December 2007 Archives

Strangers with Pleasant Personalities


It has taken me a very long time to recognize certain things about the way I was raised to view certain social interactions, a view rooted in the "mind your own goddamn business" ethos of the southwest. It was made clear to me, from a very early age and by most of the adults whose examples I witnessed, that when you had to talk to strangers, the conversations should be as neutral and as brief as possible. You shouldn't be flat-out rude, but you also shouldn't make chit-chat with the guy who takes your order at some bakery/bagel/sandwich chain, because he might then feel it appropriate to tell you, with genuine kindness and your best interest at heart, that the sandwich you just ordered has more calories than any other item on the menu. You shouldn't act like you're actually interested in the thoughts and opinions of the person helping you find a book at some bookstore, because then they might stick around and continue to talk to you when you just want to find your book, buy it, and get the hell out of the store. The only exceptions to this rule are if you are trying to spread the gospel; in that case, you should use these mini-moments of niceness as an opportunity to ask the other person what they know about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and invite them to church.

Actually maybe that's another reason I used to try to keep conversations with strangers to a minimum: I didn't want to do anything that might invite them to proselytize me. (One more way my religious upbringing screwed up my ability to play well with others.)

But my friend C has no such problem. I have known her for about a year and a half, and hanging out with her has been a revelation, largely because she is so charming, friendly and open: I continue to be astonished at easily she enters into conversations with complete strangers, conversations that, although often very brief, are nonetheless enjoyable to all who participate in and hear them--up to a point.

C used to tend bar. (I so prefer the locution "tend bar" to "be a bartender." It just sounds cooler.) She learned certain things about how to be pleasant enough to people that they wanted to tip her, but not so pleasant that they figured she'd be going home with them at the end of the night. I don't want to make it sound calculated: she has developed a genuine habit of being cheerful, friendly, and polite when she meets people. Which is why the guy at the sandwich shop told her, "That sandwich you just ordered, it's my favorite. I used to eat one almost every day. But then I decided to look it up and see, like, how many calories it has and stuff, and it turns out it's got 1100 calories. It's got more calories than anything else we sell. They're really not good for you."

One More Way Global Warming Screws Everything Up

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Yesterday I tried to go somewhere--Chicago, to be exact. I have this really great trip planned that includes visiting an old friend I haven't seen in years, going to dinner with a few new friends I haven't seen in months, hanging with Saviour Onassis and his new man, hitting some museums, etc.

But I was denied, and the weather was the problem. Oh, it was lovely where I was and it was lovely in Chicago. The problem was Detroit. And Detroit was not, as you might suspect if you don't live in this part of the globe, hit by a blizzard. No, it was hit by warm weather, and that led to fog.

As one my recent entries should make clear, in many regards I'm often a fan of explicit depictions of sex: I can appreciate them for their artistic and erotic value. But I'm not a fan of most porn, either in theory or in practice, because I find most of it joyless, predictable and exploitative.

Within the corner of the Blogosphere concerned with sex and gender, there are only five bloggers who haven't already commented on the infamous Details blog piece from the summer asking if it's OK for men to demand anal sex from women. As I'm one of those five, I should probably get that duty out of the way before the year ends. I'll do it, however, by seconding everything Twisty Faster says about it in her critique. Twisty argues that the phenomenon "is an escalation of porn culture," which seems likely enough to me. And in this piece from The Guardian UK, Marina Hyde makes the same argument about another way men are showing contempt for women during sex: they apparently feel entitled to ejaculate on a woman's face, without asking, on the first date.

I especially like this statement from Hyde: "porn is screwing up sex. Not sex in relationships, but the kind of casual sex in which it would be nice to think people could indulge in a mutually enjoyable, non-exploitative fashion." From what I hear from young women in the dating trenches, I think that's right, and it's no doubt one more reason educated, successful women who have aquired an appropriate sense of their own worth and what they deserve in a relationship are more likely to have orgasms during sex than their less educated female counterparts, and one more reason feminists have the most rewarding sex lives.

Ethanol sucks. I don't know who came up with this idea but it sucks. Something that is added to fossil fuel but doesn't really wean us from it sucks. It requires all this fuel in the first place to produce it, and it makes everything else more expensive, particularly feed for livestock, which is one more reason to be a vegetarian (which I'm still not) or at least eat less meat (which I do). The answer is not a replacement for fossil fuel in the things we already use, but completely different forms of energy. That's all old information.

But here's a bit real news: the rush to grow corn for ethanol is raising beer prices in the US, because farmers are no longer growing hops, an ingredient used in brewing beer, while our crappy dollar (one more reason the Bush administration is the WORST leadership this country has EVER seen) makes importing hops prohibitively expensive.

As it happens I don't like hops, which is quite bitter. I HATE hoppy beers. Took me a long time to figure out what it was in certain beers that made them unpalatable to me: turns out it's lots of hops. But it's used in most beers; in some, the taste isn't pronounced, and those are the beers I like. I really like dark beers and brewed beverages--I like something that tastes like you're drinking a glass of heavy bread, Guinness being my favorite, what I usually drink when someplace has it on tap. But I almost never buy it in bottles to put in my fridge--for that, I prefer to pick up a six pack of some specialty beer from a microbrewery.

I don't drink a lot of beer, so it's not like I'm worrying about the effect this development will have on my wallet. But I don't want microbreweries to go out of business. And this whole thing just sucks. There's no reason to grow so much corn, most of it roundup ready and genetically modified.

Movies About Men, For Women


In his comment to my entry about why I like the sex scene in Latter Days, MohoHawaii noted that he "always thought that there should be a larger market for romance stories that cross the gender divide. The straight female audience is largely untapped as consumers of male-male love stories. This is a potentially huge market, since there are 10 to 20 times as many straight women as there are gay men."

For whatever reason, I've been an enthusiastic part of that market since even before I officially reached adulthood. One of my very first entries on this blog was about my movie-watching habits in the 1980s. I decided as a college freshman that I'd see pretty much any movie back for a "revival" (which was important back in the days before you could easily rent or buy a copy of a movie, making revival houses unnecessary) or anything that was a "classic." This decision was facilitated by the fact that UA's student union had a HUGE movie theater in it, and it showed only second-run movies or revivals, for a mere buck-fifty. As I've mentioned, the first movie I went to see there was A Clockwork Orange, which I walked out of; the second movie I went to see was La Cage aux Folles, which I loved and my roommate hated.

I made a habit of dragging roommates to movies I really wanted to see, which is how, as a junior, I persuaded my 17-year-old sister (yes, I roomed with my sister--I actually roomed with all three of my sisters at one point or another) to see both Risky Business (had that dreadful R-rating, though in the early 80s ratings weren't quite such a big deal in the church) and Another Country, which was rated a mere PG but was all about homosexuality at some British public school.

I'm not sure how many teenage Mormon females would be so enthusiastic about a mannered art film exploring the difficulties of conducting a gay love affair at boys' boarding school, difficulties exacerbated because one boy had just hung himself after being caught en flagrante by a headmaster. But my sister and I LOVED it. And really, it's not so very remarkable that we loved it, because it was an interesting script and beautifully cast, emphasis on beautiful: it featured the very young Colin Firth, Rupert Everett and Cary Elwes in their earliest starring roles.

Maybe It Really Was Two Minutes In Heaven


Episode 18 of VM, which I discussed yesterday, opens with Veronica making out with Deputy Leo (whose reappearance near the end of season 3 is a much needed bright spot) before her front door. He wonders why he's never been invited in and wants, he says, "to get a really good, long look at your bedroom ceiling."

"Wow! College girls must be easy," she replies.

The focus of the scene is the talking, not the kissing. There's no dramatic music, nothing unusual in the camera shot. You understand, from everything in the scene itself, that these two people like each other, but you also understand that Leo likes Veronica a lot more than she likes him. I thought Deputy Leo was a great character and was sorry Veronica wasn't nicer to him. But the show doesn't intend for them to have incredible chemistry, and they don't. The show does intend for Veronica and Duncan to have incredible chemistry, and they still don't.

The show intends for Veronica and Logan to have incredible chemistry, and they do. And it makes sense that they do. Because as they work together on things like finding out who stole the money at the poker game, what's going on with the various witnesses who claim to have seen Lynn Echolls jump off the bridge or ride away in a van, who is using the credit cards of Logan's supposedly dead mother, they come to see one another's virtues and vulnerabilities.

The kiss signifies something complicated and wonderful: they've discovered they have an emotional connection. As they acknowledge this emotional connection, it allows for an embodied attraction. (I use that slightly odd phrase because I think it covers more than calling the attraction merely "physical," as opposed to some other sort, like "emotional" or "intellectual." Emotions and thoughts are not just emotional and intellectual, they are embodied, and can cause physiological changes, including alterations in blood pressure, pulse, expression, posture, digestion, etc; and embodiment includes things like the way we carry ourselves, what our voices sound like, and how we adorn or decorate our bodies.) Admitting and acting on that attraction allows their emotional connection to deepen. And lust is part of every aspect of the embodied attraction and connection.

The Lead-Up to Two Minutes In Heaven


Warning! This entry contains spoilers! If you A) haven’t seen seasons I or III of Veronica Mars and B) intend to watch them some day and C) are upset by spoilers (I’m not), then read at your own risk.

If you look at the calendar on my blog, it shows that I took a full week off from blogging, Sunday December 9 through Saturday December 15. I completely missed National Blog Posting Every Day Month or whatever November is called; I was traveling and away from home for over half the month, and much of the time I was gone I didn’t have reliable internet access, so there was just no way I could have done that gig.

I decided, however, that I’d compensate by posting every single day for a week or ten days in December, and I thought December 5 through 15 would be ideal as those days (even though that’s actually 11 days). But I got distracted on December 8, and what distracted me was a sweater I started last spring and really want to finish before 2008 rolls around, and Veronica Mars.

Latter Gay Gaze


My friend Troy hates the movie Latter Days--just hates it. A year or two ago at Sunstone when he and I were hanging out, I mentioned that I liked it; he countered that he despised it. “What do you think is so bad?” I asked.

“You mean, besides the script, the plot, the acting and the direction?” he replied.

I didn’t respond, except to shrug. Yes, the movie has problems. There are elements of the script that really bug me. There are elements to the plot I find predictable and cliched. There are performances I find really weak.

But I still like it. I liked it enough to buy a copy for myself and to give a copy as a gift to someone else. I liked it well enough to listen to the commentary.

One major reason I like it is that as far as I’m concerned, it’s about the only movie I’ve ever seen to get a mission right--I would argue it gives a more accurate depiction of a mission even than God’s Army, which I found thoroughly annoying and lame. (Don’t ask me why, because I don’t remember much about it aside from the fact that they make the new guy lug his suitcase around while they go tracting, which I’m fairly certain would never happen; that the main character goes back to BYU, dates and MARRIES his English TA while she's still his teacher (a BYU alum can correct me if I'm wrong, but I rather suspect the administration wouldn't be cool with that) and that the movie ends with her bringing him a cup of tea and sitting down at his feet to adore him; and that Richard Dutcher, who was about 40, plays a missionary of about 30 who dies quietly in his sleep from an inoperable brain tumor with no suffering or puking his guts out or whatever, so much so that no one even knows he's sick. I hate on principle all movies where people die quietly in their sleep from inoperable brain tumors. Anyway, aside from all that, I found the movie so vacuous and forgettable that I can’t remember what happened, and so can’t really tell you why I hated it in detail, though I think the reasons I’ve already listed constitute solid ground.)

But back to Latter Days. I like it for moments. There’s a moment where one elder grabs another and says, “I’m going to hit you, elder, and it’s going to hurt.” Pretty much. I liked it for Steve Sandvoss, the guy who plays the gay missionary--he has a sweetness and a decency I found both sympathetic and genuine, and it reminded me of the elders I liked best on my mission--some were really good young men.

But the thing I like best about it is the sex scene.

My New Action Figure


Today is the birthday of my two favorite writers: Jane Austen and... ME!

You may well roll your eyes and think I'm arrogant for announcing that I'm my own favorite writer, but one of the many reasons I love Saviour Onassis is for the way he taught me to value my own talents. Someday I will tell the story of how Saviour Onassis convinced me that I should always say I am my own favorite artist, but in the meantime I will tell you the story of one of the coolest presents I have received this birthday, namely, this:


That's right, it's a Jane Austen action figure! I have wanted one ever since I read an entry on Robyn's blog about how she got one from her father. My dad usually leaves gift buying to my mother, so I knew not to expect anything from that quarter, but mercifully one of my sisters obliged me.... (Actually my siblings have been really good to me this year--I got all kinds of stuff! But that's going to be another post, I hope--I have so many things I've been meaning to blog about.) You can see the box in front of some flowers a friend sent me--I love getting flowers but it's just not something most people send. (Including me, now that I think about it.) You can also see my cat checking out a bit of the greenery--there's something about these particular bits of foliage that freak her out.

Here's Jane out of the box and not quite in action, in front of my (alphabetized) copies of her work:


I had a very early Barbie as a little girl, one that had I never played with it or taken it out of the box, would be worth thousands today. But I was four or so when I got it--of course I took it out of the box and played with it, though I never did intentionally destructive things like draw on it or cut its hair. It occurred to me after I ripped the box of this action figure open that maybe I was supposed to just leave it in its box, but I wanted to handle the figure.

Turns out this version of Jane is wielding a quill like a weapon.


She's also kind of hot... I don't know if the real Jane was this curvy, but I do know Regency fabric didn't drape on the body the way this doll is depicted.

Anyway. What I would like from you is a birthday greeting, whenever you happen to read this message. I don't care if it's a week or two or three from now, please say hi! In fact, I will accept birthday wishes on this message up until December 15, 2008.


Every Inch of Snow Plus Every Inch of Driveway


Thursday morning I woke up, rolled over, stretched, then asked myself, "Good grief! Why on earth are my arms and shoulders so incredibly sore?"

Then I got out of bed, opened the blinds, looked out the window and remembered: on Wednesday I shoveled a foot of heavy, wet snow from my entire driveway, as well as the sidewalk in front of my house, up to my front door and off my front steps. When I got done, my driveway looked like this:


Which constitutes, I think, a reasonably good job of clearing the snow.

Last year I mentioned that during a period of particularly heavy snowfall, I had shoveled my driveway upwards of three times a day. This prompted a comment providing a link to an entry on someone else's blog about how stupid it is to shovel snow before it stops snowing, after which someone posted a comment on how there is no good reason to shovel the driveway three times in one day.


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This page is an archive of entries from December 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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