Deals: Halloween Books

Color me pleasantly surprised that a couple of neat looking Wiccan Sabbat books are on sale for Halloween. Also a monster mashup, which is basically my favorite brand of literary candy. Woot!

Open Thread: Happy Halloween!

Hosted by a Halloween scene

Even though it isn't Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, I'm posting a Halloween Open Thread!  Mwahahahaahaaaa!

Happy Halloween, everyone!  If you're Pagan, Happy Samhain!  If you don't celebrate Halloween for religious reasons, Happy Harvest Festival and/or All Saint's Eve!  If you're Mexican, Feliz Dia de los Muertos!  If you don't celebrate any of it, Happy Thursday!

Tonight we're going trick-or-treating, my daughter as a ninja fairy and me as a pirate fairy :P  Tell us what you're doing to celebrate in the comments!
 ~ Kristycat

Feminism: Everything About This Article Terrifies Me

[Content Note: Hostility to agency and consent; addiction; medical malfeasance.]

Here is a sequence of events as I understand them:

1. Alicia Beltran, who is pregnant, helpfully informed her doctor during a prenatal visit that prior to her pregnancy she had lived with and eventually overcome a pill addiction to prescription pain meds.

2. The physician didn't believe her that the addiction was over and pressured her to get on an expensive prescription (which Ms. Beltran cannot afford) which would block the opiates that Ms. Beltran isn't taking.

3. After Ms. Beltran reused to take the prescription, the physician sent a social worker to her home unannounced. The social worker threatened Ms. Beltran with a court order if she wouldn't take the prescription.

4. After Ms. Beltran told the social worker to leave, the social worker sent county sheriffs to surround her home and take her to a jail cell in handcuffs.

5. Ms. Beltran was taken to a family court and was denied a lawyer or legal representation of any kind. (Her fetus was given a legal advocate, though! Because of course it did!)

6. One Dr. Breckenridge, who has not examined or even met in person Ms. Beltran, testified to the court that Ms. Beltran lacks self-control and should be incarcerated or the child will die.

“She exhibits lack of self-control and refuses the treatment we have offered her,” wrote Dr. Breckenridge, who, according to Ms. Beltran, had not personally met or examined her. She recommended “a mandatory inpatient drug treatment program or incarceration,” adding, “The child’s life depends on action in this case.”

7. I will note here in response to Dr. Breckenridge's medical opinion, that since Ms. Beltran was only 14 weeks pregnant at this stage, and the Wisconsin limit on abortions is 24 weeks, Ms. Beltran should still have a legal right to termination, should she so choose.

8. The court threatened to send Ms. Beltran to jail if she didn't submit to confinement to a treatment center; Ms. Beltran was placed in the treatment center until October 4th. (She was arrested on July 18th.)

9. Ms. Beltran has lost her job as a result of all this and is looking for temporary work. Her very real fear at the moment, besides not being able to find work, is that the government will take her baby away after it is born.

So just to be very clear, if you are pregnant in the U.S., it is entirely possible for your physician to accuse you of drug use (despite a clean urine test) and incarcerate you until your due date (at which point the baby may be taken from you against your will) and all without you ever being allowed to so much as speak to a lawyer or legal advocate.

I don't know what to add to that except an expression of personal terror and a hope that Alicia Beltran and her child remain safe and together. I am horrified to live in a society which has so thoroughly tried to strip her of her personal agency.

Feminism: Puttin' On My Rage Face

[Content Note: Misogyny] 

There are so many good things I could write about this article titled "The Angry Ladies of Jezebel" that Liss and I were snorting over yesterday. Written by Mark Judge, the entirety of the article consists of an extremely disconnected opening and the remainder is just him pointing and frowning at various encyclopedic entries in The Book of Jezebel and waiting for his audience to nod and agree with him that these modern feminist women are the worst, just the worst. No real argument is needed to make his case, because apparently we're all on-board with the starting premise that Bitches Be Flippin'.

I could point out that opening with the statement that the book is "a very angry book" is the sort of thing that really needs to be justified somewhere in the article. Because, honestly, everything he quotes in apparently self-evident support of that assessment strikes me as the sort of thing which can be, and often is, said with wry humor and a sparkle in the eye.

I could point out the extreme irony in opening the review with examples of Real Feminists who are all, totally coincidentally!!, men. It's particularly amusing when Mark Judge identifies Robert Bly as "a champion of genuine feminism", which manages to both make the point that the biggest problem with modern feminism today is all the women fucking it up, and to also accuse us all of being bra-burning bitches who won't graciously accept a nice champion to fight for us. (We probably insist on opening our own car doors, too.)

I could point out how incredibly dehumanizing it is to reduce every modern feminist to a monolithed stereotype, as Mark Judge does when he insists that, "The bogus “war on women” is really nothing but liberal women acting out against bad fathers." And thus so we are all the same woman, with the same bad father, and the same motivations for being feminists, and none of us are people in our own right who make decisions for ourselves and forge our own ideologies; instead, we are political automatons with Bad Father as an input command and Feminism as an output response. In contrast to Mark Judge, I'm sure, who would probably (correctly) maintain that he is a jackass for his own entirely unique reasons and not because he was exposed to Jackass Rays from the dying planet of Asshattery at the exact moment of his birth or whatever.

I could point out that the false assumption that all feminists are women cruelly invisibles people who are not women from the feminist movement, in an attempt to isolated the marginalized from their privileged allies while simultaneously trying to erase people outside the gender binary from existence entirely.

I could point out how the assumption that all feminists are just angry women who are angry at a bad father places feminist women with good fathers (or feminist women with fathers who are not good but at whom they are not angry, because love and family and relationships can be complicated) instantly on the defensive on behalf of their fathers and thus conveniently turns the conversation away from social patriarchy and instead derails to focus on the unwanted armchair psychoanalysis of a specific woman and her specific father.

I could point out that feminists who are also women who are angry at a bad father are allowed to be angry at a bad father. If a woman is angry at a bad father, and if that anger led her to identify as a feminist, that doesn't make feminism automatically a bad thing -- it could make feminism a great outlet for women with bad fathers who would like to protect other women from future bad fathers. Among other things.

I could point out that women (and other marginalized groups of varying intersections) constantly labor under the false assumption that anger is never valid, that anger always means the argument has been lost, that anger is the one thing they must never show, because the moment they are accused of anger is the moment they can be ignored forever. I could point out that anger is not automatically a bad thing, that there are many things in the world about which anger is an appropriate response, that the ability to never feel personally affected by oppression and tragedy may (not necessarily, but may) be a sign of immense privilege.

I could point out how sick and tired and, yes, angry I am at the repeated insistence that the only good feminism that certain privileged men are willing to support is the "good-natured" kind, a statement which tells me outright that I won't get any help from these would-be "champions" unless the cookies are always sweet and fresh from the oven and never, ever stale. And that the one time I run out of chocolate chips will be the time that they jump ship and sulk for eternity over how they tried to be an ally but those angry women didn't sufficiently appreciate him. I am bone-weary of that sort of "support".

I could point out the amusing juxtaposition of a man who doesn't want to be called a "Frat Bro" or a "right-winger" but has no problem with calling feminists apoplectic and liberals convulsed with rage. Okay, player, that seems super-fair.

But I would instead like to focus on the point made in the article that places the blame for feminism at the door of the Industrial Revolution -- "[Bly] indicted not only male irresponsibility but the Industrial Revolution, which separated fathers from their families." -- and which prompted me to note to Liss the following:

Ana: Lady, did you know that prior to the Industrial Revolution, fathers were always at home and never left their families or went to war or traveled as merchants or sailors or hired hands on another estate or sent their families from court or were separated from their families by forces beyond their control? Everyone worked alongside their family in the fields prior to the invention of the Steampunk Abortion Robots.

Liss: Except for Joan d'Arc's dad, who was a total d-bag.

Letters: From A Fat Star Wars Fan

[Content Note: Fat Hatred; Link probably NSFW thanks to Gold Bikini] 

Dear Universe,

I really believe -- with all my heart -- that you can make a catchy Star Wars parody song with Jabba the Hut without hauling out the fat jokes about diabetes and cholesterol.

Sincerely,
a Fat Star Wars fan with perfect cholesterol and no diabetes. (We're not actually that rare!)

[Original song here, with no fat jokes, even! Also NSFW, though.]

Open Thread: Pumpkin

Hosted by a pumpkin
So last night I had hot cocoa spiked with pumpkin pie flavored vodka.  This morning I had a pumpkin bagel.  There are the remains of a pumpkin-and-squash soup in the fridge, I'll be picking up pumpkin coffee creamer at the store later today, and after I carve my jack-o-lantern, I'm making roasted pumpkin seeds to snack on.

I love this time of year.

Open thread!  What's your favorite pumpkin- or pumpkin-flavored-food?  If you don't like pumpkin at all, what seasonal flavors do you prefer?  Do you have any cool pumpkin (or other Fall) recipes to share?
 ~ Kristycat

Wednesday Reminder!  Open threads are meant to be fun, chatty places to discuss anything that doesn’t “fit” into a deconstruction or other regular thread.  This can be something totally off-the-wall and random, or it can be something interesting that a deconstruction prompted you to think of, but which would be derailing to get into in the deconstruction thread.  When in doubt, move it over here - that’s what it’s for!  

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!  


Open Thread: Writer Workshop

A couple of you have requested a special monthly open thread dedicated to talking about writing projects (and other artwork-creation). So here it is!

Pencil by Elisa Xyz

What are you working on? How are you feeling about it? What thoughts and/or snippets would you like to share? How does your activism work into your art? What tropes are you hoping to employ and/or avoid? Open thread writing workshop below!

Feminism: Wendy Davis Signs Affadavit To Vote

New Voter ID Law Forces Governor Candidate Wendy Davis To Sign Affidavit To Vote:

Davis, a Democratic state senator, was voting early in Fort Worth on Monday when poll workers made her sign an affidavit to verify her identity.

Why?

Her photo ID -- a driver's license -- included her maiden name, Wendy Russell Davis. But voter registration records listed her as Wendy Davis.

Sounds legit.

Previous Post: Texas Moves To Suppress Women Voters

Feminism: Transcript Update!

Folks, I kept holding off on this update because I really wanted the next update to be "surprise, we're done!!" but that's not going to happen, so here is a "surprise, we're getting super close to the end" update instead. Partly because I want to keep up the excitement and participate (TRANSCRIBE! TRANSCRIBE LIKE THE WIND, LOVELIES!) and partly because I know that ya'll aren't sitting in my study watching me work and I want to reassure everyone that progress is still happening.

SB5 Transcript (Also known as filibuster night.)
This one is almost done. We have literally 4 more videos to transcribe, and 11 videos to proof before going up. I have pinged the volunteers and asked them to try to complete the work by this weekend.
Google Link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1c0xuAFFc_6klQ1nrnQ72Qd9Y-o_uG8rSykO4wDgNqFQ/edit

HB2 Transcript
This one is close. We have 21 videos left, but they're mostly short ones. (And 10 videos out for proofing, plus those 21 will need proofing when they're transcribed.) I have asked the volunteers to try to complete these by the end of November.
Google Link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1m189STaj8pnOMm73HHwaaw74Yd6BGooyFHYLki8qRMc/edit

SB1 Transcript
This one is also close. We have 19 videos left to transcribe, with 11 videos out for proofing right now. I have asked the volunteers to try to complete these by the end of November.
Google Link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1VSNRpYtS_uNeHCCl74neHPh1tM6MrAaxuZr2cv_YMeA/edit


The two Citizen Testimonies are still being listened to and spliced. We're about 7 hours into one and 9 hours into the other, which is about halfway done for each.

For awhile, I'd hoped to get this out more formally (i.e., on Kindle and Nook) before the November 5th election day in Texas, but that's not going to happen at this point. That's honestly okay; back when I was expecting to do these by myself, I was sure that the project wouldn't finish in 2013, so we're still way ahead of where I thought we'd be and I'm so proud and grateful to you all. THANK YOU.

My plan forward right now is to start formatting SB5 for a Kindle edition and "update in" the new material (HB2, SB1, and the Citizen Testimonies) as they finish. I'm not sure if that's an option, so I'm going to have to play around a little with the Kindle settings. I was really hoping to do a Kindle Serial with the material, but that takes special permission and I've still not received authorization from Amazon for that.

In addition to the organizing on my end, I also need to contact my cover artist and my editor and speak to them about the project; I want to make sure the finished version is something we can all be happy with. What you can do to help is to complete your videos as quickly as possible (assuming you have any) and/or contact me if you'd like to be added to the list of transcribers -- I NEED MOAR, especially for the upcoming citizen testimonies.

Thank you all!

Twilight: Baby Seals and Killer Whales

[Content Note: Reference to Species Changes, and Related Dietary Issues]

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 14, Edward and Bella spend the night together.

Twilight, Chapter 14: Mind Over Matter

The thought occurs that the Narnia chapters move more swiftly than the Twilight ones in part because there is so much prose and so little dialogue. It's easier, somehow, to boil down 800 words into "an then they found a boat", but much harder to slice through 18 back-and-forth dialogue lines with a pithy summary.

But, at any rate, when we last left Edward and Bella, he was planning to spend the night in Bella's bedroom.

   “You seem more . . . optimistic than usual,” I observed. “I haven’t seen you like this before.”
   “Isn’t it supposed to be like this?” He smiled. “The glory of first love, and all that. It’s incredible, isn’t it, the difference between reading about something, seeing it in the pictures, and experiencing it?”

This exchange strikes me as interesting, because I would have thought that Edward -- who reads minds, when the narrative doesn't forget that he can do so -- would have more references for True Love than reading and movies. (Bonus points, though, for calling movies "the pictures". Nice anachronism, if that was intended.) And in addition to reading minds, Edward lives with three couples who are shining examples of True Love, to the point where Emmett and Rosalie have to go off alone for a few years every couple of decades when their True Love reaches critical mass.

But I also find the exchange interesting because I'm a bit of a Tudor obsessive (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I'm an Alison Weir obsessive, since I tend to stick to her books alone), and if there's one thing Henry VIII is famous for, in addition to the whole Six Wives thing, is that he was extremely in love with Love, but (as it turns out) less so with the actual people he claimed to love. There's a fine line between enjoying the rush of new love versus enjoying the rush more than the actual person supposedly causing it.

   “For example” — his words flowed swiftly now, I had to concentrate to catch it all — “the emotion of jealousy. I’ve read about it a hundred thousand times, seen actors portray it in a thousand different plays and movies. I believed I understood that one pretty clearly. But it shocked me. . . .” 

And then there's this. Again, it's a really... odd choice that Edward's point of reference here is not his mind-reading. It's especially odd given that hunting Men Who Hurt Women was kind of his thing, and I should think that Jealousy would be something he would have been on the prowl for, along with Hatred, Resentment, and Anger. (Apparently Twilight continues to insist that women are only hurt by men because of rampaging Lust, in which case: NO.) 

Anyway, Edward then talks about the day Mike asked him to the dance and how thoroughly outraged he was by that, and how angry he was that he couldn't tell why Bella turned Mike down ("Was it simply for your friend’s sake? Was there someone else?"), and how tense he was as he waited for Bella to turn down the other men in "line". (UGH THAT FRAMING.)

I am sure there is some bizarro-universe where it makes sense why Edward would force Bella to listen to three more invitations to the dance when he didn't want her to go with anyone at all, all the while laughing at her discomfort (as opposed to stewing in impotent rage at the fear that she might not like boys at all or whatever would cause Edward to hit the Misogyny Bell for the day the hardest), but I honestly don't care. Suffice to chalk this up to one more example of Edward trying to assert ownership over Bella before they even had a relationship at all.

   “That was the first night I came here. I wrestled all night, while watching you sleep, with the chasm between what I knew was right, moral, ethical, and what I wanted. I knew that if I continued to ignore you as I should, or if I left for a few years, till you were gone, that someday you would say yes to Mike, or someone like him. It made me angry.

ARGH OH MY GOD THIS IS NOT SEXY TALK. 

There is so much wrong with this, I don't know where to start. I don't know how thoroughly to convey how gross it is for Edward to talk about Bella choosing someone other than him as a sort of settling, with his dismissive "someone like him" framing. Even if we don't take that as connotatively bad and just read it as "someone other than me", there's the gross overlay of the fact that Edward is still not being honest about his feelings. "It made me angry that I might not have you", while horrifying, is at least honest; "it made me angry that you might settle for Mike or someone like him" is, once again, justifying Edward's really problematic actions and impulses under the guise of protecting Bella.

And then there's all this added baggage of assuming that Bella is sexual and heterosexual. Edward has no reason to assume this; Bella could be entirely uninterested in romance and/or sex or she could be entirely uninterested in those things with men. I think this is probably an author-fail instead of an Edward-fail, but it works out to the same thing: this book entirely invisibles asexual people and gay people. That really infuriates me so very much, and it's especially problematic when all the Cullen couples are being held up as a Platonic Ideal of True Love.

   “And then,” he whispered, “as you were sleeping, you said my name. You spoke so clearly, at first I thought you’d woken. But you rolled over restlessly and mumbled my name once more, and sighed. The feeling that coursed through me then was unnerving, staggering. And I knew I couldn’t ignore you any longer.” He was silent for a moment, probably listening to the suddenly uneven pounding of my heart.

So just to be really clear: Edward was attracted to Bella because she smelled good to him and he couldn't read her mind. Then he became infuriated at the idea of Bella accepting Mike as a love interest. He broke into her home and watched her sleep while trying to think of an excuse to exert ownership over her, and had just about settled on the "for her own good because Mike is grody" excuse when Bella said his name and that became the new excuse for ownership. Sure.

Anyway, Bella points out that the existence of Rosalie hurts her self-esteem and Edward reassures her that Bella is way hotter, ("...she could never have one tenth, no, one hundredth of the attraction you hold for me."), which is always a nice thing to say about a close friend who is "like a sister to me". But it doesn't really matter because Rosalie is blond and attractive, so she deserve what she gets, amiright. Moving on, Bella says that she hasn't had to wait as long as Edward has for True Love (because Edward is old-balls), and he points out that he's not the one in mortal danger here.

   “You only have to risk your life every second you spend with me, that’s surely not much. You only have to turn your back on nature, on humanity . . . what’s that worth?”
   “Very little — I don’t feel deprived of anything.”

   “Not yet.” And his voice was abruptly full of ancient grief.

I think that's kinda nice, if a bit overdone. But everything in this novel is overdone with ANCIENT GRIEF and TRUEST LOVE and ANGSTYEST ANGST, and while this is, yet again, an example of Edward usurping Bella's pain for himself, at least it maybe-sorta-kinda fits here a touch. Edward doesn't like being a vampire, so it's very difficult for him to imagine that Bella might like being a vampire, and while it would be nice if he trusted her judgment more, there's also the fact that being a vampire isn't exactly something you can test drive.

And I would like Twilight a little more if it really explored a lot of the things Bella would be giving up as a vampire (and maybe didn't hand us a Magic Baby) and how those things might not seem important now, but how she may miss them later. For instance: Carlisle notwithstanding, Bella can never really have a career, or at least her options for careers are very limited. Find me a career that Bella can do without ever being in the sunlight, or without any of the other vampire 'tells' being given away, and which can survive her having to pack up and change identities every decade or so. And job satisfaction is just one thing she'll have to give up; there's also stuff like food and family and sunlight and apple martinis. Bella hasn't experienced much of these things, so it's hard for her to miss them now, but Edward knows there's a chance she could miss them later. I'd like to explore that more, but Twilight never really does.

Anyway, Charlie pops in to check on Bella and Edward tells her she sucks at acting, because he read about negging girls in that pick-up artist book he memorized a few years back.

   I could feel his cool breath on my neck, feel his nose sliding along my jaw, inhaling.“I thought you were desensitized.”
   “Just because I’m resisting the wine doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the bouquet,” he whispered. “You have a very floral smell, like lavender . . . or freesia,” he noted. “It’s mouthwatering.”
   “Yeah, it’s an off day when I don’t get somebody telling me how edible I smell.”

LOL! I actually laughed at this. Bella has a sense of humor. Who knew? 

   “I’ve decided what I want to do,” I told him. “I want to hear more about you.” 
   “Ask me anything.”

And I kind of admire this, too. This whole book has been one long slog of Bella trying to find the right time to ask Edward questions, so I kind of like that when she has him in her bed and he's determined to pretend to be her captured slave, chivalric love conceit, etc. then she figures she might as well ask a few of her precious questions. I think that shows a lot of initiative, and it's nice to see an active (rather than reactive) Bella.

   I sifted through my questions for the most vital. “Why do you do it?” I said. “I still don’t understand how you can work so hard to resist what you . . . are. Please don’t misunderstand, of course I’m glad that you do. I just don’t see why you would bother in the first place.”
   He hesitated before answering. “That’s a good question, and you are not the first one to ask it. The others — the majority of our kind who are quite content with our lot — they, too, wonder at how we live. But you see, just because we’ve been . . . dealt a certain hand . . . it doesn’t mean that we can’t choose to rise above — to conquer the boundaries of a destiny that none of us wanted. To try to retain whatever essential humanity we can.”

And that's not a bad answer, but it's not really the one I would have given, either. There's this weird presumption through all this that the vampire mythos existed first and then people (like the Cullens) actually became vampires after that mythos began and were faced with the decision of what kind of vampires they wanted to be.

Surely if vampires really did just evolve on their own, or were the product of a disease, or basically were "natural" creatures instead of demonic and supernatural, there would be quite a few of them who just didn't want to kill humans because they were very recently humans themselves and didn't want to be a murderer. I mean... imagine if a cow were somehow turned into a human tomorrow; it'd probably be awhile before the cow-turned-human decided to have a burger. Indeed, it seems very strange to me that "hey, we can eat animals too!" is apparently a really deep insight that every 'good' vampire takes years and/or the guidance of a mentor to discover -- it seems to me that eating humans would be the thing that would take time for most vampires to become desensitized to.

And then there's the fact that Twilight vampires cannot feed without killing or creating another vampire; every feeding is fatal. (Unless, I guess, they drain the body without fluid exchange, i.e., the saliva venom. So I guess they could open a vein with a nail or something.) In a world where the masquerade is paramount, I would think that the occasional animal feeding would be necessary in order to maintain secrecy. We're given to believe that vampires need to feed at least once a week, and I don't think a small town could handle 52 unsolved killings a year. Granted, a lot of the Twilight vampires prefer to be nomadic, but there's still going to be a lot of dead bodies piling up by this math. It seems like Carlisle could make just as many vampires understand by invoking the "we're trying to maintain the masquerade, you assholes" defense.

At least the Cirque du Freak books, for all their problems, recognized that killing a human at every feeding was the extremist position, and not the one likely to be mainstream in vampire society.

Moving on: Bella asks about vampire powers and we get the series-handwave: 

   “We don’t really know. Carlisle has a theory . . . he believes that we all bring something of our strongest human traits with us into the next life, where they are intensified — like our minds, and our senses. He thinks that I must have already been very sensitive to the thoughts of those around me. And that Alice had some precognition, wherever she was.”   “What did he bring into the next life, and the others?”
   “Carlisle brought his compassion. Esme brought her ability to love passionately. Emmett brought his strength, Rosalie her . . . tenacity. Or you could call it pigheadedness,” he chuckled. “Jasper is very interesting. He was quite charismatic in his first life, able to influence those around him to see things his way. Now he is able to manipulate the emotions of those around him — calm down a room of angry people, for example, or excite a lethargic crowd, conversely. It’s a very subtle gift.”

Wouldn't it just suck to have your vampire power being "loving things passionately", while everyone else gets like, Super Zapper Powers and Mind Control? Yeah. Then Edward says "something something something evolution predator-and-prey creation delicate angelfish with the shark, the baby seal and the killer whale". Um.


OH THE HORROR. @ www.freefever.com

Edward assures Bella that she has an eternity to ask questions -- which would be reassuring if it were actually true, but probably isn't because we all know how moody Edward is -- and she asks for one more question about Teh Sex:

   “You said that Rosalie and Emmett will get married soon. . . . Is that . . . marriage . . . the same as it is for humans?” 
   He laughed in earnest now, understanding. “Is that what you’re getting at?” [...] “Was there a purpose behind your curiosity?”
   “Well, I did wonder . . . about you and me . . . someday . . .” [...]
   “I don’t think that . . . that . . . would be possible for us.”
   “Because it would be too hard for you, if I were that . . . close?”
   “That’s certainly a problem. But that’s not what I was thinking of. It’s just that you are so soft, so fragile. I have to mind my actions every moment that we’re together so that I don’t hurt you. I could kill you quite easily, Bella, simply by accident.” His voice had become just a soft murmur. He moved his icy palm to rest it against my cheek. “If I was too hasty . . . if for one second I wasn’t paying enough attention, I could reach out, meaning to touch your face, and crush your skull by mistake. You don’t realize how incredibly breakable you are. I can never, never afford to lose any kind of control when I’m with you.”

WHAT. I mean, I knew this was coming. But still: WHAT.

This makes NO SENSE. None. For this to be true, the Cullens are basically Disney's Hercules, which also didn't make any goddamn sense, because basically nothing on earth is engineered to stand up to use by Hercules because everything on earth is engineered by humans to stand up to human use. If merely brushing Bella's face could cause her head to cave in, then Edward should be leaving behind a constant trail of broken desks, smashed CDs, crushed cell phones, and mangled car doors. His reckless driving is even more scary and reckless because he wouldn't press the brakes properly at a crucial moment -- his foot would instead dive through the floor of the car. Shifting gears in the car would tear off the gear stick. Etc.

None of this is true. None of this can be true. The vampires cannot be impossibly graceful in every thought, word, and deed and in constant danger of clumsily leveling the block because they sneezed too hard. You can have one or the other, but you can't have both. And if Edward has perfect control every moment of every day except when fucking Bella -- How does he suppose this? Does this mean Emmett and Rosalie destroy houses, nay whole cities, when they romp? -- then that's a suspiciously specific weakness. I mean, he even has more self-control when he feeds! That's supposed to be the vampire thing, feeding.

My cynical side wonders if this isn't Edward holding out on sex in order to get the lifetime marriage commitment that he wants from an unwilling, anti-marriage Bella. Certainly, it seems to be used that way as a plot device and combination purity shield from the parental critics. But while (again!) it's okay for Edward to not have sex with Bella if he doesn't want that, he needs to be honest about that and not continue to do things under the guise of "protecting her" from whatever bullshit threat he makes up.

And it feels a little awkward to have Edward segue from "we can't have sex until you're committed to this thing" to "have you ever had sex with anyone else", especially right after talking about his white-hot jealous rage at the thought of Bella with Mike or 'someone like him':

   “Have you ever . . . ?” He trailed off suggestively.
    “Of course not.” I flushed. “I told you I’ve never felt like this about anyone before, not even close.”
   “I know. It’s just that I know other people’s thoughts. I know love and lust don’t always keep the same company.”
   “They do for me. Now, anyway, that they exist for me at all,” I sighed.
   “That’s nice. We have that one thing in common, at least.” He sounded satisfied.

He's satisfied that they're so similar or satisfied because Bella is a virgin? Because, I gotta say, everything about this conversation is leading me to the latter interpretation, and that's not a nice interpretation.

In fact, it's actually kind of a creepy interpretation if Edward really does think they'll never have sex (because he's thinking he'll never turn Bella into a vampire), because it would seem to suggest that he expects her to forgo sex (and presumably children) for her entire life as the price of being with him. For someone previously lamenting that Being A Vampire has so many drawbacks, he doesn't seem too keen on making Being With A Vampire any easier, even though it conceivably could be. Which suggests that Edward is less interested in easing Bella's pain and more interested in co-opting her pain to angst about his own, which is a very selfish thing for Edward to be doing.

   “Your human instincts . . . ,” I began. He waited. “Well, do you find me attractive, in that way, at all?”
   He laughed and lightly rumpled my nearly dry hair.
   “I may not be a human, but I am a man,” he assured me.

*groan* But I guess I can't expect any better from Edward "cis-heterosexual-normative" Cullen, who previously assured Bella that every man at school wants to bone her because god knows that's reassuring to a nervous teenager trying to fit in and not attract attention.

And that's Chapter 14! We actually finished it! Woo-hoo!

Feminism: Holy Fucking YES

Via ProgressTexas: Federal District Court Judge Rules Parts of Texas Abortion Law Unconstitutional

A federal district court in Austin has issued a full injunction on the portion of the HB 2 law regarding hospital admitting privileges, and a partial injunction for the abortion-medication provisions.

Open Thread: Photoshop

Hosted by a flame texture
The coolest thing about being slightly weird is that you get to teach yourself new stuff all the time.  For instance: boffer larp is teaching me photomanipulation.

For context: the rules for my friend's boffer larp desperately needed a rewrite, for clarity and presentation.  As said friend is running himself ragged right now and I'm unemployed, I volunteered to do it, and to put the results up on the game's website.  So for the last few weeks I've been writing, editing, keeping track of incongruities and confusing bits, and coding some funky HTML (which I taught myself a few years ago for a different larp.)

And then I realized, as long as I'm putting in all this work, why not make it pretty?  I need pictures!  And as it turns out, several lovely people over on Deviant Art have created stock images that they make available for free.  Yay!  But.  99% of them make it very clear that the images are NOT to be used as-is; they are to be used to create new art.

So in order to abide by the creators' rules and still have cool pictures for our rulebook... I've been teaching myself photomanipulation.

Despite the title above, I'm actually using GIMP, not Photoshop, because I like things that are free.  I'm actually getting... not-terrible at it :)  (If anyone's interested, I'm going to be putting the final pictures on DA myself later today, because one of the creators requested that as a condition for using her stock on a different website.  I'll post the link in the comments, but you have to promise to ignore my terrible poetry from 8 years ago!)

...but then I see a cool flame effect like the one above and sigh, because I have so much more to learn!

Open thread!  Do you like to play around in Photoshop or similar programs?  Do you have any cool images you've created that you'd like to show us?  Have you ever taught yourself a new skill for an unrelated geeky/weird hobby?  What's the coolest thing you've randomly taught yourself to do?
 ~ Kristycat

Monday Reminder!  While I have fun coming up with pretty pictures and/or interesting “prompt” questions for open threads, you aren’t limited to those!  These threads are open - go wild, talk about whatever moves you!  (Just remember that this is still a safe space, please!)  

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!  



Open Thread: Old Woman

Hosted by an old lady sitting outside
Here

Here I am in the garden laughing
an old woman with heavy breasts
and a nicely mapped face

how did this happen
well that's who I wanted to be

at last a woman
in the old style sitting
stout thighs apart under
a big skirt grandchild sliding
on off my lap a pleasant
summer perspiration

that's my old man across the yard
he's talking to the meter reader
he's telling him the world's sad story
how electricity is oil or uranium
and so forth I tell my grandson
run over to your grandpa ask him
to sit beside me for a minute I
am suddenly exhausted by my desire
to kiss his sweet explaining lips. 
Grace Paley

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s coming up, give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!


Fat Acceptance: Touching on Costs

[Content Note: Hospitals, Medical Practitioners, Fat Hatred] 

Some of you may remember in early September when I was rushed to the emergency room with an unidentified illness that felt an awful lot like dying.

I've learned since then that our health insurance -- which is from a reputable insurance company and provided by an even more reputable engineering firm -- doesn't have a flat-rate on E.R. visits anymore; everything is charged to me on a percentage basis until I hit the ludicrously-high "catastrophe" point for the year, at which point the insurance graciously agrees to step in and cover everything because if my medical debt gets too crushing, then I might quit my job and inconvenience my employer.

Anyway. I have so far received separate bills from this one visit, totaling to over $1,000. That's one thousand dollars for a visit where, if you'll recall, the hospital did jack-shit and refused to diagnose me with the thing I was suffering from (and which was later cleared up immediately with antibiotics issued by a nurse practitioner). And the big reason why the hospital (and the follow-up specialist) refused to diagnose me with it, was because despite having a massive family history of X (with at least two cases in recent memory, one of which was suffered through by my mother), is that (a) I'm slightly younger than when X usually manifests and (b) unlike my mother, I'm visibly fat and therefore it's easier to blame all my medical conditions on Chronic Fat.

And since the specialist cost $400 to go to so that he could inform me that I am Fat, that means I've spent $1,500 this year alone on a preventable-and-treatable condition because far too many doctors can't look past the fact that I'm Fat in order to treat me properly. They literally tell me to come back when I don't weigh so much. I am denied affordable care because I am Fat and forced into unaffordable emergency care when a preventable-and-treatable condition flares up.

I kind of feel like we should have a national conversation about this, rather than harping on about how much fatties supposedly cost (Spoiler Alert: Not so much as you might think!). If, simply because I am fat, I am forced-by-fat-hating-doctors to use more expensive medical treatments than their thin patients, then the resulting driving up of the costs isn't because I'm fat, but because my doctors are prejudiced.

Maybe we could talk about how much fat prejudice is costing the country?

Fat Acceptance: Michelle Obama's Guest Appearance on The Biggest Loser

[Content Note: Fat Hatred] 

So this landed in my inbox this week:

First Lady Michelle Obama is set to make her second appearance on NBC’s weight-loss reality show The Biggest Loser.

Obama, who has spent much of her husband’s presidency promoting exercise and healthy eating, will be promoting her “Drink Up” campaign, which encourages Americans to drink more water, in an episode that will air in November.
The campaign (and possibly the guest appearance itself; I'm not clear on the nuances involved) is backed by Brita, a company which specializes in water filtration products which probably wouldn't be nearly so popular in the United States if our government were actually enforcing the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Act that it is theoretically supposed to enforce in order to protect its citizens.
[O]ne in ten Americans have been exposed to drinking water that contains dangerous chemicals, [...] [T]he laws intended to protect our water supplies, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, are not being enforced. In fact, researchers found, barely 3 percent of violations resulted in fines or other significant penalties by state officials responsible for enforcing the law.
And it's especially delicious irony that the television show which Michelle Obama has chosen to appear on in order to promote her campaign of drinking more water is a television show where the contestants are encouraged to dangerously dehydrate themselves in order to lose weight long enough to stay on the show.
An example of this comes from contestant Kai Hibbard who lost 118 pounds on the show. She later blogged that she ate only asparagus, endured colonics and went through 6-hour stretches in a sauna to dehydrate herself enough to lose 19 pounds for the season finale.
Everything about this seems perfect.

But my favorite part of having a representative of the government go on a show which encourages fat people to dehydrate themselves in order to conform to social prejudice and which encourages thin people to hate fat people, all in order to promote buying expensive water filters because our government has chosen not to do its job of protecting citizens in favor of corporate interests, is that this will be Michelle Obama's second appearance on The Biggest Loser. Because one endorsement of a show that tells its viewers to hate fat people if they refuse to engage in self-harming behaviors at the behest of social prejudice just wasn't enough.

And I sincerely hope that this appearance will be just as awesome as when Michelle Obama's Senior Policy Advisor For Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass appeared as a guest judge on Chopped so that he could criticize "lunch ladies" for their too-too-big portion sizes (because we don't want FAT CHILDREN, do we?) after the women had shared heart-breaking stories about needing to make Monday meals bigger because many-if-not-most of their students were too impoverished to eat outside of school and were starving over the weekends. It was really delightful seeing it so starkly portrayed that our national initiative right now is not about Feeding Hungry Children (Because It's The Right Thing To Do) and is instead about Depriving Fat Children (Because They're Ugly).

Which is why the choice of The Biggest Loser for Michelle Obama to appear on in order to promote her campaign is an even better choice than you might have previously thought, because they've semi-recently decided to add fat hatred of children into the mix by including fat kids as contestants! And the fact that fat children are likely to be bullied by their peers isn't a reason for Michelle Obama and other people who care about children to, say, de-stigmatize fatness! NO! It's a reason to bully fat children even more so that they'll finally get it through their fat heads that they need to stop being fat! It's just a shame that it's taking so long to get the message out.

*lolsob*

The thing that wounds me the deepest about all this is that I genuinely like Michelle Obama. I voted for her husband, and I think they seem like absolutely wonderful people. I'd love to attend a dinner party with them; I think we'd have a lot to talk about. I'm certain I would like them, and I like to think they'd find my company not intolerable.

Nor do I believe Michelle Obama hates fat people; I do believe she genuinely thinks she is helping fat people and advocating for fat children. I honestly, completely, 100% think that she's coming from a good place on this. I think her intentions are good.

But... the thing is, intentions don't magically prevent harm. There is a very real, very serious problem in trying to "help" a stigmatized group by "encouraging" (and in many cases, strongly pressuring) the people in that group to change in response to the stigma. Telling me that you want to help me avoid fat shaming by making me Not Fat Anymore is hugely problematic. It is, very literally, an eliminationist approach: an approach which seeks to erase fat hatred by erasing all the fat people.

I am fat. I deserve to not be hated for it, in much the same way that I deserve to not be hated for the color of my eyes, or the curl of my hair, or the tilt of my nose, or any of the other facets of my body. The answer to fat hatred as a social problem is to demand that those with prejudice change their prejudices; not to demand that the victims of prejudice just stop being fat. That doesn't work, and it wouldn't be a moral solution even if it did.

And, more to the point, a very great lot of fat people have explained this very patiently over and over again. The people running these "health initiative" campaigns have refused to listen. And that hurts me, too; the fact that the people claiming to want to help me care so little about me that they won't listen when I say that their "help" is causing me harm. It hurts a lot.

There is a petition here asking Michelle Obama to please not endorse The Biggest Loser with a second appearance. And this is me begging her to please listen to fat advocates and please stop advocating for the elimination of a very real part of myself.

Open Thread: Roller Derby

Hosted by a pair of rollerblades
Did you know Roller Derby was still a thing?  I didn't know it was a thing.  That is, until my sister-in-law announced over dinner the other night that her new name is Ni-Cold Cut Slamwich, and that she is pursuing an exciting new career in the field of beating people up on roller skates.

To be completely honest, it sounds kinda badass.

Open thread!  Were you aware of roller derby?  Is it something you would ever participate in?  (I couldn't - not because of the violence, but because I skate about the same way that a 1-year-old walks - slowly, haltingly, occasionally bumping into things and falling down.)  Do you know anyone who does or has?  Do you know any cool facts about the sport?  Heck, do you know anything about the sport, because I want to learn more!
 ~ Kristycat

Wednesday Reminder!  Open threads are meant to be fun, chatty places to discuss anything that doesn’t “fit” into a deconstruction or other regular thread.  This can be something totally off-the-wall and random, or it can be something interesting that a deconstruction prompted you to think of, but which would be derailing to get into in the deconstruction thread.  When in doubt, move it over here - that’s what it’s for!  

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!  

Narnia: That Golden Glimmer At The Slightest Touch

[Content Note: Genocide, Racism, Ableism, Gender Essentialism, Cultural Appropriation]

Title Note: If you like the Muppets and haven't seen this song, you need to. 

Narnia Recap: In which the crew finds a destroyed village, a Sea Serpent, and a Midas pool.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 8: Two Narrow Escapes

So, I really need to be writing more Twilights, but the problem that Twilight has going for it right now is that (a) Bella's bouts with depression are hitting a little close to home for me right now, and (b) have you all seen the incredible Narnia fanfic in the last couple of threads? WOW. I kinda want to keep that going while everyone is in the swing of things. So, here is another Narnia post.

Ya'll have been waiting for this, I know, because it's Midas pool day, but before we get there, I want to make two points about this chapter. One, for all that this chapter is crispy-fried-whut on a stick for me now, it was one of three scenes that stuck with me through my childhood. (The other two being the mermaid which Lucy was unable to speak to, which seemed deeply profound and tragic to me as a child, and the ocean with lily-white flowers covering it as far as the eye could squint.) Say what I will (and usually do) about Lewis, he had a knack for writing magical scenes which stuck with me, even if what stuck with me about this scene was how horrific it was. But it was magically horrific.

Elementary: For The Love of a Billionaire

Here is the latest of Liss and Ana talking about Elementary! You should go see it, if only for the DOLPHIN FACE. And also for this comment I added tonight:

A thing that really struck me later is that this could have been Joan and Sherlock.

Sherlock is wealthy, or rather his father is. (He owns, like, 5 houses in NYC alone, and the brownstone is the smallest, iirc.) Joan isn't suggested to be wealthy; she was a surgeon, but we don't know if she had her school loans paid off before The Accident, and sober companion was a step down in pay scale. And she was certainly dealing with feelings of guilt over the death of her patient when she hired on with Sherlock.

If he'd killed someone last season, say the "M" guy we all thought was Moriarty, and she'd gone to jail to protect him and serve time over the death of her patient... that would have been amazingly bad. BAD. So she could have said something in THIS case. She could have easily pointed out that this ending was hella-bad for EVERYONE. (I certainly don't think this was good for Graham. I think it was bad for Graham.) This could have been her. She could have made that connection. She didn't. And I think she didn't because the WRITERS didn't.

And I think part of why they didn't understand HOW wrong this ending was, was because they didn't understand that a woman protecting herself from abuse is NOT substantially different from a man protecting himself from abuse. And I find that implication really upsetting and deeply disturbing because it's the literal definition of a double-standard.

Open Thread: Pugs

Hosted by an adorable pug

So my friend is convinced that pugs are pretty much the most awesome dogs, ever.  Having spent the weekend at his house with his pug, I can't find much ground to disagree.  Pugs are pretty awesome.

Look - they're small but not yappy, they've got ugly-adorable squashed-in faces, they're affectionately licky but not drooly, they've got solid little bodies just right for hugging, they crawl into your lap and look at you like "I love you so much, please pet me!"... what's not to love?

Open thread!  Are you lucky enough to have a pug in your life?  If not, do you have another awesome kind of dog?  What's your favorite kind of dog, and why?  Do you like pugs, or do you think another kind of dog has them beat?  If you're not a dog person, what kind of pet do you like better, and why?  Do you have any cool dog/pug/other favorite pet stories?
 ~ Kristycat

Monday Reminder!  While I have fun coming up with pretty pictures and/or interesting “prompt” questions for open threads, you aren’t limited to those!  These threads are open - go wild, talk about whatever moves you!  (Just remember that this is still a safe space, please!)  

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!  

Feminism: Texas Moves To Suppress Women Voters

Quoting Carimah Townes at Think Progress:

In addition to attacks on their reproductive rights, women in Texas are facing another sizable problem: large-scale disenfranchisement. Thanks to the state’s strict voter ID law – going into effect on November 5 – constituents must now provide a photo ID with their most up-to-date, legally-recognized name at the polls. On the surface the prerequisite appears achievable, but in reality it disproportionately impacts female voters, specifically those who are married.
A lot of people -- a lot of non-Texan people who don't understand how deeply our districts are gerrymandered -- demanded to know, during the filibuster, why were weren't proactively voting the anti-choice senators and representatives out of office.

Now you know one of the reasons why that's easier said than done.

If you are Texan, you can check voting dates and your own eligibility at votetexas.gov.

Hat-tip to EdinburghEye.

Tropes: I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream

[Content Note: Misogyny, Homophobia, Racism, Rape, Suicide, Ableism, Fat Hatred.
This is a very triggery post.] 

Dear Old Mouldering Classic Science Fiction / Fantasy Works which "Everyone Must Read":
It's not me, it's you. I'm breaking up with you.

I'm serious. I couldn't be more serious. There is too much really wonderful modern stuff out there -- much of it written by women and people of color and non-Heterosexual Cis Privileged Men -- for me to waste another minute of my life reading something that maybe once contained a germ of a good idea, but was buried from the beginning in shitty writing and misogyny so thick you could spread it on wonder bread, and which only became as famous as it did because of white male privilege and privileged gatekeepers. The next time I see some MUST READ classic work by a straight cis man written in the 60's or whatever, I'm just going to assume it's marinated in privilege-sauce and go read a book about lesbian trans women astronauts, or something equally more likely to be infinitely better.

Because I deserve to read good things (and Narnia and Twilight).

Hang on. Let me back up a bit.

Open Thread: Temptation

Hosted by an apple tree



"I have been a stranger in a strange land"

It wasn't bliss. What was bliss 
but the ordinary life? She'd spend hours 
in patter, moving through whole days 
touching, sniffing, tasting . . . exquisite 
housekeeping in a charmed world. 
And yet there was always 

more of the same, all that happiness, 
the aimless Being There. 
So she wandered for a while, bush to arbor, 
lingered to look through a pond's restive mirror. 
He was off cataloging the universe, probably, 
pretending he could organize 
what was clearly someone else's chaos. 

That's when she found the tree, 
the dark, crabbed branches 
bearing up such speechless bounty, 
she knew without being told 
this was forbidden. It wasn't 
a question of ownership— 
who could lay claim to 
such maddening perfection? 

And there was no voice in her head, 
no whispered intelligence lurking 
in the leaves—just an ache that grew 
until she knew she'd already lost everything 
except desire, the red heft of it 
warming her outstretched palm. 
  - Rita Dove

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s coming up, give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!
 ~ Kristycat

Feminism: Disney Markets Racism To Children

[Content Note: Racism]

Twice while shopping this week, I've run into the Disney Infinity franchise only to then experience a total blue screen moment as I stare in disbelief at the universe.

For those who haven't encountered this franchise yet, it's a combination video game + collect-all-the-figurines marketing ploy, where buying the figurines unlocks relevant areas of gameplay. In other words, and if I understand correctly, you have to buy the physical Monsters, Inc. add-on playset in order to access the Monsters, Inc. areas of the game. The platform options for the game are various gaming consoles (XBOX 360, PS3, Wii, etc.), online, and iPads. To quote the wikipedia article:

Disney Infinity is a platformer sandbox video game developed by Avalanche Software and published by Disney Interactive Studios. [...] Similar to Activision's Skylanders franchise, the game uses collectible figurines that are then synchronized with the game, allowing for characters from Disney and Pixar properties to interact and go on adventures. The game was released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Wii U, and Nintendo 3DS in August 2013.

[...] Disney Infinity is an action-adventure game with physical toys, open world creation and story-driven gameplay. Characters, play-sets and other features are brought into the game using figurines and discs with the included Infinity Base.

[...] [P]lay sets have their own unique campaign, which can be played with up to two players. However, only characters from a specific franchise can play in their respective play-set (for example, Mr. Incredible can't be used in the Pirates of the Caribbean play set), meaning two figures from the same series are required to play a play-set in split-screen multiplayer. Playing through play set unlocks objects and vehicles that can be used in the Toy Box mode.
So we're all on the same page, right? This is a video game, marketed to children, containing lots of Disney and Pixar characters, and children are encouraged to buy representations of all the characters, because without the add-on playsets, sections of the game are locked off. So fine, so standard.

My horror comes from the fact that of the 18 currently buyable-and-playable characters, 2 of them are Lone Ranger and Tonto from the recently super-racist film which was projected back in August of being so massively unpopular that the flop may cost Disney $150 million.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto figurines from Disney Infinity.

"Screw you adults for refusing to consume our racist swill! We'll just pressure and trick children into doing so instead!" ~ Disney, apparently.

Way too many privileged people like to assume that racism not only happens in a vacuum, but that it also happens with the best of innocent intentions. Like somehow Disney just failed to receive all the many messages, prior to their racist film, that their racist film was hella racist. "Whoops!" becomes the rallying cry of racism apologetics, like it's just so damn hard to educate yourself on how racism is a thing.

This excuse is (as ever) bullshit, but I think it's especially telling in a situation like this, where Disney already knows with the power of numbers that their super-racist film was both super-racist and horribly unpopular. Instead of doing the decent thing and apologizing for the movie, letting it quietly slink off to the Disney movie vaults to rot, and doing better next time, Disney is trying to recoup some of its lost money by repackaging the racism and selling it to children in a marketing scheme where they can't access existing game content if they don't buy the Native American Appropriation and Racist Stereotypes add-on playset.

Swell.

And, you know, despite the fact that (best I can tell) none of the other 16 playable characters are people of color or voiced by actors of color, I can still imagine that children of color might want to play Disney Infinity if it's a fun game or has characters from films they care about. So it is especially classy of Disney to create a game which mandates that children of color play a racist stereotype if they want to access the full game.

Disney, you are the worst.

Review: The Princes in the Tower

The Princes in the TowerThe Princes in the Tower
by Alison Weir

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Princes in the Tower / B007I5QO50

I am very fond of Alison Weir's histories, and have an interest in the Princes in the Tower, so I expected to enjoy this historical account, even knowing that it is several years old now (and now somewhat out of date since Richard III's bones have been disinterred from the car park). Having read this book twice -- both before and after the disinterment -- I am perfectly satisfied that it lives up to Weir's tradition of excellent writing and engrossing scholarship.

This is one of Weir's shorter books, and it is possible to whip through the material fairly quickly. She starts by outlining her sources and their nearness to the matter and what she means by "contemporary", since the scholarly material spans a large period; she also scrupulously identifies the biases and shortcomings of her sources, and then explains *her* view on their accuracy in light of that. It is left as an exercise to the reader to decide whether or not to accept her view, and I appreciate that the decisions made by historians in the search for truth are open and exposed to the reader for them to make their own choices.

Weir then traces the circumstances surrounding the birth of the princes, the controversial choice of their mother (Elizabeth Wydville) as queen, the subsequent alienation of many members of court at being replaced in the King's favor by a family seen as ignoble and greedy, and the events which occurred immediately following Edward IV's death and how Richard III was able to quickly imprison the new child king (Edward V) through a swift and brutal campaign of terror.

Weir outlines the contemporary rumors and beliefs of both foreign royalty and common Londoners, and makes the case that Richard's contemporaries certainly believed it very plausible that he had the princes murdered (though some, as with Louis XI, believed the princes were dead or as-good-as-dead a few days earlier than Weir believes the actual event occurred -- an understandable mistake on Louis XI's part since the precise date of the murder wasn't heralded from the Tower with trumpets). These contemporary beliefs are laid out scrupulously in order to point out that Tudor propaganda cannot be entirely to blame for Richard's grim reputation, not when his pre-Tudor contemporaries already believed him guilty. Once again, it is left to the reader to balance how much weight to give these beliefs, but I personally feel that Weir makes a convincing argument for the case that Richard is the most plausible responsible party for the deaths of the Princes.

I was initially puzzled by the number of poor reviews on the book. Having now read the book twice, along with several negative reviews, I have to strongly agree with a previous review (MS) who stated that "Many of the criticisms I've read in other reviews are based on isolated paragraphs which have either been misunderstood or taken out of context." For Louis XI to believe, a few days earlier than the date proposed by Weir for the murder, that Richard either had or would soon murder the Princes does not point to a scholarly error with dates; Louis XI's suspicions are mentioned only to underscore contemporary beliefs, and not in support of the date of the murder. And for Margaret Beaufort to be able to convince Elizabeth Wydville of her sons' death, but for Henry VII to still retain a small doubt, years after his failure to find the bodies, is in no way something to marvel at in my opinion -- these differences in the perspectives of Elizabeth Wydville and Henry VII reflect the realities and context of their lives as a grieving mother and an insecure king. For some reviewers to seize on these as somehow "proofs" of poor scholarship make me very dubious.

In summary, I believe this is an engrossing and relatively quick read to the subject, and I strongly recommend it to fans of Weir's other work. I appreciate that Weir clearly lays out the flaws in the available sources and guides the reader through her decision-making process, so that engaging readers may choose to make different choices. And I believe that a number of the so-called errors and contradictions in this work seem to me to be entirely plausible when considering the nuances of the personalities and political realities involved in this historical period.

~ Ana Mardoll

Open Thread: Soup

Hosted by a bowl of soup
Good morning, my lovelies!  Apologies for missing Monday's open thread (did you miss me?  Were you devastated by my absence?), but I was sick as a dog.

As I generally consider life events to be prompts for open threads, I considered doing an OT on sickness, but then I reconsidered on the grounds that that would be gross.  (At least one on my sickness would have been.  I was pretty gross.)  So instead, I'm doing one on the sick person's best friend: soup!

Happily, I was the last one in the house to catch the plague, so we already had plenty of homemade chicken noodle soup leftover from when it hit my husband.  And chicken noodle soup is a staple.  It's not my favorite, though - in a world full of tomato soup, potato soup, miso soup, broccoli cheddar soup, egg drop soup, pho, and french onion soup, chicken noodle is sadly not even in my top 10 list.

Here, then, is the newest soup recipe that I am super-excited about and eager to make:


Ingredients
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon good olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
1 (15 - ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut in chunks
3 cups homemade chicken stock or canned broth
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup half - and - half
Creme fraiche, grated Gruyere, or croutons (see Note), for serving (optional)

Directions
Heat the butter and oil in a heavy - bottomed stockpot, add the onions, and cook over medium - low heat for 10 minutes, or until translucent. Add the pumpkin puree, butternut squash, chicken stock, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer over medium - low heat for about 20 minutes, until the butternut squash is very tender. Process the mixture through the medium blade of a food mill. Return to the pot, add the half - and - half, and heat slowly. If the soup needs more flavor, add another teaspoon of salt. Serve hot with garnishes, if desired.

Cook's Note: To serve with croutons, remove the crusts from 2 slices of white bread, cut them in 1/2-inch cubes, and saute them in 1 tablespoon of butter until browned. Season with salt and pepper.

***
What do you think?  Does it sound delicious?  

Open thread!  What is your favorite soup, to make or to eat or both?  Do you like chicken noodle soup best when you're sick, or do you have another favorite "feel-better" soup?  Bread bowls: delicious, or kind of annoying?  Do you have any cool soup recipes to share?

~ Kristycat

Wednesday Reminder!  Open threads are meant to be fun, chatty places to discuss anything that doesn’t “fit” into a deconstruction or other regular thread.  This can be something totally off-the-wall and random, or it can be something interesting that a deconstruction prompted you to think of, but which would be derailing to get into in the deconstruction thread.  When in doubt, move it over here - that’s what it’s for!  

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!  

Elementary: Two New Posts and Metapostery

I feel like I should post something about my life circumstances, but the longer I don't post something, the more anything I could post seems inadequate and it becomes this vicious cycle. So here is a brief metapost, a pointer to some Elementary commentary I co-wrote, and an open thread to talk about both.

[CN: Disability]

I have spent the last three weeks rapidly deteriorating in physical ability. I spend most of my non-work days lying in bed or on the sofa (which is less comfortable but easier to get out of when I need to use the bathroom) and trying to concentrate on breathing through the pain. To distract myself, I play video games and take notes on them, but it's not really bringing me a lot of enjoyment -- I'd rather be up and washing the dishes because I feel bad about leaving all the chores to the able-bodied people in the house. Since I am still struggling with getting my laptop to behave the way I'd like, I don't have a lot of computer access -- I can read everything that comes in, but writing is harder. Emails are piling up, and (as of right now) I have no posts scheduled for next week. :(

So this has not been a great month for me, and I find myself once again asking for your patience through a difficult time. I'm sorry that these posts [about delays and disability] are so frequent; I wish they were not.

[/end CN]

However, one thing I can do is text at people, and my friend Liss can assemble my texty babblings and occasionally-dictated email into interesting posts on Elementary. I didn't have the spoons to cross-post last week's, but here it is now:

Season 2, Episode 2
Season 2, Episode 3

Here is a nice open thread for talking about them, and once again I am sorry that I've been so quiet online lately. It's not by choice, but I realize that doesn't make it easier on any of you.

Narnia: For Want of a Nail... Nothing Changed In The Slightest

[Content Note: Misogyny]

Narnia Recap: In which the crew finds a destroyed village, a Sea Serpent, and a Midas pool.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 8: Two Narrow Escapes

Last week was the Burnt Village; this week is the Sea Serpent. Wow, we're just zooming along. Today Eustace will be allowed to exist. (Unlike last week when he might have been able to pipe up and explain all the reasons why Dragon! was not likely to be the cause behind Burnt Village. But we'll assume he was taking a well-deserved nap on the ship. Rest well, Eustace!)

Open Thread: October Winds

Hosted by a foggy Autumn night



outside my window, October winds blow
at night I prowl restlessly in parking lots
something feral and feline wakes in my blood,
sharpening eyes, nose, ears - claws
the scent of autumn reaches me through pneumatic doors and recycled air - 
this is no season for office buildings.
- Jennifer Green


Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s coming up, give us something new to explore!  


And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!  

Feminism: Welp, I Guess It's Time To Rebrand Everything!

[Content Note: Stereotypes and othering; Misogyny; Racism] 

Tom Jacobs at Pacific Standard has read new research in the European Journal of Social Psychology titled "The ironic impact of activists: Negative stereotypes reduce social change influence" which reveals the shocking (read: Totally Not Shocking) twist that lots and lots of people sort of generally support things like feminism and environmentalism as long as you don't use those words because popular discourse has succeeding in painting feminists and environmentalists as humorless austere assholes who hate fun.

In an article which appears (according to the hyperlink) to have been originally titled "Feminism? Maybe. Feminists? Ewww." and which is now titled "Environmentalism? Perhaps. Environmentalists? Ewww!", Mr. Jacobs dispenses advice to us icky feminists which I think we can all agree with, which is that we need to be nicer and smile more. (And would it kill you ladies to show a little cleavage? I mean, really. Etc.)

In one, the participants—228 Americans recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk—described both varieties of activists in “overwhelmingly negative” terms. The most frequently mentioned traits describing “typical feminists” included “man-hating” and “unhygienic;” for “typical environmentalists,” they included “tree-hugger” and “hippie.”

[...] So the message to advocates is clear: Avoid rhetoric or actions that reinforce the stereotype of the angry activist. Realize that if people find you off-putting, they’re not going to listen to your message. As Bashir and her colleagues note, potential converts to your cause “may be more receptive to advocates who defy stereotypes by coming across as pleasant and approachable.”
I would like to maybe make a suggestion to Mr. Jacobs. Before you decide that the problem with stereotypes is that the victims of those stereotypes need to stop being so darn stereotypical, maybe you should do some studying up on how stereotypes actually work, and maybe also to read up on something called confirmation bias. Because, the thing is, Rush Limbaugh leveraging his media platform for decades in order to hammer terms like feminazi into popular consciousness wasn't just him politely pointing out some kind of established fact that Feminists Hate Men, and now we all need to accept his tough-but-fair criticism and reevaluate our man-hating platform because that's the one thing driving people away from the feminist brand. Nope!

One of the fun things about being a marginalized person (and especially being an activist for your own marginalized group) is that right off the bat, you have to spend a not-insignificant amount of time just coming up with an affirming name for your marginalized group, because centuries of language loaded with hurtful stereotypes have made a lot of the candidate words into either slurs against you, or words with triggery and negative connotations. And then once you do find a nice word for your marginalized group, the members of the privileged culture who resent your efforts will do their damndest to smear that word too -- as harshly and as quickly as they can. In a political piece I wrote last year about white racists whinging about the term "colored people" in the NAACP organization name, I said:
And if you've never had to expend a moment's thought about what to call yourself that hasn't been used as a slur or derogatory term by someone somewhere, well, that's the beautiful warmth of Privilege that you're feeling.

[...] Demanding that an organization for marginalized people change their name after the terms involved were deliberately ruined by privileged people?

Yup. That's racism. It's also bullying.
Feminism isn't going to be any more warm and fuzzy for privileged people if we rebrand the movement and order new t-shirts and coffee mugs. And feminists aren't going to be suddenly accepted by privileged people under that label just because they Smile More. Because the problem society has with people who use the word 'feminist' aren't that their actions are just sooooo man-hating and everyone logically noticed that with their superior Vulcan Logic.

No, the problem society has with people who use the word 'feminist' is that the people controlling our social conversations have worked long and hard to make sure that all of us know that a Feminist is a Very Bad Thing To Be, even as they carefully avoid giving meaningful airtime to what feminism is about. Which is why a lot of us grew up knowing that Feminism was a bad thing even as we identified with goals and ideals which are usually associated with feminism. The problem wasn't that we'd encountered real live feminists who left a bad taste in our mouths; the problem was that we had absorbed the surrounding cultural message that Feminists Are Bad.

Or, to put it more succinctly (with much thanks to Liss!): the problem isn't that we are reducing our own influence to effect social change; the problem is that we are operating within a system that already hates us.

The solution to that, Mr. Jacobs, isn't to turn around and waggle fingers at the feminists for being insufficiently smiley (and in doing so to reinforce the false assumption that feminists are... what was the word? "Overwhelmingly negative"?). The solution is to instead push back against the people trying to use their privilege to control the conversation; to push back against the many, many people who use their political, media, and social power to smear the name of feminism in order to intimidate people from claiming that term for themselves. There's even a popular discourse term you can use to describe that very phenomena when you eventually decide to write that article. You're welcome!

But I can understand why you might not want to write that article. After all, those same privileged people controlling the social discourse might turn around and use their media platform to tell everyone on earth that you are "overwhelmingly negative" and "unhygienic" and then it would be both magically true and your responsibility to fix.