January 2006 Archives

Can They Be a Sensible Academy?


I just learned that Keira Knightley got an Oscar nomination for her insipid portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet in prd & prjdc! The movie as a whole got FOUR nominations, including art direction (yeah, it was pretty, but that doesn't make up for the lousy script), costume design (again, the clothes were very pretty, but they were NOT authentic--there was one gown Caroline Bingley wore that, while fabulous, was a thoroughly contemporary design), and "music written for a motion picture" (can't say the music made an impression on me).

I shouldn't gripe, I suppose: after all, even though it's watered-down, simplified, prettified Austen.... No, I should gripe. It's a mediocre version of a GREAT novel, and I rather hope Keira Knightley loses.

Mellencamp, the Game


As I mentioned a million years ago (OK, it was five and a half months, but in blog time, that is the equivalent of a million years), my friend and colleague Dr. Sweet Baby Jesus introduced me to this game we call Mellencamp (if you want to know why, you have to read the original post), where you take two basically equal and/or frequently paired things, and decide which one you prefer.

If you're playing this game properly, you wouldn't ask someone, "Which do you prefer: a full-body massage, or a poke in the eye with a sharp stick?" Rather, you'd ask, "Which do you prefer: Swedish massage, or shiatsu?" Opting for one does not necessarily mean that you are dismissing the other as thoroughly vile. For instance, I prefer raspberries to strawberries, but that doesn't mean I don't like strawberries--I love them, in fact. I just love raspberries a teeny bit more.

I prefer

sunset to sunrise
questions to answers
the Middle Ages to the Renaissance
skirts to trousers
pedicures to manicures
mountains to the ocean
the west coast to the east coast
the desert to the tropics
Arizona to the other 49 states
Tucson to Phoenix
saguaro to any other cactus, though I also really like those purple prickly pears
Jane Austen to the Brontes
Emily Dickinson to Walt Whitman
meticulously produced rock music like Pink Floyd to punk
new wave to grunge
Christmas to New Year's
baths to showers
water skiing to snow skiing
aisle seat to window
raspberries to strawberries
chocolate to any other form of candy (though I like a heck of a lot of candy)
wild berry skittles to regular
pecans to walnuts
Mexican food to Italian
tortilla chips to potato chips
Coke to Pepsi
vodka to gin
beer to wine
margaritas to martinis
sobriety to drunkenness (I grew up a teetotaler, and while I have learned to appreciate the occasional, decent booze buzz, I'd still rather have my thinking unclouded and my motor skills sharp)
coffee to tea
decaf to regular (because caffeine really screws with my sleep)
hyacinths and crocuses to chrysanthemums and asters
maple leaves to the leaf of any other tree (having lived in someplace that has sugar maples, I can now understand why the Canadians put a maple leaf on their flag--they're just really cool)
deep colors--especially greens, reds and blues--to earth tones
cats to dogs (I really love dogs, but I find cats require less maintenance, so I prefer them as pets)
solitude to crowds
jacks to tiddly winks
jump rope to hop scotch
seeing my acupuncturist to seeing my MD
Elizabeth Tudor to Mary Stewart
Gene Kelly to Fred Astaire
Bette Davis to Joan Crawford
Buffy the Vampire Slayer to its spinoff, Angel
Spike to Angel
People who call themselves feminists to people who, for whatever reason, don't
Curious skeptics engaged with the mystery and even godless heathen to the religiously devout and orthodox of any ilk
holly to ivy

OK, there are a few pairings where one choice is obviously right and the other is obviously wrong--like ANYONE actually prefers Angel to Spike, or tiddly winks to jacks? (I really used to love jacks. Someone with children between the ages of, say, five and 11, tell me: do children still play them? Can you even buy them?)

I tag any and every blogger who reads this to make and post a list of your own.

Patriarchy Really Is to Blame

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It seems there is more than one person in Texas who has figured out that PATRIARCHY IS TO BLAME.

Here's a story from Women's e News about a new program to rehabilitate batterers. Unlike many other programs designed to treat batterers, which "have typically looked at how batterers use violence to control their victims--or counseled them on how to manage 'out of control' anger--staffers at Travis [County Sheriff Department in Austin, Texas] say this program assumes that violence arises from a decision based on deeply-held beliefs of male dominance, not a flash of 'uncontrollable' emotion."

Instead, batterers are shown that they have choices. In group meetings, batterers "are led step by step to recall and re-enact what they felt, thought and did as domestic conflicts escalated and turned violent. Often, [George Jurand, coordinator of the San Francisco sheriff's department's Resolve to Stop the Violence Project] said, the offenders can be expected to voice the idea that, as men, they should be dominant. This 'male-role belief system' is then linked to its destructive consequences: arrest, imprisonment or loss of family."

An important feature of the program is having offenders listen to the stories of survivors of violence, who describe the terror and pain such violence inflicts on women and their children.

Classes are also taught and workshops led by men who once were batterers themselves, and focus making batterers accountable for their decisions to use violence. The program shows significant results: data reported in 2002 showed that "compared with offenders who did not participate, [program] participants showed an 80-percent steeper decline in repeat violence after 16 weeks. Those spending 12 weeks in the program showed a 51-percent steeper decline and those in the program for four weeks had a 42-percent steeper decline in repeat violence."

Well, imagine that: teaching men who commit violence against women that IT'S WRONG, THAT THE MEN ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE VIOLENCE AND THEY CAN STOP IT, actually works.

Holy Underwear


The Happy Feminist posted an entry about words and phrases she doesn't like, one of which is panties. I also hate that word, but I quit using it when I quit wearing conventional underwear and started wearing the temple garment, or Mormon sacred underwear.

This is a strange thing a lot of non-Mormons don't know anything about, and I've been accused of making this up. I swear to God, I am not. Anyway, below is the explanation of garments I provide in my book, which is forthcoming god-only-knows when. (Supposedly my agent has it at a couple of presses now.)


Because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, I had to begin wearing special long white underwear known as the temple garment before I could go on a mission. The temple garment symbolizes the status of Adam and Eve before God after they ate of the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Upon discovering their nakedness, Adam and Eve cover themselves with fig leaves, then hide from God when he visits the garden. When they finally come forward and confess, God first curses Adam and Eve, then replaces their flimsy fig leaf aprons with coats made from animal skins--which, as someone pointed out to me once, means that God had already introduced death into the garden, since he had the hides of dead animals to give Adam and Eve. It's those skins that the temple garment represent: a shield against primordial nakedness, a reminder of what can happen when you deceive or disobey God.

Here's the bit of satire I promised yesterday. This piece was originally published in The Sugar Beet, a website of Mormon satire, in 2002. I got in a spot of trouble for it--plenty of people couldn't understand why anyone would attack a document claiming that "that the disintegration of the family [caused by things like uppity women and gay people wanting to get married] will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets." But I still feel the attitudes I mock here deserve to be mocked.

You can still find the original version on the web if you want to go looking for it. The version below differs slightly from the earlier one: I've changed a sentence in the third paragraph because I am a compulsive fact-checker (that's one reason I had to leave the Mormon church: its facts don't check) and discovered that my original summary of McKinney's defense was incomplete, so I had to fix it.

(Salt Lake City, UT) October 11 was National Coming Out Day, a day on which gays and lesbians admit their sexual identity to themselves and others. In a show of support for the day, the Church issued a statement condemning homophobia. "Homophobia is un-Christlike," a spokesperson for the Church said. "We can't tolerate or condone violence against so-called gays and lesbians, even when they do something so heinous and disgusting as to insist that their perverse desires are actual parts of their eternal, god-given identities."

The spokesperson went on to say, "Remember, these people are sons and daughters of God, and are welcome as members of the church, as long as they do not imagine that they have any right to find happiness and companionship in a relationship with someone of their same sex, as God finds that utterly repugnant. We must do all we can to help these unfortunate people see that they are violating their divine natures, as well as the divine decrees of God, by ever imagining that there is nothing grotesque, obscene and evil about same-sex relationships. And pistol-whipping them and leaving them to die by the side of the road doesn't really help in that mission."

The mention of pistol-whipping was a reference to Matthew Wayne Shepard, a 21-year-old openly gay student at the University of Wyoming. On the night of October 6,1998, Shepard was beaten, tied to a fence on a remote highway in Wyoming, and left to die by several young people, one of whom, Aaron McKinney, was LDS. Shepard died of his injuries on October 12, 1998. McKinney did not deny that he kidnapped, robbed and beat Shepard, or that he pretended to be gay in order to lure Shepard into leaving with him; his defense was that he intended only to kidnap and rob Shepard, not to kill him, but flew into a rage when Shepard "fell" for the gay act and grabbed McKinney's genitals. McKinney was eventually convicted of felony murder. He received visits from home teachers up until the conviction.

Many members of the Church responded with support for the statement. "We shouldn't kill those 'so-called gays and lesbians,' to use a phrase you hear at Church, even though it would do the world a lot of good to get rid of them once and for all," said Marjorie Kimball, 34, of Walnut Creek, California. "Have you ever walked down Castro Street in San Francisco? It's disgusting. But taking a gun and cleaning out the whole area really isn't what God intends, since he can just wait until they all die of AIDS and then send them straight to hell."

Mark Jefferson, 42, of Madison, Wisconsin, stated, "In a really liberal place like Madison, where you can end up being friends with people who are gay or lesbian and kind of grow to care about them before you even know certain things about them, it can be hard to keep in mind how wrong homosexuality really is. It's a good thing we have the Proclamation on the Family up in our house, to remind me 'that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.' It's kind of weird to realize that all the terrorist attacks and the impending war in Iraq are a result of efforts in Hawaii and California and Vermont to legalize gay marriage. But even though these people are bringing about Armageddon, we have to try to forgive them anyway and hope they go straight before it's too late."

A practicing, believing Mormon I've collaborated with on a couple of projects has posted something on his blog about how, although he doesn't think he's a homophobe because he has been friends with gay people and recently drank decaf with a gay man in his own kitchen, still, he's upset about Brokeback Mountain because

there's something about homosexuality that always makes me think of the Roman empire crumbling and stuff like that. It seems to come to a head pretty late in a civilization's decline, By the time it becomes prominent, I think it's equivalent to the bruises you start to see on a piece of overripe fruit. It represents a new, deeper level of decay.

He acknowledges that there are probably

many individuals for whom homosexuality does not seem like a choice. But I think there are as many or more people for whom homosexuality is an option but not a foregone conclusion (in other words, they're in the middle of that 6-point spectrum used to rank homo vs. hetero). I haven't seen [Brokeback Mountain] yet, but I think depictions like this that get people thinking about homosexuality will cause many to go ahead and explore it, whereas they probably never would've if society kept a better cap on it.

He goes on to conclude that

deep down, I'm alarmed. I see more bruises forming on the fruit. I think we're in trouble. To mix in another metaphor, compared to the heterosexual sexual revolution of the '60s, I think the gay movement is like crack cocaine next to pot, in terms of potential to ruin people's lives and upset the right balance of things. (emphasis added.)

Before discussing this further, I want to say that I'm sure there are many individuals for whom homophobia does not seem like a choice. But I think there are as many or more people for whom homophobia is an option but not a foregone conclusion (in other words, they're in the middle of that 6-point spectrum used to rank homophobia vs. tolerance). Having spent 26 years as a practicing Mormon and seen Mormon homophobia in action up close, I think the post by this guy is a perfect example of how religious doctrine that justifies homophobia will cause many people to go ahead and explore it, whereas they probably never would've if society kept a better cap on it.

The author of the post I quote here, for instance, probably started out as a two or a three--more tolerant than not. But years of indoctrination into the Mormon church have helped him become an advocate of one of the most dangerous threats to all humanity: ignorant intolerance dressed in the guise of righteous religion.

Reading the post upset me profoundly, because this is someone I work with, and not only is his message homophobic and bigoted, his logic sucks: he feels justified in announcing his conviction that the gay movement is extreme in its "potential to ruin people's lives and upset the right balance of things"; he expresses openly his dire fears and grievous worries that acceptance of homosexuality will hasten some sort of dangerous, dreadful moral decay--but he rejects the label of homophobe! And this despite the fact that homophobia means "an irrational fear of homosexuality and homosexuals." Given that he proclaims his uh, righteous fears of homosexuality's threat to virtuous, upstanding society, given how overwrought, paranoid and hyperbolic his fears are (what the hell is he doing invoking the fall of the Roman empire? I thought that had to do with putting an emperor in charge of the government, and with the fact that the Goths sacked the capital.... Then there's the fact that the Greeks accepted homosexuality, and they are, after all, the basis for what we in the Western world call civilization), he seems to fit the definition of a homophobe to a rigid, straight H--OK, he's not a virulent, rampaging homophobe, just a mild, meandering one, looking for rotten fruit in the garden of life, blaming the rot on others--god forbid he consider the possibility that HE and his beliefs are responsible for such things.

How can he fail to see that he is a homophobe? Why is he willing to embrace thoroughly homophobic attitudes, but not the label that goes with them? (I do wonder why people are afraid of being labeled a bigot, but not of actually being one. I also wonder why they aren't afraid to reveal such thoroughly inadequate thinking, so that they end up seeming not only bigoted, but unable to follow clear reason.)

I also found the post profoundly ironic, because one of the projects I worked with him on was The Sugar Beet, a website of Mormon satire modeled on The Onion. And when I wrote for the Sugar Beet, I got in a little trouble for a piece I produced to assuage some of the grief and shame I felt when I learned that Aaron McKinney, one of Matthew Shepard's murderers, had grown up Mormon and received officially sanctioned visits from representatives of the Mormon church up until his conviction--at which time the visits ceased and he got excommunicated, because you can't be a convicted felon and a practicing Mormon, any more than you can be an uncloseted homosexual and a practicing Mormon.

I've had people tell me--make that, I've had Mormons tells me--in all seriousness, that homosexuality is a sin akin to murder--and the treatment McKinney received pretty much demonstrates that, at least in the view of the Mormon church, that's true.

And omigod, it's not attitudes like that that will cause the end of civilization! It's not bigotry and greed and vicious illegal wars and wanton devastation of the environment that will destroy the United States--no, it's the fact that there are people in this country who think it's OK to choose a same-sex relationship.

Good god, that is so FUCKED UP.

I'll post the story from the Sugar Beet tomorrow.

No-Bake Choco-Nut Cookies


It's been a very long time since I've posted a recipe, so here's one I make fairly often. It's incredibly easy--so easy, in fact, that it was one of the very first things I learned to make on my own, back around age 8 or so. Most cookie lovers have some sort of no-bake recipe but this one is extra yummy.

3 cups rolled oats
5 tbs cocoa
1/2 cup each chopped pecans, coconut and mini chocolate chips
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
6 tbs butter

Combine oats, cocoa, nuts, coconut and chocolate chips in bowl. Heat milk, sugar and butter in small saucepan over low heat just until it boils, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Pour over oat mixture; stir well. Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper. Let cool at least ten minutes. Makes about three dozen medium-sized cookies.

When I was little I liked to wait until the cookies got a bit stale, then dissolve them in a glass of milk, which resulted in chocolate milk with a nice sludge of oats and pecans and such at the bottom of the glass. Now I just cut the recipe in half and make about 18 cookies, which lasts me about three days. They're really good for breakfast.

My New Favorite Rejection Letter


That title is both ironic and a tad oxymoronic: it's not like I have an old favorite rejection letter, and I've never received a rejection letter I like as well as any of the acceptances I've gotten. Still, some rejections are less vile and upsetting than others. Here's one I got last week that doesn't make me want to give up not merely sending my work out, but writing poetry altogether:

Dear Holly,

Apologies for the delayed response! I really enjoyed "Portrait of a Bedtime Storyteller" but got a bit lost toward the middle. The ending is magnificent, though. Would love to see more of your work.

Very Best,

Poetry Editor

Apologies are indeed in order for the delayed response: this journal had my submission for NINE MONTHS. It's not at all unheard of for literary journals to hold your work for six months to a year before they get back to you, and that long response time is one reason journals that don't accept simultaneous submissions totally SUCK the putrefied body parts of long dead farm animals. This journal at least allows simultaneous submissions, so the poems they held practically forever were also seen by other journals, one of which is now going on ten months for its response time.

But at least the editor liked my work and want to see more. So one of these days I'll send more out.

The Invisible Woman

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Are We Having Fun Yet?


I am happy to report that I have a new window. I just opened my curtains so I could gaze at it with satisfaction for a few moments. It's solid and unbroken and a much better state of affairs than I woke to three days ago. There are only a few lingering annoyances about the whole business: first of all, although the glaziers washed the inside window before they installed the storm window, they didn't get all the grubbiness off it: you can still see a few smudges where the snowball or chunk of ice thudded against the inside window. Secondly, there are a few bits of glass and other debris trapped on the sill between the storm and the inside window, and since neither opens, the only way to get rid of said debris is to remove the storm window. Of course I won't do such a thing in the middle of winter, but I'm anal-retentive enough to get someone to help me do it when the weather warms up, because I just don't like knowing those bits that shouldn't be there, are.

And third, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, I'm still mulling over the unpleasant idea that some people find vandalism fun. I've been the victim of such "fun" a time or two before. One Saturday morning during my last spring in Iowa, I got up, went out to my car to run some errands, and discovered that someone had kicked in the tail lights during the night. My neighbor told me that someone had knocked over his motorcycle and broken its mirrors.

I dutifully reported the incident to the cops. A nice middle-aged policeman came to take the report. "I don't get it," I said. "Why do people do stuff like this? Why do they think it's fun?"

"Too much alcohol and too much testosterone makes people stupid and mean," he said. "Add in that warm weather's finally here after a really long winter, and you've got all kinds of petty vandalism going on."

But that still doesn't explain why people think vandalism is fun. And as much as I would like to believe that women and girls as a whole don't get off on inflicting damage, I know better.


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