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Archive for June, 2010

You’d think I’d know better. You’d think I’d be smarter than a two year old, who knows not to touch the hot stove once it has already burned her. Or smarter than my dogs, who know not to chew my shoes after that first loud “NO” and water-squirt.

But I am not that smart. Even after my less than stellar experience with its predecessor, I dived into The Girl Who Played With Fire last week. After a week of finding excuses to do anything else but read, I finally finished the thing. (I’ve discovered that if I suddenly start finding Facebook games and Court TV more interesting than reading that it just may be the book’s fault.)

This isn’t a book review, because with 12 million of these sold around the world there are enough reviews out there for the curious.

This is me realising that I have major issues with these stories, and wishing that their author hadn’t died so I could put some real questions to him. His protagonist is clearly his altar ego, the version of himself that runs around these stories being loved by every woman, admired by every man. And that main character is described as a feminist at least a dozen times. So I assume of course that the author himself also identified as a feminist.

Since these books aren’t that well-written and are atrociously edited (if edited at all, because how can you ask a dead man to make changes?) I can only assume that the real thing drawing in readers by the pound is the graphic sadism.

I have watched The Wire repeatedly. I’ve watched men fed to pigs on Deadwood. I’ve seen some of the most violent films ever made. And yet the graphic, almost loving depictions of violence in these books makes my flesh creep. Especially violence against women. Larsson spends page upon page lovingly detailing the grisly torture and murder of women, forcing you to imagine it word for word with skimming as your only escape. I have seen S&M porn magazines (thanks, Uncle Joe) which are less graphic than Larsson’s work. But since these are mainstream novels read by everyone on every beach there’s no shame in digesting the maggoty reek of Larsson’s imagined gore.

It troubles me because the man has a posthumous rep as a crusader, a good guy, an NPR sort of fellow. But as a writer I know the process of crafting fiction. I know how the writer puts herself in the action. Every word from a writer’s pen about the place and the action is all born from inside her head. The writer’s head has to hold these images for them to exist at all. You can hold them after seeing them elsewhere, or hold them after dreaming them up. But you hold them and you own them. There is no way that Larsson did not own these grisly passages.

And he’s getting a pass from the world, it seems, because he created this rep for himself as a feminist. In a way it seems to me not unlike the Very Nice Men who get jobs coaching team sports so they can be close to the children they hope to rape. At the very least it is not unlike the idiots who join forums claiming to have the same ideology as the rest of the gang and then start tearing the ideology down from within. I know there’s a name for it–concern trolling?

I would not ever want to see any book banned. But I think it’s fair that those of us who are still living and call ourselves feminists point out that Larsson’s style of feminism ought to be called something else.

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Nineteen years ago, right about now, I was standing barefoot in my parents’ west lawn wiping down tables. My father had shouted at me to get up and help, because I wasn’t to lie about like the Queen of the May. There was a lot of work to be done. We were having a party and about 350 people were invited. My parents loved to throw parties.

I am not a big party person. I like parties that are more laid back, where people come and just chill together. I don’t know if that makes me a Little Party person or a Lazy Person or a bit of both. But I never wanted a big wedding, that’s for sure.

For the longest time growing up I never thought I’d get married or if I did get married it would be to some elderly professor or eccentric librarian. Thank you, Jo March. It wasn’t that I had marriage modeled for me badly; there hasn’t been a divorce on my mother’s side of the family and the aunts and uncles on my father’s side who broke up were ones we seldom saw anyway. My family gatherings were all peopled by folks who were Covenant Married through thick and thin. And I didn’t think there was anyone out there I could see myself getting stuck with for the duration. I was sure there wasn’t anyone out there who could see themselves spending the rest of their lives with a streelish and sardonic bookworm.

And then I met him at college. I’ve told the story so often, I think I’ve even told it here. He was my boss, and a mean boss at that. I couldn’t do my work fast enough and he was a pro at our dishwashing job–he’d been washing dishes for years to pay his own way through private school. To make a long story shorter than the short 7 weeks we dated before we decided we’d get married we realised that we were soulmates.

I had promised myself that if I did ever get married I would be at least 21 before I did so. Which was fortunate because the year between our engagement and our wedding was one of learning each other, courting and experiencing the hard times together without benefit of some of the better aspects of marriage.

In the nineteen years since my parents’ big party we have grown up together. We’ve struggled in bad jobs, good jobs (you’d be amazed at how much a good job can strain a marriage), car troubles, miscarriages, illness, the lights getting shut off. But when I look back all I see is that we were doing it together. And that made everything bearable.

There are many things I can tell you about my husband. He is sexy and gorgeous. My friends have oogled him before they realised he was mine. He is smart and driven. He fixes things around the house all the time. He is generous and kind.

But the best thing I can say about him is that he is a torch. There is that saying that a person is “carrying a torch” for somebody if they are in an unrequited love for them.
I think it’s a better analogy to say that a person carries a torch when they are in a good long marriage with someone. Because that other person brings light to the darkness and shines brightly beckoning on the sunniest days. That’s what my husband is to me. I hope that I am that for him. I’ve had the luckiest 19 years a person could ask for.

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I have to give everything in my life nicknames. If I really love you chances are you have at least 3. The ones who live with me usually have an even dozen–for starters.

To that end I’ve collected the few nicknames our new Gob has gotten. Some are good. Others not so good. You just kinda have to be here….

(*Keep in mind his name is pronouced Zhob like the book of the Bible, not Gawb like a ball of snot.)

Goble Coble

TMG or Tiny Man Gob

Count Gobula

Dog Faced Fruit Bat

Bat Faced Fruity Dog

Goberlin College (yes, this is the stupidest one. But I find myself calling him that a LOT)

The Goberwocky*
This one has most of a whole poem to go with it. I started using this after watching Alice In Wonderland 3 times in a row last Sunday while being stoned out of my mind on Percocet. Words cannot describe how mad I was at that movie for calling the monster the Jabberwocky. It’s as annoying as all those people who call Mary Shelley’s ressurected creature “Frankenstein” instead of “Frankenstein’s monster”. I’m trying to compose a well-worded message to Tim Burton et. al.

“Dear overpraised and overhyped coffee-house hipster wannabe with a gay crush on Johnny Depp who isn’t fooling anyone with his marriage to Helena Bonham Carter because she looks just like Depp if he shaves his facial hair and pops his eyes out like he has a thyroid problem,

Just thought you should know that the correct name of the monster is Jabberwock. The Jabberwocky is actually the name of the poem ABOUT the monster. Your movie kinda blew in other ways too. Especially the stupid Futterwacken dance sequence.”

Gobster Bunny

NMB or None More Black

That’s all I can think of at the moment. I’m sure there will be more.

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It’s been the sort of week I think most people dread. So far there has been no great tragedy. No relative has been hit by a train while trying to rescue a hat. No jobs have been lost or grave illnesses diagnosed. Knock wood.

But there has been a theme of stuckness. Of blockage. Two toilets stopped up, three kidney stones and one long bout of insomnia. Okay, so insomnia only counts if you look at it as a sleep blockage. But the person who suffers from it would doubtless count it. For once it’s not me but my intrepid spouse. He’s starting to look harrowed. Are people harrowed by harrowing things? They are today.

The good part is that I’m looking at two weeks of living with three dogs. It’s been a long time since there have been three dogs under this roof. The last time I wasn’t even here to enjoy it. I was in Gatlinburg while my husband got the three dogs to himself.

I’ve gone back to the comments section of the blog entry from last week where I talk about shelter dogs and have gradually come to a relisation.

I have spent as little time as possible in the world of mommy blogs, but I do have friends who write them so I will occasionally dip my toe in that pool. There was always something that vaguely bothered me. Well, a lot of things, really. But one thing I couldn’t quite articulate. But then as I reread the comments from that Barbara person whom I do not even know it dawned on me.

There are some people who believe that their life experience has imbued them with a level of knowledge unattainable by anyone else. Even though their experience is in a relatively common area. Like having children or having dogs or being a Christian. But for some reason–insecurity or loneliness or rampant ego–they assume that the passion they draw from that experience conveys a degree of mystical rightness about the subject.

Any time another person has a different version of that experience they seem to experience a tidal flood of emotion. First there seems a bit of envy. After all this is THEIR special thing. They are The Good Mother or The Dog Lady or The Super Christian. The mere fact that someone else would claim to have entered their territory is offensive. I remember this feeling when other girls had crushes on Richard Hatch (of Battlestar Galactica, not Survivor) or Parker Stevenson when I was 8. The next step comes when they start to reassert their primacy over the topic by deciding that the other people know NOTHING about being a mother or having a dog or being a Christian.

Come to think of it, I see a lot of this in ‘Conservative’ politics now, too. This idea that the ideas themselves must be owned and cannot be shared is followed by desire to boot all comers from the ideological island. No one loves Jesus or the Right Wing or Edward or Jacob more than this lady and she’ll tell you why.

For awhile I couldn’t figure out what made me so angry about Barbara’s comments. The more I thought about it I realised it was that self-righteous get-off-my-cloud business that has annoyed me ever since J—– H— told me in first grade that Jesus loved her more than me because He made her with prettier handwriting. But there was also the part about how I knew nothing about dogs.

My dogs are my life. They own my whole heart and as stupid as it sounds (some guy at my old job even yelled at me once for saying it) I would give my life for my dogs. I love them that much. To be told by a stranger who does not know me and was not there for the long nights I lay on the floor holding my whimpering Berner as he died from cancer that I know nothing about dogs grates on me.

It grates on me the same way it does when some Tea Party zealot tells me I’m not a true libertarian because I am not spending Easter Sunday protesting the government.

The world is big and the people in it are many. Experiences will not always be the same. But to assume that all experiences which differ from ones own are wrong is a childish way of seeing.

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Lesbians

I don’t know why, but I seem to be in some sort of valley heavily populated with lesbians. Two of the books I’m reading feature lesbian sex; the women aren’t lesbians, per se, but they engage in the occasional girl-on-girl action. Add to that the random TV shows, movies and magazine covers that have come into my home in the last week that feature Lesbians and we’re up to about an even dozen.

It reminds me of a couple of years ago where everyone was infertile. That was a key component of my reading material, viewing material and cultural drive-bys for about six months. It kind of weirded me out, seeing as how we had just got done with the infertility nightmare ourselves and moved over into Childfree Mountain.

Now, I must state for the record that I have not ever had lesbian encounters, desires or thoughts. Kinsey would be very disappointed in me. I do often get mistaken for being a lesbian, most often by catty Baptist women who think my pudgy build and lack of makeup translates directly into batting for the other team. Although there have been many times where lesbians themselves think of me as one of them. I say it’s wishful thinking.

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah…

The thing is that while I myself am not into the idea of that way of life, I do know many lesbian and bisexual women very well. At different points in my life I’ve counted them as my best friends. (You know, maybe that’s another reason the Catty Baptists think I work that side of the street.)

The “lesbians” in these books and tv programs that I’m being peppered with these weeks are NOT actual, true, real Lesbians. They are male authors ideas of how to hook a segment of their audience. It’s not realistic and it’s not even remotely fair. In fact it’s starting to bug me because it’s getting into the area of minstrel show lesbianism. It’s exploitative instead of illuminating.

(Sorry, as I write this my dogs are arguing with each other and they keep breaking up my train of thought.)

According to the back cover of this week’s Entertainment Weekly there is a new show called “The Real L Word” premiering on Showtime sometime soon. It’s supposed to be like those Real Housewives messes, but instead of being married to houses these women are in relationships with other women.

I’m starting to feel like the Entertainment Industry is desperate. The movies this summer all sorta suck. Summer TV generally bites. And judging from what i’ve seen lately, Lesbian Action is the go-to ratings grabber that writers rely on when nothing else is working. Prime example: last night we were watching Firefly on Netflix Instant. Episode 10 featured some lesbian lovin’, as Inara took on a FEMALE client. Episode 10 was undoubtedly written and filmed when the show was getting whiffs of pending doom from above. It had that Don’t-Cancel-Us-Sweeps-Week air about it.

I just wonder if this is what the LBGTXYZ community wanted when they asked for greater awareness. I can’t help but think maybe it isn’t.

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My uncle, when he was a teenager, took over a corner of my grandparents’ basement to practice his hobby of taxidermy. They lived on a farm and he would spend large chunks of his free time gutting, stuffing and mounting various animals. He grew up to be a surgeon of some renown.

I’ve never had an interest in taxidermy per se, although I can be pretty handy with a needle. Nevertheless I think there is some gene floating around the pool which I share with him. I am fascinated–literally fascinated–by things many other people would find gross. I’ll spare you the descriptions of some of the nasty things that have captivated me. Suffice to say that if there is some sort of disease or wound, I’m more likely to stare at it and ponder how it got that way and how we could fix it.

I’ve always been drawn to the breakage in things. My main theory in life is that the best way to learn about how something works is to deal with that thing when it is broken. Fixing a non-working clock, computer, ailing body…whatever your object of study, you do better to look at the broken version, I think. I suppose that’s just part of my dry and stubborn INTJ nature. Folks like me are the ones who are driven to fix objects and refine processes. It’s a personality asset that has gotten me in trouble many times in this life; several times here on this blog. Because to the outside world it appears merely contrarian or complaining. And it must be very frustrating to those who aren’t afflicted with the sense of meddlesome fix-yness to have a person like me take apart something they’ve worked hard (or at least worked) on for the sake of ‘process improvement.’

But I confess, while I am drawn to fix anything what draws me most is the inherently nasty. That is why I found myself standing in front of the sunniest window in my house holding a white cardboard tray and examining my latest delivery in the brightest light possible. [Warning: From here on out it might get mildly gross-ish. So feel free to skip over this.]

Saturday morning around 11:30 I interrupted my husband’s pressure-washing with the plantive cry of “I have to go to the hospital.” I then spent the rest of the day passing the largest and most painful stone I’ve had in awhile. Most of the stones I pass are small enough to be handled at home and the colic can be handled with the drugs I have onhand for breakthrough Endo and RA pain. But this fella could not be tamed. Even the maximum dose of Dilaudid/Toridol cocktail in the ER was just enough to kinda-sorta take the edge off.

I tell all of this merely to say that this stone was big enough to be examined with the naked eye once passed. And I can hardly stop from staring at the thing. In its own way it’s sort of, well, not ‘beautiful’. But it is intricately put together, looking more like a crystal than a stone. There isn’t a smooth edge to be seen, rather it’s comprised of countless sharp shards fused together in a jagged constellation. Frankly, I’m impressed that there is a bit of beauty inside the ugliness.

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The vast numbers of complaints I’ve had about this post intrigue me. I wonder how many people actually read the whole thing, and how many made up their minds about what I was going to say based on the title and just skipped the 500 words to fire off a comment.

So I’m adding some clarification upfront. I love dogs. I have a shelter dog whom I love dearly. I think people who are prepared to have a shelter dog should definitely get one. But I think the world needs to see shelters as more than just the puppy clearance rack. Because I know too many people who DON’T love dogs but get a shelter dog anyway. And they treat them cruelly. That’s my point.

And for all of you who assume I’m not a dog person, I suggest you read some of the entries archived here about Casey.

(more…)

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While I like to come up with catchy blog titles, I don’t have the energy for one right now. And I was gonna try to drum one up, but the mere fact that I’m trying to reference a 2 year old movie is beyond lame.

Three weeks ago I turned 40. That’s supposed to be a huge chronological milestone, some sign of something.

I feel no different.

Scratch that. I feel wiser and more content. I feel secure. I realised as I was reading Christianity Today the other day that I have been given a gift at this point in my life. While I’m frustrated a great deal by the fact I can no longer work, I am blessed to have shed most of my insecurities. I see who I am now, and I see so many of the reasons God chose this body and face and place for me. I can’t be ashamed of the tools I was given, even if they seem less than ideal. In Romans 5:8 it says “all things work together for good” for those “called according to His purpose.” And in 40 years of life I can definitely say that is completely true. Everything I once disliked about myself I now see as the key to a certain door, a door that my walking through has changed things for the better.

Beth Moore* has a new book out called So Long, Insecurity. You’ve been a bad friend to us. In the interview for CT she says something along the lines of ‘don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.’ That cracked me up. Here we are; I’m 40. Moore is however old she is. And we’re still reducing insecurities to appearance. People are so busy feeling bad about the way they look, sizing their appearances up against other people, that they forget to take a true measure of themselves. Do you treat other people with kindness and understanding? Do you seek to marginalise the people whom you envy? Do you spend more time envying others than working on your own refinement? If you are a Christian, do you present to the world a life lived in true cross-carrying style? Do people look at you and say “this person is making all efforts to be Christlike?” So many of us Christian women would rather that people notice our clothing or hairstyle. It’s silly.

But I did realise when I read that article that not only do I not care whether or not Beth Moore looks pretty but I haven’t felt truly, wholly insecure in three or four years. Frustrated and angry at others’ misperceptions of me, but never insecure in that “I don’t belong” way. It’s a gift that I think has come with age as much as anything else.

I don’t begrudge my 40s at all.

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This is a hard post to write, because it will upset my parents.  And I do not like to upset my parents.  At all.  (Even though I frequently do so.) It’ll doubtless upset other people too, for a variety of reasons. But it’s a touchy subject that I feel I have to deal with as candidly as possible while I wrestle with its implications.

I’m sitting here an hour and a half after downing my chemo meds.* They’re a standard treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis, and if you’re diagnosed with this malady chances are that you will eventually spend some time on Methotrexate. Or “MTX” as we call it. That MTX reminds me of the airport codes I had to memorise for my five year career as a travel agent. Even now when I write it I think of these as the drugs that take me through a Massively Traumatic eXperience. A city on the edge of hell you can only get to by riding these tiny pink puddle-jumpers. And like any bad flight you feel sick and sweaty when you stumble off.

I hate these drugs. But they are the things that allow me to have 4 ‘good’ days a week instead of one and a half. They’re the drugs that let me spend Saturdays walking around the Library instead of curled up on the couch. It’s a trade-off.

Researchers are turning in new studies almost weekly it seems. And time after time these studies all say the same thing. Cannaboids are a wonder drug for arthritis sufferers like me. People have known for years that it kills pain and relieves the horrible nausea caused by the pain itself and the chemo drugs designed to retard the disease. But now studies are showing that these same cannaboids can actually themselves be used to retard disease progression and damage.

Modern research on cannabidiol (CBD), one of the non-psychoactive components of cannabis, has found that it suppresses the immune response in mice and rats that is responsible for a disease resembling arthritis, protecting them from severe damage to their joints and markedly improving their condition. [...]

Medical researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem found that when Cannabidiol is metabolized, one result is the creation of an acid with potent anti-inflammatory action comparable to the drug indomethacin, but without the considerable gastrointestinal side effects associated with that drug.

So, there exists on this planet a class of medication which is relatively clean (having little or no side-effects), eases pain and retards disease progression. It is in many ways the ideal class of drugs for arthritis sufferers. Unlike NSAIDS it causes little or no cardiac or GI damage. Unlike DMARDS (such as my lovely chemo med MTX) it causes little or no nausea in most patients.

But this class of medication is illegal in all states under the Federal law, and in most states it is also illegal under state law. Two of those states are Indiana, where I grew up and my now-irritated parents live and Tennessee, where I live now in a sort of half-life.

The real problem at this point is that while I’d dearly love to campaign for better access to Cannaboids for RA patients, I don’t want to be lumped in with the 420 crowd. Let’s face it. If you say you’re pro-cannaboids (the term I now use instead of “marijuana”, because it’s like saying “defecation” instead of “poo” or “s—”. Means the same thing but sounds more educated and polite.) people chuckle knowingly and walk away thinking you’re a loser with no goals or skills. And face it, that’s the image a lot of the 420 crowd puts out there. And with friends like these….

Sadly, though, the truth is that most days I DO feel a bit like a loser. I can no longer hold down a grown-up job. Many days I don’t get out of bed for anything other than to take care of my dogs. (Those would be the days I’m on the MTX). It’s not the go-getter life most politicians, law-makers, and top-of-their-game professionals think highly of. And it’s so hard to change anything from here in the cheap seats, when the people with the power and access to change them have already written you off.

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