My Sacrifice for Lent

So, it’s Lent.

I’m Lutheran, which means Lenten sacrifice is not required (those of you who have survived the gauntlet that is Lutheran Confirmation are probably mumbling some variation of “sola gratia, sola fide” right now, <cough>ThisIsMostCertainlyTrue<cough>).  It is–at best–an interesting relic of our Catholic roots maintained as a cultural practice, not an integral part of our theology, and–at worst (to those really hard-core right-wing-y type Lutherans)–a papist heresy in which no good Lutheran would partake.

I like cultural relics and being heretical to crazy right-wing-y anti-Catholic Lutherans (seriously y’all?  You’re going to alienate our fellow sprinkle-not-dunk people?  You may as well put your beer down and go hang out with the boring t-totaling set), so I usually make some wacky attempt to give something up for the season.

This year I picked something half seriously….and I am failing like mad.

I am trying to give up swearing.

Yeah, my co-workers laughed hysterically, too. Read the rest of this entry »

Ukraine

In theory I should leave it to Kristy, who actually took Russian, to offer commentary on the Ukraine but A) she’s busy dissertat-ing and B) This commentary is going to be far from scholarly and well informed.

Mostly this is just me wanting to express the fact that someone needs to make me a Yulia Tymoshenko action figure.

 I believe that, in the market for world leader action-figures, this would be a must-have for anyone’s collection.  Her Heidi Braids of Doom intrigued the hell outta me even before she was tossed into the hoosegow for alleged misuse of power.  It absolutely did my heart good to see that hair-do emerge again from what I am sure had to be a prison exactly like that used to hold Magneto in the X-Men films (those braids are not to be underestimated).  I will grant you, that even with the braids she is still a semi-rouge, minor side-kick in the pantheon of world-leader super-heroes and heroines.  I mean, she couldn’t take on like, Angela Merkel and the Mom Look of Great Disdain (really, this is the action figure I want most of all–even more than Yulia and her Heidi Braids) or Steven Harper and the Eternally Un-Muss-able Molded Ken Hair of Unshakeability or Mario Monti, the Not So Secretly Argentinian (yes, being an Argentinian is a super power. Just ask one).  Still, that doesn’t mean she couldn’t get a great story arc in the comic.

Of course, then you have to have your counter-part “bad-guy” action figures.  Putin being, clearly, the Cobra to our G-7*  Joes comes without a shirt, but with minions, including several disgruntled Georgians (yeah, remember the part where this has happened before?  I keep picturing Georgia trying to float messages across the  Black Sea to Ukraine that read “Welcome to the club, Bitches.”–except the Russian Navy keeps intercepting them and re-placing them message with “We don’t Miss South Ossetia at all!”).  Oh, and the completely rogue element of a Kim Jong-un who comes with tacky outfits and his mini basketball signed by Dennis Rodman.

Seriously, I did have an minor crisis as I’ve watched this unfold because I saw a few parallels to the Texas Revolution and I was suddenly left wondering if I was supposed to be siting with Putin in this game.  Thankfully, I walked through the details and realized that it was possible for me to continue to Remember the Alamo without having to support Russian Imperialism.  I briefly thought about sharing that entire comparison and contrast here, but then I realized that for the most part, only Texans would care and to the best of my knowledge, none of the five of you reading this are Texans….

So, in the event that we are about to get our Cold War back again, I’m gonna go watch The Hunt for Red October and maybe some of those  old episodes of MacGyver where he had to build a blow-torch out of a bicycle to save the environment and escape the Eastern Bloc at the same time….

 

 

Behold, the Power of the Keyboard

I’m not about to claim this as a reason for my continued lapse in posts, but I will admit that it has probably impacted something about my posting, if only certain typos.

I had a really rotten keyboard.

At some point in the past 5 years (yeah, that long), I wound up with an old, very basic, very non-responsive keyboard attached to the computer from which 75% of my posts came (now 100% because the tiny tiny laptop known on my network as “Inara” shuffled loose the electro-magnetic coil about a month ago and because Asus no longer makes netbooks exactly like her, I am in ponder mode on her eventual replacement….but that’s a topic for another post).  Honestly, the thing had keys that you had to pound to get a letter to appear (even after I cleaned the dust out).  The keys themselves were very shallow and had a poor feel–when you hit a key, you didn’t always have the feeling you’d really hit much more than the surface of the desk.  I lived with it, because, well, my work keyboard was only marginally better and I spend a lot more hours of the day with that machine than this one.

But, last week I carried a box down to the basement (yet another topic for yet another post) and as I made room on the shelf, I stumbled on a half empty box….half empty but for some very serviceable keyboards that I remember having liked (if you are looking shocked at my having a lot of random keyboards in a box in my basement, clearly we’ve never met in real life…I also have boxes of hard drives, video cards, network cards.  If you’re picturing me with horn rimmed glasses you’d be wrong…but if you’re wondering if my Slashdot number is lower than yours, there’s a good chance of that).

So, I brought the old keyboard upstairs, and swapped it for the brick that had been masquerading as an input device.

Cue the chorus of angels.

I’m half tempted to carry this thing back and forth to work.  It’s not that it’s the best keyboard ever, but it’s been this highlight of how sucky my old one was and how much nicer it is to work with an input device that responds appropriately.  I actually want to spend more time working on the computer than I used to.  All of the posts I’ve been scribbling in notebooks for the past months I’m actually willing to type.  I had no idea the amount of reluctance that old thing was causing in my getting things that final step from analog to digital.

It’s not going to cure my posting problems (one day there will be a post about that.  One day),  and it sure won’t cure all my typos (or my grammar and spelling issues) but it sure as heck isn’t going to make it any worse.

Identifying Those Early Memories

While  I muddled through trying to find a topic on which to post tonight (since, for once, I’m not either working or sleeping), I wandered all the way through old posts, back to 2011 and our post on the anniversary of the Challenger explosion.  I was re-reading an exchange in the comment between reader, Teapot, and Kristy about how Teapot, as a kid born in 1981, really didn’t remember Challenger like those of us born in 1980 (or earlier).  Kristy’s comment pointed out that in her research, so far, anyone post 1980 really did not remember Challenger the same way, and that the next really big world event was the fall of the Berlin Wall.  I thought, “I should have replied back and asked Teapot if the fall of the wall in Berlin was her first “global event” memory”  and that was followed by the thought that, Challenger was not really mine.

Prior to Challenger,  I have a very vivid, scary memory of a hostage crisis on a plane.  But I still don’t know what it really was. Read the rest of this entry »

Going Braless: A Query

It’s been a long time since we’ve talked about my underwear on this blog, so it seems like it must be about time. Actually, this post is only sort of about my underwear, it’s mostly about my boobs. But probably not in the exciting way you’re picturing. (No, there will not be pictures.)

I think I’ve mentioned before (and if I haven’t, most of you know anyway) that I didn’t have boobs to speak of until I hit my late 20s. I went through most of my life as a perky little B-cup. (Before you ask, no, I was not one of that majority of women wearing the wrong bra size. I was not a busty F-cup deluded into thinking she was a B-cup.) Now, if you knew me then, you might not have realized how small my boobs were because I’ve long had an affection for padded bras—part of my attempt to make myself look like I had a waistline. Then suddenly, and perhaps not coincidentally, around the time I started aerial work I went from a 34B to a 36E/36DD in about six months without gaining any significant amount of weight elsewhere. I am the story that gives all other members of the IBTC (that’s Itty Bitty Titty Committee for the uninitiated) hope.

The point here is that I’m still not quite used to these things on my chest. So I have an honest question for my fellow busty girls—isn’t it really uncomfortable to go without a bra?

Okay, obviously running or other vigorous physical activity is uncomfortable without support, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about just sitting around.

I’ve noticed several of my female friends when they are free of male company and want to get comfortable take off their bras. I used to be one of those girls. Now I can’t stand that! I’ve started seeking out pajamas with some semblance of a shelf bra just to avoid it. When I take off my bra my now not-so-perky boobs hang down onto my ribcage. And there’s this weird skin-on-skin contact thing that happens—I wouldn’t call it chaffing exactly, but it’s uncomfortable. I would rather wear a bra, even if it’s cutting into my shoulders and poking me in the ribs.

Am I the only one who has this problem? Is it because I carry a lot of my weight around my middle? Or is it just because I’m not used to these things?

Guide me oh experienced busty ladies. What am I missing here?

Stupid Bowl

In which Cammy manages to be completely unaware that it is Superbowl Sunday (and not for the first time).

I really thought I could only manage to do this once in a decade.  Maybe it’s a sign of over-achievement that this has happened twice in less than 5 years.

I get up on Sunday, mid morning (*cough* possibly midafternoon for those of you who didn’t have a night courtesy of antihistamine–damn you sinuses), head to the grocery store because I’m out of everything important (in my world, that means sour cream, cheese, spinach and beer).  The parking lot is abnormally full.  Like, we-are-about-to-have-a-blizzard full.  Only I know that the snow isn’t supposed to be hitting us until Tuesday, which means this is waaaaay too early for everyone in this area to be raiding the bread aisle (why prepare early, when you can create a shit storm rush at the last minute?).

It’s not until after literally waiting in a queue to get to the sour cream that I note the swarm of guys in game-day gear, with buggies full of meat and steak sauce converged on the beer coolers.  They have managed to completely eliminate the supply of anything I’d ever want to drink and a whole lot of what I wouldn’t touch if it were the last alleged beer on Earth (my Daddy raised me with standards.  Natty Ice will never pass these lips…though it is useful for helping break down thatch on a lawn).  WTF was going on?!?

Then I did the math.  It’s cold outside, not Christmas, these are  clearly sports fans…fuck, it’s Superbowl Sunday.

Yeah.  That’s how out of touch with all reality I am.  Several weeks worth of 12 hour days at the bill-paying job, and I haven’t seen any news other than the weather alerts that pop up on my recently acquired phone (which is working spiffily, fuck you, Verizon).  The only TV I’ve seen has been my un-breakable Sunday night date with Downton, and spending the hours leading up to Downton catching up on a new telenovela (Que Pobres Tan Ricos–nothing like a Columbian telenovela exported to Mexico and made more awesome by Rosy Ocampo).  None of which are places I’m likely to hear about professional football.

I’m a little bummed, really.  I like to actively plan an anti-Superbowl (generally with a crap ton of Jane Austen adaptations, and capped off with the Downton Abbey cherry on top).  I suppose my less formal marathon of drooling over Jaime Camil probably works in lieu of British Costume Drama, but I would have liked a little more wallowing in my own rebellion against the American norm.  Although, there’s something truly rebellious about my ability to completely overlook the event to the point that only missing beer is enough to remind me anything is going on at all (and, I still don’t know who’s playing–I just know it’s not Kansas City because that would have been impossible to miss around here).

And so,tomorrow will begin the semi-awkward series of conversations that begin with “Did you see the [insert brand] commercial?!?” and end with me saying, blankly and bluntly, “No.”

Happy Anniversary to Us!

By the time I get this posted it won’t be St. Brigid’s Day where I am anymore, but it still is in Cammy’s time zone, so I say it counts!

Happy anniversary to us!

I actually have some more substantial posts stockpiled, but I wanted to take the opportunity to thank all of our readers. All five of you.

Seriously, we’ve been flaky this year. We’ve been flaky this week. I would give you all of the perfectly legitimate reasons for this, but I kinda figure you already know or don’t care anyway. Bottom line is, we are still blogging and we hope you’ll keep reading.

And we hope you celebrated St. Brigid’s with colcannon, because I didn’t. I know. Fail. Truth be told I didn’t realize the date until I already had black beans and rice on the stove.

On an Irish heritage note, I was informed by those who would know, that when I do an Irish accent I sound like I’m from the Dublin suburbs. That was exciting considering I always thought I sounded like an American trying to talk with an Irish accent and failing.

Take care. Stay warm. Much love.

The Book Thief Stole My Time

I am not going to say the recent film adaptation of The Book Thief was a bad movie.  I’m just saying that in my expectations that it would be as good as the book, I walked out feeling like my time had been vampire’d because I could have waited to let it come out on video and been just as well off.

First off, I do recommend The Book Thief as a book.  I had originally shied away from it because coming of age stories in Nazi Germany with the obligatory hidden Jew element are, frankly, almost a cliché.  Been there, read that.  When I finally picked up the book and read it, I ate a bit of crow because while this may have some of the necessary ingredients for the same old same old, it is put together in a way that made it a fabulous read.

What I should have realized before I saw the film was that what I love about the book are the little details, and the awesome narrator.  If anything is sacrificed in a film, it is the details, and narrators are usually under-utilized.  So, clearly, I was doomed.

Of course, being doomed in this way won’t stop me from complaining.  For the narrator, I will only say that the narrator of the book was one of my favorite narrators in any book I’ve ever read.  Full of insight and dark humor.  I can more or less forgive the drastically reduced role the narrator plays as I know that it can be tricky handling narration on film without the whole thing sucking.  I’ll grudgingly give the film a pass on this.

I’m not giving on the details, though.  Not completely.  There are some that, okay, fine, so the house didn’t fit the description completely.  And the random German words were minimized.  I can live with that.

But I  maintain that other details do matter.  When an author specifically calls out the main character’s eye color, and does so in terms connected to the time and setting (the author specified that Liesel had “dangerous” brown eyes.  Kinda mattered in Germany at the time), maybe the filmmakers ought not to go dead opposite (we’re talking full on Elijah-Wood-hobbit-ass big baby blues).  Really, there’s a detail that’s not too much to ask, in my opinion.  Also, if you are going to insert a death scene in the film that was not shown in the book?  Do not give it to a person who, while all right enough on screen otherwise, cannot actually act a decent death scene (if you watch, you will know this one when you see it.  It screams out for a whole new award category for Most Terrible Death Scene That Should Not Even Be In The Film). But the real kicker was a seemingly tiny change that I am sure the film makers thought nothing of, but which changes a fundamental element.  In the book, Liesel has an innate gift with words.  She struggles with reading and writing, but actually forming sentences and choosing how to describe something she does without any help or assistance, and does remarkably well.  She does not necessarily realize it is a gift until it is pointed out to her by another character, but it already exists in her.  In the film, rather than having her produce the description on her own, they chose to have that other character coach her to better describe something.  Totally killed a fundamental for me.  There is a difference between doing something naturally and having someone coach you to do it.

I hated that moment.

All that said, the costumes were great, and I appreciated that they did retain a modest amount of the little German words and phrases thrown throughout the book (which I totally ate up).  And there were some fantastic performances from the cast (bad, unnecessary death scene notwithstanding).  It’s the first time that I’ve watched a movie with Geoffrey Rush where he didn’t creep  me out (not saying he’s been bad in other things, just that I’ve found him creepy–on that list of people I don’t want to meet in a dark alley, like Christopher Lee).

Since it was in such a limited theater release in my area before the holidays, I assume that by now, I probably don’t need to warn anyone not to pop for theater prices, but if you see it screening, go see something like The Hobbit instead and wait for this one to come out on Netflix.

Or, just read the book.

Agency in The Hunger Games

Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Hunger Games trilogy.

By the time I actually get around to posting this, this is going to be old news, but I’m writing it anyway because I have to get it out.

Someone is wrong on the internet. Again.

One of my friends recently posted this article and received the chorus of “Yes!” and “This!” that such links normally receive. And that’s fine. Except that I disagree with most of this, and I didn’t want to get into an argument on my friend’s facebook page; so I’m starting that argument here, now that no one cares anymore.

To be fair, I agree with some of what this article has to say. I’m not sure why the author feels the need to connect her argument to the racism controversy over the first movie. And to be honest, that turned me off immediately, because too often gender issues and race issues are positioned against each other in a way that implies we can have gender equality or racial equality, but not both. That is, of course, stupid. And I don’t think the author thinks that, but I think that by juxtaposing her argument about gender problems in The Hunger Games with the fact that some movie viewers are racist, she inadvertently implies that. So let’s just acknowledge that some people are racist, some people are sexist, and both of those things are bad. Moving on.

I recommend you read the article so you can make up your mind about it, but in a nutshell, the author argues that The Hunger Games is “more sexist than a rap video” because Katniss is essentially a passive character. And as I said, she’s not wrong about everything: Katniss spends a lot of the trilogy letting other people make decisions for her. She’s not a natural born leader, she doesn’t want to be a leader, and, let’s be honest, at virtually no point in the story is she the brains of the operation. But to some degree, I think that’s the point of the story.

For me, at its very core, The Hunger Games is a coming of age story. And for me, it’s a story about a young woman learning to find her voice and learning to act decisively.

Katniss is a teenage girl. She is not a woman. Yes, by the time we meet her she’s been through more than most of us ever will. She’s been the main provider for her family for years. But biologically she’s still an adolescent. Which means she still has the brain of an adolescent, no matter what sort of lifestyle she’s been leading. And her life up until the reaping has been about survival. Survival in and of itself is a choice—look at the rate of teenage suicide in our comparatively cushy society. Katniss could have chosen to let herself die years earlier, but she makes a choice she’s going to live and keep her family alive.

The plot begins with a choice. One the author of this article acknowledges, but then dismisses. I think that’s a problem given that it’s a big damn choice. She chooses to save her sister by walking into almost certain death. Not a really passive action.

(I’m going to suppress the folklorist in me and not get into how wrong the author is about fairytales, because I think she’s mostly ventriloquizing other people’s arguments there.)

Let’s look some at some of the article’s specific points: Katniss never kills anyone in the first Hunger Games and does absolutely nothing to win. Well that’s wrong. If we’re looking at choices here, the first night she chooses to kill the girl making the campfire, she just doesn’t get the chance. No, we can’t know whether she would have gone through with it, but she clearly makes the decision. But maybe that’s still passive—she makes the decision, but doesn’t follow through.

Let’s look at who she does kill: She chooses to drop the tracker jackers on the career pack, and that is carefully planned out and executed. Yes, yes, it’s only in self-defense, but it’s still a choice. Are we really going to argue that the bees robbed Katniss of her agency? Yes, she chooses to let the bees do her dirty work and true, she doesn’t know that they’re going to kill the girl, but she knows it’s a possibility. It’s still a choice.

The author amends her statement in a later paragraph to say, “she’s never guilty of murder one.” I will concede in a court of law she would probably escape any first degree murder charges. And frankly, I’m okay with a heroine who doesn’t actively seek to kill other children to win a depraved game. That’s a long way from being passive.

I dispute the argument that her killing of Rue’s killer is instinctive and therefore not a choice. A choice was made somewhere in there, even if it was instantaneous.

And honestly, I think we have to acknowledge that she has made a choice to let Peeta die until she finds out that saving him will not mean sacrificing herself. She then chooses to save him and chooses to feign a romance, knowing on at least some level it’s going to hurt him, in order to manipulate potential sponsors. And all of this leads to her ultimate choice not to play the game and not to kill. Like her first choice, this is kind of a huge one, if for no other reason than it gives us the next two books.

Catching Fire gives us Katniss allowing herself to be manipulated by the Capital in order to save her family and loved ones. Not really the choice we want her to make, but a choice nonetheless. And one that doesn’t work. Remember how I said this was a coming-of-age story? This is where our heroine learns a lesson: You can try to avoid the difficult choices in life and hope the world will leave you alone, but it won’t.

Yes, Katniss is left of out the big revolutionary machinations in the second book. Like I said, she’s not the brains of the operation, and the plotters were probably right that she would have screwed things up if she’d known. Yes, she’s just being manipulated by a different group. I could go through all of the choices she does make in this book, but overall, I’m going to concede that in this book she does a lot more of letting people choose for her. I will only offer up that she’s a teenaged girl with severe PTSD and that made me cut her some slack.

Mockingjay for all that people complain about (complaints that are at least somewhat justified) is ultimately the story of Katniss learning to stop allowing herself to be manipulated. She waivers back-and-forth between taking active part in the rebellion and rebelling against the leaders of the rebellion. For me, it’s a pivotal moment when she shoots an unarmed woman in the Capital. In that moment she sort of recognizes that she can’t just keep her head down and get through. She’s going to have to get her hands dirty. It’s harsh and brutal, but that’s the world this story is set in.

But this all leads up to another momentous choice: The moment in which Katniss shoots President Coin. For me this is what all three books have led to. This is the moment when Katniss truly finds her voice and decides to “speak” and damn the consequences. She’s learned already that choices have consequences, often nasty ones. She knows this one might. But it’s all a matter of choosing to no longer allow herself to be used or manipulated by anyone, even if the only way to do that is by dying. And our coming-of-age tale is complete.

In the end, I think this article just reads to me like way too many negative responses to books (fiction or scholarly); “This isn’t the book I would have written” “This isn’t the book I wanted it to be.” Okay. Go write your book. Go read a different one.

‘Cause yeah. Katniss not a bold, revolutionary leader. If you want that kind of heroine, you’re going to need to look for another book. She’s not the brightest heroine. You don’t have to like her. Heck, I like the books, but I don’t know that I’d want to have coffee with the girl. But I really don’t think you can say she never makes choices. Not unless you ignore a lot of the story.

(Note: in looking back over the article, I realize I don’t actually know that the author is female. So assume all my uses of “she” are meant to be gender neutral.)

 

They’re Fucking You With the Cell Phone

“They fuck you with cell phones. That’s what it is. They’re fuckin’ you with the cell phone. They love it when you get cut off. Y’know why, huh? You know why? ‘Cause when you call back – -which they know you’re gonna do. – -they charge you for that fuckin’ first minute again at that high rate.

Above is the only line I remember from Lethal Weapon 4* and it’s highly applicable to my current dilemma.  

My family has been with a certain large wireless carrier** since the first cell phone we had (an ancient Nokia which I remember fondly because I inherited it to call home with in college–it was also the same phone that’s featured fin the X-Files PC game.  Mulder and Scully used my cell phone for a few years there.  How’s that fun, useless info?).  We went with this carrier mostly because my Dad’s company was using it, and there’s been a company discount, plus, it meant calls to his phone would be free.  

For the most part this has worked out.  Being the luddite I am, I kept with the basic phone for several years after it was passé, but finally, in order to get in on the last of the unlimited data plans, I went for the smart phone in 2011.  And I’ve loved the thing.  It’s been my GPS, my note taking device, my way to read e-books while I eat lunch, my way to keep up with telenovelas and has, generally, saved my sanity over the past couple of years.

But, all good things must come to an end, and in my case, the end was my phone’s ability to charge.  I’ve tried all known fixes (yes, kids, I have cracked open a cell phone and replaced parts because I’m not a girl to be cowed by something that involves very tiny hex keys).  But, it’s bricked. Read the rest of this entry »