Friday, October 18, 2013
I was in elementary school in the nineteen-nineties when I discovered “The Agony of Alice,” a book that occupied the anxious years and sacred shelf space between Ramona Quimby and Jane Eyre. Alice was my companion; the rasp of her crisp new jeans—bought, with the help of a Gap saleswoman, after a mortifying encounter with a boy from school when Lester takes her into the men’s changing room—was as familiar to me as Harriet the Spy’s tomato-and-mayonnaise sandwiches. For years, I imagined that my first kiss would come, like Alice’s, on a porch swing, with the taste of melted Whitman’s chocolate-covered cherries. I aged faster than she did, but, like the best characters from our childhood, Alice remained a beacon, a perpetual reference.
I loved this series; anyone else?
This is my body. I work very hard for it. I sleep every night, eat regularly, lift weights and my 43-pound child, walk a lot, jog when I can, and shower daily. This is my body. What's your excuse for not having my body?
Can you access clean water daily? You should, because you need to drink water to keep my body hydrated, and water to clean yourself every day, if you want to have my body. I also make tea in that clean water, with herbs that an accupuncturist (certified!) tells me will benefit my body and mind, so what's your excuse for not having an accupuncturist in your life? Because my body really likes that tea.
Do you have shoes that you can jog in? Orthotic inserts for maximum arch support? Athletic socks that wick moisture away from your feet? If you don't then you can't have my body, because my body has feet that require excellent support (plantar fasciitis) and are sensitive to foot fungi.
Did you have a child a couple of years ago? Was your body transformed in myriad ways by that pregnancy and birth and the nursing that came afterwards? My body was, so get to work. Go get pregnant and be delivered of a child via emergency Cesarian section and then nurse that child for at least a year and then you will have my body. READ MORE
"Just the Tips" is a new web series by Katy and Katie, two best friends who "try out all the internet's advice so you don't have to." This installment has them making "vintage Ts" out of perfectly good, new T-shirts, and ends with an important lesson: Rome was not built in a day. BRB, gonna go ruin all my shirts with a cheese grater and some sodium carbonate washing soda. (See also: the DIY Vogue spread.)
I love retrieving stray balls Kierkegaard
longed to be useful he didn’t feel all that useful in his room thinking
about Christianity and would walk the streets wanting to open doors
[voices] and I feel splendid returning balls to groups of friends or
bounded fields plus it gives me opportunity to practice kicking and throwing
though yesterday I threw a ball probably no more than ten feet and my shoulder
-Hairpin pal Jon Cotner recorded a poem while jogging through Brooklyn's Prospect Park recently, and it's up at The American Reader now, audio and all. Kierkegaard while you jog! I never. [American Reader]
[In 1991], the space shuttle Columbia launched into space a payload of 2,478 jellyfish polyps—creatures contained within flasks and bags that were filled with artificial seawater. Astronauts injected chemicals into those bags that would induce the polyps to swim freely (and, ultimately, reproduce). Over the course of the mission, the creatures proliferated: By mission's close, there were some 60,000 jellies orbiting Earth.
By mission's close, there were some 60,000 jellies orbiting Earth.
Mimi was the kind of grandma who always said the current year was her last. "72! I never thought I'd make it to 72. I won't be around for 73, but boy, it sure is great to be 72." The “boy” in that sentence isn't affectation. That’s actually how she talked. Her husband, my papa, died two days after my third Christmas. I don’t remember anything about him.
I remember her 80th birthday party at the St. Louis Club. I remember her dancing to Maria Muldaur.
I don’t remember the last words I said to her before she was admitted.
It was late October, the first day of a week-long RV tour, our second-to-the-last of the campaign. I remember what I was reading (Runaway by Alice Munro) and what I was wearing (polka dot blouse, jeans, brown boots). I remember where we were going (Festus to Ironton to Eminence to Mountain Grove to Springfield). I remember what I had for lunch (jalapeño poppers and a hush puppy).
I remember I didn't have dinner. I was at a bar with two campaign staffers, watching the Cards lose to the Giants, waiting on the third to pick us up so we could get food and possibly meet up with the fourth to drink alcoholic slushies. He texted that he was in front. I walked out alone while the stragglers paid their tab. I remember opening the door to the Ford Flex, how unsettled he looked telling me, how unfair it seemed that he was tasked with doing so.
We picked up my mom from her hotel and drove five hours, from the south to the east, on a mostly empty highway. She slept in the back. I remember wishing I hadn't drank two whiskey sodas. I remember listening to XM radio. I don’t remember what was playing. READ MORE
My question is a simple and boring one: How do I find love? And, more importantly, how to I cultivate self-esteem? I'm in my late 20's, and I tend to get into relationships with dudes that are only half interested in me, and then I badger them to death about their half-assed interest until the relationship slowly dies. What I want most, MOST, in the world is a happy family. Children that I feel joy with. A genuinely happy marriage that lasts until I kick the goddamn bucket. I grew up with very unhappy, miserable parents that immigrated to the states, and I don't even know what to look for in a partner or a relationship. I feel like if a guy is "nice," (i.e. doesn't hit me or call me names and has generally good character), then I should just quit whining and wondering about why they're not crazy about me, why they never pursue me, why they are always so goddamn tepid.
I want a big, passionate, happy, funny, fun love. I am afraid I will never find it. I think I am as likable as the next person, but I'm not sure how to make myself attractive to men. I guess I just feel ugly and unlovable, and I would like to stop. READ MORE
I am excessively creeped out by all the preponderance of "good girl" in pop music this year, so it's interesting to hear this song's lyrics flipped by the excellent NYC band ASTR, whose vocalist is female: I'm a good girl and you know it/ You act so different around me. This cover's terrific, anyway, and ASTR is really good live; if you dig this, check out the ultra-slinky single "Operate" and their Santigold-esque "Razor" from last year.
Here's a neat little chart showing what the Republicans demanded out of all of this, and what they finally got; here's a great piece at Wired about what the shutdown did to the Centers for Disease Control (the least or maybe most horrifying thing is the 16 million unread emails); here's President Obama's speech, and details about re-openings (Panda Cam not back yet, but should be up by later today).
At RawStory, some really interesting research:
Ambivalent Sexism Theory holds that stereotypes about women come in two main forms: a hostile version and a benevolent version. Hostile sexism is overtly negative and includes beliefs such as women being intellectually inferior to men. This form of sexism is easy to identify, and is typically known as misogyny.
Benevolent sexism, on the other hand, is more subtle. It appears to be positive toward women but implicitly suggests that members of “the fairer sex” are dependent on men.... Kathleen Connelly of the University of Florida has summarized benevolent sexism as the belief that “women are wonderful, but weak.”
Researchers at the University of Auckland designed a study for 4,400 participants, testing "whether or not benevolent sexism is attractive to women because of its promises of benefits to individual women (under the conditions of being cared for and provided for by a man within an intimate relationship)."
The researchers found a sense of entitlement in women was associated with stronger endorsement of benevolent sexism. Women who believed they deserved more out of life were more likely to endorse benevolent sexist beliefs and adherence to these beliefs increased over time. The association between a sense of entitlement in men and endorsement of benevolent sexism was weak, in contrast, and did not increase over time.
“It tells us that one factor underlying women’s endorsement of sexist attitudes toward women is the propensity to feel more deserving than others and wanting to feel special,” [Hammond] explained. “This also gives us insight into showing how benevolent sexism is subjectively positive but is not actually a ‘pro-social’ set of attitudes.”
Brian is a 29-year-old clergyman at the Summerland Grove Pagan Church, in Memphis, TN. This is the first in a series of interviews with people who are professionally religious.
What's your faith background and how did your belief system develop?
I discovered paganism when I was 13 years old, watching a Discovery Channel show called Weird Religions. Being a teenager, I was drawn to Wicca and magic and polytheism, and I’d been reading mythology for 5 or 6 years at that point; it was fascinating to see that people were practicing these ancient religions today.
Before that, I hadn’t been raised particularly religious. But my parents considered themselves nominally Christian, and they were wary of me getting into witchcraft. They weren't familiar with it, they didn't know anything about it. But, once I was 18, I came out and said, “Look, I'm pagan, there's nothing you can do about it.”
Did you grow up in Tennessee?
Yes. Memphis. Never really lived anywhere else.
What happened after you told your family you were pagan?
I was able to branch out and start discovering more about it. I had a job so I could afford books on the subject, and I also found my church. Summerland Grove was the only organization around Memphis at the time that catered to seekers of any age. And, I'm not Wiccan—my specific path is called Ásatrú—but at the time, I did consider myself Wiccan, and I wasn’t quite sure I was interested in a coven, but I knew I wanted to meet people who were like-minded. I basically came to the church to learn more about paganism.
I knew that I could never believe the idea that shows up in most religions—the idea that all other religions are wrong. I've always had a feeling that there wasn't just some big father figure up in the sky looking down and saying, “Don’t screw up, or else.”
So many religions default to male leadership, and I'd assume paganism would be one of the few exceptions: is that the case, in your experience?
Summerland Grove does its best to be gender-blind, and there are some aspects in which we may fail at that, but by and large I think we do a good job. Two of our founders were female, we’ve had transgender members, and also—as you noted—we don’t work in a traditional paradigm. The dominant figure in the hierarchy of Wicca tends to be a high priestess. But then you do get exceptions, like the groups of all-male Wiccans, who tend to be mostly homosexual. READ MORE
At the New Yorker, a piece by Brad Leithauser on "unusable" words:
I don’t know how many auto-antonyms English offers, but the list includes “cleave” (unify or sever—the butcher’s wife cleaves to the butcher, who cleaves the cow’s carcass), “overlook” (oversee or fail to notice), “let” (allow or, as in the legal phrase “let or hindrance,” obstruct), “enjoin” (encourage or prohibit), and “sanction,” as in any sanctioned imports are either approved goods or contraband. A lengthy, but not exhaustive, list of auto-antonyms can be found on Wikipedia. (There’s a special appealing subclass of auto-antonyms that exists only when spoken, as in raze/raise a building or—if muddily enunciated—prescribed/proscribed drugs. Something similar arises in Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “Crusoe in England,” with its pun on Mount Despair/Mont d’espoir.)
He goes on about words that are problematic* for different reasons, like "awesome" and "totally," "artisanal" and "niggardly," and my favorite, the "Hit It First" category:
Occasionally, a word becomes unusable because some writer wholly appropriates it, embedding it into a jeweler’s setting of such brilliance that any subsequent use seems both allusion and dilution. It’s hard to imagine any writer effectively taking up the verb “incarnadine” after Macbeth’s “The multitudinous seas incarnadine.” Shakespeare owns the word. Robert Frost felt much the same way about Keats and “alien.” The depiction of Ruth in “Ode to a Nightingale” (“She stood in tears amid the alien corn”) put such a memorable, unexpected—indeed, alien—spin upon “alien” that succeeding poets risk sounding plagiaristic when employing it.
What other words do you find unusable? I have forbidden myself from using the word "suddenly" when I write fiction; my blacklist in the freshman writing class I'm teaching includes "basically," "somewhat," "definitely."
*Usage of this word as highly problematic as artisanal Domino's