Sunday, November 30, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

black friday indeed

Yesterday was, of course, Thanksgiving. I celebrated colonialism and destruction and, um, food with Anna and Ellie and various other people who I knew (or didn't) to varying degrees. And it was mostly a very nice day, with egg nog and Scrabble and Slumdog Millionaire (which cheesed out at the end but was still good) and lots of food, natch. There was one sore spot, and it was entirely personal: the dish I made pretty much sucked.
I picked out a Moosewood recipe (squash with a tofu-mushroom-pecan stuffing) that was described as being a good veggie alternative for just this type of meat-oriented holiday. Because Anna is allergic to soy I made my own seitan the night before to replace the tofu, toasted up some bread cubes in the morning, and headed over with a backpack full of prepped veggies and foil baking sheets. And somehow, I ended up with a dish that was a) undercooked (hard squash, yum), and b) very unappealing looking. This hurt my cooking ego more than I would have imagined; apparently, said ego is far too based around my ability to cook squash. Which I suppose is a good thing to realize and was something I theoretically knew, but it kind of sucked to figure it out on Thanksgiving. Because regardless of the historical basis for the holiday, now it's almost entirely based around food, and that's something I've come to trust that I will usually do well with. And I didn't. Alas. (This experience also compounded my lasting frustration for recipes that involve "stuffing" an unstuffable vegetable by simply placing some stuffing on top of said vegetable. I mean, really, that's not stuffing, and it rarely turns out well for me. But that's another story.)
But other than that, it was a good day, and at least the rest of the food was all good. But today is, as many or all of you theoretical readers know, Black Friday, a.k.a. Buy Nothing Day. And I have to work all day as a capitalist whore, selling candles and Christmas ornaments to old ladies and gay couples. Have I discussed how dirty it makes me feel when I convince somebody to buy, say, Caldrea's eco-friendly Ginger Pomelo-scented linen spray? I've been mocking myself in gatherings lately, demonstrating my technique:
(customer walks by our Caldrea shelf and briefly pauses. I sidle up.)
me: Would you like to smell some of these? (Without waiting for answer, opens a candle box and waves it at customer's nose.)
customer: Ooh, that does smell good!
me: Yeah, these all smell really nice. Try the basil blue sage. (Continues opening boxes.) And a lot of green products don't work that well, but these ones are great. I use a lot of them at home. Try some hand balm!
On a good day, this interchange results in a Caldrea sale maybe forty percent of the time. It's kind of inexplicable; I don't say much, but for some reason I sell waaaay more of this stuff than anybody else in the store. On a good day, it feels like magic: I open a box, they walk away with countertop spray. And the thing is, I'm not lying or anything. I do actually use almost exclusively Caldrea in my house, and it does work well. (The joys of being able to buy things wholesale: eco-friendly designer laundry detergent.) So, if I'm not lying and I like the product, why does this make me feel so gross? I think it's just the discovery that I kind of enjoy pushing people into a sale. It's a kind of power over them, to say "Smell this!" and feel like, for a few minutes, I was in charge of what they did with their day. Which is, of course, totally egotistical. Apparently I need to work on this whole "ego" thing.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

reality is all the god there is

I used to get really stressed out when I visited Arizona: there was too much to do, too many places to be, too many people vying for my time. In fact, I used to treat vacations as marathons, seeing how many people/events/cities/countries I could pack into two weeks/spring break/one road trip. It made me miserable and a terror to be around, in all honesty. So now, when I go back home (or anywhere, for that matter) I try to take a deep breath and leave my expectations behind. I set vague goals and other than that I just try to (such a concept) enjoy myself. Relax, in other words. This time these were my vague goals: spend time with parents and the two excellent friends I have in Flagstaff, go hiking, cook dinner for said friends and family, eat some of Macy's veggie biscuits and gravy (I swear, the best I've had anywhere), and maybe bring back a few pictures. It turns out that's just about all I had time for, but it was just enough. There were two long hikes and one short one, a dinner of french-ish food (tilapia with french mushroom sauce and a side of baked cucumbers, which much to my disappointment received mixed reactions), Sex and the City flashbacks to spring break 2005, long conversations about love and sex and family and ecoporn. I even got to have biscuits and gravy twice :)
But back to the hiking. I can always count on Erica to take me on hikes that push me and this time was no exception. My first day in town, we went for a hike on the Inner Basin Trail, starting at Lockett's Meadow and heading up towards the summit of Humphreys, the tallest mountain in the state and part of the San Francisco Peaks. We didn't make the summit (as erica said, next time we'll start earlier and at a time of year when the sun sets later), but we made it above treeline. Which is 11,500 feet in Flagstaff. Which is way, way higher elevation-wise than I've ever hiked before. Luckily the trail isn't too steep, but there was definitely a fair amount of gasping on my part. I laughed at myself hiking in a tank top and gloves in the snow. We ate lunch at the top and listened to the most profound silence I've heard in a while.
The short hike was at Red Mountain with my parents and my friend Emily. It's a short, flat hike, but ends near a wall of red cliff and a ton of eroded stone.


My mom, none too happy to be having her picture taken

Erica and I had planned another hike for the Monday before I left, and on Sunday she called me to suggest that we go hiking in the Grand Canyon. Even though I grew up about 75 miles from the canyon, I've been there a total of two times and neither of those trips involved much hiking. In fact, when I went at the age of nine, we hiked very briefly and then I slipped and fell in a big pile of mule shit, so that (and my dad's endless river stories) has been more or less my association since then. Needless to say, I was excited. We hiked down Hermit trail to (perhaps) the Cathedral Steps before heading back up.

from the rim, near the Bright Angel trailhead

A tree growing out of a rock upside-down

my feet. this is where we ate lunch.

Also taken on lunchbreak

I can barely walk today because my calves hurt so much, but it was totally worth it.
Now I'm back in the relative chill of Chicago. But... Maybe not for that much longer. One of the things I kind of came to terms with on this trip is the fact that, no, I don't want to stay in Chicago forever. My goal is to have this be my last Chicago winter, to be in Denver or Albuquerque or somewhere else by about this time next year. It's terrifying to think about picking up and starting over, but every time I get away and into someplace where I can see farther than a city block I realize how much I want the choice between city and not-city to be a part of my daily life. My life here is expanding in ways that I had long ago given up on (and are also sometimes alarming, frankly), but I'm choosing to believe that my life can expand somewhere else too.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

i made it down the coast in seventeen hours

I'm leaving for Arizona (well, for the bus to the airport to the plane to the car to my parents' house) in about two hours. I might not write that much this week, alas, but I'll make sure I save up lots of thoughts for when I return. For now, I'm just nervous that I won't like any of the (four) books I'm taking with me and I'll die of boredom on the plane. But I'm stocked up on trail mix, so at least I won't be hungry :)
So now I'll enjoy my last hours of cat-petting and coffee-drinking-in-my-bathrobe and then be on my way. I'm copying out recipes to cook for my friends and family, which is exciting. I really want to make something delicious to show that all of the kitchen stuff I've received in the last few years is going to good use. Plus, I spend so much time cooking for and with friends lately that I feel that these, my family and oldest friends, deserve special consideration.
I'm on my way now, wishing and hoping for safe travel, good food, hiking, and quality time with friends. Have a good week, everybody!

Monday, November 17, 2008

i'll meet you in the streets

Just a few pictures. I'm glad Anna (and now Ellie) still has my back on the photo-taking front.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

are you out there? can you hear this?

Back in the day at UA, I went to a lot of protests for a while there. I remember my first big anti-war protest and how excited I was to be surrounded by so many (approximately) like-minded people; I also remember how the enthusiasm started to be overcome by apathy and depression, by seeing the same people every time and little to no evidence that anything we were doing had any effect whatsoever. When I moved to Illinois, I was still all ready to try and carry on with my activist leanings, to find a niche and try to do something helpful and at least moderately hopeful. Unfortunately, I never found that niche, and so I just stopped. Until yesterday, I'm pretty sure it had been years since I went to a protest.
But yesterday... Amazing. I went to the Prop. 8 solidarity protest downtown, along with what I heard from other reports might have been two thousand other people. I've been to plenty of protests where a lot of people were there to push their own agendas, and that always makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable. I'm not really there to have somebody talk to me about, I don't know, the Communist Party, I'm there to protest whatever's being protested. But yesterday was by far the largest rally I've ever been to where I saw a positive dearth of that. I know there was some flyering going on (but even that seemed remarkably topical), and I'm sure there were some agenda people around, but mostly it seemed like everybody was truly there to be seen and heard, to raise signs and voices and say that they believed gay people were just as awesome as straight people. The crowd was relatively diverse, and I witnessed none of the overt racial tension that I'd heard about at other marches. That's not to say that it didn't happen, or that something more subtle than outright racial slurs was going on, because that would probably not be true. There were also a number of things (like signs saying "Black is the New Gay" and a chant that went something like "Gay, straight, black, white, it's all the same fight") that seemed at the least overly simplistic and made me take a step back. But at least we were all there, which is a start. Maybe after this gay activists will get better at reaching out to other communities.

I don't have any pictures (hopefully I'll steal some from Anna later, but my batteries were dead), but here's some signs I saw:
Love is ABFAB
No More Mr/Mrs Nice Gay/Dyke
Keep Your Gospels Off My Gonads
Prop 8 Is As Bad As This Poster (on a kind of crappy-looking piece of posterboard taped to a stick)
8 is the Loneliest Number
Love is a Battlefield
I Can't Believe I'm Still Protesting This Crap

And everybody's favorite nonsense poster:
Watch Out! I'm Going to Gay Marry Your Mom!

There's no non-cheesy way to say this, so: I truly felt like my faith in people came away from this experience a little bit restored. When I got there and saw so many people, I will admit a tear came to my eye. That lasted until I got boxed in between some barricades and a group of tall, oblivious gay men, which I eventually escaped from when the police moved the barricades back to make room for the masses of people that just kept flowing into the plaza. Anna and Ellie showed up just after that and we found some friends of theirs and moved to a place where we could both see and hear the speakers. A number of people had flown in from California, including the cast of a pretty bad lesbian sitcom that Anna had just reviewed. One of these women told us that at several protests in LA the week before had involved impromptu marches and that it had felt amazing, and you could feel the crowd perk up. When the speeches ended soon after, there was a pause and then the organizers asked us to wait for a few minutes while they "decided where we were going to march to." (At this point, I penned some phone numbers on my hand. Ever since Tucson, where somebody I knew got arrested at every damn protest I went to and usually for no real reason, I've been somewhat paranoid about wrongful arrest. I'm aware that this partially had to do with the people I was around--hi Rachel!--but still. So phone numbers for an unplanned march seemed like a good idea.)
A few minutes later, we headed out. People were so excited, so it was a big letdown when we were herded onto the sidewalk as we poured out of the plaza. But a block or two later, we were suddenly in the street, crossing against traffic signals and waving our rainbow flags at the cars who were sitting stalled out at green lights watching us. There was some waving back, and some high-fiving, and a lot of staring in fascination, but that was okay. It felt so good to just be there, and despite the pain and anger that I'm sure many felt after the election we all just seemed happy to be together, to be shutting down traffic and laughing together and doing something we weren't supposed to. We walked down the middle of downtown streets for... a long time. At least a mile and a half, with no discernible destination. I guess that's what happens when the march isn't planned ahead of time, so it was cool, although there were an increasing number of jokes about either walking home or stopping at H&M as the march wore on. But we got to stop traffic on State Street, waving once again to the mobs of people outside of Macy's holiday windows, and we certainly impacted a lot of unwary folks' Saturday afternoon. I came away with a feeling of power and joy and energy that I haven't felt in a long time. The queers are still here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

a virtue i'm lacking

Lately, I've been having some problems with constancy. One week, I'm out every night meeting new people, cooking lots of new foods, writing every day in my blog and my journal, and the next I'm wordless and reduced to eating canned chili. Or some combination of those things. This week I'm writer's-blocked and social and I've been eating leftover french bread for breakfast because I ran out of yogurt and haven't gotten around to replenishing my stash yet. Such is life, I guess.
So I don't have much to write, basically, or at least nothing I can articulate right now. But this is my exciting news: I'm going home to Arizona next week! And I paid an excessive amount to move my return flight back so I can stay for a few more days. I'm looking forward to a week of absence from city.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

happy feet

Here's another thing I like about fall: Walking. In the summer, I ride my bike because it's faster, less sweaty, and fun. In the winter, walking is much less enjoyable because you might freeze your face or, perhaps more frequently, fall on your ass on the ice. But in the fall and spring, I'm free to walk miles and miles if I desire with little to no ill effect. And I do desire it, apparently: yesterday I walked about eight miles, and today I'm walking to boystown to see a movie. In terms of hiking this is pretty unimpressive, but in terms of city walking I feel like a badass.
One of my favorite things about having been here so long is just knowing where things are. When I moved here in 2004, it was an enormous struggle to get my life set up because I just didn't know where to go for anything, even basic essentials like towels. But now, more than four years later, I can tell you my favorite bookstores, falafel restaurants, and thrift stores, tell you the best way to get there by any form of transportation, how many miles you'll be covering, and what else is in the area. That knowledge is incredibly important to me, and a large part of the reason I know these things is because of my walking and biking. On a train, you might have a good idea of where you're going, but unless you spend some time with maps it's easy to not have a good idea of where exactly you are. But when you walk and, to a different extent, bike, you have more time to notice things like street signs and hole-in-the-wall shops and restaurants. You form whole new maps in your head, and (at least for me) it makes even familiar places look a little different when I choose to approach them in different ways.
But in truth, I just love walking. I like doing things slowly; it gives me a sense of time that is lacking in so much of life. And one of the great things about Chicago is that, even though it's a really big place, I can walk pretty much anywhere I need to go if I give myself enough time. People think I'm crazy, I think, when I tell them I walked to Roger's Park last week. And I think, seriously? It's only about two miles. Why on earth would I pay the CTA two dollars for a train ride (one that involves at least twenty minutes of walking anyway to get to and from stations, I might add) when I can have a good forty-five minutes of clean, quiet alone time, full of knowledge that I'm lucky to have the time and geographical know-how to allow me to do that? It also puts this giant place in perspective and makes it seem not so overwhelming. It makes me feel at home.

Friday, November 07, 2008

so this is the new year?

I used to say I didn't care much about gay marriage. In a purely theoretical and extremely self-serving sense, this is at least somewhat true: I don't want to get married, I don't feel particularly enamored with marriage as a concept or an ideology, and I think that gay rights groups spend a lot of time and energy and money on gay marriage that could be put towards obtaining the rights that marriage guarantees for everybody instead of just those of us who decide to get hitched. But it's obvious that, regardless of how I feel, marriage is the battleground right now, the place where we are losing badly and repeatedly. I can accept that that's the place where conservatives and liberals and straight people and queer people are all overlapping enough to make it a more or less universal issue.

I read an article today in which (after noting that Californians voted pro-chicken and anti-gay) the author says that the blame rests on the shoulders of gay activists from not reaching out enough to other communities, specifically the black communities that voted overwhelmingly against Prop. 8 in California. True? Did we gays forget to cover our asses, electorally speaking? Maybe. I have no way of knowing, really. But it still made me bristle. Obviously mutual support is incredibly important, but it makes me angry that we and countless other groups throughout history have had to fight so damn hard for basic rights, and we can still be blamed for our own failure because nobody would ever vote for gay marriage unless we reached out to them. Of course, not being able to get married and access that privilege is nothing compared to not being able to vote, to have good education or pay or housing. So what's the big deal? Why do I, along with so many others, care so damn much? Is this in any way comparable to the struggles black people and other minorities have faced in the past, present, and future?

(As a side note, is the focus of the media attention given to the black vote for Prop. 8 bothering anyone else? Okay, so the reason it's such a big fucking deal that Obama won the election is that there are long-standing and deeply-rooted inequalities that are still in place for black people in racist America. And everybody learns in, what, high school government class, that a wide range of factors such as income, education, and geographic placement influences people's votes. Can we put these two thoughts together please? I agree it's somewhat ironic that gays voted for a black man and black people voted against gay rights, but let's talk about the reasons, please.)

So, to recap: marriage is, as a right, not that super important to me on its own, or at least it wouldn't if I wasn't upset for all those who actually do yearn for a big churchy wedding and accompanying dental care. So why am I so upset about all of this? Can't I be content to bitch about Arkansas some more? But consider this quote from The Commitment by Dan Savage, a book about gay marriage that considerably clarified and informed my personal thoughts on marriage as an institution. From an article by Jonathon Rauch for the Washington Post following an amendment in Virginia that banned gay people from entering into any contract that might bestow a marriage-like privilege (this includes signing durable powers of attorney and leaving each other property in wills, among other things):

"To abridge the right of contract for same-sex partners, then, is to deny not just gay coupledom, in the law's eyes, but gay personhood. It disenfranchises gay people as individuals. It makes us nonpersons, subcitizens. By stripping us of our bonds to each other, it strips us even of ownership of ourselves."

This is not about weddings. This is not even so much about acknowledgement of relationships, or health insurance, or wills, although those things are important too. This is about personhood, and the fact that a majority of Americans are willing to deny things that are widely considered basic human rights and privileges (in America, anyway) to gay people just because of who we like to sleep with. What right does somebody I've never met in California have to determine me less human because of my sexual desires? I have never felt so low or disgusted or bitter as I do right now. Just as everything seems to be moving forward, we appear to have determined that the validity of part of the population is less important than the rights of chickens. I'm happy for those chickens, but next time let's vote for all people to have room to spread their wings, too.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

east berlin

I've been meaning to send my therapist a thank-you card.
Before I started therapy, I never heard many people discussing being in therapy. It seemed kind of secret and perhaps shameful, something people did in New York or on TV, not something people I knew took part in. This is not the case as it turns out, but it still seems like a frequently hidden act. Because of that, I tried to make sure I talked about my therapy experiences from time to time, to emphasize what I was getting from it and that I was going at all and that that was just fine. Because it is, and it was.
I think being in therapy was one of the best things that I ever decided to do, in all honesty. Obviously a lot of other things have changed for me recently as well, but I know for a fact that I am far better equipped to deal with anxiety and stress and also to recognize when I'm not dealing with those things well and to take steps to help myself. And actually, as part of the study I was taking part in Tabitha and I had to interact in front of a camera so that a doctor could study our visual cues. We did this at the very beginning and then again after my last session. When I saw my therapist a few weeks later, she told me that I had actually been deemed to no longer have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the disorder that I was originally diagnosed with. So whoo! And I know for a fact that I'm happier overall than I can remember being in a long time, and I think that's related too.
I recently got some Dar Williams cds from Anna after a few years of not really listening, and I've been greatly enjoying them. My old favorites are still on heavy rotation-- Iowa, Mortal City, etc.-- and I'm discovering new favorites as I go along. But my newest favorite is What Do You Hear In These Sounds, which is essentially an ode to therapy. Anyway, so here it is. I'm happy that she talked about it and that she could so accurately describe what I feel for me. Also, I like how her choruses always seem to employ nonesense syllables. (So much more fun to write out!) Anyway...

What Do You Hear In These Sounds
Dar Williams

I don't go to therapy to find out if I'm a freak
I go and I find the one and only answer every week
And it's just me and all the memories to follow
Down any course that fits within a fifty minute hour
And we fathom all the mysteries, explicit and inherent
When I hit a rut, she says to try the other parent
And she's so kind, I think she wants to tell me something,
But she knows that its much better if I get it for myself...

And she says
What do you hear in these sounds?
And... Oooooooh,aaaaaaah
What do you hear in these sounds?????

I say I hear a doubt, with the voice of true believing
And the promises to stay, and the footsteps that are leaving
And she says "Oh", I say "What?"...she says "Exactly",
I say"What, you think I'm angry
Does that mean you think I'm angry?"
She says "Look, you come here every week
With jigsaw pieces of your past
Its all on little soundbytes and voices out of photographs
And that's all yours, that's the guide, that's the map
So tell me, where does the arrow point to?

What do you hear in these sounds?
What do you hear in these sounds?????

And when I talk about therapy, I know what people think
That it only makes you selfish and in love with your shrink
But Oh how I loved everybody else
When I finally got to talk so much about myself............

And I wake up and I ask myself what state I'm in
And I say well I'm lucky, cause I am like East Berlin
I had this wall and what I knew of the free world
Was that I could see their fireworks
And I could hear their radio
And I thought that if we met, I would only start confessing
And they'd know that I was scared
They would know that I was guessing
But the wall came down and there they stood before me
With their stumbling and their mumbling
And their calling out just like me...and...

The stories that nobody hears...and...
Oooooooh,aaaaaaah, and
I collect these sounds in my ears...and
Oooooooh,aaaaaaah, that's what I hear in these sounds...and...
Oooooooh,aaaaaaah, that's what I hear in these......
that's what I hear in these SOUU OUUUN NNNDS!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

the good, the bad

So yes, I did get to vote yesterday. I got up at 5:30, headed over to my polling place, and got in line behind the elderly black woman who arrived before me. Five minutes later, I managed to convince them to look up "Brad" instead of "Brod" and I drew my hopeful little arrows.
I'm thrilled, relieved, grateful that Obama won. For real, that's by far the happiest I've ever been for an election outcome. I didn't go to Grant Park, which I feel both okay and sad about: okay because big crowds freak me out and I fear I wouldn't have been able to get the good parts from it, but sad because I missed something so historic and probably moving. And who knows, maybe if I'd been there I would have felt the joy of victory more strongly.
Because still: California, Arizona, Florida, and Arkansas. That's where I count my losses, as a queer person and as a citizen. Arizona and Florida are saddening but no huge shock, I suppose. Us queers are used to being told we are sub-par, not worthy of the status of loving caring human beings who can give each other health insurance, and as sad as that is it's not a surprise to me. But California? Marriage being repealed after being awarded. And Arkansas makes me more directly angry and sad than anything has in a while. Arkansas passed legislation that made it so unmarried couples can't adopt or raise foster children. This measure was specifically geared towards same-sex couples, but in truth it hurts not only them (and, of course, unmarried straight couples) but also children. Who could vote for something that prevents children from having homes just because they hate queers so much? It makes my heart hurt. I could never do such a thing.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


"The election campaign is on, the politician jumps from plane to helicopter, from helicopter to car, exerts himself, perspires, bolts his lunch on the run, shouts into microphones, makes two-hour speeches, but in the end it will depend on Bernstein or Woodward which of the fifty thousand sentences that he uttered will be released to the newspapers or quoted on the radio. That's why the politician would prefer to address the radio or TV audience directly, but this can only be accomplished through the mediation of an Oriana Fallaci (ed: an Italian journalist), who sets the media rules and asks the questions.The politician will want to exploit the moment when he is finally seen by the entire nation, and to say everything that's on his mind, but Woodward will ask him only about things that aren't on the politician's mind at all and that he has no desire to talk about. He will thus find himself in the classic situation of a schoolboy called to the blackboard and will try to use the old schoolboy trick: he will pretend to be answering the question but in reality will use material he has specially prepared at home for the broadcast. This trick may have worked on his teachers, but it does not work on Bernstein, who keeps reminding him mercilessly: "You haven't answered my question!"
Who would want to be a politician these days? Who would want to spend his whole life being tested at the blackboard?"
-Milan Kundera, Immortality

Monday, November 03, 2008


Even though I haven't been writing about it, the election has been taking up a decent amount of space in my head recently. I've been a bit nervous about feeling confident; in 2004, there was no doubt in my mind that Bush could not possibly win again, and I was severely depressed and upset when he did. I feel similarly about McCain (and, god forbid, Sarah Palin), but instead of the confidence I felt four years ago I feel like I'm holding my breath. Waiting and hoping, because even though Obama is not my ideal candidate I think he's as close to that as anybody with a chance in hell of being elected can be right now.
I'm also nervous about the fact that there's a small chance that I might not be able to vote. I filled out a new voter registration form and mailed it off a few days before the deadline so that my new address would be noted, but I didn't get my form until last Thursday. I thought to myself, "Oh good, my voter registration card!" and didn't open it until Saturday, at which point I realized that they had gotten my name wrong. Amanda Brad, that's who they think I am. I can't seem to find any information about whether that will actually be an issue, but I have this horrible feeling that I'll show up tomorrow morning (at 6 AM, since I have to work at 10 and I'm worried about the wait) with my letter, my lease, a bill in my name for this address, and my Arizona driver's license and be denied. I know it almost certainly won't make a difference in the presidential count (the whole Obama-is-from-Chicago thing), but it would still be upsetting. This whole lead-up has made me feel like this election is actually a pretty significant thing to be witnessing, although I'm still slightly unsure if that feeling is at least partially a product of something exterior, like my age or media influence or something I am not even aware of. But still... I'm ready to vote. I feel oddly un-radical to be admitting that, but it's true. And even if the importance of this election has been somehow inflated by an outside force, I'm excited and heartened by the fact that for months I've been hearing people on the street discussing the candidates, the debates, the issues. I want, for a few minutes tomorrow, to be part of something that is important to so many people.

this is not about love, it's about virginity

Not to be repetitive (oh, but I am...), but I've been thinking more about those silly Twilight books. This isn't a post about love, though; rather, it's about conflicting reactions. I've been re-reading parts of the first book, mostly out of laziness and boredom, and it's surprising how differently I react to this second perusal. (Hint: I'm reacting negatively.) Because, despite the fact that the author seems to do a pretty good job of making her readers feel all mushy inside, there are many many reasons for me to dislike this book.
Sex and death have always been major themes in vampire literature, of course, and are a large part of why they have always been popular. (See also lesbian vampires as a popular subgenre. ) But here, they are conflated to an almost ridiculous extent and all in the context of virginity and abstinence. Bella, the female protagonist, spends much of her time and energy trying to get Edward, her vampire sweetheart, to either have sex with her or turn her into a vampire, and it's frequently a fine line. (A kiss on the neck has completely different context when the kisser is a vampire, which creates a nice frisson that's pretty damn explicit for what I think of as a book for adolescents.) He refuses to have sex with her on the grounds that he might accidentally crush her skull in the heat of the moment, and as the books wear on it comes out that he's also trying to protect her "virtue." (Dear god.) In fact (slight spoiler), by the end of the third book they strike a deal wherein he will have sex with her before she's a vampire only if she marries him. Vampire wedding porn! I've been told that Stephanie Meyer, the author, is Mormon, which makes sense in the context of all of this regardless of how I feel about it. But still, wow. What shameless agenda promotion!
There are a lot of other things I could talk about, some good and some bad. The gender descriptors for Edward are fascinatingly female much of the time, for instance. But then again, Bella is the embodiment of adolescent girl self-loathing, which is rarely addressed in any real way but which should irritate the shit out of any alert reader and also makes me terribly sad. Most of her inner dialogue consists of her putting herself down, which is an excellent lesson for young girls, no? I imagine that the supposed redeeming factor for having such a terribly insecure protagonist might be along the lines of "but it's all in her head! And anyway, Edward loves her anyway." Ugh.
So here's my quandary: at least the first time through, I enjoyed this book for it's mushiness. Can I still enjoy it even if it promotes values that I find, at the very least, distasteful? This is a smaller version of a larger problem I have reconciling my desire to be critical and aware of the import of media and also a desire to sometimes leave that critique behind and just enjoy a stupid romance novel. It comes up with things like Juno, which I will admit that I enjoyed watching even though it blatantly promoted things I don't believe in a very one-sided way. Is it possible to be critical but still be a consumer of crap like this? Or am I just not being critical enough?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Miss Wasilla 1984

Sort of an amalgamation of prom queen and potential vp as pageant winner. I even have a flute! It was a good night.