Feminism: A Potential, Not A Person

[Content Note: Infertility, IVF]

I have always wanted children, and with more intensity of desire than those five words can possibly convey.

From my earliest memories, I liked children. My mother took care of foster babies when I was little, and I watched with interest and helped where I could. I enjoyed babysitting other people's children. At family reunions, my older cousins were thrilled when I would volunteer to babysit large groups of their cumulative 7+ small children so that they could spend the time relaxing and catching up. These much-younger cousins got on well with me, and I got on well with them: a miracle that I now credit to the fact that I scrupulously never talked down to them, and because they knew their parents were always still well within earshot.

Metapost: Disqus

Disqus is randomly blinking comments in and out of existence today. Sometimes some comments show up on refresh; sometimes they don't! This is also happening on other Disqus boards I frequent, so I'm hoping Disqus will be able to fix it soon.

Self-Promotion: Blog RSS

For those of you with Kindles but not with RSS readers -- or who just have a burning desire to receive Rambling articles on glorious e-Ink -- there is now a Kindle Blog Subscription to the blog:

The subscription costs a dollar a month (a cost that Amazon apparently sets, because they never asked for my thoughts on the matter) and if I'm reading the fine print correctly I get ~33 cents on the dollar. So that's $4 per person per year if I'm adding that up correctly. Note that all you're getting is blog content -- updated on the Amazon servers every 15 minutes, I believe -- and not the thread comments.

Bloggers in the audience who would like to sign up their own blogs for this service can sign up here. (All you need is an RSS feed address.) The only reason I found out the service existed was because I was looking for "Comics Curmudgeon" on Amazon.

I've tested the subscription on a Kindle Paperwhite -- a recent gift from a relative on the grounds that the training I have to take for work comes only in Kindle e-book form and I couldn't heft the heavy paperback versions -- and it looks pretty snazzy. So if you like this sort of thing, check it out. Note that the "supported devices" seem to be only the e-Ink readers; it doesn't look like the Kindle Fires are on the list. (Which is kind of weird, if true.)

Feminism: The Trial of Lancelot by Heather Dale

[Content Note: Rape]

The Trial of Lancelot by Heather Dale

This song has been running through my head recently, particularly the verse by Sir Tristan, which is so melancholy and sweet:

Sir Tristan spoke: I love my uncle's wife.
For her I gladly suffer, she is my heart's delight.
Iseult, the one who tempts me and she for whom I'm pure,
my love for her confounds me, and is all of which I'm sure.
I understand my brother's contradictions...”

And it's been in my head since I've been reading A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman. In the section on chivalric love, Tuchman notes that chivalric love was usually adulterous-by-design:

Courtly love was understood by its contemporaries to be love for its own sake, romantic love, true love, physical love, unassociated with property or family, and consequently focused on another man’s wife, since only such an illicit liaison could have no other aim but love alone.

If the love affair can offer no real social or material benefits and has a host of drawbacks, then it must be true love!

But -- turning away from the mythology of Arthur and Lancelot and Tristan, as well as the golden voice of Heather Dale -- I thought it was interesting to note that historically there was another facet at work here. Tuchman notes that though chivalric love "remained artificial, a literary convention, a fantasy (like modern pornography) more for purposes of discussion than for everyday practice," still in theory it was supposed to elevate women into objects of worship, passion, and desire rather than being merely property and child-bearing wombs.

Yet Edward III's rape of the Countess of Salisbury serves to remind us that this 'elevation' wasn't genuine. When the Countess refused to follow the pattern of "[the man's] declaration of passionate devotion, virtuous rejection by the lady [...] [then winning] the lady’s heart by prowess", Edward brutally and violently raped her, presumably angry that the object of his "passionate devotion" wasn't following the script.

When we talk about the conventions of chivalric love, it's important to remember that the 'power' over men that women supposedly had because of chivalric love was nothing more than a male fantasy -- in much the same way that the 'power' over men that modern conventionally attractive women supposedly have is nothing more than a male fantasy. Being attractive and desirable and desired doesn't actually make women safe from sexual assault or from workplace harassment, because the supposed power granted to them is only there as part of a script in which, ultimately, the man is supposed to get what he wants from the woman.

And that's just one of the reasons why chivalry is a detrimental system for women: because whatever power women supposedly hold in such a system is an illusory fantasy granted to them only so long as they continue to play by the patriarchal script.

Update: To be clear, this post is not about one individual who did embody chivalric love or one individual who didn't. And it's not about whether chivalric love as an ideal was ever practiced as the ideal, and if so, when and where and when it stopped being the case. And it's not about progress from the 4th century or the 14th century or to today. That is not what I am talking about.

What I am talking about is how any system that doesn't truly empower women -- any system that is ultimately a rape culture, for example -- is a system that doesn't respect women's choice. And any illusion of choice that the system gives is merely a pornographic fantasy as far as the larger culture is concerned: the woman has "choice" only as long as she "chooses" what the man wants. And that is not Choice.

Or, as Margaret Atwood put it:

Once she wasn't supposed to like it. To have her in a position she didn't like, that was power. Even if she liked it, she had to pretend she didn't. Then she was supposed to like it. To make her do something she didn't like and then make her like it, that was greater power. The greatest power of all is when she doesn't really like it but she's supposed to like it, so she has to pretend.

Whether he's making her like it or making her dislike it or making her pretend to like it is important, but it's not the most important thing. The most important thing is making her. Over, from nothing, anew. From scratch, the way he wants.

When a woman's choice isn't respected -- by the larger culture, not just an individual man because we talk about Patterns here, not individual cases -- then the choice isn't genuinely real. It's an illusion or an erotic fantasy, but it doesn't "count" as far as society is concerned. And that's true both Then and Now. The chivalric example is just one example of a system that is hostile to choice.

But it's not the only example of a system that is hostile to choice.

Open Thread: The Ugly House

Hosted by the Ugly House

Would you knock on the door?

You’d have to, wouldn’t you?  If you were wandering through a forest in Wales and saw it rise up ahead of you, that craggy little cottage jutting out of the ground as if the stones themselves had grown there, surrounded by a meadow of wildflowers?  Throw caution to the wind, knock on the door, and take whatever adventure followed.

Anything could happen in a house like that.  You might be invited in for tea by a bear with an Oxford accent, or a wizened old man with a long beard might demand you sing for your supper.  A perilous beauty might fling open the door, furious at your presumption, and curse you with a geas that could only be removed after a long and improbable quest.  Or a trio of fairies might bless you for your timely arrival, and promise you three wishes if you will only help them finish making the ball gown before nightfall.  It could be anything.  Anything at all.

And to think that they call it ugly…

(To all you Welsh tourism aficionados out there, I know, I know, the name is very old and may not mean what we think it means.  Still.)

~ Kristycat

Metapost: Do Not Adjust Your RSS Reader

Folks, I'm having to do some maintenance editing to pretty much all the old posts. What I didn't realize was that this would muck up the RSS feed by putting the old posts up as "new". I'm terribly sorry, and will additionally try to finish today so that this isn't an ongoing thing.

Feminism: Strong Female Character

Please go and read this. Because it is awesome.

My garments cover an agreed portion of my body.
...one which has been determined by focus groups and polls to be inoffensive to those who find my body offensive.

Hat-tip to Applesauce Parker at Shakesville.

Narnia: The Pleasure of Punishment

[Content Note: Bullying, BDSM Erotica]

Narnia Recap: In which Lucy and Edmund are shown around the ship and we are introduced to King Caspian (as opposed to Prince Caspian from the previous book) and a reasonable amount of backstory is given in order to bring everyone up to speed on the plot.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 2: On Board the Dawn Treader

When we last left our royal children, they were discussing their route so far, in between the time they left Narnia and the time that Lucy and Edmund and Eustace were dropped into the sea.

Metapost: Blogger Update (01/29/2013)

Here is your daily Stylebot / Stylish code update for the Blogger interface.

Feminism: Merrie Haskell on Conflict

[Content Note: Sexism]

The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell

   “Stăpână,” I said, dropping the plain curtsy that indicated respect for an elder. That was an easy curtsy, and I didn’t bobble like I did with the deeper gestures. But then, because I can spare only so many good manners in one day, I asked, “Why do you call Brother Cosmin ‘herb-husband’?”

   “Before Brother Cosmin arrived, I was the castle herb-wife,” she said, stretching out her half-netted sock and checking it against a finished one. “I retired to take care of these folks here. I’ve nothing against Cosmin. I just think that calling him ‘herb-husband’ keeps him honest. He puts on airs, and uses fancy titles like ‘herbalist,’ because he has books.”

   I considered that and decided it might be safer to have no opinion on this subject, even though I took my future as a master herbalist very seriously. I would be annoyed if people referred to me as an herb-wife, someone who knew her receipts by rote instead of being able to read and write.

   But I didn’t want to annoy Mistress Adina, and I had great respect for her age, so I kept my mouth shut about all that.

Open Thread: There Are Other Worlds Than These

Hosted by Platform 9 3/4

I saw a picture a while back, and for the life of me I can’t find it again.  To paraphrase the joke, it’s got three girls all holding up their favorite books.

Girl 1: My favorite series is Harry Potter, and I’d love to go to Hogwarts!
Girl 2: My favorite series is Percy Jackson, and I wish I could go to Camp Half-Blood!
Girl 3: My favorite series is The Hunger Games, and I… I’m good.

As a kid, the bulk of my daydreaming involved jaunting off to one fictional world or another.  Some of them, on reflection, might not have actually been that fun to live in.  Oops.

What fictional settings did you fantasize about as a kid?  Which ones would you still go to “like a shot,” as Peter S. Beagle (haha, I got the name right this time) once said of Middle-Earth?  What fictional settings do you love reading about, but wouldn’t live in if they paid you?

For the writers among us, do you prefer creating worlds for your readers to daydream about visiting, or worlds to make them glad they don’t have to live there?

~ Kristycat

Metapost: Print

There is now a "print" button appended to each post which will create a clean, printable version of the post to be sent to a printer, a pdf file, or by email. Because I like clean, printable versions of things.

Feminism: Barbara Tuchman on Chivalry

[Content Note: Gun Violence]

A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman

Chivalry, the dominant political idea of the ruling class, left as great a gap between ideal and practice as religion. The ideal was a vision of order maintained by the warrior class and formulated in the image of the Round Table, nature’s perfect shape. King Arthur’s knights adventured for the right against dragons, enchanters, and wicked men, establishing order in a wild world. So their living counterparts were supposed, in theory, to serve as defenders of the Faith, upholders of justice, champions of the oppressed. In practice, they were themselves the oppressors, and by the 14th century the violence and lawlessness of men of the sword had become a major agency of disorder.

One of the many, many reasons why arming all the privileged people with guns so that they can protect us with their White Knightiness is a really bad idea.

Review: The Princess Curse

The Princess Curse
by Merrie Haskell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Princess Curse / 978-0062008138

Here is what you need to know about "The Princess Curse": I started the book a little after dinner one evening, and ended staying up till after midnight to finish this addictive and satisfying story.

"The Princess Curse" manages to seamlessly blend the fairy tale of the twelve dancing princesses with the Persephone myth, and does so in a way that is truly intriguing. I am enormously impressed with Haskell's elaborate world-building as well as with her ability to deal out gripping (and often delightfully creepy) details about the curse as the novel progresses.

I am also deeply pleased with the characterization in this novel; even the "bad" characters are complex and if not sympathetic then at least understandable. And the heroine and her interactions with others is delightful: it's very nice to see Haskell's dialogue unfold organically, and to have a main character who understands how to maunevre herself thoughtfully through socially fraught conversations. For every reader who has hated Big Misunderstanding plot-twists and has wanted characters to just talk and think things out a little more, here is a novel that does that very thing.

Another nice detail is that the protagonist Reveka is an herbalist's apprentice, and this shines through every time she's on the page. She has a real passion for her craft, she thinks in terms of herbs and remedies, and she approaches problems like a professional solving a puzzle. It's wonderful to have a protagonist who is truly unique from all the blank 'reader insert' characters out there -- you may not be much like Reveka, but I can almost guarantee you will find her interesting and likable.

I also absolutely love that there are more female characters than male ones in this novel, and despite this being a novel with a 'historical setting', there isn't really a huge heap of sexism on display every five minutes. Instead, there are powerful women in the novel -- an Abbess, a herb-wife, a witch, an herbalist's apprentice, a Princess Consort, etc. -- who are powerful because they are clever and intelligent and because the men around them are willing and able to recognize their talents and give them space to use them. It's really wonderful to read a 'historical' setting which acknowledges that, okay, yeah, sexism exists while still giving its female characters room to be awesome and letting its male characters be sensible about the situation rather than being enormous jerks every five minutes for no good reason. More of this, please.

If there is a place where this novel falls down a little, it is perhaps the ending. (Minor spoilers ahead.) I like that the ending is happy, but in places it feels a little too cozy and a little too unfinished. There's actually a line that sounds a lot like the old "and that's how I spent my summer vacation" stereotypical ending for old books and films which weren't sure quite how to wrap things up. And there are a number of dangling minor plot holes, which I'm not sure were avoidable given the specific myths involved, but which kind of niggle at your brain an hour after putting the book down. But I feel kind of picky enjoying an exquisite 5-course dinner only to harp that the dessert course was a bit short and a little too sweet.

If you enjoy fairy tale re-imaginings, and particularly if you enjoyed the fairy tale of the twelve dancing princesses (a particular favorite of mine), I believe you will think "The Princess Curse" was worth the read. In spite of the occasional little plot hole or hiccup in the narrative, the overall writing style is fresh and evocative, and the final product is a tale that manages to be dark in the telling but bright in the resolution.

[Content Notes (Spoilery!): Some ableist terminology which may be intended as deconstructive; blood and bleeding feet; some mention of torture in the context of iron shoes; kidnapping, Stockholm Syndrome romances, and underage marriages (but no sexual content, and an explicit-and-tactful denial that underage sex is taking place); comatose patients; religious themes involving witchcraft, paganism, and immortal souls and their possible salvation/damnation; minor discussion of siege warfare; some discussion of abusive orphanage upbringing.]

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.

~ Ana Mardoll

Feminism: Joan by Heather Dale

[Content Note: Religious Extremism, Violence]

Joan by Heather Dale

It would be wrong to suggest that Joan of Arc does not have a whole host of problematic things accompanying her life and legend. (Nor do I think Heather Dale is ignorant of those things, given that singing songs about controversial and/or murderous legendary women is kind of a thing she does, and does well.) Religious extremism is not a good thing, not when it results in the death of others.

But. I really like this song for the following lyrics:

And they won't call me mother, or sister, or wife
They will know me or not by the strength of my life
I will burn with a light of my own
They'll know me as Joan.

Which I think is important given that women are still by-and-large being defined in the national discourse in terms of our familial status rather than, simply, who we are. That needs to stop. 

Hat-tip to AdrianTurtle at Shakesville.

Open Thread: Nighttime Streets

Hosted by a sleeping town
"Night is a world lit by itself" - Antonio Porchia
 "You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write" - Saul Bellow

Recommendations! What have you read lately that was interesting? What have you written lately that was interesting? Shamelessly self-promote or point us towards something that amused you or made you think.

~ Kristycat

Twilight: Skeptics Society Ahoy!

[Content Note: Religious Cults]

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 13, Edward and Bella spend the weekend alone together in the woods.

Twilight, Chapter 13: Confessions

When we last saw Edward, he was expounding on the evolutionary superiority of vampires in a self-hatred-y way.

Open Thread: Disney World

Hosted by Sleeping Beauty's Castle

I went to Disney World last weekend (not, I might add, Disneyland, as pictured above.)  It’s one of the little perks of living in Orlando; everyone knows someone who works at the parks, so sometimes you get free guest tickets.

Generally in any theme park I’m a thrill seeker, always after the fast rides or the scary rides or the ones with sudden drops at the end.  Last Saturday, though, the party included four infants, so uh… we got to watch a lot of the shows instead.  And to my surprise, they were just as awesome as any roller coaster!  My favorite was the Lion King Festival - I fell in love with the monkey acrobats, and an entire round theater full of people belting out “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” is a sight to see, believe me.

When it comes to Disney movies and songs, though, I tend to prefer the ones that aren’t quite as popularized.  I love, for instance, “God Help The Outcasts” from Hunchback of Notre Dame, and “Hawaiian Roller Coaster” from Lilo and Stitch.  I know pretty much the entire Hercules soundtrack by heart; same thing for Oliver and Company.  My daughter’s godfather likes to sing “You’ll Be In My Heart” from Tarzan to her when she won’t fall asleep for anyone else.  And while I only got to see The Princess and the Frog once, I’m pretty sure “Friends On The Other Side” is going to be a favorite eventually as well.

Is anyone else still in love with Disney movies and songs and theme parks well into their adult years?  Do you like the “big” movies and their signature songs, or do you prefer lesser-known numbers?  Are there any songs that have a personal meaning to you?  If you do have a love for Disney or other “kid” entertainment, do you own up to it, or do you have to pretend you’re ONLY watching it for the sake of your young cousin/sibling/daughter/nephew/neighbor’s kid?
~ Kristycat

Metapost: Blogger Update (01/22/2013)

Since my last update, Blogger has majorly broken the code which was supposed to make the dashboard accessible to people with visual processing disabilities. If anyone is willing to take a crack at restoring things back to viewable, I would be massively appreciative. This most recent update has broken pretty much everything, so I can't fix it via small tweaks.

Update: Here is the latest fix.

Feminism: Why This Matters

[Content Note: Abusive Relationships, Gun Violence, Child Abuse, Immigrant Deaths ]

Stone and Circles by George Hodan
I've been deconstructing popular literature online since 2010 and I hope to continue doing it until my fingers fall off from all this typing. I love doing what I do partly because I have always found literary deconstructions fun to read and engage in, but I also think that what I do here has enormous social value in understanding and furthering progressive causes.

Metapost: Is There Another Word For "Update"?

So, hey, I got some reasonably good news today that unfortunately is going to drive another schedule change, for which I apologize. (It seems like for all my aversion to change, I keep changing things, and I'm sorry.)

So the good news is that the full-time job with Best Friend that I wasn't going to be able to take because I can't get in to work full-time has been reclassified -- at least for now -- as a part-time job. (Because Best Friend is awesome and went to bat for me.) And since I really, really like working with Best Friend this is kind of a dream come true (in the sense of Yay, Awesome Co-worker), at least for however long it lasts (but it should be at least a couple more months of employment, and we're trying to get it extended longer) . . .

. . . except that it's at a facility that has no external internet access and where the 3G on my phone doesn't reliably work. So that part is not terribly dreamy. And the other downside is that the work is completely new to me in a technical area that I haven't dealt with before and in order for me to get up to speed to what is a completely different job than I had before (including a new job title), I have to take a boat-load of training in my free time in order to catch up on the subject matter. And that has to start basically right now, as soon as I hit "post" on this.

So. In order to make this work, I'm going to have to change the posting schedule around a little so that instead of a M/W/F deconstruction schedule, we have a T/Th deconstruction schedule:

Monday: Open Thread
Tuesday: Narnia / Other Deconstruction
Wednesday: Open Thread
Thursday: Twilight / Other Deconstruction
Friday: Open Thread

I think I can swing this; Kristycat is doing an amazing job with the Open Threads (thank you, Kristycat!) and where I was writing decons on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, now I'll be in training on Tuesdays and Thursdays and will be writing decons on Saturdays and Sundays. I think I can manage that.

The other aspect to this is that I won't be able to moderate comments as they come in on the days when I'm away from the internet for 8 hours in a row. So I need everyone to be extra-super-nice and respectful to the other moderators, all of whom are also very busy with their own lives. And we may be bringing on more moderators as the need arises, since I won't be pulling my weight as much as before.

I think that's pretty much everything that I needed to report, and I have to get some reading done on my training materials tonight before bed, so I'll go ahead and post this. I want to thank you all again for being so very easy-going about all my zany employment shenanigans and blog changes in response to everything being so up-and-down. Thank you.

Narnia: Serving at the Pleasure of the King

[Content Note: Genocide, Slavery]

Narnia Recap: In which Lucy and Edmund are shown around the ship and we are introduced to King Caspian (as opposed to Prince Caspian from the previous book) and a reasonable amount of backstory is given in order to bring everyone up to speed on the plot.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 2: On Board the Dawn Treader

One of my favorite Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes is called "The Horrors of Spider Island". A group of women dancers are plane-wrecked on a deserted island, and their single male companion is accidentally turned into a paranormal man-spider-monster-thing. In the final chase scene of the movie, the doomed man flees across a barren waste, and one of the characters stops the others from pursuing him by saying, "Stop! The quicksand starts here!"

Review: Lost At Sea

[Content Note: Sexual Abuse of Teenagers, Racism, Murder, "Honor" Killings]

Lost At Sea: The Jon Ronson MysteriesLost At Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries
by Jon Ronson

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Lost At Sea / 9781594631375

I read this book because it was selected for our book club, and I am terribly disappointed with it. I don't recommend this book at any price, for I found it to be very poorly researched and (more importantly) to put forth some really contemptible ideas about marginalized people and victims of abuse.

Open Thread: Wild Mountain Thyme

Hosted by the blooming heather
“Will ye go, lassie, go?
And we’ll all go together
To pull wild mountain thyme
From all around the blooming heather
Will ye go, lassie, go?”

I’ve always  heard this sung in a slow, wandering tempo, evoking a plaintive, wistful longing.  Recently, though, I heard one of my favorite Neo-Celtic bands claim that "Wild Mountain Thyme" is actually about, well, boys and girls finding plausible excuses to sneak away into the hills for some hanky-panky, and therefore it should be sung in a much more lively, upbeat fashion.  I’m not sure if I buy that interpretation, but the arrangement is catchy.

How do you think the song should be sung?  Do you like Celtic folk music, and if not, is there a different kind of “traditional” music you like better?  Do you know other songs that can be performed in more than one way, and which do you think is better?  Do you have any “happy” songs that always struck you as sad, or vice versa?


Feminism: The Point, It Is This

[Content Note: Marginalizing Language]

Hiding Cat by Shari Weinsheimer
Being a feminist blogger has its ups and downs. There are the good times: the great conversations, the feeling that you're enriching people's lives, the wonderful friends made over the internet, and all the experiences you wouldn't necessarily have had if you weren't churning out 2-3 blog posts a week for almost as many years. But there are also some less good times: the stereotypes that being a feminist equals angry, unhappy, and constantly offended; the fans who feel that any criticism of a work is a personal attack against their favorite author; the readers who respond to attempts at gentle correction with a hurt flounce.

Metapost: Monetizing Update

As has been previously mentioned, I've been having some major hiccups at work. Since I last posted on the subject, I received a 60-days notice at work (i.e., a notice that I would be laid off at the end of 60 days if I couldn't find steady work at my company). I then received two maybe-offers of the we think we can use you type, but without any real follow-up tasking yet. And my boss has pointedly reminded me that even if these persons can use me part-time now, the offer is subject to change at any time in the future, pretty much without warning. Neat! That is totally not stressful at all, lol.

So! In an ongoing effort to try to get the blog to pay for itself so that it's one less expenditure I have to look at cutting while we all tighten our belts, some changes have gone into effect:

1. There is now a Donate button under the comments widget. Right now the blog only accepts Paypal; I'm looking into other donation methods for the future, but right now there's not a whole lot of good alternatives that I can find.

2. There are now two Blog Ad widgets on the blog: one above the header post, and one at the bottom of the left column. Right now they are empty; BlogAds only serves up ads when people pay to either post here directly or when I am accepted into a group. (I'm looking into a couple of book groups right now.) The plus side to Blog Ads is that I theoretically have some control over what shows up in the ad space (though I haven't had a chance to test that theory yet), and can weed out the more pernicious triggery-at-a-glance stuff that we were getting with Google Ads.

3. There is now an Amazon widget on the left column; that contains hand-picked Kindle Deals that I select from the monthly deals on the grounds that I've reviewed them here on the blog, or we've talked about them in comments, or I thought the cover looked pretty. (Yes, I am capricious like that.) If you click the "See More..." link at the bottom of the widget, you'll be redirected to the Kindle page that shows all the deals, in case you doubt my pretty-cover picking methods.

Other changes that have taken effect (or will soon) but which do not have to do with monetizing but need mentioning anyway:

4. Most of the deconstruction posts will henceforth have a "Read more..." cut rather than just taking up the whole main page like they once did. This is for reasons of safe spaceyness -- it doesn't do a whole lot of good for me to warn for [trigger] if scrolling down to the previous post means you might land on that bit of trigger text accidentally in the process. So the cut is to let people actively decide if they want to enter and read the post.

5. I will soon be trimming the Blog Bounce down to only those blogs which are loosely affiliated with this one. (Shakesville and Slacktiverse because I am a moderator at those sites; and those sites owned by the Rambling moderators here.) This has been a difficult decision for me, because I know the blog bounce is very popular, but I've received some concerns about triggery blog-post-titles that have come up over the past few months, and I want to be receptive to those needs -- especially when it comes to hosting content I don't have control over, which is basically what the Blog Bounce does.

Once again, and as always, I do apologize for any inconvenience caused by changes. I don't really like change myself, so I'm very sympathetic to being on the receiving end of unwanted changes. I hope that I am and can continue to balance the needs of the readers here with the needs of the blog and, I suppose, my own needs as well. Thank you.

Open Thread: Unicorn

Hosted by a forest in September
“The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone.  She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam, but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night.”
- Francis Beagle, “The Last Unicorn”


Twilight: Uncharitible Cullens

[Content Note: Suicidal Impulses, Cancer, Depression, Addiction]

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 13, Edward and Bella spend the weekend alone together in the woods.

Twilight, Chapter 13: Confessions

When we last left our star-crossed lovers, Edward was apologizing for losing his shit over the awesome smell that is Bella Swan.

Open Thread: Goals

Hosted by a perplexed woman

It dawned on me the other day that I’m 30 years old, married and a mother and to all outward appearances an adult… and yet I have absolutely no idea what I want to be when I grow up.

What’s your dream job?  Are you already doing it?  If not, is it something you’re working towards, or a pie-in-the-sky dream?  Do you even know what it is?


Narnia: Talking Animals Should Be Seen, Not Heard

[Content Note: Examples of Historical Marginalization]

Narnia Recap: In which Lucy and Edmund are shown around the ship and we are introduced to King Caspian (as opposed to Prince Caspian from the previous book) and a reasonable amount of backstory is given in order to bring everyone up to speed on the plot.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 2: On Board the Dawn Treader

Not a lot happens in Chapter 2 except a good deal of world-building that is clearly intended to over-write whatever you readers might inconveniently happen to remember from Prince Caspian. This is pretty blatant later on in the chapter -- REMEMBER THAT OATH I TOOK ON CORONATION DAY? *WINK* *WINK* -- but for today we'll be continuing this concept of Arthurian Chivalry as it affects the Animals, now that we've already talked about how it affects women and feminine men.

Review: Resident Evil: The Umbrella Conspiracy

The Umbrella Conspiracy (Resident Evil, #1)The Umbrella Conspiracy
by S.D. Perry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Resident Evil: The Umbrella Conspiracy / 9781781161883

I haven't played the Resident Evil games, but I've always been interested in the franchise, and I have to say that I loved this book. I'll give you the bottom-line first: this book held my attention more firmly than anything else I've read in the last few months, and I recommend it highly to fans of suspenseful horror. Also, this is probably one of the best-formatted e-Books I've seen in a month of Sundays and I appreciate Titan Books taking the time to do things right.

Open Thread: Winter

Hosted by sunset in winter

“Never are voices so beautiful as on a winter’s evening,
when dusk almost hides the body,
and they seem to issue from nothingness
with a note of intimacy seldom heard by day.” 
- Virginia Woolf, "Night and Day"

Feminism: Armed, But Not Illegal

[Content Note: Guns]

These two men carrying assault rifles through the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland, Oregon are not breaking any laws.

Disability: Some Costs of Disability

[Content Note: Disability]

Wheelchair by George Hodan
Ana's Note: I chewed my lip over posting this because there's a lot of financial privilege on display here. I'm extremely lucky and privileged to come from a relatively moneyed family and (at least in 2012) to have worked at a job that pays a good yearly wage. So on the one hand, I don't want this to come off as "hey, look at my horrible privileged life!" On the other hand, I want to spotlight disability issues, and this seemed a good way to provide a monetary picture. 

Last year in review, from my Amazon past purchases for 2012. Note that this doesn't include anything bought or acquired locally, such as my walker or my clothing. Nor does it include medical treatments not provided by Amazon, such as pharmacy medications, doctors visits, hospital stays, etc.

Open Thread: Vienna

Hosted by Salzburg, because I couldn't find a good picture of Vienna

Take This Waltz, by Leonard Cohen
Vienna, from Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Beethoven's Last Night"
Vienna, by Billy Joel

Three very different songs, all revolving around the same city.  How odd.

Has anyone here been to Vienna?  Does it live up to the reputation?  Do you know any other Vienna-related songs that I’ve missed?  What other cities are lauded and celebrated in song?  (New York springs immediately to mind.)  What cities aren’t, but you think they should be?


Twilight: Strong Enough For Weakness

[Content Note: Conflation of Stereotypical Masculinity with Actual Masculinity]

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 13, Edward and Bella spend the weekend alone together in the woods.

Twilight, Chapter 13: Confessions

Chapter 13 is a weird chapter for me. It's one of the most conversational chapters so far; almost the entirety of the chapter will be a long discussion between Bella and Edward. And it really will be largely confined to talking, with the usual modifiers ("he laughed bitterly", "he said gently", etc.) without the usual major gaps of narrative we've seen in the past where Meyer and/or Bella has rushed in with text to explain what we've just seen and heard. Instead, the words are allowed to speak for themselves.

Open Thread: Moth Moment

Hosted by a moth face
I was at a live-action roleplaying game one night (because this is a thing that I do), when the skies opened up above us and a thunderous, torrential Florida storm began raining down on us.  We all ran for the covered walkway.  Just then, a small moth came flying out of the storm, smacked right into my chest… and stayed there.

Just hanging out.

For the longest time, it was so still that I wasn’t sure if it was dead or alive, but with a little nudging I could get it to crawl onto my finger.  It waited there with me until the storm ended and its wings dried off, apparently considering my body to be a safe place to chill, and then it flapped off again into the night.

Have you had any weird or uncanny interactions with your local wildlife?  Do insects make you uncomfortable, or are there any you’re ok with?  Does anyone else here LARP, or have other unusual hobbies?


BONUS: Hey you guys do you know where else I saw a moth recently?  IN THE HOBBIT MOVIE THAT IS WHERE. And it was AWESOME (the movie I mean, not the moth, though the moth was pretty cool too.)  So uh, even though we've talked about it before, we should totally talk about it again.

...see, I DO read the comments on these! :D

Feminism: Rape Visualization

[Content Note: Rape]

Just in case you have not seen this, you need to see this. (Hat-tip: Shakesville.)

Sarah at The Enliven Project

Feminism: A Note On Language

[Content Note: Marginalization Through Language]

The following language is prohibited on this blog:

Hateful / Phobic language that harms and otherizes people, particularly marginalized people. This includes (but is not limited to) language that is hateful and/or phobic of:

  • QUILTBAG people
  • queer people
  • intersex people
  • lesbian people
  • trans people
  • bi people
  • asexual people
  • gay people
  • otherkin people
  • religious people
  • atheist people
  • fat people
  • people with-or-without children
  • people with disabilities
  • people of color
  • people of any gender whatsoever

Ableist language deserves a special mention because is so heavily entwined in our culture that even advanced feminists are not always aware of what is and isn't appropriate to say in a Safe Space. The following words are not allowed in this space:

  • Blind as a metaphor. ("I am legally blind" is acceptable. "The blind leading the blind" is not.)
  • Crazy 
  • Cretin
  • Cripple
  • Crutch as a metaphor. ("I am using crutches" is acceptable. "Religion is a crutch" is not.)
  • Deaf as a metaphor. ("I am deaf in one ear" is acceptable. "Deaf to my request" is not.)
  • Dumb 
  • Hysterical 
  • Lame 
  • Idiot 
  • Moron 
  • Retarded (and "-tard" variations, including fucktard.) 
  • Spastic 
  • Vegetable as a reference to people in comas. 

That's a lot of words, isn't it? Do you think it's totally unfair that we have so many ableist words in our cultural vocabulary to the point where communication is sometimes difficult once they have been declared off-limits? I do too! Get mad at our culture for making us reliant on them, and not at me for banning them from this space. Here is a nice list of alternative words.

Caveat To The Above: Potentially triggering language is allowable in this space for purposes of deconstruction or reclamation. Language deconstruction generally seeks to show why slurs are not legitimate; here is an example that focuses heavily on misogynistic and ableist language. Language reclamation generally seeks to reclaim words for non-slur purposes; here is an example of a magazine named after a well known misogynistic slur. If I can't clearly tell from the context of your post that you are deconstructing or reclaiming a word, and especially if you are not a member of the affected group (i.e., neurotypical people do not get to 'reclaim' words associated with mental illness), then you are using it wrong.

Comments which seek to deconstruct and/or reclaim triggering language must have an appropriate content note.

Metapost: 2013 Status Report

[Content Note: Unemployment, Depression, Surgery]

Captain's Log, etc. etc. 

Good morning, Ramblites! I hope you are having a lovely New Year and welcome to 2013. I don't have a flying car yet, and Lucy Liu is still not President of the United States, but I suppose these things take time. 

Today is my first day back at my real-time grown-up job since our Christmas break (which I augmented with vacation days in order to catch up on some home-things), and things are still looking pretty bleak. I managed to push most of my "nooooooo, my dream job, my facespace friends, my planned future!!" feelings to the back-burner over the holidays through a conscious effort of Not Thinking About It and reading Resident Evil novels, but now it's staring me in the face and has to be grappled with.

For those who missed the earlier updates, here is the situation as it stands: the position I had (which was pretty close to perfect for me) evaporated because of Tidal Moon Forces and Evil Comets, and there's been a scramble to find new employment for myself within the same company so that they don't have to lay me off. I've had to regretfully turn down a very good position with my bestest friend because it's a full-time 40-hour-a-week job that can't be split with telecommuting, and I haven't been able to physically put in 40 hours a week at the office for almost two full years now, and (thanks to Surgical Doctor), my condition has only gotten worse since then.

I have managed to audition for and ultimately snag a maybe-job that would be part-time work with a lovely woman manager who is a friend of a friend, and that seems like a very good position (although regrettably sans bestest friend) if we can get all the paperwork sorted out. (And that's a reasonably-sized if; my managers are running around trying to work out about eight different issues with me, paperwork-wise because I'm such a complicated case Special Butterfly.) The downside to this, besides the whole paperwork-hurdle thing, is that the work is temporary (as in, measured in single-digit months) and means that I'll only be keeping unemployment at bay for a short time. It's possible I'll luck out again with another temporary assignment when this one ends, but lately my luck hasn't been what it once was. 

As might have been expected, none of this has helped the tiny lingering vestiges of depression that blossomed after my May 2012 surgery. So that's been fun as well!

Husband and I have had several Serious Discussions about whether or not I can leverage this whole "writing stuff on the internet" into a meaningful form of alternative employment, given that the other options right now are not so good and I would additionally really hate to have to give the blog up because it's very important to me. There are not a huge number of jobs in our area for writers and/or technical writers, and relocating for a job is not an option for various reasons. My physical disabilities are pronounced enough to interfere with most out-of-the-house employment but not so pronounced that I can qualify for any government financial aid (as far as I can tell; we're looking into finding a local expert and asking questions). So that leaves casting a Meaningful Look at the internet and shaking the computer to see if any pennies fall out.

Over the next few months, I hope to explore some of the following options:

1. Freelance blog-to-book creation. This one is pretty much what it says on the tin: a lot of bloggers are looking into turning their blogs into e-books for sale on Amazon, B&N, etc., but the creation process does take time and it helps to know a little bit about HTML and ePUB formatting. This combines my hobby of creating e-books from scratch, my knowledge of the formats involved, and my extensive home e-Reader collection (for testing on different devices before release) into hopefully a nice pile of pennies. Other services exist which offer blog-to-book conversion, but most of them are "e-publishers" who then take a cut of the profits forever rather than an upfront flat-fee.

2. Freelance editing. Again, kind of what it says on the tin; picking out plot-holes, suggesting edits, and/or (depending on the level of depth desired by the client) finding grammatical and spelling errors is something that I do well and enjoy. I also have a long and rich history as a reviewer on Amazon, so it wouldn't be difficult to offer "pre-reviews" as part of the editing process, by which I mean roughly "here is how I would have reviewed your work as a reader had I actually purchased it" and which authors could use to fine-tune their product. The biggest downside to this plan is that I really hate criticizing people to their face.

3. Ad revenue. I really have no idea yet how to lace the site with non-offensive ads; we've already noticed in the past that -- thanks to the Fat Acceptance posts -- we get hit with inappropriate weight-loss ads when I use the ads served fresh from Google. I would like to somehow use only book-related ads (since this is a literary criticism site, first and foremost), a la Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, but I haven't had time to sit down and figure out what ad service they are using. I would like to adopt ads to defray costs, but I can't do that until I can come up with a way to protect the safe space here in the process.

4. Donation campaigns. There will probably in the future be monthly donation posts, a la Shakesville. I'm not super thrilled about this decision, because if there's one thing I dislike more than criticizing people to their face, it's asking for money, but the facts of the matter is that it costs money to run the blog and I feel even less comfortable asking my relatives and loved ones to finance my writing hobby at a loss. I don't want anyone to feel pressured to donate -- I fully realize that a good number of you are in way worse financial and/or employment situations than I am -- so I hope it will be made very, very clear that donations should not be made if the result will be personal struggle on the part of the giver.

5. Publishing. I am not yet finished with my current fictional project, and I've noticed that fictional work takes me a lot longer than non-fiction deconstructions. (Fictional work also carries a substantial upfront publishing cost -- professional editing, cover art, and so forth -- that has to be recouped before an actual profit is made.) At the same time, I cannot bundle up my deconstructions and sell them "as is" because they currently have a huge amount of quoted source material. The quoting on the blog is covered under Fair Use because the blog posts are intended as social criticism, but once money starts changing hands for access to the work in question things become more complicated.

Because of this, I am looking at a possible new project where I split the difference: published deconstructions that cover broad themes (as opposed to chapter-by-chapter analyses) within specific works without relying on the source material. Basically, something like The Philosophy of Twilight but with one author instead of twenty. My first two proposed books would be a look at 10+ different themes in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe as well as an all-new-material book that looks at feminist themes in several Studio Ghibli movies. I need, however, to talk to my lawyer about all the copyright ins-and-outs for this project.

6. More Original Work. If I end up genuinely unemployed (and therefore with a little more "free time"), and if I can manage it in spite of my disabilities, I would like to expand the site content to include frequent (ideally, daily) "reader response" posts a la Mark Reads. The candidates for these posts would need to be well-known enough that content wouldn't need massive rehashing, and so that the blog posts could instead be entirely original work in my words only. Obvious candidates include Buffy, X-Files, Harry Potter, and maybe some Xanth or Game of Thrones depending on how much pain I want to weather from the fans and/or source material.

The "Mark Reads" model has obvious benefits for readers and blogger: the model guarantees short-but-frequent content on a regular basis while providing a broad spectrum of topics (as opposed to spending eleventy-billion years on just one or two things) and the originality of the work and low-to-no quoting from the source material means that the blogger can package and sell the series in convenient e-book form pretty much as soon as it is complete without having to massively rewrite everything to yank out copyrighted material. And, of course, daily site content means more ad revenue, assuming that we work out a useful model there.

I mention all the above because I recognize that all lot of my plans mean changes around here. I hope they are good changes -- I hope people love the (hypothetical) new deconstruction books and the (hypothetical) new fast-paced reaction series -- but I know from experience that changes that seem good to the blogger do not always seem like good news to the readership.

So this post is for two reasons. (Well, three, if you count therapeutic venting because I'm actually pretty anxious and depressed and worried about some of the turmoil going on in my life right now. But that's sort of a selfish reason, so I'll pretend it's not there.) One is so that people can see my current plans up-front, have a chance to get used to them (rather than just waking up one day and having it dropped in their lap), and to hear why I feel like these changes are necessary, rather than me just being all Changey McRandomizer.

Two is so that if there are any questions, concerns, objections, and/or issues that need to be aired, I want to provide an open place to do so. This blog isn't, of course, a democracy -- but I do care about my readers, and I want all of you to be comfortable here because I consider you all to be meaningful to me. If the word "friend" can't be applied to a number of people I've never met in person and may not have even spoken to (hi, lurkers!), then perhaps the word "community" can be used instead. I care about the members of this community, and I want to be open to concerns about the directions this blog takes.

So. Here is a metapost about 2013 and some of the (hopefully good) changes that may or may not be occurring in order to keep blog-food on the blog-table.

Tropes: Writing Personas

[Content Note: Spoilers for Persona Revelations, Disabilities and Hospitalization]

Greetings, you readers of the future! It's the day after Christmas as I write this and I'm still on my Christmas Break Video Game kick, and in light of the many interesting questions we've had in the last month or so about characterization based on the characters of Eustace Scrubb, King Caspian, and Aunt Alberta, I figured it was time to have another one of those How To Do Nuance As An Author posts. This time with 100% more Persona.

Review: Beyond Heaving Bosoms

Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance NovelsBeyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels
by Sarah Wendell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beyond Heaving Bosoms / 1416571221

I don't really read romance, but I love the writing styles of Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan as seen on their website "Smart Bitches, Trashy Books". When one of my online friends mentioned they were reading this book, I couldn't snap up a copy fast enough, and I finished it in a day. It's that good.

This isn't just a book for romance fans, although I'm certain that romance fans will enjoy the heck out of it. But even for non-romance readers like me, it was eye-opening to see just how much the genre of romance has informed and influenced the non-romance books that I do read. Probably 90% of the fiction books I read have at least some romance and/or sexual tension in there alongside the 'main' plot, and as the romance genre has grown and evolved, their cousins in other genres have grown in similar ways.

If you're a fan of genre-deconstruction and trope discussions, I think you will love this book as much as I did. The parsing of Old Skool and New Skool romances was particularly informative for me, and I love the chapters which discuss hero-and-heroine archetypes and motivations. There is an entire chapter devoted to rape in romance, where it came from as a trope, why it is dying out now, and how it is being in some ways sublimated into non-consensual paranormal transformations in some sub-genres, and the whole chapter is extremely well written and handles this delicate topic well -- the authors don't flinch from calling rape "rape" while still acknowledging that the issue is more complicated than it might appear from the outside. And the discussion on romance covers and why they are the way they are was fascinating for me; I hadn't realized that many of the "classic" covers were made to appeal to male book distributors rather than female buyers.

I really, highly recommend this book if you're interested in the history of genres and the tropes that inform it. However, while "Beyond Heaving Bosoms" isn't getting out of here without a recommendation, I have a few caveats. One, there's a lot of hilarious salty language in here that may not be hilarious to all readers. Check the website before you buy and see if you like that sort of thing, would be my suggestion. Two, the e-book version of this excellent book makes me very sad and a little ragey at points -- the publisher should be ashamed of themselves for butchering an e-book like this. Issues confined to the e-book include:

* None of the images-with-text in this e-book are remotely readable. (This includes the Old Skool / New Skool Flowchart, the Big Misunderstanding Game, the Sweeping Genre Generalizations matching game, and the Spot The Bullshit Regency Term answers.) The issue is not with the e-reader, but with the images included in the e-book -- even if your unit lets you zoom in, the pictures are such a low resolution that you'll just get blurred gibberish.

* The columns in this e-book (and there are many, including the mix-and-match Virginity & Neurosis heroine chart and the Shady vs. Legit Publisher columns) are almost unreadable because of formatting issues. Column contents have been set to justified text rather than left-oriented, and with no white space between columns, which means that the whole column looks like a jumble of random words on a page and it's up to the reader to try to determine which words go where.

* Similarly, the Write Your Own Romance section at the end has justified text (as opposed to left-oriented text) on the "Foreign term of endearment: _______ " fill-in-the-blanks which wreaks havoc on the final result.

* The silly footnotes in this e-book -- and 99% of all the footnotes are a variation on "pun intended!" -- have been retained. This sort of thing is sort of cute in a paper book where the reader just has to glance down, but in an e-book where following the footnote means linking to the end and back, it means a roughly 10 second delay before the reader can get back to what they were reading. It breaks the reading flow, and I wish digital publishers would realize that and transform the "funny" footnotes into in-line parenthetical statements.

* There are a number of typos and missing words in this version of the book that may or may not be present in the print edition. I don't usually even notice typos, but in this case there were at least 1-2 flow-breaking ones per chapter, and that was enough for me to notice. Some of these appear to be OCR errors due to a conversion process that wasn't thoroughly checked over afterwards, but I can't be sure.

As I said before, "Beyond Heaving Bosoms" isn't getting out of here without a strong recommendation from me. I can really only read e-books, and so I'm glad that this book exists in electronic form even if the publisher couldn't be arsed to treat the book like the lady it is. But if you prefer print books to electronic ones, I recommend going that route so that you can enjoy all the lovely pictures.

~ Ana Mardoll

Open Thread: Twelfth Day of Christmas

Hosted by a Christmas church ornament
Tomorrow is Jan. 6!  In Christianity, it’s known as Three Kings Day or Epiphany.  In the Middle Ages in Europe, it was celebrated as the twelfth of the 12 Days of Christmas - Christmas Day itself was a time for quiet praying and religious ritual, and the celebration grew and grew over the next 12 days, culminating in a giant rowdy party on the 6th.   The Shakespeare play “Twelfth Night” references this tradition, and the poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” starts close to the midpoint of the 12 Days.

Today in America, those of us who celebrate Christmas for secular or other non-Christian reasons generally view Jan. 6 as the day all of the turkey leftovers should finally be out of the fridge.

What random trivia regarding this time of year do YOU know?  Do you follow any interesting traditions during the 12 Days of Christmas?  Do you have non-Christmas-related, but still interesting, traditions instead?  Do you still have leftovers in the fridge?


(Hi!  As you may have noticed, the Open Threads are currently being posted by me, Kristycat.  It’s a pleasure to meet you, I hope they’ll be interesting and spark some conversation, and starting Tuesday I promise I’ll get away from  holiday-themed ones for a while!)

Metapost: Disqus Hiccups

Disqus has been hiccuping a bit since New Year's Day. I noticed this morning that a comment I wrote last night has disappeared and doesn't seem to even be in the Disqus records. We're looking into it; but in the meantime if a comment of yours goes missing, you can try to repost. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Disability: The History I Didn't Know I Had

[Content Note: Ableism, Gun Violence, Depression, Suicide and Suicide Ideation, Medical Malpractice]

Last year I decided to take advantage of the HIPAA access rules to gather up for my private records every shred of medical documentation there is out there as pertains to me. That meant writing letters to well over a dozen doctors across multiple states, including a letter to my "primary care physician" who has been our family doctor for the better part of my entire life. I had grandiose dreams of distilling decades of complex medical history into a couple of informative and approachable charts to be handed to any new doctor I might have to see from here on out.

Open Thread: Old Book

Hosted by an old book
My favorite Christmas gift this year was my Barnes & Noble Nook gift card.  I recently fell back in love with the author Barbara Hambly.

What was your favorite present (if you get presents this time of year?)  What authors have you recently discovered that you just want to tell the world about? 


Tropes: FF7 and Tropes About Women

[Content Note: FF7 Spoilers, Rape, Death, Pregnancy, Fetal Experiments]

I've been thinking a lot lately about Final Fantasy 7, not the least reason because I've decided to replay it over Christmas holidays.

I like Final Fantasy 7. It was one of the first games I played on my Playstation system, and I even somehow came into possession of their marketing "first chapter demo" discs at the time, which meant that I anticipated the game's release with a good deal of happy tension and tenterhooks. (And that was back when demo discs were, themselves, fairly new and exciting things to be in possession of.) I remember being stunned by the epic size of the game -- three whole CD discs!! -- and while I couldn't make heads or tails of the plot the first time through (due to the a combination of the translation and the fact that I wasn't used to the concept of unreliable protagonists), I replayed the game often enough and read enough fanfic online to get a good feel for the game. To this day, I remember it fondly as a classic.

It also has some Unfortunate Implications when it comes to its female characters.

Open Thread: Happy New Year!

Hosted by a 2012 calendar with chestnuts

Happy New Year!  I made lots of resolutions for this year, but they’re all boring ones.  Eat more fruits and veggies, drink less alcohol.  Exercise more.  Clean my house.  Get a better job.  Figure out how to earn money by making and selling Venetian-style masks and Neo-Victorian tiny hats.  (Ok, maybe that last one was cool.)

Did you make any resolutions that are more interesting than mine?  Do you dislike making resolutions at New Year’s, and if so, why?  Are you eating Hoppin’ John today, or do you have different New Year’s Day traditions?  Do you come from a culture or tradition that doesn’t see Jan. 1 as the first day of the new year, and if so, what are you up to today?