Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bizy Backson

I'm off to our nation's capital for my darling Jean, her darling Chris, and our darling Bruce. You'll hear from me again soon, cats and kittens.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Nothing new under the sun

I don't know why I'm writing a murder mystery. I was never much of a fan of murder mysteries - not that I have a problem with them, they just aren't my thing. And yet, here I am writing a murder mystery. 
It's not going well, if you're wondering. I had a couple of months in there in which I was just useless. While I'm back at it now, it's not going well. I write several pages a day, but I'm not making progress somehow. 
Something very interesting about the process is how original it would appear I'm not. You would think that someone who hasn't read a ton of murder mysteries would be ideally suited for writing something totally new. Now that I've read a bunch of murder mysteries, that wouldn't appear to be true.
First, it was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I knew nothing about the dragon tattoo books when I created my pierced, dyed, tattooed hacker with no social skills and uncanny skills with machines. She's nothing like Lisbeth Salander once you get to know her, but the surface similarities are such that I had to retool. And that was a good thing, really. I was relying too much on the character's outward appearance; plus having a character who is a hacker when I don't know anything about hacking is kind of lazy. So The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was good for me. Yes.
Then I read some other mysteries. Turns out that even though I didn't know there was a very specific formula most mysteries employ, I was conforming to it perfectly - the two leads falling in love, the male lead pushing the female lead away in the interest of her safety, having a character wake up in the hospital only to have everything explained by a helpful cop who appears out of nowhere. Yep, it's all there. Well, not anymore, and my story's a lot better for it.
But then there's Fifty Shades. I swear to god this is the last time I'm bringing this book up. Fifty Shades wasn't even out when I created a character with red hair and grey eyes who was adopted from an abusive home, has his mother's maiden name for a middle name,  and who is often thought to be gay. What the hell? I mean, my character's hair is strawberry blonde, as opposed to red...
What are the odds?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My posts have been far too coherent lately

Today, I went over to a coworker to ask a question. I said, "Okay, so if a customer wants to..."
And he said "Have you ever noticed that you begin every question you ask with 'okay, so'?" And then my head exploded. Because I do begin every question with "okay, so." And it's not just questions. I begin stories with "okay, so." I begin journal entries with "okay, so." Sometimes at work I free-write a couple of sentences to prime the pump because I'm having trouble explaining a concept. I start the free-writing with "okay, so." Sometimes multiple instances. 
I think he said it so I wouldn't ask him questions anymore. Screw you, buddy. I'm asking you more questions now. And I'm going to spend the rest of the year trying to get the Sanford and Son theme song stuck in his head. Occasionally, I'm going to switch it up and go for Hollaback Girl. Because who has two thumbs and knows all the words to Hollaback Girl? This girl. 
Maybe b-a-n-a-n-a-s is Gwen Stefani's version of "okay, so."
Sr. Maria used to count how often you said like when you spoke in class. Ironically, this was why no one liked her. Actually, that's not why. It was the popped collars. Sorry, Sr. Maria, if you were looking students up on a whim and wondered whatever became of that dreadful snotty brat who never did her homework. Sometimes the truth hurts. But hey - how excited are you to note that I'm literate and can write a whole sentence all by myself? Considering how desperately hard I worked not to learn anything in high school, I'd mark that down in the win column. 
These earworms are for you, Chris:







Mom, do you see how I used the clean version? This was just for you, to make up for writing yet another entry about porn. Love you :)


Also...



I have no problem having these lovely ladies stuck in my head. Ever noticed that they look like incredibly beautiful aliens from entirely different planets? Ladies, I kind of liked some of these songs, but I will dislike just about anything you tell me to. Use your power wisely.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Fifty Shades of Scandal

I should have mentioned this a liiiittle sooner, but this post is likely NSFW (not safe for work) and definitely NSFM (not safe for mom).


I feel really weird about this post because it's about porn, essentially. Or erotica, anyway. But I feel kind of compelled because I've got a pretty strong opinion here (shockingly), and it goes along with a post I wrote about two years ago about romance novels, and my concern about the seeming omnipresent undercurrent of rape in each one.
Back then, I wrote 
During my five minutes at OU, I took a writing class, and the professor mentioned that there was some kind of romance novel governing board who decide what can and can't be in romance novels... one of the things that this board decided some years ago was "no more rapes." When they said "no more rapes," they decidedly did not say "no more near-rapes." It seems, in all of the trashier fare that I've perused, that every woman in every trashy romance novels is just moments from being raped. Luckily, she's always just moments from being rescued by a handsome hero, so no harm, no foul, right?I just find it really weird that these books, which are supposed to be light and fun, have such a creepy thing always just under the surface. I find it so odd that these supposedly empowered heroines who read books and solve mysteries are always so hapless and helpless when it comes to rape.
There's also the fact, of course, that these things don't come with a warning label. You think you're getting an amusing bungling bounty hunter, and instead you're getting misadventures in rape avoidance.If I read the back of a romance novel at the bookstore, and all I know is who wrote it and the fact that there will most probably be naughty bits. Don't know what kind of naughty bits, and I don't know if they'll make me feel awkward or uncomfortable or grossed out. Porn, it's got labels. If there's going to be rape involved, that fact will be displayed right on the page or the box... You want rape, here's rape. You don't want rape, there's a never-ending supply of fantastic filthy consensual sex right over there, clearly labeled. 


Just lately, there's been a big hullabaloo about the Fifty Shades trilogy - three works of BDSM-flavored erotica by E.L. James that's geared at women. I read the trilogy. I enjoyed the trilogy. And unlike any other romance novel I've ever waded through, my inner angry feminist was offended not in the least.
Lots of folks, as it turns out, are offended. Some feminists are shrieking about how it's harming women by glorifying rape. Dr. Drew Pinsky is complaining that the book is "actual violence against women." A New York Daily News Columnist, without criticizing the book too harshly, does say that the book is a little sexist, and women would be bothered if it turned out to have been written by a man. It's sexist, according to reviewers all over the Internet; it's violent, and it's damaging to us poor, delicate, perpetually endangered women.
And you know what I say? This is porn, and it's good porn. It's well-labeled porn. And before any spanking, slapping, or bondage take place, there's an entire chapter explaining exactly what sex acts do and do not take place herein. The male lead is deeply into bondage. The female lead is naive and virginal. The male lead says "Hey, I'm into all these really kinky things." When she tells him she knows nothing of these things, he sends her home with a contract and tells her to do a bunch of research on the Internet to find out if she's interested. 
And the female lead says yes.
She's smart, she's educated, she's pretty, she's got her pick of the fellas, she has self esteem, and she knows how to take care of herself. She's strong, she knows self-defense, and she knows her way around a gun. She knows how and when to say no, and when she wants to say no, she does. 
This book is the opposite of every romance novel I've ever tried to read. Most romance novels I've tried to choke down, the particularly rape-y ones, anyway, you can tell from chapter one who is going to almost be raped, whom she's almost going to be almost raped by, and which charming hero will protect her from the fate she's got coming. 
This book is the opposite of rape. This is a book about a girl getting a very safe, sane, and consensual introduction to the world of kink and liking what she finds. The book very clearly differentiates consensual BDSM activities from rape, and like our main character, we can walk away at any time we don't feel comfortable. 
So what's all the hubub? Why is it that real rape between the pages of romance novels is fine as long as it's thwarted, but kinky sex is bad when both participants are intelligent consenting adults who know exactly what they are getting into? Why is it romantic when Rhett Butler romantically rapes Scarlet, but evil when a girl consents to be spanked? I kind of wonder if maybe some of the critics - a large number of whom seem to be male - aren't a little bit threatened by the idea of women getting off on their own without a big strong man around to tell them whether it's okay. 
Are my Birkenstocks showing? Damn right they are. Men look at porn all the time. Violent porn, kinky porn. Dominatrix porn, submissive porn, TS porn, midget porn, granny porn... but enough about my house on a Saturday night (rimshot). Why is it that porn is suddenly damaging when it comes in paperback and is written for women by a woman? I have never heard anybody complain about Dominatrix porn and its deleterious effect on poor helpless submissive men. 
Here's what my new hero, Jessica Wakeman over at www.thefrisky.com has to say about it:

BDSM is fantasy, pure and simple. People who practice BDSM — which can be anything from vanilla stuff like over-the-knee spanking to more kinky stuff like bondage —  follow the tenets of “sane, safe and consensual.” That means everything you do is with a partner you trust, it is done in a way that will cause no real harm, and mutually agreed upon. ...Bottom line: having sex with a kinky partner is generally thoroughly discussed and rather planned out, done in such a way to maximize each partner’s mutual enjoyment. Does that sound like “violence against women” to you?

Two last things: I'm not saying, by the way, that the kinky dude in 50 Shades isn't a dick. I wouldn't lay a hand on him in real life. That's the magic of fiction, kids.
Also, Jeremy would like me to make very clear that the bit about the weird porn in our house on a Saturday night is a joke. There is no granny or midget porn in our house on Saturday nights. Not when he's home anyway.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I say y'all. Even in situations in which I know folks will mock me for saying y'all, I say y'all. Sometimes people give me trouble about being a writer/English major who uses the word, as if there were something incorrect about its use. In fact, I argue, it's more correct. Most other languages already have a way to indicate whether the second person pronoun you is singular or plural. In French, tu is singular and vous plural. In Spanish (informal), singular is tรบ  and plural vosotros. In Latin, tu and vos. In that, as in so many things, English is lacking, and some of us aren't afraid to do something about it.
Growing up, nobody in my home ever used the word y'all. I thought, like a lot of Northerners, that it was a word primarily for Southern yokels, like victuals, crawdad, and cement pond. It wasn't until I got down to Ohio University that I found how useful the word y'all is. In Latin class, we translated words like vos as you (plural), and words like amamus as you (plural) love. In Athens, Ohio, in the foothills of Appalachia, vos was y'all and amamus was y'all love. This, I had to admit, was a much more graceful way to put it.

But it wasn't until I lived on the road that I started actually using the word. I'd been in Lexington Virginia all of a week before one of my students raised his hand in class and said "Miss Brigid, you just said y'all." So I had, and I've been doing it ever since. I wasn't out of the South long before I gave up finding decent grits, came to accept the fact that my being a lady didn't require that people open the door for me, and stopped expecting long and friendly conversations with every stranger I ran into on the street. But I never did give up the word y'all. It's just too useful a word. And the fact that so many people up North seem to think themselves too good for the word is just silly. If I walk into a room and want to ask everybody in the room a question, why on earth would I use you singular, causing people to not know whether I was talking to them? Where once I thought that people who used y'all sounded ignorant, I know feel it's a little ignorant not to use it.
Downtown Cleveland
This is not at all related to my post.
Y'all, according to Another History Blog, dates to the mid-1800s in American English, having taken the place left by the by-then arcane thou. Y'all may have much older roots, however, according to DialectBlog.com. According to that blog, linguist Michael Montgomery (probably not the same guy as John Michael Montgomery, the country singer) thinks that y'all has its roots in the Scots-Irish phrase ye aw, which means the same thing. There's some reason to believe that to be the case-- a lot of what we think of as Southern culture comes by way of Ireland... listen to old Irish music and compare it to old Southern music sometime. Banjos, guitars, fiddles, and accordions dominate the sounds of both. This is because the Scots-Irish settled primarily in the Appalachian area during colonial times and became the dominant culture there. That culture spread throughout the Southeast as people began to migrate and spread. According to HauntedComputer.com, the Scots-Irish gave Kentuckians the hankering for the whiskey they've since made their own. The Scots-Irish are are responsible for Southern expressions like fixin' to go because of their use of the word fix as a synonym for do. A-going, according to that blog, comes from the Scots-Irish phrase ag dul.
As for ye aw giving birth to y'all, I'm dubious. Sounds like a case of making a horse into a zebra to me. Sure, the fanciful expression is more interesting, but you can't really ignore the fact that y'all is a contraction for the garden-variety you all. But then, the Irish are pretty much awesome, so we can go with ye aw if y'all are amenable. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Golly, this should work, no problem

So here's where I was going with my cartoon post before I was so rudely interrupted by, you know, the thing I've lanced out of my memory with an ice pick.
I used to worship Gadget from Chip n' Dale's Rescue Rangers, who was, I learned, voiced by Ms. Tress MacNeille. Tress didn't just voice Gadget, I later learned, though. She also played the titular Chip, along with the fly Zipper. Over the years she's appeared in 246 hows or movies, often in multiple roles, from show Disney's ever made to The Simpsons to Futurama and The Animaniacs. She's kind of a god. I'm not the only person to think so, either. Inexplicably, I'm not the only worshiper - Tress MacNeille stalker is like the third result when you search her name. Weird.
But I'm not just here to sing the praises of my favorite voice actor. Even though I could, and kind of want to. No, I've got some other voice actors to lay down on you. If you know one voice actor, it's probably Looney Tunes' multi-voiced star, Mel Blanc. He's known for playing Bugs and Porky, of course, but according to The Intellectual Devotional: Modern Culture by David S. Kidder and Noah D. Oppenheim, Blanc also played Daffy, Sylvester, Tweety, Foghorn Leghorn, and Others. He's no Tress MacNeille, but he's pretty decent.
And lest you were under the impression, Mark Hamill - Luke Skywalker - was not just a three-hit wonder. He's also been the voice of The Joker starting with the awesome 90s Batman cartoon. 
Also, your brain just exploded. You're welcome. 


I learned something else from the Cracked.com article 8 Actors You Won't Believe Voiced Famous Cartoon Characters. Would you believe that Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air played Shredder on theTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. Of course you wouldn't Cracked.com says you wouldn't. Makes Shredder seem a lot less scary and a lot more... corpulent, doesn't it?
Also Fergie, you know, she of My humps, my humps, my lovely lady lumps? She was, long ago, the voice of Sally Brown in 1985's Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show as well as two earlier Peanuts movies. She was 9. Meaning Fergie's older than me and at least 1,000,000 times hotter. 
Arsenio Hall voiced Winston Zeddemore on the cartoon show The Real Ghostbusters starting in 1986. Do you, by the way, remember why it was called The REAL Ghostbusters? There was another cartoon called The Ghostbusters, which was also first released in 1986, following the success of the films. The other show, The Fake Ghostbusters as it's generally known, was actually based on a very short-lived sitcom that predated it all, 1975's The Ghostbusters, starring Forrest Tucker, along with Bob Burns as his sidekick Tracy the Gorilla. Nope, not even kidding.
The Google Image search for these suave sailors revealed
no porn, thank Jebus.
Finally, Jerry "nobody-puts-Baby-in-a-corner" Orbach, none other than Law & Order's famously dour alcoholic wisecracking cop Lenny, played the candlestick Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast. I guess this isn't too surprising considering the guy got his start on Broadway, originating the role of Julian Marsh in the play 42nd Street, and Billy Flynn in Chicago, also starring as Sky Masterson in a Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls. 
Shake that thing, Lenny.




Speaking of hero worship, my mom used to sing this to me :).

Just hit the Back button and take a slug of whiskey

John Cusack's character, Rob, began the movie High Fidelity with the following question:
What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?
I would ask a similar question: Which came first, the cartoons or the staggering unpopularity? My parents tried to save me from the fate, withholding Popeye and Mighty Mouse and GI Joe and the Ninja Turtles. They made me do sports, play outside, read books, hang out with my grandma. Yet the cartoons found me, and they sucked me in.
As you may well know from my mindless ramblings on the subject, of Bruce Springsteen and Mr. Rogers, I'm a bit prone to hero worship. Which is where Gadget comes in. 


Which is where the headline of this post comes in. Even Google Images' safe search couldn't protect my childhood from being horribly assaulted by that unholiest of unholies, fan art. Don't search it man, just don't. I mean some of it's almost tasteful but... no, I can't do it. I can't continue with this post. I need to curl up in a ball and go to my happy place, then bleach all of the memories of every cartoon I've ever watched from my mind.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wrecking Ball

I keep starting and stopping writing this post in honor of Bruce Springsteen's new album Wrecking Ball. I'm not going to write a review because, you know, any review I would write that would consist of anything but "Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce" would just be a lie and we all know it. Not that I thought the album was that good, but because, you know, there's pretty much a constant chorus of  "Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce" going on in my head at any given time.

So, I thought, why not write about other people's reviews of Bruce? You see, I've noticed that all reviews of all Bruce albums seem written either by people so enamored of the man that they can't bear to say a bad thing about him or people who are just kind of clueless. People who don't get that songs like We Take Care of Our Own, Glory Days, and Born in the USA are meant to be ironic, or that Springsteen is not the "speaker" in all of his songs.
And I think the reason the reviews always seem to be senseless to me is that it's all a bunch of people attempting to voice the ineffable. Either listening to Bruce is a religious experience for you OR it's a chore. Either you can understand and are moved by every word he says OR you find the few words you can distinguish trite and predictable. 
And for Wrecking Ball, either Bruce has built, as the NPR reviewer put it, "a marvelously diverse creation" OR he ripped off the sounds of a bunch of younger bands in a desperate attempt to remain relevant, as the LA Times critic implies. Either he's tapped directly into the zeitgeist of the "real America" OR he's exploiting the zeitgeist to sell records. Either he's been recycling the same half dozen melodies for forty years OR he remains gloriously true to his own aesthetic. Either he's an old man thrashing against his own obsolescence OR he is the mature manifestation of his earlier ideals.
And whether you believe the former or the latter depends on whether you are and remain one of the rabid faithful. I'm one of the rabid faithful. Listening to Bruce makes me want to be a better person. He's brilliant and timeless and his art taps into truths as old as existence. His music speaks to me, inspires me, and thrills me. He still has things to say and he's saying them as only he can. 
I feel really fortunate to be one of the rabid faithful, and I hope I remain so, even if he makes a dozen more albums that sound just like The Ghost of Tom Joad (which I actually thought was a really good album - are you shocked?)

Monday, March 5, 2012

And now for something completely different

This blog gives me an unfortunate excuse to buy every word book that crosses my path. Yesterday, it gave me the excuse to buy From Hue and Cry to Humble Pie by Judy Parkinson, to which I owe this post.
According to Parkinson, the Monty Python comedy troupe borrowed the catchphrase, and the title for their first feature film, and now for something completely different from the evening news. Parkinson says that news programs used to use the expression "as a jolly link between two unconnected items." This is how you know that this book was written in England; Parkinson is too polite to say that news programs used the expression as a jolly link when they were too busy to come up with a segue. Myself, I like to start new and unrelated paragraphs with Also and hope nobody notices. Or hope, at least, that my readers will find me capricious and whimsical and forgive me. But I digress, another thing I do because I'm capricious and whimsical. 
I didn't really like Monty Python upon my first experience; please don't hurt me for it. I'd had no exposure to the Pythons until I saw Monty Python's Meaning of Life in college, and it didn't really do anything for me. I realized later that the reason was that I'd heard every single line quoted by everyone I knew. The problem with that is that Monty Python is funny because it's utterly absurd and unexpected (nobody expects the... wait a minute, that's what got us into this mess in the first place). Every Sperm is Sacred is hilarious, except when a bunch of college kids who aren't original enough to come up with their own shtick burst out singing it with no provocation on a daily basis. 





Now before I gave up worrying and learned to love the Pythons, people would look at me like I'd ordered the veal every time I said I didn't like them. People often intimated what one silly gentleman once came out and said, "Monty Python really does take a certain amount of intelligence to appreciate." Meaning that apparently, one needs an advanced degree to appreciate "I fart in your general direction."



And one must be a member of MENSA to laugh at silly walks.





I didn't put those examples up to support my previous, unenlightened opinion, by the way. They're there to show that it's not the supposed heady intellectualism of the performers or the audience that make these things funny, it's the seriousness with which the Pythons approach the absurdity that makes them hilarious. And, of course, the absurd amount of talent that the Pythons had amassed between them. They were funny, if you'll pardon me for saying so, because they were completely different. See what I did there?
Of the guy who accused me of being an idiot for not liking a thing that he liked, a similar point could be made. It's not his heady intellectualism that made him an obnoxious twit, it's the absurdity of his thinking that his interest in a sketch comedy show made him a better person than people who do not like said sketch comedy show.


And now, for something completely different. 




(It was between this and the very angry cat, and I went with this because I hate Titanic and I feel very bad for the very angry cat, who probably had to be put down. Or, like another cat I know, fobbed off on some poor suckers who now have to lock their cat away when guests are over so that he doesn't horribly murder them.)

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