Friday, May 31, 2013

Randomania

Random pattern generator
Photo credit: Robson#
I'm feeling a bit scattered, probably because I signed up for Google+ and dealing with all the newness fried my brain. So here are some random thoughts.


For years now I've been complaining about how I can hear people standing outside my building and talking. Or about how the guy upstairs talks on the phone while sitting right by the front window, so I hear everything at my desk, also by the front window. It only just occurred to me this week that sound also leaves my apartment and so people might hear me singing along to music while I work. Oops.

A certain husband of mine reads my blog, but can never remember what a post was about by the end of the day. The secret word today is "Fraggles." There will be a test this evening. Leave your suggestions for his punishment if he forgets the secret word in the comments.

How weird is it that the whole new season of Arrested Development phenomenon is pretty much over less than a week after it debuted? We didn't watch the whole thing in a marathon the day it was released because we figured so many other people would be doing that that there would be issues with the video streaming. I enjoyed the new season, but I also feel like I'm not sure WTF just happened. I'm going to have to rewatch the whole thing to absorb it all. And although the show is strongest when they have the whole cast together, some of the scenes focusing on individual characters were also very strong. Thoughts?

I've been playing one of those Boggle-style word games a lot. So much that I start looking at the keyboard on my phone or Kindle and start looking for words I could form. Like serf, grew, weft, oil. This is about as annoying as closing my eyes and seeing Tetris blocks. 

So there was this guy ahead of me at the deli counter at the health food co-op who was being all gangsta. Standing all over the place, yelling at another customer, arguing with  the woman working the deli counter. Wearing a t-shirt that said "personal trainer," and a baseball cap with white towel under it to absorb his sweat on this hottish day. Can you think of anyplace where acting like a badass is less appropriate than the health-food co-op? Because I can't. Papal conclave, maybe?

That's all I've got. Share your weird random thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bookses

Book swapping
Photo credit: nSeika
Last year, a Slate writer decided to read a book a day. Not exactly, but with audiobooks and graphic novels, it averaged out.

I started keeping a list of the books I read each year a few years ago. I could probably try the book a day challenge, but it would mean giving up podcasts for audiobooks and I'm already two years behind on my husband's podcast, so that's not really an option. Also, he selected books based on length and that's not really how I like to do it. 

Remember those reading olympics-type challenges in school? My brother and I tore through a bunch of children's books just to rack up the numbers in the first few days and then gave up. 

I guess I'm not that cut out for the numbers game. Last year I managed a little over a book a week, and this year I seem to be well on my way to topping last year's total, possibly thanks to reading through some lengthly illnesses, including the long bout of vertigo.

Anyway, here are my favorites from last year's reading. (They weren't necessarily published last year. Stephen King did something similar in Entertainment Weekly with the TV shows he watched last year, so I'm in god company.)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society The author died before this was published, which upsets me to no end because that means she won't be writing any more.

I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson It's about teenaged girls with crushes on David Cassidy. And then they grow up.

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan There's a section in PowerPoint which should be annoying and pretentious, but it's clever and inspired instead.

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella I still want to smack her Shopaholic character, but all her other books are so good that it makes me mad.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson Finally, a book that allows us all to say, "At least neither of my parents ever used a dead squirrel as a puppet."

Redshirts by John Scalzi The characters on a poorly written TV show start to notice.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs So wildly inventive that I can't even be jealous that I didn't write it. Even though I sort of am.

The Hunger Games trilogy I devoured these and then took to Facebook asking for someone to lend me their tween daughter so I could discuss the books with someone. 

The Sookie Stackhouse books I started on these books last year and I'm almost done with the series. Really entertaining.

I've read a few books this year that I've loved as well, but I'll hold off rather than bombard you with an even longer list. What books do you love so much that you tell everyone about? I'm always on the lookout for more reading material, so share your suggestions in the comments.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Sock Monkey, The Funky Monkey


I made this sock monkey for my cousin's son as a gift for his First Communion. Finishing it was a very Beastie Boys experience, since I was doing the last bits the night before the ceremony and party, so I was all No Sleep Til Monkey! For obvious reasons.


And yes, that is an argyle sock monkey, and yes, I noticed the ears are askew and decided that perfection was not worth the lost sleep. I used this tutorial out of the oh so very many that are available online by people who are way more organized and efficient than I am.

Catholics do the first communion in the second grade. So you have a bunch of seven year old girls in little wedding dresses and little seven year old boys in white suits looking like they're Vegas magicians. Except for the one kid whose parents have the sense and taste to dress him in a normal suit so he sticks out among all the little boys who all look like they're about to pull a dove out of their sleeve. 

When I had my first communion, I had a tacky, polyester froofy white dress (with matching headpiece and veil) that I just loved to pieces. I used that headpiece when playing dress up all the time. My grandmother bought it for me in Las Vegas, which should tell you everything you need to know about this dress. There was beading, there was lace. Totally worth all the weirdness of wearing a mini wedding dress, which no one ever notices or comments on because they're blinded by the cuteness.

During the ceremony, I flashed back on the rehearsals for my 8th grade graduation which took place in the same church. We practiced the hell out of lowering the kneelers SILENTLY. Thou shalt not bang the kneelers. Totally the 11th commandment. My teacher made it perfectly clear that he would not be tolerating any kneeler banging. He was also strongly against letting us rest our rears on the pew while kneeling, which is what I thought was the proper way to kneel because that was how all the adults did it. Apparently, this is not the case and will get you yelled at. (Of course, this same teacher yelled at one of the boys for not singing during a verse that only the girls were singing. Just that one boy. Called him out by name. So pretty much anything would get you yelled at by that teacher.)

During my cousin's first communion, I rested my butt on the pew anyway. Goddamn, but those kneelers are hard. I don't remember them being that uncomfortable.  Did you know that Greek Orthodox churches don't even have kneelers? They kneel right on the floor. That is some hardcore shit right there.

I also remembered going to mass with a bunch of my unbaptized cousins. As I returned from receiving communion, they all asked me what it tasted like. My initial thought was that I should get annoyed because I was supposed to be communing with God right after receiving communion, but even I knew that was some sanctimonious bullshit right there.  The brainwashing isn't *that* hard to shake off.

As you may know, the body of Christ tastes like styrofoam. At least it does if your church orders their communion wafers from, I dunno, the communion wafer factory, I suppose. 

When my aunt took all us cousins camping every summer, my brother and I had to go to the local church for Sunday mass, and their body of Christ was bits of bread baked by members of the church. So their body of Christ tasted like pumpernickel. Looking back, I think the only reason we didn't conspire with my aunt to skip mass and lie to my mom about it was that bread. It tasted so much better than our usual host that we actually got dressed for church, made Aunt Bea drop us off at Saint Bernadette's, then pick us up an hour later. That is how bad the usual communion wafers taste.

Maybe the answer to the Catholic Church's dwindling membership is pumpernickel.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Annoyances

The Singing Annoying Thing
Photo credit: Alan Isherwood
I'm feeling improved psychologically, possibly because now I feel like a complete failure as a knitter instead of as a mother, so I'm at least on familiar territory.

But I haven't achieved equanimity by any means. F'rinstance I keep getting annoyed at His Awesomeness. For example:

The new migraine-prevention medication I'm taking gives me a constant cough. It's a dry spot in my throat that doesn't go away for more than a moment if I drink water or use throat-numbing spray. My beloved decided to buy squash soup for dinner because of my throat. This made me super-ooper mad because it's hot and humid out and the soup isn't going to help anyway. This is, of course, his fault. What was he thinking, buy soup to soothe my throat? How do I put up with this guy?

Instead of the soup, we ended up ordering a pizza from the new brick-oven pizza place in the neighborhood. We also got a salad, so they gave us a Portuguese roll. Which he cut lengthwise (like he was making a sandwich) so we could share it. Lengthwise! God, what is wrong with this man?! How can I be married to someone who cut rolls that way? I mean, really. And then he butters the whole thing (my piece and his) and does he use enough? Of course he does not.

Also, I started to freak out over our financial situation. The whole Kid situation cleaned out our savings (the visits, the new wardrobe) and my migraines really get in the way of working. So while we were waiting for the pizza, I started freaking out over whether we really should be getting takeout and so one and so forth and he actually said that he should be the one worrying about our finances. 

For a moment, I thought he was about to start spouting some uncharacteristically sexist nonsense about how he had to support his sickly wife. But no. His rationale was that since freaking out is unproductive, he might as well take that on, since I have so little energy to spare. And apparently he does on top of his day job, his aspiring movie mogul side-job and his new gig as the organist at our local Lutheran Church. But he says he can fit it in during his commute. 

Still, I'm the high strung one in this marriage and he is not going to be moving in on my territory. If anyone is going to be freaking out around here, it's going to be me.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How To Knit a Sweater, Part Two

Part One
  1. Plan to knit the front before the back, since that would make it possible to hold the front up to my body as I'm working so that I don't make it too long.
  2. Check the pattern and discover the the instructions start with the back and the instructions for the front say "just like the back, except..."
  3. Give in and decide to knit the back first.
  4. Cast on.
  5. Knit, knit, knit.
  6. Discover I made a mistake in the lace/traveling stitch pattern several rows below where I am now.
  7. On the entire row.
  8. It'll be across my lower back, in the tramp stamp zone. No one will see.
  9. Unless I wear the sweater in a crowd and there's a little kid stuck behind me.
  10. In which case, the kid will have bigger problems than errors in my knitting.
  11. Knit, knit, knit.
  12. Do waist decreases.
  13. Actually count stitches. Refrain from celebrating when the stitch count is correct, lest I anger the knitting gods.
  14. Do the after-waist increases.
  15. Did I miss an increase there?
  16. Eh, maybe.
  17. Count the stitches. I did miss exactly one increase.
  18. Throw in an extra increase since one stitch either way won't make a difference and having the right stitch count will make the coming armhole shaping easier.
  19. Knit, knit, knit
  20. Discover that I didn't cross those two stitches in one spot.
  21. How would I fix that? (Realize the next morning that the fix would've been embarrassingly easy to fix at the moment I noticed and a hassle to fix now, several rows later.) (Realize later that day that a copy of Knit Fix, a book all about fixing different knitting errors was 2 feet away from me when I made the mistake.)
  22. Eh, screw it. It's at my upper back. No one will be looking that closely
  23. Join a new ball of yarn.
  24. Wait, if this the 3rd or 4th ball of yarn I'm using to knit the back?
  25. I only have 4 balls left after this.
  26. I used up a whole ball of yarn knitting swatches, so ordinarily, I'd just use that yarn if I run short. But they shrank when I washed them, so damaged yarn is not what I want to be using at the top of the front of my sweater, around my face.
  27. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.
  28. Well, there's at least one undamaged swatch I could reclaim yarn from.
  29. And if need another ball and I can't get it in the same dye lot, hopefully, I'll just need it for the neck back, which I could make in a contrasting color, which would look totally intentional.
  30. Now I'll have to knit faster so I can find out if I'm going to run out sooner.
  31. Or I could just weigh the back on my kitchen scale when I finish it and use that to judge how much yarn I still need.
  32. Dumbass. How many decades do I have to knit before the reasonable solution is also my first thought?
  33. Finish the back.
  34. Weigh the back.
  35. Panic.
  36. Realize I have enough yarn for the front.
  37. Consider knitting the deeper v-neck option, thus using less yarn.
  38. Reject this option because the directions are slightly more complicated.
  39. Put entire project aside to knit a massive blanket as a wedding gift for cousin. 
  40. Misplace fifteen pounds. Seriously. Did not even notice I'd lost weight until a friend asked, even though my clothes were hanging off of me, so much is the stress in my life.
  41. Contemplate what the weight loss means to the sweater. It will now be too big.
  42. Decide to go forward with it anyway - the weight may return, or the sweater may look fine in a slightly baggier version. Or it could bloom into hugeness during blocking requiring unraveling the whole thing. At this point, the only way to find it is by moving forward.
  43. Keep meaning to get back to that sweater.
  44. Discover that you knitted the first swatch for the sweater exactly one year earlier.
  45. Die a little from embarrassment.
  46. Neglect to pick up the sweater until the one year anniversary of casting on the actual sweater has passed.
  47. Finally resume the project at the start of a night of heavy-TV watching lest the Tivo get so full it explodes. 
  48. Die of embarrassment at the fact that the sweater was not stuffed into a closet, but was on the floor next to the couch the whole time, where you could see it. And yet I let it sit for I don't even want to know how long.
  49. Knit, knit, knit, knit, knit.
  50. Read the pattern instructions for the neckline.
  51. Get confused and think that the pattern is saying to start the armhole decreases on the front an inch later than on the back.
  52. Check the internet for pattern corrections, finding none.
  53. Re-read pattern directions several times until you understand what they were actually saying (start the armhole decreases in the same place as on the back, then a little later, start the neckline decreases, not forgetting to continue to the armhole decreases like a total rookie).
  54. Yay! It's almost time for the armhole decreases.
  55. Which is good because I've only got one ball of yarn left, so I really need to get to the end soon. If I run out of yarn, there's no way the company is going to have any more in the same dye lot after all this time (different dye lots might as well be completely different colors). Maybe I can do a color blocking thing on one shoulder. Maybe?
  56. Hold the front up to the back and notice that the front looks a little longer. Great! Maybe I went half an inch too far. More yarn!
  57. Spread the back and front of the sweater out on a table, matching up important spots and discover that I did the waist shaping increases differently on the front than on the back.  And yeah, I shoulda started the armhole decreases half an inch ago.
  58. But yeah, those increases aren't matching up at all and the finished sweater might fit funny because of it.
  59. Rip back 6 inches of knitting, at one point getting confused about how to wind up the unraveled yarn, going so far as to completely forget how to knit for a few moments.
  60. Realize that this is one of those moments that turns knitters into ex-knitters. But goddammit, this is merino yarn. Soft as butter. I'll be damned if I quit before getting my first merino sweater.
  61. Put live stitches back on the needles while stooping over table and calling any stitch that doesn't cooperate a "son of a motherless goat."
  62. Recommence knitting.
  63. Knit the left front side of the neckline and end up with less stitches than expected. Decide that to fudge the difference when sewing up the shoulders. What's a few stitches among friends? Especially as long as the right front side ends up the same.
  64. Knit the right front side and end up with more stitches than expected. Start to wonder if you split the neckline at the exact center or a little to one side.
  65. Resolve to clip the front and back together with clothespins before sewing up to make sure that the v-neck is reasonably centered. 
  66. Regret not screwing up more so that the neckline could look deliberately asymetrical.
  67. Finish knitting the front without running out of yarn. Perform #65 and decide that it looks fine. A little big, but it'll do. It's merino. It feels like butter. A slightly large, comfy sweater will be great. Well, adequate.
  68. Sew up sweater, and knit neckband. 
  69. Weave in ends, more meticulously than I ever have before. This is partially because I know better and partially because of my deep conviction that I will not be unraveling and reknitting this sweater.
  70. Send the sweater through the washing machine, laying flat to dry (aka, blocking).
  71. Leave it there for two weeks.
  72. Notice that it looks bigger than it did before washing, but tell myself that it's because it's laying flat.
  73. Try it on and discover that it is, in fact, larger. The motherfucking yarn bloomed in the wash. The sweater is now ridiculously too big. This could've been avoided by washing all the yarn before starting except who the fuck does that? (Well, me from now on.) And none of the swatches bloomed in the wash, so there really was no way for me to expect this.
  74. Decide to put the sweater in the dryer to see if it will shrink like the swatches did, thereby returning to a normal-ish size. 
  75. Behold ruined sweater, berating self for making such a rookie mistake. The sweater is indeed a bit smaller than it was, but it's still too big and misshapen. And the merino is no longer as soft as butter. And it may not be possible to unravel the yarn anymore. So even if I turn the whole thing into a throw pillow, it won't be soft and will therefore taunt me for making such a noobie error.
  76. Feel so incompetent that I discuss the sweater with my shrink.
  77. Wish I had local knitting friends so I could throw a proper funeral for the sweater.
  78. Fantasize about showing off the perfectly set-in sleeves before getting drunk and taking the thing apart with friends.
  79. Longingly look at pictures of myself wearing the sweater after it bloomed, but before it shrank. It was so much less ruined then.
  80. Resolve to throw it in the closet and put it in time out as soon as I can bring myself to touch it again.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Happily Ever After

Riding off into the sunset
Photo credit: Mirror Images by Rina
I participated in a project over at Fat, Smart and Pretty about what it means to be a selfish woman. Go over, have a look at what I said and maybe even join if yourself if you're so inclined.

****

So anyway, I got really behind on the Buffy season 9* comics once the kid moved in last year and I'm only starting to catch up right now. I bought the two most recently-released compilations which still leaves me way behind, but I'm catching up.

*The comics are now being treated as new seasons of the TV show. 

I'm pissed off because when I left off it looked like Buffy and Spike might be getting together. You know, so we could all move on with our lives, stop retreading the same ground about how a woman who's prevented six apocalypses somehow wants and deserves a "normal" relationship (as if that wouldn't bore her to tears), and they could have some happiness while saving the world. There was some lovely progress made in their relationship in the last few episodes of the TV series and then he died heroically only to be resurrected on Angel. So the characters never really got a chance to see how things might go with that healthy-ish relationship they were heading towards. And we've had over a season of the comic, and still nope.

Am I really annoyed because a comic book I've fallen behind on reading didn't go the way I expected? Not really. But I think this reflects a larger problem in pop culture. Writers, producers, whoever seem to think that happily ever after is boring. That after a couple gets together, there's nothing left to say from a narrative perspective unless they start thinking about splitting up.

The last year of my life proves that dramatic stuff can happen to happily married people. Not that parenting traumatized children would make for entertainment, because there's a lot of fucked up shit going down. But that's just a fr'instance. 

Just off the top of my head:

  • Nick & Nora did a splendid job of solving mysteries in The Thin Man movies and they were happily married. 
  • Amy & Rory Pond joined The Doctor on many adventures. 
  • The later Star Trek series could've featured loads of married couples since they allowed families on ships. I can only think of the O'Briens and oh, yes, Worf and Dax got married at some point.
  • That couple on Green Acres got into lots of wacky adventures
  • Wash & Zoe on Firefly
But how many more shows fizzled once Will They Or Won't They turned into They Did? Moonlighting did it most spectacularly, though Cheers managed to course-correct after letting couples get together. How have Castle and Bones fared? I don't watch them, so if you do, let me know in the comments.

And how many shows, etc. totally pissed off their viewers by drawing out the romantic tension for. fucking. ever? I'm looking at you, How I Met Your Mother.

It's this fetishization of riding off into the sunset together. Once you've found your soulmate, nothing interesting could possibly happen to you except for the possibility of losing that person. Not only is this total bullshit, but it feels steeped in sexism. Like it's a holdover from the days when women quit their job the second they got married and become full time homemakers and made it their mission to keep their home as peaceful and drama-free as possible for their man who went out into the world doing big, important things every day. But the husband's life is boring as shit too because he has a family to think of, so he's unlikely to take bold career risks or have a dangerous job (like spying).

Do I think that Buffy & Spike are totes made for each other? Eh, maybe. Would I like to see what some (non-fan fiction) writers can do with two characters with super powers who fight evil and get on each other's nerves while sharing strong chemistry and affection? Sure, that would be interesting. Am I sick of seeing happily paired off characters being stuck as boring supporting characters at best? Hells yes. Have I had it with fictional characters staying unattached because writers don't know what to do if they can't include a romantic subplot? Fuck yeah.

Definitely something to think about as I work on my own fiction.

What are your thoughts? If you can think of any TV shows, books, movies, etc. that feature married or paired off characters whose relationship isn't the main source of drama, please let me know.



Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Fetishes That Probably Are Not

Over on KPQuePasa.com, KP (who is a dog trainer) has a very funny story up about her neighbor's dog. In case you don't feel like going over there before continuing here, the dog pees on her and she yells at her neighbor (who does not know that she's a dog trainer):

"I'm not working today.  I should NOT be getting peed on!"

Which of course had my filthy mind going places, including fetish films involving people getting peed on by pets. And if that's a thing, do NOT tell me because I have enough problems and don't need to know that about he world in general or about you in particular.

And now I'm thinking of other things that could not possibly be fetishes, but would be hilarious if they were. Such as:

  • Early cell phones. "Ooh, baby, watch me talk into this big gray brick with an antenna."
  • Spinning (spinning yarn on a wheel or the exercise bike in the gym thing)
  • Hand knit socks - as an extension of foot fetishes, I mean. Once you start wearing hand knit socks, you see no reason to go back to store-bought, and that;s not really kinky. Unless you knit dirty pictures into the pattern, which...I'm not even going to check. I know it CAN be done, so it probably HAS been done.
  • Running with scissors
  • Eyebrow threading
  • Gargling
  • Wearing old Kleenex boxes on your feet a la Howard Hughes.
  • Rearranging furniture (Oh, Jeebus, now I'm imagining Joe Manginiello in a tank top moving my couch and there is no way that's not sexy.) Oh dear, where was I?
  • Cleaning out the closets ("Put that in the donate pile, baby.")
  • Hand puppets. OK, that probably is a thing. Not thinking about it.
  • Antique clocks ("Ooh, it's about to strike the hour!")
OK, your turn. I know you can add to the list.

Monday, May 13, 2013

This Is Not How It Was Supposed To Be

Yesterday was supposed to be my first Mother's Day as a mother. It was not.

I wasn't depressed, because as Allie of Hyperbole and a Half so beautifully explained, depression is when the feeling are dead. Instead, I was feeling lots of feelings, in random order in varying intensity. The 24-hour crazies, if you will. 

So I spent the day rolling with it, knowing that it would pass. I communed with the couch and read some Buffy fan fiction, and don't even bother judging me because I know what some of you do for fun, so mutually assured embarrassment. 

I made his Awesomeness start watching Angel, now that we're done with Buffy--we laughed and said, "I'm Batman" every time he did anything Batman-like (brooded, brooded on top of a building, stepped off of a roof while wearing a long coat/cape). I mean, really, how did I not notice that Angel was so Batman the first time I watched this show?

I stayed off Facebook and Twitter, so if you posted anything of note there this weekend, put it in the comments, or I'm not going to know it.

And go read The Bloggess' Mother's Day post. So totally right on.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Noises That Are More Annoying Than Cicadas

cicada, brood XIX, Chatham County NC
Photo credit: borazivkovic
So the 17-year cicada-pocolapyse is coming, and we're all supposed to be freaking out about the racket. I started to, but then I realized that maybe it'll drown out some of the other annoying noises I'm subjected to all day. Such as:
  • Car horns, honking to let someone in my building know they're there. Because why use a cellphone when you can annoy dozens of people?
  • The engine of the Access-A-Ride mini-bus*. I always know it's 10 pm because I can hear it idling outside as it drops off one of my neighbors. Seriously, how do the riders stand the racket?
  • Children running up and down the hallway screeching. Because running around outside on a nice day would just be crazy.
  • People standing in front of the building hollering up to someone on one of the upper floors. Not because the person isn't already on their way down. But because it's fun.
  • People blasting music from their car stereo. Because the time to introduce me to their favorite song is while I'm trying to watch TV.
  • Any conversation held outside of my building. All flirting sounds 50% more lame when you're partaking in the conversation.
  • The car alarms. Oh my god, the car alarms. Which people only have because it gets them a discount on their car insurance. Nobody in a city reacts when a car alarm goes off because they go off all the time. Like when a kid bumps into a car. Or all day long when acorns keep falling on the car. All day long. And yet it shuts off after three minutes, so there's nothing the cops can do about it.
*NYC Transit's on-request bus system for the disabled. Cheap and inconvenient.

Any cicada- or noise-related thoughts?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

De-Punking Punk

punk girl
Photo credit: skinhead_reggae
The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is having a big exhibit of punk fashion. This prompted New York magazine to ask if this is the most un-punk thing ever to happen to punk.* Upon careful consideration, and viewing of Robocop 3**, I have to say no. 

Punk has been commodified and exploited in non-punk ways for decades. Hell, if Robocop 3, Max Headroom***, Escape From New York and the Mad Max movies are to be believed, the one thing we won't run out of in the future is hair gel. Bad guys will be wearing their mohawks and spiked hair proudly long after civilization has collapsed. 1980s films de-punked punk long before the Costume Institute ever had a chance.

Of course, the super important thing is what everyone wore to the Met gala, celebrating the big exhibit. If you were old enough to wear it the first time around, can you pull it off now? Do the kids these days have a prayer of making it work at all? So many inquiring minds wanted to know that Tom & Lorenzo's site was brought down by the traffic. Jezebel has a nice roundup of the outfits--love Jessica Pare's outfit. And Madonna killed it, of course. You can check out Tom & Lorenzo's detailed analysis of certain outfits here

Few of the men even tried. How hard is it to find a plaid tuxedo jacket when you have a team of stylists working for you?

Whose outfit did you love/hate?

*They also have an amusing punk glossary, and a discussion of UK punk vs. US punk in which they talk about how punk used to have such a sense of humor and originally wasn't about being rude and obnoxious****.

**Is there anyone who wasn't in Robocop 3? CCH Pounder, Jeff Garlin, Stephen Root. The guy who plays Grumpy on Once Upon a Time is in it, fer chrissake.

***How brilliant was that show? Netflix has the DVDs, but it's not on Instant Viewing. It is SO going on my queue. Gotta re-watch it and see how much of it we're living. At least it's still legal to have an off switch on the TV. Of course, so many of us sleep with a smartphone next to the bed, so why legislate it?

****Which reminds me of the time I was in Picadilly Circus and dared to sit the fuck down by myself to rest my feet after walking who knows how far across London. I started writing a postcard to have something to do and a punk got right up in my face and shouted something like "Dear Mum, Having a lovely time, wish you were here," and then rushed away before I could tell him to go fuck himself. If that's what you think passes for cool, I think you're doing it wrong. 

Yes, I know that Sid Vicious would probably do that sort of thing, but he's dead now and may have killed his girlfriend, so maybe we use those nice boys in The Ramones as our role models, m'kay?

Which reminds me of the time in the late 80s or early 90s when Johnny Rotten invited MTV cameras to follow him around for a few hours and them cursed them out when they showed up to protect his punk-cred. THAT may be the most un-punk thing that has ever happened to punk.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Non-Doctor Who Time Travel

Complex design of the 100 year old green white and black stained glass window in the Seattle Volunteer Park Conservatory, Capitol Hill, Seattle, Washington, USA
Photo credit: Wonderlane
Have you been watching The Bletchley Circle on PBS? It's a three-part miniseries about a group of code-breakers who get together years after the war to catch a serial killer. Bletchley, of course refers to Bletchley Park, home of England's code breaking effort during WW2. 

HA and I only just watched the first episode, even though they just broadcast the last one. I'm not sure why, but we tend to let PBS mysteries marinate on the Tivo. We've only just finished last year's season of Masterpiece Mystery.

(Side note: What is up with Kurt Wallander's annoying cell phone ring? Is it a product placement thing?)

I'd already heard of Bletchley Park thanks to Blackout and All Clear, wonderful books by Connie Willis. In fact, I got so nostalgic for those books that I wasn't entirely paying attention to the show. Hell, all you have to do is say "Anderson shelter" or "the Blitz" and I'm off talking about these books. Which has got to be a great recommendation for all of her novels.

Connie Willis has written several books about time traveling historians. In this world, it's not possible to bring anything back from the past, or to travel to the future, so there's no profit in time travel. And there's too much risk of changing history to allow tourists. So it's mostly grad students going back to have a look around, and sometimes getting stuck for a while.

In Blackout and All Clear, several historians get stuck in World War 2 London, and end up having to settle in and ride out the war. There are two children (the Hodbins) who are equally  hilarious and infuriating. In Doomsday Book, a lone historian goes back to the Middle Ages and misses her target by twenty years. Hilarity does not ensue. However, in To Say Nothing of The Dog, there is plenty of nineteenth-century wackiness.

(Note: Those are Barnes & Noble links, but I listened to the audiobooks which I cannot recommend enough.)

She's written other novels, and has won loads of awards, but those are the only four I've read so far. And they're so memorable I keep wanting to give them another listen even though I know how long it would take me.

What are your favorite time travel novels? Do you have a book that you can't forget?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Women in Danger

Malmo - "Non-Violence"
Photo credit: cybermagik
A college friend/radical feminist activist shared this great video of Siskel & Ebert discussing the disturbing trend of horror films that put women in danger, and aligned the viewer with the killers. Do go watch them when you have half an hour--they are very much worth the time. As much as Gene & Roger disagreed about specific films over the years, they agreed on what was behind this trend. 

They said it was clearly a response to the women's movement (aka feminism) and the message was for women to get back into their old places. They called it the "women's movement," a term that seems quaint because they were in 1980. Nineteen fucking eighty. 

Have things improved? Of course not. The teenage girl getting killed in a slasher flick because she has the nerve to go out alone, have sex or otherwise act like an autonomous human being is such an ingrained movie trope that it's unthinkable to imagine film critics addressing it so directly. At least one the films that Siskel & Ebert specifically called out has been remade (the "The call is coming from inside the house" one).

I recently got an e-mail about a change.org petition requesting that networks add a sexual violence trigger warning before shows to help survivors of rape avoid watching something that could give them a flashback. I decided not to bother signing that particular petition because it's so futile. There's just too much rape and murder on TV these days that you're really safer not watching. Especially if you can't fast forward through commercials because the promos for upcoming shows will get you.

Don't believe me? Read this excellent analysis of rape and murder on current scripted dramas. The vast majority of shows include either rape or murder in their plot. The murder rate on TV is way higher than it is in real life.

(This increased sense of danger isn't helping anyone. Especially not Trayvon Martin, just to name one.)

On several occasions, HA and I have been trying to decide what to watch and when I request something relaxing, he suggests the latest episode of Elementary. Which is relaxing except for the part where someone dies almost every week.

Why do we never think of the victims in these shows? Years ago, I turned off an episode of Law & Order SVU and never watched the show again. I have a pretty high tolerance for violence--what kid raised on Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck getting Elmer Fudd to shoot them in head doesn't? But this was just too fucked up. The bad guys (which in a shocking twist may have included a woman-gasp) broke into a party of friends, forced them to have sex with each other at gunpoint in different combinations, then shot them all. The episode opened with a couple arriving late to the party and finding all the bodies. Once the Medical Examiner (or whoever) explained what had happened to the detectives, I was done.

Maybe it was because they used friends of the victims as our entry into the story, but it was impossible for me to put aside the torture and humiliation these (admittedly fictional) had undergone. You're at a party with all your couple friends and then someone forces your friend's husband to rape you. Then forces two of the (hetero) guys to have sex. And so on. And then they kill you anyway when the only reason you didn't rush them and make them shoot you in the first place was because you all thought you had a chance of coming out alive.

And now I'm supposed to forget about that and follow the good detectives as they catch the baddies, with the distinct possibilities that there will be more victims along the way. On a show that is supposed to be entertainment?

Jesus fucking Christ on a cracker. I am so over this shit. And that was something like ten years ago. 

Experts are even advising fiction writers that putting your main character's life in danger isn't a good way to raise the stakes of your story because we're exposed to so much fictional death these days that we don't care.

Let's brainstorm some plots that we'd like to see that don't involve a body count. I'll start.

  • How about a nice theft? Heirloom jewelry, priceless works of art, that sort of thing.
  • How about addiction recovery? Redemption, risk of failure, lots of dramatic potential.
  • Maybe something with corporate intrigue? Without CEOs offing each other.
OK, your turn.



Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Comments About Comments

Question Mark Graffiti
Photo credit: Bilal Kamoon
I was going to stick this at the end of a post about something else, but then it got so long that I decided it had to be a post on its own, because how else can I expect you to read it? I've given up on the new IntenseDebate commenting system since Blogger kept eating it, and some people said that it freaked them out a bit and made them think that they couldn't comment anonymously, even though they could. This means that all comments left on the new system have gone bye-bye, which was happening every time Blogger ate them anyway.

I've been tearing my hair out over this because I've been trying to find a system that will allow you guys to comment AND get replies to comments in your e-mail. Just like if you commented on Facebook. Because my blog posts have been getting a lot more comments on Facebook than here. This means 1. the comments get lost (All those recipes people share on FB so they can find them later? Are not going to be easy to find later.) and therefore 2. it looks like no one is interested enough to comment and that's really not going to help my cause when I get my novel finished and I'm trying to get an agent. Because if you don't even comment, why would you buy my book? But you're totes going to buy my novel and tell everyone you know to buy a copy because it's going be really good and not suck at all. So let's lay the groundwork now. 

(And while we're on the subject, if I do a post that you find particularly funny or thought provoking, please share a link with your friends on FB or Twitter or wherever. I love you all individually and collectively and would love to meet your friends. Also, it'll be really helpful if there are more than twenty of you when it comes time to land a book deal. I promise to bring my A game more often and to even leave my house so that I have stuff to write about. Deal?)

So where does that leave us? I could install Disqus comments, and there's a way to keep Blogger from overriding Disqus. You'd have to register, but you'd get replies to your comments anytime you visited a site that had Disqus comments, of which there are many. But then you wouldn't be able to include links to your blogs when you comment and I like giving people that option. 

I could move the whole blog to WordPress, but then if you wanted to subscribe to a post's comments, you'd have to click on a link in an e-mail, which is bullshit. 

I think there's a way to leave the Blogger comments as is, and add a link that would let you subscribe to comments to a specific post. This is ideal, but finding out how to it? Damn near impossible. I'm working on it. (The default system only lets you get follow up comments emailed to you in you sign in with your Google account.) If you can help with this, please let me know in the comments.

Or are you just going to keep commenting on Facebook no matter what I do? An additional twist to this is that for the past few days, every time I try to reply to a FB comment via email, the email fails and I have to go directly to FB to leave the message. So FB commenting is getting hinky. Or maybe it's just me.

If I seem frustrated, it's because people are commenting. Just not in the comments. And as a former systems analyst, that is blowing my mind.

Please chime in in the comments.