22 April
the tv monster
link : thoughts (6) : track it (0) : about pop culture

It turns out that we're freaks at our house.

Maybe because we were both the sort of latchkey kids who were allowed to do homework while watching 3-2-1 Contact or maybe resulting from some multitasking gene, embracing of pop culture or other oddity, we don't really get sucked into the television.

I've always assumed that the icon of child or beer-can-toting armchair driver staring unmoving at the glare of a television set was largely a propaganda tool. A great portion of my family's interaction now and as a kid took place with some form of media background - music, television, reading at the dinner table. These things weren't outlawed as a distraction from real life, but accepted as part of life. Don't most families work this way?

Turns out - no. My informal survey of my friends, which started last weekend with one of those semi-intelligent discussions you try to have in a too-loud bar, reveals that it's more common for television and other media to be forbidden. Homework is homework, reading is reading, and television-watching is an activity unto itself.

I had no idea.

And. This is a cultural problem in America. Television, particularly, is only occasionally enough to occupy the brain without any other stimulus. It's not that interesting, or that informative, when you consider how effectively people can process multiple stimuli in the background and keep on working (this is, for instance, one reason you can work in a cube environment and not constantly be looking over your shoulder). People are good at giving focus to one thing without ignoring others completely.

By forbidding ourselves and our kids from ingesting multiple media at once, we reject this capability in ourselves and fail to train it. We make ourselves worse at driving, at defending ourselves, at getting things done - because we assume we have only the attention to pay to one thing at a time.

I have no doubt that part of the reason I am now so productive at work and so creative at home is my ability to work on multiple levels simultaneously, and I'm equally sure that these things are a direct results of years spent doing homework in front of the television and reading while listening to music on the porch.

 

08 April
some things are so funny they make you cry
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I think this speaks for itself: Propaganda Remix Project. [Thanks to Jordynn for the link.]

 

04 February
excellence? maybe not.
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I've been travelling mid-day at work more often lately. And so, I'm listening to the local talk radio station (NPR locally shifts to classical music during the workday, and that's just not enough for the drive).

Most of the shows on this particular station are part of the "EIB" network, which is, as far as I can tell, a network of shows that Rush Limbaugh approves.

Rush Limbaugh. Ugh. I do not understand the people who claim he's brilliant and insightful. Maybe he once was - I don't recall him being as simple-minded on his television show years ago - but he certainly is not now. Fully eighty percent of every show he's done has consisted of simply bashing liberals for things like blankly hating conservatives and refusing to come up with effective solutions to the problems they identify.

Um. Excuse me.

"Pot?"
"Yes."
"This is Kettle. You're black."

So, no surprise, I find Rush entirely pointless.

But. There are some much better shows on this network. One Glen Beck, for instance. Glen seems to take particular delight in accepting calls from idiots who've heard too much Rush [no, not that Rush, silly!] and stewed in their own prejudices - Glen takes these guys and mocks them furiously. I like that.

He's still conservative, but in a way that would encourage conversation if more liberal-minded folk listened to his show.

Another thing I find fascinating about this whole radio station, oddly enough, is this weird advertising quality. They have the announcers read the actual ads - so, it comes across as these trustworthy figures who just happen to be paid to sell you some idiot product (i.e. Herbalife, I kid you not).

Basically, they use the same methods as older-style radio announcers. Compared to the loud, undisguised quality of most contemporary advertising (surely everyone has at some point had to turn the radio or television down for commercials and back up for the program), it's harder to ignore. It's also strangely disillusioning - and almost creepy.

Trust no one, the trusted radio voice seems to say. Creepy.

 

14 January
dessert is back
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I've seen three different pizza companies advertising three different free desserts with your pizza since coming home tonight. [We keep the television on during most of our waking hours - being of that generation of latchkey kids who did homework in front of the television, we're more productive at other tasks with noise and color in the background.] And it's only 7:30!

Most fast food and takeout places have always offered some form of dessert, but the fact that the pizza places are eagerly inventing new desserts and advertising them loudly (as part of the pizza wars, I suppose) indicates a rekindled enthusiasm for the dessert experience.

I heartily approve. I don't exactly approve of the cinnamon pizza, but I like the idea of dessert - of eating fully for the pleasure of eating and extending the time you spend in your dinner partner(s)'s company. It's a sign of a healthy attitude towards food - neither as the enemy or the savior, simply as something to enjoy.

It's a good thing I renounced my fatness in that last entry. I mean, a fat person admitting to liking dessert? Appalling! A sure sign that I'm a crazed eating machine.

 

12 January
a television show i'd like to see
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A half-hour variety show hosted by John Goodman and featuring a variety of differently sized people as weekly guests and cast members. With cute, round funky dancers. The Phat Girls, perhaps?

We could call it "John Goodman's Bootay". Lots of advertising potential - "Spend your Friday Night with John Goodman's Bootay"; "Have you seen John Goodman's Bootay?"; "Get naked with John Goodman's Bootay".

It would have both the utterly bizarre ironic quality of the Daily Show and the bonus of regular-sized people on television.

Hey, I'd watch it.

 

07 January
2002 in review
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I haven't posted anything in several days because I had to sit and
think about the year that just ended. Oh, absolutely.

Well, not really.

But, hey - the guys (plus girl sitemaster) of a certain local band are doing
this year-in-review thing, so I shall, too.

So. A list of things about 2002.

but wait! there's more


 

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
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.

 

11 December
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.

 

30 August
back to the regular people fashion zine
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I've semi-started pulling this fashion zine thing together. It will be my winter project, but in order for me to have this winter project, I need to collect things now.


I started something on nervousness.org to open up the idea to an audience slightly broader than people I know. I suppose I should also send out the request to the zine's membership.


One key point: this isn't a chick-only project. I mean, I'm not sure there are any two non-anatomical words besides "fashion" and "feminist" that more obviously shout You're not invited to men. And I'm just saying, here and now. Not true.


You're all totally invited.

but wait! there's more


 

24 August
horror. bliss. fashion.
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Allison did something interesting with her wishlists awhile ago that made me rethink the notion of the wishlist on bloggers' sites. I don't think it's so much a "buy me this" phenomenon as a "learn all about me" one.


I don't want you to know all about me, but I did notice today that one of the wishlists I've kept pretty much epitomizes my taste in clothing. So here it is:
my sense of style epitomized in one page (minus accessories).


This also segues nicely into something I've been thinking about doing: a fashion zine. Specifically a print zine featuring pictures of people wearing their actual clothes, along with some interesting graphic design and other content. I don't have time to produce it now, but it's on my list.


The impetus for this real people in clothes idea (which maybe someone else has done by now, I don't know) was thinking about Grace magazine and the purpose of fashion magazines for fat women (the same applies to older women): they normalize their audience. That is to say - Grace has come under fire for being mindless fluff (it is), but depth isn't its purpose. It's intended to give average size women (it really only hits the midpoint, doesn't extend to the more noticeably fat) an opportunity to enjoy the mindless fluff of fashion magazines while seeing themselves reflected back. Grace gives the slightly fat a place to go for style ideas that don't make us feel abnormal (even though, as with all fashion magazines, the ideas presented therein are way outside most of our budgets).


It may seem like a shallow goal, but normalizing average sized women and older women and recognizing the importance of advertising to those markets is a pretty big step as far as narrow beauty definitions go. Of course, they're still niche markets, and they still don't encompass the full spectrum of feminine beauty, but it's a start.


I was thinking about the uses of the fashion magazine in my life, and I decided that I wanted to see some real people in real, reasonably sized, clothes that they - gasp - bought (rather than borrowed for a photo shoot, which happens even in our coolest, most content-rich zines when they do fashion spreads). Because a clever combination of accessories purchased at Target is just as interesting and much more attainable for most of us.


Basically, I'd like to read a zine with real ideas about clothes and the people who wear them. Since I haven't seen such a thing, I may just have to make it myself.


In any case, I probably won't get round to it until winter. If you're interested in participating, though, let me know. We'll figure out details later.

 

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