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Sunday, December 26, 2010

deja vu

Or, more appropriately, deja lu. The cover art looked familiar, and so did many of the words. But, I didn't recognize the random part from later in the book that I turned to, so I thought I must have read the opening excerpt online or something. Then I hit a part that had particularly bothered me the first time around, and realized what I'd suspected earlier: I've already read this one, it just didn't make enough of an impression for me to be absolutely sure I'd already read it. But, now that I've reread this really offensive part and the totally bizarre ending, I remember it. And am reminded why I was expecting that I might not finish the new one. Which, according to the author's website, is coming out in May.

Disappointing, but frees me up to move on to another book. Tomorrow, Life of the Buddha in the Morning, and maybe I'll start Perdido Street Station in the afternoon.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

change of plans

Went to the library today to get Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler. I'm hoping that that one, or perhaps its sequel, turns out to be appropriate for my class in the Spring. I figured I'd read that on the plane, then move on to The Life of the Buddha (which I have to teach when classes start in January), whatever essays catch my attention out of The Mythological Dimensions of Doctor Who (which I have to thumb through so that I can get a sense of what's appropriate for submissions to this planned project on the mythological dimensions of Neil Gaiman['s work]), and Perdido Street Station, which I have have been wanting to read, and am also auditioning for my course in the Spring. Sounds like a great plan, yes?

But, despite the fact that the book showed as being on the shelf when I checked last night, the library did not, in fact have it. What to do?! Well, the bus wasn't coming for another 1/2 hour and it was unpleasant outside, and I was in a library, for crying out loud, so I decided to look around and see if there was anything else I wanted. As if there wouldn't be. Did you know there was a new Sookie Stackhouse book out? I didn't. It's guaranteed to piss me off, but I'm going to read it anyway. Unless it really begins to bore or anger me, in which case I'm just going to put it down and move on. No, really - after the last one, I'm ready to walk away if it isn't actually entertaining me. Now, I'd say I was going to read it on the plane, but it's in the house with me right now, so...

I also picked up Craig Ferguson's autobiography (it's got to be at least a little bit amusing, right?) and a book of poetry by Kay Ryan. She wrote this poem, which I love, and I suspect that I will find others in this collection that I also love. So, um...rather that just the one book (which I put in a hold request for), I came away with 3. And I will totally read those 3, plus the other 3 over the break. Right? These 3 are likely to be quick reads, so I think it's toatlly doable. And the last few times I traveled with books, I devoured them and then sat watching Barbecue play Gears of War, a nd played Soduku and Bejeweled on the plane, so I think it'll be ok.

Book review: "Fledgling" by Octavia Butler

FledglingFledgling by Octavia E. Butler

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Click through for review (slightly spoilery)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Well here's a can of worms

This was initially a reply to a comment that K. left on this post, but, go figure, a comment about religion and science got way too long for the comment section. So now it's a post. My apologies for the rambliness (yeah, it is too a word!). I'd say I'd work on it some more, but I probably won't :P

another random one on women

A few weeks ago, I was going to write a post on how much bull this New York Times piece on how OMG WOMEN WITH CAREERS AND MONEY CAN'T GET MEN BECAUSE THEY'RE SCA-RY! (which I found through this Feministe article on it) seemed full of, but someone who does this sort of thing for a living has already done an excellent job  of that.
But a small but growing number of feminist commentators—that's me—are increasingly annoyed by made-up trend pieces that are comfortable playing with more than our assumptions about elderly fitness and performance mouthpiece use. These stories make light of our most basic identities as women—they tell us how our civil rights are ruining our interpersonal relationships, how our wombs are interfering with our higher education, and whether our basic body types are currently socially acceptable. Let's conveniently gloss over the supporting figures: Even one inflated female trend piece in the NYT is one too many.

Monday, December 20, 2010

True Blood was bad about women last season, part π

A while back, a friend asked me why I'd given up on True Blood. We talked about misogyny and race and entertainment, but I felt like I wasn't really at the top of my game that day (I'd had a few other things going on), and I came away feeling that I hadn't done a good job of explaining why so much of what happened last season was problematic, or why so much of what happened last season shouldn't just be problematic to me, or to people who look like me.

Too late to change any of that, but I was looking at articles on Pop Matters this morning, trying to figure out their tone (long story), and came across one that takes a good, smart look at what I thought was one of the worst parts of last season, discussing why it seemed not just disturbing, but unacceptable (hooray!). He's talking about that Bill/Lorena scene at the end of the third episode. You know the one and, if you don't, I'm not telling you about it here. (A warning, by the way, that he describes it in some detail at the start of the article, so if you were hoping to start forgetting that image, maybe skip to third paragraph.) I think he does a good job, using examples of other instances of disturbing violence (drawn from films) of explaining what made this one problematic, and also of what why this seemed like only part of True Blood's problem this season:

The week after “It Hurts Me Too” aired I warily sat down to watch the following episode, “9 Crimes”, unsure of what to expect. I can’t tell whether I’ve been sensitised to the show’s violence or whether it has simply become worse, but none of the women fared particularly well. Over the course of the episode, True Blood’s women were held hostage by psychopaths, attacked in their homes, murdered in limousines, and in a particularly stressful scene, publicly branded.
I wouldn’t argue that acts of violence against women or marginalised groups depicted in popular culture are never OK, but here the context seems to speak for itself. One act of violence may be just that, but I’ve seen enough in True Blood to indicate a pattern, and now I find it hard to watch at all. For me, the show’s misogyny is pervasive and unjustified.
From "Vampire Misogyny: Violence in True Blood" 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ricky Gervais on why he's an atheist

“Do unto others…” is a good rule of thumb. I live by that. Forgiveness is probably the greatest virtue there is. Buts [sic] that’s exactly what it is -­‐ a virtue. Not just a Christian virtue. No one owns being good. I’m good. I just don’t believe I’ll be rewarded for it in heaven. My reward is here and now. It’s knowing that I try to do the right thing. That I lived a good life. And that’s where spirituality really lost its way. When it became a stick to beat people with. “Do this or you’ll burn in hell.”
You won’t burn in hell. But be nice anyway.

I was recently watching Ricky Gervais on The Graham Norton Show and thinking that I like him a little bit more every time I see an interview or a different side of his humor. My other favorite part of this is where he says that he always tries to give a sensitive, reasoned and honest answer, in an attempt not to be patronizing and impolite, only to find that the sensitive, reasoned and honest answer is taken as patronizing and impolite. Yeah, welcome to my world, Ricky. I'm actually not an atheist, but as an agnostic, a woman who doesn't want children, an academic who studies religion, and someone who spends a lot of time trying to  explain to people why their ideas are not as perfect as they think they are, I hear you on that dilemma.

One girl in all the world...

My friend J. was kind enough to give me a lift home from a holiday party tonight, and suggested that we watch an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I've had Whedon on the brain lately, as I've been working on a couple of Whedon-related proposals, so - oh, who am I kidding - I'd have been psyched to watch an episode of Buffy regardless! She suggested something from season two (a great season), and we settled on "I Only Have Eyes for You." I don't think I'd seen that one since it aired (somehow, I have not rewatched most of the show) but, once it came back to me, it came back to me that it had been one of my my favorites. In context, when I was watching that traumatic arc unfold, that episode was heartbreaking (except for the shocker in the final scene). Watching it tonight, what stuck out to me most strongly was how unforgiving Buffy could be, especially of herself. This was really highlighted in the Angel/Angelus arc, but it was one of the central aspects of her character. I always liked the way her unwavering sense of rightness both defined her heroism and problematized her humanity, and the way her Scooby gang strengthened her by softening her.

God, I miss that show.

Speaking of which, I've been saying for a while that I should rewatch Buffy, especially since I'll be teaching it and trying to write on it. I came across this post recently, about a Great Buffy Rewatch that someone (Nikki Stafford, the author of Bite Me, an unofficial companion guide to BtVs) has organized, and I think I'm going to watch along with her. Well, sort of. I don't know if I'll keep to the 3 eps. a week schedule, but I'll use it as a rough guide. I might go more month to month. She'll be blogging about it and will have lots of interesting looking guest bloggers (scholars, sports writers, novelists, TV companion writers, poets, pop culture bloggers, etc) writing about episodes, so I look forward to reading that (info about contributors), and I'm sure you'll see some links to some of that, and some comments over here in the peanut gallery.

I also look forward to writing a bit about it myself - yes, you can expect to see a lot of Buffy posts over the next year as I participate in the rewatch and use the blog to record at least some of my thoughts on the show. Let me know if any of you decide to watch along as well, either all the way through or in parts. Let me know especially if you're local, and would like to get together for some Buffy watching! Unlike the site linked above, I will not be restricting myself to Tuesday nights.