Wednesday, February 28, 2007

aggressively defensive - for more than just driving!

if it makes me laugh out loud, i put it up here for your reading pleasure. as always, from Overheard in New York:

Tourist woman to crowd of pedestrians: No, don't cross! Here comes the big red hand!

--51st & 5th

Overheard by: Micaela


can't you practically hear the very mild, yet undeniably present, hysteria in her voice?

here's my thing: i'm all for obeying traffic laws. really. but there is a certain...flexibility with rules that one needs to have while in the city in order to a) get anywhere and b) survive. and honestly, it's more about awareness than anything else. i was shaking my head just this morning at a girl, during rush hour, wandering along the sidewalk and arriving at the corner totally oblivious to the onslaught of pedestrians (myself included) coming at her from the perpendicular crosswalk. i almost ran into her, because she made no attempt at adjusting her strides to the oncoming foot traffic - she was in her own little walking world. and i'm sorry, when you're in the midst of thousands of people both in cars and on foot who are trying to get somewhere, that is a really bad state in which to be.

phew. didn't realize that had annoyed me as much as it apparently did. moral of the story is, ignore the big red hand all you like, but just have a fucking clue what's around you while you do!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

victory is mine. in the sense that i didn't collapse and die.

i did 3.6 miles on the treadmill tonight! forty straight minutes of running! it's like i'm joan benoit over here.

or rosie ruiz. but whatever. i felt like a winner, and that's what matters, right?

much credit for my motivation to even drag my sorry self to the gym at all must go to the other kate, whose great post on physicality i just read today. thanks for the inspiration, kate! although i have to say, if i ever find myself following in your footsteps and playing a whole indoor soccer game and then doing a two hour spinning class afterwards just for kicks, i will ask some of my lazier friends and readers to knock me unconscious and drag me to the nearest drinking establishment, stat.

paging freud, or miss cleo, or whoever.

so last night i had this dream where one of BoyCat's co-worker's friends (who doesn't really exist in real life, but did in the dream, you know?) gave me a really bad haircut at her salon in a run down part of the city. it wasn't that it was terribly short, but just in these two big hacked layers, and i absolutely hated it. i was agonizing over how to fix the damage and make myself presentable in public when i woke up.

and honestly, i can't decide whether this means i should cut my hair, or i shouldn't! is it representative of a subconscious dislike of my haircut now, or some sort of anxiety around losing the long haircut i've got?

deep thoughts from kate on this tuesday morning...

Monday, February 26, 2007

oh, it's one of those posts.

i am kinda freaking out a bit right now, over something i really need to just not be freaking out about. because a freak out is entirely unnecessary. and i can't really blog about it, because it's kinda work-related-ish, and i don't wanna do that.

so, instead of being able to ramble about it to you all and then probably feel a little better about it, instead i'm perpetuating that lame-ass genre of posts, The Nebulous, Self-Involved Allusion to Some Sort of Problem. i fucking hate those posts!

i'm sorry, so sorry.

in other news: about half of all my socks have holes in them, my cat has a dirty nose, and i had two tacos and some chips and salsa for dinner.

there - the raging inanity of this post is now complete!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

the oscars. in real time. through magaritas.

11:51: i cannot believe how late this year's show is running. they still have at least the four major awards - actor, actress, director, and movie - to give out, if not others, and they are twenty minutes long as it is. this could end up as some kind of record. and i'm not sure how much longer i can hang in. so who'll win? who cares!! good night and good luck.

10:58: it is eleven o'clock on a sunday night, i am on my fifth margarita, and celine dion is screeching in front of a giant oscar statue. thank the baby jesus for the mute button.

10:18: i am not amused by the dancer people. i am amused by the fact that the camera can't seem to focus on them correctly every time they come out to do their kitschy little human sculpture bit. and also, we keep clicking over to E!'s "THS: Curse of the Lottery." i'm sorry, but the trainwreck stupidity of these people who manage to blow $41 million dollars and whatnot is actually way more compelling than the Best Designer category.

oh, and i'm on my fourth margarita.

9:08: my go-to phrase for the evening thus far has been "whoop-ee-di-do." and not in a truly excited way.

7:57: i've been booted from the tv viewing area for a new episode of the simpsons. well, not booted necessarily, but i'm choosing the internet over the show, at least for now. is it me, or is it weird for the oscars to start at 8:30 instead of 8:00? what kind of major show starts on the half hour? bizarre.

7:41: daniel craig is still hot in a tuxedo. not that this is surprising in any way. and queen latifah is still hot in a black dress. also something that i already knew, and am just re-confirming.

ok, so i haven't had a margarita yet, but i have had a glass and a half of wine. so that's a good start. i'll chime in here as the night progresses if the spirit (or really bad outfits and/or acceptance speeches) moves me.

to sum up the red carpet so far: cameron diaz, cate blanchett = fantastic; jodie foster, helen mirren = ehhh (helen looked much better at the globes); jennifer hudson, jessica biel, leonardo dicaprio = um, no. E! likes leo, but i think the bottle of hair gel ruins the whole look.

ok, time to get out the blender.

oh, and beyonce! much improved from the globes!! way to actually dress like a diva, and not some strange runway model from hell.

a pre-oscar query.

for those of you that have seen The Departed:

do you think that the last shot was a little, um, heavy-handed? (let's say the last few frames, not the whole shot, because i don't want this to be a spoiler for anyone who hasn't seen it yet.) i mean, it's scorsese, and there's all this best director buzz, and honestly i can see that - it was a really well-shot and well-acted movie. and i guess that's why i was so put off by the last image, because it was way too easy. do you think? or am i being unduly harsh? or, even more likely, is there some significance to it that i'm missing?

and by the way, i think the funniest part of the whole movie for me was the line "he was a carpet layer for jordan marsh." or, phonetically, "he was a cahpet layah for jawdan maash." i think i actually laughed out loud. those moments when the completely ridiculous and the completely familiar merge - when you realize that what once seemed normal to you is actually comically provincial - are just hilarious. and i think for any current or former bostonian, this movie was, at the very least, good for that!

Friday, February 23, 2007

friday cat blogging, bowled over edition.

with windspeeds around DC tonight that make normally cliche-averse people exclaim "i guess we're not in kansas anymore!", part of me wants to make like CatCat...



...and just curl up in bed and sleep. the past five days were really quite something, between work and other stupid stuff, and my normal moderate-to-high anxiety levels were cranked up to "nearly manic" by, oh, thursday morning. however, i am soldiering ahead with the day, because we have tickets to a show tonight back in the district and i'm sure it's going to be good. so despite the little part of me that's whispering "down comforter...flannel sheets...don't go outside, you'll be blown away!", the part of me that's not a total old lady needs to start getting ready.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

and no one knows what the hell they're talking about, least of all me. the end.

first things first: the o.c. series finale was awful. i guess i expected as much, but really, they didn’t surprise me with anything good at all. i didn’t get even an itty-bitty bit choked up even once, and for a show that i watched for four seasons! a show for which the first season’s finale made me tear up days later just thinking about it! oh well. a fittingly mediocre end to a show that had gone mediocre long ago.

and then there was one: ugly betty. and thank god for that.

second things second: i realize that i haven’t effectively wrapped up the Contrarian™ period of 2007. i think that this happened last year too – i get all hyped up about the idea, post regularly and coherently about it for a week, and then lose focus. que sera. in a sense, i’m all right with letting the thematic peter out for awhile, because i’ve found that when i focus so intently on a topic for a period of time (and those posts meant that i was thinking about this stuff at all hours, nevermind about the opinions and questions you people raised in comments!), i actually start to lose sight of it. like trying to look at something far away through a magnifying glass – you’re trying to clarify, but your subject just ends up a big blur.

so, no more marriage musings from me for a bit. i started out with a lot of questions, and remain with a lot of question – i don’t honestly see that changing, regardless of whether i ever get married or not! the one thing that i do want to re-iterate is that we're far from decided on the issue. i fully expect, given my anti-marriage bent a lot of the time, a chorus of “i told you so!”s if BoyCat and i ever do decide to tie the knot, and that’s fine. however, they’ll be a little disingenuous, because i’m not currently making any guarantees to the contrary! it’s all still very much up in the air.

though i have to say, the most un-dramatic eventuality is honestly the one most likely to come to pass, which is that the government will force our hand by not getting on this new-fangled “universal healthcare” train. i’d be willing to bet that within the next five years, if i ever do have a chance to pursue this freelance idea seriously, a marriage license will be a prerequisite to our financial stability. boring and unromantic? yes. highly probable? indeed.

so there you have it: a fittingly boring and unromantic end to the story. ‘til next february…

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

post-work: generally always better than pre-work, regardless.

a few hours of post-work drinking with co-workers is nice. time to bitch about work stuff you can't bitch about while in a field of cubicles all day, time to argue about democratic presidential candidates, time to mock each other's iPods (ok, all right, only mine was mocked. but i expected as much). BoyCat met up with us a few hours in, and we are actually just getting back to the apartment now (this northern virginia living thing has got to change - an hour commute feels a lot longer at 9:30 than it does at 5:15).

so, nothing resembling real content tonight. i am avoiding having a snack, since my evening eating consisted of pita and hummus (good) and then curry fries (not so good), and then i am going to bed. because believe it or not, four hours of drinking on a wednesday night is no longer a regular event for me! my college self would be dismayed, but such effort now results in early slumber for me...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

hate.

hate is a strong word. therefore, i am going to sprinkle it throughout this post with abandon.

i hate canker sores. especially ones at the way back of your mouth, that you can feel pretty much whenever you're moving your jaw at all, and thus it's throbby and uncomfortable pretty much all the time.

i hate the way my lips stay chapped - wicked chapped - regardless of how much water i drink or how much aquaphor i use. painful, splitting, aching, bleeding chapped.

i hate piles of old snow with a black coating of grime and city-ness on them.

i hate that instead of feeling happy for a co-worker who might be getting a promotion (to a position in which i have no interest), i feel frustrated that someone so markedly younger than me and with easily half the experience will be considered my equal if not technically my superior.

i hate that i also resent that she'll get a raise.

i hate that the money BoyCat and i bring in every month in DC only goes about two-thirds as far as it went in chicago.

i hate that i worry about that so much, and so often.

i hate that i had to wait 40 fucking minutes for a train after leaving work.

i hate that all of this means that i probably won't have the energy or focus to write a post on what earlier deemed a worthy and interesting topic of discussion: britney and her sinead o'rebellion, and how it's fascinating that after all the shenanigans and sloppy behavior she's engaged in, it's her stepping outside the bounds of typical feminine aesthetics that makes everyone truly concerned for her well-being. what's that all about, exactly?

except that i am too stress-ball-in-my-chest frustrated to think it through, at least right now. maybe after dinner and a good, strong drink.

oh, did i mention how i hate that there's still no wine in the house?

but for that one, i blame myself mostly.

Monday, February 19, 2007

do it.

i need you all to go to your netflix accounts right now and add This Film Is Not Yet Rated to your queues (is that a proper plural? i have no idea). we just watched it last night, and it was fantastic.

i first read about the film in bitch magazine while lounging poolside in vegas. in sum: it is a documentary about the Motion Picture Association of America (the MPAA), which is the group that hands down the ratings of films. turns out the MPAA is really the only oversight organization in the country (with the exception of government groups like the CIA) that operates almost completely in secret. no one knows the identity of the "raters," and filmmakers' only recourse after receiving a rating is an even more shadowy appeals process that involves industry execs and members of the clergy.

so, this movie sets out to both chronicle the hypocrisies and inequities of the MPAA process, and also to reveal the identities of the MPAA raters by hiring a private eye to track them down. it also has great interviews with film critics, first amendment attorneys, and of course filmmakers - kevin smith, kimberly peirce, mary harron, john waters. because you can't make a movie about alleged depravity without john waters!

if you've never really given the difference between "PG-13," "R," and "NC-17" any serious consideration (as honestly, i hadn't), this movie will be a real eye-opener. the misosgyny and homophobia that are unearthed when you do a comparison of differently rated movies and their content is fairly shocking, even for a jaded feminist like me. a movie with a teenaged guy masturbating in a pie gets an R; a movie with a teenaged girl masturbating over her nightgown gets an NC-17. at sundance, an MPAA spokesperson is questioned about the evidently stricter ratings for gay sex and sexuality, and responds "we don't set the standards; we reflect them."

what?? as the director, kirby dick reacts to that assertion, "...if the standards were racist, would [the MPAA] reflect those? If the standards were anti-Semitic, would they reflect those?"

i could babble on about how great this movie is all morning, but then i'd ruin it for you. so you've got to rent it, or buy it, or otherwise procure it somehow. do it. do it now.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

that elusive jewel: productivity.

i had this whole plan to be very productive on this little computer today. much writing was supposed to happen. instead, comcast on demand and an old hitchcock movie happened.

have you ever seen Rebecca? probably, because you aren't a cinematic philistine like me. i must say, there is nothing quite like lying on the couch under a blanket, the late afternoon sun sinking and the living room slowly getting darker and darker, while you pick through a bowl of popcorn and watch a gothic movie complete with foggy cliffs, dead wives, and murderous housekeepers.

honestly, i'll take that over clickity-clacking on the keyboard any day. i won't consider the effect of this preference on my potential freelance writing career. at least, i won't consider it today - there's more tv to watch.

oh, blast it all.

i really hate the tarheels.

but then again, when your star player misses all three free throws after being fouled on a three-pointer with under two minutes to go, what do you expect?

we're barely past the ides of february, nevermind march, and i'm already having to repeat "it's just a game" out loud, to myself, roughly half a dozen times over the course of a college basketball game. this does not bode well for my mental state in the weeks to come.

but then again, what does?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

oh, bottle of wine, what i wouldn't do to possess you right now.

peeps, i am letting you down tonight - i do not have the Contrarian™ in me at present! horrifying, i know. but it has been a long day, and soon i have to pick up BoyCat from the metro station, and then, you know, i have to be ugly. (watch out, there's audio in that link! scared the shit out of me earlier today.)

never fear, though, more marriage-related musings to come this weekend. i have a few more ideas that i want to try to shake out of my brain before i abandon the concerted effort at being topical for another year!

and it's true - i really don't have any wine in the house. i could weep for the tragedy of it.

a vodka tonic will have to do.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

happy valentine's day!

in celebration of this vaunted Hallmark holiday, i give you a particularly Contrarian™ and deliciously incisive passage from the first chapter of Against Love. enjoy, mes amours*!

Could there be something about contemporary coupled life itself that requires all this hectoring, from the faux morality of the work ethic to the incantations of therapists and counselors to the inducements of the entertainment industries, just to keep a truculent citizenry immobilized within it?...

Clearly the couple form as currently practiced is an ambivalent one – indeed, a form in decline say those census-takers – and is there any great mystery why? On the one hand, the yearning for intimacy, on the other, the desire for autonomy; on the one hand, the comfort and security of routine, on the other, its soul-deadening predictability; on the one side, the pleasure of being deeply known (and deeply knowing another person), on the other, the strait-jacketed roles that such familiarity predicates – the schtick of couple interactions; the repetition of the arguments; the boredom and the rigidities which aren’t about to be transcended in this or any other lifetime, and which harden into those all-too-familiar couple routines: the Stop Trying To Change Me routine and the Stop Blaming Me For Your Unhappiness routine…Not to mention the regression, because, after all, you’ve chosen your parent (or their opposite), or worse, you’ve become your parent, tormenting (or withdrawing from) the mate as the same-or-opposite sex parent once did, replaying scenes you were once subjected to yourself as a helpless child – or some other variety of family repetition that will keep those therapists guessing for years. Given everything, a success rate of 50 percent seems about right (assuming that success means longevity).




*i like having knowledgable blogger friends like educand who can correct my french grammar. this is especially useful when one doesn't actually speak any french whatsoever!

another reason to dislike the federal government.

they gave us "delayed arrival/unscheduled leave" instead of "closed" today. how lame.

BoyCat and i decided to stay home, even though we don't exactly know what the hell "unscheduled leave" means in the first place. but the two-hour delay wasn't helping us any, given the shuttle bus to the metro stops running at 8:30. and you know, we did the whole dr. zhivago thing yesterday, so at 6:45 we said "fuck it!" and went back to sleep.

snow days: if they don't give 'em to you, take 'em anyway.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

it's precipitation! in frozen form! run for your lives!!

i'd heard the whispers, the allegations. i knew that as a native new englander who had spent the last two winters in chicago, it would take some getting used to. but it wasn't until today that it really sunk in: when it comes to weather, DC is crazy. in the end i am ok with this, as it resulted in me getting home from work two hours early today, but still - totally crazy.

by late yesterday afternoon, DCist had already dubbed the mounting hysteria over the incoming storm front "snowpocaylpse," and everyone was making wagers, predictions, and assorted other hand-wringing observations about whether the federal government would be closed today. (this is relevant to many a nonprofit in DC, as most of us base our closings on the federal government's decrees.) i had seen the forecasts, and thought that while it looked moderately rough, i refrained from judgment on whether i'd be having a snowday or not.

turns out, i did not; in fact, there was nary a snowflake in sight when BoyCat and i got up this morning. but the storm did make its way into DC, and after the snow of the morning turned into freezing rain around lunchtime, the rumors and chatter and handicapping started up anew. then, at around 1:15, i heard the feds were closing at 2:00. i tried to open up the government's status website to verify this, and got an endlessly turning timer - the damn thing was crashing.

sigh.

our HR department set us free at 2:00, and by 2:30 BoyCat and i were leaving our respective offices and planning to meet at the metro station near the apartment to catch a cab (the shuttle bus, which usually takes us to and fro from the metro to the apartment complex didn't start running until 4:45). i trudged the five blocks to the metro station downtown, and was greeted with a backup five people across and easily - easily - 30 people long. this was the line just to get through the turnstile and down to the platform.

20 minutes later, i had finally made it down to the platform. there was a blue line train arriving in five minutes, but it was only four cars long, and i thought i didn't have a snowball's chance of getting on it (which i was really pissed about, because the next two listed trains were orange lines, and about 7 and 16 minutes away respectively). however, the cosmos smiled upon me and i squeezed onto the blue line. fantastic! mission accomplished, right?

well, after the delightful half hour ride out on the blue line, all the while inhaling the delectable perfume of wet people in wool coats, i arrived at my destination. i met BoyCat at the farecard machines, and we trekked out to the parking lot to get a cab.

there were no cabs. there were seven people standing in line, in the freezing rain, waiting for a cab to show up! but no cabs to be seen.

so we looked at each other and said "fuck it, we're walking."

we put up our umbrellas and proceeded to walk the mile and a half from the train station to our apartment in the windy, freezing rain. by the time i got inside, i couldn't feel my jaw or my thighs. it took me about 20 minutes under my down comforter to feel like i wasn't actually radiating coldness.

the point of this story? DC sucks when it comes to dealing with weather. even with all the freaking out and the prognosticating and the fixating, you couldn't make sure public transit wasn't running on massive back-ups?? or that taxis were, you know, running at all??

all i'm saying is i better get a snowday out of this tomorrow. but somehow, i feel like DC will think that's too much to ask. being hugely inconvenienced by the weather? sure. catching a break because of it? nah.

Monday, February 12, 2007

critical complicity, or, "reclaim it, my ass."

the comment thread of my first Contrarian™ post of the year veered, as discussions of marriage within liberal-minded spheres often do, to the idea that marriage can be “what you make of it.” i responded there,

…this is one of the central questions as BoyCat and i consider marriage as a possibility. is it truly possible to do such a thing as "defining marriage for yourself," given the intrinsically societal nature of the arrangement?


check out the thread for a number of responses and directions the question took – interesting and thought-provoking all. what i want to open up and chew on here is why i have my doubts that marriage can actually be “what you make it,” and it has to do with those warm and cuddly twins, patriarchy and paradigm. the fun and frivolity never stop around here, do they?

ok, i promise that i’m not going to be all dour and finger-wagging about this. but i will probably get myself in hot water with a fair number of third-wavers out there, those for whom the phrase “reclaim it” is paramount to the feminist mission of the 21st century. i’m not going to delve into the broader discussion of whether reclaiming is of central importance to feminist progress – i’m just going to highlight what i think makes it problematic as an aim, and thus often susceptible as a tactic.

during the thread conversation, cinnamon said,

…I firmly believe, or else I wouldn't have finally agreed to it, that marriage can be what you make of it. But I will say that it is a lot harder to get the people around you to understand that you make of it differently than they do.


now, cinnamon knows i love her and completely respect her choices – she did what made sense for her. however, i noted in the thread that her observation was exactly what bothered me – the sense that technically, no matter what she and her husband were making of their marriage together, the way that it is perceived by outsiders is by and large beyond their control.

sure, a married couple can make an effort to communicate the fact that certain aspects of their marriage are “different” than accepted norms and/or stereotypes – in fact, i think it’s great when couples do that. however, you can’t explain it to everyone, all the time. you can’t even explain it to a small fraction of people a tiny percentage of the time. far more often than you are “reclaiming” some aspect of marriage from a stereotyped idea and “making” what you will of it, vast numbers of other people are viewing the baseline facts – your wedding ring, your same last name, your “this is my husband” introduction, and so on – and making their own assumptions, drawing their own conclusions. in other words, once it’s “public,” more often than not it’s up for grabs in terms of meaning.

i said that this post would involve Madonna. i hope that you weren’t starting to question the veracity of my claim, because i’m just getting there. Madonna is a great example of the problematic nature of intention versus perception. hers is not a black and white case either; much about Madonna’s public persona did great things for feminism and for cultural subversion in general. but if you dig deeper, the way that Madonna used mainstream ideas and stereotypes – feminine aesthetics in particular – ultimately doomed any possibility for her work to have long-lasting, really revolutionary effect.

long time readers of this blog will think, “this sounds familiar.” indeed, i posted a few rants about Madonna and this issue back in October of 2005. as i also mentioned back then, i wrote a whole paper about it in grad school. (for serious. and it was good, if i do say so myself.) in this paper, i used as one of my sources an article by art critic Abigail Solomon-Goudeau called “Living with contradictions: critical practices in the age of supply-side aesthetics.” snicker if you will at the woeful academic-ness of it all, but one of Solomon-Goudeau’s main points in that article has stuck with me for years as i’ve tried to make sense of the world around me, especially the vast, postmodern media dominion we’ve all come to inhabit. she says that, in this age of simulacra and mimicry and constant, co-opting pastiche, “we must ask what defines a critical practice and permits it to be recognized as such.”

so, what is truly critical? can something be truly critical that uses the mechanisms of that which it aims to critique? more colloquially – can we really use the master’s tools to dismantle his house?

in feminist terms, this is the big “reclaiming” debate that i said i’d stay the hell away from. as far as marriage, though, it still seems like a salient point. when you choose to fight something “from the inside,” as it were, you are always highly more susceptible to merely reinforcing the strength of that which you’re subtly critiquing. as Solomon-Goudeau puts it, there are the “problems of function, of critical complicity, and the extreme difficulty of maintaining a critical edge within the unstable spaces of internal critique.” the reason for the instability is that it’s so much easier for the dominant paradigm to re-consume you the more you resemble the paradigm.

and it’s not a conscious process; it’s not Patriarchy sitting up there, paring its fingernails, saying “today i think i will reclaim this marriage, and that protest.” it’s an ongoing, insidious, generational progression with an ultimate aim of recalibrating the balance that keeps the system in control. (a system doesn’t reform itself. remember this. repeat it to yourself silently, every day. it is crucial.) and the easier any type of subversion is to explain away, to belittle, or especially to co-opt, the easier it is for the system to strip any true revolutionary potential away and return the more harmless (and always more marketable) aspects of the effort back to us. in 1989, we had Madonna doing Express Yourself; in 2001, it was Britney doing I’m a Slave 4 U. i am serious when i say that this is not a coincidence. in between, we had Anita Hill, then the Year of the Woman, then Riot Grrrl, then the Spice Girls, then “girl power,” then bubble-gum pop and midriff shirts. suddenly, instead of singing “express yourself, respect yourself,” we were singing “hit me baby one more time.”

i realize that this probably all seems meandering and somewhat disjointed. i also realize that i need to stop talking, because this is rapidly approaching the blogpost word count when readers tend to tune out. so, to (attempt, poorly) a summary, i have serious misgivings about the idea that marriage can mean what you want it to mean, given: a) the impossibility of controlling the public perception of just about anything, and b) any attempt at the “reclamation” of marriage to revolutionize the institution from within is by definition fraught with complicity, and constantly under the threat of consumption by forces much, much larger than it.

see – not dour at all!

as always, nitpick away...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

it's candy. it's fried. it's unbelievable.

ok, i never had any inclination to try one of those deep-fried candy bars before. because really? it just seemed like too much. i have a sweet-and-fattening limit, and i thought this concoction exceeded it.

oh, how wrong i was.

BoyCat and i just got back from a fish and chips shop in old town alexandria, which we needed to try because they had deep-friend sausage, a staple of BoyCat's semester in dublin. he got his sausage, i had fish and chips, and all was well. but we couldn't really walk out of there without trying a deep-friend snickers bar, too.

honestly, i don't know if i have had a bite of anything that amazingly delicious in my whole life. BoyCat described it as "a churro with a candy bar inside," and that is exactly what it was like. i restrained myself and only had two bites of it, but then we were driving home, and BoyCat looked over and said "you want another one, don't you?" and i said, "yeah."

of course i didn't have another one, but truly, i could have. two or three, probably. if you've never tasted one of these things, put it on your life's to-do list. i had no idea what i was missing.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

insert somewhat witty orwellian reference here.

(so this is not either of the posts i mentioned that i would write yesterday in the comment thread. sue me. but a comment in that same thread reminded me of one of the against love excerpts that i wanted to post and talk about, so here you go.)

…just for fun, try this quick thought experiment. Imagine the most efficient kind of social control possible. It wouldn’t be a soldier on every corner – too expensive, too crass. Wouldn’t the most elegant means of producing acquiescence be to somehow transplant those social controls so seamlessly into the guise of individual needs that the difference between them dissolved? And here we have the distinguishing political feature of the liberal democracies: their efficiency at turning out character types who identify so completely with society’s agenda for them that the volunteer their very beings for the cause…


she touches again on this idea briefly in the final pages of the book:

[Love] can fasten itself to compulsory monogamy – not a desire, but an enforced compliance system. (Which is not to say that monogamy can’t be a desire in itself, but you’d only really know that absent the enforcement wing and the security state apparatus.)


fridge notes, in the comment thread of the last post, that it seems kipnis’s argument “presupposes that we aren't meant to be submerged in a comfy jelly of docility and numbness or that we'd choose not to be.” this reminded me of kipnis’s point that it’s hard to sort out one’s true desires when immersed in a hegemony that’s attempting to dictate your desires for you.

this is a kind of social control that most people react very strongly against, because it strikes at the very heart of our own sense of agency. the idea that you aren’t exactly "freely" choosing what you think you’re freely choosing is understandably anxiety-inducing. of course, we still have to weigh the options and make the best decisions that we can for ourselves regardless – the dilemma of what to buy for lunch does not disappear with the knowledge that your options are limited by a spectrum of circumstances! but the way in which we, as human beings with a certain time and place, are strongly influenced by the dissipated and nebulous forces of a society seeking its own perpetuation is a tough pill to swallow sometimes.

this morning, i was lying in bed at 6:45 am thinking about Michael Foucault and the Panopticon. because of this, i kinda wanted to smother myself with a pillow. in my two years of grad school, i took in enough theory-based education, conversation, and pontification to choke a horse, and i swore that i would never utter the word “Foucault” or “Lacan” again, except if it were necessary to save my life or win me a million dollars. i have obviously reneged on that promise here presently, and for that i am deeply ashamed. but i had to, and here’s why.

i think Foucault provides a great example of this kind of pervasive yet indistinct social regulation in his book Discipline and Punish. in the book, Foucault lays out the way a state controls its citizens' behavior by – you guessed it! – discipline and punishment. but it’s not the particulars of the discipline or the punishment that really interest him – it’s their intention and their effect. he highlights the example of the Panopticon, a prison designed by Jeremy Bentham that allows for the observation of any prisoner at any time, without any of the prisoners being able to tell when they’re being observed. this limitless potential for surveillance creates in the prison populace a level of obedience that you could not ensure with any other method.

now, while not all of us have been to prison or ever anticipate going to prison, the theory behind the Panopticon is nevertheless hard at work regulating our lives. the “discipline and punish” divisions of society – the police departments, the private investigators, the FBIs and the CIAs and the DMVs and all the rest! – extract compliance not just via the penalties they mete out, but the threat of those penalties.

think about it. you’re driving home one night, it’s 2:00 am, and there are barely any other cars on the road. you approach an intersection at which you can see any cars coming in the other three directions from hundreds of feet away. as you roll up to the cross street, the traffic light above your head turns red. you look left, right, straight ahead – no one's around. do you drive through the red light?

probably not. or maybe you do. but even then, you feel a twinge of something – guilt, anxiety, elation – at the minor traffic law transgression you’ve just committed. in other words, you know you’ve done something wrong. that’s the Panopticon at work.

what does all this have to do with marriage and adultery? hell if i know! no – honestly, i think the subject occurred to me at such an ungodly hour of the morning because i see the overwhelming societal pressure to pair off and get married in something of the same light. it’s a way of life so ingrained in us from an early age – red means stop, stealing will get you in trouble, marriage is what you want! – that it’s hard to know what we inherently believe is true, or ethical, or whatever. could be that the idea of “inherently” believing anything is artificial and impossible. but regardless, the question becomes, how much questioning do we do, how much critical picking apart is useful? because at the end of the day, you can’t get out from under hegemony – you have to make a decision about what to do from within it.

and that’s where i tend to get stuck.

yes to unions.

more on marriage later today, for certain, but before i head to the gym i wanted to post quickly about an email i got yesterday from my friend dan. i'm actually going to paste the email here verbatim, and i encourage everyone to do what they can to support these reporters as they fight for their right to unionize.

Folks,

In case you haven't been following it, the Santa Barbara News Press has been in the midst of a hellish labor battle, with the snake-of-an-owner firing a majority of the staff and refusing to recognize a legitimate vote to unionize. Well, this week it got real bad. The owner fired six reporters for a union action -- including two people from my very first newsroom, Rob Kuznia and Melissa Evans.

These folks are in some dire economic straits and need some help. Supportive readers have set up a "Journalist Loan Fund" to help keep these reporters on their feet the until they can find new work or their dismissals get overturned by the NLRB (a distinct possibility). Any donations would be tremendously appreciated. Please send this on to anybody you think may be sympathetic.

For more information, visit Editor & Publisher or the reporters' site.

Friday, February 09, 2007

friday cat blogging, "am i drunk?" edition.

CatCat enjoys being scratched on the top of the head. i enjoy scratching CatCat on the head, as i think it makes her look somewhat inebriated.

the out of focus aspect of this shot helps with that impression.



i myself am not drunk at present. i was much closer last night, after two hours of prime tv watching (ugly betty and the o.c. - only two so-bad-it's-good episodes left!) and three and a half glasses of wine. because really, if you're gonna leave the pinot bottle on the fridge door with only about a glass worth of wine in it, you might as well finish it off, right?

right.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

you knew this time would come. most probably in the month of february.

valentine’s day is right around the corner, if you hadn’t noticed (which of course you have, because it’s all that our lovely consumer-driven media has been jamming down our throats since approximately January 2nd). you should also know that this means the return of a young tradition here on this little blog:

Kate’s Contrarian Posts about Romance™!

i so enjoyed meticulously dissecting (oh, all right, haphazardly slinging about) many of the tightly-held notions about love and marriage last year that i thought, why not do it again? especially since i am still semi-obsessed with the book i just finished last week, against love: a polemic by laura kipnis, which actually meticulously dissects the social phenomenon of adultery and what it says about our societal schizophrenia when it comes to marriage.

good stuff, people, seriously. and a great book to be reading on the subway over the next week if you really enjoy going against the grain!

i highly recommend that you all check out stephanie zacharek’s review of the book on salon.com; it does a much better job of consolidating the book’s major points, themes, and opinions better than i ever could. but if you’re too lazy (i know you), here are a few crucial excerpts:

first, an explanation of the title and overall point of the book:

Her book isn't called a polemic for nothing, which means, as she explains in the introduction, it's designed to turn us upside-down: "Polemics exist to poke holes in cultural pieties and turn received wisdom on its head, even about sacrosanct subjects like love. A polemic is designed to be the prose equivalent of a small explosive device placed under your E-Z-Boy lounger. It won't injure you (well, not severely); it's just supposed to shake things up and rattle a few convictions." Let's forget that Kipnis even needs to explain what a polemic is. My guess is that she wanted to stem the tide of letters from serious-minded cuddlebugs everywhere, taking pen to paper to assert angrily, "We happen to like being married!"


a summary of how kipnis draws a parallel between “work” and “love”:

…in Kipnis' view, there are strong societal forces at work that depend on our swallowing, hook, line and sinker, the notion of marriage as a romantic institution…Submerged in the marital jelly of docility and numbness, we're much more productive and easier to manage. We work hard all the livelong day, and then come home, where we work hard at being married, because we all know that "Marriage is hard work." And then, before we know it, all our hard work has killed our libidos, leaving them limp and lifeless and hanging like damp, dejected rags on the clothesline of life.


a hypothesis about why that parallel might exist:

The point is that marriage, which ostensibly jerks us into a lockstep of manageability that should ideally last a lifetime, serves society more than it serves the human spirit. And that's where the idea of adultery as civil disobedience comes in. Kipnis isn't interested in feelings here: What she really cares about are social patterns…Adultery is a form of risk-taking, a renegade act, a reaffirmation that, OK, we may be married, but we're not dead. We're humans with "messy subjectivities."


and finally:

…when she expands her argument, arguing that the hallowed halls of our government have much to lose if people either don't marry or don't stay married, she really gets cooking. Kipnis enumerates, with unrepressed glee, most of the politicians in recent history who have espoused family values only to be embarrassed by a naked mistress or two in their own closets…And, she reminds us, Bill Clinton, with Hillary's support, signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which she calls "a custom-built stockade fence to protect matrimony against infiltration by nefarious homosexual elements and safeguard the more panicky states from having to recognize another state's gay marriages, should any state actually grant the privilege, which none had."


that is a lot of block quoting, i know, but i wanted to give you an idea of what kipnis is doing here: taking what is considered in polite company to be an unmitigated evil – adultery – and unearthing the societal and cultural imperatives that make it so. we think of such things as givens, as naturals. “of course infidelity is bad! Of course ‘true love’ is good!” kipnis pulls apart these “truth”s that we have learned to regard, from day one, as self-evident.

all of this is not to say that i won’t, in the end, choose “companionate coupledom” (a phrase kipnis uses interchangeably with marriage to indicate lifelong, monogamous commitment between two people) as the best option – hell, i’m there now, and it’s working out pretty well! but just because i’m enjoying it doesn’t mean i can’t take a hard look at the bigger picture: how did i get here in the first place? what forces bigger than myself are influencing my decisions are far as this relationship goes? what price do I pay for it? and ultimately, is it worth it?

regardless of what the answers are for each and every different person, i think these are questions from which we shouldn’t shrink, or shy away. if society is screaming at you do one thing, consider why that is – consider what is being asked of you, as well as what is being offered. as the clich├ęd bumper sticker implores, “question authority”! chances are, you’ve got good reason to.

now that i’ve introduced this year’s Contrarian™ topic (luckily, it’s just about as broad and meandering as last year!), i am going try to post some excerpts directly from against love in the days ahead, to encourage some reactions and opinions from you all. so please, by all means: disagree, concede, tear apart, and “problematize” away. i’d really love (no pun intended) to hear what you all think about this massive, challenging, and complicated subject.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

do the right thing.

UPDATE: i'm happy to report that edwards did go with the spike lee motif, as i requested. he's not firing amanda nor shakes. while i do wish he would have been a little harsher on the petty, mudslinging nature of their critics (what, a girl can dream!), he did note in his written statement that "We're beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can't let it be hijacked." I love such small glimmers of sanity in the realm of politics, fleeting and brief as they may be...

i hardly have the ability to form coherent words about the uproar over john edwards' hiring Amanda and Shakes for blogging/netroots positions on his campaign. there are unconfirmed reports that he's fired them over the right-wing caterwauling about - among other petty, insignificant things - their stances and writing on the duke rape case, their stances and writing on the catholic church, and...god help us all...their vulgarity.

i was watching tucker carlson interview bill donohue of the catholic league while i was at the gym earlier tonight, and i was literally sputtering i was so angry.

pam from pandagon says it much better than i can at this point, what with all this foaming at the mouth and hurling invective that i'm doing:

Whatever opinions Melissa and Amanda hold on a variety of political issues, they are completely their own. The fact is that they have used profanity in their posts, and wrote rants that many disagree with, but their forums are about personal expression and opinion, not journalism or op-eds for a major paper. They were selected by the Edwards campaign to put on a different hat, a professional hat — as if no one else out there does the same thing each and every day if they have a personal blog and work in a venue that is dependent on writing copy or business correspondence. They know the difference, but that’s clearly not the issue at work here. It’s about getting someone in the kill zone, and trying to knock off John Edwards in the process.


and zuzu, at feministe:

...the very idea that the Edwards campaign would even consider hanging these two bloggers out to dry to appease people who won’t even be voting in the primary, much less for him, turns my stomach.

Because we have enough so-called leaders who bow to the demands of the very loud, very unhinged right wing noise machine. John Edwards, if you are at all serious about getting the votes of liberals, of women, of people who care passionately about the issues you talk about, then you can not cave to the likes of Bill Donohue.

Because there will be no end to the demands for capitulation. They won’t rest on their laurels after having taken out two relatively small fry. No, their demands will only increase, and there is no appeasing them.

And in the end, they’re not going to vote for you anyway. And the people who agree with them aren’t going to vote for you anyway.

The people you’ll lose, if you cave, are the people who hunger for someone who will stand the hell up to these kinds of loudmouthed, anti-Constitutional hacks who stand for nothing but their own selves.

I’m looking for a candidate who won’t throw allies under the bus to appease opponents.

Are you that candidate, John Edwards?


to contact the edwards campaign, click here.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

creative protest.

a visually arresting shot from the recent anti-war demonstrations in DC, via barb:



visit the pic's flickr page for a description, and more photos.



(by the way, does anyone know how to embed a link in a picture in blogger? i could not figure out how to make it so you could click the picture to get to the flickr page. i feel as though i've done it before, but i just poked around the help page for 15 minutes and am at a loss!)

eat it. wal-mart.

wahoo!

it seems like this class-action lawsuit has taken forever and a day just to get this far, and it's got much farther to go. but regardless of the uphill battle still left, i'm glad they've made it to this point.

because really, any bad PR for wal-mart just about makes my day.

Monday, February 05, 2007

dude.

so today, i woke up. that was the first sign of trouble. wakefulness = not desirable today. but blast it all, it happened anyway.

and then i thought, "we lost the superbowl." and then i thought, "i have to get in the shower." i stretched one leg out from under the blanket, and then i thought, "fuck. it's fucking freezing, fuck."

i believe those were my exact internal monologue words. i am not terribly eloquent in the early hours.

so i showered, and got dressed, and went outside in the fuckity-fuck-it's-cold-fuck weather to begin my mass transit commute. 45 minutes later, i got off the metro one stop ahead of my usual one. why? oh, because as if losing the superbowl and having it be siberian levels of cold outside, i had to go to the ob/gyn today!

yessssss.

because really, nothing says "today will certainly be an improvement on the craptastic-ness of yesterday" than someone palpating your cervix at 9:30 a.m.

sorry friends: i TMI because it's true.

there's more evidence that i could enter in defense of my conclusion, oft-stated in the waning hours of the afternoon and evening, that "i hate today." but it will bore you - it mainly involves proposal checklists and an itchy fleece pullover. but you know how on a bad day, something like an itchy fleece pullover can almost drive you to aggravated assault and battery? yeah, that was me.

the very end of the day actually rounded out pretty well, with BoyCat and i meeting up with a friend after work for a few much needed drinks, and then coming home to pajamas and (basically) functioning heat. but given the weather channel's predictions for tomorrow - pretty much exactly like today! - i am not sure i can do it. because another day like today, in any capacity, might find me...well...even i don't want to know.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

dear peyton.

well, congratulations on your first superbowl win. seriously.

but i still really, really, really, really hate you. seriously.

sincerely,
kate

p.s. please feel free to come out of the closet any day now. because i think that would be great. seriously.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

from the "no shit, sherlock" files.

NFL's female fan base grows

you're kidding me! chicks watch football?? by george, ain't that a kick in the head!

from the article:

More than 45 million women watch NFL games weekly, according to the NFL, and women will make up 40 million of the 90 million fans tuning in for the Super Bowl on Sunday.


this is the part that killed me, though:

A growing female fan base is good news for pro football, marketing experts say. If a woman likes football, she is less likely to try and nix her spouse's wish to spend Sunday afternoons glued to a TV, says Christie Nordhielm, marketing professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.


wow, christie, where'd you get your MBA? because that is an observation unrivaled in its complexity and nuanced business know-how. i'd just like to know what institution is turning out graduates with that kind of analytical prowess.

honestly...

Friday, February 02, 2007

friday cat blogging, guest animal edition.

i just get further and further afield with each passing week, don't i?

roni had this photo from the brookfield, illinois zoo up earlier in the week, and i feel like i must share it going into superbowl weekend:



if you're inclined towards such amusing pictures of a city gone slightly mad, check out the tribune's photo gallery of chicago gearing up for the superbowl (they have no direct link to the photo gallery, but from the main page just click on the "around the city" photo gallery). there's giant helmets on the lions outside the art institute, a few great team spirit skyline shots, and many a blue and orange frosted cupcake.

BoyCat and i will be watching the game from the seclusion of our little apartment; he has decided he prefers to watch the game unfold - for better or for worse - from the comfort of his own couch. and that way, if he actually ends up spending the last quarter and a half curled up in the fetal position on the floor instead of seated on said couch, no one will be the wiser. well, except me, but i've seen him do way more embarrassing shit than that, so it really doesn't matter. ok, well maybe not - but there was a whiskey-related kitchen counter incident in grad school that probably comes close.

ok, regardless, back to the point - the game. the game is the point of the whole weekend (as BoyCat whined earlier today, "pre-game doesn't even start til noon!" i pointed out that that was six and a half hours of pre-game, but he was still not satisfied). we're staying home, eating deep dish pizza, drinking beer, and bearing down for the chicago bears. i hope that whatever you all have planned on sunday, you join us in the bearing down part.

go bears!