Dear Readers,

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

Friday, August 31, 2007

Wherein I Blog Elsewhere (and the Commenters, Alas, are Not Egalitarian Bookworms)

Hi readers! Did you agree with my series of angry posts about Judd Apatow's estrogen-makes-me-cringe fest "Knocked Up?"

Did you enjoy my evisceration of the non-affable, condescending patron ess izing "Becoming Jane?"

If so, check me out on HuffPost, where I made an incisive, thoughtful connection* between these two movies and the SCOTUS partial-birth abortion ban to boot, and all the commenters can says is "but, but, but, Knocked Up is a funny movie. Why be the feminists taking things so seriously?"

*said semi-ironically, of course

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Frozen Dessert Blogging

I just got me a big box of green tea mochi. And I have to say, that it is a mochi god among mochis. It is soo delicious!!

It has a happy home in my freezer next to my skinny cow vanilla-chocolate ice cream sandwich pinwheels. YUM.

A Picture Is Worth...

Not-so-egalitarian non-bookworms watching their blackberries the fine sport of tennis.
Via Gawker.

Owen Wilson's Problems

..are arousing sympathy and bewilderment, while Britney and Lindsey will continue to get the most intrusive and negative coverage imaginable. It's "Owen's haunted side" vs. "Girls Gone Wild."

Now, I happen to love Owen. But for a long time, he's gotten a winking pass from the media for his partying and womanizing , a kind of acceptance which certainly hasn't been granted for bed-hopping starlets. Never have I seen in the tabloids the idea that this cute guys's promiscuity might be a cry for help --but had it been vice versa, sleeping around might have been seen as a "warning sign" for some troubled pop ingenue.

The double-standard at work everywhere.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Crocs Talk

fellow-ette: did you hear what happened to my CROCS today?
the ones i got wichu and [fellow-ette's boyfriend]?

fellow-ette's brother: no what happened?
i haven't checked the crocs message board yet
didnt hear
me: hahaha
i was going up an escalator
and it smooshed the front of my shoes
or one shoe
and it got stuck
10:37 PM so i pulled my foot out
and half the croc stayed in the escalator
the whole front got ripped out
10:38 PM it was sad!!!
10:40 PM bro: thak god you're okay
did your foot get pulled towards the escalator as well;
that is so scary
10:42 PM me: yeah i thought i might break a toe
it's lucky the shoes were so soft
they just ripped instead of hurting me
bro: be careful puhleaseeee!
10:43 PM lucky there was no strap on top or something
did it catch as soon as u got on?
could u still see it or was it sucked in?
10:45 PM me: it was on the way off
and no, the escalator just kept going

Yes, readers dear... that is the story of my continuing shoe saga. I finally find a pair of comfy, nice shoes I actually like, and they get mauled by an escalator. And this was within an hour of a business appointment, so I had to buy a pair of ultra-reduced Steve Madden flats off the clearance rack and they made me feel like I understood the pain of Chinese foot-binding. Ow!! Why are shoes so oppressive?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ivanhoe, Rebecca and Rowena: Worst. Threesome. Ever.


I dug into this hefty classic before and after my marathon immersion in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was an interesting juxtaposition because, of course, both are epic adventure novels with castles, dungeons and heroes up the wazoo. But how much better our boy wizard is than the flat, uninspired Ivanhoe, who makes the idiotic choice of ditching our (and Walter Scott's) favorite, the noble Jewess Rebecca, for the insipid-poorly-drawn Rowena. Ultimately, Rebecca is the heart of the novel and its saving grace--and her amazing portrayal redeems Thackeray from the anti-semitic caricature he does of Rebecca's father, Isaac of York-- who works the whole O my daughter! O my ducats! thing ad nauseum, much like his inspiration, Shylock.

But I must confess, dear readers, despite my cynicism and modern-day skepticalisticness, when Rebecca was on trial for sorcery and Ivanhoe rushed into defend her my very heart was palpitating, my skin was clammy with excitement, my mind was full of anticipation and misgivings. And when he at last galloped in on horseback, I shouted with joy. Walter Scott sure knew how to spin a good yarn, and the yarn-spinners are the soothers of society.

Anyway, perhaps my favorite discovery after reading Ivanhoe was William M. Thackeray's brilliant parody/sequel, Rebecca and Rowena. It's both respectful and also merciless in its depiction of Rowena as a cold, domineering wife, Ivanhoe as an alcoholic, henpecked husband who dreams of his old adventures, and gentle mockery of all the resurrections, plot twists and inconsistencies in the original.

Check it out here.

My favorite excerpt:

In a word, she was always flinging Rebecca into Ivanhoe's teeth. There was not a day in his life but that unhappy warrior was made to remember that a Hebrew damsel had been in love with him, and that a Christian lady of fashion could never forgive the insult. For instance, if Gurth, the swineherd, who was now promoted to be a gamekeeper and verderer, brought the account of a famous wild-boar in the wood, and proposed a hunt, Rowena would say, "Do, Sir Wilfrid, persecute these poor pigs: you know your friends the Jews can't abide them! "

Sunday, August 26, 2007

New Literary Biopics I'd Like to See--Inspired by the Success of "Becoming Jane"

(tagline: "Their love story was her greatest inspiration")

Becoming Vladimir: Pedophilia was his greatest inspiration.

Becoming Toni: Infanticidal escaped slaves were her greatest inspiration.

Becoming Fyodor: Brutal murder, self-doubt, subsequent exile and eventual redemption were his greatest inspiration.

Becoming Herman: Pigment-deficient whales were his greatest inspiration.

Becoming Ralph: Invisibility was his greatest inspiration.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Kenneth Branagh's As You Like It

...Books in running brooks and sermons in stones...

I am a huge fan of Branagh's overwrought Much Ado About Nothing and much less fond of his overwrought Hamlet. I think that's because Shakespeare's comedies have emotional and dramatic depths that need to be brought out, while his tragedies need direction that emphasizes subtlety (I've never seen KB's Henry or Othello or other films so I reserve judgement on those).

But due to the impressions detailed above, I was really looking forward to last night's HBO As You Like It premiere... and for the most part, I wasn't disappointed. The cinematography or whatever you have it was lush, and the music was absolutely, numblingly gorgeous. I thought the perfomances of Rosalind, Celia, and Orlando were close to astounding--full of the kind of flirtatious wit that makes Shakespeare's comedies so wonderful.

Now, for my quibbles: all in all, there was too much delcaiming of the Bard's language--some of it could have been quicker, more naturalistic. I found Kevin Kline's Jaques a little bit flat--does anyone remember how wonderful his Bottom was in the Midsummer Night's Dream of a few years back? I feel like he's become a self-parody--and my mom pointed out that the Robin Williams resemblance is getting too uncanny.

But enough complaints. Any beautiful new Shakespeare adaptation is welcome. Alfred Molina was a superbTouchstone, and all the pastoral characters were lots of fun, and there was definitely this very 1960s era earth-child vibe to the whole thing, even though it was set in Japan, that I found kind of groovy. Even if this play has less weight than Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure, or The Tempest, it's a very fun and clever one, and the language makes it golden.

So be sure to catch it on reruns if you have not already!

The New York Times Loves a Good Catfight

Oh, readers, were I a better correspondent, I would devote a section every day to detailing the ridculousness that is the paper of record's attempt at this thing called "teh blogging." But I'm not that kind of correspondent (yet). So instead, I bring you my usual half-explained rant about something the Grey Lady has done that's pissed me off. Today, they take a headline from Drudge about how Michelle Obama said something that could be construed as hating on Hillary Clinton, as Wonkette says, if you're drunk. I'm going to now close-read/debunk several parts of this blog-post:

"If you can’t run your own house, you can’t run the White House.” The words are from Michelle Obama, wife of Barack. Will they ignite this campaign’s version of a “baking cookies” or “never had a real job” moment?

I don't know, how about igniting a "shut the hell up and report the news" moment? Does the Times ever stop to consider how sexist and ridiculous all this scrutinizing of the potential first ladies' comments vis-a-vis each other are? I mean, it's one thing to report on something like this with a healthy dose of skepticism. It's another to lap it up like a cat laps up milk. Later, the author says:

Here’s a choice: You can take a look at the transcript Sargent provides at the above link and decide for yourself, or you can let bloggers decide for you.

The Times decides to do the latter, of course. But look through the comments. They are truly angry--not at Michelle, but at the way the Times has chosen to report this. A sampling:

1-That the NYT only covers this stupid non-controversy reaffirms my decision to obtain news and information from outside the traditional media that seemingly cannot sit still through a five minute speech.

2-Why is the media wasting our time trying to drum up a “cat” fight between Mrs. Obama and Ms. Clinton? These are the ridiculous exploits that derail critical, serious focus on important issues, such as war, taxes, global warming, poverty and a dozen other real and pressing world problems. Give us a break….!

3-All of these comments are spot-on. Please give us substance and leave the fluff for the lesser media outlets.

4-Why is this blog, under the auspices of “the paper of record,” further propagating this ridiculous story? Read the transcript–she was clearly talking about her own family. It’s so annoying that the media turns to Drudge to pick up stories that don’t mean anything. Is this what I get for spending my money on Times Select? Garbage.

5-Tempest in a teapot indeed….please, please, please, my beloved NY Times, give us substantive reporting on the issues and the philosophical and moral choices we have,

6-If we’re going to assume that Michelle Obama “meant” some kind of dig when she made the comment, “If you can’t run your own house, you can’t run the White House,” why isn’t it just as easy to imagine that it was a dig at all the Republican candidates who are into their 2nd, 3rd, etc., marriage? Why is everyone assuming that, if it was anything at all, it was a dig at Hillary??? We need to start focusing on the issues, people, and stop analyzing the minutia for potentially scandalous tidbits.

Yada, yada, yada you get the point. People are mad. Folded in with this parade of complaints are are a smattering of sexist, racist "Michelle Obama has a big fat mouth" snipes as well as plenty of "ever think this was a dig at Giuliani?" comments. The former are assholes, the latter are correct-- for the Times to assume that one woman's critique must be squarely directed at another and make a catfight out of a molehill is completely absurd and thoughtless. And beyond that, the whole "Michelle Obama has a big mouth thing" is complete BS-- an unsubstantiated piece of paranoia which the Times has fed into again and again. This happens every time a first-lady-to-be is revealed to have a brain, and it pisses me off. This was irresponsible reporting.

Left-Wingers Are Egalitarian Bookworms!

Via Think Progress:

Liberals, it turns out, read more books than conservatives, and both read more than independents. They probably participate in lots of other anti-american activities too, the dirty commies.

Here's my favorite factoid:

34 percent of conservatives have not read a book within the past year, compared with 22 percent of liberals and moderates.

But they listen to Rush Limbaugh! Surely that counts for at least two or three 19th-century novels.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Great Fire

Shirley Hazzard's the Great Fire took me a damn long time to finish. But I enjoyed it in the end. It was written in a very intense, sophisticated, non-egalitarian bookworm style, but the underlying love story and the originality of the plot made it worth plodding through. It's also always cool to see a female writer be risky with her prose. The British chicks do it best.

The plot, insofar as there is one, is about a British war vet in Japan who befriends, and falls in love with, a pair of siblings, children of a pair of, essentially, imperial stooges. The brother is dying from a degenerative disease, the sister is bright and precocious, the parents neglectful. A romance kindles between our very heroic hero and Helen, the sister. But the romance is only the spine: this book spans the east and stops in Italy and London, and touches very lightly (yet no less painfully) on the horrific aftermath of war and disease. Hazzard's characters are elegant literate folk and the entire thing feels drizzled with a grey mist that I'm guessing is a bit of British weather and war-weariness pervading the writing.

It's a Rainy, Rainy Day and I'm Just Hatin' on the Mediaocracy

And I haven't posted to this blog in like, forever. Can you blame me, fearless readers? It's so prematurely dingy out there. And the news has been so damn depressing: hurricanes, mine collapses, the gov't spying on us, deadly bombings in Iraq etc. etc. Who wants to blog lightheartedly, or do anything lightheartedly for that matter?

But the time has come for action, and so I vow to return to thee, readership. My biggest plan is to renew the original purpose of this website thingy and do some verified book-bloggin--as my groovy LibraryThing sidebar suggests, I've read a whole bunch of classy novelskis since I spent time in Italia, and not a single one have I blogged. So I'm going to try to work back up to A Moveable Feast, which I just finished this morning. In the meantimes, check out this last-week HuffPo blog post about the MSM and news embargoes--we all know that I was incensed when the Times pre-reviewed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows despite Scholastic's wishes. Apparently, the Grey Lady wasn't ready to take that same firm stand against the White House when it came to taxation.

Choice egalitarian tidbit:
In the former case, with nothing of major import on the line, two big newspapers had no trouble breaking agreements and getting their hands on an unreleased novel--it was all in pursuit of The News, after all! Yet when it came to a topic that mattered to millions of Americans--and affected them in the pocketbook region--similar newspapers steadfastly hewed to the gentlemen's agreement they made, taking no pains to subject the tax plan to even the slightest scrutiny.
Sigh. It's going to take a long long long ass-time to wash away the sins of our "objective" press.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


was actually kind of good. There was a little too much gratuitous female sex-part fear and the girls were too cute to be realistic, but in the end it was a tribute to same-sex friendships in high school, in all their fucked-up-ness and glory. In the end, why it was a better film than Knocked Up was that it didn't aspire to profundity or morality, and it didn't pretend to embrace the female perspective. It was a movie about high school guys trying to get laid. Period.

I'm still waiting for a movie about a chubby female dork who, without undergoing a physical makeover of any sort, attracts the popular guy just by being cute and goofy. Not going to happen in Apatoworld.

Update on 8/21:

I wanted to add my thoughts on the homoeroticism in the movie. I think you can make a substantive case that the Seth character is gay. From his overwrought braggadocio onwards, there's something abour him that isn't entirely comfortable in his own skin, and it may be more than the usual teen angst. Seth only watches porn with (ahem!) close-ups of guys in it, because he says women's bods on their own don' t "do it" for him. He has a childhood obsession with drawing male genitalia. He is intensely jealous that his two best friends will be sharing a room in college. There's the thing he says about looking into some kids eyes and realizing that he's "so sweet it was like the first time I heard the Beatles." And, as Time's Richard Corliss notes, the girl he has a crush on has the interestingly androgynous moniker Jules.

Of course, the final sleepover scene where our male characters cuddle up and declare their pseudo-platonic love is an ode to intense same-sex high school friendships, which in a way are a training ground for romantic intimacy and therefore homosocial by necessity. But the subtext with Seth is very strong, and very interesting too. Any other thoughts on the underlying currents in this film?

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Touch of Romance

A Uk survey lists readers' favoritest love stories:

(via the Guardian)

"It's really heartening to see how these stories, written so long ago, retain the power to captivate 21st century audiences," said Richard Kingsbury, channel head of UKTV Drama, which commissioned the study. (aha! a TV station commissioned it eh?)

My main girls Jane and the Brontes are definitely representing. I might add some post-1900 romances like The Age of Innocence or Tender is the Night but since those all end so miserably... I see why they didn't get votes. But then again Wuthering Heights' "and then the two ghosts wandered around the depressing moors forever" ending isn't exactly heartwarming. Nor is R and J. So go figure.

The top 20

1 Wuthering Heights Emily Brontë, 1847

2 Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen, 1813

3 Romeo and Juliet William Shakespeare, 1597

4 Jane Eyre Charlotte Brontë, 1847

5 Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell, 1936

6 The English Patient Michael Ondaatje, 1992

7 Rebecca Daphne du Maurier, 1938

8 Doctor Zhivago Boris Pasternak, 1957

9 Lady Chatterley's Lover DH Lawrence, 1928

10 Far from The Madding Crowd Thomas Hardy, 1874

11 = My Fair Lady Alan Jay Lerner, 1956

The African Queen CS Forester, 1935

13 The Great Gatsby F Scott Fitzgerald, 1925

14 Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen, 1811

15 = The Way We Were Arthur Laurents, 1972

War and Peace Leo Tolstoy, 1865

17 Frenchman's Creek Daphne du Maurier, 1942

18 Persuasion Jane Austen, 1818

19 Take a Girl Like You Kingsley Amis, 1960

20 Daniel Deronda George Eliot, 1876

LGBT Presidential Forum

It seems that some people thought all the candidates sucked and others thought, in my opinion correctly, that of the three "front-runners" my boy JE kicked the most butt. He was the least defensive and the most on-target of all. In my mind, he's shown more growth than all the others. He's inching so close to being pro gay-marriage that it's easy to see how soon he'll be there. He had the most charisma and warmth and personal comfort of all of them. I thought Obama was a mess; uncomfortable, overly cerebral--I still love the man but I'm disappointed by how he's playing it.

It was really interesting and exciting to watch this forum though. I mean, in a lot of ways this is the new frontier for equality--that and economic stuff. I'd really like to see candidates talk more about problems facing the inner-city but I guess that's not where the donors come from. That's why JE's stance on povery attracts me so much. Anyway, enough blathering for now. I have to go back to looking out my window upon the dirty, rainy streetscape below.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Colbert Channels Barabara Wawa

by asking hushed, ridiculous questions--in soft focus. And despite this, he simultaneously nails Tina Brown and the sad "journalism of personality" she embodies. How does the man do it?

Poll: Which Art Movement Are You?

You Are Impressionism

You think the world is quite beautiful, especially if you look at it in new and interesting ways.
You tend to focus on color and movement in art.
For you, seeing the big picture is much more important than recording every little detail.
You can find inspiration anywhere... especially from nature.
What Art Movement Are You?

I don't feel as though I deserve this at the moment since this humid streak started I'm more apt to be shut in my room with the AC on than enjoying the beautiful prospect of any park or any street or anything at all.

At least the heat appears to have somewhat broken. Blah.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Un-Becoming Jane

A Satire in Four Acts...

Act I

[The Austen House Longbourn]

Jane LIZZY Austen Bennett:

Tralalala! I am a young lady full of vigor and I play the pianoforte very ill at odd hours of the morning. I am overfond of scribbling adjectives and I enjoy solitary rambles through the woods. In short, I am a mass of quivering, unexplored sexuality. For it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman full of spirit and intelligence must be in want of a man.

Mrs. AUSTENBennett

Our young Jane becomes too spunky, I fear. And our financial straits are dire. She must be sold off to the highest bidder immediately!

MR. AUSTENBennett:

I would not have her young life interrupted by a marriage to a shrewish mercenary harridan. Oh, I beg your pardon m'am, I believe I speak of myself.

Cassandra Jane Bennett:

I am an underdeveloped and useless prop--but you ought to have seen me in Bleak House and North and South. My performances in those classics of our time would put that upstart American hussy Ms. Hathaway to shame.

Act II
[Birnam Wood]

Jane Austen:

The scene has been set. I will now go for a walk in the woods and heave my bosom. For it is a truth universally acknowledged that such a scene is an easy substitute for intelligent film-making.

Tom "not quite Darcy" Lefroy:

These woods are awfully muddy. God, I miss my whoring and gambling. Oho, look who it is! The "writer" chick with the"big, ripe, sensual features — that giant strawberry of a mouth —" and the nice rack.

Jane Austen:

Despite my prodigious talent, my budding genius, and my formidable wit, I am vastly intimidated by your literary critique because you are a most agreeable--a most happily-endowed--what I'm trying to say is, you're hot. And it is a truth universally acknowledged that even the most brilliant woman is speechless in front of ...


Your stories need more boning, you dig? More horizontal rhumba. More fornication.


My luscious cherry lips are agape.


Let me read you this passage about birds fucking. Now let me lend you Tom Jones. This book justifies my promiscuity, so it is very important to me. Do you think I do a good Albert Finney?


What? My entire world has turned upside down. For indeed, what young lady could possibly know anything about teh sex with out the aid and experience of a MAN?


[Longbourn Austen-Manor]
Minor characters:

Please give us some delineation!

Maggie Judy Smith Dench:

Hello Austen! I am a cruel and haughty and one-dimensional snob, but I do lament that it is my misfortune to not be very funnym either. Miss Austen, there's a prettyish sort of wilderness over there.


Stop! I must take a moment to crib your writing in a cheap gesture towards my observational talent. [writes it down] Okay, done! Heave, bosom, heave.

Dullard suitor:

Jane, I am a dullard, but I have a spark of wit. I am an entirely unexplained and somewhat bizzarre character. Will you marry me?


I thank you for your offer, but I will not. For the love of crossing, err, verbal swords with Mr. Lefroy has surpassed all other desires on my part.

Act IV:

Tom Lefroy:

Jane! I am undone by my irritating and irrelevant proclivity for stripping and fighting other men. Can you possibly forgive me?


Depends. Will you make out with me?

Tom LeFroy:

With all my heart. But... Jane! Teh Money! We don't have any.

Jane's sister-in-law-to-be:

The handsome men must have something to live upon as well as the plain ones.

Nice one! [writes it down] I begin to suspect something however. How come everyone around me is so clever and I am only given platitudes to utter?


Jane, Jane, despite your strange penchant for teh writing, I adore you. Let's get married.


Cad! What do you expect me to do now... write? Ahahahahahahahah! I'm a woman! And I'm supposed to write. Ahahahahahaha this is hilarious... but also really, really, tragic.


Jane, dearest, you make a good point. Screw my inflexible brute of an uncle. I'm serious, let's get married.


Okay, let's elope.




Adios, Tom. I suppose I shall never be mistress of Pemberley now.


Pemberly? What the Deuce are you talking about?


Calm yourself, Mr. Darcy. This only alleviates any regret I'd feel had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner. You are the last man on earth whom I can ever marry! (Hey, finally, I'm saying lines from my own book. This rox.) [writes it down]


Wot? I thought the whole point was you liked me because I am not a gentleman. I feel terribly bewildered. Aren't you a predictable woman with a bad boy complex? And who's this Darcy fellow? Are you cheating on me?


Darcy is the main character from Pride and Prejudice, the only book the filmmakers bothered reading I ever wrote.


Jane dearest, I do you must stop talking about these book thingamajigs. Remember the rules: we must condescend to our predictable and stupid female audience. Therefore, you are to limit the literary references if you please.


Oh, fine. One last make-out session?


Anne Radcliffe:

I am haunted by the horror of being a woman who writes novels.


Don't worry, Anne. I admire you and I would never write a book-length parody of anything you wrote. That's a promise. For it is a truth universally acknowledged that all women's literary history is a rich minefield for patriarchal, capitalist exploitation.


You mean to lure 20something women into the movies?


For what do we exist but to make sport of lazy, sexist film-makers, and be horribly misread by them in our turn?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Barbara Ehrenreich Unleashes Her Fury on Abstinence-Only Education...

And she's so fucking brilliant comme toujours. (Have you ever read her take-down of the breast-cancer phenemenon? OMG, readership, OMG).

The best part of her critique of the Abs-Only movement is this farcical suggestion:

Here's my advice for the abstinence training industry and any novice abstinence
trainers: First, leave the teenagers alone and focus on the vast neglected
demographic of middle-aged and elderly people, including the married. Many of them have thought they just weren't getting any, so imagine how happy they will be to see their lifestyle affirmed as a noble, pro-active, choice!
Think of the market for silver chastity rings in nursing homes and other long term care facilities!

Secondly, and I realize that this may be more controversial: The abstinent training profession should be restricted to abstinent people. Would you undergo computer training with someone who hasn't touched a computer since 1987? Would you hire a flabby, out-of-shape, personal fitness trainer? No, nor do I think you should study abstinence with someone who behaves "like an animal" in bed.

Oh, Babs! By satirically highlighting the blatant hypocrisy of the abstinence-only movement, she has given us fighting feminists a moment to ponder the ridiculous absurdity of our enemies' raison d'etre. It's a lesson in double-speak and twisted logic.

A "Pro-Lifer" follows the following rules:

I'm a former HS teacher at a Bronx school where sex-ed was not taught til 12th grade (!!!) at which point a significant percentage of the kids had already gotten pregnant, become fathers, and/or had aboritons. I had one or two heartbreaking instances of kids coming up to me asking for advice about sex. One boy used his fingers to demosntrate how far he'd (unsafely) penetrated his girlfriend and asked me if he was at risk to get her pregnant.

Another student of a friend of mine came in and announced to me and her teacher that she was "going to get that abortion," and we shouldn't worry. I was comforted similarly by a 9th (!!!) grader who dropped out of 9th grade because she was pregnant and promised me that everything was okay and she hoped to have a healthy baby at the end of her 9th grade year. One senior student discovered that her boyfriend was a cheat and tearfully took a day off for an AIDS test.

It was painful and uncomfortable for me to talk about sex with my kids because I felt unarmed with all the knowledge and expertise they needed, but mostly because of the idea that no one else had done it yet. It was staggering. At my liberal parochial school, sex ed started in 5th and 6th grades. And I'm glad it did. Because the fact of the matter is that KIDS WANT TO TALK ABOUT SEX. They want to talk about it with grown-ups, or younger adults who can give them honest, real advice. Does this mean they will follow that advice? Not necessarily. But at least they're armed.

And for that matter, I agree (sortakinda) with the wingnuts that in our society women can be taken advantage of sexually--but obviously that's due to misogyny, not some sort of inherent difference. I think some sex-ed classes should be gender-segregated and deal with issues of power-dynamics and self-confidence in relationships, date rape and setting boundaries--even the emotional stuff--as well as the nitty-gritty physical. But as long as it's medically accurate, health classes are absolutely fucking essential.

*Immortal Technique featuring Chuck D," Bin Laden" Remix

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tina Fey

As I expected when I decided to critique a perennial darling, I'm getting a tiny bit of a drubbing in the blogosphere for a brief I wrote in Bitch about Tina Fey. The piece explains why, in my mind, the once-awesome Fey has sold herself down the river with her stupidly adored new show, 30 Rock.

Admittedly, because of the limited space of the item, I didn't get to fully explain my manifold reasons for the Fey-hating-upon. But I did have enough space to make my main point, which is that Fey uses her smarts and funnies to make her audience feel more, not less, comfortable with broad and conventional categorizations based on race/gender/etc etc. It's the difference between truly subversive comedy and disappointingly mainstream comedy.

It helps my case that Fey-fans' main argument (like some avowed feminists said with "Knocked Up") is that the show is funny! And therefore I should just lighten up! God, why are teh bra-burners so damn grumpy? Plus, my detractors explain, Fey is being ironic about stereotypes and I, a humorless anger-monger, just don't get it, okay? (Anyone who read my blog would know that I'm contentious, but not humorless... I hope!).

But alas and alack, I do get Fey's attempts at irony. The problem is that I think they fall short, way short, of true irony. And I too used to worship Fey, back on her co-newsing with Jimmy Fallon days. But ever since she got all pro-Lohan and wrote Mean Girls, a pseudo-empowering but really mediocre movie (here comes the hating again) that glow faded.

Like many comedians, Tina Fey has an obvious streak of self-loathing--she often targets her own alleged nerdiness and unnattractiveness and fetishizes ditzy, oversexed blondes as her opposite. Fine, a lot of comedians mock themselves. But speaking as a member of the same oppressed group in which Fey is included (which is to say, women), her unmuted self-loathing makes me uncomfortable--particularly when I picture men watching the show. It's the same paradox that sent Dave Chappelle (whose jokes sometimes undermined racial stereotypes but often reinforced them) off the deep end for a while.

30-rock hovers well on the bad side of the line between brilliant satire and sexist/racist/lowest-common denominator humor. And that, in my opinion, is because Tina Fey is both a lazy writer and desperate for approval. She makes jokes about the difference between blondes and brunettes and features an alkie misogynist catholic as her (anti?)hero. She's the Valedictorian who wants to be the popular girl. She ditched the student senate to chase after being a prom queen. And I have a right to be sad and a little miffed about that, because that leaves us witty nerdy chicks with one less icon we can truly call our own.