Archive for March, 2010

Ah, Tuesday. Another morning, another three aborted posts. We have partial screeds on why I hate Twilight, how I feel about Postmodernism’s affect on the Christian church, and how my brand of feminism meshes with libertarianism.

All heavy things that I can’t coherently keep under the 500 word cap I’ve imposed upon myself for this blog. I used to have a friend who would go around typing ‘tl;dr’ on anything more than a paragraph and I think of her every time my entries start getting around the 350 mark. tl;dr means, quite simply ‘too long; didn’t read’ and seems rude to me. Just don’t read it. You don’t have to flaunt your inability to sit through anything larger than the copy on a toothpaste tube. Yet still I try to oblige. Especially since the vast majority of my blogging circle has migrated to Twitter and Facebook, where the number of letters and words is far less. And still some of them use a service that provides statuses for them. There are writers and there are those who don’t like to write.

I still like blogging, because I think the way I blog. I guess that I’ve always been a writer even before I wrote seriously. Because my thoughts are formed in thesis statements and supporting paragraphs. In the back of my mind I toy with synonyms and alliteration the way some people fantasise about naked women or chicken. But I’m starting to begrudge being a blogger because people don’t talk to me anymore. They read my blog and feel as though they’ve conversed with me. But I don’t know about their days or their feelings. I don’t get to talk WITH them. I merely talk AT them. Or, more accurately, they overhear the conversations I have outloud with myself.

Although, given the vast number of childhood and high school friends with whom I’ve become reacquainted via Facebook I suppose I should be grateful for those who don’t actually talk TO me. Because they all call me ‘Kathy’. That’s a name I never chose, that my parents decided to call me. A name I don’t like. It has never felt like me, like the person I am. Kathys are breezy and sunny and bouncily young. They always smile. I am far too old, far too cynical, far too wry. I’ve got an edgier streak that doesn’t suit Kathy. I much prefer Kate, Kat or Katherine, all of which are either more serious, more dark or more abrupt even though none of them exactly fit me either. My husband calls me Til after Til Eulenspiegal, but that’s so private a name that it sounds foreign coming from anyone else.

Ironically the name which suits me best so far is one he also gave me. Well, he and Aunt B.. ‘Coble’ seems to be most suited to me out of the various monikers I’ve got. I don’t quite know why; it sounds both friendly and odd and maybe a little smart and cynical. A coble is a boat made to fish in the choppy seas around Scotland and Northern England. It’s low and sturdy. I guess that’s how I see myself. Dutiful, sturdy, bouncing on the waves of life and carrying people I care about.

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Acadamy Award Spoilers will follow

I was not going to watch the Oscars(TM) this year because I didn’t care that much. I was pretty sure the people I wanted to win wouldn’t and I didn’t need the frustration.

But then I realised two things: This year I had both Twitter and the opportunity to watch in HD. So my curiousity to see the stars, warts and all, drew me in. My ability to watch the show with 100 of the waggiest wags I’ve ever found kept me captivated. It’s a dream come true to watch the smuggest three hours of television with Sarcastro, Hollywood Ron, Doug Benson, The Sklar Brothers, Roger Ebert and half the wits behind MST3K.

Their sarcasm and cynicism was tempered by the softer hearts on my follow list who cheered for winners they liked and didn’t have many nasty things to say about those they didn’t.

When Barbra Striesand announced that the Acadamy’s glass ceiling had been broken and that a woman had finally won for Best Director all I could think was that it was cold comfort. She won for directing a gritty war picture, a man’s man type of movie. Up until Hurt Locker, which I won’t see because of my whole avoiding-unneccessary-violence-in-my-life thing, I had seen every thing Kathryn* Bigelow ever directed. [Except as I double check this claim I see she also had something out in 2007 called ‘Mission Zero’ that I haven’t either heard of or seen. So that’s two things. I’m still holding strong at 95%] She makes man movies. So despite the strains of “I Am Woman” floating from the orchestra pit, I didn’t think it was any kind of real victory for women. It seemed to be the same kind of proto-feminist rah-rah that we always get. It’s like how the first woman executives in a company always wear severe suits and have their hair cut boy short or twisted punishingly into a little hair testicle worn at the back of the head. I always wonder to myself how it can be a women’s triumph if we have to hide every bit of our femininity to get there. Call me when a woman wins for directing a movie about midwives or mothers during wartime or the pain of infertility. Or at the very least for directing a film from a script by a woman.

Quite frankly, I felt that the real feminist Oscar victory came half a decade ago when Lord of the Rings; Return of the King won for best picture. Sure, it was directed by a man but the script was what happens when you turn two women loose on a script. For better and for worse that version of Tolkein’s epic was womanised.

Maybe that’s the message I see played in the world again and again that I don’t like. That we all have to be Eowyn to win at the battle. That we have to be undercover, hiding our gender until the very last of the war when we cry “I am no MAN!” and thrust our proto-phallic weapons into the enemy as our hair streams free down our back at last. We don’t get to be us on the battlefield. We can only unmask at the triumph.

*I did feel a true kinship for Bigelow when she first won. I saw “Kathryn” spelled 50 different ways on Twitter last night. As a Katherine who is very particular about the spelling of her name, I couldn’t help but cringe inwardly at every wayward “C” and superfluous “erine” that popped up.

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I am given to understand that there are men who take their laptops into toilet stalls to look at naked breasts and vulvae and tongues and plastics in all sorts of combinations. I’m also told that there are women who log onto Facebook every day to exchange flirtations with strange men and old high school crushes. I’ve heard about busy executives dashing to the office bathrooms for a quick snort of cocaine before a big meeting.

People have their guilty pleasures, their carnal passions that drive them to both conceal and consume greedily that which shames and fuels them.

I am one of these people, with a deep lustful longing quenched only by sweet sticky moistness, forbidden and locked away.

I am driven by Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk. When I open a can for a recipe it is all i can do to keep from plunging a finger into its clinging creamy wetness, dripping pearls of sugared bliss onto my tongue and gliding my lips around spoonsful of thick velvet. Pure delight, locked away in aluminium cans and intended only for pies and sauces and chewy cookie bars. It is not at all designed to be drunk languidly from crystal glasses or spooned in soft moundsful. It is not intended to be greedily lapped at by a crazed woman in her middle years who longs for its forbidden nectar.

I know I should be ashamed and should not tell the world how I feel. I know I should not describe the fiery envy I felt upon reading The English Patient and discovering how that adulterous Nazi pilot was nursed back to health with straws stuck into can after can of my beloved Eagle Brand. But I can’t now after 30 years of entanglement deny my love of this glorious goo.

Today I made a recipe calling for one can, and nearly that whole can made it into the cake. There was only a bit left clinging to the bowl, beaten bright yellow with the yolk of an egg, that made it directly to my mouth. And that one bit was worth all the anticipation in the world.

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Since my intrepid spouse turned 42 on Tuesday, I decided to wait until late that night to take my pills. I slept for 40 of the last 48 hours.

It was a weird kind of drug-induced sleep where you occasionally wake up part way and the dog’s butt is in your face. Or you wake up and realise that the TV has been on this whole time and for some reason you are polluting your sleep with infomercials.

I jolted awake at one point with the clearest thought in the world.

“You are wasting your life.”

I felt like I should hop out of bed and build an orphanage or find a cure for cancer. Then when I could barely make it to the bathroom I realised that there would be no cures or orphanages from me in the foreseeable future.

So now I’ve just got to find a way to not waste my life while still dealing with these new parameters. Should be interesting.

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Since late December my life–and everyone else within earshot of a TV or the Internet–has been plagued with dieting. Ads about dieting, talk show episodes about losing weight. Blog entries about the perils of avoiding office birthday cake. It’s part of the postmodern human ritual, the rite we go through to punish ourselves for the enjoyment of the holidays.

This January more than any other I’ve been struck by one thing over and over again. Dieting in many cases is a socially-acceptable way for people to be completely self-absorbed. I don’t diet anymore, but I have plenty of years invested in the Weight Loss Industry. I stopped playing along when I realised that more people leave Vegas without losing money than keep the weight off from any diet. Ever. Casinos are a better bet than any of the modern marketed weight loss techniques.

Of course, I do have the advantage of my weekly poisoning to keep my weight down, so I’m an unfair sample.

But of the many memories I have from dieting professionally, a few are very vivid.

  • Journals kept with all my food intake listed
  • Charts and graphs outlining my weight and progress at losing
  • Support groups, diet buddies, online chat rooms and forums
  • Inspirational sayings taped to the refrigerator
  • Little “reminder tokens” in various places (on my desk,  on a charm bracelet, on bookmarks)
  • Bible studies and prayer groups focusing on the goal of weigh loss

And it struck me that the dieting business in this country, with no small bit of help from Oprah and Good Morning America, has turned dieting into idolatry. We worship not just the idea of thinness or “health” (as the new popular euphemism goes), but the process.

I also suspect that many dieters also enjoy the aspect of having themselves be the focal point of supportive attention. We adults don’t get grades that often. We don’t win prizes on a regular basis; there is no 4-H or Scouts for adults. So the only chance many of us get to hear “that’s fantastic!” or “great job!” is when we go on a diet and tell other people that we’ve managed a minute alteration in our personal relationship with gravity. It is unfortunately NOT socially acceptable to ask another person to tell you your good points or why they are friends with you. So we look for love in the pursuit of the socially acceptable yet ultimately unobtainable. And since pretty much everyone is familiar with the dieting struggle such acceptance and understanding comes easily.

In my life I know exactly one person who has been successful maintaining a weight range s/he is happy with. That person also never tells you when s/he is ‘dieting.’ The ‘diet’ itself consists of small cutbacks in intake and small increases in activity. S/he never makes a big deal of it. The last time this person (Let’s call her/him “Pat”) went through what Pat calls a “corrective spell” I didn’t know it until it was over. Pat informed me that Pat’s outfit was a couple of sizes smaller and didn’t fit six months ago. I wonder if there isn’t something to that, that the truly successful weightloss has to be very internalised. Completely the opposite of the modern religion of the diet industry.

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I do honestly believe that it takes a village to raise a child, insofar as it benefits both individuals and society as a whole to have a wide variety of secondary adult influences in the lives of developing humans*. Those developing humans need parents but they also need teachers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, ministers, rabbis, coaches, trusted family friends, conscientious neighbours and various other people further along the developmental chain.

Here’s the thing, though. I firmly and righteously believe that unless you are the parent of the developing human in question, your amount of interaction and influence in their lives is YOUR choice. In other words, if you are an adult who has become the parent of a child I first congratulate you. Then I tell you that unless you and I are close friends or family and you have asked me to, it is not my responsibility to play a formative role in your developing human’s life.

This post and these thoughts come about because I have spent a great deal of time lately in places that are age-restricted. Yet there are many parents who think nothing of allowing their underage offspring free rein of those places. Those same parents then complain when their progeny is not treated with special allowances. Time and again the rules will be flouted or disregarded. Granted, since the parents have set the example by allowing the young people access in violation of the ground rules I shouldn’t expect that those young people would have a good understanding of what “rules” means. Nevertheless, it’s awfully rich for you to sneak your kid into an adults-only environment and then start bellyaching when the adults expect your kid to act like an adult or have conversations which aren’t necessarily age appropriate.

Let me use smaller words in case my point is getting lost in all the wordsmithery I’m tossing around here.

Facebook requires that you be at least 13 to participate. If you let your under-13 year old kid get on Facebook, don’t whinge and moan when she hears a swear word or gets yelled at for cheating in a game. Don’t start whining about how “poor little Cadence is just a child! How dare you treat her that way!!!” Poor little Cadence has no bloody business being on Facebook in the first frelling place.

Postscript: I’ve got a couple of good friends who do let their under-13 offspring play specific games that I play. They’ve spoken to me about it via chat or email. In those circumstances I have willlingly contracted to act as a friend and adult influence for those kids. I am happy to do it. I’m friends with their mothers, and I like the kids a lot too. They’re sweet and well-spoken and eager to do the right thing. If their parents feel they can handle Facebook in spite of their age, that’s between their parents and their parents’ consciences. I personally believe that rules are rules, but that’s just me. And since God never saw fit to trouble me with the thorny business of parenting humans in the first place I’ll just let that whole sticky wicket be their problem.

* I now use the word “child” sparingly. Because I firmly believe one of the biggest problems in our culture right now is the belief that a “child” is almost a different species from an adult. And before you tell me I don’t understand because I don’t have children, maybe you should stop and think that YOU don’t understand because you DO. In many many cases, People worship and revere children. They hold them exempt from rules and norms. I try to emphasise in my speech and writing that those we call “children” are really, well, people who are under construction.

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that your husband’s company gets a mention in the Wall Street Journal.

Unless, of course, you are married to one of those poor Enron dudes or something.

My favourite quote?

“It still remains to be seen what problems people are going to be solving with this device,” said Griffin’s Mr. Rowan.

I happen to agree with Griffin’s Mr. Rowan (that phrasing cracks me up…) that the iPad exists not to fill a niche but to create one. And I’m not 100% sure that it will do that. I hope it does. My investments in Apple hope it does. But there are days when I look at it and feel like someone is just showing me another wheel.

Hat Tip: Rachel W. I knew the woman read everything, but she apparently reads EVERYTHING!

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I got really angry last night; I was angrier than I’ve been in about three months. To (apparently many) people outside my situation it seemed that I was angry over nothing, or something that wasn’t a big deal.

The problem is that they were outside my head. They had no idea all of the reasons behind my anger or why I was so disappointed.

Since I was expressing my anger in a semi-public forum I got a lot of responses along the lines of “don’t be angry”. Chances are you’ve heard them all before. I venture to guess that if you are anywhere past 35 you’ve been told at least once to chill out, stop overreacting, let it go.

Now, if you would like to think about this with me for a second, I invite you to indulge me. Would you walk into someone else’s home and tell them to paint their walls a different colour? Would you take a curling iron and can of hairspray up to a casual acquaintance and begin to restyle their hair while they were eating lunch?

Unless you are certifiably insane or irretrievably rude, I bet you wouldn’t. So, why, then, is it considered appropriate to tell someone how they should feel about a certain situation? To decide for another person what her emotions should be?

I am trying to live peacefully within myself, and that has meant curtailing a lot of my former activities, not inviting into my life the things I know will bring me quickly to anger. But that doesn’t mean that I think ANGER is a bad thing. I happen to think that in and of itself Anger is a neutral element. It is like water or fire in that it can simply be, or it can be channelled. Water can drown; it can also power a mill that grinds grain into flour that makes bread and feeds people. Fire can burn down a house. But it also warms the cold and bakes the bread ground from the grain by the power of the water.

Anger is like that. Countless times in human history anger has been the engine to drive reform. Anger played its part when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Anger gave us the Magna Carta, the War of Independence, the end of slavery in the United States. Anger when channelled properly is one of the greatest tools we have for righting great wrongs.

There is a school of thought made popular by Oprah and some therapists which says that you are solely responsible for your feelings. That nothing can “make” you angry if you choose not to let it. This school of thought reminds me of the Health And Wealth gospel. Because it makes it seem as though you the individual are in complete control of everything in the world around you. You can decide to be rich, healthy, never angry or sad. If, on the other hand, you are poor or sick or mad as a wet hen it is a failing WITHIN YOU. Nope. Sorry. I don’t buy it. You know that popular PG-13 phrase, “S–t happens”? Well, it does. And “s–t” makes people sick. Makes them lose their money in the stock market downturn. Makes them angry. That’s part of life. Maturity doesn’t come from ignoring anger, poverty and sickness. Maturity comes from working through those things and making them work FOR you, not against you.

As for me and my anger last night, I was able to channel in positive directions. Not the least of which was blocking from my life some of the people who told me I had no right to be angry.

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