lady (oh, let's be realistic - I'd be president before I'd be first lady), I'd have other stuff to do around the holidays than talk to HGTV about what a perfect homemaker I was, but I'd have to tow that line, I'd have to mince around and hold a bunch of White House teas, cause that's what First Ladies do, and if I didn't do them, then I'd be the antichrist, like Hillary Clinton.

You know who I wanted to march around playing First Lady in the White House? Teresa Heinz Kerry. I liked her better than her husband. Teresa's the sort of woman I'd love to go out and get drunk with. She'd be table dancing by 2am, and we'd flirt with outrageously younger men and do tequila shots and fall out of our limos onto the sidewalks in front of our respective houses sometime around 5am, and wake up the next morning with hazy snatches of memory that included the smeared visage of some hot guy named Enrique. I wouldn't be able to find my shoes, I'd have some bruises from falling off the table, and I'd call up Teresa sometime that afternoon and ask when we were going out to party again.

And she wouldn't say something like, "I have to decorate the White House today, sorry." She'd say something like, "I'd love to, but we're planning on passing a universal health care bill today, and I need to be on the floor. Also, I'm flying off to Zimbabwe with the Secretary of State to talk about election reform."

I'd turn on C-Span, and there she'd be, ushering in a universal health care bill before flying off to Zimbabwe while I was still nursing my hangover. She'd be wearing a sensible pair of pants and a floppy hat and good shoes. Maybe she'd say something in French just before she left, to really piss people off.

Images are powerful things. Halle Berry knew this, which was among the many reasons she broke into such hysterics when she was the first black woman to win an academy award for best actress. Sure, you know, rationally, that this is a possiblity: you know that there's no *legal* reason a black woman can't win, but you've never actually seen it done. And it was a huge deal for her to show black women: See. Look at me. It can be done.

And when I look at the images of First Ladies that they feed to us - however truthful or not they are - I think, nobody realizes how different it could be. Everybody sees these women sipping their tea and pretends not to notice how important they really are, the power they may have, because we have to hide behind all these feminine accoutrements that make people think that this is the only way women can be. And we think that because we haven't seen anything else. All we know is First Lady tea parties and holiday decorating tips, and because such women's work has been so derided, we look at these First Ladies and assume that this is it: this is the pinnacle of womanhood, and no, really, see, she doesn't have any power! She bakes cookies, for goodness sake! As if baking cookies eclipses the fact that she's got the ear (and a lot more) of the President.

And it pisses me off. Everybody knows that she's got to be an image, a symbol, and it's gotta be played the happy hetero-Christian patriarchy way.

I wish people would have left Hillary alone. I wish they'd just let First Ladies be powerful. Not behind the scenes, but right there, in your face.

If they're powerful, let them be powerful.

I want an anti-First Lady.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

And Then My Heart Got...

Breaks my damn heart.

(via Empire o' Dirt)

All I Want For Christmas...

Is a damn non-stick wok. There's enough chicken satay on the bottom of this thing to feed a small midwestern town.

Anyway. My photo page is up. Proof of my life-long debauchery.

I'll be ranting about Laura Bush & Yuletide cheer tomorrow. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here's my very late build-your-own-superhero:


Saturday, December 18, 2004

Movies, Movies


Million Dollar Baby

Clint Eastwood is an old, cynical man. Don't expect this to be a happy movie. And if you walk in wanting this to be about the fighter, you'll likely be disappointed. Swank does a great job, but this is definately about the old guys and their issues.

The first 3/4 are pretty good, and it wins for the best line I've heard delivered by a priest this year: "There are no demigods, you fucking pagan!"

Swank wasn't bad, but she's no Michelle Rodreguiz. Maybe it was all that smiling she does. I don't know. She just wasn't scary in the ring. And even though they play her white trash, which is cool (I have a fondness for white trash characters, being not so far removed from white trash myself), I just didn't get that she wanted it bad enough. But then, in the end, the movie wasn't so much a happy underdog story, so...

And you know, any movie that ends up turning a strong fighting woman into a vegetable through marriage malaise/abusive relationship/or accident just isn't going to be something I want to pick up on DVD. Granted, I don't think I'd enjoy watching a male protagonist get turned into a vegetable either.

Leave at the beginning of the third round with the female prostitute. Trust me.

To be fair, it's a movie more about choosing how you live and how you die, and it had a bit to say about it, stuff I agree with. But that wasn't the movie I wanted to watch.

It shoved in some fun fights, though, before it all went to hell.

House of Flying Daggers

Beautiful people. Beautiful scenery. Beautiful clothes. Sweet-ass fantasy fight scenes, with lots of projectiles.

Zhang Ziyi of Crounching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame, who's a dancer by training, gets to do some dancing in this one, which is cool. They're Tiger-like fight scenes, lots of flying shit, a brothel, enough turncoats & backstabbing for three movies, a number of scenes where people are rolling around in the grass half naked, and some really cooly dressed female guerilla fighters with neat hats.

Oh, and there's this great love triangle scene at the end, with lots of blood and snow.

In proper Chinese-romance-movie fashion, everyone dies at the end.

It's great.

Tiger is still better, though.

Movin' On Up

So, before the holiday party, Blaine took me aside in his office and closed the door, which I knew meant that we were going to talk about the restructuring of my role in the office.

"You've heard we're going to be getting a lot of work?" he said.

"Yea," I said. "Mosh already talked to me about it. He said I'll be better integrated with the Wireless team, so I'll be reporting to Piper."

Blaine went on to say how great I was, how much work we were going to get (double what we did last year), and said, "Anyway, I'll get right to the good news. Usually, at year end, if all goes well, we get 3% pay increases, but I did some haggling with corporate, and they're pushing your salary up 4.5%."

I suppose I was supposed to look really surprised and grateful. I was calculating what 4.5% of my base salary was. I'm not great at math, but I'm not totally incompetent, either. It wasn't a great raise, so far as I was concerned. It meant another couple hundred dollars a month, which makes the Glasgow trip in August more feasible, but it wasn't on par with what him and Mosh had been talking about regarding the sort of role I'm going to be playing in the company.

"Nobody knows how to do what you do," Blaine went on (he's very, very good at flattery, which is why everyone likes him and why he's been moved into Business Development. He's like a big happy puppydog. You just can't dislike him). "You're going to be asked to take on a *lot* more responsibility, and you'll need to learn how to replicate yourself."

"Mosh said he'd be interested in hiring on some temps I can supervise," I said, "because if we're doing twice what we did last year..." I was working nine or ten hour days and doing some weekend time and fielding work to the accountant and the secretary, and we still barely pulled it all off.

He intends to give me a shitload more responsibility, a staff, and a 4.5% raise that won't even allow me to be able to afford a car, let alone a cellphone? (the lack of staff with cellphones in our office is one of our biggest jokes).

"I tried to get Mosh and Piper to understand what a great resource they're getting," he said.

"Don't worry," I said. "I intend to sit down with Piper next week and impress upon him exactly what I can do. All they need to do is put something in front of me, and I can do it." I've been bitching to Blaine all year about what an under-utlized resource I am.

I think it was during his speech about how he was trying to convince Mosh & co. how great I was that I realized Mosh and Piper just don't get what I can do, hence the 4.5% raise. They think they're getting an admin, not a Project Support Manager with a Master's degree.

Ah. Of course.

4.5% my ass.

At meeting's end, Blaine still seemed troubled at my lack of enthusiasm. I wanted to stomp around and throw things. 4.5% raise my ass! I want to hop up a position pay scale. Lowly admin my ass! Freakin' fucktards!

But really, it wasn't so much worth it to bitch to Blaine. I was going to have to convince my new supervisors that I'm worth a 10K pay raise, not an extra $200 a month.

I'm going to have to really wow these fuckers.

And insist on proper compensation.

4.5% my ass.

Friday, December 17, 2004

When Was the Last Time I Was Drunk at 4 o'clock in the Afternoon?

College, I think.

In any case, we had our office Christmas luncheon today, and I ended up getting one of the lead architect's beers because he'd gotten an extra manhatten, and then I just sort of threw my whole, "I should only have two beers cause it's an office Xmas party" thing out the window, and four or five beers later, everyone became terribly funny.

I purposely sat at the dorky kids table - I'm consistently amazed that even though I've gotten older, there's still a "cool kids" table and a "dorky kids" table - mainly because I didn't want to sit at the same table as Yellow, who was looking really fucking hot even though he's gained some weight in the month or so since I last saw him in the office. In fact, I spent much of the luncheon pretending I wasn't totally checking out Yellow the whole damn time.

Arg! Damn me and my "I can't do casual sex" thing. I've seriously got to reform. If I can't do relationships, I better figure out casual sex, cause casual sex sounds oh-so-great, especially during the holidays.

But I missed my chance with Yellow a long time ago by not responding to his persistent adolescent-like jibes about my granola hippie-dom, and I realize exactly why I shrugged off his friendliness and continue to sit at different tables than he is and ignoring him unless he says "hi" first - cause I'm attracted to him, but we have nothing in common. He doesn't read books! What the hell am I gonna talk to somebody about when he doesn't read books!

OK, yea, he rides motorcycles, I mean, races them, pseudo-professionally, and there's nothing hotter than a guy with a passion, and I've had daydreams about riding motorcycles in Rome with Yellow, but long term? Realistically? He'd rather be attached at the hip to a tall, thin, blond. I'm tall, but I don't fit the bill for the rest. So, basically, we'd both be "settling" and maybe getting some damn fine sex out of the deal.

Dammit, what's wrong with that?? Damn my aversion to casual sex! I must fix this! Must overcome!

Spent the afternoon getting increasingly drunk along with everyone else (still am, and looking forward to breaking open the red wine here at the house) and talking about the stupid forwarded e-mail from Health & Safety about holiday pounds with the guys, who thought it was equally as condescending and stupid.

"The hell," the lead architect said, "do they think we're fourteen or something?"

This was followed by another martini.

We had some grab bag fun, and I traded the aromatherapy kit I'd pulled for a table fountain that one of the architects got. I also got one of the "door" raffle prizes, which was one of the many misc. food products sent to Blaine by well-meaning contractors. I won the brownies that I'd been eyeing in the refrigerator for the last three days. Unfortunatley, such things cannot live in my house, and I'll end up eating one and throwing the rest of the box away.

So sad, to be an acknowledged binge eater who just can't have such things in the house.


Was dropped off at the train station by the HR manager, and managed to stumble home, still drunk, and bumble around the house. All of the clocks are blinking and have to be reset, so I guess the landlady's been doing some work. She changed the back door lock, and left a message on the machine about where she'd left the new key.

Ha ha I thought, I could give a shit.

I thought about how hot Yellow looked.

Oh, man, I hate the holidays.

I'm going to get another drink and watch THX 1138.

I Hate These Things

CNN tells us how many calories the "average" man and woman should be consuming over the holidays. It's so great that they're so inclusive!:

First, some basics. Health experts say women and older adults should eat about 1,600 calories a day. Children and men should add 400 calories to that, while teenage boys and very active men get to eat a total of 2,800.

Uh... what about very active women?

Ah, yes, that's right. There's no such thing as active women. They spend their days knitting and rocking the baby's cradle with thier idle feet.

This shit is just so much filler.

The Wives of Stepford


I put off watching this movie as long as possible. When I saw they were making a remake of "The Stepford Wives" that was supposed to be funny, I thought "backlash." But Jenn had seen it, and kept wanting my opinion on it, so I gave in.

The original Stepford Wives is fucking creepy. Really, really, creepy. As far as I'm concerned, The Stepford Wives should be in the horror section of the movie store.

It's that fucking creepy.

The premise of the original was this: a successful, "liberated" woman goes into the suburbs and finds that all the women are "perfect" wives. They're always immaculately dressed, they cook and clean and don't talk back to their husbands. They're very, very creepy. The liberated woman figures out what's going on - the men have conspired to replace/reconfigure/change their wives so that they become, effectively, robots. They're no longer real people. The liberated woman, realizing what's going on, tries to flee, but her husband has hidden her children from her, so she's go herself trapped in Stepford. The last shot is the liberated woman dressed in properly feminine clothes, with a properly detached, brain-dead look on her face, moving dream-like through an immaculate supermarket in her high heels, moving serenely among the aisles with her fellow female automotons.

Trust me. It's creepy.

So, I went to watch the remake and tried to be open-minded. OK. They wanted it to be funny. Let's do funny.

Nicole Kidman is a power-hungry - and admirably good, in my opinion - executive who runs a television network. Her programming rests on shows where women are put into parodies of reality tv in which the women are stronger, more aggressive, and more sexually voracious than their male counterparts. The clips made me chuckle a bit, but really, they weren't all that different from what we're seeing now. Idiots giving themselves over to reality tv.

Now things get loopy. One of the reality shows was much like "Temptation Island," called, "I Can Do Better" in which a married couple is put on an island with a bunch of sexy people and encouraged to cheat. In the end, the man and woman need to decide if they want to stay with their spouse, or if lots of sex with hot people wins out over married love. In the clip, the man says he'd rather stay with his wife, and his days on the island with his personal prostitute were chaste ones. But the wife had sex with pretty much everyone on the island (including a couple of women), and decided that, in the end, she "could do better."

The thwarted husband, upset at his wife's decision, shoots at Kidman and then goes off and slaughters his wife and her lovers.

It's too much bad press for the network, so they fire Kidman, blaming her for inciting the thwarted husband to violence.

This was my first real, "Huh" moment.

So... man goes on murdering spree. It's the woman's fault.

This should have been my first clue that this was going to be a "blame the women" movie. Though for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how they could turn Stepford into a "blame the stupid women" movie. I lack imagination about just how much shit movie-makers are willing to spread over a movie in order to make their "vision" work.

Kidman has a nervous breakdown, and her really sweet husband, played by the very sweet Matthew Broderick comes to comfort her. It's obvious pretty quickly that they do have real affection for each other. He's "only" a VP at the network, but he gives it up so they can go away to the country and she can recover from her nervous breakdown.

So, it's not like Broderick doesn't have a job or something. He's a VP, OK? Which means he's likely got a good education, and he's a sweetheart of a guy, the kind of guy you totally marry, cause he loves you, and you adore him. It's not like he doesn't have a life, or that she crushes him under her heel, or is cruel and evil to him, or anything like that. They do genuinely seem to like each other for being each other.

The couple and their kids relocate to the gated community of Stepford, which is full of beautiful, terribly thin, twittering women in big floppy hats with perfect hair and absolutely obesceince to the whims of their very obviously dorky, out-of-shape, but overall nice-seeming husbands. The sorts of "good guys" that strong women end up with, you know?

Now, things get slightly weirder. For some reason that I can't figure out, the remake decided to put a gay couple in Stepford.

Yea. And they were accepted into Stepford (though the fact that everybody's white was brought up pretty early - gays are OK but not blacks? Huh?). It was weird. It went against everything Stepford stood for - that old-school fundamentalist Christian everybody's in these certain boxes thinking. But, hell, I was like, OK, let's see what they do with this.

So Kidman meets the other two "newbie" couples in town, a frumpy, successful writer played by Bette Midler, and the more flamboyent guy in the guy couple, played by Roger Bart, who was supposed to be a famous architect or something. The three of them become fast friends, and share stories about how weird everybody is in Stepford.

Now comes one of the best scenes in the movie, which got crapped on. The three of them go over the Midler's house - which is a filthy mess (she doesn't cook or clean - when her husband asks why, she says, "Why don't you?") - and they have this bit of dialogue about how they're all on anti-depressents, or compulsive eaters, and talk about how incredibly unhappy they are, even though they're so successful, and Kidman says, let's try and make this Stepford thing work. Let's try and be happy without all the drugs.

And I was thinking, "Cool. They're going to talk about how to find happiness without drugs, or turning into a robot. Maybe they'll talk about the fact that society is telling these people they're freaks, which is what makes them unhappy, and they'll learn to accept who they are. This'll be great."

Unfortunately, that wasn't the movie I was watching.

Kidman begins baking cupcakes obsessively. She and Broderick have a really sweet talk about how much they like each other. Roger gets robotofied, and turns into a butch gay man (he throws out his photo of Orlando Bloom [?]), which pleases his butch partner, and he runs for a Stepford political office.

Then Midler gets robotofied, and her house is suddenly clean, and she's become a slave to her husband and kids and is writing cookbooks instead of poetry.

Kidman tries to get out of town, but her kids have been stolen by the men's club, and then there's a confrontation between Kidman and the men of the men's club where she goes to try and find her kids, and they explain that they've put nano-chips into the brains of all the women to make them obey their husbands, and they've "pefected" them with some "enhancements" that make them all thin and blond, and now they're going to do it to her.

Once again, Kidman and Broderick confront each other, and I admit: I just didn't get it. I just couldn't understand Broderick wanting - *really* wanting - to change his wife into a robot. Who the hell did he think he married? Didn't he love the balls-busting woman? If that's not who he loved, why marry her? Why be married to what's basically a castrated version of the person you love? I mean, sure, maybe dump her and find somebody who's brainless to wait on you hand and foot, but giving somebody you love a lobotomy?

Broderick is just too good at playing a nice guy. Though I'm not crazy-attracted to him, I do have a lot of affection for this geeky guy, and I just couldn't understand this scene, when he tells her she's always been better at everything than he has, she's always been better at her job, at sex, at everything. And I was like, "Wasn't that what you liked about her? You want to eviserate the person you love?"

I was just really confused.

So, she basically says to him what I just said, and he appears to reject her tears, and she doesn't fight him at all, just goes down into the robot-hell to be robotofied.

Then we get what should have been the last shot of the movie, which was a frame-by-frame reshoot of the supermarket scene from the end of the original Stepford Wives, and Kidman is wearing froofy clothes and a floppy hat and has this really long blong hair, and I was watching it expecting this to be it, and thinking, "What a waste of time that movie was," and then.... it kept going.

It got worse.

Broderick takes the apparently robotofied Kidman to a Stepford party, then slips away while she distracts the guy in charge, and goes down to the robot-hell-center and deactivates all of the nanochip programs inside all the women, and the women all snap out of their reveries, and become pissed off at their husbands, and Broderick returns, the conquering hero, and Kidman reveals that she's been herself all along (I'm not sure how she was supposed to have grown out her hair so fast, but hey), not really a robot, because Broderick became a Real Man at the last minute and chose not to robotofy his wife.

Gosh, it sure is lucky *he* decided that. I mean, heaven forbid she had any kind of agency in the matter (if she was really "better" at everything than he was, couldn't she have fought him off in the robot-center, when it was just the two of them? Oh well).

And then we have the Big Reveal.

When Kidman hits the leader of the Stepford robot program over the head, the guy's head pops off.

Turns out he was a robot.

His wife, played by Glen Close, wasn't robotofied.

*She* had made her husband into a robot, and got that robot to convince all the other men to put chips in the heads of all of their wives.

Close gives a big evil-doer speech at the end to explain her motives. She killed her husband when he had an affair with her research assistant, and then rebuilt him as a robot so that everything would be "perfect," and she created Stepford so that all men would love their wives and everyone would be perfect. Or, at least, her version of The Way Things Should Be. Which is an interesting idea, I guess: a woman decides to change *the women* so that the men will love them.

Once again, the problem's not the men, or men's idea of women, but the problem is that *women need to be fixed in order to be loved.* Kind of sad, actually.

It's concluded that she's just a fucking nutcase. She kisses the robot head of her decapitated husband, is electrocuted, and dies.

Picture me staring in utter confusion at my television screen.

The final scene is Kidman, Midler, and Roger - all back to their usual-looking and acting selves (though Kidman's hair has remained blond. Huh) - having a discussion with Larry King about how great and successful their lives are. No, they say, they aren't perfect lives, but they're great.

When asked what happened to the men in Stepford, Midler laughs and says they're "Under House Arrest" and our final shot is of that supermarket again, this time with the whipped men wandering around the supermarket aimlessly. A female voice over the intercom snaps, "Stop talking and get back to shopping!"

The men mill around some more.


Seriously. The End.

Picture me sitting through most of the credits, still looking really confused.

What the fuck was that?

What am I supposed to take away from this movie? That good men will always love their wives and not turn them into robots, but women will punish bad men by making them shop?

And what about that cool scene where the threesome is talking about all the drugs they're on? Are they successful again but still on drugs? Why didn't they make a statement about the pressures they feel to be perfect being alleviated or at least put into perspective? Or was the whole experience just something to profit from, as it got them on Larry King?

And what the fuck was up with having a gay guy get "turned butch" but still be gay? In Stepford? Gay people shouldn't exist in Stepford, any more than women who have personalities. The whole idea is to parody the fundamentalist Christian "moral America" as, in fact, a sort of deep, sizzling hell where nobody's a real person, where the strong have to impose their beliefs about what's "perfect" on the weak.

This was just like... it was like somebody said, "Let's make The Stepford Wives funny!" and the only way they could figure out to make it *really* funny was to make it all actually the idea of a thwarted woman.

Cause ha ha look at how funny those stupid women are, making themselves so stupid.

It just ended up looking like an entire movie that was stupid and ill-thought out.

My Roomate is a Sneaky Bitch - & Other Heart-Warming Holiday Tales

I left work early yesterday and milled around Borders for a crappy gift-exchange gift for our office Christmas lunch today. I find these gift-exchange Secret Santa things kinda crappy. Basically, everybody goes out and finds some really crappy junk gifts and passes them around, and you open them, smile nicely, and then promptly go home and shuck them into the garbage can.

I promptly fulfilled my capitalist duty to buy shit nobody wants for somebody I don't particularly care about and went home only to find that my sneaky roommate - who'd flow out to the West Coast for the holidays - had left me two very well-packaged Christmas gifts.

Have I budgeted in Christmas gifts for anyone this year? No. Arg.

Being my lovely roommate and good friend, she'd gotten me the Kameron equivalent of really good porn - an Osprey book on the Peloponnesian War (I literally swoon over this series of books at the bookstore. They're just too damn expensive to properly stock up on), and The Art of Memory, a book that studies how people are and were able to retain vast stores of knowledge by memory.

I'm such an easy person to buy gifts for. Just tie a ribbon around a book. Any book. If it's about war, so much the better.

Then I spent the night eating Thai food and watching movies. Because that's what I do when my writing isn't going well, I have no money, and I've got the house to myself.

I was watching Rocky III (I saw all of these when I was a kid, but they're so much more interesting now that I have some conception of just how hard you have to work to fight like this) and thinking how much I hated the holidays and wished they were over already.

This was a really bizarre twist for me. I've traditionally really loved the holidays. There's always some angst about going home, but I love the Christmas trees and stockings and music and little twinkly lights and crappy gift buying. But this year I just want it to be January. No more holiday schedule at the MA school, no more trips to interfere with my routine. No more...

Advice columns trying to make me feel pathetic. Ah, yes, thanks for that MSN advice column unmasking, Amanda.

Gosh, why do so many single women feel bad around the holidays? Gosh, could it be because everybody tells us we should feel bad and unsexy?

What bugs me the most is that it's not just the single who get harped on. If you've got a boyfriend, everybody spends the holidays talking about how you should get married, if you're married, everybody asks when you're having kids. And let's not forget that there's a lot of pressure on guys about this stuff, too. I have a friend who was dreading going home for the holidays because he knew his parents were going to start harping on him again about why he and his girlfriend of 9 years still aren't married. Give up the ghost, guys.

I've always suspected that people are really so interested in the social lives of others because they want validation for their own life choices. *Please* have a boyfriend. *Please* get married. *Please* have kids, and a mortgage, and a two-car garage. Please validate my choices by making the same ones.

Without all this pressure to conform to the picket-fence ideal, what sort of society would we have? Would we be happier with the lives we've chosen, if we weren't always comparing them to some mythical ideal created by other people, instead of the ideal we thought up? That always interests me.

Cause there I was, watching movies, thinking, OK, this is it. I'll start dating in May. I'll do it. Really, I will. No! Squash those sudden feelings of intense anxiety. No! Forget that you feel a panic attack coming at the mere idea of subjecting yourself to date after sorry date with 1) boring people I don't like 2) people I like who think I'm boring 3) people I like who like me who want to come in and stomp all over my life.

That just sounds like a swell time.

So, deep breath. Will. Not. Give. In. To. Social. Dating. Pressure.

Must live the life I want. If I bump into somebody along the way that I like who likes me, so much the better. If not, that's why I have good friends, for company. But you know what, I want to be able to take off to New York for the weekend, or fly to Colorado for rock-climbing lessons for the weekend, or take a week-long rafting trip on the Snake River. And those are just the weekend trips that don't include bike riding in China, hiking up to Macchu Piccu, and taking that tour of the Greek Islands. I have about a bazillion things to do, and I'm not getting any younger. I want that kind of freedom, and in my experience, welding myself to another person means less freedom, not more. It would take an amazing person to live that kind of life with me, and I'm not fooling myself into thinking those people live around every corner.

It always makes me curious, what sorts of people I'll end up surrounding myself with in my dotage.

And you know, whenever I start to get the holiday blues, I remember all the friends I have who lust after my life. The ones who go "You went to grad school *where*? You spent *how* long in Alaska? You want to do *what* for a living? You live in *Chicago* now?" And then they look at their own perfectly good and happy lives and think, "Oh, God, what's *wrong* with me?"

The grass is always greener, isn't it?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

And... Here's Leguin's Proper Response to Earthsea's Whitewash

Titled, appropriately, "Earthsea in Clorox," or A Whitewashed Earthsea: How the Sci Fi Channel Wrecked My Books.


I had just seen Mr Halmi's miniseries Dreamkeeper with its stunning Native American cast, so I said to them in a phone conversation, hey, maybe Mr Halmi will cast some of those great actors in Earthsea! -- Oh, no, I was told -- Mr Halmi had found those people impossible to work with.

"Well," I said, "you do realise that almost everybody in Earthsea is 'those people,' or anyhow not white?"

I don't remember what their answer to that was -- it may have used that wonderful weasel word "colorblind" -- but it wasn't reassuring, because I do remember saying to my husband, oh, gee, I bet they're going to have a honky Ged.

Ah. How right she was.

They then sent me several versions of the script -- and told me that shooting had already begun. In other words, I had been absolutely cut out of the process.

I withdrew my offered pronunciation guide (so Ogion, which rhymes with bogy-on, is "Oh-jee-on" in the film.) Having looked over the script, I realised they had no understanding of what the two books are about, and no interest in finding out. All they intended was to use the name Earthsea, and some of the scenes from the books, in a generic MacMagic movie with a meaningless plot based on sex and violence. (And "faith" -- according to Mr Halmi. Faith in what? Who knows? Who cares?)

Larry Landsman, who looks after the book end of things at Sci Fi and has been very kind, sent me an early CD of the film, so I saw it some weeks before it was aired.

There was nothing I could do about it at that point, and I said nothing negative in public. It seemed mean-spirited to bash the thing it before other people had a chance to see it. Anyhow, what's the use whining? Take the money and run, as whoever it is said. Someday, somebody would make a real Earthsea movie. . .

Any volunteers?

And here's why this matters:

I think it is possible that some readers never even notice what color the people in the story are. Don't notice, don't care. Whites of course have the privilege of not caring, of being "colorblind." Nobody else does.

I have heard, not often, but very memorably, from colored readers who told me that the Earthsea books were the only books in the genre that they felt included in -- and how much this meant to them, particularly as adolescents, who'd found nothing to read in fantasy and sf except the adventures of white people in a white world. Those letters have been a tremendous reward and true joy to me.

But Aren't You Worried You Won't Grow Up to Be a Real Girl?

Here's an interview with Hilary Swank, who trained four and a half hours a day, six days a week, for three months to get into boxing shape for "Million Dollar Baby" - the latest troubled-woman-boxer-will-kick-your-ass-movie.

What bugs me about these interviews of ass-kicking heroines is this need the interviewer feels to remind the audience that it's so sad that these women aren't looked at as more "feminine" (if you want to hear a woman snap back at an interviewer about this bullshit, check out some Michelle Rodriguez interviews). There's lots of questions about what her husband thinks, and how her training affected her husband's view of her (instead of asking, you know, how the training affected her view of herself, her confidence, etc), cause lord knows all us women are supposed to be living for that Idealized Feminine Form that men are always talking about (see previous post that bitches about just this).

Apparently, some dipnut (casting director Felicia Fasano) said of Hilary (who's mostly played untraditional female roles) that she needed to "embrace her inner supermodel" and start taking on more traditional feminine accourtrements.

Hilary's response:

"I follow my gut because in the end that's all you have. I shied away from playing just 'the girl' roles because I didn't find them inspiring," she added. "I wanted to be taken seriously. I wanted to be challenged. I wanted to push myself to the limit. I wanted to -- I want to -- do all that. That's where my passion lies, and it's not just playing the arm candy."

I think my response would have been a little less diplomatic. I think it would have come out something like:

"Fuck you, you fucktard."

Take Out All the Black People, & God. It'll Make it Less Controversial

So, Earthsea's got a token black guy in a world that's supposed to have a token white chick.

Oh well.

And now we have Pullman's work getting savaged, too. For fear of wingnuts.

Wingnuts. All twelve of them.

What the fuck is genre fiction supposed to be all about? Why write this crap, when it's just gonna get whitewashed and hacked up into regurgitated putty? What's the point?

God is cut from film of Dark Materials
By Sam Coates

THE Hollywood adaptation of Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials, in which two children do battle with an evil, all-powerful church, is being rewritten to remove anti-religious overtones.

Chris Weitz, the director, has horrified fans by announcing that references to the church are likely to be banished in his film. Meanwhile the “Authority”, the weak God figure, will become “any arbitrary establishment that curtails the freedom of the individual”.

Like a Church that says having same-sex attractions, having sex outside of marriage, or reading certain books is EVIL?

Why I'm Not A Woman

Sometimes, I'm just sad.

Cristina translated a piece by Mircea Cărtărescu from Romanian to English called "A Few Reasons Why We Love Women," and then she posted her own response, "A Few Reasons Why We Love Men."

Now, before I start, please know this about me: I did find some of this very sweet. I'm a hopeless romantic. But when I read it, I looked at it again as a litany of all of the things I'm not, of all of things I'm supposed to be, and I came up lacking. This always happens when images of female beauty and "what being female is" are plopped in front of me by (usually male) writers, editors, designers, etc. Not that men don't get this too, but it's the reason written pieces like this bug me. It tells me what somebody wishes me to be. Something I'm not.

And Cristina did express worry that feminists would take it the wrong way:

Reading it as a Romanian, I was amused and nostalgic, and caught myself smiling wisely to myself several times. Then I couldn't help but wonder, could this be written in English, now? Or would it attract irate replies and burrowing frowns from aggravated feminist intellectuals all over the US?... I believe that the spirit of Cartarescu's text is not to be misconstrued as some patriarchal political statement, but rather as the quirky, tender voice of the writer-as-man. And as such, it's endearing and funny.

And yet, despite the swooning in the comments over at Cristina's place, I found the idea of dating a guy who thought these things really uncomfortable. What would happen when he woke up? When he realized I was just a person?

What I found interesting about both versions was the idealization of each gender, the emphasis on separateness, on difference, and the glorification of the "other." A lot of romance, and putting people on pedastels, is built around language like this.

I'm a little weird when it comes to sexual relationships, I've discovered. I tend to look for egalitarian, buddy-buddy relationships. Instead, a lot of guys I deal with look to make me into a child or a mother, when all I really want to do is hang out with somebody funny and interesting and respectful who treats me like a real person, not an idealized "other." I think that idealization is dangerous, particularly when you're with a guy who finally gives up the ghost and realizes you're a real person. Bad things can happen.

And I worry when I read about the reasons women are loved, and find that none of those reasons describe me.

I wonder what that makes me.

Which is exactly the sort of doubt the romance myths look to inspire.

I want to make new stories.

General Update - Here's What's Happening

So, my roomie is outta here for the holidays (not that it'll be all that different around the house - she and her SO have been connected at the hip for the last two weeks, so I haven't seen much of her. They're terribly cute), which means I'm going to be watching a lot of movies this weekend, so you'll likely be getting lots of me-pissed-off-at-movies posts in the near future. I'm also planning on sitting down and writing up a rant about Anne Bishop's Black Jewels trilogy. Apologies to Anne in advance if she ever gets here through Google. It ain't gonna be pretty. I intend to bitch (I. Can't. Believe. I. Read. This. Book.).

It's also Holiday Blues time again, so I'll be doing some more how-did-this-year-go speculation/roundups (to remind myself that no, really, I've done OK this year), including favorite books and movies of the year, with commentary. And I'll also be speculating about what I've got to work on this year. My list is extraordinary: aim for the stars so you can hit the moon.

I'll be heading out on Wednesday to WA state for a nice, relaxing holiday in the sticks. I'm looking forward to silent nights (the only sound that of cows and coyotes - not a train to be heard for miles and miles), long dreary jogging routes, and hopefully a day trip to the beach. Blogging will be sporadic from the 23rd-29th, as my parents' place has a dial-up modem and only one working computer (my brother's mad machine).

If anyone wants to chat outside the comments, you can reach me at my usual "public" address: kameron_hurley AT - for those back in WA, I'll be sending you all let's-do-lunch invites soon. Hope to see you!

Health & Safety... Remember the Fat!

This morning I was forwarded an "all users" message from our health & safety department.

Was this a reminder about wearing a hard hat on construction sites, or properly lifting boxes by using your legs so you don't throw out your back? A lesson in ergonomics? Or perhaps it was just the usual holiday reminder to "drive safely" or "don't drink and drive and be safe" and all that?


Oh, no no.

This year's Health & Safety information was about avoiding those holiday pounds!


Now, OK, they give sensible advice, and it's good advice for those of us who have traditionally spent most of the holidays binge eating (this is the first year I'm packing my jogging clothes with me for my week of home-for-the-holidays. I figure I can jog my brother's route), but you know... it says a hell of a lot about today's America when the Health & Safety department of a bazillion dollar international company finds it neccessary to remind everyone to watch what they eat over the holidays.

Unfortunatley, the only bit I can include here without violating my confidentiality agreement is the part they took from an ivillage article:

Drinking one beer every night adds 1,036 additional calories per week or 15 pounds to your stomach per year. No wonder they call it a beer belly. Three glasses of dry wine a week adds 318 calories, or an additional three miles on the treadmill just to walk off the extra calories. If you're watching your weight, try this advice:

· Don't drink alcohol on a regular basis.
· Remember that the calories from alcohol add up quickly, and they go straight to the fat in your abdomen.
· Most people eat high calorie snacks when they drink alcohol, a double whammy in terms of weight gain.

Yum. Beer! I think I still have four bottles of Negra Modelo - my beer of choice - over at my parents' place: Thanksgiving leftovers.

And you better bet I'm drinking beer at Christmas. Calories or no.

I think my worry about all this concern about food and calories is that it makes people obsessive about it. You start not being able to think about anything else. Your whole day revolves around what you're "allowed" to have... and now the workplace is getting on board.

I have such incredible mixed feelings because, honestly, I'd rather we had a fruit tray as the morning office treat instead of two dozen donuts, and I prefer whole wheat chicken wraps to pizza (yea... they brought in chicken wraps yesterday. I was pleasantly surprised), but.... but... I worry. I worry that we're all going to become food Nazis.

And I don't know how ethical it is to start telling people what they can and can't eat. The future of where all this Fear of Fat is going really worries me.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Have a Great Night, All

And So it Goes

From here.

A Day at the Movies

How about a show of hands from everyone who gives a shit that Alien's Ripley would be played by a 55-year-old woman?


Apparently, Hollywood's concerned about it. Um. Hello? Sigourney Weaver, dude, ass-kicking heroine extraordinaire. Not only do I not care if she *is* 55, I'd appreciate it if she *looked* 55 and went around kicking everybody's asses. Male actors do it all the time (Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, etc.). Get over it. I think she should start dating some 20-year-old hottie, just to make a point.

And, though my initial reaction to the idea of Hilary Swank playing a boxer was "eh" - I've seen enough stellar reviews of the latest gritty-female-boxer movie that I'm just going to have to go out and see it, if only so I can argue afterwards about how much cooler Michelle Rodriguez was in Girlfight.

One More

I love my job.

Cheer Up Your Work Day!

Ah. Here's a neat-o gallery of my favorite work-day inspirational posters:

More at

And Now They're Just Sitting Around, TALKING

There's something immensely satisfying about finding a successful author who finds their characters sitting around doing the same sorts of frustrating things that mine do, instead of furthering the plot:

Dave McKean phoned me up today. I got unexpectedly testy when he commented on a couple of scenes in Mirrormask that were just two people talking, and on the problem of getting those scenes to have some kind of narrative drive. The reason I got testy was, as I eventually explained to him, because I've spent a day fighting with an uncooperative novel and every scene I wrote kept turning into two people having a conversation, and it was driving me nuts. It wasn't even that they were sitting around having interesting conversations. They were telling each other things the reader had already seen occur, and I felt powerless to stop them...

"You're not allowed to do that any more," said Dave. "Something else has to happen."

- Neil Gaiman's blog

It gives me hope.

Geek Girls

"Any female[...] has had to work ten times as hard as her male
counterpart to be accepted in their organization. She will be
more able, will react quicker, and will generally be much more
dangerous. Kill her first." -- Starr, "One Man's War," Preacher

That's the best quote ever.

A great article on Geeky girls as portrayed in comics, with some thoughts on Buffy. (via Alas, A Blog)

Bickering (again) About Women in Combat

Rox Populi points to this article about recommendations for the deployment of mixed-sex units alongside all-male units in the US military:

The Nov. 29 briefing to senior Army officers at the Pentagon, presented as part of the service's sweeping transformation of its 10 war-fighting divisions, advocates scrapping the military's ban on collocation — the deployment of mixed-sex noncombat units alongside all-male combat brigades....

So, basically, we're not talking about a huge change here, just another scaling back. The mixed-sex units are still "technically" non-combat, but they'll be deployed *alongside* all-male combat units. What this means is that there's a significantly greater chance that these mixed-sex units will see combat. In reality, women are seeing lots of combat in Iraq. It's a guerilla war. You can drive a truck and fire at and be fired upon. So it's just a technicality. It's just fudging with the language so that it makes it *look* like women aren't fighting and dying, at least, not at "the front."

Whatever the hell the "front" is in a guerilla war.

The debate's roots go back to 1994. [Brutal Woman note: oh, bullshit. This has been debated FOREVER. Don't make it like this is something NEW UNDER THE SUN]. Impressed with the performance of military women in Operation Desert Storm, the Clinton administration lifted long-standing bans on women in combat aircraft and ships.

But the new policy clearly stated that a prohibition would continue for ground units that participate in direct combat. The 1994 policy also said women would not serve "where units and positions are doctrinally required to physically collocate and remain with direct ground combat units that are closed to women."

I usually yawn when I read all this noise, because women have always fought, have always known violence, and have even been buried with their swords. What made me guffaw was the silly reason the Pentagon's still giving for not putting women into land combat units right now:

The Pentagon has said it maintains the ban because upper-body strength is needed for land combat and because polls show most female soldiers do not want the policy changed.

What a load of horseshit.

You know they didn't even have physical tests of strength for firefighters until women started wanting to become firefighters? You know the "reason" that's often given for not promoting more women into management positions at movie theatres is that women "can't" carry 70 lbs worth of movie reels? (yes, that's the sound of me snickering in the background...)

Women aren't in combat units because war is what makes men men. Glory and sacrifice and male bonding and all that. In times of dire seriousness, when an entire people is really threatened, women have always stepped up. They formed all-female tank units in Russia, and guerilla movements have always relied on women for 10-20% of their combat forces (sometimes more, when all the men are wiped out - all those Greek stories about Amazons aren't so fantastic when you read about how many men get moblized and slaughtered during wars. Who do you think's left to protect hearth and home?). After the "dire seriousness" was over, women were told that actually, no, even though they may have fought in a war, really, they actually *couldn't* fight because they weren't strong enough. Yes, yes, just a little doublethink here, bear with us, we're men of SCIENCE.

It's not a matter of strength or ability: the real heart of it is how men and women will deal with being in combat situations together. There's a deep fear that all the women will "end up pregnant" (like they just rolled over and BAM! they were magically pregnant, like women reproduce via parthenogenesis - see the overseas "pregnant nurses" scare during WWII), and a fear that men will throw themselves in front of women in order to save them even more than they'll throw themselves in front of each other to save their buddies... Saving women being a natural masculine instinct, after all. I mean, when they aren't ordered to kill women.

So, anyway, why should anybody really care about any of this?

Well, remember when I said that mostly, historically, women have only been really seriously recruited in times of dire need?

The Times reported last week on an internal May 10 briefing that portrayed the Army as in a bind. The briefing states the Army does not have enough male soldiers to fill the FSCs if they were to collocate with combat brigades and thus required to be men-only.

Let's not get all clap-happy about egalitarianism in the military. It's not about recognizing that women are people too. It's the same old story: we don't have enough men. Time to bring the women in. Watch them scale back the "rules" again. Then, after they're done, watch them bring back the "women are really better suited to being home, barefoot and pregnant" argument when women aren't "needed" anymore. Notice they won't start publishing studies about how terrible war is for men, how men shouldn't sign up because they'll suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome the rest of their lives and pick up a host of mental illnesses enroute from the war zone. No, no: war is good for men! And war is good for women.... so long as we need them there.

Anyway, lack of soldiery doesn't bode well for the US's interest in world domination.

I'm just saying.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Some Thoughts On People, With A Really Obvious Fantastical Genre Bias

Amanda's got some thoughts on the latest round of the "weak Y chromosome" story at NPR. And I've got some counter-thoughts.

I've heard people lamenting for awhile that the Y chromosome is "too small." Mostly, it's men who say this. I think this has something to do with the male preoccupation with size. Let's be honest: the Y chromosome doesn't need to be all that big. This is why I don't go in for the gloom and doom of the Y chromosome, though it does interest me in the fictional "what if" sense. But for now, the Y chromosome makes a female embryo male (yes, in addition to adding DNA to the mix, though never as much as the Xs carry, so really, getting rid of the Y would only take out the sex determiner and any mutations/traits specific to the Y). But really, all the Y actually has to do is determine sex and slap a few wild card genetics into the mix. Once it forms the male genitalia, the sex organs can take over and produce the testoserone that alters the XX template to an XY. Cut off the genitalia, and you'll get a tall, not-so-hairy-as-uncut-man man, likely with a little more fat and maybe some fat accumulations that look much like breasts in old age. The reason this happens is because the testicles produce the sex hormones that make men men. All the Y chromosome has to do is alter sex. The resulting organs take over and do the rest. The template is female.

So the Y won't go away until we get some mutations in the XX that teach the egg to divide on its own X amount of days after ovulation, or release two eggs that have to merge their genetic material in order to begin cell division. And that would be really inconvenient. Not because there wouldn't be any penises in the world, but because we'd have to think up new and different means of contraception. And it would increase the risk of mutation, just breeding with yourself all the time.

For the record, there would likely still be "sex" and "sexual behavior." Cause sex is very social, not just procreative. Obviously. But I thought I'd reiterate that. I've been reading too much from the wingnuts about how sex is all about procreation, which gets more and more ridiculous the more I hear it. If that was so... oh, nevermind. I've already ranted about that.

It's more that we want to know--what would people be like if there weren't two genders? Would we all suddenly lapse into a "true" version of ourselves once the idea of "man" or "woman" was stripped completely away?

The key phrasing, I think is "idea". Man and Woman are ideas that include both biological and social roles/functions. Women have gone around dressing and acting like men while still retaining their uteruses, and people treated them "like men." Were they men? Men go around dressing up like women and may even be called "she" by most people. Are they men, or women? What does that word mean? If we're using strict biology, we get into trouble again, cause are we talking about visible or working penises making the difference between men and women? Are barren women men? If women don't bear children, are they men? Can we call everybody a "man" until "he" bears a child? Why not? Why not call everybody "girl" until puberty? What's the point at which a penis is too small for a man to be a "real" man? (don't laugh. Hemaphrodites are still assigned sex based on how "big" the penis/clitoris appears to be, and whether or not it will be able to function for penetration, as we're still really stuck in the idea of sex=penile/vaginal penetration/engulfment, whatever).

So, if there were only uteruses and no penises, would sex roles disappear?

Or, being such wonderful social animals who love little boxes, would we just create new ones? Perhaps based on something else this time. The breadth of a woman's shoulders, her height, the color of her eyes, her hair. Maybe women who had higher testoserone levels and more body hair than average would be considered a gender all on their own, and anybody who wanted to be that gender would spend all their time and money trying to get bigger and taller and grow their hair out really long and buy questionable tonics to increase the amount of body hair they had.

Would we go around with four or five genders with their own social roles? Women with uteruses still have varying hormone levels, so you'd still get a range of butch/fem and all-the-gray-inbetween. As an aside: I do think that some of the posturing is a nature thing - I've always been able to sympathize with transvestites because I tried to imagine a world in which I wasn't allowed to wear pants and had to dress fem all the time, and I found the idea terrifying. I have a deep and abiding fear of the 50s. Dress me up too fem and I feel like I'm in drag. I've never felt so uncomfortable as I did going with a boyfriend to his junior prom and mincing around in a terribly expensive white poofy dress and heels and elaborate underwear and stockings and a mask of cosmetics. He in his tux, me in my poofy fairytale dress, he found the idea of the theatre terribly engaging. I tried very hard to respond in kind, but I felt big and awkward and uncomfortable, though I couldn't figure out why, at the time.

I spent most of the prom hiding in the bathroom staring at myself in the mirror, and watching other girls fluttering around, thinking, "This is the way I'm supposed to look. Don't I clean up well? So what the hell's wrong with me? Why do I feel so weak and awkward and out-of-control?"

Hiding in the bathroom, I later learned, humiliated my date, who caught me and berated me as soon as I came out, "You left me out here with Joshua," he said, naming one of the dorkier guys in our friends' groups, a guy who'd asked me out at one point, and who I'd turned down because, well, he was boring. "You know how much I look like a loser, standing out here with him?"

My date then proceeded to go around showing me off to all of his friends, a bit like a prize heifer. It was one of those, "See! I have a girlfriend!" shows that I thought was mildly cute but troubling at the time, and looking back, I understand why it troubled me, and I'm pissed at myself for not allowing myself to be more troubled.

I spent a lot of time trying not to be troubled by things that bugged me. Among them, the fact that I'm really not comfortable with pointy shoes and makeup... and yet, I'm still mostly straight. How does that happen?

Well. It's called being human.

There's not a binary. And certainly not a strict sex/gender correlation. You can talk in averages and maybes, but not absolutes.

Why is it that in most versions of this intellectual exercise-cum-fantasy that men are the sex that suddenly disappears? I doubt it has much to do with the genetics of the X and Y chromosomes. My guess is that since the great bulk of the day-to-day work of exaggerating the differences between the sexes falls on the shoulders of women, then it's just natural... Since we do the work of being a Gender, we are the ones who have a vested interest in the idea of a world without gender, which means that the standard we strive not to be like would be what disappears.

Women are really interested in worlds without men because they want to know if women would beat up on each other as much as men beat up on women. I'm cynical, and I tend to think that yes, the stronger will beat up on the weaker, for one reason or another, once you amass a society that has to fight for resources (Leguin's The Dispossessed is an interesting what-if experiment that argues that scarcity of resources would actually aid in the continuation of an anarchic/communist society). Lots of people who've written female utopias/dystopias disagree with me. You don't often see utopia/dystopia fiction full of men because... well, I think men freak out reading about all-male utopias because of deep fears of homophobia. You don't get male utopias that don't include women (the only one I've seen is Bujold's Ethan of Athos, which is a Bujold-written-book [lackluster prose - NBL, Lois!], but really neat on ideas). In fact, male utopias would likely include harems and harems of fake women. Or, like the misogynistic slugfest of S&M, the Gor novels, they posit worlds where women get "put in their place" (author John Norman's Gor books argue that the natural condition of women is slavery. Seriously. It's got a "liberated" 1970s feminist transported to the slaveworld of Gor, where she's enlightened about what her natural condition really is, and she learns to like it. Really classic stuff).

What I always found depressing about most female utopias/dystopias is that the women always "lose." That is, the men tend to come in and change everything, or threaten to change everything (even Russ is guilty of this), as if there's a "natural" status quo when it comes to relations between the sexes.

And I don't buy that. I don't think most of the women making all-female societies believe that either, but we all bring the biases we've been raised with into our fiction. There's an astounding amount of misogyny that shows up in some of my stuff.

Anyway, I think the ideas above about how it's put on women's shoulders to be really different from men to create gender interesting, but it also forgets the big social push for men regarding masculinity, and what it is to be a "real man." You're far more likely to hear a boy being berated for "acting like a girl" than you will a girl for "acting like a boy." I think men are made men by being encouraged to be "not-women." Which is why the areas with the most rampant sexism are warfare and sports. These are the activities that have made "men" men since before we had skyscrapers, and suits and glass ceilings.

What I find most interesting about the latter, the "not-women" conception of masculinity, is the fact that, biologically, all eggs start out as female. And the groove that becomes the labia major sometimes doesn't fuse in men, meaning you start out being formed female, and the Y sends out signals to alter that (I'm going to be jumping up and down about this one for awhile, because I just finished reading Mutants: On Genetic Variety and the Human Body, and I learned all sorts of really fascinating stuff about the forming of biologic sex, which is just as iffy as I'd always thought). And women bear babies. You need a uterus to do that. Taking men out of the equation would be easier than taking out "women" - if you define a woman as a person who has a uterus.

So I think the tendency to think up worlds without men, in terms of biology, has more to do with interests in the very small biological difference between men and women - the sex determiner on the Y gene. So, what would be the easiest thing, biologically speaking, to get rid of and still have a human being?

The Y chromosome.

Without two sexes, there would be no humanity; it's like asking what we would be like without language or opposable thumbs or something else that makes us human.

I just about choked when I read this one. I'm coming at this from a biased perspective, of course: I write social science fiction, that is, I concentrate on making societies with fluid sex and sexual characteristics. I've written about neuter and hemophroditic societies. I've postulated worlds of women with several different genders, and being a writer of such, I've also read a ton of other writers who've worked with these ideas.

You could have eight sexes and still have humanity. Sure, it wouldn't be the one we see now (which is the allure of these thought-experiments - trying to figure out what would be really different), but it'd be humanity. A lot of my interest in writing SF/F is to find out what "humanity" still has once you strip everything else away. Change the gender roles, get rid of the gender, give them crazy settings, some organic tech, wars that never end, and what do you have left?

Well, you have what makes us human.

And I don't think what makes us human is the fact that we have two sexes.

We have to work with what we got. The inequality between the sexes isn't the natural consequence of the male/female binary, so intellectual exercises getting rid of it are limited in value. Oppression is what it is, and needs to be dealt with as is, and not as the consequence of the accident that "it takes two".

I do agree that feminists and progressives working toward a different (hopefully, better) society do need to work with what we/they've got. And that's two "pretend" sexes. And lots of pretend "races" and all the social bullshit that we've built up around differences in biology that are in fact so small as to be thought insignificant or dying out at the chromosomal level.

But I also think that examining the "what if"s give us a better understanding of the similarities among us. "What if" can shine a spotlight on some of our more absurd assumptions about what "really" makes somebody a "person," or a "man" or a "woman." If you can't get yourself to think about how things can be different, you could get caught in the trap of "well, it's always been this way. It will always be this way. There's no other way."

The reason I'm involved in writing what I write, and reading what I read, is because I see SF/F as having the possibility to show us something other than what we've got, to allow us to imagine a different society. If you can't dream it, how can you do it?

I'm reminded of a website my buddy Jenn forwarded to me a week or two before the election. Despite being all rah-rah hopeful for a Kerry win, I think that most of us, deep down, were having trouble imagining Bush allowing himself to lose. Jenn sent me a site called "Visualize Winning." It shows Kerry/Edwards winning, Kerry being inaugurated, Osama captured, the budget being balanced, and soldiers coming home.

The sad thing was that until then, I really didn't have any kind of conception of what a Kerry win would look like. I just couldn't visualize it.

Which may have been the problem.

So, all this hypothesizing, and dinking around with biology, and playing with the Y chromosome and thinking about societies where genders and sexes are different isn't counterproductive. In fact, it's what battling for a different society is all about.

If you can't even imagine a different place, how can you work toward getting there?