Friday, December 31, 2004

Yesterday in my car...

I found myself about to channel Foamy the Squirrel. Fortunately I managed to jam the channel before anything came through. I've already been channelling Homer Simpson for years now--and it's oh so attractive in a dainty Southern belle--and I don't need a squirrel in there struggling to get out as well.

Signing off...

I'm off to spend the rest of 2004 drinking adult beverages, listening to Leslie Fish, and building a fire for the ceremonial "Burning of the Calendar Just to Remind Myself This Fucking Year is Really Over, Thank God and Pass the Ammunition So I Can Shoot It In The Ass". Less bitter folk can just call it "The Burning of the Calendar".

Okay, One More

Jonah Goldberg's year-end wrap-up deserves a mention just for reminding me of that NYT headline "Despite Drop in Crime, an Increase in Inmates." Read the whole column here:

Another Year Down the Toilet

How much did I hate 2004? If there was time to get an order of Colonblow delivered before midnight, I'd take it, just so nothing from 2004 was following me into the new year.

Best Line of the Year

I'm too lazy today to look up a link to a story, but here's my vote for best line of the year and quite possibly the best death of the year as well: Fabrizio Quattrochio, the Italian man who was murdered by terrorists, reportedly struggled to get his mask off before his murder, shouting that his murderers "were going to see how an Italian dies!"

I am very sorry Mr. Quattrochio was murdered, but at least he died well. I would like to think that the West is turning out many more people like him than people who spend the month before their murder complaining that Blair (or Bush or whoever) hasn't done enough to save them. And if I should ever be put to the test like that, please God, let me be defiant and courageous like Mr. Quattrochio.

Remember the Old Year

Externally, 2004 wasn't wholly without satisfaction--Bush's getting a second term and John Kerry not getting a first one, for instance--but as far as my personal life is concerned, 2004 sucked the sweat off a dead man's balls. I plan to spend some portion of tonight dancing and stamping on the ashes of the old year. But for those who'd rather wallow in remembering the year that shall henceforth be known to me as "the year that shall not be remembered", I recommend Dave Barry's guide. It's in two parts: and and is no worse a round-up than any of the others.

Time-wasters for the New Year

Weave Your Own Tartan

Create Your Own South-Park Character

Create A Copy of Your Face

Play With Colors

Browse Loads of Vintage Clothing

Or Just Remind Yourself What Polyester Pant Suits Looked Like

What'd ya do that for?!?

Auntie Suzanne and Uncle Pookie recently finished watching all seven seasons of Ranma 1/2, plus all the OAVs. Ranma 1/2 is now my second favorite anime series. But everybody and his cousin likes this one. Really. There's fan sites all over the place; I've seen them in English, French, Italian, German, something written in Cyrillic letters, and, strangely enough, Japanese. There must be something in it that appeals to a lot of people. Buy or rent some of the DVDs and find out.

Couple of points.

A LOT of guys out there seem to find Nabiki hot. More so than seem to find Akane so. There's probably some profound insight into the male psyche to draw from this, but I'm not sure what it would be. Maybe it's just that she's the only one of the three sisters to lie around the house in short shorts.

And is there anything cuter than drunken Happosai or giant drunken Happosai breathing fire? (This is in the scribbled panda episode.)

Also, why doesn't Wal-Mart carry Ranma? I know they can't carry everything, but their buyers, apparently having heard that there's something called anime that's making some money, have started getting in some anime. So they're not averse to carrying it. They just carry very little, they don't necessarily have the greatest stuff, and sometimes, when they get something that might be interesting, all they have is episodes 14-17, or some such. Which is self-defeating, because it's hard to sell episode 14 to someone who's had no oppurtunity to see episodes 1-13; then when that episode 14 DVD doesn't sell, the buyers can say, "no point in getting more anime in, it doesn't sell" and, boom, the set-up for failure has succeeded. I guess you could say Wal-Mart shouldn't bother with a niche market like anime (and so far it's still a small niche here in the US), but anime has mushroomed in the past fifteen years, it seems set to grow even more in the next few years, and being picked up by Wal-Mart would only help to make anime more popular--look what they did with Shrek; sure Shrek was good, but it would not have done nearly so well if Wal-Mart hadn't promoted it heavily.

And Ranma 1/2 would be a great anime for Wal-Mart to get behind. One panty-stealing old guy aside, there's no real naughtiness and hardly any fan service; and the panty-stealing is condemned by everyone in the show except the old pervert. It's all pretty clean and wholesome, which is more than I can say for some of the movies and TV shows Wal-Mart sells. It's also really funny and well-done (again, more than I can say for most of the American TV programs Wal-Mart sells), isn't overly serious, and, as witnessed by a plethora of fan sites, it has wide appeal. Wal-Mart, like every other business, wants items with wide appeal. Here's an item that a good many people already want to buy and that has enough appeal that many more people would be willing to try, once they had some exposure to it, and that could serve as a good introduction to anime, making them more willing to try other anime after a good experience with this one. And if Wal-Mart could supply some of that...well, it's a win-win situation for Wal-Mart and for customers, both those who like it already and those who've never heard of it, beyond some vague awareness of the existence of Pokemon and Yu-gi-oh.

Another Use For Stills

Apparently they can be used for making turpentine and rosin. Who knew? Well, quite a lot of people, I guess, but being a town-i-fied (i.e., not quite citified) Gen X girl, it had never crossed my mind. Then again, my mother was a pre-Baby Boom baby in the backwoods of the Deep South who remembers seeing smoke from stills rising from the woods on clear days, and I don't think it ever occurred to her that those stills might be making turpentine. Anyway, I mention it as yet another bit of the past that is rapidly slipping out of the general consciousness.

Eccentric Genius

I want my own working trebuchet (not necessarily a desktop model, either.) And a hypno-disk, gotta have a hypno-disk.

Eccentric Genius has them, I just can't afford them.

Barbie is Not a Nice Girl

Tony Woodlief, in the middle of recounting his quest to find his boys cowboy guns, has this throwaway line:

"I think boys might benefit from owning a Barbie doll; every young man should understand what an expensive proposition it is to cohabitate with a narcissistic woman built like a stripper"

It's not the build so much as the mentality, but I know what he means. Barbie, if not actually a whore (as it says on a tee-shirt I saw at Craftster recently), is definitely not the sort of girl you want your daughter to be or your son to marry.

Have you looked at Barbies lately? I found myself looking for a Barbie recently; what few I could find in the thrift stores were way too beat up, so I wound my way to Wal-Mart and Toys-R-Us. Now I remembered Barbie as looking kind of trampy but in a relatively wholesome, California girl kind of way. In fact, back when the Bratz dolls came out, I remarked to my husband that it's a sad thing when the hottest-selling doll marketed to little girls looks sluttier than a doll based on an actual prostitute. Well, it's not the case anymore. The Bratz have cut into Barbie's profits deeply enough that Mattel is trying to make Barbie look more like the Bratz in some of her versions and, in others, just more like a generic cheap whore. The only Barbies I could find that weren't completely slutty and cheap-looking were a couple of ethnic "princesses"--I think it was Navajo Princess and Cambodian Princess, or something like that--and a couple of the forty-dollar-or-so character ones. (I liked the I Love Lucy doll and the LOTR movie version Galadriel is, for a Barbie, flat-out beautiful.) But I'm not paying forty dollars for a Barbie and, as I wanted the doll for a possible project related to Medieval Europe, I needed a doll that looked at least somewhat European. I ended up going with a box set of four Barbie knockoffs. These looked like Barbie back in her wide-eyed, fairly innocent-looking, jailbait days, and they were the only non-trampy knockoffs I saw.

Much as Barbie is a decades-long part of American girlhood, I can really see the case for parents banning Barbie (along with the Bratz and knockoffs of each) from their daughters' toy chests, in favor of, say, American Girls dolls, Kim Possible, baby dolls, or GI Joes.

Good luck finding her a gun to play with, though, if Tony Woodlief's experience was anything close to typical.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

A Useful Anniversary List

Auntie Suzanne and Uncle Pookie have been married ten years. And were a couple for nearly five years before that, which going by my internal estimate means we've been together three years past the half-life of Carbon-14.

We've never done the anniversary thing, but there was some discussion of maybe making an exception this year. Along those lines I found myself looking at a list of anniversary gifts--two lists, actually, "traditional" and "modern". The "traditional" list has "tin/aluminum" as the tenth year gift, which I figure means these lists are strictly an invention of the twentieth century, because I don't think aluminum existed before then. The "modern" list suggests we give our loved one leather. As many possibilities as leather suggests, I think I'll give both lists a pass. What use are they, anyway? What newlyweds really need is not a list of presents to buy, but a list of the emotional stages of marriage.

So here it is:

Auntie Suzanne's What-to-Expect Each Year List,
A Truly Useful Guide to Anniversaries

First--The "Oh God, what have I DONE?!" anniversary. AKA the "I never before knew people could have bitter fights, lasting for days, over whether to purchase 1% or 2% milk" anniversary. (Get whatever gift you want. Unless it's milk.)

Second--The "Apparently it's possible to STILL be fighting over the milk" anniversary.

Third--The "You mean s/he has even MORE annoying habits!?!" anniversary.

Fourth--The "Aaaargh! It just goes on and on!" anniversary.

Fifth--The "All my problems are caused by him/her, including the ones I had before we met" anniversary.

Sixth--The "I had no problems before I met him/her" anniversary.

Seventh--The "I'd kill him/her, but then I'd just have to see him/her in hell" anniversary.

Eighth--The "My only hope is for death's sweet, sweet embrace" anniversary.

Ninth--The "S/he may be bad, but at least s/he isn't that freak my friend married" anniversary. AKA the "I'd go out and find someone else but, what with the bitterness and homicidal thoughts and all, I've really let my looks slide" anniversary.

Tenth-- At last, resignation. The "I still long for death's sweet embrace, but meanwhile I'm resigned to my fate" anniversary. Enjoy. It doesn't get any better than this.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

"Let 'Er Rip"

I don't care enough to actually research this, but my theory is that the saying "Let 'Er Rip", often used when starting up something dangerous of noisy, comes partly from the term RIP--Requiescat in Pace, or Rest in Peace.

No Christmas For You, Rob Sherman!,0,4079262,print.story?coll=chi-news-hed

Give your Christmas tree to the city to be recycled and get some free recycling bags--what's to complain about? If you're this Sherman guy, quite a lot. Here's yet another person who needs to heed Foamy's words: "'Tis the season to shut the f*** up and stop being a whiny little bitch."

When Nativity Scenes Go Wrong

Cavalcade of Bad Nativities

There's so many horrible Christmas decorations out there that none of these surprised me (okay, maybe the rubber ducky Jesus, but not much), but I give the author full credit for having found photographic proof that there is indeed something worse than a Precious Moments Nativity--namely, a Precious Moments knockoff Nativity where all the figurines wear lipliner that looks like bad 60s eyeshadow. God forbid those people should, like the Precious Moments people, put out an illustrated Bible.

In case it's not obvious, I despise the Precious Moments things; I loathe, despise, abhor and have theological problems with the Precious Moments nativities; and I harbor grave doubts about any woman--and it's always a woman--who would buy Precious Moments crap. (The latter's neither here nor there, though; I could wonder aloud about people who pay good money for Thomas Kinkade's creepy, creepy pictures, too, but we're on the nativities now, anyway.) You notice the Precious Moments people mostly make Nativities. The incarnation of God in a human--i.e., crying, pooping, prone to cuts and sores--form is just a ripe oppurtunity for cutesey-ification, for these people. And all those other funs stories from the Bible go down so much better when depicted as happening to teardrop-headed kids with serious pastel fixations. Noah, the affliction of Job, the whole Sodom and Gomorrah thing? Hey, they were all Precious Moments moments! The one thing I have yet to see, thank God and knock wood, is a Precious Moments Crucifixion.

I have to admit, though, that a crucified Precious Moments kid is something I could let my gaze linger on with pleasure, even as I shuddered in horror at the ghastliness of it all and wondered if there was any point in stockpiling food and weapons when I'd just seen one of the signs of the Apocalypse.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Imaginary Friends

USA Today has an article about imaginary friends. (Nod to the Corner.) It's about some psychologists saying kids with imaginary friends are normal and healthy, imaginary friends can be helpful, etc. Who cares, really? I've never thought otherwise and am only interested in seeing this phenomenon discussed. My main question when the topic is raised is not whether some adults think this is healthy, but whether the speaker had an imaginary friend or not and what he/she/it was like. Unless your kid claims his "imaginary friend" is telling him to burn down the house or that it's time to "begin the time of purification" (and he doesn't mean having a bath), you've nothing to worry about; the psychologists in the article say much the same thing.

Of course there are some numbskulls out there who afraid of the imagination. Any kind of fanciful talk, much less an imaginary friend, scares them or at least makes them uneasy. Many of them truly hate it. I'm not necessarily talking about strict no-nonsense, follow-the-dots-in-order, "just the facts, ma'am" type people; some of them are quite all right, even if they do dismiss fanciful, imaginative things as silly. That's just personal taste. I'm talking about the kind of people who, as I said, are afraid of the imagination and may even hate it. The Gradgrinds and fundies who despise fairy tales and, it sometimes seems, any fiction more imaginative than "Dick and Jane". Take a former co-worker of mine, who once said, spitting an unbelievable amount of contempt and disgust into her words, "I HATE Superman. Everybody KNOWS a man can't fly!" She'd probably be right at home with the fundamentalist Christian mentioned in the USA article who thought imaginary friends were the same thing as demon possession.

I know I should feel sorry for these people because of all they miss, but I can't quite manage it. I feel sorry for their children though.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Home Alone America

A new book that talks about the state of children in today's America is called Home Alone America. I've not read it yet (I'll probably wait until it turns up at the public library), but ever since I read what Stanley Kurtz had to say about it, I've wanted to. Kurtz says Eberstadt completely reframes the child care debate, taking it away from adult's concerns and putting the focus on children.

The author was also interviewed by NRO and that interview is up this weekend. However, I recommend listening to the World Over interview instead.

And while I'm at it, I'd like to plug the audio resources at EWTN. (You can see how to get to them in the address above.) You can listen to past programs in either RealPlayer or Windows Media. There's fascinating conversion stories on the Journey Home program, as well as programs discussing history and theology and contemporary issues. (Just as a sidenote, it's funny how contemporary issues usually are or relate to timeless issues, once you peel back the contemporary coating.)

Babies in Today's Society

A couple of years ago, in the town I lived in, there was a hospital worker (a nurse?) who, in trying to carry out his rushed early morning tasks and still get to work on time, forgot to drop the baby off at daycare. The baby was in its carrier in his backseat all day. It died. There was never, as far as I know, any question of this being anything other than an accident.

Shortly after it happened I saw a newspaper article saying that in recent years there had been a sharp rise in such cases. All over America. Parents so busy they accidentally leave the baby in the backseat or on top of the car when they drive off. You can't help but think something is wrong with contemporary society when you hear things like this.

The Scary Part..

You know, the scary thing about this story from Missouri is not that one pregnant woman was murdered and her baby ripped from her womb, but that, according to the article, "Several pregnant women have been killed in recent years by attackers who then removed their fetuses, in some cases to pass the children off as their own."

Friday, December 17, 2004

Crunchy-granola, OR Maybe I'm Just Nuts

I sometimes call myself a crunchy-granola conservative, which is a term most people have never heard. Rod Dreher came up with it a couple of years ago. For an idea of what is meant by it, go to the man himself:

Rod Dreher's original NRO piece

Dreher's NRODT article, written after he'd gotten responses to the NRO piece; this got reprinted in Utne.

Jonah Goldberg had an article on NRO that made a very good case for not using the term crunchy-con, but I can not find the article. Basically, he said there is nothing in the practices or thoughts Dreher describes that could not be in the practices or thoughts of any ordinary conservative, so why divide the group up in this way. And frankly I think Goldberg is right, even if I sometimes use the term to describe myself. I think what's going on that Dreher is talking about is garden-variety conservatives who are coming up against the stereotypes of Republicans and not fitting them well. Which should suggest that, one, the stereotypes of Republicans need to be updated. It's not all about what Jonah Goldberg once (in a different, unrelated article) called "classic, blue-blazer Republicans" or what Florence King called "the God and country club set". The second thing it should do is remind us, yet again, that Republicans and conservatives are not the same thing. They overlap, but they are not the same.

And for a look at some people who might well be called crunchy-granola conservative, even though they would eschew the political label themselves, here's the archives of a great little magazine (now defunct): Caelum et Terra

Feel My Squirrelly Wrath, You PC Grinches

Why did I not know of the existence of Foamy before today?! (Actually I've seen his face used as an avatar, but I didn't know who it was.) The current toon, "No Christmas For You", is the best, but do check out the archives. (WARNING: Not work-safe or children-in-the-room-safe.) I did and at first I was enjoying listening to Foamy's rants because his squirrelly mind is so much like mine, but then he went too deep into his (my) dark little mind and started to scare me. Didn't stop listening though, I'm not a panty-waist. Well, okay, I guess I am, but then I'm a GIRL, so it's okay.

I learned of Foamy on a blog by an interesting-sounding woman, the Lizard Queen. I hope she gets something nice in her stocking this year.

Of Phonics and Hieroglyphs

Ace of Spades has a bit on phonics versus whole-word recognition. I'm a fan of phonics myself. What was it Jerry Pournelle said about whole-word recognition? Something like, "it takes someone in education to set reading back five thousand years and call it a success." (Yeah, I know I could look up the exact quote on his site, but it's too much trouble.) He put whole-word recognition on the level of hieroglyphs.

One of the things Ace of Spades links to has something for me to quibble over, though. It seems to suggest that Mississippi had nothing but whole-word recognition reading in its public schools until the '90s. T'aint so. I went to Mississippi public schools in the 1970s and '80s, and I was taught to read with phonics. My second-grade teacher--a really good teacher at an overall really lousy school--was especially keen on phonics. She was one of those tough-but-fair types, who expected good work out of her students, and is the only teacher at that school (God be praised, I moved to a better--that is, a merely mediocre school--in tenth grade) I remember fondly. Of course, it could be that she wasn't supposed to be using phonics. Maybe she was one of those Mississippi black kids educated out of the older, better phonics-based textbooks (something mentioned in the article) and was ornery enough to insist on good methods.

To be fair, saying phonics is vastly superior doesn't mean kids can't learn anything with a sight-reading approach. I could read some when I started school and, as I have no memory of anyone teaching me, I must have absorbed much of it just by having my mother read books to me and hearing the names of street signs or products on television. I also watched a bit of Sesame Street, starting when I was nearing first-grade age. ( I can remember the first time I saw Sesame Street. I was at another child's house,playing, and she had it on. It was the GREATEST SHOW EVER! I went home so excited about the program that I've always thought my burbling about it must have influenced my parents' decision some months later to buy a really big antenna, so we could pick up PBS too.) I'm sure a lot of kids have learned to read that way, but in my case at least, I don't think I got really good at it until I went to school and was exposed to phonics. (I say I don't think because I find it hard to remember not knowing how to read, although my memory of my childhood is, if anything, too good.)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

On Foxhunting

I am not really fond of hunting and fishing that does not put meat on the table or destroy pests. Foxhunting does neither of these. (Foxhunting the sport, that is, not a rural person going after the fox that's been getting into his chicken coop.) It does give pleasure to its human and canine participants and has a lot of tradition behind it; compared to much of what people could be doing, it seems relatively harmless. I don't like to see foxhunting harassed into non-existence and I could conceivably one day hang one of those foxhunting prints in my house, but I wouldn't be likely to participate in it, even if I could afford it. That said, let me recommend an article on a foxhunting ban up at today's Tech Central Station.

The author makes two points worth mentioning here: First, and most important, is that the foxhunting ban in Britain sets dangerous precedent for restricting the pasttimes people may engage in on their private property. Second, he says there is a tendency of the Anglo-American Left to want to ban pleasures that some people can not participate in (foxhunting is a pasttime few can afford.) I have seen some of this. For example, a public elementary school in the town I moved from banned students from bringing fast food or restaurant lunches--homemade lunches were the only alternative to eating in the cafe--because children eating a homemade sandwich or cafeteria food might see another child with a Kiddie Meal, or whatever, and feel bad they didn't have one. (And heaven forbid anyone in today's society should ever feel bad for any reason!) What he says is interesting and has a lot of truth to it, but I think most of these pleasure-banning urges of the Anglo-American Left are not due so much to a "no one should ever have more pleasure than another" mindset as they are to puritanism.

There is a strong puritanical streak in the Left--not that it isn't found on the right or even that this element of the human personality wasn't found before the actual Puritans, because it is and was; it's just more blatant on the left--and it seems to be getting worse. Think about it for a moment. Where are the most stridently anti-tobacco voices? Anti-alcohol? Anti-meat? Anti-fur? And, for that matter, anti-wool, silk, and beeswax? Who is more likely to sneer at people who like to lie on the couch and watch television? Who wants to take toy guns and knives away from boys, because boys like them too much? Which side of the political spectrum has more people who obsess over the nutritional properties of every bite of food they put in their mouths? Which side wants the government to tax junk food? Which wants the government to bully people into eating healthfully? Which side would be more likely to try to ban the sale of Oreos? Which side can actually make sex sound boring? If someone says he likes big luxury cars, where are the complaints at his preference likely to come from? Who is more likely to try to make you feel guilty for buying a new suit when Third World children are starving? I could go on, but I think I'll leave it here: Ralph Nader. If Ralph Nader is the ideal, you can't tell me there isn't a puritanical streak on the left. Lefties may want to ban competitive games and honor rolls from schools because not every child can know the pleasure of a blue ribbon or seeing his name on a principal's list of "All A's" students, but anyone who can fret over the fact that adults they've never met enjoy eating sweets or go apoplectic over a woman saying she likes the feel of fur on her skin has pleasure issues.

Of course, there is also a strong element of "telling the poor benighted underclass how to live, because we enlightened folk know so much better".

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Also on NRO this morning...

Shawn Macomber has an appreciation of the late comedian Bill Hicks and reports there's a new DVD collection of three classic Hicks performances. I note Amazon is selling it for only $14.96. This is going on Auntie Suzanne's "To Buy list". Hicks' performances could be raw, no doubt about it, and I'm not on board with some of his views, but he was raw with a point and sometimes they were good points. Also, he's frickin' hilarious.

What were they thinking?

Rich Tafel has an article on NRO this morning, explaining why he thinks Bush got more votes from gays this year than he did in 2000 (1.5-2 million, up from 1 million). Here's what he says about those gays who voted for Bush:

"Their primary concern was the war on terror. They believed that we are
engaged in a war for the future of our country and our way of life. They
believed that the rise of militant Islam is a real and deadly threat. They
believed that our country, with all its faults, is a force for good in the
world. They believed that our enemy cannot be reasoned with. They believed
we needed a leader who understood the world in terms of moral values,
and they
didn't scoff when the president used the words "good" and "evil" to
describe the
battle against terror. They realized we've made mistakes, but
also realized that
the only thing worse than making mistakes is not even
trying. "

In other words, gays voted for Bush for the same reasons straights did. The lesson here, for politicians who think they must always tailor themselves to the perceived interests of any particular group they are addressing, is that gays are full human beings, with concerns outside of "gay issues". Just like black Americans have concerns outside "black issues" and women have concerns outside "women's issues". Worth remembering.

No choice for doctors?

I used to be pro-choice, and I always emphasized the choice: "I believe the choice must lie with the individual woman," I always used to say. "No woman should ever be forced to have an abortion and no woman should ever be forced to have a child." But I also believed in choice for others. If doctors believed abortion was wrong, why should they have to perform them? It worried me a little that there might come a time when there weren't enough doctors trained in the procedure or willing to perform it, but certainly we could not force them to do it against their will. Well, if some "pro-choice" people had their way, we would. And force nurses and other health care workers to assist. For people who would advocate this, it is no longer about choice. It is about pushing their own views on others.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Had 'im Laughing All the Way to the Hospital

Okay, let's just admit it, some things that probably ought not be funny are. Like Ku Klux Klansmen recruiting on a curb and getting hit by cars at a strangely higher rate than would seem normal. Or a prankster in an Osama bin Laden mask brandishing a gun at people on a narrow street and finding that at least one driver has little sense of humor, but a good instinct for survival. Story here:

Pride and Prejudice Wins Radio 4 Poll

There is so much to be said about this article that there's no way I can say it all. Personal history: Auntie Suzanne has never been excessively girly (the online pop psychology quiz that tells you your sex was 85% certain I'm male), also Auntie Suzanne likes Austen generally and finds Pride and Prejudice the best of Austen's novels. So it's possible I'm not 100% unbiased.

Radio 4 ran a poll asking which novel "has spoken to you on a personal level; it may have changed the way you look at yourself, or simply made you happy to be a woman" and Pride and Prejudice won. The responses to this and the list of the top four runner-ups by the women the article quotes were predictable: the list wasn't multicultural enough, the list didn't contain any young living writers, women are too attached to stories that have them marrying and settling down at the end. One writer quoted, a Julie Burchell (or Birchell, it's spelled both ways in the article) sneers at both Austen and the women who voted in the poll (14,000 people, 93% women). Apparently women shouldn't be polled about what has spoken to them personally if they aren't going to give the correct answers.

Some other points:

  • All people, except maybe melancholy teenagers, Goths, and some film & literature snobs, like happy endings, not just women--and most human beings of both sexes think finding and marrying the person you love is a happy ending.
  • The idea that a happy ending makes a work less serious than an unhappy ending is only about as old as the idea that anything popular must be bad--if as old. The latter seems to go back to the late Victorian age, but I'm not sure the former really caught on until mid-twentieth century.
  • I like that the author refers to The Women's Room (accurately) as a "period piece".
  • People who say that To Kill a Mockingbird is about an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman--and that's what is always said about TKaM--how do these people explain that the book begins and ends with another character, the reclusive Boo Radley, and takes its title from something said about that same character?
  • Unlike the author of the article, I can easily see how women say The Handmaid's Tale changed their life. I've heard too many women saying how frightening and "eerily accurate" it is, so it's not a stretch to think that after reading it some of those women were changed; even as we speak, they are no doubt looking for evangelicals under every bed and waiting for Christians to overthrow the government, shut down women's bank accounts, and start the compulsory breeding any day now--with footbinding to follow, no doubt.

Requiescat in pace, Father Lawrence

Last week I was reading Shining Moments, a collection of tanka by Father Neal Henry Lawrence, O.S.B., when I happened to hear that he died a few weeks ago. I did not like the book quite as much as I'd hoped, but it nevertheless reveals a beautiful soul. May his voice join those of the angels.

Here's the obituary
and here's a profile of the poet at Jane Reichold's excellent AHA Poetry site

"Family Planning", Chinese-style and American

According to the US State Department, China's human rights abuses include "coercive family planning, continued use of 're-education through labor' camps, forced incarceration in psychiatric hospitals and torture". That "family planning" (such a nice euphemism, even with the word "coercive" in front of it) includes forced abortions and infanticide. Think about that the next time you hear someone say China's solution to its population problem is a good idea.,2933,141496,00.html

Here in America, our "family planning" ( which includes abortion and "partial birth abortion"--the latter of which is an inch away from out and out infanticide) continues to take on elements of our consumer-culture mindset. Here is yet another newspaper article about people going into fertility clinics and placing their orders for a child of one sex or another.

Designer baby articles are commonplace enough, but I did note this line from a medical director of one such clinic: "It's one of the most basic rights in our society that we can build our families the way we wish." No, it is not. Not even in these days of a newly invented "right" appearing every week.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Tidbits From the Past Few Days' News

An injured Marine told doctors, who were about to cut off his wedding ring in an attempt to save what they could of his finger, to cut his finger off and save his ring. His wife says she was mad at first (no s***), then felt honored. If Auntie Suzanne's beloved husband (we'll call him Uncle Pookie) pulled that, he'd be lucky not to get cuffed upside the head while I was shouting something along the lines of, "You f****** idiot!" Auntie Suzanne loves every little part of Uncle Pookie--as that Marine's wife probably does her husband--and had rather have him whole than any ring, including her own wedding ring. Good thing for that Marine women have a tendency to be softhearted toward the injured, and that marriage is for "for better or for worse, in good sense and stupidity."

Mississippi blues legend Robert Johnson, dead since 1938, was in the news the other day. Seems he died intestate and, as he was unmarried, his sister got everything. All well and good, until an illegitimate son turned up. Now they're all fighting over who gets two photographs and his royalties. Count this as exhibit number 4,332,481,019 in proving my case that monogamy and avoiding creating illegitimate children simplify one's life--and death.

(Of course this isn't the only post-death "life" of Robert Johnson. Thanks to that legend about his having sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads, he's started showing up as a character in all sorts of fictional stories.)

The British nanny-state promoters are at it again. This time they're wanting to ban sales of knives to people under eighteen, supposedly to reduce the number of knive-related crimes. Well, sure, why not? Look how well banning guns in Britain has worked.

But to be fair another British story this weekend made me smile. Their response to the health mullahs' haranguing them about fat, sugar, and alcohol, is to eat more cake, drink more alcohol, and switch from individual packs of crisps to the family-size packs. Good for them.

Re Kerik having to withdraw from consideration for the post of secretary of homeland security because he may have hired an illegal alien as a nanny and not paid the proper taxes for her services, I suspect many people are standing back open-mouthed at the spectacle of people in government and mainstream media actually acting as if they recognize that illegal aliens are just that--ILLEGAL.

Aliens Cause Global Warming

That's the title of an excellent speech by Michael Crichton; it was linked to in the Corner this weekend and, although I think I read it before, it was worth rereading. Crichton has two good points: When scientists have enough evidence for a claim, they don't have to play the "consensus" card; and when science is subverted for political aims, it is dangerous.

A side note on one comment: Crichton asks rhetorically who would come out against banning secondhand smoke. Well, I would, for one. It's always seemed to me that is one of the things that are best decided by a free market. Restaurant A sits beside Restaurant B. A's owner thinks he can make more money by banning smoking in his restaurant and B's owner thinks he can make more money catering to smokers. Left to themselves, without government interference, they'll soon find out.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

A Creepy Compromise

Ramesh Ponnuru has two interesting pieces about a possible compromise on embryonic stem cell research at Tech Central Station: "The Wisdon of a 'Creepy Solution'" and "Learning From Teratomas, II" . The creepiness is certainly there, but I can't fault Ponnuru's reasoning. (Not that I would have expected to be able to, as Ponnuru is a brilliant man.)

Something I will throw out there, though, as many people do not seem to know it. The Church does not oppose stem cell research, the Church opposes killing embryos to get stem cells. Stem cells can be taken from adults and from the blood in umbilical cords (a nice bit of recycling, that). The possibilities Ponnuru mentions--taking stem cells from dead embryos or dying embryos (if we can get them without further harming them) or from teratomas--seem licit to me; although those dead embryos would be frozen embryos from fertility clinics, and the Church does not approve of the kind of high-tech reproductive tampering that results in huge numbers of frozen embryos sitting around in canisters for years on end until they deteriorate so far they can't be used for pregnancy--something that is pretty creepy to start with, whether you think the Church has any authority or not. I was either opposed to or at least uneasy with most of the high-tech reproductive tinkering way back in my atheistic, neo-pagan days. As is mentioned in one of the articles, there is sometimes wisdom in repugnance.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Gibbon Wedding

According to this report, two animal conservationists got married in a gibbon-style ceremony. "His 28-year-old bride Israel responded with happy monkey calls..." Most of us save that sort of thing for the honeymoon.

(Nod to NRO's the Corner for the link.)

As I mentioned it...

The movie Auntie Mame--and I'm speaking only of the Rosalind Russell one, the Lucille Ball version was too bad for words*--is one of those rare cases of the movie being better than the book. The novel, by Patrick Dennis is not bad, but it lacks Rosalind Russell. Not to mention Mame's philosophy of life ("Life is a banquet...") and the sentimentalizing of the movie. I don't usually like sentimentalizing, but here it works; it humanizes Mame to see that she loves Patrick and wants to do her best for him. Yeah, I know, you could say the sentimentalizing tames Mame and makes her more acceptable in the average living room. And you'd be right, but then a movie has to be able to go into a lot of living rooms to be successful. And besides, we can be more sympathetic to Mame in the movie, where we think Mame loses her money solely because of the Depression, than in the book, where it's all too obvious she loses everything through her own stupidity.

Had I read the book as a teenager, I may have enjoyed it more. That whole "weirding out the mundanes" schtick (not quite accurate for Mame, but it's related) is more of a teenager thing than an adult one. I'd still say read it, though. If for no other reason than as a glimpse into our political past: Mame is a Democrat who works herself ragged--well, as ragged as you can get and still be glamorously dressed and coiffed--in the war effort during WWII, and is opposed to anti-Semitism. Ah, the good old days.

*Okay, I'll admit it, there was one funny moment in Lucille Ball's Mame: when I realized the drag queen I thought was playing Mame's friend, Vera Charles, was not actually a drag queen, but Bea Arthur.

Name & Theme Song

The name of this blog is an homage to two things: Orson Scott Card's "Uncle Orson Reviews Everything" columns and the Auntie Mame movie with Rosalind Russell. The former is both entertaining and useful; I've come to trust Card's judgement on books implicitly, and though I can't say the same about his judgement of movies--the man likes Adam Sandler movies!--his reviews, like the books he recommends, are always worth reading. As for the latter, I saw it on late-night TV when I was ten or eleven, and I loved it. It spoke to my inner drag queen and is just generally a fun movie.

As for my blog's theme song, it may be Carla Ulbrich's "Nothing to Say". Then again, something from Leslie Fish would be nice. "Lock and Load" would be great, but that would be flattering myself. "Bitch Song"--the title of it, that is--is probably a more accurate description of what this blog will contain.