Friday, December 30, 2011

On the Good, the Bad, and the Friday Not-Even-Random Ten: Enough With the Bad Already edition

Okay, so so 2011 is drawing to a close, and it's been… a good one? There are twelve months to look back on and decide, and just listing things out, it comes out pretty even. But just in terms of it being a landing you can walk away from, then yeah, I'll say it was a good year, warts and all. And for this TGTBATFRT--just this one--we're going to look past the warts, the failures, the exhibitions of cruelty, and the general stupidity that arises from time to time and makes one wonder about the fate of humanity, and focus on the good things that give the world hope.

I don't want to give any indication that the low points of 2011 aren't worthy of notice. But just for a moment, I want to fill the glass halfway. The good parts number far more than I have room for here, and I'm sure I've forgotten many more and will have to add them in comments as they come up. My mom has a superstition, passed down from her dad, who probably got it from someone crotchety and Slovak, that whatever you're doing on New Year's Day is what you'll be doing all year long. I like to think I'll spend 2012 thinking happily about good times. (And eating Chick-fil-A, and I have plans for making that happen.)

So in the interest of following through with that plan, I give you:

What's good (for the year ending December 31, 2011):

- Readers who've stuck with me. I've been so unforgivably lax about keeping up with this blog, even after crafting myself multiple ways of making it just as laziable as possible. The fact that when I do post, I still get comments, is a real thrill.

- Subway veggie subs, 6", on wheat, with spinach, tomato, cucumbers, green peppers, black olives, a little bit of salt and pepper, and a little bit of mustard. They're a delicious and fresh and crispy lunch for those of us who don't insist that something die for every meal.

- People making good, smart, compassionate choices in Mississippi

- The last episode of The Walking Dead before the break

- Lanacane Anti-Chafing Gel. It turns out the stuff that athletes put on to keep from getting all chafed in their chafey parts--I know, right?--has basically the same ingredients as foundation primers from big makeup brands like Smashbox at one-sixth the price. I started wearing primer when it became evident that my skin isn't, for some reason, the same as it was when I was 20, and this is some good stuff.

- The new gig at Feministe. This one has its good and its bad aspects, the worst being that yeah, I've been really bad about neglecting the readers I have back home. And being beholden to a community that big and that… vehement can be kind of stressful. But it's also pretty fulfilling.

- My family. They're good every year, but they were good this year, so they go on the list. Also good is that not only is it expanding, it's expanding with good people, among them Big Bro's girlfriend whom I dig like the sister I didn't know about until my early thirties. Also, Skipdog.

Monday, December 05, 2011

On Emma Sullivan vs. Sam Brownback: A marketing case study

This post has been cross-posted at Feministe, which is a good place to go for more about Emma Sullivan and her shameful tweet.

Okay, so the biggest screwup out of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's office of late is easy: tattling on an 18-year-old to her high school for some juvenile comment she made on Twitter during a Youth in Government field trip to the capitol. I mean, seriously: Emma Sullivan says, to her mob of 60 whole Twitter followers, "Governor Brownback sucks." Brownback's staff runs to YinG and Sullivan's school to say, "Waah! Your student is being mean!" And supposedly Sullivan is the immature one.

One thing Brownback's office didn't do wrong, although they're taking some flak for it, was monitoring Twitter for mention of Governor Brownback. This isn't creepy or paranoid--it's actually marketing best practice. Online social media offers people, businesses, and organizations unprecedented access to the feelings and opinions of their target audiences. If you hear that people are criticizing you about a certain issue, you're now able to reconsider your stance on it, make a note to address it publicly in the future, or even communicate with aggrieved individuals directly. Or if you see that some high-school student has tweeted that you suck, you can roll your eyes and say, "Nice. Really mature" and move on. (Or show some respect to a constituent and reply, "I'm sorry you feel that way. Why do you think the governor sucks?" Or be silly and reply, "No, YOU #blowalot… for tweeting about the governor when you could just ask him yourself. What can we do for you?" There are a hundred ways to handle it before you get to tattling.)

But there's one comment from Brownback's director of communication, Sherriene Jones-Sontag, that makes me think she's completely ignorant of the functions of her own job:
That wasn't respectful," responded Sherriene Jones-Sontag. "In order to really have a constructive dialogue, there has to be mutual respect."
1. When someone tells you you suck on Twitter, she's probably not attempting to start a constructive dialogue--she's probably just venting. And/or goofing around with her friends.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On homophonia

Okay, so I'm a word Nazi. (I know, I know--take a moment to clutch your pearls… Moment's over.) I work in writing. I come by it honestly. And there are a few mistakes I've seen from people who otherwise tend to have their stuff grammatically and semantically together. George Orwell called the phenomenon "dead metaphors": when a common phrase loses all context and becomes just words arranged in a pattern, so it's easy to sub in a wrong word for a right one and end up with a both virulent and self-sustaining case of incorrectness.

Read on to learn about a few common mistakes. (I'd say you should read on if you suspect you're making mistakes, but you probably don't even know you're making them, or else you'd stop doing it.)

You don't reign someone in. It doesn't have anything to do with royalty or reigning over anyone. (Besides, that would be "reigning over," not "reigning in.") it's reining someone in, like they're a horse and you're pulling back on the reins to restrain them.

The horse was getting kind of crazy, so I reined him in.
Congress needs to rein in its out-of-control spending habits.

Similarly, you don't give someone free reign. This one's a more understandable mistake--someone could, theoretically, be free to reign--but it's still wrong. It's about horses again.

I gave the horse free rein so he could jump the fence unhindered.
Atkins doesn't allow you to eat dessert, but you do get free rein to attack the carving station.

You don't tow the line. You aren't a ski boat. (Or maybe you are a ski boat. I don't know your life.) You toe the line: Someone has drawn a line that you're meant to line up on, as in the military, and by putting your toes on it, you're doing as directed or performing as is expected of you.

If you don't toe the line, I'm going to make you peel potatoes.
The boss has laid down her expectations for you--you'd better start toeing the line, or you're going to get fired.

Monday, October 31, 2011

On Mashup Monday: Graveyard Smash edition

Okay, so I was kind of worried about this Halloween. Thanks to the new "papers, please" immigration law in Alabama, the apartment complex down the hill from me practically cleared out, and I was convinced we weren't going to get any trick-or-treaters this year. Not to get all serious or whatever.

We did get a few, though, and they were actually in costume, which was nice, and in non-shitty costumes, which was extra nice, and they all actually said, "Trick or treat!" instead of just mumbling and shoving their bags at us (with the exception of two really little kids who appeared too intimidated by The Boy to speak up). Also, a puppy dressed as a pirate (OMG, y'all). Also, lots of leftover candy. Also-also, Fanta Zero and Bacardi Coco. So a good night, all told.


VV Brown/Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers - The Monster Mashup

Happy Halloween, y'all. And since I know at least one of you was wondering: Amy Pond.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

On TV shows that aren't meant to be watched as marathons: Glee

Okay, so the problem with Netflix is that when you find a show that's available in full seasons, the temptation exists to watch them, well, in full seasons. You tell yourself you're going to watch two episodes, and then it's late but there's time for one more, but that one was a two-parter and now you have to watch the second part, and before you know it you're asleep in front of the TV, dreaming that you're sitting at a piano and Lea Michele is circling you like a shark, and you wake up screaming.

And as you watch, little things start to jump out at you: Rachel says something obnoxious in three... two... one... There. Mr. Schue hands out an awkwardly conceived theme assignment in three... two... one... There. Accompanist(s) appear without warning in three... two... one... There. After-school-special moral in three... two... All things that would seem quasi-natural (natural for a musical-comedy TV show) one episode at a time become annoyingly predictable in sequence.

So no, Glee isn't meant to be watched as a marathon. There are just too many tropes that are hard to ignore when they're stacked on top of each other.

1. Finn and the drums. For some reason, Finn Hudson always ends up on the drums. Always. He's on the drums. He's singing and on the drums. He's singing and on the drums and then… walking away from the drums. That other guy is on the drums, and somehow Finn is back there playing too. And Finn knows all of two rhythms. Finn, just give John back his drumsticks and go back to singing in a tenor that's kind of disconcerting from a man of your size. Give him--Finn, give him the sti--Drop it. Drop it.

2. Poop notes. Lea Michele/Rachel Berry is passionate about her music. So passionate, in fact, that each high note has to be laid like an egg. Watch the way she squats down, squints her eyes, and wails out that note--it's equal parts "feeling the music" and "needing more roughage." (Now that Blaine has transferred to McKinley, we see more of Darren Criss's approach, which involves squinting his eyes, wrinkling his nose, and turning his head in the classic, "Jesus, God, who beefed?")

3. Asian kids are Asian. Things that Mike Chang and Tina Cohen-Chang (unrelated; dating; because all Asians are named "Chang," right?) talk about: Asian food, Asian couple's counseling, "Asian kiss[es]," getting an "Asian F," and Asian Santa Claus. And something about tea made from panda hair. Because they're Asian!

3a. Mercedes is big and black. And sassy! Had you noticed? She sings about weaves and tater-tots and says "hell to the no" a lot. (Also: Kurt is gay and wears designer clothes and sings songs written for girls!)

4. The Grand Piano Derby. Put Rachel, Finn--frankly, put any of the kids up next to the grand piano and they'll end up circling it over and over and over as they sing like they're looking for an opening to pounce. I'm just waiting for the day poor Brad finally gets uncontrollably queasy and barfs on Rachel's penny loafers.

5. Nude erections. Say it. "And now, some song weakly shoehorned into the theme of the week, performed by the Nude Erections." Say it out loud.

Glee remains fun--just in measured doses. Keep at least a week between episodes, and you might not notice the constant barrage of "Lauren Zizes is fat, but she thinks she's super hot!" jokes and find the character kind of cool and entertaining. And we have to give Sue Sylvester credit for her Tupperware-esque shelf life: Even an episode that's stale as vending-machine crackers can be perked up with a cheerleader cannon and a reference to her time in Special Forces.

Monday, October 10, 2011

On Mashup Monday: Just Wanna Tell You How I'm Feeling edition

Okay, so I don't suppose it's actually a Rickroll if you know he's coming. Otherwise, I'd have to save this for April Fool's Day. But this is no prank--no, the sweet, dulcet tones of Rick Astley telling what he is and is not going to do can be considered nothing but a gift. So you're welcome.

Rick Astley/Nirvana

Gotta make you understand...


Friday, October 07, 2011

On the Good, the Bad, and the Friday Not-Even-Random Ten: Bueller? Bueller? edition

Okay, so it was just a quick break. Making sure you'd miss me while I was gone. Did it work? [cricket sounds… cricket sounds…]

What's good (for the indeterminate period ending 10/7):

- The Nobel Peace Prize, this year awarded to three women: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkul Karman. These leaders and activists demonstrate that women's issues aren't just some niche concern and that world peace can't exist without addressing the needs of fifty percent of the world population.

- See that last link? That's me, yo! Having a fancy-schmancy big-time blogging job is good.

- Nuts.

- Whatever lipstick Amy Pond has been wearing throughout her tenure on Doctor Who. I've taken to calling it Amy Pond Red, and I want it. If anyone can find a color match for Amy Pond Red, please let me know.

- Sally Hansen Tough as Nail Xtreme Wear nail polish in Gunmetal.

What's bad:

- Alabama's new immigration law. Listen, I recognize that illegal immigration is a problem. It's not like I'm completely ignorant of that and Pollyana-ish that it's problematic. But profiling drivers and demanding immigration papers at traffic stops, requiring schools to determine the immigration status of their students, and forbidding anyone to give an illegal immigrant a sandwich or an afternoon's work or a ride to the hospital is sick. As a nation, we're supposed to be better than that.

- Not having a parade to sing in when you're skipping work in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

The Ten:

1. Big Audio Dynamite, "Bad"
2. The Dream Academy, "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want"
3. The Beatles, "Twist and Shout"
4. John Williams, "Star Wars (Main Title)"
5. Zapp, "Radio People"
6. The (English) Beat, "March of the Swivelheads"
7. Yello, "Oh Yeah"
8. Blue Room, "I'm Afraid"
9. The Flowerpot Men, "Beat City"
10. Wayne Newton, "Danke Schoen"

Your Ten, your favorite Ferris Bueller quotes, and your--Okay, screw it, find that lipstick for me and put the name of it in comments. Find it. NOW.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

On a squirrel trying to get a--wait, no, he seems to be okay

Okay, so there's nothing more shocking than public nudity, but some folks are just shameless. They just don't care. They don't care whose moments they're spoiling, or which impressionable eyes might be watching.

Shameful brazenness hidden behind the jump for the sake of the innocent.

Monday, October 03, 2011

On Mashup Monday: Back (I'm pretty sure) and better(ish) than ever edition

Or, We Apologize for Interrupting This Interruption

Okay, so I know I promised that my new blogging gig wouldn't come between us, and it now seems time to come to terms with something: I'm full of shit. Just haven't been trying hard enough. Really sorry about that. I'ma fix that. See? I'm posting right now! Does that count?

What if made an apology? What about a gift? What about a mashup gift? What about Notorious B.I.G. and Tom Petty?

Notorious B.I.G./Tom Petty - Mo' Free, Mo' Fallin'

Pair those overly-familiar guitars and that damn “can’t-eject-from-brain” hook with the radio-glossed truth-isms of Kelly Price and “Shiny Suit Era”-heyday tag-team of Ma$e and Biggie (sans The Artist Then Known As Puff Daddy) rapping about their rich man problems though, as those master mash-uppers The White Panda have done in their latest creation, and you’re talking something we could blast on repeat for days.

Marrying Biggie with White folks’ music will never lose it’s novelty awesomeness.
More to come, I promise. Thanks for hanging around.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

On the science of, like, science

Okay, so sometimes I feel like I spend a lot of time poking at religion--particularly Christianity--on this blog, which initially doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I don't hate Christianity. I don't hate Christians. I actually enjoy my faith and my faith community and take a lot of comfort in it. But honestly, some Christians--some Christians--if I'm honest, way too many Christians--throw a spark in it because they make me look bad. They take the name of a perfectly good theology and do stupid things with it. If I'm having a discussion with a non-Christian wherein my beliefs come up, and it's revealed that I am, in fact, feminist, pro-choice, pro-gay rights, and pro-evolution, someone always ends up saying, "Well, then, you aren't exactly a Christian, now, are you?" and then I say, "Shuh up!" and then there's a discussion of a Biblical defense for homophobia and the epistles of Paul and it ends in blood or cupcakes.

That said: A conversation I had over the weekend with a dear friend--and an otherwise very smart, reasonable friend--made me feel that this kind of post might be necessary. And "necessary" might be the wrong word for it, since in my experience, my reader(s) tend to be the kind of smart, reasonable people who get this kind of thing already. But sometimes (e.g., this weekend), people surprise you. Thus, with a sincere effort at not even bringing religious justification into it:

Why You Can't Teach Creationism In Science Class

Because it isn't science.

This has been Why You Can't Te--What? … Nuh-uh. … It is, too, valid.

Evolution is science because it's science-y. There's a certain science-ness to it. I find it hard to really define it, because to me, it self-defines. In terms of other definitions, Merriam-Webster have a pretty good and thorough one, and I have a bit of one myself: Science is the satisfaction of curiosity and the pursuit of knowledge using systematic methods and relying on testable evidence.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

On confessions of infidelity

Okay, so I know you've been wondering where I've been and where my head has been lately. (I know this because I've been getting e-mails from absolutely none of you asking if I'm okay. Thanks, y'all. Feeling the love.) And it's true, I've been negligent. But for once, there's a good reason: I've been cheating on you.

Wait, that doesn't sound good.

There's a good reason: I've been cheating on you with four women.

That's better.

So I'm the new staff blogger at Feministe, a blog you will recognize from all of the post topics I've blatantly stolen from them when I've been too lazy to come up with my own. I think they just got tired of me ganking their content and decided it was time for me to give back once in a while. I'll be posting regularly over there under the name Caperton (she has a name! My gift to you), but I'll also keep posting here, so wipe that delicate, crystalline tear from your eye. You'll be getting the same fun and snark and meaningful commentary and vicious take-downs and language that makes my parents ashamed of me, with the added bonus of extra fun and snark and meaningful commentary and vicious take-downs and language that makes my parents even more ashamed of me because it's in front of a larger audience, at an ad-supported blog, using my actual name. It'll be fun.

Seriously, though, I don't intend to let this affect my blogging here. If anything, it might improve it. I have the best reader(s) in the world over here, and the choicest morsels are for you. Remember: You were my firstborn, and thus I will always love you more.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On a happy honeymoon

Okay, so Sunday was a big day for a lot of brides and grooms--particularly in New York, where for the first time ever brides were able to marry brides and grooms to marry grooms. Among them were Jonathan Mintz and John Feinblatt, one of the first gay couples to marry under New York's new law. The linked NYT article isn't just about them, though. It's about the entire family: Mintz, Feinblatt, and their daughters Maeve and Georgia, all of whom are about to become a family in a way the state of New York has never recognized before.

It's a really, really great and touching article, and I'm happy for all of them. But I'm always the type to miss the point entirely and get hung up on stuff I find touching. (Do not sit down to watch TV commercials with me.) For instance:
Feinblatt, 60, who is Bloomberg’s chief policy adviser, and Mintz, 47, the city’s commissioner of consumer affairs, have lived together for more than 13 years, the last eight in a West Village townhouse.

To go that distance, adjustments were necessary. Feinblatt, the less orderly one, learned to accept that no matter where he dropped his suitcase, it would “be moved to a ‘better’ place,” he said.

much better place,” Mintz added.
You know why? Because there's a right place to put your suitcase, My--er, John.

And this is a big deal:
Both girls are Feinblatts. Mintz says he "horse-traded" his surname in return for getting "Daddy." Feinblatt took "Dad."
It might not be a huge deal for y'all, but to me, nailing down "Daddy" is pretty significant. Daddies are important. (I love you, Daddy.)

As for this:
They have three dogs, one a recent surprise birthday gift for Georgia. Maeve says she predicted it. She mischievously maintains she sees portents in the sky.

“We’re trying to dissuade her,” Mintz said. “We’re concerned there’s no scholarship in psychic cloud reading.”
That's just discriminatory.

It's a family, y'all--maybe not the kind you're used to seeing, but all of the important ingredients are right there. There are kids who pray to be a part of a stable, caring family like that. Seriously, anyone who doesn't get why this is a good thing doesn't have a heart. Congratulations and best wishes to the Feinblatt-Mintzes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

On finding work

Okay, so this one is a short one, and it goes out to Big Bro, who is now blissfully employed after more than a year of being-laid-offness: Jobs listing say the unemployed need not apply.

Think it's just a misleading headline? Oh, if only.
Hundreds of job opening listings posted on and other jobs sites explicitly state that people who are unemployed would be less attractive applicants, with some telling the long-term unemployed to not even bother with applying.

The New York Times' Catherine Rampell said she found preferences for the already employed or only recently laid off in listings for "hotel concierges, restaurant managers, teachers, I.T. specialists, business analysts, sales directors, account executives, orthopedics device salesmen, auditors and air-conditioning technicians." Even the massive University of Phoenix stated that preference, but removed the listings when the Times started asking questions.
So there it is. All of you unemployed folk who are still unemployed, know that your ongoing unemployment is just a result of you being... unemployed. If it makes you feel any better... Nah, I got nothin'.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On religion, skepticism, and being a dick

Okay, so I'm going to warn you right up front that this is going to be a rather serious, sincerely personal (and unexpectedly lengthy) post. It feels strange to throw up an "intimate personal sharing" trigger warning, but that's kind of what it is: If you'd like to stick with the lighthearted, there'll be another BSC chapter coming up shortly. Or kittens or something.

Now, then.

Part I: Faith

'Roundabout two years ago, I left the Catholic church. It was an intensely hard decision. I'd been struggling with my religion for some time--not my faith, mind you, but my religion. My faith in God was, for the most part, as strong as ever. It was my relationship with what purported to be His personal church of choice that was such a struggle for me.

My problem was simply that the more I learned about myself and the more I pursued a personal relationship with God on top of the more professional one I had with Him through church, the less my beliefs about religion and life and even myself fit with what I was being taught. It brewed for a long time: reproductive rights, the church's treatment of women, the church's treatment of gays, the handling of the pedophile priests--all the things that the church had one lesson about while my heart told me something entirely different.

It's one of the worst kinds of cognitive dissonance, when you're at odds not just with a trusted friend but with an institution that's been at or near the center of your life since a priest poured water on your little baby head. It's an institution that has literally heard you confess your deepest secrets and is supposed to help guide you through a good, moral life to a kickin' afterlife. For that matter, it's something you've shared with your family for an hour each week, plus holidays and every time you've said grace before a meal. It was meant to be with me from birth through six of the sacraments and to death and beyond, and I was so conflicted and pained I could barely look it in the eye.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

On Baby-Sitters Club Super Mystery #last: Chapter 7

Okay, so first, a note: The characters, places, and situations created for the Baby-Sitters Club series are the property of Ann M. Martin and Scholastic. (If they were mine, you know Mallory would have at least had a keratin treatment by now, poor girl.) Everything that isn't real life and isn't Ann M.'s is mine, and if you violate my copyright, I will cut you. On with the show.

In our last episode, the girls did some more shopping... and got more than they bargained for. (Duh-duh-duhhh...)

Chapter 7.

After I got Mary Anne's message, I was tapping my foot for the rest of the day. The group had been apart for more than ten years, and now it had taken less than two days for us to get back to our old adventures. It almost made me feel like a teenager again—except this time, we were older, smarter, and better equipped to solve this mystery.

I always tried to really interact with my students, stay engaged, and not just assign a chapter to outline for the entire class period. But for my last two periods of the day, that was what they did. As hard as I tried, I just couldn't focus. Thoughts and action items kept popping up that I had to write down right away, and in the end, I had to put together a whole binder to organize my theories on suspects, witnesses, motives, and evidence.

When the bell rang at the end of the day, I was just as ready to get out the door as my students were. I felt like a running back, rushing down the hall and dodging questions.

"Ms. Thomas, Morgan said practice was moved to Wednesday next week."

"Yes." Twenty yards from the door.

"Because I have an orthodontist appointment on Tuesday—"

Monday, July 11, 2011

On elevator etiquette. Seriously. Just that.

Okay, so it started two weeks ago. That’s not a whole lot in earth time, but in Internet time, where conversations--and accusations, and examinations, and defamations--can fly around at electron speed, it’s like months. It started with a post by well-known skeptic Rebecca Watson about her recent travels and a conference she spoke at in Dublin.

In the course of her eight-minute video (around 4:30), Watson made passing mention of an experience she had in an elevator. She’d been talking with folks in a bar, and around four in the morning, she got onto an elevator, followed by one of the dudes from the bar. Dude said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting, and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?” and Watson said, “Uhhh, no thanks.” Her point in recounting this was to inform guys that inviting strange women on an empty elevator back to their hotel room at four in the morning can be perceived as creepy, and that they maybe should not do it. What she said was that.

This is good advice, by the way. Even if you sincerely want to talk and not scrog, even if you really are interested in her brain and not her body, propositioning a strange woman on an empty elevator at four in the morning will probably skeeve her out some.

So that’s the end of the story.

Except it isn’t. It was the beginning of another, far lengthier story that involved folks accusing her of being hypersensitive and then something went down at another conference, and then well-known atheist and firestarter Richard Dawkins was all, like, “Blah, he didn’t even touch her, and what’s the big deal, and privilege, and blah, and at least you’ve never had your genitals mutilated, so whatever” (paraphrased), and then he was all, like, “I don’t know when it’s time to just shut up about something” (paraphrased again). And then more discussion and other stuff.

Y’all. Asking a strange chick on an empty elevator back to your hotel room at four in the morning is creepy. That’s the alpha and the omega of the story. It’s not, on its face, all that debatable. This isn’t to say that the current debate isn’t valuable, because the fact that there’s been debate at all would indicate that there’s a breakdown in communication within the community (and a lot of other communities, frankly) on the subject of privilege (and on the subject of creepiness, apparently, which seems rather straightforward to me). That is a much longer post for a much slower day, and while I like to think I’m intellectually up to the challenge, I make no warrants.

But your opinion on that subject aside, don’t ask a strange chick on an empty elevator back to your hotel room at four in the morning. Even if you aren’t personally a creeper, even if you don’t have ulterior motives, know that some men are and do and that some women’s experiences with them are different than ones you’ve had yourself and that the sensitive thing would be to find a different way of soliciting her company. You don’t have to understand--just accept. And should it ever come to a debate, know when to quit while you're only behind a little.

On Mashup Monday: Hale and farewell edition

Okay, so Friday was a sad, sad day. It was the final launch of the space shuttle Atlantis, and with it the final launch of the space shuttle program. It was also the final launch of manned NASA space flight for the foreseeable future, as (due to financial and program mismanagement and general stupidity) our next shot will likely be at a few nearby asteroids about a decade from now. Frankly, it bites. More on that tomorrow.

Today, though, a tribute to belivin' and not stopping and, I'm assuming, getting motion sick.

U2/Journey - Don’t Stop Vertigo

It's been awesome, Atlantis. Don't be a stranger.

Friday, July 08, 2011

On Baby-Sitters Club Super Mystery #last: Chapter 6

Okay, so first, a note: The characters, places, and situations created for the Baby-Sitters Club series are the property of Ann M. Martin and Scholastic. (If they were mine, you know Dawn would have come to the bacony Dark Side by now.) Everything that isn't real life and isn't Ann M.'s is mine, and if you violate my copyright, I will cut you. On with the show.

In our last episode, Dawn and Mary Anne had it out, and they had an unannounced guest.

Chapter 6.

“Seriously, Dawn, it’s possible to do the hippy-dippy-unshaven-earthchild thing without looking like Joan Baez.” I yanked the ankle-length skirt out of her hand and replaced it on the rack. “I don't even know why Shannon has that thing.”

“Anna Sui showed long skirts for spring,” Shannon called from the back of the shop.

“She also showed puffed sleeves and socks with sandals, but I’m not sending Dawn down the aisle looking like Little Retirement Villa on the Prairie.” I dug further into the rack. “Now here’s what I'm talking about.” The fabric was light and crinkly and vaguely paisley, but tiny pleats and a fitted waist made the look a little more modern. “Throw on a long, beaded necklace, and no one will ever know you wear deodorant. Mary Anne, stop looking at clothes. Just stand over there by the shoes until I’m ready for you.”

“I want to shop with Claudia. She’s not as mean,” Mary Anne said, but she obediently went to the shoe wall to watch Shannon set out a new shipment of towering wedges. I was going to have to do some shopping for myself before we left.

To be completely honest, I probably didn’t need more shoes. Thomas and I didn’t socialize a whole lot, outside of cocktail parties with his colleagues that weren’t really the place to break out the sky-high zippered peep-toes I was eyeing. Still, I was bound to make it out with a few girls from work, and those shoes plus an indecently short dress were certain to get our bar tab paid.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

On the stuff women write and the women who read it

Okay, so I’ll admit that the Daily Mail’s “Femail” section is both harmful to women and a guilty pleasure of mine. It’s a place to go to see what hideousness Kim Kardashian wore to a party and what Shia LaBoeuf said Megan Fox said about Michael Bay. Outside of not-entirely-accurate celebrity gossip, though, it’s a wasteland of woman-hate. Margaret Wheeler Johnson has the rundown: “brilliant women” turning into “slummy mummies”; the “truth” that women are responsible for any “glass ceilings”; getting skinny to gain the approval of other women. It delivers 24/7 analysis of how shitty you are, couched in advice on how a woman could, if she wanted to, become less shitty. The worst offender there is Liz Jones, and Johnson pulls a quote from a comment Jones made about the movie Bridesmaids.
The reality of the modern woman in Milwaukee or Birmingham hasn't changed much since Pride And Prejudice's Lizzie Bennet had to walk to visit her sister because she couldn't afford a carriage. Female companionship. Dreary, endless chores. Poverty and a pensionless, uncertain future.
Here’s why I’m a bad feminist. First, I’ll let you guess what you think my first thought was upon reading that quote. Got it? Okay.

My first thought upon reading that quote: The Bennet family had a carriage. Jesus Christ. They had a cook and a maid. They were hardly poor--they were landed gentry. Jane didn’t take the carriage to visit the Bingleys because her mother was scheming to get her stranded by the rain so she could spend more time with Mr. Bingley. Lizzie didn’t take the carriage to visit Jane because Lizzie was a free spirit and whatever who liked walking places. The Bennets’ only problem was that they had tons of daughters and no son, meaning all of their property would go to Mr. Bennet’s male cousin upon Mr. Bennet’s death, which is why they were trying to marry their daughters off as quickly as possible. It wasn’t because the family couldn’t afford to support them; it was because they wanted to ensure a good life for their daughters when the family assets became unavailable.


If you’re going to throw in literary allusions to try and lend some air of intellect and respectability to your self-loathing essays that center exclusively around how much women suck, make sure to read the source material first. And you might want to avoid pulling from Austen to support your anti-feminist screeds--she’s got layers.

And that’s why I’m a bad feminist: because no matter how hard Ball-Busting Man-Hating Feminist charges for the lead, English Geek will always get there before her.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

On Calvin and Hobbes and me

Okay, so all of the "grownup Calvin and Hobbes" cartoons depress me. The sad ones, where Calvin outgrows Hobbes and/or grows into a degenerate and/or turns into a boring, conventional, grown-up banker-looking kind of guy? Devastating. The sweet ones, where Calvin outgrows Hobbes, but Hobbes eventually finds happiness and fulfillment as the imaginary best friend of Calvin's precocious handful of a kid? Depressing--Hobbes is for Calvin, and Calvin is for Hobbes, and I don't care if Calvin and Susie reproduced or not. The bittersweet ones, where Calvin and Hobbes grow old together? I don't want to see Calvin and Hobbes old. Calvin and Hobbes do not grow old. Calvin managed to stay an eight-year-old for a full decade of publication, and there's no reason to assume he spontaneously started aging just because the cartoon went out of print.

Besides, the fact that Bill Watterson isn't making any new Calvin and Hobbes cartoons doesn't mean that Calvin has disappeared. I can crack open my dusty copy of Scientific Progress Goes "Boink," and Calvin remains eight years old (and Hobbes remains whatever age he was). A hyperintelligent, philosophizing eight-year-old, sure, but a second-grader nonetheless.

There have been debates over which of Calvin's two realities was really real--his interactions with his parents and Susie and Moe and the crew, symbolized by stuffed-Hobbes vacantly staring into the middle distance, or his adventures with real-live-tiger-Hobbes. It's a dumb debate. They're both real. Hobbes's antics frequently leave Calvin bruised and dirty and/or tied up, to be discovered by his mystified parents. Obviously, his world is the real world. That Calvin's parents don't recognize Hobbes for the living, talking tiger that he is is really more unfortunate than anything else.

Which means we have no reason to believe that the rest of the strip wasn't real, too. Calvin's Spaceman Spiff adventures could generally be chalked up to his imagination and his favorite comic books, but his transmogrifier? Do we know it wasn't real? Do we know that he never traveled back in time? Do we know that Calvin didn't have a flying carpet? It's not his fault his dad was too busy working to notice a flying kid (and tiger) outside his window, and obviously the condition of the rug afterward would indicate something beyond normal foot traffic.

AJ Aronstein published an essay--not the reason for this post, but possibly the impetus--talking about the comics in terms of nostalgia: the way we observe and appreciate things differently through the lens of age and life experience; whether we love it now because of its inherent, enduring awesomeness or because it recalls a simpler time when we were more innocent and uninhibited. It's a good question. And it's easy to say, "Well, my experience is different, and I'm special, and I can see how your thesis might apply to everyone else, but I'm the exception." So easy, in fact, that I think I'm going to say it right now.

Kicking back to my childhood, I can remember being so desperately jealous of Calvin. His life was awesome. In a time when I was feeling particularly lonely, he was never lonely--he had a constant and enthusiastic companion. In a time where the somewhat nontraditional workings of my mind made me feel isolated, his took him to other planets and duplicated him and made him an owl. My "playing pretend" was seldom--if ever--as vivid and engrossing. (A note to Allie: Do not think this makes our Calvinball games any less precious to me.) As great as my childhood was--and it really was--I wanted to borrow Calvin's so badly.

As great as my life is now--and it really is--I still want to borrow Calvin's. I still, on occasion, feel lonely; I still sometimes feel isolated; I still wish my friends were more open to playing pretend. I need a childhood like Calvin's to borrow, and that really only works if he stays eight.

Some of you may be tempted to attribute all of this to my tragic and ongoing tendency for anthropomorphization of my own stuffed animals. (Hold on, did someone just say ongoing? Ridiculous.) Of course I can neither confirm nor deny that I still have the favored stuffed dog of my early childhood tucked away in my closet, nor can I confirm or deny that I apologize to it if I'm ever forced to crowd it at all to accommodate more shoes. If Calvin can grow up, if he and Hobbes can be separated or be exposed to the harsh reality of adulthood--and I don't really know which would be worse--that would mean that maybe I can't be eight years old anymore. And that would be devastating and depressing.

On more anniversaries

Or, Happy fugging birthday.

Okay, so Practically Harmless isn't the only blog to celebrate its seventh birthday this year. July 1 marked the seventh blogiversary of exceptional (and personal favorite) blog Go Fug Yourself, which combines two of my passions--fashion and snark--for a wholly entertaining and time-sucking blogging experience.

GFY, I celebrate your awesomeness and wish you all the success in the world. To the rest of blogdom: HOW COME I AIN'T MAKING ANY MONEY OFF OF THIS, BLOGDOM, HUH? THIS AIN'T WORTH A LITTLE SCRATCH? JUST BECAUSE I HAVEN'T TAKEN THE TIME TO TRY TO SELL ADS? OR BECAUSE MY POSTING RECORD HAS BEEN SPOTTY OVER THE PAST FEW MONTHS? Not feeling the love, blogosphere. And now my first-grader of a blog is crying. Nice job.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

On girlhood

Okay, so I'm a girl. This may come as a shock to those of you who are convinced that I'm actually a 63-year-old man from Little Rock trying to fulfill his need for adulation and sexual affirmation via an assumed identity. (But seriously, folks, if I were a dude trying to adopt a sexy female alter ego, do you think i'd go for 30-year-old underpaid marketing writer writer with a steady boyfriend and an addiction to Dr. Who? It's kind of niche.)

Ask me, though, and I'll self-identify as a girl. Sometimes a lady, under certain circumstances. I was called a dame once and found it most entertaining. But generally, it's "girl"--and almost never "woman."

I don't know what it is about "woman" that doesn't sit right with me. It's not that I'm not a female of the species who presents as such. It's not even that I don't consider myself an adult, although my standards for real adulthood tend to differ from those of people who usually don't wear feather earrings to the office. And it's not that I cling to girly-girlness--I do love a brand-new hairdo, but I despise pink, ruffles, "princess," "diva," French provincial, and non-ironic marabou. So maybe I'm not exactly a girl. But I feel I'm not yet a woman.

Karen Duffy would take issue with that--"girl" is a pet peeve of hers. She writes,
I cringe when I hear the women from "The Real Housewives" accuse their cast mates of acting like "mean girls." Sure, the dames on reality television are cruel, narcissistic and self-absorbed (and I love every minute of it), but girls? For these women, girlhood was more than 30 years ago.
A not-unreasonable observation. There's definitely a disconnect between "girl" and "housewife," and it's odd to think of someone as a "girl" when she herself has given birth to several of them. But the real concern seems to be not that they're identifying as girls but that they're acting like them. I can't say I've actually seen any of the "Real Housewives" shows myself (and I'm okay with that), but they, like pretty much all other reality TV these days, seem to be heavy on the gossiping, plotting, snubbing, sniping, and backstabbing that we all should have gotten over in high school.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On the hidden enemy lurking within 49.3 percent of the U.S. population

Okay, so The Boy and I got into a lengthy discussion recently over a blog post by Dilbert cartoonist and all-around dickweed Scott Adams asserting that recent "tweeting, raping, cheating, and being offensive" by some "powerful men" is really just them giving in to their manly urges, urges that are "shameful and criminal" in a world that values only the natural instincts of women.

The Scott Adams part of this post

In Scott's words,
The current view of such things is that the men are to blame for their own bad behavior. That seems right. Obviously we shouldn’t blame the victims. I think we all agree on that point. Blame and shame are society’s tools for keeping things under control.

The part that interests me is that society is organized in such a way that the natural instincts of men are shameful and criminal while the natural instincts of women are mostly legal and acceptable. In other words, men are born as round pegs in a society full of square holes. Whose fault is that? Do you blame the baby who didn’t ask to be born male? Or do you blame the society that brought him into the world, all round-pegged and turgid, and said, “Here’s your square hole”?
By all means, correct me if I'm drawing weird connections here, but I'm digging through my limited and dusty knowledge of propositional calculus to make sense of whatever the hell he's saying. If someone could please, in comments or via e-mail, characterize it some other way than "raping and cheating are only bad because society caters to women," I'll give you a nickel. The whole lion-and-zebra thing really reads like "Some dummy put rapey men and rapeable women in the same habitat! Man, whatcha gonna do, right?"

Monday, June 27, 2011

On being this many (redux)

NB: As I was preparing this post, I was all, "Man, it's been so damn long since that last post, and that whole no-power thing really blew, and I'm so glad to be finally getting back to posting." I put my laptop aside to go run some errands, and… CAME HOME TO NO MOTHERFUCKING POWER. AGAIN. I wish I were shitting you. So now we've officially spent more time this week without power than with it, and we've had to throw out food, and do you know what it smells like in a house that doesn't have air conditioning but does have a storm-phobic rat terrier? YES, IT SMELLS LIKE THAT. So I'm glad to be returning to posting, not just because I miss my reader(s) but also because it means I have lights and AC and access to a coffeemaker or blow drier or circular saw or whatever else I want that runs on electricity. So… moving on.

Okay, so I actually have a decent excuse for not posting for most of the week--our power was out for the better part of three days following a 15-minute thunderstorm. And it sucks, because I actually had stuff to post, or at least that I would have gotten ready to post had I not been forced into the Luddite hell of pen and paper by candlelight.

One thing that I missed out on? My own seventh blogiversary. (The seventh is supposed to be wool or copper, or possibly big metal chickens, so make your gift purchases accordingly.) Seriously, I've been doing this for seven years. If this blog were a kid, it would be in first grade. So really, it could be writing itself, albeit laboriously on that special paper with dotted lines.

Looking back over the past seven years, I see more than 900 posts--three and a half bazillion words--of stuff that's important to me, some of it societally significant, some of it even world-changing, and some of it so trivial that it's probably not even interesting to my reader(s). There's one thing about me when I get passionate, though: Sometimes, my word choice becomes… less than optimal. My dear aunt says swearing is unattractive, my grandmother said it's a sign of a weak mind, and my mother cringes when she hears verbal naughtiness (despite having a potty mouth of her own, on occasion, due to my own horrible influence), and they're all right. However, as they say, behind the mouth of a sailor lies the heart of a poet,* and I generally let such words fly in moments of passion and fervor. One can guess that they appear in important places. Thus my seven-year review follows them like something you follow to see where it's going.

Seven Years of Practically Harmless, in Words My Mother Disapproves Of

On Mashup Monday: Happy blogiversary to me edition

Okay, so it's late--my blog actually turned seven last Tuesday. But I do have a reasonable excuse for holding off the celebration. Until now. And that celebration begins... now.

In honor of me, I give me the gift of five great tastes that taste great together.

The Beatles/Joan Jett/Cypress Hill/House of Pain/Rage Against the Machine - Mash Together

Thanks for sticking with me. Regular posting to recommence in three... two... one...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

On outing and hypocrisy*

*In which we expose our own hypocrisy by outing others

Okay, so it's so common it's not even a funny cliche anymore: a legislator who uses his virulently anti-gay leanings to mask his own homosexual proclivities. Most recently, it's New York State Senator Carl Kruger, who railed against gay marriage during the day and entertained a male lover by night (and who has since changed his vote on gay marriage). Previous offenders have included Larry "Wide Stance" Craig, Ted "Sexual Immorality" Haggard, and Mark "Pageboy" Foley.

Now, in the wake of Kruger's outing, Salon ponders whether "outing" someone is okay as long as it's a conservative, closeted politician--"… reporting on a politician's sexual orientation serves the public interest," says column author Alex Pareene. I couldn't agree less.

I'm unequivocally opposed to outing anyone--even schmuck bastard bigoted closeted politicians. Sexual orientation is something personal and private, not something you do but something you are, and the exposure or concealment of said orientation is no one else's business. We talk about homosexuality as being natural and nothing to be afraid or ashamed of, but we're frequently comfortable using it as a weapon against political opponents--when we say we're trying to "expose their hypocrisy," usually what we mean is we're trying to punish them, using the secret shame that any other day we'd insist shouldn't be secretive or shameful.

Note to us: Either homosexuality is shameful or it isn't. If it isn't, we shouldn't be using it as a weapon. We'd never justify the outing of a gay teenager or adult to settle a score, so it doesn't make sense to arbitrarily justify it for a closeted congressman--even an anti-gay hypocrite--who's obviously keeping his sexual orientation secret for a reason.

Friday, June 10, 2011

On Baby-Sitters Club Super Mystery #last: Chapter 5

Okay, so first, a note: The characters, places, and situations created for the Baby-Sitters Club series are the property of Ann M. Martin and Scholastic. (If they were mine, you know Janine would have gone all A Beautiful Mind by now.) Everything that isn't real life and isn't Ann M.'s is mine, and if you violate my copyright, I will cut you. On with the show.

In our last episode, Mallory had herself a little sleepover.

Chapter 5.

“Does everyone have sunscreen?” I couldn’t believe what a mother I’d turned into. I’d always prided myself on being so laid back, even when I was a baby-sitter. But now that I had two of my own, I had to hold myself back from hovering.

Calantha rolled her eyes. “Yes, Mom,” she said.

“Yes, Mom,” Teal echoed, doing a decent four-year-old attempt at Calantha’s all-pro eye-roll. I had to keep an eye on that one.

“You put it on them yourself, Mom,” Brent said, eyes all sparkly in that way that kept me from hitting him, and he kissed me on the cheek. He pulled into Sharon’s—Sharon’s and Richard’s—driveway. “And I have an extra bottle of it. We’ll all be fine.”

I grabbed his face and kissed him on the lips. “I know. You take good care of my girls.”

Thursday, June 02, 2011

On Baby-Sitters Club Super Mystery #last: Chapter NOTHIN'

Okay, so we regret to inform our reader that this week's installment of our ongoing unauthorized epic Baby-Sitters Club sequel quasicollaboration will be... not here, due to a trip that kept me literally in the wilderness for five days. By way of apology: two baby chinchillas in wine glasses.

Regular totallynotfanfictioningIswear will resume next Thursday night.

On personal safety: Are you rape-proof enough?

Holy mother of God!

Okay, so I had to borrow the title of this post from jfwlucy on a recent post at The Frisky, because it's both pertinent and sounds like an OK Cupid quiz that would come with little check boxes. But the subject matter is a little more serious: It's the author's assertion that being drunk is a feminist issue. (Via Feministe.)

Why does Kate Torgovnik believe that being drunk is a feminist issue? It's because sometimes, drunk women get raped. Women + rape must make it about feminism, so drunk = feminist issue it is. She's not blaming the victim, BUT (ding!) if women drank less, they wouldn't get raped so much. She even has statistics--sobering statistics (ding!)--to prove it.

O sweet Raccoon God, we're talking about this again. As if it had never come up before, we're presented with the realization that rapists prey on vulnerable women and drunk women are more vulnerable. Shocking and new and certainly worthy of the same rehashing and analysis it's been getting for decades now! Certainly something that hasn't been discussed on this very blog once or twice or thrice or whatever comes after thrice.

And there's certainly argument for drinking responsibly--it's good for the soul, it's good for the skin, and it's always better to be more in-control than less in-control. Of course, Torgovnik points out, in an ideal world, rape wouldn't exist, BUT (ding! Yahtzee!) we don't live in an ideal world. This is true. The question is how far we should be expected to go to offset that un-idealness. In an ideal world, priests wouldn't fondle little kids, but this isn't an ideal world--yet parents still take their kids to church. In an ideal world, terrorists wouldn't hijack planes, but this isn't an ideal world--yet people still fly. In an ideal world, rapists wouldn't attack runners in the park, but this isn't an ideal world--so what are we expected to do, get a treadmill and live in fear?

I'm not going to go into the whole argument a thrice-plus-one-plus-another-one time, because my view is simple: Life is a calculated risk, and everyone--man or woman--makes choices that someone else will disagree with. There is no choice that anyone--man or woman--can make that excuses the actions of the one who victimizes them. We love to harp on a rape victim's dress/sexual history/blood alcohol content/choice of parking spaces because it gives us a false sense of security that rape can be avoided by following a few simple rules. And "I'm not blaming the victim, but" is the clarion call of the person who's actually blaming the victim.

But how about that quiz, huh? How rape-proof are you? Ten quick questions, and you'll know for sure!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

On Baby-Sitters Club Super Mystery #last: Chapter 4

Okay, so first, a note: The characters, places, and situations created for the Baby-Sitters Club series are the property of Ann M. Martin and Scholastic. (If they were mine, you know Karen Brewer would be an "actress" waiting tables in New York by now.) Everything that isn't real life and isn't Ann M.'s is mine, and if you violate my copyright, I will cut you. On with the show.

In our last episode, Jessi woke up really... tired.

Chapter 4.

Ohhh crap.

Every part of my body was sore, starting with a pounding ache at the top of my head. I’d never been much of a partier. Okay, I’d never been a partier at all. Hamilton College wasn’t really known for its ragers, and I’d always ducked out of the writing salons when the absinthe came out. So this feeling of blurriness, bleariness, and all-over crappiness was unfamiliar and unpleasant. I blamed Stacey. At that point, I wasn’t entirely sure why I blamed Stacey, but I was pretty sure she was at fault.

Stretching an entire body full of aching muscles, I rolled over to bury my face in the pillow and block out the sunlight cutting between the curtains. I couldn’t do that. I was stopped by something very large and very warm.

My eyes snapped open, and I barely noticed the pain shooting to the back of my brain because there was a man in my bed. Looking around the room, I was comforted to see that we were in a hotel room and thus it wasn’t actually my bed, but there was still a man in it. He was bare from the waist up—at the very least—revealing a rather nice set of back and shoulder muscles, but I couldn’t muster the courage to peek under the sheets and see if any other muscles were exposed. I peeked at myself, though. I was definitely completely exposed.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

On Baby-Sitters Club Super Mystery #last: Chapter 3

Okay, so first, a note: The characters, places, and situations created for the Baby-Sitters Club series are the property of Ann M. Martin and Scholastic. (If they were mine, you know Cokie Mason would have her own show on Fox News by now.) Everything that isn't real life and isn't Ann M.'s is mine, and if you violate my copyright, I will cut you. On with the show.

In our last episode, the girls reunited over Mexican food and a lot of tequila.

Chapter 3.

Ohhh shit.

Opening my eyes was physically painful. I think my mascara glued my eyelids shut. And then I got them open, and I had to close them again, because there was just a little bit of light coming in between the curtains and it felt like it was melting my corneas. So I had to do that about three times. And then, when I finally got my eyes open, I could see that I wasn’t in my hotel room. It was a hotel room, but not mine. And nothing I could remember from the night before was telling me whose room it was.

When the bathroom door opened, I seriously gave thought to jumping off the couch and running out of the room. But it was Claudia, which answered the question of whose room I was in and also answered why I felt like I’d been run over by a truck.

I’ll tell you: I’m used to pain. I’ve sprained almost every joint in my body. I don’t have any of my original toenails. I once dislocated a rib—I didn’t even know that ribs got dislocated. Have you ever taken a full-body ice bath? I have. But nothing—nothing—compared to the misery of waking up with a hangover after partying with Claudia Kishi.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On the Fourth Amendment (we hardly knew ye)

Okay, so the police get to come into your home whenever they want, for whatever reason. If you got up to go to the bathroom or make a sandwich and missed that, I'll repeat it: The police get to come into your home whenever they want, for whatever reason. This new and exciting twist to our Fourth Amendment comes as a gift from our very own U.S. Supreme Court, who decided in an 8-to-1 ruling that the suspicion that evidence is being destroyed inside is sufficient cause for the police to enter without a search warrant.

Before I continue: At no point during the discussion of this development will I accept or even debate the argument "If you're not doing anything illegal, you don't have to worry." I do have to worry, and I get to worry. My constitutional protection from unreasonable search and seizure doesn't come with the condition that I not be doing anything naughty inside--it's absolute, and the only acceptable exception involves the serious consideration of a judge followed by a search warrant. I may be doing something legal but private inside--crafting a politically controversial manifesto, writing deeply disturbing fiction with terrorist fantasies and deviant sexual themes, dressing up in a rubber suit and touching myself in front of Mythbusters. If cops knock on my door and yell "Police, police, police," hear scuffling inside, and charge in to find me sumo wrestling naked in my living room with a grown man dressed like a baby, that's not okay. Adult baby sumo isn't illegal, but it's a rather private activity and not something that anyone gets to see if I don't want them to.*

(NB: Top search terms for this blog are fixing to get bizarre.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

On Mashup Monday: True romance edition

Okay, so I'm a romantic at heart. All you need is love. Love is all you need. I don't believe that there's any particular "one" for everyone, but my feeling is that out of 6,775,235,700 people (and counting) on the planet, pure statistics say there's probably at least one person out there who'll be prove entertaining, fulfilling, and tolerable. Which raises the obvious question: Why have Debbie Harry and John Mayer never recorded a duet together?

Norwegian Recycling/Take That/Usher/John Mayer/a bunch of folks - Recycled Romance

Those crazy kids. You know, The Boy and I are together because of a pair of skilled and knowledgeable matchmakers. Maybe some people just need a good nudge. (And John, maybe a little less frank and racially-tinged discussion of your nethers with national nudie mags--good advice for us all, really.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

On Baby-Sitters Club Super Mystery #last: Chapter 2

Okay, so first, a note: The characters, places, and situations created for the Baby-Sitters Club series are the property of Ann M. Martin and Scholastic. (If they were mine, you know someone would have told Mr. and Mrs. Pike where babies come from by now.) Everything that isn't real life and isn't Ann M.'s is mine, and if you violate my copyright, I will cut you. On with the show.

In our last episode, Mary Anne and Dawn had a rather awkward reunion.

Chapter 2.
Mary Anne.

Los Sombreros hadn’t changed even a little bit. It was comforting. We even managed to track down our old table—still all the way in the back, to the right—and do our best to cram ourselves around it. It seemed to work better when we were teenagers, either because we were smaller then or because we had no problem piling into each other’s laps. I think our record might have been eleven, including boyfriends and one visiting cousin, which involved a lot of squeezing and stacking.

Of course, it had all started with just the four of us—Kristy, Claudia, Stacey, and me—brought together by what Kristy still insists on calling her Big Idea (capital B, capital I): a club of baby-sitters. A baby-sitters club, if you will. From an entrepreneurial standpoint, it was brilliant: Call one phone number and quadruple your chances of finding an available baby-sitter, if you weren’t squeamish about leaving your kids under the supervision of a thirteen-year-old. Over time—and in response to increasing demand—we expanded: Dawn came in when she moved to town, and Mallory and Jessi joined as junior members for parents who didn’t mind leaving their kids under the supervision of eleven-year-olds. More came and went over time, but this group, these seven girls, was the real thing.

At the head of our table sat, not unexpectedly, Kristy Thomas, who was staring down the length of the table as if assessing the chip-basket-to-diner ratio and finding it lacking. She had been the president of the club, if for no other reason than her own insistence, and I can’t say she didn’t carry the role well. No one I’ve met has had a better sense of organization, a stronger drive, or a louder voice. Or her own bullhorn. The third of four children and the only girl, Kristy was left to more or less fend for herself after her father bailed and her mother had to go back to work, and I think it left her with a bit of a chip on her shoulder, even after her mother remarried and Kristy suddenly acquired a larger and more complexly blended family.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

On Baby-Sitters Club Super Mystery #last: Chapter 1

Okay, so first, a note: The characters, places, and situations created for the Baby-Sitters Club series are the property of Ann M. Martin and Scholastic. (If they were mine, you know Logan Bruno would have two illegitimate kids by now.) Everything that isn't real life and isn't Ann M.'s is mine, and if you violate my copyright, I will cut you. On with the show.

In our last episode... nothing really happened, because it was the prologue.

Chapter 1.
Mary Anne.

I’d dusted the living room three times, which was three-times ridiculous: I hated dusting, Dawn wouldn’t care, and we never used that room anyway. But I had to do something. I was excited—not unusual for me—about seeing Dawn for the first time in over a year. And I was nervous—definitely not unusual for me—about seeing Dawn for the first time since Dad and Sharon separated.

The front door opened, and I spun around.

My stepmother Sharon flew in like a tornado of shopping bags and dry cleaner’s plastic. Her huge purse, bags, and dry cleaning went on the dining room table, but she carefully hung her garment bag on the top of the doorframe. That was going to have to come down before Dad got home.

“Hey, Sharon,” I said.

She jumped a little. “Um, hey, Mary Anne.” Awkward silence. “Dawn not here yet?”

“Nope. There was some weather over the Midwest, so her flight has probably been delayed.”

My best friend and stepsister Dawn—my onetime best friend and current stepsister—was supposed to be in from California any minute now. It was strange to think that we’d been friends for more than half my life, and now I was worried about us liking each other.

On the new, improved dogs of war

Okay, so cry “Havoc,” and what is let slip will fuck your shit directly up. Meet the Navy SEAL dogs, every bit as badass as their human counterparts and twice as anerable. These fuzzy sonsabitches can sniff out bombs and baddies, parachute from high altitudes, take out targets with their armor-piercing titanium teeth (a bit much, I admit), and warm the ever-living fuck out of your feet on a cold night.

Yes, part of me is of the opinion that a dog’s job should, if at all possible, involve no more stress or danger than rug burn from all the rolling around and tummy rubs—then again, I feel that way about people, too. But as highly trained military teammates go, you can’t do a lot better than an armored, night-vision German Shepherd. And the image of a SEAL pup strapped to a dude’s chest as he rappels into Osama bin Laden’s compound and sniffs the bastard out makes me both awed and tickled, particularly when it’s followed by the image of that same dog wallering around in the yard and then getting a cookie.

The United States War Dogs Association is working to get war medals for these cuddly commandos, which is cool since they take just as much risk as two-legged soldiers and the humans don’t have to attack bad guys using just their teeth. And you can even send the dogs care packages, since warrior dogs like Kongs, too. (No, really, apparently they do.) Now you’ll have to excuse me, because I feel it’s time to cuddle the hell out of Dave, who would make an excellent war dog except that he’s never shown any kind of aggression at all, he has a tendency to lick strangers, he’s solely food-motivated, he hates water, and his huge Tina Turner tail would immediately give away his location. Otherwise, though, he’s an animal.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

On a world west of the Chattahoochee

Okay, so I hate to dwell—what am I talking about? I love to dwell—but that Gawker post got my back up, and I found myself doing something I wouldn’t have thought I’d be doing five years ago: defending Alabama.

When my brother started doing some freelancing for a newspaper in Phenix City and eventually moved to Birmingham to work for UAB, he got the crap teased out of him, because Alabama was this kind of backward, redneck, cousin-kissing cultural black hole that thanked God for Mississippi for protecting them from the bottom of every list except obesity. Then I moved here in 2006. And it’s actually kind of awesome.

Now I get just as frustrated as Doug did when I get the hick jokes from people who have never actually been here. My personal policy is that whenever I hear someone making a generalization about a region, I think back to whether I’ve ever seen that same generalization in a movie. If I have, I take the sentiment with a grain of salt. (Example: Sweet Home Alabama is not a wholly accurate depiction of Alabama. Does it get some things right? Oh, hell yes. But it’s a comedy, not a travelogue. Also: not filmed in Alabama.) Another example: Defending your derision of people trying to help disaster victims with healthy food by insinuating that these hick rubes are too dumb to appreciate it or know what to do with it anyway.

So to the Gawkerites who believe what they see in Talladega Nights: Tuscaloosa is a college town with a top-50 public university. Birmingham is the financial center of the state with one of the top-ranked research and clinical health systems in the country. Huntsville is home to the space program. And all of those little flattened communities between? The ones you’d probably never heard of before but seem to know so much about now? Though rural, they really did have indoor plumbing, internal combustion engines, Super Wal-Mart, books, TV, and schools that go past sixth grade. So if you want an excuse to push off some Soviet-era dreck in an unmarked can on desperate people, you’re going to need something better than “let on their own, people in rural Alabama wouldn’t know what to do with a can of salmon.”

Alabama is not a stupid state. Conservative, frequently. Often stubborn. Sometimes prone to listening to dumb things and ignoring smart ones. But this dogmatic, intellectually incurious, ignorant hicksville that people—non-Southern people, non-Alabamians who need something to look down on—are creating for themselves is bullshit, and screw you for making me point that out.

NB: Feel like being part of the solution? Show Uncle Dad, Larry Wayne, and all the other slack-jawed yokels you care by donating food and other crucial material goods.

On nonperishable food snobs

Okay, so if I know one thing about the hundreds upon hundreds of victims left without any form of shelter or source of food by the mile-wide tornado that scored a 200-mile path across the Southeast, it’s that they deserve the absolute shittiest shit you can give them in donated food. Three-year-old Chef Boyardee? Bam. Whatever’s in that can with the label off? Go for it. Beans? More beans? Who doesn’t love more beans?!

And how do I know it’s wrong to offer healthy food to people standing next to the rubble of their own lives? Because the awesome folks at Gawker let me know.
Sure, you’ve lost everything and your entire town has been obliterated by one of the most devastating series of tornadoes in history. Doesn’t mean you can’t still eat smart, local and organic!

Magic City Post, a lifestyles website from Birmingham, offers “25 ideas for non-perishable items that will provide high-quality proteins, good carbs and health fats.” It’s just something to consider when you’re loading up that box of canned food to bring to the shelter.

Gawker’s Seth Abramovitch, who I’m sure came all the way down to ‘Bama to take those disaster pictures himself, because he’s obviously just busting out with concern, offers a mockable short list of items in his post. A few others that he seemed to miss:
1. Canned or pouched tuna
2. Canned salmon
3. Canned chicken
4. Canned black beans
5. Canned chickpeas or lentils
8. Smart Balance or natural peanut butter
13. Shelf-stable milk
14. Oatmeal and grits
17. Herbs, spices and spice blends
18. Canola, olive, flax seed (linseed) or peanut oil
19. Lundberg’s Rice Chips and Chip’ins Popcorn Chips
20. Minute white rice
21. Raisins and other dried fruit
22. Olive oil, mayonnaise and other condiments
23. Wheat crackers

Look at those stupid, pretentious foodies, trying to give people... healthy proteins. And milk. And dried fruit. And rice. And oil and seasonings and condiments to make their nourishment a little less bland. Those... bastards?

Monday, May 02, 2011

On Mashup Monday: Hope edition

Okay, so news gets worse, not better. There's a point where miraculous discoveries are made and every crumbled house is a potential gift. Then there's a point where that's not realistic and every house contains either nothing or worse. It sounds fatalistic and depressing, I know, particularly coming from someone who didn't have as much as a broken window from the weather, but the death toll topped 300 today and it's just a lot.

K'naan/Matisyahu/Akon/Michael Jackson/The Fugees - Songs of Hope

God bless the families and friends who've lost loved ones, the ones still working for loved ones, and the volunteers trying to help make it better.

Friday, April 29, 2011

On Baby-Sitters Club Super Mystery #last: Prologue

Okay, so first, a note: The characters, places, and situations created for the Baby-Sitters Club series are the property of Ann M. Martin and Scholastic. (If they were mine, you know Stacey would have a venereal disease by now.) Everything that isn't real life and isn't Ann M.'s is mine, and if you violate my copyright, I will cut you. On with the show.

Mary Anne.

Saying that I'd gotten the hell out of Stoneybrook nearly fifteen years ago would be overly dramatic. It’s not like I made a conscious decision to cut all ties with my family and my friends in the Baby-Sitters Club; there was no drastic schism. There was just the normal drifting apart that happens to teenagers when they start discovering themselves and following their own paths.

It just so happened that my path involved wriggling out from beneath the overwhelming influence of my friends, my boyfriend, my father, and my small, conservative hometown and finding some room to breathe.

So returning to Stoneybrook to watch my dad and stepmother renew their wedding vows wasn’t as unpleasant a prospect as you might think. I was kind of looking forward to hooking up with my BSC friends, back together for a weekend after years scattered across the country. And I was really looking forward to spending time with my dad, whom I’d been neglecting, and reconnecting with Sharon and Dawn, whom I’d been avoiding entirely for obvious reasons.

I can’t say I expected the events of the weekend—I’d figured the real excitement would involve dresses and flowers, not wedding favors and mysterious cars. But bring these seven girls together and drama is bound to crash the party.

And now I’m writing it all down in a spiral notebook. I guess old habits really do die hard.

Coming up: A sugar-free reunion.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

On a shameful new project

Okay, so if you've been noticing the recent dearth of posts and thought, "I bet she has a big project coming up that she's going to announce any day now," you're right! Yay you! (If you've been thinking, "I bet she's totally slacking off": also correct.)

Blame Facebook. (Blame it for everything anyway.) A friend linked to a story about the recently released sequel to the Sweet Valley series, revisiting the beloved characters ten years later. (General consensus: It's nice to see the girls again, but Francine Pascal seems to Try a bit much to turn them into spicy adults.) That led to the inevitable discussion of what the Baby-Sitters Club girls would be up to a decade later. That led to the following conversation:
FOLKS. Oh, my God, you're so funny! This is so good.
ME. Wow, that's really flattering. Thanks.
FOLKS. No, I mean, this is really good.
ME. Thanks.
FOLKS. No, I mean really, really good. Better than the real thing, probably.
ME. I--
FOLKS. I would totally read that book, if you wrote it.
ME. Well, I--
ME. No, you don't.
ME. Jesus, okay, okay!

Word for word, I swear.

Anyway, the upshot is that I'm venturing into the realm of what I will deny to my dying day is fan fiction: You're getting the Baby-Sitters Club, fourteen years down the road, one chapter a week. I'm going to try to post chapters Thursday evenings, and if I don't, someone e-mail me or something. Or e-mail Erin. This is her damn fault anyway.

Coming up: Mary Anne should know by now what she's getting into.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On the tragedy next door

Okay, so while I was writing that last, lighthearted post, north Alabama was being demolished by more than 100 tornadoes. I literally had no idea it was going on--our home is completely untouched, and all evening we barely felt a stiff wind, while video shows a tornado tearing through town just north of us. Debris from Tuscaloosa has been found in Birmingham. Fifty-three people--at current count--have died. Entire towns--Hackleburg, Point Pleasant--no longer exist.

I have absolutely no idea what to do. (I'm kind of worthless in the face of natural disaster, it would seem.) But the Magic City post does, thank God, and I encourage you all to follow Wade's suggestions for donating money and, if you're local, time and in-kind items. Those of us lucky--and let's stay with "lucky" and not "blessed"--to avoid that kind of injury need to step up and do whatever we can to ease the way of those who weren't so lucky.

On elaborate millinery and gin o'clock

Okay, so monarchy doesn't do much for me. Weddings I can take or leave. And I haven't really paid that much attention to the British royal family since Prince Harry took over as The Hot One. But what do I love? Pageantry. And hats. And this Friday is going to be the unofficial inaugural International Pageantry and Hats Day as the once-hot Prince William marries the patient and enviably lanky Kate Middleton.

Now, I'm not going to actually be watching the proceedings--ain't no way I'm getting up at 3:00 a.m. to watch news coverage of the not-wedding part of a wedding, and I won't be able to watch the blessed event itself from my desk at work. But I will be enjoying a scone and a cup of tea in the couple's honor, and I will be assembling every available household item into a fascinator that can be seen from space and wearing it to all of my Friday meetings.

In the meantime, here's what will entertain one:

- News coverage of the wedding day by the BBC

- Kate Middleton for the Win. (Why is my champagne hand empty?)

- The honest-to-God, absolutely for-real Queen of England's Twitter feed.

- The Go Fug Yourself recap of Lifetime's original romance, Mother, May I Sleep With Royalty: William & Kate: The William & Kate Story: Inspired by True Events.

- My plans for my own eventual wedding, including a dancing archbishop, a leapfrogging groom, and the now-hot Prince Harry.

And now one must retire to pour oneself a drink and find curling ribbon and feathery cat toys to adorn one's hatband.

On birtherism, misogyny, and… math

Okay, so I'm not sure where it comes from. A few things, probably: a little blowback from all of the attention to Obama's birthplace (note: It's Hawaii. Let it go), a desire to discredit Sarah Palin any way possible, a love for absolutely anything salacious and conspiratorial. But the idea that Trig Palin is not Sarah's son but her grandson is for some reason picking up volume that seems impervious to logic.

An overview: Trig Palin (the one Sarah allegedly made) was born, as far as available evidence shows, on April 18. Tripp Palin (the one Bristol allegedly made) was born December 27 of that same year. Unless Bristol celebrated pushing out a six-pound baby by immediately getting' down and getting pregnant on the first try, and then promptly delivered a 36-week baby who weighed in at more than seven pounds, Trig can't be her kid. Math + biology. If you want evidence even solider than Obama's certificate of live birth, math + biology should do it.

There are two things that bug me about this controversy. One is the aforementioned math + biology issue. I love biology, and I particularly love math--if you want to discard math to support some wacky conspiracy theory, I'll be bugged. And the other is that I'm now forced to defend Sarah Palin. Do you know what that's like for me? Don't you like me? Why would you want me to do that?

Monday, April 25, 2011

On Mashup Monday: Hair-whipping edition

Okay, so for some reason, folks are hating on Willow Smith, probably because of her connection to the rather wacky Will Smith family. Maybe because of her interesting sartorial choices. Maybe because her debut single centers around the incisive lyrics, "I whip my hair back and forth/I whip my hair back and forth/I whip my hair back and forth/I whip my hair back and forth/I whip my hair back and forth/I whip my hair back and forth." It hardly seems fair--she's just a kid. But still, if we're looking purely at the "I whip my hair back and forth"-to-other lyrics ratio...

Thom Yorke? Thoughts?

Thom Yorks/Willow Smith - Whip My Hair

I knew you'd take her side.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

On Friday on Fallon on Friday (on Sunday)

Okay, so here's the backstory: Rebecca Black is a 14-year-old girl in California who's into music. A friend of hers told her about this vanity record label in LA, Rebecca thought it sounded cool, and her mom coughed up $4,000 to produce a music video. The song, "Friday," has since gotten millions of views on YouTube, and charming critiques have gotten thrown around using words like "the worst song ever."

First of all: Not the worst song ever. Hardly. Not in a world where "Yummy Yummy Yummy" went gold.

Second: It really is bad.

Third: The Jimmy Fallon video above is really funny, mostly because they brought in Stephen Colbert, Taylor Hicks, the Roots, and the New York Knicks dancers for their own (let's admitted, pretty crappy) performance to... mock a 14-year-old girl.

Friday, March 25, 2011

On the Good, the Bad, and the Friday Not-Even-Random Ten: now with double The Good Stuff

Okay, so this newest triumphant re-re-return of TGTBATF(NE)RT is due almost entirely to the kindness of the doctors (and damned if I can remember which ones) who stole my wisdom teeth from me yesterday morning. I think it was yesterday. Anyhoo, they're the reason I'm sitting on my couch instead of my desk chair at lunchtime on a Friday, and the reason I'm eating blueberry yogurt here instead of proper lunch. But there's a silver lining to even the yickiest of dental clouds.

The Good (for 3/25):

- a day off. It's not everything, but it helps.
- post-anesthetic comedy--in this case, "I see rhinoceroses. And when I close my eyes, there's a couch over there."
- Burn Notice, my TV marathon of choice for my convalescence. Deadpan voiceovers, improvised gadgetry, unconventional advice for living, and Bruce Campbell: a universal good.
- blueberry yogurt
- a loved one willing to pour Muscle Milk milkshakes down your face until you're in a condition to chew

The Bad:

- the pain
- the yick

The Ten:

1. God Lives Underwater, "From Your Mouth"
2. Garbage, "Shut Your Mouth"
3. Johnny Cash, "Hurt"
4. Jimmy Eat World, "Pain"
5. Lauryn Hill, "When It Hurts So Bad"
6. The Police, "King of Pain"
7. Lenny Kravitz, "Let's Get High"
8. U2, "Miracle Drug"
9. Mono, "The High Life"
10. Sade, "Feel No Pain"

Your Ten, your most entertaining anesthesia stories, and your favorite tasty, no-chew snack recipes go in comments.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On laying off the law

Okay, so realizing that the Scopes Monkey Trial and Intro to Intelligent Design 101 are beginning to wane in impact, the Tennessee State Legislature has taken a fresh stab at the top of the Whack Pack with a stab at the scourge of Sharia law.

A proposed Tennessee law would make following the Islamic code known as Shariah law a felony, punishable by 15 years in jail.

State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and state Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, introduced the same bill in the Senate and House last week. It calls Shariah law a danger to homeland security and gives the attorney general authority to investigate complaints and decide who's practicing it.

It exempts peaceful practice of Islam but labels any adherence to Shariah law — which includes religious practices such as feet washing and prayers — as treasonous. It claims Shariah adherents want to replace the Constitution with their religious law.

The people of Tennessee should be proud that their legislature is taking the time and resources to illegalize something that is already illegal. (Read the full text of the bill.)

Let's remember how the law works, shall we? The First Amendment guarantees our right to freely practice our religion of choice (or lack thereof). The Supremacy Clause establishes federal law as the supreme law of the land. This means that Mormons can wear all the awkward undergarments they want, but they can't marry polygamously; fundamentalist Christians can revive in tents for as long as they want and in as many angel languages as they want, but they can't flog their kids for impertinence; and Muslims can avoid pork to their hearts' content but not behead anyone for any reason, ever.

On Japan

Okay, so part of me has been wanting to comment on the situation in Japan (and I use "situation" to represent my complete inability to process and/or summarize events since March 11). I feel it's worthy of note, not just because of the tragedy but also because of the reactions inside and outside of Japan. But at the same time, I don't know if I'm up to making that note, because I live in Alabama and drive a blog full of snark and the mere fact that I'm observing this right now seems kind of bigger than and beyond me.

I think I can handle good news, though, so I'll try to deal in some of that.

- As of one week ago, 91 countries and nine international organizations have offered support in the form of money, emergency materials, and hands-on assistance for rescue and relief.

- Two days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami, a 60-year-old man was rescued from his rooftop 10 miles off the coastline. The next day, a four-month-old baby thought lost was found. The day after that, a 70-year-old woman was rescued from her home. Small miracles, yes, but they mean the world.

- In Arahama, a dog stayed by its injured companion until both were rescued. (And they were both rescued and treated, and now they are recovering and being cared for.)

- And if nothing else, we can take comfort in the fact that efforts are being made to keep the Fukishima reactor from pooping.

Donate, specifically to relief efforts in Japan or to general relief funds to be distributed as needed:

American Red Cross
Save the Children
Doctors Without Borders
Global Giving

(Screen any charity to which you're considering a donation with the Better Business Bureau.)