30 December, 2007

They're in Our Schools--Everybody PANIC!

The only thing that bothers me more than a crappily-written news item focusing on a person with a disability is when the comments to said news item are so full of vitriol and outright hatred.

A quick sampling of some of the reader responses--unfortunately, copied verbatim from the website, errors and all:

God bless this family.... reminds me that any of my struggles are really nothing in the scheme of things!


Just why are they shipping her off to school? I'd want to spend the final time with her. They risk not being there when she dies, and having the poor childs last moments be in a school nurses office. I sympathize with the parents, but disagree with their actions of shipping the kid off to school!!

How dare the SELFISH parents send this child to school KNOWING full well she is putting the school staff, classmates and the entire school in a position of standing idly by and watching a child die without providing any help. This can traumatize the entire school body in the event she dies there. How dare the parents subject the other children, teachers, staff and people at the school to this form of child abuse. The parents need to keep the child AT HOME instead of subjecting others to their SELFISH intents.

So why are they sending this child to school? I don't get it! I'm sure their lives are painful, but what is the point of sending a child that is this handicapped to school, risking that her classmates, teachers, and staff may have to stand around and watch her die. If they want her to have human contact, there are other ways. One of my sister's classmates died in the classroom on the first day of school. 30 years later, it still bothers her. Think of the other children and how this affects them.

If the parents truly cared about children they would keep her at home and keep this as a private family matter instead of making it a public issue and forcing the public school system into fulfilling their barbaric desires at the expense of other children.

There are commenters who are actually tactful and have some knowledge about the issues brought up in the article, but the majority do not.

Speaking as a disabled individual with mild cerebral palsy as one of the things with which I share my body, the reactions on the Tribune website are just more proof that if you think you know about what life with a disability is like, or about people with disabilities, or about the decisions that the families of disabled individuals sometimes must make, even though you do not have a disability yourself, it's more than likely that you have no goddamn idea what you're talking about. (Particularly over the internet, but that's a whole other post!)

Education is a RIGHT in this country. Everyone, no matter what sort of medical issues they may be dealing with, has a right to public education. Perhaps the parents of this child cannot afford in-home care, private tutoring, or other luxuries. Maybe the parents don't want to keep their child isolated from other children--certainly, she *may* die while at school, but what about maintaining some semblance of a life that is not full of doctors, hospitals, and specialists? If young Katie enjoys school, there is no reason that she should not be there--even if it is at the "expense" of the other children.

I'm so tired of hearing about how the mere PRESENCE of disabled individuals--especially children--affects other, presumably "normal" individuals. I heard this reasoning throughout my childhood (in much cruder language, of course; and my CP-afflicted, limping left foot, in addition to my quietness, was often the cause of much commentary from fellow students), and that caused more "damage" than most "normal" people seem to be aware of. My experiences don't bring up as many outright political/right-to-life issues as those of Katie and her family, but the sanctimonious, handwringing over the "well-being" of the other kids, Helen Lovejoy (of "Won't someone PLEASE think of the children!?!" fame) crap makes me incredibly angry, especially as a disabled person who has faced the ignorant attitudes of people who are not disabled.

Newsflash, folks: We exist, and we have as much right to be on this planet (and in your schools) as you do.

BrownFemiPower, CripChick, and BintAlshamsa have some more perspective on all of this, unlike a fair number of the commenters on the Tribune piece.

29 December, 2007

A Ridiculous Situation

Alanis Morissette, who is one of my favorite musicians, will be touring the U.S. this spring. One stop is in the Bay Area, which is rather close to where I live, on March 12th, which is my birthday.

However, on said tour, she is opening for Matchbox 20, which I consider to be one of the worst musical groups of all time. I cannot stand them. I believe they are dull, wholly uninspiring, and somewhat irritating. Hearing the opening chords of any of their songs makes me want to do two things in a very specific order: Cry, and then punch out my eardrums with the nearest sharp object that will fit into the human ear canal. I know some would say the same about Alanis, but at least she didn't record that annoying song with Santana (the one that has been overplayed about 100 million times since its release. In fact, I heard it yesterday while I was out to lunch, and all I could think was, "God, this song makes me livid, simply because it is so bad").

This makes me absolutely bummed. I really don't want to pay through the nose just to see her opening set, but she's quite a performer, and I've never been disappointed by her shows in the past. Does my unwillingness to throw down money for this make any sense? Has anyone else been in a similar situation?

28 December, 2007

Quick Thoughts on the S.F. Zoo Tiger Mauling

After reading initial reports on the recent San Francisco Zoo tiger mauling that killed one 17 year-old and caused the two other boys that were with him to be injured, I have to wonder: Where does personal responsibility fit into a situation like this?

Certainly, the zoo is responsible for the tiger's enclosure not being quite up to the height standards set by whatever organization sets said standards, but there is something to be said for common (human) sense on the part of visitors to the Zoo. Just because an animal is enclosed does not mean that it lacks the capacity to react to human stupidity.

I'm aware of the old "don't speak ill of the dead" chestnut, but it seems to me that the young men who were injured by this animal should have known better--that taunting a potentially dangerous animal (even if it is enclosed) by throwing sticks and pine cones at it is, at best, completely stupid and perhaps cruel, and at worst, fatal. Additionally, I'm no PETA militant, but how many of us had it implanted into our skulls from an early age that being mean to animals (or other "helpless") creatures is not okay? I can only hope that most of us learned such a lesson early, but perhaps the young men variously killed and injured during the tiger attack were not so lucky. The tiger was simply responding with its natural instinct--which was, presumably, to fight back when confronted.

Here is an interesting article from Newsweek on tiger behavior, in case anyone is interested in that sort of thing.

09 December, 2007


Stuff that you should read, from around the blogosphere:

--At Feline Formal Shorts, Magniloquence has a fantastic post about continued "escalation," and the continued excusing of racially-motivated incidents as "just jokes."

--Rio reminds us of the harsh realities of foodphobia.

--Rachel of The F Word has an amazing post on the importance of perspective.

--Lauredhel of Hoyden About Town has a very informative (and somewhat terrifying) post on Livejournal's changing ownership yet again.

--Hugo posts on systemic exploitation, in the forms of sex workers' bodies and farm workers' bodies.

--Lindsay considers this year's "THERE'S A WAR ON CHRISTMAS!!11"-esque holiday freakout, which is: Is overweight, cookie-crunching Santa a bad role model for children?

--vesta44 has an incredible post on fashion, femininity, and the matter of "artificiality".

Read 'em.

03 December, 2007

Today in Useless Blog Posts Written by AnnaHam

Does anyone else think that this picture of Pat Robertson is rather, well, Applewhite-esque?


This post has been brought to you by Shakes, and also the fact that I'm about to work on my thesis, which is ALL ABOUT HEAVEN'S GATE.

Y'all find this so interesting, I know. The good news is that Robertson is retiring! The bad news is that this post was more than a bit pointless.

01 December, 2007

The Perils of Being "Stuck" When it Comes to Blogging

I have decided to confess something. I'm posting this with some trepidation--after all, what person enjoys admitting their flaws and/or weaknesses?

I am stuck.

Specifically, I am stuck on what to blog about, and, to a larger extent, what to write about. There are a lot of things that piss me off, that anger me, that make me want to punch those responsible square in the face, but this is not the "What Pisses AnnaHam Off" blog. I could also take the opposite approach and blog about things that I am grateful for, or things that I love to do, but this isn't the "Happy Fun Glurgy Oprah-esque Reflection Time With AnnaHam" blog. Ideally, I would balance the two, but the fact is that [3-4, at most] people read this blog regularly, and in a way, I am still working out my "identity" as a blogger. Oftentimes, I find myself questioning whether or not I actually have the wherewithall or level of awesome-ness to blog at all. Is what I have to say interesting? Does it make people think, or question assumptions that they may have had before reading my posts? Do some who felt misunderstood, marginalized, or alone before feel at least a modicum better after reading something that I have written? I would hope that the answer to all of these questions is somewhat in the affirmative, but despite the mostly positive feedback that I do get, there will always be a wee voice in the back of my mind that constantly screeches NO!

This feeling is extending out into my academic life as well. I have no doubt that I'll be able to come out of being "stuck" with my academic work soon enough, as it is nearing the end of the term, and I almost always go through a phase where being stuck is part of the territory. I've been through it before, I know it's not the most fun thing to go through, and I know I will get through it, but, like any non-fatal human trial, it is hard to realize that you will survive--that you will get out of it--when you're mired in the thick, peanut-buttery consistence of it all. If I had to pick out one "positive" lesson that dealing with ongoing health problems--fibromyalgia and severe depression, specifically--has enlightened me to, it would be just that: I know I'll get through the worst of it, goddammit, but I sure as hell can't see that right now! [Sidenote: This also happens to be the only positive thing about my experiences with chronic health conditions, LOLZ.]

So, my question for EVERYONE who is reading this right now: How do YOU go about getting "unstuck," whether in your writing/blogging life, or in your personal life?

Also, it's World AIDS Day today. Just thought I should point that out.

27 November, 2007

And Yet, There Are People Who Find This Sort of Thing Amusing

Dear Persons Who Designed, Manufactured and/or Thought of This Product,

Thank you so much for making me lose just a bit more of my faith in humanity.


A Female

09 November, 2007

Never Again Will the Phrase "I Have Nothing to Blog About" Leave My Lips

So, I've been mulling over this for a few days, and I still don't quite know what to think:

It's Tori Amos, live in Chicago at the Vic Theater, performing her song "Me and a Gun." Usually, this song is performed a capella. It is also about sexual assault, and I, along with many fans, consider it to be one of her most powerful compositions. You can take a look at the lyrics here.

The Chicago performance of the song (which had Tori "in character" as one of the members of the Doll Posse, Pip) has angered, confused and divided many of her fans (at least around the internet--where music nerds come to express their opinions and useless knowledge, declare their love for their favorite artists, and start flame wars with each other over whose opinion is correct or incorrect). This is mostly because the song was performed with musical accompaniment, and had Tori, in character, using props--a knife, which she rubbed on herself at different intervals, and a gun, which she pointed to her head and then towards the audience at the end of the song.

Now, let's take a look at some fan reactions from a popular Tori fansite:

after the show, particularly after pip’s set, i felt completely castrated, as a man. the fact that she wore the album cover black tight leather pants was one thing. that she bent over backwards to the audience for an extended amount of time was another. but people, then she played “me and a gun”... with a band. and pulled out a knife. and kept rubbing it all over herself. and then brought out a gun. and pointed it at the audience.

Would anyone like to take a stab (no pun intended!) at deconstructing or commenting upon the bizarre psychoanalytic content or subtext of the above passage?

I didn't think so.

Next, we have a comment from "Jason":

Pip slithered out bad-ass and went into the most intense and aggravated version of Cruel I have ever seen. I first I (sic) thought this was good fun, like the rest of the dolls, but then when she started yelling “you can fuck me, but I’ll rip your cock off,” I knew this was for real. She made me feel really uncomfortable, but there was something exhilarating about it. I had this image of her swinging my dick in her hand laughing, and I was kinda scared.

Dude, do you really want the entire internet to know that? I seriously do not understand the castration anxiety here.

This comment, written by "Sarah," didn't make me roll my eyes like the first two did:

The crowd reaction is telling of how very uncomfortable Rape makes our society. The laughs, often interpreted as a sign of anxiety/discomfort by those working with trauma survivors, from people in the audience only backs up the assertion that MAAG (performed in this way) is very effective and disturbing. Tori made her point, and I have never seen performance art effect an audience in such a visceral way. The very literal, sexual, angry way she chose to portray the act of rape and residual effect startled me. The image of knife as penis and stabbing penetration was so shocking that I first felt assaulted/insulted. The gun and the sense of rage turned on herself and then the audience. Channeling rage into performance art.

Here's a comment from "Noah," who, thankfully, does not bring up castration anxieties/fantasies like a few of those who commented before him:

Me and a Gun recontextualized as Pip killing the rapist was so freaking brilliant; I think what people were freaked out about was the performance had not a hint of irony behind it. She was in the moment and fully committed to the character. It was a brilliant and weird moment of pop/performance art that I’m so honored to have seen live.

Perhaps this performance was meant as a commentary on the eroticization of domination and pain--something that particular media forms in our culture (ie: mainstream pornography) seem to be, for the most part, predicated upon. With that in mind (and I'm just guessing, so my interpretation may be totally false), I do not understand the audience's screaming and catcalling and wooohooo-ing. As "Sarah" commented, maybe they didn't know how to react. In my view, that is a problem.

27 October, 2007


I know I haven't posted for more than a month. I have to think about what to post.

Until then, enjoy Mattilda's amazing post on "feminism and faggotry."

Words cannot describe how much I love Mattilda's blog, seriously.

18 September, 2007

It *IS* That Serious: Notes on a Fibro Attack

Note: This is my first post since one of my dogs, Frank, died last week, so if I seem less articulate (or possibly angrier) than usual, that is why. RIP, Frank.

Right now, I am weighing the pros and cons of a.) going back to bed; or, b.) attempting to take a bath, which may make me more exhausted than I already am, though it may also bring a few minutes of relief from physical pain.

Most people do not have to make this sort of choice. Some, when confronted with the fact that a friend, or acquaintance, or relative has an "invisible" disease or disability, may think or say something to the effect of, "Oh, it can't be *that* serious. All she/he has to do is get out of bed/think positively/lose weight/stop consuming dairy products/et cetera." To someone who has never experienced having a chronic health condition, it sometimes doesn't look that bad. The average person may think, Well, if I had that, I would do x, y and z differently, and then I would get better. Why Jane or John isn't doing x, y or z is beyond me! The average person may think they know the key to "getting better."

What I am about to say is harsh, but, as noted scholar Robert Jensen says, the truth can be very painful.

If you think you know how to "beat" chronic illness and you do not have a chronic illness or medical training in the field, you do not know shit.

I had great plans for today. I was planning to wake up early, take my little Yorkshire Terrier for a nice long walk so that he could spread individual droplets of pee on as many trees as possible, and then I would spend the rest of the day writing, but only one of those things happened. I took Winston on an abridged walk and then returned to my apartment, exhausted.

I then slept for most of the day. This was not what I had planned. I was feeling bad yesterday--fatigue and back spasms--so I had a bit of warning, but I was completely unprepared for the backache-that-somehow-got-worse-and-turned-into-a-sinus-headache extravaganza. Some of the time, I have "warning" signs that come before an attack: intense joint and muscle pain, fatigue that affects nearly everything I do, pain in odd places such as my temples, foot arches, or heels. Some of the time, I do not have these signs and, as a result, am promptly knocked upon my startled ass for yet another round.

So today, here is where I am: I cannot finish anything--be it a cartoon drawing about having an attack, lunch, or making an iTunes playlist. Indeed, writing this post has taken over an hour and a half (I can usually crank one out in less than 45 minutes). My head feels like it's been stuffed with that material used to make copper dish-scrubbing sponges, and Sudafed has yet to make a pill with codeine in it, so I'm stuck. My feet are both sore and restless, and I don't know whether I should soak them to get rid of the first symptom, or dance around like a maniac to get rid of the second.

To employ additional metaphor at this point in order to describe the fatigue, hand, arm and back pain would be a good strategy, but how does one describe incredible pain?

I suppose, then, that it would be best to draw a comparison by invoking one of the great classics of modern film, and that film is Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The final twenty or so minutes of that film are what I think of whenever I say the words "Fibro attack." In the film, the astronaut, Bowman, travels across time and space, where, finally, he witnesses his own process of aging and eventual death. Though the final frames of the film (where he is reborn) seem full of hope, there are certain words that come to my mind when I think of this sequence. Alienation. Loneliness. Bowman is literally trapped--he must go through the process of wandering time and space alone, until he witnesses his own pain and decay. Someone who has a chronic illness must go through something similar; while we may not transcend the boundaries and rules of space and time, illness is a solitary thing. Unless you have a parasitic twin attached, it is unlikely that anyone will be able to intimately know what your experience is like--both in the physical and emotional sense.

That is precisely what can be so frustrating about illness: it is solitary, it is painful, and there is no polite way to explain to well-meaning, non-ill people that it really can be that serious.

11 September, 2007

The Dreaded Co-Mingling of LJ and This Blog


And if you feel the need to apologize for your not-that-clever post title in order to save your own ass, chances are that you perhaps shouldn't title your post "Listen up lardbutts" (sic).

I thought part of the purpose of higher education was to help people develop critical thinking skills so that they could, in addition to other things, question their own assumptions [including all those assumptions about fat people!], but maybe not. Also: Fat March is not exactly representative of the health state of, like, every single fat person in America [and yes, I have watched the show].

The afforementioned post demonstrates exactly why I agree with Kate Harding when she points out that "shaming teh fatties for being “unhealthy” doesn’t fucking help" [source]. That is what this person, though they may have good intentions, is doing in the afforementioned Livejournal post.

Don't Forget: We Still Haven't Found Osama!

Here is a list of 9/11-related things that I would prefer to never see again:

--People insisting that 9/11 affected all Americans "equally"
--Miniature American flags being waved by "patriotic" Americans
--Right-wingers politicizing 9/11, while accusing the left of doing the same
--Any speech that contains the phrase, "September 11th was a day that united us all as Americans..."
--George W. Bush grandstanding and pulling yet another rationale out of his ass for why we need to remain in Iraq
--Loose Change or whatever that damn conspiracy theory documentary was called
--9/11-related t-shirts, commemorative plates, or tattoos. Because wearing a "patriotic reminder" of a national tragedy and/or displaying such a thing in your home or on your skin is fucking tacky, especially if you're from some podunk town somewhere and did not lose a friend or family member on 9/11, and is pretty insulting to, y'know, people who actually lost someone or were actually there.

26 August, 2007

More Recommended Reading!

Magniloquence at Feline Formal Shorts has a fantastic series of posts entitled Race Relations 101. Go read 'em, seriously, especially if you, like myself, fall under the "somewhat clueless white person" category**.

**NOT reverse racism. I don't even want to hear that shit, so any comments that accuse me of being racist or whatever will be deleted, or posted here and mercilessly mocked.

16 August, 2007

Compulsory Sexxayness, Plus Recommended Reading

Oh my God, clothing post. Run for the mountains, y'all. This is a response, of sorts, to The Rotund's post on showing off one's shape and the cultural pressure to do so.

I was out shopping with my mom the other day--normally, shopping is something I detest, unless I am in the right mood. For reasons unknown, on this particular day, I was in a shopping mood. My mom spotted this dress (in burgundy), and suggested that I try it on, and at first, I protested heartily: "This is one of those dresses that's designed to make thin gals look heavier! It's going to look horrible on me. It's bag-like."

And lo, bag-like it was. But it was also incredibly, strangely comfortable. My fear, though, was that it didn't "show off" my "assets" enough. This is horrendous reasoning, for I have no imperative to "look sexy" by automatically discounting baggy dresses once and for all. My stupid fear of having people see me clomping around in this dress--complete with my unshaven legs and awesome orthopedic shoes--nearly stopped me from actually buying it.Try as I might to be a super-feminist 110% of the time, part of me still feels obligated to try to look "sexy". Part of me is afraid of "public" scrutiny, because although I am not a celebrity, some particularly dense people in this world still feel like it is their job to comment on the appearances of others if it does not please them. While I feel mildly embarassed at having such an odd paranoia, I feel that my fear may not be so uncommon after all among certain segments of the U.S. population.

The public scrutinizing of the outward appearance(s) of traditionally maligned/marginalized groups is nothing new--people of color, fat people, women, those in the queer community, and the disabled are probably all familiar, on some level, with public scrutiny of the way they look. For the most part, Western beauty "standards" are something that all of us are expected (implicity or explicitly--it's different for everyone, of course) to measure up to. It's rather simplistic to blame all of this on a monolithic "media," when, in fact, these standards are built and maintained by several different webs and various knots of culture, social expectations, prejudices, external and internal(ized) messages, and other things for which I currently cannot find the words.

I personally believe that beauty and appearance standards in the United States function as a Panopticon-esque set of expectations, values, behaviors and messages--that is, no one has to police us when we do the work for them. Women's magazines, for example, are by and large crammed with "helpful" tips on how to look sexy in bed, or get sexy hair in just 15 minutes, or a myriad of other instructions on how to let your inner sex(y) goddess come out. Women, it seems, function as just that: sexy things. Looking sexy is important. You cannot look sexy in ways that are not prescribed for you by magazine editors, fashion critics, or other "helpful" allies in culture. If you are not sexy, you must subscribe to a strict regimen of trying to look like you are. Wearing tight clothes (except if you're fat) that "show off your assets" is an important step to take. Hating yourself is also a key part of this process (ie: "I wish I could be sexy! I hate the way I look"). Because, you see, if we devote enough time to hating ourselves and comparing ourselves to various ambassadors of teh sexxay, we'll be too busy doing that to make any actual changes to the very culture that promotes self-hatred, narcissistic focus on appearance, and consumerism.

Why is "looking sexy" an imperative? Here's the thing: I am not against people looking sexy if it makes them feel good about themselves. I am saying that sexiness, or trying to fit into the restrictive mold of what is considered sexy, should not be a "must." My wardrobe is full of t-shirts, full-length skirts, and loose jeans. I do not wear high heels due to my problem feet. Are my t-shirts, jeans and orthopedic shoes "sexy"? Not according to, say, the editor of Elle magazine. Do I feel good when I wear these things? Yes. Quite frequently, I see young women who spend a great deal of time and energy trying to look sexy--lots of makeup, short-shorts paired with high heels and tube tops, UGG boots and minidresses in the dead of winter. Problem: 99% of the time, they do not look sexy--instead, they look merely uncomfortable. In my worst moments, I think about trying to emulate these uncomfortable fashion trends, but usually, my common sense wins in the end. Would emulating such a look make me feel better about myself? Hell no--it would probably make me feel like I'm in drag.

Besides constantly reminding myself that I have no imperative to hate myself for not "showing it off," I'm going to fight these feelings by stomping around and owning my sometimes bizarre fashion choices--burgundy sack dress included!

Recommended Reading 'Round the Blogosphere:

--Rio's Open Letter to FFP (Formerly Fat People)
--Twisty writes the only post about the iPhone worth reading, frankly
--Hugo's awesome takedown of some crazy tacky dude's contribution to the burgeoning field of re-starting the "war between the sexes"(which is totally fake, just like the goddamn War on Christmas)
--Sexist double standards, get your aggravating, sexist double standards here!

14 August, 2007

Signs of Fat Hatred, Part 4,062

While walking through Inexpensive MegaHuge Chain Store a few days ago, I spotted a variation of the following t-shirt:
Quick, see if you can list all of the assumptions that this otherwise okay (and lavender-y) shirt brings up!

Just having to look at it again makes me uneasy.

31 July, 2007

Invisible Illness Bingo!

ETA: New version is here.

Inspired by the now-classic Fat Hate Bingo and Anti-Feminist Bingo cards, I give you the Invisible Illness Bingo Card! All of these are things that have been said to me or people I know IRL. I know the design isn't too high-tech, but I'll save the super-fancy Photoshopped version for the next incarnation. Click to see a bigger version.

Also, I am now taking suggestions for Version 2, because there's more truly stunning vitriol and misguided "good intentions" out there, waiting to be assigned places upon an online bingo card. Leave suggestions and feedback in the comments, please.

25 July, 2007

"You're Just Not Trying Hard Enough": Notes on Disability and the Size-Acceptance Movement

Over the past week or so, I've been reading a ton (no pun intended) of posts on various blogs that are part of the size-acceptance movement. While I'm probably not what anyone could call "fat" [for the record, I'm 5'2 and weigh 142 pounds], something about these blogs has resonated with me personally. In recent months, I have done quite a bit of research on disability and its cultural meanings, and I can't help but notice the scary similarities of our culture's treatment of fat people and disabled people. An old post of Steve's, in particular, inspired this, so if you're going to blame anyone, blame him!

Before I go into this any further, I should bring y'all up to speed: I have a disability. Two, actually, if you count the cerebral palsy I was born with (the result of a premature birth), and the fibromyalgia that rather spontaneously developed last year. [Three if you count my experiences with major depressive disorder, but for this post, I'm going to focus on the physical.] Cerebral palsy and fibromyalgia can both affect an individual neurologically, and can vary from mild to very severe. I am fortunate in that my CP is mild; I can walk, albeit with a bit of a limp, and the muscles on the left side of my body "spaz out" on occassion and are a bit weaker than those on the right. In sum, I have an unequal body. Doing things with my left hand--the non-dexterous one--is difficult, possibly more so than most people think. Most of the time, I can manage just fine with my right, but the reality is that that the two will never be entirely equal. The fibro, of course, adds a great amount of pain and fatigue to my unequalized body, and I must say that it has been harder to deal with than the CP. While I sometimes get stares and occassional comments from random strangers asking about my limp, the fibro makes it worse, as it is difficult for me to even walk some days. I thought the stares from the CP-caused limp were bad--until the first day I walked with intense joint and muscular pain caused by the fibro, which made me move like a wingless stork on 'roids and attracted stares so intense that, by the end of the day, I collapsed onto my couch, feeling like someone had given me a colon-cleanse for my emotional state. Ouch.

In our culture, there is a certain standard of the white, heterosexual, not fat, able-bodied, attractive and preferably male subject. The fat person and the disabled person both buck this norm, often to the point of it being noticeable. For some reason, "normal"-bodied people love to stare and perhaps point it out, if they are feeling especially saucy. And yet, most people say they'd "never" stare at make fun of a person with a disability, or call them out. Our cultural conception of "disabled" exists as: a.) Someone in a wheelchair; or, b.) Someone who is blind and/or has a seeing-eye-dog. Hilariously, it seems to me that it is still acceptable to stare at people like myself, who "walk funny," or to ask why I walk funny.

It is still culturally acceptable, even encouraged, to make fun of "fatties." I have heard people say, "Wow, look at that fatass!" upon seeing a fat person cross the street, or stare and giggle at a fat person who is ordering a cheeseburger at a restaurant. And, though I am ashamed of it, I have never said anything or thought of saying anything until now. I am too familiar with hearing people try to hold in their laughter as I have stumbled around with my weak foot and aching body. I am too familar with people asking, "What's wrong with your foot [or feet]?", perhaps out of good intentions--nonetheless, one can be well-intentioned but entirely misguided. I know that if I were fat, it would be much, much worse.

Then there is the uniquely American trope of "You're just not trying hard enough." Feminist theorist and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome-r Susan Wendell explains:

[T]he idea that the mind is controlling the body is employed even when physical causes of a patient’s symptoms are identified clearly…The thought that ‘she could be cured if only she wanted to get well’ is comforting…to those who feel the need to assign a cause and cannot find another, and to those who want to believe that they will avoid a similar disaster because they have healthier, or at least different, psyches. (The Rejected Body, 100)

She's talking about illness and disability here, but I think it applies to fat hatred as well. We've all heard it: If she could stop eating, she wouldn't be so fat. If only she'd diet, she'd look so much better. If only she'd lose the weight, her health problems would go away! If you're fat and don't lose the weight, you're just not trying hard enough. If you're ill and can't get better, you're just not trying hard enough. You must be getting something out of it if you're still fat/disabled/ill. This person got better, and so can you! [Don't believe me when I say that these sorts of comments are made? Here's proof.]

The message that we cripples and fatties get, overwhelmingly, is: Your chub/limp/whatever offends those of us who are normal. It disgusts us, so you'd better make up for it by hating yourself, saying, "Yes, I am too fat; I wish I could be thin," or "Yes, I hate having a disabled, non-normative body; I wish I could be like everyone else."

I propose the following: We STOP buying into this load of bull, starting today. We realize that whether you are rich, poor, fat, thin, able, unable, of color, female, male, neither, both, gay, straight, trans, in between, none of the above--judging based on outside appearances is a shitty thing to do. Give everyone who's ever stared or made rude comments the finger by refusing to go along with what they want to put you through. Stare back.

Other people to blame for this post include Rio, Kate and The Rotund. Thanks, ladies.

23 July, 2007

Dumbing it Down With HilDu

Hilary Duff would like you to know that she is not a feminist, no siree!

I'm not, like, a crazy feminist. I think women definitely need men. Like, I couldn't imagine having a girlfriend!

KIDS THESE DAYS. How many times do we have to tell 'em that "feminist" does not equal "man-hating-lesbian?" Also, I didn't know that having a girlfriend is a requirement for being a feminist now. How quickly the rules change!

If you are feeling particularly masochistic, go read the whole thing.

21 July, 2007

Saturday Doggie Blogging

Really, this is just an excuse for me to post a picture of Winston, one of my Yorkshire Terriers:

15 July, 2007

In Which I Defend My Near-Irrational Hatred of Musicals

In recent weeks, a number of people have asked me whether or not I'll be seeing the remake of John Waters's classic Hairspray. My short answer is "No." Since I am both long-winded and somewhat self-important, the post that follows is, for all purposes, the long answer.

Normally, I detest remakes, but there is one film genre that I detest even more, and that is the Musical. I love John Waters like my dogs love day-old scraps of meat from Whole Foods--which is to say, a hell of a lot. The original Hairspray, which I consider to be one of the best moviefilms ever made, was/is not a musical. I understand that the remake is based upon the Broadway musical version of the film, however, one question remains: Why would you produce a remake of a musical instead of a remake of the film upon which it was based--when the film was, well, way better?

Additionally, why on Earth would you cast John Travolta, who is arguably one of the least talented actors to ever leave his horrendous marks upon the world of modern film, in a major supporting role, especially when the original performance cannot, in any estimation, be topped? Travolta's utter idiocy surrounding his role has been covered in more detail by various bloggers, so I won't go over that.

Anyway, I hate musicals**. I hate musicals because they are sunny. I hate them because the main characters are almost always young, good-looking, able-bodied, and always in pursuit of the Guy, Girl, the American Dream, or what have you--whatever they pursue, it is supposed to be Something That We Can All Relate To. I hate musicals because in the world of musicals, it is somehow "realistic" for characters to break into song and/or unbearably cheesy dance numbers. There are certain components of musicals for which I reserve the most scorn. In list form, these are:

* The Opening Song in Which All Major Characters and Conflicts Are Established
* The Song in Which the Protagonist Bemoans His/Her Lot in Life
* The Song in Which the Supporting Character Does the Exact Same Thing
* Song Wherein the Protagonist Falls in TWU LUV
* Song Sung by Antagonist
* Instrumental Dance Number or Dream Sequence
* Action Sequence in Which the Protagonist and True Love Sing to Each Other, Whilst One is in Great Peril
* Song in Which the Protagonist and True Love Declare Their, Well...Love
* Reprise!
* Giant Ending Song

Yeah, just like in real life! Turning Hairspray into a musical pretty much neuters the original message of the film, which was that "different" people are often more interesting than those who are constantly trying to live up to society's various ideals. How the hell do you put that into a musical? You don't.

My ideal musical would be offensive, slightly disturbing, very, very dark, and only include musical numbers in, say, dream sequences. The score would be co-written by Diamanda Galas and Laurie Anderson, with lyrics by Tori Amos and Jarvis Cocker. Also, Willem Dafoe would have to appear in it at some point, preferably in a singing role. Icelandic music video director Floria Sigismondi, I'm sure, could potentially make a fabulous set designer.

Anyone want to volunteer any story ideas for an offensive, dark musical? Thus far, I'm calling it AnnaHam Presents: The Darkest Musical Of All Time.

**Except for Dancer in the Dark, because it's one thing most musicals are not: DARK. Also, Bjork is in it.

06 July, 2007

OH MY GOD...I forgot that I have a blog.

I know that everyone is probably clammoring to know why I've been MIA for more than a month. The simplest and most truthful explanation is that blogging, like many other things that I don't engage in regularly (including watching reruns of Project Runway, eating French fries once every few months, and indulging in rounds of noisy Scrabble with my crew), tends to get lost in the shuffle of daily life. Shameful, I know.

While indulging in one of my rather infreqent lazyfests last night (which involves sitting in front of a television equipped with cable and watching whatever catches my interest--this can be anything from TMI-filled documentaries about gastric bypass surgery to American Chopper), I caught, quite by accident, an interesting half-hour of television entitled Hey Paula, a series which purports to follow former pop sensation and erstwhile paparazzi magnet/Simon Cowell foil Paula Abdul as she navigates life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Watching Hey Paula is somewhat akin to watching someone get punched repeatedly between the legs, while being hung upside down by their feet in a glass cage, which is then suspended over a tank full of acid while a group of hungry sharks (that can, weirdly, somehow survive being in acid) swim in it. The glass cage, of course, is liable to break at any second. The person who is in this situation, additionally, has volunteered to do this on national television**, which makes it somehow worse. This is a strange scenario, certainly, and, much like what we witness on Hey Paula, is almost funny in a grotesque, David Lynch-esque way. Though I wanted to end up rooting for Paula while witnessing her consistently erratic and bizarre behavior during this particular episode, there was something slightly disengenuous about her repeated claims that she was, and is, "just a regular girl."

Paula Abdul is not a regular girl. This seems obvious, yet some people seem to inexplicably love the fantasy that their favorite celebrities are just like them. Paula lives in a gigantic mansion in Los Angeles. She is wealthy. She is an entertainer. She is a "judge" on a show that is arguably one of the cruxes of the American myth of celebrity, fame and fortune. She is the product of a culture that emphasizes a notion of instant celebrity, of breakthrough, of the belief that anyone can be insanely famous and therefore "successful," provided that they express talents that are safe and culturally acceptable.

Fame is not regular. Fame and "success" are not the default cultural positions for Americans. And yet, many people, particularly people of my generation, seem to think that being famous is not only desirable, but realistically attainable. And I have to say, I do not understand this drive toward fame and fortune. It seems stressful. Tiring. Perhaps a little scary, especially if you, like Paula Abdul, agree to have cameras follow your every move. Talk about not being able to fulfill cultural expectations--some of these famous people are the blueprints after which young people are supposed to model themselves! How odd such a role must be.

When I see interviews with "MySpace celebrities" trying to increase their level of fame, or pop stars trying to make comebacks, I am perplexed. Why would someone voluntarily subject themselves to being under a cultural microscope? Is it for money? Do they believe that fame will cause them to be "loved" in some way?

This is probably a theme that will be explored in other posts, because I sure as hell can't think of a good way to end it.

**Beat that, Fear Factor.

15 May, 2007

So Much to Blog, So Few Hours in the Day

Thus, a lightnin' round:

Jerry Falwell dies. I can only hope that his encroaching Right-wing deification doesn't last quite as long as Ronald Reagan's did. CNN manages to give us a quasi-biased headline, too. Wheee.

Hey, look, a comic-book "collectible" figurine that manages to be upsetting, offensive and salaciously appealing to the lowest common denominator all at once!
It's Mary Jane from Spider Man washing his uniform, barefoot, with one of those precious Oh-I-Am-SO-Naughty grins on. God, with that butt, she looks like a gazelle or something. Memo to the dudes who produced this piece of trash and the dudes who will spend their rent money on it: Real women cannot, physically, do this. And certainly not while wearing a cute pink thong. Also, they will not (with rare exception) wash your clothing by hand whilst lookin' all sexxxay. Dry-cleaning is a wonderful thing.

Also, Rufus Wainwright's new album is out today.

I have no idea how these items relate to each other. At all.

04 May, 2007


I honestly didn't think Senator John McCain could sink any lower than being a total nutball and apologist for the Administration's insane policies and excuses, but here's proof.

I don't know what you call "supporting the troops," Senator, but this is not it. I thought we were past thinking about homosexuality as a pathology, but I suppose, unfortunately, that some people are not. Sad.

Melissa (of Shakesville) has more, plus a(n) hilarious Photoshopped graphic.

27 April, 2007

I Am Still On the *Up* Part of a Manic Mood Shift From Meeting Rufus Wainwright

Yep. I feel like such a fangirl. Here's a favorable review of Wednesday night's show from the San Francisco Chronicle. I have no idea why there's an entire paragraph devoted to what he was wearing. Whatevs, Chron.

They did print a very nice photograph of him, however:

I did mention that I was lucky enough to meet him after the show, right?

Anyway, here's my random iTunes playlist for today:

15. Regina Spektor: Loveology
14. Bjork: Sun in My Mouth
13. Ryan Adams & the Cardinals: Hard Way to Fall
12. Concrete Blonde: Take Me Home (LIVE)
11. Charlotte Martin: Every Time it Rains
10. Radiohead: Subterranean Homesick Alien
09. Fiona Apple: Extraordinary Machine (LIVE)
08. PJ Harvey A Place Called Home
07. Goldfrapp: Paper Bag
06. Frank Zappa & the Mothers: Wowie Zowie
05. Nine Inch Nails: Head Like a Hole (LIVE)
04. Ani DiFranco: Subdivision
03. Queen: Bicycle Race
02. The Dandy Warhols: Down Like Disco
01. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Where the Wild Roses Grow (Demo Version)

24 April, 2007

Entertaining Blogs, Part I

Rate Your Students

Because reading professors' anonymous complaints about their students is ALWAYS FUN, dig? I happen to think so, anyway.

I'd put a smiley-face here as an unironic expression of cheerfulness, but it's a bit cliched.

18 April, 2007

Instead of Mourning the Loss of Life, Some Decide to Blame the Victims


Excuse me while I go vomit out of complete disgust. Where is their compassion for the victims of the shootings at Virginia Tech? The victims' families? No one should be saying things like that in the wake of such a horrific event.

Also, I don't know what Michele Malkin is on, but I'm going to steer clear of it, as it seems crazy-making: ...it darned well isn't too early for me to raise questions about how the unrepentant anti-gun lobbying of college officials may have put students at risk...
Some high-handed commentators insist it's premature or unseemly to examine the impact of school rules discouraging students from carrying arms on campus.

So the solution to preventing future gun violence is...more guns? Thanks for the tip. I'll be sure to go buy a nice Glock now, just in case I need to mow down someone if they decide to open fire on me and/or my classmates. That's the REAL way to be a hero!

If you are currently in need of an ipecac, read the whole piece.

Of course, I should mention that some (Right-wing, in many cases) bloggers are not alone in this tendency to dump their wordvomit upon the dead. The UK's Metro newspaper, ever the reliable source, had as its original headline for this story: "The Girl Who Led to Massacre." They've changed the title as of today, but still, the article's lead is chilling: This is the face of the teenage student who may have sparked the biggest gun massacre in US history.

Yeah, like she's responsible for her own death and the deaths of 31 additional people.

Terrifying. All of it. Simply terrifying. And instead of making it about gun control, or about how "wimpy" the academic establishment supposedly is, or about how those killed on Monday could have, somehow, prevented their own deaths...why not show some semblance of respect toward the dead and towards those affected by the situation? Is that too much to ask?

13 April, 2007

Even More Stupid White Guys

In the wake of the whole Don Imus controversy, I'm just left wondering when people--specifically white, male people who are in the public eye--are going to finally understand that racist and sexist comments are not okay. Certainly, it's not as if every middle-aged white and male media figure is spouting his mouth off and making idiotic remarks, but this has happened several times in the past year or so. Do these dudes think they're magically immune to the public's anger, or what? Or is it an any-publicity-is-good-publicity situation?

Certainly, stupid, bigoted comments didn't kill Mel Gibson's career, but as for Michael Richards and Don Imus? DEATH BY STUPIDITY! Wheeee.

Also: Saying "I'M NOT A RACIST!" and then backpedaling in order to save your crackpot ass is a surefire strategy to get people to think the opposite. Discretion, guys. Discretion.

Happy Friday the 13th!

06 April, 2007

Warning: Fangirl Post Ahead

Remember the rather dubious publicity shot for Tori Amos's latest album? Yes, it was weird. Yes, the concept is sort of weird and not all that clear.

Well, clips have been posted (legally!) 'round these here internets. And I have to say, I love most of what's been posted so far. More rockin' than her last album. Seriously. Okay, okay, a lot of things are more rockin' than her last album, but...I dig these clips, and I hope that this will translate into a digging of the actual album.

If you can't access the clips, please feel free to email me and I will tell you where to find them.

02 April, 2007

As If I Need to Love Her Any More Than I Already Do...

I swear to God, this is the funniest damn thing I have seen in a while:


As for her new album, I'm really hoping that it'll be a covers record. Just think of all of the bad songs that she could feasibly improve!

Optional Comments-Section Question:
One artist of your choosing + One BAD song. Who would you pick and what song would you force them to cover, and in what style?

29 March, 2007

Keep in Mind That This Crap Got a Pass From the CW, yet Veronica Mars is on the Verge of Cancellation

I can't seem to get the video to embed properly, but: Go watch the Showbiz Show's take on the ridiculous new Pussycat Dolls "reality" series.

While I don't think calling these women "skanks" is too feminist itself (they just dance like skanks, and might not actually be skanks--there is a difference), the rest of the piece is pretty much right on. Don't you love it when corporate America sells eensy bits of an actual political movement back to you using something that actually has nothing to do with that movement, despite their insistence that it totally does? Yes, dancing around in lingerie in a glass cage is SO EMPOWERING! It's a way to gain confidence! It's a way to get in touch with your femininity! Or something. God forbid that you focus on ways to gain confidence that don't involve whatever "empowering" and yet still uber-feminine acts/dance moves/clothing/what have you that the powers that be have decided to shove down our bulging throats this month.

I think a quote from Mystery Science Theater 3000's Crow is particularly appropos here: "Yes, girls, this is the ONLY way to make potential boyfriends like you!" (In case anyone is wondering, it's from the episode Hobgoblins--Crow says this during a scene in which one of the female characters--who is established as a "prude" at the film's beginning--strips at a nightclub).

Hell, why not co-opt other movements besides feminism for similar purposes? Gay and lesbian rights movement? Interior decorating kits for straight people with (supposedly) no taste! Black Power? At-home perms to make "problem" hair magically smooth! The Revolution May Not Be Televised, But Horrible Stereotypes Used to Sell Shit Will! Wheee.

27 March, 2007

No Actual Post Today, But...

Over at Feministe, Zuzu has an excellent post up about some of the hateful misogyny that, unfortunately, swirls around the blogosphere. Perhaps not "around," actually, but "within." Go read it.

And before anyone accuses anyone else of "whining" or "taking things too seriously," consider this: Would such attacks be leveled at a male blogger? (If such a thing has happened, please feel free to provide examples.) Additionally, why is it okay, even somewhat acceptable, to email death threats or threats of sexual assault to someone who expresses an opinion online? Certainly, emailing someone or commenting on their blog to express a disagreement with what they have said in a post is valid, but it's when said emails/comments get into threat territory that it becomes downright frightening.

As GOB Bluth might say, "Come ON."

21 March, 2007

Salon.com Once Again Jumps Shark, Surprises No One

Joan Walsh would like you to know that she and Anne Lamott are totally BBF for life.

I'm having a bit of a hard time figuring out why I dislike this article so much. I mean, Anne Lamott is a pretty good writer, though I could do without all of the I-Am-More-Spiritual-Than-You subtext which seems to have been an underlying theme of some of her recent work. Maybe it's Walsh's anecdote at the beginning of the piece, wherein she selflessly gives a copy of Lamott's latest book (BEFORE IT'S EVEN OUT, OH MY GOD U GUYZ) to a fellow patron at the nail salon that she frequents. Perhaps it's because her "disclosure" of her friendship with Lamott rings a bit strange. Perhaps it's that Walsh just had to mention that Lamott was instrumental in her (Walsh) obtaining a nice pay raise. [Note: I'm not sure if this bit is in the article any more, but it was in there this morning.] I don't know.

I rarely read Salon any more, because so much of what made it great in the first place (fascinating investigative journalism, excellent film reviews, et al.) is now overlooked in favor of Camille "I am My Own BFF" Paglia's column and other tripe. The one reason I keep going back?** Heather Havrilesky. I absolutely think she's the most talented writer they've got at this point--she has a gift for phrasing, and is one of the best TV writers I've ever read, in that she can make you laugh and make you think even if you haven't seen whatever show she's ripping apart this week. I also enjoy reading Rebecca Traister's work--her piece on the return of the "bimbo" in American popular culture, in particular, is worth a read.

Most of all, however, I am a bit sad that Salon has turned into something that more closely resembles a parody of itself: lots of articles about why Bush should be impeached (like we've never heard that before; and, of course he should be), Camille Paglia saying shocking, eye-rollingly silly things simply for the thrill of saying them, Neal Pollack, Salon writers patting other Salon writers on the back for their "important" work, freaked-out potential MFA students writing to the ever-worsening Cary Tennis about their "creative crises," and shoddy investigative reporting masquerading as paradigm-shifting journalism. I am glad that I decided not to spring for a paid subscription--I was considering purchasing one back when Salon was only starting to encroach upon such a death-rattle phase.

**Besides to read Cary Tennis's column, which I find hilarious because of his inability to do his job, ie: JUST ANSWER THE DAMN QUESTIONS THAT PEOPLE SEND YOU!

17 March, 2007

MST3K Saturday: A Date With Your Family

One of the very best Mystery Science Theater 3000 shorts.

[Young man opens the oven door upon entering the kitchen]
Mike: Sylvia?

16 March, 2007

Possibly a Cliche by Now, But...


I'm not!

And it is all about me here, because it's my blog. Don't like it? You, too, can make your own and spew your opinions, thoughts on yaoi, and life experiences fourth!

Trust me, it's fun, and sometimes you even get trolls!

PS: You think I'm "hateful"? Then bloggers like Twisty will make your head explode. Think Scanners. Heh.

15 March, 2007

Garrison Keillor Can Suck It

And I mean that in the worst way possible. As in, he can suck on a bog full of bile and scum, like the pitiful wastrel that he is.

I've detested Keillor's "dry" (read: not funny) humor for a while now, which has infested NPR like fruit flies on an otherwise lovely, juicy piece of fruit [excuse the language] but this piece--what he probably thinks of as "pointed satire" or an equally shitty descriptor--absolutely takes the proverbial cake:

The country has come to accept stereotypical gay men—sardonic fellows with fussy hair who live in over-decorated apartments with a striped sofa and a small weird dog and who worship campy performers and go in for flamboyance now and then themselves. If they want to be accepted as couples and daddies, however, the flamboyance may have to be brought under control. Parents are supposed to stand in back and not wear chartreuse pants and black polka-dot shirts. That’s for the kids. It’s their show.

GEE WHIZ, BEAV! The ever-present '50s nostalgia, the tired stereotypes, the whining OH MY GOD THE FUCKING WHINING. I wonder what he has to say about lesbians.

What sort of ancient crust-laden dried-up applefacedoll of a man thinks this is hilarious? No progressive person--male, female or in between--finds this funny. As I sit here listening to Placebo and reading's Keillor's word vomit over and over again, like the faghag bitch that I so totally am, I am angry. I am angry that gays and lesbians, and bisexuals and transpeople and whomever else I am forgetting to include--as categories at this point in history are nearly obsolete--STILL have to put up with harmful bigotry, even as some of us pat ourselves on the back for the "advancements" we've made in tolerating (read: not killing) others who somehow differ from our perfect, "normal" selves. Any form of bigotry, really--and that includes pretentious, "nostalgic" wordbarf that masquerades as humor, like GK's little schpiel (sic?) here.

On a more personal note, I can tell you with absolute certainty that I would not be who I am today, were it not for the many wonderful people--many of "different" sexualities--whose presence I was blessed with in my formative years. You see, when I was growing up, we (my family and I) had three gay couples as neighbors. My younger brother, at age 5, asked one day [about two of our neighbors], "Mom, why do John and Bill live together?" My mom's response: "They're the best of friends, honey." Even an oddball straight girl like me, as I later found out, could learn some important things about respect, acceptance and--most importantly--friendship from "these" people.

Also: Take away the male pronouns in the above passage, and GK could be talking about me. I have an over-decorated apartment; I love Campy stuff and Campy people with a passion; and I have not one, but two "small weird dogs", Frank and Winston, whom I love dearly. I don't have kids, but still--the similarities are difficult to ignore. Suck on that, Mister "Stating the Obvious" [the article should be titled, "Stating the Obvious: I Am an Entitled, Unfunny Windbag Who Loves My White, Straight, Middle-Aged Male Privilege Very, Very Much"].

Garrison Keillor, it seems, could learn some things as well. GK, you may want to try learning things about people other than your precious Lake Woebegonites sometime. It's fun, trust me.

For more, please refer to Dan Savage's most excellent takedown of the guy, located here.

14 March, 2007

And now for something completely frivolous!

Steve has a great post up about a company that sells miniature figurines of different characters (is there a better term for this? Maybe?) from the works of artists such as Klimt, Bosch, Dali, et cetera. Pretty neat stuff, though I am a bit concerned about the lack of female artists represented.

I can't be the only one who would love to have a miniature reproduction of Judy Chicago's "The Dinner Party," or Frida Kahlo's "My Dress Hangs There" in my apartment. Come on.

Anyway, I was browsing the website and several of the Bosch figures tapped my primitive consumerist brain-bits/neurons/what have you. I have narrowed down the "possible purchase" to two figures (of which I shall pick one):

Are these not utterly cool and kind of creepytastic? (Both are from Bosch's The Triptych of Saint Anthony, which you can view here.)

10 March, 2007

As Blame-y As They Wanna Be.

I just watched the latest and supposedly "greatest" in the self-help/marketing peoples' insecurities back to them market, The Secret.

I sort of want that 90 minutes back. Now, before people start jumping on me and calling me negative, skeptical, bitchy, et cetera, let me assure you: I am, indeed, all three of those things. I tried to watch The Secret with an open mind. I really, truly did. But, I have to say, besides some of the stuff about visualization--which I have thought of as a powerful tool for a while, and, at times, it has absolutely worked for me--I simply was unable to get on The Secret bandwagon.

I don't know what it was that made me so hostile to the entire thing. Was it the overproduced "dramatic" re-enactments, some of which look very familiar to even a casual viewer of the History Channel? Was it "Dr." Joe Vitale, Metaphysician,** who contends that ALL of the bad circumstances in your life come to you because of, well, you and your horrible, horrible negative thoughts? Was it Lisa Nichols, who was one of four women interviewed (out of 16-17 people) and one of two people of color interviewed? (She seemed to be the most sincere out of all of the "Teachers" interviewed, which endeared her to me quite a bit.) Was it the many shots of people from Other Lands, smiling and laughing, and getting fawned over by the "Teachers" due to their "natural" ability to Make Do With What They Have? Was it the completely oxymoronic focus on using The Secret to gain material things, money and houses (focused on after the many shots of our friends from other lands)? Was it the bizarre assumption that everyone watching the video wants the same damn things? Eeeek!

Then I reread this fantastic article, which outlines some of the problems with The Secret, and how Oprah, unfortunately, has basically adopted it as her child and is trying to get her viewers to do the same. If it works for her, great. However, one thing that has bothered me about Oprah's unquestioning acceptance of The Secret is this: It reinforces the great American trope of pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps. AKA: If Oprah/some disadvantaged person has become successful, then you can, too! All you have to do is think positive thoughts!

There is, of course, a lot more to it than that. I'm all for thinking good thoughts, but it is the denial of reality and various systems of oppression that make this position worse. Racism, for example, is one thing that is consistently denied as to its very existence. I have news for you, folks: Racism still very much exists. I can certainly create a non-racist America in my own mind (and let me tell you, it is awesome), but to see it in front of me is going to take some major societal changes. And it's the same with sexism. And homophobia. And able-ism, and classism, and all of that other fun stuff. "Creating your own reality" only goes so far--eventually, you will run into a structure that is bigger than you, and oftentimes, these structures are oppressive and hurtful to many people. I'm sorry if that sounds "negative," but it is true for a lot of us. Not many people can conveniently "ignore" these structures.

Bad things are going to happen. Bad feelings happen. That is part of life. One of the Noble Truths of Buddhism, after all, says that Life is Full of Suffering. Of course it is, even though it is also full of Great Things. To deny this is to deny an actual, authentic life. And I have to say, I feel sorry for anyone who shies away from feeling the full spectrum of emotions because they think that "negative thoughts will attract bad things," (one of the claims espoused in The Secret). Yes, negative thoughts suck. They make us feel bad. But trying to be aggressively "happy" is not only potentially dangerous, it's Pollyanna-esque and annoying.

[Visualization, however, is one tool that I really, really like, mostly because it forces me to use my imagination and is quite fun. It's nothing new, however; various self-help gurus have been promoting this tool for years. Even if it doesn't work, it's still fun, and, unlike some of the professional bullies who harangue you for an hour and a half in The Secret, it (most likely) won't make you feel bad about yourself.]

**I kid you not; this was listed as his actual professional title during the video. When I grow up, I wanna be a Metaphysician!

04 March, 2007

Blatant Advertisement Sunday: GRADUATION

I, like, worked on this movie, you guys. As a Production Assistant, which sounds like more fun than it actually is.

I've already seen the film, but the trailer made me want to see it again--which is an odd reaction for me to have (considering that I usually detest movie trailers).

26 February, 2007

The Next Time Someone Asks Me Why I "Make a Big Deal" Out of Things, I Now Have an Answer

Shakespeare's Sister has a fantastic post up about those "little" traces of sexism and misogyny that still plague us, and why well-directed anger about it is still important. I urge you to read the piece in its entirety, but here is a particular passage that really struck me (bold emphasis mine):

"The thing is, the real cost of sexism to women is not in our paying a single emotional penny here for this insult and a single emotional penny there for that disgrace, but in the cumulative negative balance it leaves inside each of us. Even if we let this thing or that thing roll off of the thickened skins of our backs, we pay another penny each time; letting it roll off your back is just another way of saying keep your complaints to yourself, but it doesn't change the reality that sexism takes its toll, whether one has the ill manners of mentioning the offense or not. . .I don't carry these memories with me because I want to. I carry them with me because they have left indelible prints upon me, affected my understanding of who I am to other people. I don't want to be bothered when I notice things like the treatment of women in "Odd News" features. But it doesn't matter what I want. To protect myself against this reaction is to deny my experience, to deny part of myself.

I sometimes hear people say things like, "Why are you complaining about x or y?," especially as a Women & Gender Studies major. I enjoy pointing out cultural "stuff" that I disagree or have issues with, often in the hopes of getting someone else to think, "Hey, maybe she's right!" There is a difference between complaining (being bitter just for the sake of being bitter) and trying to dicuss something, out in the open, in order to bring it to the attention of others. Of course, you have to pick your battles, but that's a whole other post. I am sure that if I wanted to bring various anti-feminist discursive forms to the attention of those around me, I could do it all day. Hell, I could turn such a thing into a full-time job (which would be sweet, especially if there was a paycheck involved). However, there are some things that, I feel, are so ingrained in our culture and our various behaviors that we do not question them, or our roles in perpetuating these things--many of which are, for a myriad of reasons, damaging to many people.

Let me give you an example. One thing that consistently bothers me is the idea that single people--in particular single women--have something "wrong" with them if they are not with a partner, and that being single is an error that MUST be corrected. [I'm sure that single men go through similar issues, but since I was born with x chromosomes and a vagina, I am probably not the best person to comment on male singlehood.]

Anyway, I have been single for my entire life. Guys my own age have, with little exception, never "gotten" me, or, as far as I know, found me very attractive. If my life were a film, I would probably be the Sidekick--the witty best friend (possibly played by Lauren Ambrose or Amy Sedaris) who helps the protagonist get the guy, but never gets the guy herself. (Plus, she's got the other best friend, Flamboyant Gay Man, to hang out with.) She is witty, not "classically" pretty and very, very asexual. (Yes, I am aware of the irony in this being my life in film form, and yet, I am the Sidekick.)

When people hear that I have never dated, they are (rather understandably) confused. "Are you a Jesus freak who's, like, abstinent?" No. "Circumstantially Celibate" is more like it. "Are you gay?" No, but would it matter if I were? Maybe to these people, but not to anyone who has a modicum of intelligence.

This mentality even seems to exist in people that I am close to--my younger brother, for example, told me about two years ago that, until very recently, he thought I was a lesbian, due to the fact that I never dated in high school. My response: "Do I need to show you my Wall of Colbert?" (Which is, I regret to say, not quite a wall yet. It's a large collection of photographs of Stephen Colbert on one of the walls over at HamShack--the Wall pretty much needs no explanation.)

Overall, however, I often get the feeling that I am being judged for being a person who's been single for their entire life, by circumstance only. Most people my age are perhaps going on dates, hooking up, or otherwise not being single. One response that I've gotten, from well-meaning dipshits whom I do not know very well, is the old "You just need to get out there and start dating!" chestnut. Is it so strange that I have made the decision to meet someone special (oh, here comes the cliche van!) instead of just dating anything with a penis that meanders into my field of vision? I would much rather wait for someone who is truly an upstanding, intelligent human being than suffer dating a bunch of neanderthals whose main hobbies include drinking, polishing off an entire bucket of chicken wings with a six-pack of Pabst in one sitting, and figuring out ways that they can pass all of their classes without actually going to class and learning the material.

So, yes, I carry a certain "history" with me--the history of a woman who does not know what actual romantic "love" is, who cannot recognize the signs of flirting (even the obvious ones), who cannot even believe, in some sense, that anyone would want to be with her in a romantic manner. The history of a person who has tried, due to various health issues for her entire life, get beyond what others see by writing, doing well in school (most of the time), and generally trying to bring the focus away from the exterior, an exterior which doesn't look like those of all the other girls. I carry a history of someone who has tried her damndest to "fit in," and has failed, time and time again. These disappointments, these expectations, these experiences--they add up. And, like Barney Gumble's bar tab, they are difficult to get beyond. Barney may never be able to pay his $2,000 bar tab at Moe's, just as AnnaHam may never be able to recognize the signs of flirting.

As for concluding remarks, I notice and point out these "little" things that bother me because not doing so would directly influence the quality of my life, whether I realize it now or not. "Little things," often times, are a big fucking deal.

25 February, 2007

Squee of Joy No. 2


I just bought tickets. I can barely believe that it's been nearly two and a half years since I've seen him:

Good lord, I am SUCH a fangirl.

And a squee of joy was heard across the land!

So, it appears that the distinguished Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu** will be running for President in Guatemala.

Someone is going to comment on the whole OMG-her-biography-may-have-been-fabricated dustup, but I can honestly say that I do not give a flying shit about that. The woman is frickin' phenomenal, any way you slice it.

Now, if only "furriners" could run for Prez here in the United States...

**I have no idea how to format the accent marks in her name, so, apologies.

23 February, 2007

Beyond Human: The Final Call

Remember this guy and his Away Team? I certainly do!

I like how he says, "Rather than give you any history," (around the two-minute mark) and then immediately follows it up with, "Well, I'm going to back up and give you some history." Also: Referring to yourself in 3rd person is a surefire way to make yourself look really, really strange. And don't get a haircut like that, for goodness sake!

I'm doing a research project on Heaven's Gate for my Feminist Inquiry class (I know, an odd match, right?), and a good friend of mine found this little gem for me. (Hat tip to Sabine for finding this for me when my unskilled self couldn't!)

Here are some fascinating tidbits on the cult that were not exactly covered by the mainstream media:

* The leaders' names for themselves (Marshall Applewhite was "Do" and Bonnie Lu Nettles was "Ti") were chosen from the musical scale, as Applewhite was a former music professor at a university in Texas.

*Applewhite was once a moderately sucessful opera singer (!)

*The cult ran a computer consulting and website design business in Southern California for a number of years, and were remembered by various clients as being very polite, obedient and helpful.

Fascinating, huh? Okay, not the fact that they all killed themselves, but some of the other stuff. I find this sort of thing so interesting!

22 February, 2007

"Today's sermon is taken from a magazine I found..."

Is it possible for me to love Eddie Izzard any more than I do already? Probably not.

21 February, 2007

How to Embrace Your Weirdness When You're in a Culture That Discourages It

Above: The author contemplates being an oddball at HHQ.

Over the past few days, I have heard at least three people say the following (or something very similar to it) to me:

"You have this odd quality about you..."

That's it. Even the trailing off has not varied depending upon who I am talking to. Now, the people who have said this do not know me very well, and all are people I have come into contact with thanks to school. The people that I do know well, obviously, recognize that I have this "oddness," and don't mind it. In fact, I would say that under many circumstances, my odd, perpetually switched-on brain is encouraged among my friends, if nothing else.

I am trying to figure out whether this statement is meant as a compliment, or if it's just a way of trying to make sense of traits or habits that I may have that may not fit the status quo. I am not trying to sound hipsterish (ie: "I am soooo cool, check me out! I'm a unique person, just like everyone else!" sort of thing)--the fact that I am odd is just that: a fact. However, I do not know why others think I am odd: Is it because I am odd-looking? Is it because my dress habits are a little less conventional than the average person? More questions than there are answers, really.

After a lifetime spent of trying to "fit" in with the general populace, I realized, sometime in my late teens, that I would never be able to fit in with other "average" janes or joes. I cannot explain in an objective manner why I am an oddball; I just am an oddball. I can see reasons why people categorize me as such, but I believe that there is no one reason as to why I have turned out the way I have--many reasons, habits, different scores of knowledge, beliefs, and cues (cultural, social, familial, et cetera) are all working together--not exactly in tandem or at the same speed, but the point is that they work together and make me the oddball that I am.

This is why I am so shocked when I see people trying to hide their inner oddball or their weirdness. My best friend in middle school, for example, spent much of her life being a freckled, creative and fabulous freak-girl who also happened to one of three or four Jewish kids in our grade in elementary school (the total enrollment was just under 400 students, and this was a public school in a very affluent neighborhood). Once we reached seventh grade, however, she decided to dedicate her entire existence to becoming one of Them--one of the "popular" kids. She made the transformation from future artiste to future Hot-Botoxed-Mom-in-a-Tennis-Outfit (sorry, that was horrible) in about a week--she began to wear a shit-ton of makeup (enough to cover her freckles, natch) every single day, dressed in clothes that sent a message that she would have recoiled at a mere few months before, and dropped drawing fabulous cartoons in favor of going shopping. [Context: We used to spend entire weekends together, drawing our cartoons that, we were convinced, would change the world of comics once we got mass exposure. After these went out of style for my friend, she dragged me along on many a shopping trip, during which she would spend hours trying on outfits to impress the guy she liked; the ironic kicker, of course, was that he would never notice.]

Coincidentally, this was around the same time that she told me that our friendship was becoming a liability for her--in her words, I was too "weird," too "bitchy and depressed,"** and didn't focus enough on trying to get people, especially the neanderthal boys who populated our school, to like me. In other words, I was not acceptable--not to anyone, according to her. We then had an extreme falling-out that lasted for a year and a half--eventually, we went our seperate ways, which was probably for the better, given what happened. So, this was my big lesson of my junior high school years: I was an oddball. And, unfortunately, it was not until many years later that I learned to stop hating this odd part of me--which, when you crunch the numbers, turns out to be about 95% of my personality--and accept it, whether other people like(d) it or not. Hilariously, embracing the very thing(s) that drove my former best friend away has allowed me to make better friends and to successfully evaluate the people who really do care and who will stick around (which are not people like her, ha ha).

So, what are we oddballs to do? Who can we turn to in dark times, when we need a bit of strength and conviction to get us through the day? Every time I hear someone say something such as "You are so strange," or "You're weird" in a derogatory manner (which is not often any more, but still), I automatically think of this brilliant woman

Remember her? Come on, how could you not? Here's another reminder. I believe that Bjork is one of the patron saints of oddballs (a few of the others being Willem Dafoe, Grace Jones, Amy Sedaris, Frank Zappa, and possibly Gary Busey, although he's more psychotic than odd). Bjork is just completely weird, and, fortunately for her and for us, this has translated into worldwide success with her bizarre, genius brand of crazy music. I had the pleasure of seeing her peform live a few years ago, and even when she did something utterly mundane and almost normal, you could feel her strangeness infecting everything she did. When she politely thanked the audience after every other song, it seemed odd, because it was odd. Bjork cannot do anything that we take for granted without it being affected by her total, all-encompassing weirdness. Neither can those of us who are oddballs--everything we do will, whether we know it or not, be affected by the fact that we are strange. Bjork has embraced her oddballness and has made an extraordinarily successful career out of it, but the important thing to remember is that she seems very comfortable with that part of herself and is willing to inhabit it, no matter what anyone else thinks.

I personally think we could learn quite a bit from such an example of uncompromising oddness.

**Still am, to a degree. The joke's on her.

20 February, 2007

Visual Culture and the Politics of Music Promotion (AKA: I Can Come Up With a More Pretentious Title Than Tori Amos!)

This morning, I logged onto my LiveJournal friends page and came across this photo--it is a promotional photo for Tori Amos's new album, which is due out in May of this year:

I posted the photo to my own journal along with the following comments:

I looked at this photo this morning and was confused--I thought this was because I had just woken up.

Now that I'm looking at it for the second time, I am still just as confused. I don't know whether to love it or loathe it.

Even her posture and the position of her arms says, "Uhh...I 'unno..."

The album's title, however, is utterly weird. [American Doll Posse, WTH? If she's going to try to do a title that doesn't make any sense, she could at least pull a Zappa and name it March of the Glass-Eyed American Doll Posse With Chalk Spines, Bit-O-Honeys and Fishbowls or something.]

A friend pointed out that she has heard gripes similar to mine out of the mouths of fellow Tori fans nearly every time Tori has released new material since 1996 (!), and, in addition, asked, "When did it stop being about the music?" In other words: Why is everyone (and I include myself in this category, unfortunately) so obsessed with what an entertainer such as Tori Amos looks like, how they choose to dress, and/or how they choose to present themselves in a visual manner?

Of course, since this is the sort of thing that is currently my life's work, I have to expand this into a larger comment. I contend that in our culture, it can never be exclusively about the music, due to our reliance on and obsession with image. This may seem like an obvious statement, but for some people, it may not be so obvious. I think quoting the cultural theorist Marshall McLuhan is appropos here: "I don't know who discovered water, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't the fish!" Only by getting out of water and into some other substance can we actually begin to pick apart what it means, and what sort of effect it has on us.

I, personally, think it would be awesome (not to mention sort of weird) if all musicians one day started releasing albums with blank CD covers that show the artist, title of record and song names; but, obviously, no one is going to agree with me there, least of all the people who make their living from creating and peddling images for our increasingly visual culture.

I'd love to be able to ignore this sort of thing. I really, really would. However, as feminist philosopher Susan Bordo notes in her excellent Twilight Zones: The Hidden Life of Cultural Images From Plato to O.J., "That we live in an image saturated culture has come to seem normal, routine, to us...Massive and dramatic cultural and technological changes have taken place in an extraordinarily brief period of historical time--and so recently that we have barely been able to begin to chart their effects on our perception, cognition, and most basic experience of the relation between reality and appearance. The images are much more ubiquitous in our lives today than they were just a decade ago (2)." And, as Bordo notes later while recounting an anecdote in which she describe being yelled at by a therapist during a presentation on the effects of media image on the body image of young people--the therapist, hilariously, chides her to simply "turn off the TV"--turning "off" these impulses, perceptions and habits is not easy. We have been taught by the dominant culture to value these things--in this case, to pay more attention to how a musician looks, or what she chooses to look like, than to how she sounds, her skills as a musician and lyricist, or what issues she addresses in her music. (If you're not convinced of this yet, consider Courtney Love for just a moment. As has been noted by some, she's got some great lyrics, and a gift for melody. Do you hear about any of that from many of the major media outlets or music magazines?)

You can certainly blame the advent of MTV and its ilk for making "image" more important than the actual music and its effect on those who listen to it, but something about music has always been visual, whether you consider live performances, dance, album covers, fanart, promotional materials, and a host of other things. Increasingly sophisticated marketing tactics have only increased this system. Before records come out, there is a whole lot of work to be done--promo shots to send out to magazines, interviews to grant to these same magazines, websites to put up, payola to distribute to DJs across the nation (kidding, sort of!) street teams to weigh down with stickers and posters and send into the sunset. So, what is the solution to making it about the music as opposed to the image?

Note: Since I have NO theoretical background in economics, I am not going to go into the capitalism thing. Yes, money does make at least part of our world go 'round, but I am not the best person to explain that in relation to the modern music industry in this post.