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27 December
home!
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I'm home, briefly before starting the road trip to Georgia tomorrow, from the family holiday [more in journal]. Time to paint my toenails and then take a shower so all the excess nailpolish washes off my skin (hey, still cheaper than a pedicure).

And hey, gods of health [Hygenia, perhaps?] willing, I'll get to meet Rev 9 in person.

I don't have to go to work for another whole week. Huzzah! Even my shoulders are glad. Though my foot's asleep. I guess even feet need rest on vacation.

Must hobble off to pack now.

 

24 December
ready for vacation
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I haven't been but so busy at work, but I'm ready for a vacation. I've been busy at life.

I think I might be ready for a vacation from How Things Are. Not that things are bad, just that it's nice to change. Even if change means being covered in yellow dog hair.

I'll see five states in a car over the next week (see, I'm going up one, back here, then down three), but none of the best parts of Virginia. None of my travels take me through the beach or the mountains anymore. I'm a little sad of that.

While I'm gone, I think I'll reopen my design "business". I'm planning on a new domain, something that will give me a whole new place to play. Nothing too elaborate, just - a sandbox.

 

23 December
my personal portal
link : thoughts (1) (user/password is 'redpolka') : track it (0) : in books & tv & internet stuff

This site is gradually becoming an encyclopedia of me. Of things I like.

I've taken to posting all the books I read and recommend, all the sites I come upon, and a world of other interesting things in the exits/links section. I don't know if anyone ever reads that part of the site, but I realized today that it contains over 250 links in my various categories. That, my friends, is a lot of links. It's now my own personal mini-portal.

I think that means it needs a search function. Eventually, it will get big enough that even I won't know whether I have a certain site linked or not.

 

19 December
the movie
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The buildup we created for ourselves with the pre-movie gathering, Risk-playing, etc. was well worth it. I mean, movie going just isn't the event it could be. Most of the time.

So, there we were with our event. It's good to see a movie crowded at a midweek noon showing, though it wasn't the awestriking geek esprit de corps of seeing the first movie in the dark in the dark (that is, in a dark theater on a dark night). Something in my head connects geek lore to darkness. Late night. The Rocky Horror Picture Show. [Or is that queer lore? So hard to tell.]

In any case. Two Towers finally got me okay with the whole maleness of the thing. I finally saw the whole Six Months in a Leaky Boatness of it. It's brotherhood. I can dig brotherhood. I can even accept distance from it.

My complaints were few, and small - that Gollum was cutely slimey (Caveat Lector articulates it well) where I wanted him to be disturbingly ordinary (an opinion few share), and that the movie appears to have been cleaned up in a hurry when mom headed down to the basement. In other words, it ended too quickly.

Not, perhaps, unlike this post.

 

17 December
vaginas and their monologues
link : thoughts (4) (user/password is 'redpolka') : track it (1) : in sexually liberated stuff

I did not like The Vagina Monologues. But, for the sake of We Have Brains, I'll talk about it a little.

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porn
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I'm tired of hearing women say Ick when faced with anything pornographic. That automatically triggered response - Ew! I accidentally saw porn! - both confounds and perturbs me.

What I find particularly confounding is that this attitude isn't limited to women one might expect to have some hesitance about the sex industry - the stereotypically moralistic christian or second wave feminist. I've seen it in teenagers, in hip, funky third-wavers who talk openly about sex.

And I wonder why.

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cleavage
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Caught half of the A&E special documentary Cleavage on the television last weekend. Oh, my. I don't know what it says about me that I'd rather be angry than turn off the television.

Wait. I do know what it says. It says I like to get angry. And amused. And annoyed. These are all things I was as a result of this show.

First, it was not a documentary. It was a silliness. You can't have a real documentary if Joan Rivers appears within as an expert. It's simply impossible. And I'd be fine with it, if only the darn show weren't so clearly presented as representative of history.

Hello! Joan Rivers! Enough said.

And then it suffered from every "girlist" misapprehension one might imagine. Breasts are power. Breasts are debilitating. Women with large breasts are stupid cows. Wait, no, they're just very sexual and blah blah blah...

But, as a girl of large breasts, what irked me was the same problem of fat acceptance discussions in the mainstream media - that is, the explanation of what it means to be or have x. Thin people guessing at what it means to be fat. Small-breasted women guessing at what it means to have large breasts.

I started to wonder if I'd missed anything, then realized that this was the case. I mean, I've always had exceptionally large breasts for my age/weight/size, and I've never experienced either the benefits or detractions attributed to breastiness by that show. Because those things are all about conventional wisdom and stereotype; so, what the show was actually documenting was our preconceptions about breasts (and not cleavage, by the way), not their history as a fashion element.

And that gets us back to my first annoyance. I hate entertainment masquerading as education [Entertainment as education is quite something else.], and that's exactly what I was watching - fluff, disguised as something weightier.

 

13 December
celebration
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I am taking the day off next Wednesday. Well, most of it. I am taking the day off to entertain a friend in the midst of our twenty four hour Peter Jackson frenzy. It sounds like fun.

If you could take off, you know you'd do it, too.

It's not just for the movie, silly. It's for the company. You have to make time, sometimes, to celebrate without solid purpose.

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11 December
jimmy carter!
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in the bicentennial summer of our faded glory land
a bright new face appeared upon the scene.
of an honest peanut farmer by the name of Jimmy Carter.
his eyes were set on every school boys dream.

I meant to post very enthusiastically awhile ago that Jimmy Carter won a Nobel Peace Prize, but I guess it's old news now. Still, Carter's enthusiasm for peace and communication seem appropriate given both the current global political climate and the marking of Human Rights Day this week.

I worry that even our most international peace mongerers in America become jokes of a sort. Too many people cynically laugh at Jimmy Carter, at what he does in Cuba, at the notion that we'd listen to him urging Georgie Porgy to work with the UN.

But tonight, let's just sing.

well the odds were stacked against him
but he was not afraid to fight
the mighty facist empire lined up on the right.
so shake the hand of the man
with a handful of love
the one and only Jimmy Carter.

(quotes from the song by Blue Mountain)

 

ed disappoints me
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Tonight on one of my favorite television shows, Ed, the formerly smart and generally fabulous Mark decides to get gastric bypass surgery.

Agh. Of course, as angry as I was with the show, it's actually the actor himself who instigated the plot - after he had the surgery himself. But still. The actor is 24; I don't think my buddy Mark is even supposed to be 18. Bad form - Mark's fictional doctor doesn't manage to mention the huge potential side effects, the unknown possible impact to a young person's growth, metabolism, etc; though Mark sticks up against the surgery initially (citing the usual arguments), ultimately his concerned friends help him see the light.

The surgery discussion isn't the worst of the episode - honestly, that part is reasonably balanced. What's upsetting is that Mark, who is generally a together kid, is portrayed throughout the episode as the sort of uncontrollable overeater who downs a hot dog as an appetizer. As is his heart-attack-having father. And there's a subtle (or not so) undercurrent of "this is how fat people are".

Is starving yourself for the rest of your life the new, reasonable, price of cool? Of course, no one ever seems to mention the social downside - he may be more acceptably sized, but he'll never be able to even drink a whole beer at a time. Surely not being able to ingest much of anything is also a frustrating downside. I mean, what are the chances that a kid with a mini stomache will still be just as much of a freak as ever? Pretty high, I'd guess.

Take that and the comments on Paul's Emme doll article follow up, and this should be a bad day in fat town. A bad April day.

But it's temporary. I mean, it's still attention paid to the size acceptance movement, right?

I just can't help thinking gastric bypass is the next Phen-Fen. A flash in the proverbial pan. Of course, like every other failed weight loss technique, gastric bypass will succeed for a few people, kill a few others, and mostly just leave a bunch of fatter people in its wake.

Come to think of it, that sucks.

 

08 December
shelley bovey
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I've been stewing over this comment from Shelley Bovey (a prominent fat activist known for writing "Being Fat is Not a Sin"). Bovey said, in a Herald article

I actually know from within the movement that most people who are overweight are really unhappy. I think there must be a sense of envy. I know these women. They are intelligent. But I don't know a single one of them who is happy.

She also said that she lost weight because she finally had a good life. The implication of those two statements combined is very similar to the undercurrent of self-loathing in Oprah's diet discussions [Oprah's other contributions to popular culture aside]; that fat is a protective outer coating for the pain we feel deep inside.

I understand Bovey has to be feeling pretty defensive about her demotion (from prominent to "former" size acceptance champion), but if she honestly felt that people who were fat were that unhappy, I have to question why she bothered to support size acceptance in the first place. Maybe her energies for those years would have been better spent in some quality time with her therapist making her life happy.

I guess that also calls into question the motivation of many activists. Must one be leading an exemplary life, or at least abiding by the principals of one's movement, in order to effectively advocate change? Perhaps not. But I do think as a leader of that movement, Bovey was basically cheating for years by feeling the way she did about fat. Promoting acceptance of size while saying "fat people are fat because they're unhappy" is just wrong. It's equivalent to saying "well, those Jews are stingy and unwashed, but hey, they should still be allowed to have jobs".

So of course, fat people felt betrayed when she lost weight. The reason fat people feel abandoned by her isn't that she lost weight - it's that she insulted them, while also spreading the misinformation that anti-fat people were already too willing to spread [Fat is unhappy. Fat comes from overeating.]. The weightloss is just a symptom of the deeper insult and betrayal.

That doesn't mean that it isn't and could never be okay for a fat activist to lose weight (or to start out thin), for a man to be a feminist, for a queer activist to be straight, for someone who hates racism to be white. Not being part of a minority group and still championing the rights of that group is a challenge, but also a necessity - the inherent nature of minorities requires recruitment of the majority in order to make the changes you need. The problem is - you cannot support what you actually revile, and that's a problem we've seen in all too many former fat activists recently.

 

christmas is christian
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I got a nice taste of being in the majority the other day when a woman at work asked us to not do anything Santa Claus-related for our holiday outing.

See, she's Jewish. While Santa Claus seems completely non-Christian to me, he is an icon associated with christmas, and christmas is undoubtedly Christian. It seems fine to me to enjoy the whole Santa Claus concept, because, even though I am not Christian, I see the pagan side of Santa.

And, more importantly - I am not Christian, which is a much different perspective from non-Christian. I can comfortably reject Christianity and not be offended by the many ways in which it is the state religion in America, but I seriously doubt I could do that if I followed a non-Christian religion. Secularized Christian holidays (valentines, candy eggs, yule trees) are part of my secular upbringing. No big deal.

But. Just as the slimness of everyone on television tells fat people they're not really part of society, the institutionalization of Christian holidays is a firm reminder to everyone else in America that they are minorities. There may be giant menorahs at the gas stations, but people still get christmas day off automatically at work.

The nice thing about this exchange (for me) was its departure from my usual role. For once, I was the one in the noncommittal majority (I don't believe in the religious mythology of christmas, but I still basically celebrate the secular holiday) instead of the one pointing out the offense. It was a nice lesson. A reminder that people rarely offend intentionally, and that education is really what we need.

 

06 December
gluttony
link : thoughts (1) (user/password is 'redpolka') : track it (0) : in fat & health stuff

I almost didn't notice this recent explosion of discussion around fat acceptance. See, a while ago Big Fat Blog posted a bit about Anita Roddick's stint in a fat suit. And then interviewed her. And since then, I've seen references to fat and size acceptance all over the place.

People are puzzling it out. That's exciting. Exciting.

I say I didn't notice. By that, I do not mean I didn't notice the discussion. Rather, I chimed in so early in it that it didn't occur to me to see the reoccurrence of the discussion as unusual. And it's not, exactly (unusual).

On a slightly related note, Hypocrisy started talking about fat in terms of gluttony (or rather, gluttony in terms of not-fat). And this made me think about what gluttony really is in a cardinal sin sense.

What is it?

As with all sins, it can have a literal or a spiritual implication and can be an action or merely a thought. Literally, gluttony is consuming, or wishing to consume, more than one needs. It can also be consuming (literally or spiritually) that which is empty. It can be - and this is the fun part - dieting, because dieting implies a fixation on food beyond an appreciation of and sharing the bounty of God. If you believe gluttony is a sin, then disrespecting what God provides for you (spiritually or in the form of food) by hoarding or discarding it is wrong. You could argue that the proscriptions against gluttony are, in fact, a command to obey your body's natural needs.

That's right. Even making more food than you can eat, then throwing it away, is gluttony.

Given that, it's pretty obvious that gluttony is not the domain of the fat. Oh, no. It's the domain of America. Maybe the domain of industrialized nations, period. We throw so much away. Even the way we eat in common restaurants (calories filled with fat but empty, portions too big for us to consume) is, in essence, sin. Of course, you don't have to be Christian, or even religious at all, to recognize our societal sickness.

Perhaps the reason we fear fat so much is that we've demonized it by association with what we know is a failing of our society.

And with that, I end tonight's preaching. If you'd like to know more of what I think on the Roddick fat-suit issue, read the rest of this entry below.

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snow!
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Snow.

You know, I think I've finally reached an age at which snow no longer holds unlimited fascination. Night before last, it snowed what could be construed [around here] as barrelsfull. I was not enthralled.

And. Like a little old lady, I nearly sprained my ankle while trying to unbury my car. It turns out that my car is too timid to make it over the gnome hill of snow behind it, so I could have skipped the ankle twisting and left the car there as a temporary Norse burial mound, minus corpse.

I look at snow and think of corpses, not snowpeople. This must mean old.

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my content is inappropriate?
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It appears that my own site has been blocked by the new content-filtering software at the office. More specifically, any internal page of the site has been blocked. So, when I went to check on whether the pale green color morphed into some pathetic imitation of khaki on certain poorly calibrated monitors, I saw something about ethics policies.

Our ethics policies are primarily focused on not conducting inappropriate political business or dealing, but I thought the content blockers were focused on porn (which, despite not being specifically mentioned in that policy, can be agreed as inappropriate if not unethical content for one to browse at work).

So, how is my site content porn-related, I wonder? Or maybe the filters are more or less sophisticated than I imagine. Maybe they've discovered certain verboten political words on the site. Maybe it's just the occasional curse word. A surprising number of other sites that meet similar criteria (in my book, at least) are not blocked, so I'm confused.

I'm also wondering when the blocking in question happened, as I rarely visit the site from work except to check email (which I can still do). I suspect that both checking up on my daily reads and fomenting revolution are activities in which one is not expected to engage in the workplace, ergo I rarely do either.

 

05 December
awareness
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It's probably impossible to know how much control we each really have over our thoughts and actions. How much we're influenced by all the things around us.

I like to think it's all about free will.

But.

I find myself thinking other people are the product of their environment. And to try to forgive them their annoying characteristics as something they can't control.

For instance, I know a woman who is somewhat whiny and also fat. I wonder if she's whiny in part because she's experiencing the world as a fat person. Her tendency to tell me too much about when and what she eats, to mock herself, these could be things she does because that's what fat people are supposed to do.

This isn't fair of me. It's almost as if I presume she has less control over her response to life just because she's fat. Would I think the same thing if she were a thin woman? I suspect I'd just think she was whiny and tended to over-disclose. Or, worse, I'd assume that her fixation on food was directed at me. I know for sure I wouldn't think the same if it were I acting that way; I'd skewer myself, stew over it, and do many other cannibalistic-sounding things. I would not forgive and chock it all up to some form of gentle oppression; ideas like The Media [o, great singular conglomerate] would not enter the picture - it would be all about me.

If we could all just say, to hell with it, wouldn't that be better? Wouldn't it be easier to just drop activism and live our lives? That is, if we just did whatever we did, accepted it as free will, and therefore automatically rejected stereotypes, oppression, all those little social inequities.

The problem is that thought sometimes has to be consciously changed. We follow a pattern of automatic thoughts for so long, and they don't just change like that. No *poof*.

On the surface, social activism can seem like bizarre thought regulation - it's okay to say cunt, maybe, but not to say girl. It sounds like just rules for what you can and cannot think, when it's really about awareness. If that awareness makes you unwilling to say and think and do certain things, it might be good for you, but you don't get to awareness by following rules about what you can and can't do.

I forget that sometimes. I don't want to hear things from other people that offend me, and it's easier to command don't say that than to impart awareness.

Because. People are influenced, to whatever extent, by conventional wisdom. We all carry with us a handful (or more) of stereotypes and other automatic assumptions of what we and others are and do. Only awareness changes that.

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more. new.
link : thoughts (0) (user/password is 'redpolka') : track it (0) : in books & tv & internet stuff

As you can see, I've just redesigned the site. And moved this blog to MT.

I did it all on one snowy evening, so I suspect there are huge nasty messes somewhere and I haven't seen them.

Why? It's nearly winter (the snow here today proves it) and I need something other than September to look at.

 

01 December
seven. ten.
link : thoughts (0) (user/password is 'redpolka') : track it (0) : in artsy stuff

There's a concept in Noh theatre that can be reduced to "inside seven, outside ten" and "inside ten, outside seven" (to really generally paraphrase Noh-treatise-writer Zeami).


The idea Zeami talks about is that an experienced Noh performer's external expression will be subtle, as if he felt ten (or, if he were in Spinal Tap, eleven) but expressed seven. By contrast, the young performer who hasn't established the internal performance should compensate by expressing externally more than he feels. It's not quite as as simple as that, of course; Zeami takes hundreds more words of conviction and detail to say this.


What is important to me, though, is not merely the message to the actor, but the application of this concept to art in general. I've been thinking about it in relation to graphic design, particularly design for the web, where the design doesn't stand by itself.


Good design follows and helps shape the function and content of a site (form follows function, yes, but function can also follow form). So, for a site about words and content, good graphics will subtly express the content - will underline a theme. But - it doesn't necessarily follow that the elaborate, page-filling images created by some [typically quite young, which is also Zeami-appropriate] designers are bad design. Rather, in those cases, the images are speaking the themes of their sites when the content isn't there.

 

history and its annoying concept of time
link : thoughts (1) (user/password is 'redpolka') : track it (0) : in nerdy & silly stuff

I've been reading this book about philosophy [Sophie's World, which is actually a novel about the history of philosophy], which calls up something that always bothers me with history.

In short, this Darwinist perspective that all events are strung together in a line.

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