Monday, March 27, 2017

Chuck Palahniuk and Emma Watson's Breasts

Hoo boy, that got your attention, didn't it?

While Googling for images that would go with my spring break post from a couple of weeks back, I kept running across a recurring image: tucked in amongst the images of bodies packed on the beach, sea to shore, and bodies packed in bars, wall to wall, and overflowing garbage cans and puking, passed out individuals, was a meme, a wall of words that, until I read it, seemed out of place in a Google search for "spring break fort lauderdale" (or whatever it was; I can't seem to duplicate it now):

The quote in question comes from Palahniuk's 2008 novel, Snuff. It struck me immediately in relation to the then ongoing brouhaha over Emma Watson's breasts, which appeared (part of them, anyway) in a photograph that accompanied her interview in Vanity Fair a few weeks earlier (for Watson's interview and to see the photo in question, go here).

The appearance of Miss Watson's in the photographs caused a bit of a ruckus. Watson, of course, has become a leading voice in the current feminist movement. In 2014, she gave a wonderful address at the United Nations on gender equality, became the celebrity spokesperson for HeForShe, and is also the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. She has been quite outspoken--intelligently outspoken--on equality issues for some time. No one could doubt her credentials as a feminist. That is, until that one photograph appeared.

One of the more widely-quoted digs came from Julia Hartley-Brewer, a British radio personality. "Emma Watson: feminism, feminism...gender wage gap...why oh why am I not taken seriously...feminism...oh, and here are my tits!"

Watson was a bit perplexed at the backlash, and handled it beautifully. (I am amazed, by the way, that Watson has not only been able to transcend her career-launching role as Hermione Granger; in many ways, she's become Hermione Granger). Said Watson: "Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It's about freedom, it's about liberation, it's about equality. I really don't know what my tits have to do with it." Well said.

And yet, Miss Watson should not have been so surprised at the reaction. Some of it undoubtedly comes from those who just don't like her--haters gonna hate, and all that. But a lot of it is no doubt from those who fear feminism and the prospects of true equality for women. Those folks are lying in the weeds, no doubt waiting for any excuse to start bashing (and, I wonder if those are also the folks who are behind some of the celebrity phone hacking, hoping to get compromising pictures). They are happiest when women are kept down and just smile pretty for the camera.

Watson would no doubt say that her decision to do that particular photograph was just that: a decision. A choice. That it's her body and she can display it--or not--however she wants. That her decision, her choice, makes this perfectly in keeping with feminism. I get that, and I agree. And yet, I can't help wonder whether this helps or hurts women who are not in Watson's position. Emma Watson, because of her role as Hermione Granger, and because she has turned out to be a pretty good actress, and because she is an extremely intelligent woman, has power, and has choice. I suspect, after her recent haul for Beauty and the Beast (reported at only $2 million up front, with a potential huge back end deal), Watson could probably decide to walk away from Hollywood forever. With her brains, she could almost certainly be successful in whatever she sets her mind to. With her bankroll, she could take the time to let whatever she chooses to do develop into success. That's a lot of power. It gives her the opportunity to make choices, to be outspoken, and to not have to really worry about whether it pisses people off or not.

And that's where things get sticky for me. Watson has the ability to choose. Is this a representation of power, as she might suggest, or is she just another damsel who doesn't know she's in distress, as Palahniuk suggests? And what of the women who don't have that power? What of the women who are struggling to make it as actresses and models, who are told to take their clothes off for the camera--or, if they're keeping some of them on, to pose like they want to fuck the camera? Are these women empowered, or are they exploited? And does Watson's photo shoot help or hurt?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Three Feet

That's what fell on our house last week. Three feet. It was kind of a lot. This is the Catbird on Wednesday afternoon, when the snow had (mostly) stopped. Granted, she's short (5' 3", I think). The car she is standing next to is a Jeep Grand Cherokee. It's just about six feet tall--when it isn't covered with three feet of snow. Needless to say, it was an exhausting couple of days--by the time we were done shovelling the driveway, the piles alongside it were about head high.

Three feet wasn't the winning entry in the snow sweepstakes, however. One of the towns in county picked up four feet. I'm glad it wasn't us!

The good news is the snow is already disappearing, though I soaked myself pretty well this afternoon wading through knee-deep snow in pursuit of the hemlock woolly adelgid, an invasive insect pest that is threatening eastern hemlock trees here on the east coast. I didn't find it, which is good news for the trees.

I think that's about it for me. Were you in the path of the big storm? How did you make out?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Spring Break

When I wasin college, spring break was Fort Lauderdale, maybe Daytona. That was where everyone wanted to go, to get away from the grind of campus and the pressure of mid-terms, papers and projects. All anyone wanted was a few days to relax in the sun, kick back for a few days, enjoy the ocean and the beach.....

These guys look like they just realized they spent a week drunk in a hotel room and missed out on all the babes!

...or not.

My spring breaks were always spent on Long Island, U.S.A. I never really had the money to go down to Florida for the week-long debauch, but I had friends who did, friends who had a great time down there--what they could remember of it, anyway. Was I deprived? Maybe. Maybe, like New Year's Eve in Times Square (something else I haven't done, though I did spend on memorable one in the Quincy Marketplace in Boston, so that's kind of the same, right?), perhaps Spring Break is something everyone should do once--although I do wonder how many young lives are ruined by their experience, and I'm secretly (now, not so secretly, I guess) glad that neither of my girls has jetted off to Florida or Cancun or wherever Spring Break occurs these days.

This and That

WE picked up the Catbird from school on Friday and had a marathon day of driving there and back again. Though we keep vowing that she should take the bus, we never actually make her do it (maybe this weekend....). It's nice to have her home again, even for just a week.

OVER the weekend, I managed to add about 5600 words to the WiP--I'm not quite sure how I managed that, but I did. No progress on the RiP, though. Maybe I should change it to the RiS, as in "Revision in Stasis"....

THE continued actions of the Trump Administration and the GOP majority in Congress should make it clear to all by now that their motto is "Business uber alles." Anything that filters on down here to the rest of us is just a bonus.


The winter storm watch is now a winter storm warning. Twelve to eighteen inches possible. Good thing the Catbird is home to help shovel!

That's it for me; how are you?


Monday, March 6, 2017

Weekend Update: Themeless Edition

Greetings! Hoping this Monday morning (or whatever time it is wherever you are) finds you well. I find myself this fine Monday with no cohesive post, and no 'seemingly random thoughts that are actually part of a theme' kind of thing happening today, so here are some truly random thoughts.

-The RiP and the WiP are not making a whole lot of progress. Actually, yesterday afternoon, I had a good run of thought about a near-end-of-the-story event for the WiP that turned into about 1,600 words or so, so that was good, but overall, these projects continue to millimeter along. Time to get serious.

-The Weather does what the weather does at this time of year. On February 23, we did a program for kids in a state park, and it was near 70 degrees out. This past weekend, we did what was supposed to be a snowshoe hike in the same state park. There was no snow (at least, not enough to warrant the snowshoes), but it was cold. Five-ish miles on the trail with high temperatures in the teens and wind chills below zero. After three hours of hiking, this was me (hang on to your breakfasts, folks):

That's all water, folks.

Yes, it really is water. Warm, exhaled air gets caught on the mustache, condenses, and freezes. I knew there was some ice there; I had no idea how much ice there was. After a very cold weekend, we're due to pop back up into the forties the next couple of days, so this scene will hopefully not be repeated--until next winter, if we're lucky.

-The Bruins made one minor deal at the NHL's trade deadline last week, adding depth forward Drew Stafford to the team for the cost of a mid-round draft pick. Sometimes, the benefit of adding a player is less what that guy brings to the team and more that he's able to push a guy further down--or out--of the lineup. In Stafford's first game, he got more shots on goal and created far more scoring chances for his line than the guy who had been there before. Will the Bruins swoon as they have in March for the last two seasons, or will they solidify and hold onto the playoff spot they currently occupy? Time will tell, but as of today, the playoff spot is theirs to lose.

-Some music! Why do songs get stuck in my head? I don't know! This one has been rattling around all week, an oldie, but goodie. Joe Walsh, Life's Been Good. How's life been for you?

Monday, February 27, 2017

Monday Musing: Is it on, or off?

I have strange thoughts that come to me seemingly at random. In this way, I suspect I'm not all that unusual; most people, I suspect, have oddball, random thoughts about the world around them. Hell, some people make themselves a nice living off of these things:

Once in a while, I wake up with these things. Last week, for example, I woke up with the odd realization that, in the Grand Theft Auto universe, there are neither children nor pets. No dogs or cats running around, and definitely no kids. It's odd that I had never noticed it before, and it's odd that I woke up with that in my brain, as I wasn't even thinking about Grand Theft Auto (though, perhaps, it's an indicator of the addictive level of game play) at the time--at least, not in my front brain. Something must have been happening in my back brain, though. I suppose having players be able to mow down, shoot, blow up, and beat to death innocent children and pets is a line the folks at Rockstar Games just did not want to cross. (SIDE NOTE: Just a few days after waking up with this thought, an in-game version of comedian, Katt Williams made the same observation. Said Virtual Williams: "I ain't seen a dog, or a cat yet. Hmm, just thought about it didn't you? Go ahead, think back. No, that wasn't a dog. That were probably a short person like myself, bending over to pick up something." I found it rather amusing, given how close on the heels of my own revelation it came)

Later the same week, during dinner, I said something about a timer going off, and that just made me stop right in my conversational tracks. Why do we say things like, "The timer went off" or "The buzzer went off" or "The smoke alarm went off" when what really happened is those things actually went on?  Think about it for a second: you're cooking your dinner, you leave the pork chops in a little too long, and there it is, a house full of smoke, and then the awful sound of a smoke detector shrilling in your ear--but it's really not the sound of it going off, is it? It's the sound of it going on. The sound of the smoke detector going off is actually silence--blessed, wonderful silence.

Thinking about it logically right now, since I'm making this post up as I go and have no end in sight, I wonder if the phrase comes from the days of wind-up timers. When the timer stops running--when it goes off--you get the single stroke of a bell: Ding! That's a timer going off. Clock radios, electronic timers, those just keep running until you stop them; it's just a different phase of the operation.

I'm hoping I haven't inadvertently plagiarized someone's comedy routine here. It seems like the sort of thing that must have been covered, but I don't remember hearing it. Anyway, that's all I've got for today. What about you? Do you ever have these oddball moments of observation about our world? Please share!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Reviewing the List

File this under "cleaning up things from last year." It's not necessarily the last in this category (still have to do that one about resolution that was kicking in my brain from last December or so, but that one's going to have to wait a bit), but it's the one I feel capable of tackling. Unfortunately, while I'm sure I actually started writing this in September or so, I can't find the document. I suspect it's an orphan, one of the things left behind on the hard drive of my old computer that didn't get transferred. Perhaps I'll be able to rescue it someday.

This particular post was inspired initially back in August, when Jo Eberhardt penned this post at Writer Unboxed. The gist of it is that female protagonists are underrepresented in fiction, but because of perception, we (and by we, I apparently mean men and boys) think they are overrepresented, or at least equally represented. At the time (early August), I went through my running list of books I had read for 2016 and started counting--male protagonist, female protagonist, hard-to-tell-who-was-the-protagonist. As I started, I was cringing: at the end of 2015, one of the things I vowed to do was to read more widely, more diversely. Looking at the titles and authors, I was sure I had failed miserably.

When I counted, I was pleasantly surprised, because the "who's the protagonist" question turned out to be much more even than I expected. Not quite even, but close. I was going to write about it then, but either got lazy or decided to see how the list finished out. So, here's how this worked out (note that one book was an anthology, so no main protagonist at all):

Forgive the "hard on the eyes" all caps for the table, and the fact that it's not a table. The number here surprised me, as I said, because when I first started looking at the titles and authors, as I said, I was sure that women protagonists were vastly underrepresented. Part of that was seeing Joe Hill's name on the list twice at the time, and forgetting that both of Hill's books that I read this year (NOS4A2 and The Fireman) had female protagonists. I'll also add there were two books on my list (The Water Knife and All the Ugly and Wonderful Things) that I counted as male. Though page time and point of view were shared fairly equally between male and female characters, I felt that the male character was the primary focus of the story, and one (All the Light We Cannot See) that I counted as female.

Now, I suppose I should look at authors. And for this, I'll expand the list to include the non-fiction. Note that there are more authors than books, because of co-authorships.


Ouch. Only about a third of the books I read were written by women. Yikes. Something else I need to fix? Minorities and other cultures. Only four of the books I read last year were not written by white Americans, as far as I can tell. Clearly, I still need to do some work on the "reading diversely" thing. How about you? Have you taken a good look at your reading list lately? What did you find? 

That's about it for me for now. I'm going to hopefully spend this Presidents' Day productively writing. Thanks for stopping by, and share your thoughts in the comments section.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Monday Musing: Blizzard Edition

Well, technically it's not a blizzard, but the storm that began yesterday has dumped close to a foot of snow on us (I measured 13", but there was already a some on the ground; I'm not sure what the "official" totals are). I got out in the middle of the afternoon yesterday and shoveled about five inches or so out of my driveway, and pulled down a lot with my roof rake from a part of the house, then called it a day--moving snow is tiring, and now I've got more to do!

Officially, I'm "working from home" for the first couple of hours this morning. Unfortunately, I didn't bring anything home with me on Friday! At the very least, I can sort through the fifty or sixty e-mails that have no doubt piled up since last week. It's amazing how much junk e-mail there is in the world. What else is happening/has happened?

-Last Thursday, the wife, the Magpie and I went to a meeting of concerned citizens who are hoping to keep the momentum generated by our local women's march going. I counted over 30 people crowded into a little upstairs room at a local restaurant--not bad for a night that also had pretty snowy conditions. It's heartening to see so many people who will remain vigilant and active, and to know that there are at least two other similar groups in our rural county doing the same.

-On February 3, Representative Gaetz of Florida introduced HR 861--To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency. This has been referred to committee(s). My understanding, since the text of the bill has not been released, is that it would turn over environmental responsibilities to the state. Sorry, folks, this is a bad idea on many levels. Climate, Flint, and Hoosick Falls notwithstanding, our land, air and waters are probably in the best shape they've been in in my lifetime, and a lot of that has to do with the EPA (and the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act). Check the committees, folks, and see if your representative is on one or more of them, and urge them to oppose this misguided act. I made this special for the occasion, feel free to use it:

For the record, that's the Cuyahoga River, which caught fire on several occasions in the last century. I should note that, while President Trump almost certainly will support this effort (he did say he wanted to get rid of "the Deparment of Environmental"), this comes right out of the GOP platform (see p. 21). Are we mired in regulation and bureaucracy? Maybe. Is this the best way to fix it? Not in my view.

-On a non-political note, the Boston Bruins finally dropped the axe on coach (er, former coach) Claude Julien's neck last week, timing the announcement so that it would be lost in the hubub over the Patriots' Super Bowl parade. I liked Claude quite a bit and didn't think he should get tossed for the crime of keeping a poorly-constructed team barely in contention for a playoff spot. I doubt he will be unemployed long. To my surprise, the Bruins just ran off three straight wins under new coach Bruce "Butch" Cassidy. I'll hope they can keep it up.

-The Bruins played (and beat) Montreal last night. The last time they played, Boston defenseman, Torey Krug hit Montreal's Andrew Shaw with a borderline hit that left Shaw with a concussion that caused Shaw to miss 14 games (Krug caught Shaw's chin with his shoulder on the hit, which can be seen here. I don't believe it was an intentional hit to the head, but I am a Bruins fan!). Naturally, what happens in their first meeting? They fight. Most concussions in hockey don't happen in fights, of course, they happen on hits like the one Krug laid on Shaw back in December, but they do happen, and guys who have already had one seem more likely to get another. The culture of hockey being what it is, however, Shaw pretty much had to challenge Krug, and Krug pretty much had to accept the challenge (never mind that he already did that back in the same game he knocked Shaw out of in December when he fought Brendan Gallagher). The older I get, the less convinced I am that fighting has a place in hockey.

That's it for me, time to shovel. How are you all doing?