Dear Readers,

I now consider this blog to be my Juvenelia. Have fun perusing the archives, and find me at my new haunt, here.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Adam Nagourney Goes Deep Inside... tell us that Golly gee, Anderson Cooper is kinda tall!

This is the thing about the Times' reporting strategy these days (at least in some departments) and why it's not working. The Times, faced with dropping revenues, is trying to go after the gossipy style of the tabloids and cable news stations and some blogs, but is seriously sacrificing substance to do so.

What the NYT and the rest of the MSM has yet to grasp about the appeal of the blogosphere is that bloggers may be snappy and snarky but they actually provide a factual look at authority that's not through rose-colored lenses.

The post in question is essentially a personal, rather nasty, look at the CNN/Youtubedebate from the angle of actually being in the room instead of watching it on the telly-screen. Here are his initial impressions:

Anderson Cooper is taller than he looks on television. He also was wearing a much nicer suit than any of the men on stage who wanted to be president. (If you are now looking for some carping about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s fashion sense, you have come to the wrong place: turn the page or click the link, or whatever it is one needs to do these days to move on.) Mr. Cooper is also rather funny, in a droll sort of way...
Oh tee-hee. Not only does Ad-Nag get to subtly dig at the rise of electronic media, he gets to thoroughly let in to his bitchiest instincts and talk about Anderson's height and charm, and then dish about HRC's jacket by pretending not to talk about HRC's jacket (so meta)...and it's all rather, to use his wording, droll. Droll, I tell you! It must feel liberating for Ad-Nag not to be reporting on real stuff! Oh wait, this is the exact same crap he usually writes about... hmmm. At least there's no faux-objectivity here.

Here's the closing graf:

Inside the hall, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, who tends in these settings to speak softly, was not a particularly striking presence; a number of colleagues in the press corps who watched on television rated him the winner of the night. Mr. Edwards seemed coiled and strident in the hall; colleagues watching him on television, where it matters, said he was gripping and compelling. And Mrs. Clinton? This is the one place where impressions inside the hall matched those on television. She DID stand out in that sea of dark suits wearing that (sorry) eye-catching coral jacket.

Ouch! Our main national political reporter at last gets to do his favorite thing--use gender politics to impugn two really excellent candidates, and then get in yet another dig-but-not-a-dig at HRC's jacket. The sad thing is that Edwards' coat comment was a stupid joke. The media, on the other hand, takes this shit seriously. God, this man needs some therapy.

Still, I'm disappointed that Ad-Nag didn't devote an entire post to an important subject: HRC's boobies. Way to miss the forest for the trees, home-slice.

Oh Lord, A Literary Scandal!

I don't even know how to begin with this one. I've spent the morning recuping from a night that involved two extremely potent margaritas and one not-so-potent viewing of "Who's Your Caddy?" (yep, you read right). I think my body has lost all ability to process alcohol-- a far cry from my seven jameson-and sodas-are-nothing days of living in Galways, Ireland.

Anyway, there's no better way to nurse a hangover than with gossip blogs--and my persual of the Gawk led me to a bona fide literary scandal! Apparently a famous writer's less famous wife had left him to join the steady harem of some sort of billionaire mogul! The best part of the Gawker post was that there was a picture of uber-lit-couple Ayelet ("I love my husband more than my kids") Waldman and Michael ("I write books with longish retro titles") Chabon. And the commenters jumped on the possibility that there might be trouble in paradise--either with them or a legion of other hot scribbling-couples.

Then it turned out it weren't nobody who be mad hip yo, and living in Brooklyn--it was Tallahassee couple Elizabeth Dewberry and Robert Butler, neither of whom I am well acquainted with. But nevertheless, the e-mail he sent relating the demise of their union is a prime example of how a lot of writers are creative and eccentric geniuses BATSHIT INSANE. Do scroll through the comments, they are hilarious (Gawker commenters are much better than writers, IMO).

Monday, July 30, 2007

Monday Morning Link Farming

How was your weekend, readers? Mine was very busy indeed. On Saturday, I spent time in lovely Columbia Country NY with my familie francaise--they're not actually family, but close friends for three generations--swimming and eating and best of all, drinking wine at lunch (Macon vin blanc, mmm). Sunday I treked out to the Rock the Bells hip-hop festival, which was a downer because of the abundance of pouring rain and the crowd which was more "Heineken and puke" than "peace and love." Who would have thought that Rage Against the Machine, with all their glorious anarchist-socialism, would attract so many goddamn frat boys?

Anyhooch, the soggy day was redeemed with a viewing of the Simpsons movie which was appropriately hilarious and even a wee bit political, and so now here I am, facing another Monday morning of being a motivational challenged 20-something slacker in hot, humid NYC.

Here goes my procrastination rundown:

  • Caryn James has a typically un-insightful piece on Austen-mania. And concludes, stupidly, as everyone does, that Austen is escapism for women. Not exactly, Caryn, but we shall deal with that later.
  • Over at HuffPo, another Egalitarian Bookworm takes JKR's side against snooty Byatt and Bloom.
  • At Hullaballoo, a really really great explique of Giuliani's horrible legacy of racist mayoring in NYC--a legacy which makes me so mad I have a hard time explaining it to people who weren't New Yorkers during the "glorious Giuliani year." Blech.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

JKR spills her secrets

And reveals the answers to fans' burning questions.

Ahh, Trollope, a Refreshing Summer Read...

Or so David Ignatius would have us believe in his WaPo column.

Although we at EBC can't say we approve of this:

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" arrived at our house last weekend, all 759 pages -- two copies to be shared by my wife and three daughters. I'm missing the party, but only because of this summer's addiction to Anthony Trollope -- luxuriating at present in the 841 pages of "Can You Forgive Her?" with a mere 3,643 pages left to complete the sextet of the Palliser novels.
Ditching JK for AT is not cool. Still, the idea of 19th century tomes as "escapist" and fun is definitely something I'm digging. And he makes a good point about the role of the Female in these epic machinations of manners:

But the women in these novels are passionate seekers, embodying bourgeois Europe's journey toward free thought and personal freedom. They refuse the easy comforts and arranged marriages of their class in pursuit of deeper values. Often, as with Austen's Elizabeth Bennet or Trollope's Alice Vavasor, they make themselves positively miserable trying to escape the worthy men who will make them happy. They are too rebellious for their own good, these fine ladies, and when they finally achieve a happy ending (for there is always a happy ending in these books), it is, to the sentimental reader, deeply satisfying. There are so few opportunities in real life to see virtue rewarded.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Stephen Colbert, Egalitarian Bookworm, Reads Harry Potter

The Youtube Debate

Finally, a non-harry potter related post! Ah, but normalcy sucks. A pox on thee, reality.

I thought I'd add my quick two cents since everyone's going gaga over the shiny new format wherin user-submitted questions ere uploaded onto the webby-web and played for all of our, and the candidates', delight. I have to say, I found it more engaging than the usual format and I enjoyed the off-the cuff answers some of the candidates were forced to give.

I'm still an Edwards gal, even though his "personal position" on gay marriage is dubious, he's way more honest than anyone else, and I like the fact that he has said very clearly that he would not let his personal/religious views interfere in any way with his decisions should he become president. I love his righteous anger about healthcare, I like his focus on poverty that seems to have so many pundits baffled ("but he's not poor! how could he care about poverty? I'm so confuuused.") and I will vote for him as long as I think he has a fighting chance.

Hillary Clinton, once my idol, then an object of my scorn, now somewhere in between, is just in her element during these things. She's calm, she positions herself as a uniter, not a divider, and she sounds like an expert and unsurprised at any questions that pop up. I don't trust her to hold fast to a left-wing ideology but I admire her, I have to say.

As for the rest: I am tired of Obama managing to say so little about what he's actually going to DO, I adore Kucinich and think everything he says is right and I'm sorry he's not taken seriously, and Joe Biden had the line of the night, which I will embed below here. Watch the question and then gloss over Richardson's pat answer to hear Biden speak. the. truth.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Is Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows a repudiation of the male power structure (or am I just fantasizing?)


I think it's interesting that people have accused my main woman JK of not being feminist enough because some of her characters conform to gender roles. But to me that's like saying Jane Austen isn't feminist enough--both women, one using realism and the other fantasy, are satirizing and commenting on their contemporary societies. So they are writing things as they are, not as they should be (i.e Hermione being brainy but intimidated by broomsticks, Mrs. Weasley showing her love by feeding her kids etc.) But it's exactly that understanding of human life and the way people really do act that makes her "fantasy" world less fantastic and more poignant; a fantasy reflection of reality. More explained below.

But first, my initial hasty thoughts about Deathly Hallows, which I finished at 7:20 pm yesterday evening after taking a swim and a shower to stave off the ultimate sadness I knew I'd feel when I had no more pages to turn.
In sum:

1)Book 7 was a heart-pounding, unbelievably thrilling, and absorbing read. The chapters flew by! Kudos JKR.

2)Much of the conclusion was satisfying as all hell---and incredibly moving. I cried the most when Dumbledore's portrait cried.

3) I wish there had been more emotional exposition and exploration of the side characters (there was so much to develop with Harry and Lupin, for instance, and the Kreacher plot which was so brilliant) and one less scene of the main three heroes breaking in somewhere using polyjuice potion.

4)Where was Ginny? Why didn't she come in and save Harry's ass? She's so powerful and fiesty. Urgh.

And now to highlight a few interesting things that Rowling did in light of the current world situation.

Killing off Fred Weasley was a cruel move, since he is such a vital, humor-filled character; a young boy who is both brave and the consummate jokester. He is also half of a set of twins, and they are both about 19 or 20 years old in this book. So young to die! We all expected the other generation to get its fair share of Voldermort's wrath, but Fred? And yet, this is the exact age most soldiers are when they die. Young men like F & G often represent (whether they should or not) the shoulders on which our collective hopes lie. Killing Fred, and leaving his twin alive to represent what could have been, is an intense commentary on what war means; the murder of young men and the untold heartbreak it causes.

And of course, we can't forget the symbolism of the elder wand (ahem, Freud) subplot plot. The elder wand, or deathstick, is the biggest, baddest wand around--but it brings trouble to whoever owns it because it practically invites theft and murder. But because Voldemort is so focused on getting this weapon of weapons, he doesn't notice the steady work Harry is doing to unman him by destroying the Horcruxes. Horcruxes, not Hallows, are Harry's quest. In this way, Rowling is making the point that defeating evil is a slogging,workmany kind of task, not something that can be solved with an abracadabra (ahem, President Bush!)

And then there's the theme of powerful motherhood. In the end, Lily Potter is seen as a more important force than James. Her love saves Harry and the magical protection in her blood keeps him alive when Voldemort "kills" him a second time. But more importantly, her childhood kindness to Snape "turns" him from Death-Eater into Harry's secret protector. And then there's other kinds of mother-love--Mrs. Weasley's triumphant defeat of Bellatrix shows that when her children are threatened, she's a powerful witch beyond conjuring food out of midair and Narcissa's love for her son Draco, git that he is, saves Harry again.

Harry's sound lecture of Lupin for even thinking about abandoning his child emphasizes JKR's hatred of men who up and leave their families--which makes her quick offing of Remus a bit contradictory (also, couldn't Lupin have joined them for one teeny-tiny adventure?). And the seeds of Voldemort's evil were sown in a house with no mother, and two brutish men, where Merope was brought up not knowing how to love.

But these are just disconnected ramblings. What I loved most about the book were the shades of gray. Snape didn't turn out to be "good," just because he was Dumbledore's man through and through. He was still a sadistic teacher and a pathetic person. But he recognized goodness in the form of Lily, and he craved it and worshipped it, even though his own attempts to mimic goodness always came out warped and twisted. He could never see through his bias against Harry but he saved him because Lily was the talisman to which he clung. Therefore it was appropriate that his clearest aid to Harry was in the form of his mother's patronus, the doe.

So Snape wasn't good, he was barely redeemable, he was just human. His relationship with Dumbledore was another instance of his clinging to good even though he couldn't openly emulate it.

Similarly the Malfoys didn't turn good, or turn out to be friends with Harry, but they did abandon evil because Voldemort's treatment of their son (and Harry's rescuing him) made them realize that evil negated love, and their love was stronger than their desire for power.

The shades of gray business obviously works well with Albus and Aberforth and all that but to me, Dumbledore's murky past and his bitter remorse gave him a kind of humanity and realness that made him all the more loveable. I'm glad Rowling de-mystified him and really showed us how much he loved Harry before it all ended.

Friday, July 20, 2007

12 hours to go.

I am going to be sequestering myself from the internet for the rest of the day, and tomorrow as I have already found out too much about the final HP to be comfortable with this free exchange of information business.

As the 12 hour mark nears, I am chilling out in my jammies, listening to Tori Amos' American Doll Posse (hot!) and making T-shirts to wear to B&N tonight--and to guide my arts 'n' crafts project, I downloaded some hot hot fonts. Check it out below.

Peace, love, and quidditch.

Get the Lumos Font!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Female Geek and a Male Beauty

Will finally be taking part in Beauty and the Geek... one teensy tiney step towards equal represenation, but I wish the entire premise were reversed. Check out the full deal at

"The CW reality hit's co-creators/exec producers Jason Goldberg and Ashton Kutcher have toyed with the idea of a gender reversal since season 1 and decided it was time to test the concept within their proven format this time around. They're keeping mum on whether Mr. Gorgeous (a promoter) and Ms. Geek (a concert pianist with a genius IQ) will be paired together for the tasks that test boy-girl duos' abilities to work together despite massive differences in social aptitude and intelligence. But they will say that mixing things up definitely caused the kind of mayhem perfect for our viewing pleasure."
And, we might add, for the slow eradication of stereotypes.

Michiko Vs. JKR

So the Times' Kakutani decided to 'purchase" the book early and review it in her usually snooty way, and JKR hit back.

In sum:

Michiko: "blah blah blah blah. Harry Potter blah blah. Listen to me!"

JKR: "I am staggered that some American newspapers have decided to publish purported spoilers in the form of reviews in complete disregard of the wishes of literally millions of readers, particularly children, who wanted to reach Harry's final destination by themselves, in their own time," she said. "I am incredibly grateful to all those newspapers, booksellers and others who have chosen not to attempt to spoil Harry's last adventure for fans."

I think JKR just hit that biatch with a big fat "Stupefy!" Do you think "Michi" is exhibiting normal behavior for a Slytherin, or should she be hauled to Azkhaban for this breach?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

With Every Silenced Women's Voice, a New One Pipes Up.

A cool new women's mag that tries to subvert the old glossy mag paradigm:

As We Are Magazine

"As We Are" is all about "issues and ideas that support the belief that we are good enough as you are right now! " Visit them for their content including articles, blogs, podcasts and the like.

By clicking through from EBC, you are helping me, fellow-ette compete for a prize. But I'm not going to win it. So more importantly, you are helping create a community of women who are sick of the corporate media's treatment of us chicks as nothing more than cream-buying, self-hating mamas-to-be.

More Evidence That JKR ROCKS.

How did I never catch this? She likes Pink (or P!nk) and attacks the celeb skinny craze...And no, she's not attacking skinny people. If you read what she writes, it's a critique of our society's values when it comes to womens' appearances. Awesome.

(on her website under miscellaneous notes, "to girls only")

Where have all the flowers gone?

To Washington to sell out?

God but they were cute. Sigh. As the Clintons go, so goes their generation I guess.

(via Wonkette and Celeb Stoner)

JK Rowling is this site's patron saint.

After all, isn't she the truest egalitarian bookworm (chick?) out there. Her books are as egalitarian as books have ever been, what with their gazillions of readers, and she borrows beautifully from literary predecessors as disparate as Dickens (all the funny names and the portrayal of childhood), Roald Dahl (ditto, plus the gross humor), Austen (the social commentary and wit) and of course Tolkein and Lewis--with a hefty chunk of the genius being her own, of course.

I love the woman. I just love her. And I know that no matter what success I have in life as a journalist and writer I will never be able to do what she has done, which is to captivate children and hold the world in thrall. She's amazing!

Anyway, here are two articles which are getting into the properly egalitarian, non-snobby way to celebrate Harry.

A piece and discussion on HuffPo about the political themes in Order of the Phoenix--of course the readers think it's anti-fascist and pro-democracy, and so do I! Republicans for Voldemort.

And finally, a big old op-ed in the LA Times about how Harold Bloom and his ilk should SHUT THE FUCK up and stop looking down their goddamn noses about HP and other "popular lit." Key quote (emphasis mine):

The most prominent of those naysayers, that drooping defender of the canon, Harold Bloom, has, in his attacks on Rowling, provided us with fine examples of another reason for the Potter books' popularity: the insularity of a literary culture that willfully ignores what it is that makes people readers in the first place.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! to the author. And fuck you, to would-be spoilers. My reading experience will never be diminished.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Corporate Media Hacks Round-Up

Here's a round-up of blogs taking on the braindead/corporate/idiotic elites in the so-called "journalism" field.

First, P-Lev pulverizes the Times' idiotic article about Harry Potter and literacy. Basically, the Times is all like "hey guess what? JK Rowling has not singlehandedly reduced the rate of illiteracy even though she sold more copies than any Times writer ever will. Nyah Nyah Nyah."


First of all, it's typical of the Times to take an issue that's really a problem with the powers that be (No Child Left Behind, my ass) and all but blame it on a "popular" (read: not "first-class") author. The disconnect is staggering.

Second of all, JK Rowling has done something that no ed-school spawned "literacy plan" or revamped curriculum has done yet: written something that manages to compete with the compelling and cutting-edge world of modern media. Having taught a bunch of "illiterate" kids myself, their ability to analyze and parse movies and music was astounding. Their only issue was with the actual mechanics of reading. But despite their trouble with the medium, they loved Harry Potter. Part of it is because HP is better than most other books out there. Part of it is because HP is "cool." Part of it was because YA novels in general have a lot to offer that "classics" don't.

On to more Times-bashing (so fun!). Glenn Greenwald and ThinkProgress tackle my recent vitriol-target, David Brooks, for his sycophantic ramblings about dear president Bush's "confidence."
Oy. Can we stop playing the "macho man admirer" game already, Times? You're effete. Be proud of it and cool it with the self-hate.

Greenwald also points out that this unbecoming manly-man-man-maniness obsession in the MSM is a big problem at icky Politico, which has inflicted damage enough on Edwards with the haircut fracas and has moved on to Mitt's Makeup Madness.

ENOUGH! Let's get back to the issues, puh-lease.

The evils of photoshopping, touched upon

Hahahha get it? "Touched up"0n? I'm so clevah!

Anyway, this photoshopped back and forth pic that's a product of Jezebel (Gawker's estrogeny spawn) via Pandagon (yay!) is a clear illustration of the critique of women's mags Naomi Wolf so eloquently puts out in The Beauty Myth (see my previous post here).

I'm going to try and spell it out simply for those who may not buy the critique or be familiar with it:

Women's magazines are a mix of informational and aspirational. In other words, they mix interesting features about women's health, politics, etc, with a bevy of "10 steps to a new you!" stories.

Those stories are all re-hashes of the same thing. But if you read them enough, you internalize the idea that you AREN'T good and you do need a new you, which sends you to the magazine's advertisers, who offer you ass-cream, diet supplements, clothes, makeup and the like. Thus, the magazine's corporate advertisers are savvily exerting influence through the magazine's content.

Now, it used to be that content and advertisement were separate things. But more and more, advertisers pull their almighty dollars or pounds from magazines that don't promote a "buy me" message enough (see the demise of Jane), thereby eliminating whatever shreds of journalistic independence and objectivity still existed in the pages themselves.

Same goes with photoshopping. Every time we see a 40-year old woman who looks like she's 20 (see image 1, above), we think "this is what a 40 year old could and should look like." And we rush to buy products to make us look younger.

Furthermore, photoshopping promotes the same kind of misguided belief in men who see these images, that there's a "perfect girl" waiting for him and his actually human girlfriend isn't cutting it.

In this way, the simple act of photoshopping, not only in women's mags but in mainstream mags like Newsweek and beyond, holds women's bodies and appearances captive to an unattainable ideal towards which we strive constantly and never achieve, keeping our money, minds and energy pre-occupied from protesting things like bad child care and health care and pay equity. It's like mental slavery!

So, in sum, capitalism and the patriarchy and photoshop are all in a sinister co-dependent relationship of oppression ;)
and it's our duty to bring photoshop back to its god-given intent: making pictures of bad people look funny and mean!

Monday, July 16, 2007


I hit 10,000 unique, sitemeter approved visits today. Small potatoes for some, I know, but as you would know if you could seemy handy sitemeter graph, visits are slowly but surely growing every single month, as are my various authorities, communities, feed-readers and whatever. And this is despite my random content, long absences, and feeble self-promotion efforts. So that's nice. Thanks for visiting! Come back soon. And add me to your favorites or bloglines or whatever if you want to make me feel cool.

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Bellatrix Lestrange

Helena Bonham Carter is very witty.

As if her appearance in a bevy of Forster and Shakespeare adaptations didn't prove it already.

In Defense of Crocs

That's my shoe!

The NYT has one of its usual silly wishy-washy articles, this time about Crocs: "some people reeeally like em, some totally don't" seems to be the thesis. Well, let me say, readers dear, that I am firmly on the pro-Crocs side of things. And the fact that they are so popular is less about the shoes' goofy aesthetics and more about people who don't want their goddamn feet to hurt all the time. It's a revolution! Fuck you, fashion-industry-of-pain.

Ad I will add that on my European sojourn, I noticed more than a few Crocs on the feet of non-Americans in swanky locales, proving that the appeal is spreading.

Also once more, I point out to my audience that the Crocs co. has come up with some very appealing styles for the more self-conscious feet in the crowd. Check them out at and down with the haters!

Friday, July 13, 2007


In an effort to re-immerse myself in J.K. Rowling's magical world, I saw the Order of the Phoenix last night and re-read the Half Blood Prince yesterday.

The movie screening was fantastic. There was an enthusiastic and rowdy audience that cheered every heroic move, from Harry telling off Umbridge (played perfectly by Imelda Staunton) to Sirius beating up Lucius to Fred and George's pranks. I really enjoyed this film the most of all the others except maybe #3. I thought it flowed well and had its own spirit, but was a perfect compliment to the book, if it did emphasize the humorous over the dark elements just ever so slightly.

That extra bit of amusement was fine because earlier in the day I felt like my life had been destroyed with the loss of Dumbledore. JKR handles the issue of death so much better than most "sophisticated" authors--in a frank, straightforward, unsentimentalized and unsymbolic way. Which is of course, how she handles friendship and love and other humanish things in her books. Wherein lies her real genius, which is that beyond the magical plots and tangled webs, her books aren't about wizards at all. They're about us. And that's just one of the many reasons why I think she's the greatest living author.

More HP countdown reading:
The Harry Generation (which I am definitely smack in the demographic for)
Will He "Get It?" (Please no, please no)

Ciao for now.

Live Earth A-gaiiiin

My review of Live Earth is up on feminist review. Hurrah.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

David Brooks is Still A Nerd, No Matter How Many "Bobos in Paradise" He Chills With...

And a discourse about women in Rock....

(On the left we have a badass, on the right, a loser)

My secret theory about the Times Op-Ed page is that in the post-Safire era, Gail Collins and co. only hire conservative columnists who are intellectual lightweights with big egos (Ahem! Brooks! Tierney!) so they can laugh only with their eyes at these fellows' foibles. But maybe that's just wishful thinking and Brooks is the best the Douchey Right Winger club has got. Anyway, my friend and high school newspaper colleague Ben, who blogs about the NYC subway, kindly pointed me to this David Brooks column as fodder for my EBC musings long before it was being batted tirelessly around the liberal blogosphere, but I was busy being too lazy/preoccupied/engrossed in re-reading Harry Potter number 6 to get myself up to the task in a timely matter.

So be it. But here I am at last, to add my proud two cents. And here it is. In case you didn't know, Brooksies' fuckwitty column was all based his massive misreading of pop culture; namely, he banded togetether a bunch of disparate angry chicks in music (Pink, Avril, Carrie Underwoord) and was like "Whoa! Why are these chicks so angry? Let me come up with a unifying theme about their anger to make them less scary to me. Hey, I know! I'll call them the New Lone Rangers."

All I can begin with is, HUH? When are you going to learn, middle aged pundits/columnists, that you shouldn't analyze pop culture that you're too old and/or unhip to understand?

Ok, sorry that was mean. But it was real, people. Let's get down to the deconstructing.

First of all, as one of the bloggaz above mentioned, these three ladies are all in totally different categories. Carrie Underwood comes straight from the melodrama of female-crooned county music--the soapy anger, love, revenge sagas that make that genre so hilariously and sometimes poignantly campy. So her new ditty may be a little more edgy than Dolly, but her last song was "Jesus, Take the Wheel," for Chrissake.

Avril Lavigne is a whiny brat whose original two singles, "Complicated" and "Sk8r Boi" tapped into that hip angry-femme zeitgeist, but whose songs since then, while catchy, have strayed further and further into self-righteous posturing that, as "Girlfriend" indicates, undercuts whatever wisps of feminism might have once empowered her. Being "punk," to Avril, is just a way to get fans, the way being perky is for Jessica Simpson. It's not her true identity, as anyone who's read an interview with her would know.

And now for Pink--Pink is kind of a heroine of mine. I actually think her songs are less well-written than Lavigne's, but then again, she's not a tiny pre-packaged corporate product either. Pink's music shows the kind of evolution that's totally unusual for a pop star. From psuedo hip-hop club music to angsty self-hating rock music, to a more socially conscious album that includes the awesomely funny "Stupid Girls" and awesomely angry "Dear Mr. President" (one of the best anti-Bush songs out there), Pink is the very model of a more empowered, forward-thinking female artist that these other ladies are not.

(Also, have you ever noticed how Pink is willing to play around with her image/body in videos--like make it interesting, ugly, experiment with it in different, not necessarily "attractive" ways? Does any other female artist do that?)

(Also part deux, where were Kelly Clarkson and Beyonce in this little piece? Their send-offs to their ex's, which women fucking went nuts for, are super-relevant to this topic.)

Which brings me to the biggest problem with Brooksies. He says:
This character is obviously a product of the cold-eyed age of divorce and hookups.
Umm, no. "This character" is a product of this thing called mainstream rock, where you're allowed to sing about 1)how much you love someone 2)how much you miss someone when you break up 3) how pissed you are that someone dumped you and 4) occasionally, some other shit.

This "I hate my ex-boyfriend character" is also a product of the patriarchy. Remember how in the 90s there were all these female singer-songwriters who wrote their own music, packaged their own images, occasionally didn't shave their pits and dashed off rather poetic and lofty lyrics? Now they've all either sold out (Jewel) or vanished into relative obscurity (Sarah McLachlan, Paula Cole, etc, etc). A lot of people made fun of them and called them "angry" or "whiny" and complained that they were vegan and PC. So Lilith Fair types have been replaced by these tarty, sassy chicks who wail on and on about how mad they are at their boyfriends while wearing cute outfits and tons of makeup, or in Beyonce's case, their undies.

It's a perfect formula: while women see these songs as a coded "fuck you!" to the male-dominated system and howl along with glee, they don't in any way damage the "Woman needs a man" construction because heck, if a woman didn't need a man, she wouldn't be so pissed "Since he's been gone!" Men (except Brooksie) don't find these songs nearly as threatening either, often because as another blogger pointed out, men wrote them, and they fit in to a certain "bitch be crazy when it comes to the men" stereotype that's acceptable.

There's a reason the Indigo Girls, Ani DiFrancos, and Dar Williamses of the world (not to mention their harder-rocking counterparts) have massive followings but don't hit the mainstream. There's a reason these conscious lady-crooners, who often write about love and relationships without anger, are classified as "angry" while anger-peddlers Kelly Clarkson and Avril Lavigne are just cute. And that reason is that shit be fucked up for the womenfolk. And while Kelly Clarkson may be the Jane magazine to the Pussycat Dolls' Cosmo...that's not so goddamn radical.


So in conclusion:
  • Bring back Sarah McLachlan.
  • "Irreplaceable" is still a daaaaaamn good song even if it reinforces patriarchal motifs while pretending to undermine them.
  • Pink rocks.
  • And David Brooks's cultural analysis has not jumped the shark, because it never was on the shark to begin with. Booyah.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Help the lovely folks at Entertainment Weekly cast the next two (and last two, sob!) Potter movies.

A Room With A View and A Trip to Florence

There's nothing as perfect as reading a novel set in an "exotic" setting while one is traveling there. Thus thought the geniuses at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, who set a slim volume of Forster's tasty Florentine morsel, A Room With A View next to register where I was about to tally up the Botticelli and Titian postcards I had snatched.

Of course, having thought about the book and movie constantly during my ten days in Italy, I eagerly grabbed it and added it to my bag to re-read on the train or share with my brother, who had also read it before but attacked it again eagerly.

But even as I clutched my purchase, I didn't realize how much pleasure the book would bring me. It's not often that you find a Victorian, a high modernist, or in this case a Victorian/modernist bridge novel that classifies as "light reading." But that's exactly what Room is. It's funny, it's sweet, it's clever and it's short and breezy. And it's oddly relevant today--except Lucy Honeychurch, in thrall to the provinical values of her upbringing, would probably be a midwestern American with rebellious tendencies and George Emerson would be some sort of eccentric expat artiste.

Anyway, for those who haven't read it, ARWAV is about what happens when Lucy, a sensible young English lady, who lives very primly but plays Beethoven with a frightening passion, goes off to Florence with her overbearing cousin, Ms. Bartlett. Against the background of Italian sensuality, both beautiful and frightening, she discovers an unasked-for connection with a pair of oddballs, father and son, who manage to break every fastidious social rule in the book and alienate the other guests at their Pensione.

But poor Lucy is so awakened and turned by all of this that she grows frightened of her transformation and she flees away to Rome and into the arms of the effete, well-mannered liberally-principled Cecil Vyse.

The scene moves back to England and its genteel, localized charms, and the now affianced Lucy must eventually confront the feelings she repressed. To what end her reconsiderations take her, I shall omit as it's a spoiler.

But I will say that unlike A Passage to India, this is a bright, optimistic book, and if Lucy represents the future of England on some level, it's clear Forster loves his country but hopes for a better, more open-minded future for it. As for his Italy, it's something of a caricature with murders and makeout sessions and general high color everywhere, but it has its moments of truth. Certainly Lucy is not the first English-speaker to set foot on "the continent" and realize that across the pond, or channel, passions and desires are all dealt with on the surface in a way that puritan-influence still curtails in our country today.

As for my trip to Italy, and whether it awakened any latent socialist bohemian tendencies, those were already there, so no! But it did have the power of making me appreciate again just how therapeutic it is to be somewhere that's so goddamn gorgeous all the time. And with the food, the wine, the sun and scenery, my NYC self was (almost) overstimulated to the point of exhaustion. But not quite.

As an aside, I hear there's going to be an Andrew Davies remake of A Room With a View, which is very exciting--though the original film will be tough to beat.

picture of the Ponte Vecchio, Firenze by yours, truly.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

SICKO--adding to the debate

It's funny that I should be writing about SICKO now, because at this very moment I am trying to figure out my own health insurance situation. My parents and boyfriend have basically been dogging me to get my sorry young ass covered already, so I'm trying to apply through mediabistro, which has services for freelance writers. They have a variety of plans, all pretty expensive but decent.

So here I am, searching through all these Atlantis and GHI and Empire online databases of doctors in New York for my one trusted doctor, who happens to be an OB/GYN but would be the person I'd go to first for any health problem because she's thorough, kind, interesting and patient. But of course she doesn't show up in any of the databases. Ugh.

Meanwhile the massive pdf with all the complicatesd options on it is singlehandedly sending my parent's computer into overdrive fritz mode. Double ugh.

Here's the irony: the naysayers claim I would have less choice with universal health care. But with my options now, as a young twentysomething freelancer, my choices are already severely limited. I'd rather get rid of the red tape, the confusion, and the huge cost of health care that I have to pay independently and have it come right out of my taxes. I'm so sick of this beaurocratic bullshit!

But back to SICKO, the movie at hand-- Michael Moore's films are as beautiful as they are informative. Not just because they speak truth to power and lay the smack down clearly and concisely but because Michael Moore makes films that are optimistic. He believes in the redemptive qualities of the human spirit. He believes we are good inside. He comes across as compassionate and funny, but not angry and only somewhat frustrated--which is impressive considering the horrors that he's telling us about. He makes us literary left-wing NYC-bred, black-wearing cynics want to burn our existentialist texts and take to the streets (Okay, so I don't own any existentialist texts and I take to the streets whenever possible, but it was a good metaphor, OK?). He manages to combine hope and despair together in remarkable ways, and he always makes me cry. At this point we've established that I often tear up at life insurance commercials but still, after walking out of a SICKO matinee, there were more than a few wet hankies in the theater.
And I think that's what the right wing hates most about him, besides the fact that he's right and they're wrong. They hate that he dares to be compassionate and kind and strong and unflinching, all while espousing liberal causes. It kind of rubs at those stereotypes they have about us.
So if you haven't, go see SICKO right away. It's a marvelous film that shoots holes in our each-man-for-himself bullshit theory of health care. There's a mix of bitter personal stories of people who were mistreated and abused by the American health care system and people in other countries who are not allowed to fall through the cracks because health care
I know from personal experience that when I and friends have been abroad, they've been taken care of so benificently it's hard to believe... including a friend who broke his leg while backpacking through italy and spent several weeks recuperating in a friendly hospital room with a gang of old italian men who adopted him as one of their own.
Compare that with the typical Americn hospital. And watch Michael Moore take Wolf Blitzer down a peg or six.

Impeach Cheney?

Let's do it.

Monday, July 09, 2007

More NYTimes Hating

Read my favorite blogger of conscience who omits pop culture references, Glenn Greenwald, breaking down the latest scandale at the Grey Lady.

Basically, our nation's finest reporters are doing the same thing re: "Al-Quaeda" in Iraq (really a small, independent organization with few if any links to Osama) that they were with "WMDs" in Iraq--i.e. swallowing the party line, hook and sinler, without that whole speaking truth to power thing. Bummer.

BTdubs, I'm sorry for turning my blog into a link farm of late, but egalitarian bookworm friends, it's fucking hot in NYC and I want to go back to Europe and immerse myself in old-fashioned aesthetics and xenophobia. Not to mention delicious ham and cheese permutations. C'est triste.

See Jane Run?

Looks like the magazine industry just got thismuchmore patriarchal and lame.

Jane magazine, which was a bundle of frustration for the feminist reader, nonetheless had some of the more incisive writing geared towards young and hip women around, particularly when it came to reproductive rights. It also always sported a sometimes silly but sometimes hilarious tone that's missing from all the other mainstream magazines. Now the field got even narrower--I can say that with Jane gone, there's not a single corporate-run women's mag I can read without throwing up. And that sucks, if it's not exactly shocking.

RIP to Jane and good luck to all its staffers.

See the gossip at Jossip, Gawker, Radar.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Two Gems From Salon

One, an oldie but a goodie gem, is Rebecca Traister's musings on Austen-mania.

The other, a shiny new gem, is a sweet review of Live Earth.

Rock on.

Live Earth, Redux: Preach On, Sister Etheridge

Here's the link to some video footage of badass feminista Melissa Etheridge casting her spell on the Live Earth audience. Come to my window, indeed.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Live Earth


Just got back from the NY show. It was super incredible. My favorite acts were Kanye, Melissa Etheridge, Roger Waters and the Smashing Pumpkins and s bunch of others I can't name right now. Basically I loved everyone except Bon Jovi, who was sending the Jersey crowd into conniptions.

Anyway, I have to start thinking about how to help save the environment, and so do you. So go sign the pledge. And visit to check out other stuff you can change in your daily life. But more than that, as RFK jr. and Melissa Etheridge said at the concert, we have to find our voices and stand up to the corporations and powerbrokers that don't give a shit about our future.

One thing I'm already planning to do is buy a nalgene and stop wasting plastic with my constant water bottle purchases. What are you gonna do, readership?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Calling All Jane Fans and Fanatics

There's a new issue of the JASNA journal, Persuasions on-line, devoted to the 2005 P&P film, affectionately dubbed "Pride and Prejudice and Love, Actually" by yours truly.

One might want to skim, scan, peruse, glance at or deeply study the articles contained therein, which are academic in form--but we won't hold that against them since they're pretty interesting

On the same vein, my sig other and I are in the midst of re-watching the 1995 A&E miniseries and we keep on pausing it to talk about how much better it is than the lovely but somewhat silly 2005 mush-fest that has provided so much fodder for Jane-ites' intellects. It really portrays Lizzy and Darcy as deeply flawed individuals in the beginning, which makes their transformations all the richer.

Enjoy the brain-romp!

Thursday, July 05, 2007


In case it has missed thy notice, readers fair, I've changed my blog layout for the next few weeks to feature that titillating Harry Potter countdown widget. Are you TOTALLY pumped yet? I'm having a hard time dealing with the idea that it's going to be over soon.

I also wanted to link to this silly Daily Mail article about Daniel Radcliffe's legions of adoring female fans mobbing him at the OOTP premiere because it's so funny and so. damn. British. Harry is hot! And we're not talking about the bloody prince of england here, we're talking about the boy wizard. So stuff it, royals.


I'm suffering from the results of my jet-lag induced 7am risings but I thought I'd get back into the swing of things by spilling some haphazard thoughts.

One of the pieces of news I was most disappointed to catch up on upon my reimmersion into our glorious American culture (and there were many, believe me) was the SCOTUS decision on school segregation that essentially, for all intents and purposes, overturned Brown. Funnily enough, this educational inequality issue has really been bugging me lately because of an article of mine that got published while I was frittering about in Europe. Writing it really stirred up all the anger that dogged me all during my time as a teacher and still irks me during the school year when I work with students from different backgrounds (which I still do part time) and see how vastly opposed their experiences are.

For a really heartfelt and cogent analysis of the ridiculousness of the Supremes' decision and some excellent discussion from commenters, see Samhita's post on feministing.

Now that Michael Moore has taken on Health care, I feel like education is the last silent crisis facing our country.

I'm Ba-Ack!

Hip Hip Hooray! Thanks a million to my guest-bloggers baltimorejen and aco for keeping things hip and literary up in this piece while I was a broad. They are welcome to post their brilliant thoughts any old time (hint, hint).

I was very ready to come home at the end of my sojourn (I'm getting too old to enjoy those hole-in-the-ground toilets they love so much over across the pond even if I tolerate them still), but confess to suffering my usual travel withdrawal upon my return, particularly with yesterday's crap weather here in NYC.

So here are some pics of where I was to ease you and me back in to this America business. The places are Pitlochery, Scotland; Venice, Italy; and Cinque Terre, Italy. See if you can guess which is which, reader! It may be tough.

I came to the conclusion, incidentally, as I hid my head in shame of the antics of my fellow Americans in Italy, that travelling as an American now is like being a Brit 100 years back off surveying the empire and demanding your afternoon tea somewhere in the jungle. You would not believe the sense of entitlement and ownership Americans exhibit in foreign lands. But of course you would believe it because you're egalitarian, bookwormy, and you read this blog! Ciao for now, more later of course. I missed ye, readership. Thanks to google for keeping the traffic flow at its usual steady trickle.

Monday, July 02, 2007

And I suppose I should have introduced myself - I taught in the lovely morale-crushing NYC Teaching Fellows last year, which is where I met the lovely fellow-ette (this time I mean the "lovely" ). I have since left both the Fellows and the city for Baltimore, where I try to do productive things while making enough money to make up for living in NYC for just a year. I don't know how you all do it!

I hope fellow-ette had a wonderful trip!
One of my favorite feelings is when I get so involved in a book that I want to read it all the time. But last year, while I was teaching beside ms. fellow-ette, I couldn't get up the energy to get engrossed in a book, and recently I keep losing interest mid-novel and giving up -- only I don't like giving up on a book. So I pretend to keep reading the novel, a few pages a week, so that I have not only the dissatisfaction of a drawn-out book, but also weeks at a time where I read nothing at all. I'm an English major, former English teacher, and usually a passionate reader, so clearly this has been an unsatisfactory state of affairs.

I've spent the last few months trying to make it through Ford Madox Ford's trilogy, Parade's End, and I'd love if it anyone could tell me if the final 200 of the 900 pages are worth reading. I actually liked the first half, but 900 pages is a lot of a depressing story about a horrible marriage and a horrible war. If you'd like to try Ford Madox Ford, I do recommend The Good Solider, which has all of the marital strife in only 200 pages.

My new ambition, since I've (almost) given up on Parade's End, is to read through The Modern Library's list of the 100 Best Novels. I can think of about 100 reasons why I don't like the list, both the idea of it and the list itself. (Most notably, the list is missing my favorite book, Middlemarch - how could they?!) But, I'm hoping the list will give me some satisfaction as I move through it (in a methodical, grocery-list type of way), and some motivation to get through one book and move on to another. Plus, I was feeling a bit insecure that I had read only a third of the "best" novels. :)

I've had my first success with #100, Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons, which I picked up and didn't want to put down, and finished in four days. It has a good story and a main character, George Amberson Minafer, that you have to hate but somehow also forgive. He is the quintessential old-fashioned spoiled rich kid, and somehow it isn't quite his fault. He's the product of his outdated society, and you know all along that he will fade away just as his horse-and-buggy, cobblestone-streets, "old-money" way of life gives way to cars, suburbs, and get-rich-quick schemers. I tend to like a novel that is not quite so heavy-handed with its motives, and not so transparently a "period piece," and not so hastily wrapped up at the end. But three-quarters of the way through the book, your heart wants to break for a millions different reasons, and that's a nice feeling for a lifelong bookworm having a rough reading spell. :) Next up is J.P. Donleavy's The Ginger Man.