Open Thread: A Poem About Poems

Hosted by writing paper

A Familiar Letter

YES, write, if you want to, there's nothing like trying;
Who knows what a treasure your casket may hold?
I'll show you that rhyming's as easy as lying,
If you'll listen to me while the art I unfold.

Here's a book full of words; one can choose as he fancies,
As a painter his tint, as a workman his tool;
Just think! all the poems and plays and romances
Were drawn out of this, like the fish from a pool!

You can wander at will through its syllabled mazes,
And take all you want, not a copper they cost,--
What is there to hinder your picking out phrases
For an epic as clever as "Paradise Lost"?

Don't mind if the index of sense is at zero,
Use words that run smoothly, whatever they mean;
Leander and Lilian and Lillibullero
Are much the same thing in the rhyming machine.

There are words so delicious their sweetness will smother
That boarding-school flavor of which we're afraid,
There is "lush"is a good one, and "swirl" is another,--
Put both in one stanza, its fortune is made.

With musical murmurs and rhythmical closes
You can cheat us of smiles when you've nothing to tell
You hand us a nosegay of milliner's roses, 
And we cry with delight, "Oh, how sweet they do smell!"

Perhaps you will answer all needful conditions
For winning the laurels to which you aspire,
By docking the tails of the two prepositions
I' the style o' the bards you so greatly admire.

As for subjects of verse, they are only too plenty
For ringing the changes on metrical chimes;
A maiden, a moonbeam, a lover of twenty 
Have filled that great basket with bushels of rhymes.

Let me show you a picture--'t is far from irrelevant--
By a famous old hand in the arts of design;
'T is only a photographed sketch of an elephant,--
The name of the draughtsman was Rembrandt of Rhine.

How easy! no troublesome colors to lay on,
It can't have fatigued him,-- no, not in the least,--
A dash here and there with a haphazard crayon,
And there stands the wrinkled-skinned, baggy-limbed beast.

Just so with your verse,-- 't is as easy as sketching,--
You can reel off a song without knitting your brow,
As lightly as Rembrandt a drawing or etching;
It is nothing at all, if you only know how.

Well; imagine you've printed your volume of verses:
Your forehead is wreathed with the garland of fame,
Your poems the eloquent school-boy rehearses,
Her album the school-girl presents for your name;

Each morning the post brings you autograph letters;
You'll answer them promptly,-- an hour isn't much
For the honor of sharing a page with your betters,
With magistrates, members of Congress, and such.

Of course you're delighted to serve the committees
That come with requests from the country all round,
You would grace the occasion with poems and ditties
When they've got a new schoolhouse, or poorhouse, or pound.

With a hymn for the saints and a song for the sinners,
You go and are welcome wherever you please;
You're a privileged guest at all manner of dinners,
You've a seat on the platform among the grandees.

At length your mere presence becomes a sensation,
Your cup of enjoyment is filled to its brim 
With the pleasure Horatian of digitmonstration,
As the whisper runs round of "That's he!" or "That's him!"

But remember, O dealer in phrases sonorous,
So daintily chosen, so tunefully matched,
Though you soar with the wings of the cherubim o'er us,
The ovum was human from which you were hatched.

No will of your own with its puny compulsion
Can summon the spirit that quickens the lyre;
It comes, if at all, like the Sibyl's convulsion
And touches the brain with a finger of fire.

So perhaps, after all, it's as well to he quiet
If you've nothing you think is worth saying in prose,
As to furnish a meal of their cannibal diet
To the critics, by publishing, as you propose.

But it's all of no use, and I'm sorry I've written,--
I shall see your thin volume some day on my shelf;
For the rhyming tarantula surely has bitten,
And music must cure you, so pipe it yourself. 

~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
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

Cute of the Day: Baby Bat + Bunny Ears

A baby bat wrapped into a yellow towel; the towel has been shaped to have "bunny ears" at the top.

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!

Narnia: Lucy in the Sky with Inconsistent Characterization

[Narnia Content Note: Genocide, Religious Abuse, Chivalry, Racism, Slavery]
Content Note: Misogyny, Eavesdropping and Friendships and Boundaries
Title Note: Song reference. Also: Holy Colors Google Image Search!

Narnia Recap: In which Lucy goes into the Magician's tower to read a spell.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 10: The Magician's Book

Let's see if we can finish Chapter 10 today. When we last left Lucy, she'd been frightened by the picture of Aslan and had quickly turned over the page without reading the beauty spell. So now that we've dealt with the female sin of vanity, it's time to deal with the other female sins: gossip and catty backstabbing. (And note that the best part about having a literal Smurfette in your book is that you can address all the female sins at once and then get back to the manly stuff.)

   A little later she came to a spell which would let you know what your friends thought about you. Now Lucy had wanted very badly to try the other spell, the one that made you beautiful beyond the lot of mortals. So she felt that to make up for not having said it, she really would say this one. And all in a hurry, for fear her mind would change, she said the words (nothing will induce me to tell you what they were). Then she waited for something to happen.

So just to be really clear, Lewis is pretty much acknowledging that there is no in-character reason (or even an in-universe reason) for Lucy to be doing this. (If you haven't read Whitley's wonderful Maze Runner deconstructions, which tackles this very thing beautifully, I really recommend them as super-fun.) And we're once again back to having to decide between two authorial cop-outs: either Lucy is semi-possessed (like the boys maybe-were on Goldwater/Deadwater island) or she acts silly-stupid in order to facilitate the story.

Cute of the Day: Blanket Kitty

A kitty nestled into a blanket such that only the top half of its head is visible.

Open Thread: Deer Me!

Hosted by a watchful deer
Years ago, when I had no car, I had to leave an hour early to take the bus to work, then walk the last mile in.  I hated it.  I hated walking through the dark, on the section of road with no sidewalk, cold and tired.

Until one day, with no cars on the road and no one else in sight, a deer and her fawn bounded out of the woods on one side of the road, glanced carelessly at me, then leapt across the street and into the woods on the other side.  Right in the middle of Orlando.

Open thread!  What's the strangest situation where you've ever been surprised by a wild animal?  Have you ever seen a bear wander through your campsite, or an inordinate number of owls gather in your backyard, or caught a raccoon red-handed in the act of stealing your garbage?  If you don't live in an area where wild animals are common, what animal would you most (or least!) like to meet in the wild?
 ~ 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!  

Cute of the Day: Simba Kitty

A kitty shaved to look like a little lion.

Feminism: Open Letter to Joss Whedon

[Content Note: Cissexism]

Dear Joss Whedon,

Some women have a penis and testicles. Implying otherwise, even as a joke, is cissexism. Encouraging people who educate you about that to "unfollow [you]" is defensive assholery.

A hypothetical someone in your position saying "whoops, I'm sorry, that was a stupid joke that I didn't think through because of course trans* people (and intersex people and other women with penis/balls) exist and I just forgot that because of my cis privilege, thank you all for the awareness raising" is basically the lowest bar there is for ally work and you've still managed to miss it. That's a problem.

I understand the urge to be defensive over your privilege. I understand the desire to lash out when it feels like the internet is yelling at you. I also understand that a basic foundation of my feminism is being willing to say "I'm sorry, I screwed up" when I screw up and hurt people.

To be honest, I have grave doubts that you are engaging with feminism and feminists in good faith. I would be lying if I said I don't sometimes feel like you do the bare minimum of ally work and then coast on the ocean of cookies flung your way because the rest of (cis male) Hollywood people are that dreadfully awful such that the slightest amount of effort looks like the second coming of feminist-Jesus.

But I am trying to engage with you in good faith and assume that you do have good motives and do want to undermine kyriarchal systems and be an ally to marginalized people. And so I urge you to drop the flippancy over this issue and make a statement affirming that the "joke" was a bad one and that trans* women (and other women with penis and testicles) exist and that (a) they shouldn't be invisibled, even jokingly, and (b) they deserve their stories told just as much as cis women do.

Because there are a lot of transphobic people out there who wrongfully believe that genitals equal gender, and you have a tremendous amount of power to shape the social narratives they engage with. For you, a famous cis man who famously writes Strong Female Characters, to affirm that women who happen to possess penis and/or balls are still women, that would be a real piece of awareness-raising ally-work you could do. That would be leveraging your privilege to help people more marginalized than you.

Therefore I urge you in all good faith to reconsider how you are responding to this issue.

-- Ana

[Hat-tip to Liss. Also: Awesome Venn Diagram by Kate.]

Tropes: I Don't Want To Be Apocalypse Eve

[Content Note: Apocalypse, Self-Harm, Childbirth and Child Endangerment] 

Good morrow, future denizens of Tuesday. I am writing this from the bleak apocalyptic dystopia past of Sunday, and wish you good tidings. I also hurt like hell, which I am tired of saying and I would bet ya'll are tired of hearing. But that is why this post is not a proper post and is instead a rambly post on a trope that bothers me. I've been holding this post in brain-reserve for a rainy day, and I reckon we're here now.

So here's the thing: I don't want to be Eve.

Waaaaay back in 2011, I wrote a thing about The Road and how I personally feel that it's perfectly understandable to commit suicide when you literally have no future to look forward to because the apocalypse has happened and there is no food and no animals and no canned goods and no plants and no hope whatsoever for life continuing because living means eating and there is no food source anymore. Like, I didn't set down the rules for that particular apocalypse, but once those ridiculous rules are in place, I don't really see a dignified exit strategy as a bad thing. YMMV, etc.

Today I want to add to that position the less-controversial addendum that I also don't want to repopulate the earth after an apocalypse. And how very, very, very sick I am of that trope popping up in fiction.

Now, I don't necessarily mean that I have issues so much with people choosing to be Adam and Eve. If that's your thing, fine. I am more than happy to extend to others the reproductive freedom to create society from scratch via human reproduction as I am to demand for myself the reproductive freedom to not do that. Nor am I even really ripping on Earth All Along tropes, where you're expected to assume that the survivors of the space vampires or whatever were our ancestors. I mean, I'm not a big fan because overused plot is overused, but whatever floats your boat.

No, what I want to die as a trope is this Save The People With Uteri!! trope that comes up in fiction where an apocalypse happens and suddenly there's all this prioritizing of survivors based on the assumption that (a) continuing the human race is the most important thing ever right now, because while things may seem bleak with only 58 people left alive and the entire planet overrun with cannibalistic fungus obviously the highest priority to be had right now is babies, and (b) the people with uteri who are being saved for their baby-making ability will have any interest in churning out Human Race 2.0. Because with regards to that latter point, I sure as hell am not.

There are a million examples of this in fiction, but the closest one at hand is from Piers Anthony's Rings of Ice (which is a really dreadful book but, like many Piers Anthony books, didn't seem so dreadful when I first read it because I'd had so little exposure to genuinely good science fiction / fantasy that it seemed like I had to take whatever I could get, and it's only in retrospect that I'm able to gape with astonishment at just how horrible and creepy and dreadful and rapey his writing is), so I'll just copy and paste that in rather than have to type something else out manually: 

"At least they let me out!" Zena said. "I haven't been allowed to do anything useful for weeks!"

"You're lucky," Floy said, leaning heavily on her pole so as not to fall.

"What's lucky about it? Everybody has to pull his weight, and I'm eager to pull mine."

Floy shrugged awkwardly.

"Now don't you do it too!" Zena cried. "I haven't raised an issue about it because there's been no privacy -- but something's going on. What's the big secret?"

"You really don't know?"

"Of course I don't know."

"Well, Gus says there's going to be a lot more rain. Enough to drown the whole world, maybe."

"Gus is right, for all the wrong reasons. But -- "

"So we'll have to make more people. Babies."

Zena sighed. "Gus has had the making of babies on his mind from the outset. The mechanics of it, anyway. He and Karen -- "

Floy shook her head. "Karen wouldn't live through it. That's why she uses an IUD. And I'm too young, Gordon says. But you -- "

"That's enough!"

"Sorry. You said you wanted to know."

Zena paused beside a plain of bare bedrock, scoured clean by the water. "I'm not having any baby!"

"You're the only one who can. So Gus said to take care of you, because if anything happened to make you sterile -- "

"I said enough!"

You probably got the gist from that, but basically the entire world is permanently altered (think Noah's Flood but with nowhere for the water to go to dry up after because rather than this flood being supernatural, it was actually imported from space), nearly every person on earth is dead, pretty much the only thing available to eat is a moss of dubious nutritional value, and so clearly the top priority right now is to make sure that one-eight (or one-sixth, I forget who is and isn't alive at this point) of the remaining survivors not be allowed to help out with the whole surviving thing, because her uterus is too valuable to accidentally damage.

And I hate the fuck out of this trope. 

I hate the fuck out of this trope at least in part because it isn't occurring in a vacuum. Women are already treated like they are nothing more than baby-making body parts. (And women who don't have a uterus, or who are infertile, are already treated like we are less than nothing, and not "real" women.) "Pre-pregnant", or the concept that all fertile women should be treated like they are or soon will be pregnant, is an actual term that is actually used unironically (and that is a big fucking problem).

Tropes like this -- which prioritize the survival of fertile women not because of their humanity (which would prioritize everyone, regardless of fertility), or even because of their skills in ensuring the survival of the group (which would prioritize people based on their ability to see the survivors safely through the current danger) -- reinforce the belief that women are valuable only insomuch as they are incubators. Any other value (of their person, of their work, of the value they add to society, etc.) is so secondary as to not rank a mention.

But I also hate this trope on an in-universe level for condemning these pedestaled fertile women to a life that they may not want, for a "benefit" that will likely benefit them personally not at all. (After all, "ensured the survival of the human race" is a goal that a woman or man is more than welcome to have, but if there are any benefits to reap from that, they're probably long-term ones.) These women who have been "saved" especially for them to take the role of nu-Eve now get to experience childbirth, which is the second-leading cause of death for women, in an environment which likely lacks basic medical care. (Since your average zombie apocalypse is low on electricity, antibiotics, OBGYNs, etc.)

Then they get to do it again. And again. And again. Because if there's one thing we know about repopulating a ginormous planet with shiny brand new people, you're going to have to churn out a lot of those babies in order for the work to really count.

And then you have to raise them in a world that is almost entirely devoid of community helpers (no village for your child!), where dangers lurk around every corner (even if it's a cozy apocalypse, there's still going to be a host of basic safety issues like how "minor" things like influenza and broken bones can kill you outright), and where safe food and drinking water aren't even remotely something you can count on. Good luck, nu-Eve, as you struggle to build a shelter that will stand up to the storms, farm enough nutrients to keep from getting scurvy, filter drinkable water that won't give you dysentery, and all while popping out another child every nine months because the human race needs babies as quickly as you can make them!

Like, if that's your idea of a good time, I salute your hardcore-edness, but it sounds like hell to me.

When the apocalypse happens, save me because I'm a person and because people should try to save each other when all we have is each other to depend on in the ruins of our society. Or save me because I have skills that will make me valuable to our new society: I can write our history for whoever may come after, or I can compose stories for the entertainment of our people, or I can cook or clean or sew or farm or weave baskets or tend livestock or whatever else. But don't save me because I have a uterus, because it's mine and I won't be using it for you. I don't want to be Eve.

Cute of the Day: Cuddle-Bug

A tuxedo cat holding a toy bunny tightly in its arms.

Open Thread: Record Deals and Dice Games

Hosted by a pair o' dice
The title is inspired by this video right here: 

The sound quality isn't the best - you can hear the music but not most of the lyrics - but check out the drummer in the back.  Isn't he great?  That's my baby brother.


So for various reasons I'm getting ready to play a game of Hazards (the forerunner of craps) with a friend, which got us talking about dice luck, which got us talking about BAD dice luck (and who's had/seen worse rolls.)  And it's a fun fact that the most skeptical, rational, anti-fuzzy-thinker person will suddenly become incredibly superstitious once you put dice in their hands - anything from refusing to let it sit with a 1 facing up to literally threatening dice with the microwave if they don't shape up.

Open thread!  Do you have any funny or interesting dice-related stories (from roleplaying games or board games or just straight-up gambling, we don't judge)?  Any weird strings of good or bad luck in defiance of the laws of probability?  Anyone know any interesting and/or obscure dice games?  Anyone ever had a pair of loaded dice, or dice carved out of some valuable material?  Anyone have pictures of cool and unusual dice?  (Bonus points if someone provides gifs from the opening scene of The Road To El Dorado, I love that movie.)
 ~ 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! 

Cute of the Day: Stretchy Reach

Two animals (prairie dogs, it looks like) reaching for a stalk of wheat. The second prairie dog has its paws on the first dog's back, as if helping to brace hir in hir reaching attempt.

Review: Harvest Moon, A Tale of Two Towns (3DS)

Harvest Moon: Two Towns (3DS) / B004XIQPAO

I've been a Harvest Moon fan since the first game came out on the SNES. Some of the latest installments have been a little disappointing, like the ones which take out the marriage and courtship aspect. But Tale of Two Towns perfectly recaptures the magic of Harvest Moon by beautifully balancing farming with the social aspects (which are my favorite parts of the franchise).

Two Towns starts off with two "rival" villages, and it's up to the player to patch things up. One town (Bluebell) is livestock-oriented and with the standard Harvest Moon European country village flair; the other town (Konohana) is crop-oriented and has a beautiful Eastern style, with paper lanterns hanging from the eaves. The player picks a village (though the player can change villages later, if desired) to live and work in and focuses on rebuilding relationships between the villagers.

The beauty of this setup is that it balances a high replay value (two villages = two playthroughs) without cutting off content from the player. Bluebell players can still farm crops, they just have smaller fields to work with (or have to commute to Konohana to grow crops there at the "extra" farm; this works well with crops that don't need daily watering). Similarly, Konohana players can still raise animals; they just have a smaller farm. This balancing act works really well when you consider that earlier HM games made it pretty much impossible to tend to a full barn AND a full field at once. (Leading to exploits like time not passing indoors, or having to hire farmhands to help, or having to work all night long, etc.)

This installment also does a great job of playing up the social aspect and cooking aspect: there are 4 cooking festivals per season (so 16 total per year) plus various livestock contests, pet contests, dating holidays, etc. All of this is optional, but since a major game goal is to build relationships between the towns, it's valuable for the player to attend and/or participate since participation builds the "heart meter" between the towns. (The Harvest Goddess helpfully keeps a running track.) All this works towards making you feel like you're achieving something between two communities, and not just building up your finances.

Other neat things about this Harvest Moon:

1. Villager (and Bachelor / Bachelorette) hearts are visible through a "flower number" that frames their dialogue box, so you don't have to hunt for diaries.

2. Mountain exploration (including herb gathering and fishing) feel like integral parts of the game.

3. Livestock is easier to herd than in many previous HM games, making outside feeding not only viable but desirable (since time spent outdoors increases livestock happiness). And the pets in the game (you can own up to 6) will automatically herd your livestock in and out of the barn for you, once their heart levels are high enough.

4. Crops can be planted in plowed rows, which means that one row only has to be watered and/or fertilized once. No more tedious watering each and every square.

5. A "request" system has been implemented which lets you bring requested items to villagers for heart increase, money, and item rewards. This is hugely fun and addictive.

6. Though the two villages are separated by a mountain, it is more than easy to visit both villages in a day. (And indeed I visit them both nearly every day as part of my play-style.) You can also spend the night in the opposite village if you need to start your morning there for whatever reason.

7. The available dating partners (boys for girl players to date and girls for boy players to date; I am disappointed to see HM still has not apparently implemented same sex relationship options) are all interesting and fun people to get to know; I appreciate the series' tradition of making well-rounded characters to interact with.

8. Item management is both easier and harder to manage than before. "Easier" because dropped items don't disappear immediately (which means you can't accidentally drop stuff and lose it forever, thank goodness) (though they will disappear overnight, so remember to pick up your pet toys before bed); "harder" because some items *will* still rot in your cart storage over time, plus you have a finite amount of space (in contrast to the Unlimited Refrigerator in Back to Nature). This adds an interesting inventory management angle to the game--you can't pack rat everything, so you *will* have to decide what to use, what to give away, and what to sell.

9. There's an online/friend play system which I haven't used, but which lets you plant crops for others to harvest in a special "online sharing" area (near the Harvest Goddess' spring) and (in turn) harvest crops from their shared area. This seems like a thing I would have enjoyed as a kid, even though I probably wouldn't use it now.

10. I don't always like how games implement the DS touchscreen, but this one handles it very well in my opinion. The touchscreen is largely for inventory management, but you *can* manage your inventory without touching the screen--in other words, using the stylus in this case is optional, and you could also use the D-pad and buttons to move things from your inventory to storage and/or the shipping bin. The touchscreen also shows farmer details (like outfits and requests), and there's a "petting" mini-game with the animals which is completely optional. Almost everything the touchscreen does, therefore, is optional, which is how I like it.

To sum up: This is probably my favorite Harvest Moon game since Back to Nature (for the PS1, and which I still hold to be the best in the series). I highly recommend it, especially if you're a player who goes in for the community / festival / dating aspects of these games.

On a final note: I note a lot of people having bug issues with this game freezing. I bought a used copy of the game (so I can't vouch for how clean the cartridge is), and have played it on a 2DS (note well: 2DS, not 3DS) for weeks. The 2DS is still at the basic factory settings; I won't update the software until it becomes necessary for some reason. With that said, I have *NOT* experienced the game freezing. Not even once. So take that for what it's worth: my copy of the game has worked fine on a factory-settings 2DS.

~ Ana Mardoll

Cute of the Day: Adorbs Lion

A boy-lion with his face on his paw, looking incorrigible.

Cute of the Day: Baby Lion Hug

A lion cub standing on hir hind legs in order to "hug" an adult lady-lion.

Open Thread: Between the Thin Dawn and the Large Daylight

Hosted by dawn

Because My Faltering Feet

Because my faltering feet may fail to dare
The first descendant of the steps of Hell
Give me the Word in time that triumphs there.
I too must pass into the misty hollow
Where all our living laughter stops: and hark!
The tiny stuffless voices of the dark
Have called me, called me, till I needs must follow:
Give me the Word and I'll attempt it well.

Say it's the little winking of an eye
Which in that issue is uncurtained quite;
A little sleep that helps a moment by
Between the thin dawn and the large daylight.
Ah! tell me more than yet was hoped of men;
Swear that's true now, and I'll believe it then. 

 - Hilaire Belloc

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

Cute of the Day: Baby Arctic Fox

A white artic fox looking cautiously at the camera.

Othering Bullshit of the Day: Texas Chili

Quote from an actual cookbook I am reading:

In Texas, chili is practically a religion—and by chili Texans mean cubed beef chuck simmered for hours with tomatoes and chili powder and then thickened with masa harina (corn flour). Don’t even think about adding beans.

[...] Chili powder is to Texas what peanut butter is to jelly: you can’t think of one without the other.

Um, how 'bout NO? I've lived in Texas for most of my life, and not only do I not worship chili as a religion, I also like it with beans (and ground beef!) just fine. Like, I'm sure your recipe is tasty and all, but this is othering monolithing bullshit that I'd like to unsubscribe to, thanks.

Also, if you can't think of Texas without thinking of chili, that's a problem YOU have with stereotyping, not an actual reflection of reality. Because many Texans, self included, go for months at a time without eating chili. It's not our lifeblood.

I share this mostly because I know for a fact that cookbooks pull this stuff all the time with other "exotic" locations, and that stuff needs to be called out because it's harmful in any case, but especially so when applied to places the (targeted) white American audience isn't expected to be familiar with. That needs to stop.

Twilight: Snow White and the Seven Kyriarchal Expectations

[Twilight Content Note: Murder, Abusive Relationships, Winning At Patriarchy.
Extra Content Note: Invisibling of asexual people, Heteronormativity, Fat Hatred, Rape, Self-Harm]

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 15, Bella gets to meet the Cullens.

Twilight, Chapter 15: The Cullens

So we're standing in the White House (not the one in the United States capitol; the one in Forks, Washington) and are about to meet the White People who live amongst this vast expanse of white carpet. We'll start with mom and dad:

   I’d seen Dr. Cullen before, of course, yet I couldn’t help but be struck again by his youth, his outrageous perfection. 

Just so we all recall, Bella has seen Dr. Cullen because he was the physician who attended to her after the Van Incident, and his interaction with her was predominantly an attempt to gaslight her into believing that Edward didn't use super vampire powers to save her and also that these aren't the droids she is looking for.

In that context, I kinda feel like I would be struck by more than just his good (and unnatural) looks. Even if Bella doesn't remember that day with any accompanying trauma, I think it would be realistic to note the difference between that Dr. Cullen and this one. Seeing him relaxed and comfortable where before he was nervously lying would introduce both continuity and the recent change that Edward has undergone now that he doesn't have to hide his nature from Bella. But wev. 

Cute of the Day: Baby Owl

A tiny black and white owl sitting on a tree branch.

Deals: Adventurer's Guild

I want to signal boost this book because it's by an indie author I enjoyed and it's free for this week on Amazon:

My review is here, with the usual caveats that I'm generally kinder in my reviews for pleasure-reading than I am in my deconstructions. It's not a perfect book, and it's a very male-heavy cast as I recall, but it's one of those fun, lighthearted D&D type books that I like to read because it reminds me of the D&D-playing past that I don't, strictly speaking, actually have.

But I get nostalgic over it anyway.

Open Thread: Orange Juice

Hosted by orange juice

To start your day off right, here is a video of Richard Feynman playing bongos and singing "Orange Juice."  You're welcome.

Open thread!  Talk about Feynman, or about orange juice, or about bongos, or about goofy songs that sound like they're sung in a different language the first time you hear them!  Or anything else that suits your fancy, it's an open thread! Happy Wednesday!

 ~ 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!  

Cute of the Day: Bunny in a Measuring Cup

A very small bunny sitting quietly in a rubber measuring cup used for cooking.

Feminism: An Ally Story

[Content Note: Sexism, Rape Culture, Racism, Homophobia] 

I'm still not feeling well (and I'm sorry about that, not just for me, but also for all of you because I really hate it when I don't have posts up), but I wanted to have some kind of post for today, so I thought I'd tell a personal story about a time when a male co-worker was a real ally to me.

One of my first jobs was working in a bookstore, which was a little piece of heaven for me (because books!) but was also my first real introduction to the idea that, as a female worker, I am a second class citizen. This realization manifested in a number of ways, via subtle micro-aggressions and a culture of sexism. And it's somewhat telling that this ally story isn't about micro-aggressions, but is rather about something relatively Big and Obvious. But, even so, it's still a meaningful story for me.

Anyway. At the bookstore, we sold naughty magazines and books in addition to all the regular magazines and books, but we sold the naughty ones from behind the register counter. The rule was that customers weren't allowed to leave the register counter with the naughty pictures, because it was believed by the Powers That Be that the naughty books were a greater temptation for shoplifting and/or reading in the bathrooms than the regular books. Most customers bought their preferred naughty books without a fuss and left to take them home and everything was lovely forever.

But. There was a subset of customers (always male) who would come in to ostensibly browse the naughty magazines at the counter, but who were actually there to leverage their privilege as a customer to leer at the woman on cashier duty (and they would specifically wait for a woman to come up for cashier duty before they would approach the counter and ask to see the magazines). These customers would then try to force us to participate in their public arousal against our consent, by prying us with relatively "polite" questions while they leered at us and thumbed through these magazines in front of us.

These men were not socially inept nor were they ignorant of the implications of what they were doing. Most of them were very canny predators, and would choose their timing carefully, making sure we were alone and isolated at the registers, with no one available to watch the registers for us or keep us company until they left. They used social conventions to manipulate and coerce us female employees into answering their questions, counting on our inability to leave the register area unattended and our fear of offending a customer who was "merely" asking how we were, how our day was going, what our names were, and other personal information we didn't want to share while they were using us as an object of arousal. 

Most of these men got away with this aggression into our lives, and most of our male co-workers didn't care or bother to notice. But we had this one assistant manager who seemed to genuinely care about this issue and how it affected his female co-workers*. He would watch the registers whenever he could, and any time one of these guys came in and started to sexually aggress against us, he would casually wander up and say something like, "Hey, you haven't had a break in awhile. Why don't you let me watch the registers for a bit?" He didn't make us leave, but he gave us the option. Most of us took it. And he'd stay there for as long as it took for the customer to give up on us coming back for him to victimize.

* Due to the organization of job titles at this place, we weren't really his "employees" but were rather co-workers at a lower level of privilege. An assistant manager was basically just another employee, but at a more "trusted" level, meaning that he had keys to the registers.

I don't even remember the Assistant Manager's name. I barely remember what he looked like, except that I recall that he was a perfect visual example of male privilege--thin, tall, white, conventionally attractive, and with an air of privilege reminiscent of good education or wealthy upbringing or both. And I only remember that much because I remember--even then, even before my feminist awakening--being surprised that he would bother to help us or care about us when so many of the other men didn't care in the slightest. Though I didn't understand privilege, I did understand that he didn't need to help us, that no one would have even expected him to help us.

I don't know that this man ever got anything tangible out of helping us. He never asked us for thanks or ally cookies; he never hung around after the men had left, waiting for us to say something. As far as I could tell, no one even talked about what was happening, nor what he was doing for us--we just knew that if the creepers came around, this one assistant manager would remind you that you had a break to take, if you wanted it. And we knew that the break could last as long as it needed to, until the creeper was gone, and that he would cover for us if anyone asked how long we'd been away from the registers. Then you went back to the registers and he went back to assistant managering. It wasn't really anything you talked about, because talking about it would have uncovered all the systemic sexism permeating these events. 

And it says a lot about the rape culture that we live in that no one talked about this. That most of our male co-workers either didn't notice or didn't care that we were being sexually aggressed against by customers. That it was noteworthy that one guy, with a little bit of privilege and a little bit of power, did care and did help us, and didn't ask or expect thanks in return. That this one guy tried his best to get out of our way afterward, so that it wouldn't be awkward, and that he seemed to sincerely want to not make these events about him or about his actions. That he would "save" us from something unpleasant without making it into a big Knight Savior fantasy for himself. That, when I think about "male allies" in the workplace, he's the guy I think of, even though I haven't seen him in years and even though the sexism he wielded his privilege against was the most Obvious Kind of sexism. That all says a lot about our culture, and about the work environments I (and many other women) move through.

I don't think this guy thought about himself as a Good Ally to women. I'm not sure, but I always got the strong sense that his only emotions about these events was disquiet about the fact that they happened with such frequency and with so many different creepy men. I think he was sad and frustrated that the world was so hateful towards women, and I think he felt a little defeated that he wasn't able to do more to help us avoid being aggressed against. After all, by the time he could come up to the register to relieve us, the damage had already been (partly) done: we'd been reminded of our status as second-class citizens, not only in the eyes of our customers but also in the eyes of most of our co-workers and management--the people we were ostensibly friends with, yet who didn't care if we were sexually aggressed against by the most obvious of creepers.

But I valued that in him most of all, that instead of making these events about how he was So Much Better Than Those Other Men, he instead seemed to think of these events with discomfort--that he couldn't do more, and that our management in specific and society in general wasn't doing more. When he saw how little help we received from other men, he didn't see himself as better--he saw society as fucked up. And, to me, that was allyship: That he used his privilege to protect me from what sexism that he could, but that he didn't pretend it was more than a teaspoon dishing out an ocean of oppression. And that he didn't think himself better for the act, but instead seemed truly concerned about how he could do more.

I've worked in dozens of jobs since then, and I can count on one hand the number of times male co-workers have leveraged power to protect me from sexism. Just today, I sat in a room where a habitual creeper creeped on me, and another asshole invited me to engage in homophobia against gay men, while yet another asshole tried to prod me into endorsing his misogynoir against Michelle Obama. And there are some nice men in my room, good guys who are happy to chat with me about rooting cell phones and the best Android OS versions and all the geekery fun you could want.

But not one of these guy-friends will lift a finger to try to change the subject when their creeper co-worker friends creep on me, even though I know they could see how uncomfortable I am, if they would care to look. I don't know why they don't look, nor why they don't make the barest minimum of effort to use their privilege to redirect the conversation. Maybe they're misogynists themselves and privately enjoy seeing others oppress me. Maybe they're unwilling to acknowledge my oppression and their relative privilege. Maybe the patriarchy is so ingrained in their thinking that they don't know how to help me. Maybe a lot of things.

But intent isn't magic. And these guys at my work?

They may be my friends, but they're not my allies.

Funny of the Day: An Update on the Problem of Maria


My favorite part:

Nuns have described Maria as “a headache,” “a demon,” and “capable of outpestering any pest.” Yet, when I put out a box to collect anonymous Maria-related complaints, many of them seemed relatively minor:

• “She climbs a tree and scrapes her knee.” We are not Franciscans, but surely we can agree that a youthful heart often expresses its love of the Almighty through delight in nature. Besides, it’s spring; it’s like the hills are alive!

• “She’s always late for everything except for every meal.” As a novice, Maria may simply be unaccustomed to the regimented life the convent demands. [...]

•“Underneath her wimple she has curlers in her hair.” Sisters, we all know that Maria sports a rather unflattering pageboy bob, with nothing resembling a curl upon her head. Whoever submitted this slander must search her soul.

Open Thread: Strike A Pose, There's Nothing To It

Hosted by a bird posing in a garden
Ever get the impression that animals are intentionally posing for us?

Oh, I'm sure there's some scientific explanation - maybe they are posing in a way, trying to make themselves look bigger and more threatening, or smaller and less threatening, or non-tasty, or anything else to make other animals less likely to attack and/or run away from them.  But that's not what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about the way that bird up there looks like he's saying "get my good side!"  Or the way my cat, as soon as he realizes people are in the room, immediately begins holding his head up in a much more picturesque fashion, lest we forget that he is magnificent.  Or how certain baby animals are so painfully cute that it seem like they must be doing it on purpose somehow!

And I imagine a world where animals are TOTALLY aware of us and how we react towards them, and where classes in posing prettily to manipulate human emotions are part of any young animal's upbringing.  This world pleases me.

Open thread!  Have any of you ever caught your pets or other animals obviously posing, or else displaying an unnervingly amount of human-savvy?  Ever been outsmarted by a cat or manipulated by a dog?  Ever looked at an animal with mingled admiration and fear and gone "You did that on purpose!"  Share in the comments!
 ~ 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! 

Picture of the Day: Relaxing

A picture of a deck extending out over the ocean, and with a hammock set into the edge of the deck and hanging over the water.

Cute of the Day: Matching Pair

A picture of a dog and cat lying together, with matching brown-and-white fur. I know Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer are both cats, but I still kinda think that needs to be the names for these two.

Cute of the Day: Snowy Puppy (Another One!)

A picture of a black and brown puppy with snow on its nose, licking the snow off of its guardian's knee.

Open Thread: Faery

Hosted by the Irish coast

A Faery Song

i{Sung by the people of Faery over Diarmuid and Grania,}
i{in their bridal sleep under a Cromlech.}

WE who are old, old and gay,
O so old!
Thousands of years, thousands of years,
If all were told:
Give to these children, new from the world,
Silence and love;
And the long dew-dropping hours of the night,
And the stars above:
Give to these children, new from the world,
Rest far from men.
Is anything better, anything better?
Tell us it then:
Us who are old, old and gay,
O so old!
Thousands of years, thousands of years,
If all were told. 

- William Butler Yeats

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

Cute of the Day: Baby Pandas!!

A picture of animal veterinarians handling multiple baby pandas in a large crib.

Narnia: Painted Princesses

[Narnia Content Note: Genocide, Religious Abuse, Chivalry, Racism, Slavery]
Content Note: Virgin/Whore dichotomy and relevant misogynistic language.]

Title Reference: Previous Twilight post here.

NB: This is a sex-work positive space. The term "whore" is used advisedly here to reference (and deconstruct) an existing trope.

Narnia Recap: In which Lucy goes into the Magician's tower to read a spell.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Chapter 10: The Magician's Book

When we last left Lucy, she was reading the Magician's book:

   Then she came to a page which was such a blaze of pictures that one hardly noticed the writing. Hardly—but she did notice the first words. They were, An infallible spell to make beautiful her that uttereth it beyond the lot of mortals.

And we're only a couple sentences in and already I have to stop and unpack things.

A really good question about this episode--which, as I pointed out way back at the beginning of things, spans a hugely significant portion of the book--is why it is even here. I definitely think it's safe to say that Lewis obviously had a big bug up his butt about female beauty and female sexuality; there's a reason why vanity is Lucy's Big Sin (despite having never been mentioned or hinted at before now) and why lipsticks and nylons (as opposed to literally anything else that could distract from Christianity) are the stated reason for Susan's pseudo-damnation.

It's also been pointed out here and elsewhere that the sexually attractive women in this series (Jadis / the White Witch + the Green Witch + Susan in THaHB) are the villains and theologically wrong people in these books and that they are punished for their "maddening tinkle of female laughter" (credit Kit Whitfield for that wonderful insight and turn of phrase). Whereas the good women in Narnia are younger, largely unsexualized, and defined in terms of their relationship to men: daughter, mother, wife. Lucy in all her incarnations is written as a boisterously boyish girl, almost as good as a man; Ramandu's Daughter literally has no name or identity beyond daughter to Ramandu, wife to Caspian, and mother to Rilian; Queen Helen is a wife and mother; etc.

Additionally, if you've been following the comments, you may have seen Fynisment's excellent insight that this passage establishes that Lucy may be a "boy-girl", but she will not be a "mannish woman": Lucy will properly crave (though not give in to, because she's a Good Girl) feminine beauty and will properly recoil from the image of her face surrounded by a false beard in the dwarf-faced mirror.

Funny of the Day: Oxford Commas

A news update with the heading, "Top stories: World leaders at Mandela tribute, Obama-Castro handshake and same-sex marriage date set..."

Open Thread: Stuffed Animals

Hosted by a stuffed hippo
I'm not ashamed to admit it: I'm a grown woman, and I like stuffed animals.

I like that they're cute.  I like that they're soft and huggable.  I like their big sad plastic eyes.

One of the hardest things about becoming a grown-up was realizing that my collection of about a million and a half stuffed animals had to be pared down to the handful that had the most sentimental value, and the rest given away.  But I still have my favorites, including Muffin, the plushie cat that was widely believed to be a good luck charm for particularly difficult calculus tests in high school.  And now we're building the collection back up, including a stuffed Sully from Monsters, Inc., a life-sized plush golden retriever, and a giant bear big enough to flop onto and take a nap!

Open thread!  What was your favorite stuffed animal or other toy as a kid?  Do you still have any of your childhood toys?  Do you have any funny stories about stuffed animals (yours or anyone else's)?  If there are kids in your life, have you ever given into the urge to buy a stuffed toy for them because you secretly want it for yourself?  (Not... that I have any experience with that impulse, I'm just asking... ahem...)
 ~ 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!  

Cute of the Day: Kitten Toner

A gray mother-kitty with her three kits lined up to nurse in descending order of color: dark gray, light gray, and white.

Metapost: Hurty

I'm...not feeling well. I feel super triple hurty and am having more trouble than usual moving around. And it's becoming increasingly harder for me to comment or email from my phone. So I'm leaving this note up for transcript volunteers and other people who email me regularly so that everyone knows I'm not ignoring you, I just can't get to my desk because of a pain flare-up.

I'm really sorry, and I hope this will pass in a few days. (It usually does, and it seems like this happens for three or four days every winter. I don't know why.)

Film Corner: The Desolation of Smaug (or Mmph, Tauriel)

[Content Note: Spoilers for the second Hobbit movie.]

Picture of Tauriel @
So I mentioned on Twitter that Husband and I had seen the second Hobbit movie over the winter break and that I hadn't really cared for Tauriel. Here are some thoughts expanding on that.

I don't really have a problem with Tauriel, to be honest. She's a competent fighter and healer and she has gusto and spunk. Her actress, Evangeline Lilly, has stated that she views Tauriel as young and impulsive, a sort of "baby elf" who follows her heart and romanticizes the world around her, etc. etc. Okay? Fine. Seriously, that's fine. Whatever.

But I am frustrated with Tauriel for what she represents within the world of film industry and within the world of fandoms which cater to (perceived) predominantly male audiences.

Cute of the Day: Cutie Kitty

A fluffy white and brown kitten with blue eyes.

Open Thread: Abbey at Sunset

Hosted by Bolton Abbey
WHAT IS THIS A MONDAY OPEN THREAD ACTUALLY BEING POSTED ON MONDAY IT CANNOT BE yeah, back to the regularly-scheduled open threads :)

Guys, I don't have anything clever or cool to say for this open thread, I just wanted to share that ridiculously gorgeous picture with y'all.  In fact, let's make that the open thread prompt, shall we?  Share some ridiculously pretty pictures!  (...please stick to SFW definitions of "pretty," thank you!)
 ~ 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! 

Cute of the Day: Snowy Puppy

A little black and white puppy with snow dust on hir nose.

Sock Puppet of the Day: Ana... or Chris?

I'm sharing this post by Chris the Cynic because it's totally delightful. The short version is that he was arguing with an anti-choice person in my timeline and I hopped in (because, you know, abortion is kinda my thing, lol) and the anti-choice person refused to engage with me (while still engaging with Chris) because I was OBVIOUSLY a sock-puppet account created to back up Chris in his arguments.

So after some back and forth, Chris and I finally "admitted" that yep, we're the same person and he was just the first person to figure it out. Our greatest mistake was having both our accounts care about abortion access for women--if we'd not done that, we would have been GOLDEN FOREVER. Live and learn! ;)

Photo of the Day: Winter in Central Park

Snow on, and under, a bridge in Central Park.

Photo of the Day: Tattoos

I love my tattoo. But I definitely get asked waaaaaaaaaaay too often how mortified will I feel when I'm old and my tattoo "doesn't look good anymore", which: (a) way to assume a lot there, buddy, (b) including the assumption that the only meaning my body-art has for me is beauty, and also (c) fuck you.

Also: This. SO AWESOME. A picture of an older lady, with white hair, looking stunning in her colorful tattoos.