Monday, August 08, 2005

It Feel Like All of My Limbs Are Going to Fall Off

Sitting around the house, eating sushi and drinking beer, reading the second-to-last book of Zelazny's Amber series (one of the few old-school SF authors who actually writes women-as-people) at my new digs (pictures coming soon) in the designated reading room full of bookshelves... yea, life is good.

Overdid it a little at the gym. I think all my limbs are so sore they're gonna fall off.

I mean, in a good way. Just think of how buff I'll be. Yea.

Life is good.

I love wireless internet, too.

It's amazing, the luxeries you can pretend to afford when you're not terribly worried about leaving around an inheritance.

I intend to die in debt.

But man, I sure will have had a lot of fun.

Burkas May Reduce The Risk of Unwanted Pregnancy

Better resolution graphic
(via cara)

I Have Given In To the Bread Products

And they are good.

It really is a binge eating issue. I've tried to just eat one of something, you know, moderation, when it comes to bread products, but I just can't. I either have to do what I'm doing, which is "no bread products!" and then have a cheat day once every couple weeks in which I eat a number of bread products, or have absolutely no bread products at all, which is tougher.

I hate this strange compulsive behavior. I need to go buy more books.

"Our Stories Aren't All Tragedies"

Lots of places in Africa even have cities:

I felt as if I had been invited under false pretences. I should have been born in a poverty-stricken village, brutally circumcised with a blunt, unsanitised knife with other five-year-old girls, then, a few years later, kidnapped by child soldiers, becoming a sex slave of a rebel commander before escaping dramatically and trekking through the dry bush for miles and months until I was rescued by foreign aid workers, "rehabilitated" and adopted by a gracious American family. I would end up triumphant and grateful in the US and living to tell my story; which is, of course, a story worth telling.

Speciman Dayz: He Should Have Sold off Each Novella and Then Gone & Written a Real Book

Let me preface this by saying that I really like Michael Cunningham. I've read The Hours more than a dozen times, and am, in fact, constantly involved in re-reading it. It just sits next to my bed, and I read a few pages every now and again, and when I finish, I start over.

When his latest came out, I was thrilled, and B bought it for me in a nice shiny hardcover.

And then I realized my worst fears had come true:

A literary author was doing a whole book of genre.

It's a three-part story, the first being a ghost story, the second some sort of crime or mystery story, and the third... a science fiction story.

Perhaps I'm supposed to be surprised that

1. The ghost is... in the machine!!!

2. Terrorists are... children!!!

3. Robots... are people too!!!

I figured that once I got to the end of the book, it would all make sense to me. I would see some sort of Grand Pattern besides the obvious repetition of the bowl, men & machinery, and lots of Walt Whitman quotes.

Whereas the linking in The Hours was slightly more subtle (in fact, the parts that bugged me the most were when he tried to make it UNsubtle - the ending was too neat a connection, and I don't know that we needed long passages from Mrs. Dalloway in the Mrs. Brown sections, but hey), this one pretty much layered them on thick and then... ended.

Now, for a literary novel, maybe that would be Ok. Well, no, it wouldn't, cause it had no resonance. It didn't hang together. And when you're doing genre, you expect certain conventions. You expect the ghost to be exorcised. You expect the crime to actually be solved. You expect some sort of rousing Science! adventure and illumination of the human condition. And, because you're being given all three together, they better have an internal resonance beyond the very obvious "all the characters have the same name," and "there's this bowl," and "There's some Whitman quotes."

They need to sing at the subtle subtext level, not the blandly obvious.

And The Guardian found somebody to do a blandly obvious review of it that reads like it was written by an eighteen-year-old for a class project. And even s/he remarks at the end: "the issues are so close to the surface that the narrative feels like shallow waters overlying the reefs and shoals of Philosophy 101."

Yea. Like having somebody say "Look! See the connections!" and you want to bang them over the head with the damn glass bowl and go, "So what?"

Maybe it's my bias against lit writers trying to do genre, but you know, I've read some Margaret Atwood, and she doesn't totally bug me. This didn't totally bug me either, but it also had no real resonance for me, unlike, say, an Atwood, or a genre writer doing lit fiction, like, say, Harrison's Light. Those hung together for me, and created something more than their parts.

This was really just disjointed parts.

“Only My New Powers Can Save You, Padme”: Female Victimhood & Male Sacrifice

I was reading an article the other day about Kate Winslet. It was the usual sort of interview where the interviewer felt it necessary to spend half of the interview talking about Winslet’s weight and how much “slimmer” she is now and what an icon she is for non-slender women and blah blah.

In any case, it got me to thinking again about Titanic.

See, there was always something about Titanic that didn’t make sense to me. I mean, besides the silly dialogue. See, I was one of those Crazy Teenage Girls who saw it eleven times in the theater. It helped give me the courage to ditch my loser boyfriend and buy a one-way ticket to Alaska.

I mean, hey, Kate could do it. Why couldn’t I? I had that fire! That passion!

I completely understood why young women went crazy for that movie. James Cameron plotted the old cliché man-saves-woman from herself script, but with a twist. See, all the guy really does is tell her she’s cool, which she already knew, and then he dies. The rest, she pretty much does herself. If he lived, it would have been an entirely different movie.

And you know, a lot of people feel like they’ve got a script to follow, a perfectly coiffed fem life to live with the family-perfect boyfriend, when secretly, you don’t really want any of that bullshit at all.

At any rate, here’s what didn’t make sense to me:

Titanic blew up the box office and make a shitload of money. Now, when a movie does that, what happens afterwards is that a bunch of people usually make copy-cat movies to try and get in on the same audience Titanic found.

So where’s all the movies about a strong woman with real breasts who’s inspired by an aimless drifter hero to live a great big life?

After Buffy died, they’ve been trying wildly to figure out the formula and make another winning series: teenage girl with supernatural powers battles evil. Unfortunatley, Buffy was a little more than that, which is why stuff like Tru Calling and etc. keep getting cancelled.

But where are the Titanic ripoffs?

Now, I’m not talking about those men-sacrificing-themselves-to-save-women shows, like, say, Anakin going all nuclear cause he has to “save” Padme, when she would have been just fine in childbirth all by herself. I mean, that whole sacrifice thing always sorta bugged me, because it’s a “romantic” expectation that’s not good for men or women. It encourages men to “save” women who may be terribly toxic and encourages women to wait around to “get saved” instead of actually starting their lives (I’m a hopeless romantic, and was stuck with this idea for years). Ideally, I’d like to see a “romance” where two people bump into each other, improve each others lives, and then go on their way.

But hey, I’ll take a Titanic rip-off, too. I’ll take a movie where a gutsy heroine is shown the value and adventure and potential of her own life, and inspired to be better. It doesn’t even have to be a guy who inspires her. Under the Tuscan Sun is a great example.

So where are the gutsy heroines inspired to greatness? Or just bigger, better lives? Without immediate, traditional, romantic entanglements that turn it syrupy?

Long, Bookish Weekend

Took Friday off work, and spent the entirety of the weekend shelving, buying, and reading books. Also got out another chapter of God's War and did some editing. Did I mention I spent almost $200 on books?

And I wonder where my money goes...

P.S. I also went to the gym this weekend, and Katharine is right: I can indeed leg press my own body weight. I am now, however, quite sore. In a good way.

On Male Desire

Brendan's take:

I've been following the various and sundry reactions on feminist blogs to the now-infamous Dove "real women" ads, and have been waiting for someone to raise the question, to me obvious, about how advertising and beauty culture affects not just the self-image of women, but also the way in which straight men relate to, understand, experience and express their own desires for women. That conversation seems to have begun....

But personal absence aside, I think I can speak for the general male experience insofar as I still have a "sense" of what's supposed to be attractive, even if I tend to experience it negatively through a sense of "Huh. That doesn't work for me at all". This is what I can tell you, truly- men, especially younger men, will lie to you. They will lie their asses off, because the lies they tell about what they want is part of how they keep their sense of masculinity together. If women feel forced into a tiny range of appearance to feel desirable, then men feel forced into desiring only that small range. In public, bullshitting in a group- especially a mixed group, or a stereotypically masculinized one like a locker room- men will sing you the balled of the 18 year old blonde anorexic cheerleader, as often as not. Those who do not will think themselves daring for professing a liking for women with curves, or else will talk up one of the well-known and accepted kinks of desire- "Goth Chicks" is an old favorite.

Now you take that man out of the locker room or away from a large group of his friends, or you let him age 10 years or so in a lot of cases, you buy him some beer and you ask him again. What he will likely tell you, if he's lucky and hasn't totally internalized what he's heard, is that the women he actually finds attractive are a good bit different, or at least more widespread, then the American cultural norms. Britney Spears, back before things got real bad over there, was someone most guys could agree on. Someone like that becomes the public face of male desire, the only one that can be talked about in a general sense. The public discourse on what men want becomes either the recitation of the unreachable idea of the moment, or else becomes channeled into the arid landscape of "fetish" discussion. Goth Chicks, MILF, etc. The guy you're talking to now might have a thing for his slightly overweight, glasses-wearing coworker with that cute-as-a-button nose , who can name every episode of his favorite television show and shares his secret, shameful passion for televised rodeo. Good luck getting him to talk about THAT in front of his friends. Or a researcher. Or an advertising exec.

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