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Archive for October, 2009

My wonderful friend the wonderful writer Aunt B. populated a good portion of the Best Of Nashville 2009 issue of the Scene, adding her warm and open take on the the things she thinks other Nashvillians should know about (including the fantastic blog by one of my other friends, Rachel Walden.

Because of Betsy I have a limited stay on my boycott of all things Scene, and I was merrily thumbing through the entries when I came across a plug for the Music City Romance Writers group. I assumed such a thing existed, but had never looked into it because of lack of nerves and preoccupation with niggling things like being well enough to take a shower.

But I figured I should join, because such a thing would be very good for me and very good for my discipline.

All the meetings are held at some retirement home. In Franklin.

I’m trying very hard not to use the other eff word (Franklin being an eff word to me right now), but come ON! Every time there’s a Nashville Writers’ Workshop it’s at the Factory. In Franklin. Or the Barnes and Noble. In Franklin.

Do we see a pattern here? I live in Hermitage, which is a suburb of Nashville. Unlike Franklin, which is ANOTHER CITY. If I want to go to Franklin it’s nearly an hour drive. To another city. As a suburbanite I grew up living outside the main city but going to the Downtown Library for any and all city events. My Sci Fi club met at the Library. My young writers’ workshops were at the library.

To me it seems only fair that an artistic endeavor meant for the people of a community would be held at a central location.

But ever since I’ve come to Nashville anything other than song-writing requires a jaunt to the posh neighbouring city of Franklin. In that way it has become a self-selecting group of those who can afford to live inwhat is considered the wealthiest county in the United States.

Yes. The whole country. When you factor in cost of living and per-capita income, Williamson County (not part of Nashville) is wealther than Beverly Hills, Valley Forge and Aspen.

And the egalitarian part of me gets a little bit miffed that so many of the things that are ostensibly part of Nashville get absorbed into the gaping maw of monied Williamson County. Struggling writers, poor writers, writers just getting their start–all of whom could really use a thing like a local chapter of a national writers’ organisation–are effectively barred from attending.

Franklin’s parasitic relationship to Nashville bothers a lot of people. For the past 20 years I’ve heard arguments about Williamson County residents using Davidson County goods and services while paying the bulk of their tax dollars to another municipality. I see both sides of that equation and have never really had a dog in that fight.

But now I kind of do. Because it seems only fair that something called the Music City Romance Writers would be located in….the music city.

To paraphrase Lisa Simpson: “Why would they hold our city’s writers’ workshop in another city?!?”

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There’s a website out there called “I’m sorry I voted for Obama” Dot Com. It everything you need in the modern age to create a groundswell of fluffily empty phlegm–namely bumperstickers and a clever logo. The ABOUT page claims that it’s just a bunch of emo web developers who want to get their picture in People Magazine want to tell people how sorry they are that they voted for a Presidential candidate who (shocker!) didn’t live up to the pre-election hype.

There are testemonial comments galore, usually along the lines of “I fell for his charm/the momentum of HopeyChangey/his style but don’t like him now for screwing gays and health care reform.”

Well, guys. Great. That’s fantastic. I’m SO glad to know just how much thought you put into this decision beforehand. I find it COMFORTING to know that you’ll base important life choices on things as ephemeral as a five-minute TV appearance, a sincereish smile or the call of the fife and drum.

Yeah, I’d like to see him out of office, too. I didn’t want to see him ever IN office, quite frankly. But at least I put two seconds of thought into it. I’m also glad to be old enough to not fall for “I’m different from the other guy” and “I will give you HOPE.” (Hope is not a result. Hope is the emotion born in the absence of concrete result. A candidate who promises “hope” is basically saying “I won’t do anything different. But you can HOPE.”)

Other lines you might want to avoid in the future include:
I am on the pill.
I’ll pay you back when I get my Income Tax Refund.
I’ve never seen her before in my life!
I only had two beers.
This revolutionary car runs on WATER! No gas required!

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If you are under 13, good. Stay here and learn this now, because body parts are body parts and the more you know about them the less scary they are. The less scary the less likely you are to misunderstand and misuse them.

Really, though, I know most people who read my blog are well past 13 and probably already know this. Still, I figure I’d better put it out there.

Last night I was watching a week-old episode of Conan on TiVo and he was talking about a woman who flashed her “vagina” on So You Think You Can Dance. I did whatever I do whenever anyone mentions a Celebrity Vagina Sighting. I looked it up on the internet. Because I know that rumours of the Celebrity Vagina Sighting are greatly exaggerated. Despite all the glimpses of famous nether regions we’ve all been treated to in the last 10 years or so, I can’t think of a single time we’ve seen a vagina.

We have certainly seen pubic hair. And Labia Majora. Labia, which is Latin for ‘lips’ is also the name given to the two sets of folds concealing the actual VAGINA from the harsh outside world. Frankly, in order to see an actual vagina you need a) a woman’s permission and b) a very direct pose. You will no more see a candid shot of a vagina than you will a candid shot of a lung or a sinus or a medulla oblongata.

This is the female genito-urinary anatomy, as depicted in ASCII format because I’m on a borrowed computer and can’t upload a drawing and am not going to link to a picture in a medical textbook because I’m too lazy and too on a roll with the text writing. And also because I think ASCII depictions of anything are hilarious.

Anyway:

({B})

() These things are the Labia Majora. They are the large outside folds of skin, fatty deposits and muscle. Unless groomed or sexually immature they will have pubic hair on them.
{} These things are the Labia Minora. They are the small inside folds of skin, nerves, and blood vessels. They are called “minora” because they are thinner than the outside lips, but it is perfectly normal if they extend beyond the outside lips on some women.

Together these two sets of organs are the VULVA. And these are what you see in all those unfortunate crotch shots of stupid young girls who think fame is worth compromising your dignity.

B the top loop of the B is the urethra, where urine exits the body. The infamous clitoris sits atop the urethra, but I don’t know how depict that in ASCII. So just know for future reference that the top loop of the B is a busy place.

The bottom loop of the B is the actual vagina itself. It’s tucked away under quite a lot of things, as you can tell. This is where the penis goes during intercourse and where the baby leaves during a vaginal birth. This is also where menstrual blood leaves the body during a woman’s period, and where mucus discharge leaves the body before ovulation, after intercourse and (although thicker and a different colour) if a woman has a vaginal infection of fungus or bacteria.

If you are kind of squicked out reading this, I understand. We apparently don’t like to talk about this stuff, given the fact that a highly educated Harvard graduate who is the son of a doctor, married and the father of two children thinks that the Vulva is the vagina.

But still, I must set the record straight.

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I fully expect this post to get me forever kicked out of the Showtunes Geek Club. Even though I met 99% of the requirements, I can’t write this post and stay a member in good standing. Sure I’ve sung the entire Andrew Lloyd Weber/Tim Rice repertoire into a knitting-needle faux mic. Of course I made the pilgrimage to the West End. Yes, I had one of those wonderful souveneir mugs from Phantom of the Opera where the mask appears when filled to the brim with hot liquid. And of course I can name pretty much any musical to have played on Broadway during the years 1935 to 1991.

But I don’t think Glee is all that. I’ve made it through the first three episodes; three more await, green-dotted in the TiVo queue for that day when I can again deal with lipsynced hip-hop and low-flying freak flags.

I first saw the Pilot back when it aired in June. It felt fresh and funny and different. Then I saw it a couple more times when it was replayed as often as that one guy’s 90-yard run for the touchdown during the Superbowl. That’s when I started to fall out of love. Why? Because every fresh, fun “It’s great to be different and to be good at something” moment is followed by a lot of mean-spirited and cruel jabs at “normal”. There isn’t a traditional marriage that isn’t played for snide laughs. The glee-club director’s wife is a nagging, self-centered gold digger. His mother is an overweight booze floozy. His sister-in-law is a nag stuck with a hen-pecked milquetoast. The only other married couple we’ve glimpsed are the gay fathers of the lead chorine. They’re not mocked, because it’s apparently not cool to run down gay marriage yet.

Abstinence is derided as an impossibility; the abstinence club is portrayed as a joke. Christians are shown as using Jesus for manipulation and further gold-digging. Lupus is–as in 30 Rock–treated as a punchline; a hypochondriacal excuse for getting out of real work. Apparently we can only Not Stop Believing if the thing we are believing in is that the very best thing in the world is bad lipsyncing to hip hop songs that treat women as vile objects to be avoided for every purpose except sexual release. Tonight’s shows treated me to the ideas that a woman who wants child support is a gold digger, that a woman who wants love from a man is poison, that a woman is good only if she pushes it real good and lets you sex her up.

Here’s the thing. I dig non-traditional. I live in a largely non-traditional universe. In this wild side that is my life I’ve often encountered the school of thought that says it’s okay to mock traditionalists because they’ve mocked the rest of us for years. That strikes me as a really immature “he hit me first” way of thinking and I don’t like it. I also don’t like how often misogyny shows up as the flip side of that coin. I don’t know if it’s because of Phyllis Schlafly or because you can’t have straight marriage without a wife or because a lot of people don’t get along with their moms. But honestly. Everyone–no matter who you are–has times when they feel inadequate. When they feel lonely and scared. The decent way to treat people is the way you WANT to be treated, not the way you FEAR to be treated. That’s why I just can’t get behind Glee as the best idea for a fun TV evening.

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Fringe and Flashforward

Guess what I watched on TiVo this weekend?

I am the worst sort of tv blogger in that most of my shows I watch long after they’ve aired. By the time I get around to them the water in the cooler is room temp. We were picked as a Nielsen family and that makes me nervous. I’m afraid shows we really get into but watch later won’t have as good a rating as they should. (mourning Arrested Development to this day)

Fringe was great. I vastly prefer the ones which are more about tge larger mythology and less about some skinless old man baby robbing a Sears in Poughkeepsie and then exploding into a ball of slimegoo. But that’s just me.

Flashforward, on the other hand…

This was the third episode. This was also the third or fourth (or fifth) time we got an extended monologue about how Everything is Different and Knowing The Future Upsets The Balance Of The Present. That same old chorus is getting to be the FF version of Baywatch’s music-and-mammaries video sequence. You can always count on it and it’s never as stirring once you’ve seen it before.

I still like the mysteries and the touches of humour. But I could do without the I-sing-the-body-electric sophomoric philosophizing. A little more Show and a little less Tell.

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Thursday nights are the best showcases for TV these days. Most of my appointment television ends up there…Bones, Fringe, Community, The Office. I think FlashForward is also there, but since I watch it on TiVo I’m not sure of what day it’s on. The Mentalist, while not one of my favourite shows, is also there and also something I enjoy. It’s been a long time since I’ve vented about shows I watch, but I need to do it now.

1. Community
NBC, please pick up this show for the longhaul. It’s the best comedy you’ve created in years. I have nothing bad to say about it. It has replaced The Office as the Thursday Show I Look Forward To.

2. FlashForward
This is how it’s done. This is how to create a suspenseful show that pleases me. Granted, they keep the larger mystery intact–the story of where the flashforwards came from is the season-long arc. But smaller mysteries get explained within the same episode. As my spouse pointed out watching last week’s episode–“see! she told her husband she met the mystery man! In Lost they would have dragged that out for another three months.” Exactly.

3. Bones
I still like this show kinda. But I’m so boiling mad after last season’s “it’s all a coma dream” finale that I have a grudge which stands in my way of fully enjoying the new episodes. The writers really need to get Booth and Bones together already because it’s increasingly unbelievable to me that these two smart and very direct people would handle their mutual sexual desire in this adolescent way.

4.The Office
I am heartbroken. Maybe after I reflect some more on last night’s wedding episode I’ll be less unhappy. But this show–once my favourite thing on–has become such a scummed-over pudding of derivitave ideas and annoyance that I can hardly enjoy it anymore. Last night’s Wedding Of Jim and Pam episode opened with one of the most disgusting scenes ever (I called my sister and told her to just fastforward when she watched it this weekend) and continued down a path of ick. Michael’s jackassery and self-centeredness isn’t funny these days. The wedding moments with Jim and Pam alone were really sweet and romantic and I enjoyed them–but was bugged at how much they owed to Marshall and Lilly’s wedding on HIMYM. But I yelled loud and long at the TV when the cast broke into the JK Wedding Dance. This is twice in four weeks that the writers have stolen something from the Internet and/or Web Soup. I feel like they’re trying to get us all back for having lost the Writer’s Strike and their points about the Internet by letting the Web write their shows.

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Swirlie

Man, do I have a bunch of thoughts swirling around in my brain. They’re like tiny multicoloured gnats zooming confusedly in my skull. This is why I write a blog. And this is also why I miss writing regularly on my blog. In the five years and change that I’ve been doing this, the blogging has turned into a sort of occupational therapy for my crowded mind.

While my computer has been in The Shop–which is a euphemism meaning something similar to a beloved pet being sent to a farm where they can run free–I have found myself aching to create. Not having my customary outlet I’ve ended up cooking a lot more. Paprika chicken and omelets have stood in for passages of fiction and blog entries. But where the cooking satisfies my strange urge to make new things out of the parts of older things, they haven’t helped me articulate the nuttiness.

My dad is still having heart problems and has to have a risky heart cath next week. I’ve always liked “heart cath” because it is the medical procedure named after me–kinda. But now that my dad has to have one I’m not so keen on the thing.

My grandmother has been moved to a nursing home, and we’re exploring the various options for funding her stay there. One of the options–selling the family farm–breaks my heart. I have never been a career-minded person, but I always wanted to have sold a best-seller or two so that I would have enough money to do things like keep the farm in the family. We had to sell the homeplace years ago; that nearly broke my heart. But I survived that and I suppose I’ll survive losing the working land too. Even though it feels like a sort of crime against those who came before me and worked hard to keep that ground during floods, droughts, Great Depressions and the general march of time.

On top of everything else, these days I envy my friend Aunt B. for having the bravery to post her fiction on her blog. I doubt I’ll ever get to that point myself. Sure, I’ll publish it and sure I let people read and critique it. But I’m not one for letting strangers critique my fiction unless they’ve paid for the priviledge.

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First off, let me make some grand excuse for abandoning my blog while my poor computer is in the shop. I’ve taken to borrowing my husband’s computer when he’s not using it. I feel like a crackhead begging a taste.

It’s now officially October and that means that I am once again on a read-through of Harry Potter. Those books are sort of a hot bubble bath for my psyche. I don’t read them exclusively, but pick them up for a chapter or three when I need that unique sense of comfort and escape I find there.

I was reading through the first part of the first book and was once again reminded of how much I fell in love with the books when reading about Harry’s horrible treatment at the hands of the Dursleys. I had been wary about reading the series (this was back in 2000) because of all the press Rowling had gotten. In my Evangelical world Harry Potter had a rep for being an instruction manual for witchcraft. A friend had given my husband a copy of Sorcerer’s Stone which then promptly sat behind his desk for months. I was just sure that it was a sort of evil that didn’t need to be trifled with. I often contemplated throwing it out, but wasn’t sure if Steven wanted it back. In my mind it was still someone else’s property. That, coupled with the fact that it was a book and my mother trained me to NEVER throw out a book, saved the aging, yellowed paperback from a landfilly fate.

Enter the bank. In February of 2000 I had taken a job at a local bank and began what I still consider to be the worst ten months of my life. Nothing about that job was good, and it was all made worse by the fact that I clearly didn’t fit in there. Instead of quiitting, as I should have done, I stayed and was miserable. I escaped that misery by coming home every night and diving into rivers of fiction to stay afloat. I fell in love with long series of continuing characters. Because I was so surrounded by hateful people all day I sought out works where I could be around a sort of surrogate family. I reread a bunch of Kellerman mysteries and from there made it to Laurie R. King’s Mary Holmes books. I had a huge sense of loss when I finished the last of those and looked for another fake family to join.

Nervously, reluctantly and with large reservation I picked up the little copy of the book I was afraid of. I talked through my rationalisation to my husband. I prayed about it. And I dove in. Right away I was curious, but then when Orphan Harry reminded me so much of that passage in Les Miserables where we see just how awfully Cosette is treated before ValJean rescues her I was enthralled. That little piece of story where the forlornly apologetic ValJean buys the doll for the battered girl and shows down her caretakers has always been one of my favourite passages. Hagrid rescuing Harry from the Dursleys has that same resonant magic.

Ever since then I’ve been hooked. At least once in every book it seems that Rowling has loved the books I’ve loved, as she’s put pieces of them in her stories. I’ve never once, since that summer nine years ago, found anything questionable, unorthodox or evil in these stories. I HAVE found many Christian teachings and deeper philosophies explained well. The seven books together work as a primer on how to deal with death and loss. They show ordinary people how to cope with the ordinary extraordinariness of pain. I found them to be a great solace at the darkest point in my life and a comforting friend since then.

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