Saturday, October 02, 2010

QOTD

Bibi:  (while listening to Wagner's Die Walkure)  That's not beautiful; that's cool.

Runner-Up for QOTD

Joe:  (in response to what Bibi said above) Not beautiful but cool, like Lady Gaga.

Friday, October 01, 2010

We Interrupt This Blog for Vaginas

So I finally got around to watching The Vagina Monologues.  I still haven't read the book which (no surprise) my library doesn't have in its shelves.  (It also doesn't have the dvd.

I guess the word "vagina" is too risqué here in the Bible Belt.

Would the word cunt be better?

I wrote about the significance of this word for me and mine here.

For Rei's birthday, I bought her a copy of the book Cunt and gave it to her.  I gave a copy to my mother as well.  Why not?  We are obviously quite comfortable using the word around here.

Which brings me back to this dvd because the fact is I was in tears through most of it.  I was reminded of how removed most women are from their bodies, how some of the older women hadn't even seen themselves in a mirror.  I listened in awe and laughter and tears through the whole thing because my experience is so damned different from most women's.

I grew up with Our Bodies, Ourselves and had no concept of not being sexually aware.

I was very young when I began to ask questions about where babies came from.  I was relentless in my pursuit of the truth.  And my mother delights in telling the story about a time when I was sitting with her on a bus and a very large man came onto the bus followed by his equally enormous woman holding a very large infant.  I stared, mouth open, and followed this couple with my eyes as they settled themselves across the aisle from us.  Then, in a voice as loud as my mother's memory can make it I said, "You mean that baby came out of that woman's vagina?"

Everyone on the bus laughed and my mother thinks that the couple was from another country and she assumes that they could not understand what I said.

Perhaps it's wishful thinking on her part.  After all, it was the '60s and I was a mere child of 3 or 4 loudly exclaiming over things that good girls simply did not discuss in public.

My mother called it a pookie, rhymes with cookie or rookie.  My pookie.  I learned a lot about it when Our Bodies, Ourselves first was published.  I learned about the mechanics of it and the psychology of it.  And 30 years later Eve Ensler is doing an off-off-Broadway show about it.  I learned about menstruation and ovaries and self-breast exams and that you could order your very own speculum so you could look inside yourself, if you wanted, to see the cervix.

That was in 1973.  I was reading and rereading Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, trying to see the signs of my becoming a woman because I didn't see sex as indicative of my being a woman.  I knew that my entrance into Womanhood began with my first menstrual cycle.  And I knew that I, being a normal and healthy young woman, would someday be graced with this gift of monthly cycles.

Someday . . .

The summer after my first kiss, I was reading Forever. . ., given to me by my mother's boyfriend (and future husband).  I think he was shocked when he read the first sentence:

Sybil Davison has a genius I.Q. and has been laid by at least six different guys.

Quite an opening line.  And the novel, which was hot off the presses at the time, was a way for me to make friends that summer at camp where I was hoping for three things:

  1. to have a great time with my best friend Love
  2. to find my "first kiss" and maybe share a second kiss
  3. to maybe finally get my period
There's a story in there but it doesn't have to do with my vagina or anyone's vagina.  

The interesting thing about these three books, two of which deeply informed my adolescence, is that all three were banned at one time or another.  Two of them remain on the most banned books list to this day.  

And women still can't talk about their vaginas!  We have incredibly intelligent women who call it a vajajay.

For the record, I do not have a vajajay.  I have a cunt or a vagina and sometimes even a pussy but never ever a vajajay.  I don't even understand why seemingly intelligent women would be self denigrating and in such self-denial about their bodies that they couldn't loudly and proudly call it like it is.  

I have a vagina.  

These same women, no doubt, have used the word penis on television.  I confess, I can't say this for certain.  I'm too afraid to google or search on youtube for "famous woman's name" + penis because I really do not want to see what I might find.  

But the fact that the word penis can be said on television suggests that vagina is also safe to say and so long as mature, intelligent women self-censor themselves by cloyingly giving their anatomy truly ridiculous and childishly insulting nicknames, I can't help but wonder why I expect men, with their penises, dicks, cocks, etc. to take us seriously.

Albeit, Michael, in Blumes banned book Forever . . ., calls his penis "Ralph."  I still think Blume felt it would reduce the necessity of using the word penis over and over again.  And anyone who has suffered through reading some bodice ripping romance in which these things are called "manhood" or "throbbing member" can only say, "Thank you, Judy, and, with all do respect to every poor boy out there who carries the name Ralph be thankful your middle name isn't also Richard."

I know I wasn't the only girl of my generation who devoured this novel.  I was later surprised to find out that some parents didn't want their darling daughters to read the book.  Why?  Because it talked about abortion?  Birth control?  Sex?  

I was fortunate.  My mother didn't prohibit me from reading any book. One would even think she went out of her way to shove volatile literature into my hands.  Even Cowgirls Gets the Blues was a personal favorite a year later.  Not sure if it was banned but I remember thinking about how the cowgirls living on the ranch were opposed to feminine hygiene products designed to mask the "offensive" nature of a woman's natural state of being.  

That was the year I finally got my period.  I was fourteen and my mother, when she found out, threw her arms around me and said, "Thank goodness.  I thought I was raising a boy."

Her and me both.

I think my mother did a great job of raising me to be incredibly comfortable with my body.  That's why I cried a lot while watching this dvd because I realized that a lot of women are not taught to be so self-aware or self-honoring.

Seriously.  How self-honoring is it to use the word vajayjay?  You want to be taken seriously, for anyone including yourself to see you as a Woman, then sound like one.

I have a vagina.  

(This reminds me of the scene in Boys on the Side where Whoopi Goldberg goads Mary-Louise Parker into saying the word cunt. Cunt!  CUNT!!!)

So I can't get a copy of The Vagina Monologues from my library because they don't have a copy.  They do have copies of the following, however:
You can find these books in the reference section.  You can't borrow them.  You can't actually take them home and read them.  You have to stay there, in the library.  They are only there for reference.   You wouldn't want to, you know, go home and actually study the subject.

And perhaps that is the problem.  Parents don't want their little girls to read about sex and their bodies because knowledge is power and if they (we) actually got in touch with our bodies, with ourselves, we wouldn't think it cute or tolerable to call our vaginas anything but what they are.  

We damn well wouldn't put up with "vajayjay," I know that much.

I also know that if more women were in touch with their own power, they wouldn't be encouraging their daughters to read Twilight.  As I said in my review of Forever . . ., I would rather my daughter, my grand-daughter, and every young woman I know read Judy Blume over Stephanie Meyer any day of the damn week.  

But there are other books, more contemporary books, that deal with a young girl's sexuality in a positive way.  Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat, for instance, is a wonderful book about a young girl whose life is filled with magic and love.  This novel, and the ones that follow, offer a look at love in the time of AIDS, an element that is missing from Judy Blume's book.  These novels, for all their fantastic and magical realism elements, are so far superior to Meyer's oeuvre that I am outraged.  

Both Meyer and Block join Blume in being banned.  Meyer, though, is banned for vampires while Block and Blume are banned for sex.  I guess that's because the perverse and emotionally abusive relationship in Meyer's novels is a) more acceptable than fucking and b) is consummated only within the confines of marriage.  

Yes, because marrying an abusive jerk is better than making love with someone who truly cares about you and your well-being, because love is all about pain and suffering and danger and has not a damn thing to do with caring or compassion or genuine sharing.

Grrrrrr  . . .

Probably, by the time Bibi is a young girl and I am looking around for a young adult novel to share with her, there will something else, some other young adult voice out there who writes honestly about sex and sexuality, whose books will be banned because even then women won't be encouraged to believe that they have a vagina between their legs and that maybe, just maybe, it's okay to call it like it is.  

I have a vagina.  

And you . . . ?


Thursday, September 30, 2010

QOTD

From an email I wrote to Pia:

I really am a glutton for punishment, 
especially when it comes in the form of self-flagellation. 

Critically Disclaimed Movies


Showgirls


There are so many movies that are panned by critics that I tend to wonder--are they all really that bad?

In the case of this movie the answer is a resounding YES!  I can fully understand why Elizabeth Berkley would want to be in this film.  It's an opportunity to put her Saved by the Bell persona in her past.  Unfortunately, she then had to live after this movie was released.

She's pretty.  Very.  Gorgeous body.  Very.  I honestly can't complain about how pretty some of this movie is but there is something ugly about the whole thing, about how exploitative and pathetic.  The sexy dancing that is supposed to simulate sex is actually sexier than the sex scene in the pool which comes across more like an act of violence than it does of either lust or love.  But that's nothing compared to the actual rape scene that occurs.

The whole movie is just silly and an insult to anyone's intelligence with pretty bodies in pretty costumes doing silly things.  You want soft core pornography?  There has to be something better than this out there.  Even Bull Durham is sexier than this and it doesn't have nearly as much nudity.

Waterworld


This one has one huge strike against it going in.  Forget the horrible reviews it received upon its release.  I'm talking about the fact that it stars Kevin Costner, an actor who inevitably leaves me feeling cold.  (I've liked him in two movies:  Bull Durham and Silverado.  I jokingly say I loved him in The Big Chill but, as we all know, he was cut out of the film.)

And really, this has a lot of things I typically could or would like--dystopian society, future worlds, etc.  Some clever elements.  But too few and far between.  It's rather like a watered down Mad Max movie.  No edginess. And Kevin Costner thinking means not acting comes off as understated.  No.  It comes off as boring.

Aside from the fact that the critics hated both of these movies I notice that they have another element in common:  they are both ridiculously long and could have benefited tremendously from serious editing.

But let's move on.

Dune


I read the book before it was more than a trilogy.  Since then there are so many books I don't even know how many there are.  I stopped reading after the third book.  And I like Kyle MacLachlan.  I think.  I don't know. I keep seeing him in movies I don't like.  (See above.)  Then again, this is a David Lynch movie and I rank him alongside other "disturbing" directors as Terry Gilliam and Timothy Burton--all three have the innate ability to create grotesque images that stay with me too long after the movie is over.

I don't know what Lynch and company were thinking. The novel is quite cerebral and rather than make the necessary changes to translate text to film, they have these annoying voice-overs to explain the endless internal thoughts of the various characters.   This, plus the slow pacing of a story that gradually unfolds, and you have a film that is simply dead in the water.  I wanted to like it.  I really did want to.  But nope.  Not happening.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen


Sub par special effects and a convoluted yet highly predictable script.

Dear Alan Moore,

I give you full permission to tell the various studios to fuck off if they offer to make any other of your graphic novels into a movie.  They never do a good job of it anyway.  And while I thank you for at least not coming off as a complete misogynist in this story line, I confess that I have not read your graphic novel and, therefor, am basing this judgment on the movie alone.  For all I know, your woman-hating subtext would manifest on the page in ways it doesn't do so on film.

But, on the assumption that at least this remains true of both film and text, thank you.  Now if only you could keep it up.

Sincerely,
Satia

Cleopatra

So the director originally envisioned this as two long movies, one focused on Cleopatra's relationship with Gaius Julius Caesar and the other on her relationship with Marcus Antonius.  What's even more interesting, in my mind, is that Dorothy Dandridge was originally considered to star in the movie.  I wonder how that might have changed things over all because, as a result of the romance between Taylor & Burton, the studio demanded the movie be merged into one film and the end result is huge.  Very lavish.  Occasionally plodding but really not as bad as I had thought it would be.  I can't say that Marc Antony comes off as a very interesting character at all in this film.  They don't even mention his having had any children with Cleopatra and they had three (including twins!) so you can see a clear bias in making their romance seem less domestic and more passion and romance driven.

The thing is, pretty costumes and spectacular sets still manage to water down what was a far more interesting and intriguing story.  There was so much more real drama happening politically and personally than ever makes it to the screen.  It would take a mini-series to do this woman's life any real justice.  At least the director appreciated the necessity in his initially planning on two films--hardly a mini-series but better than what ended up on the screen, no doubt.

Music For Your Morning

Yesterday I shared my random song and today is pretty much just as random.  


As an aside, when Rob and I saw Shrek, the first movie we saw together, and they started singing this song, we both went "Oy!" at the same time as they do in the movie version.  It was weird since neither of us had seen the movie but we both felt like there should be an "oy" there and apparently so did the singers.  


A Year to Live by Stephen Levine


A Year to Live: How to Live This Year As If It Were Your Last by Stephen Levine is a meditation practice focusing on the theme of death and dying.  Levine and his wife have worked with many people who have died.  Through the experience of observing those who have approached death with grace, Levine has created a year long experiment of witnessing one’s own life and death is if this year were truly your last.

In traditional Buddhism, there is a practice of sitting with a corpse, watching the gradual decomposition, a meditation that is meant to reinforce the “gross” nature of being in the body.  In a way, this book is an invitation to do this vicariously (although Levine and his wife apparently conduct “field trips” to morgues and autopsy laboratories so this can be taken more literally if one is so inclined and has access to such things).  Sharing both personal stories and spiritual lessons, the book is accessible and even inviting.

But the truth is, I don’t know how practical it really is.  At the end of the book there is a monthly break down of how a group might work through the year of living as if it were the last but the ideas suggested for a group are not easily transferred to the individual.  There are some meditations offered in the text (and there is an audio book version that includes these meditations for those who wish to do them as a guided meditation practice).  I haven’t put any of the meditations into my own practice.

I do, however, think it is an interesting idea and something I would love to explore but would think benefits from a mutually shared experience.  I can see why Levine would not encourage someone to do this alone.  It is too easy to become despairing and without an objective person at one’s side, a person could slip into a very dark place.  With a group or even a partner, the observer can tell the person to either move more slowly into the practice or back off altogether.

Levine also encourages the use of a journal to document the year long spiritual journey.  I think this sounds like a lovely idea and may be a way of staving off getting too depressed within the practice.  I’d like to think that working through this book would be an awakening into greater appreciation for all that life has to offer and perhaps even an invitation to accept things as they are, an awareness that part of being present means letting go.

I would love to someday experience this book with another person or within a group but without actually putting the book into practice, it’s hard to say just how meritorious the practice would be.  Nevertheless, I think this book is lovely and it is one I would recommend to anyone who is open to the idea.  If you, reading this, have done this practice, I would love to hear about your experience with it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Music on My Mind

I often wake up with a song running through my head.  Usually I'm able to put a context on what emerges but today I am unable to construe the why or wherefore of my humming this particular tune.  I didn't actually watch the video but I have played this to see if maybe that will help move the tune along to be replaced by another.

14 Walking Workouts to Fight Fat and Boost Energy - Prevention.com

14 Walking Workouts to Fight Fat and Boost Energy - Prevention.com
Some indoor and outdoor ideas. Woohoo!
And it's good to know that my neighborhood is designed to be a butt firmer . . . unfortunately, I actually have to stop hurting my knee when I go for a walk. *sigh*

Is Multitasking a Productivity Killer?: Business Collaboration News �

Is Multitasking a Productivity Killer?: Business Collaboration News �
I think it would be a miracle if the corporate world would let go of this fallacy that multitasking is a good thing, even a necessity. Sometimes it is indeed necessary but it is rarely as productive as focusing on one task at a time.

20 Ways to Prevent Cancer - Prevention.com

20 Ways to Prevent Cancer - Prevention.com
We may not be able to incorporate all of these lifestyle changes in a day but even a few over time can't hurt. For instance, "eating brazil nuts" is good and should be relatively easy. What the article doesn't say is that it takes only 2-3 nuts a day to get enough of the benefits. How hard is it to eat 2-3 nuts a day? I live with 2-3 nuts now and it isn't that hard to live with them. LOL!

Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz


Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz is a treasure almost on par with being a dog owner.  Truly, what a delight to read about research that explains the various behaviors of a dog without the typical anthropomorphizing we humans tend to do.  It won’t stop me from saying that Snowdoll is a flirt or saying that Romanov it pretending to be a bunny but now I have better insight into the “why” of their behavior, regardless of how I seem to superimpose my own perception on their reality.

Horowitz sprinkles the text with her own relationship with her dog Pumpernickel (aka Pump) and simple sketches reminiscent of James Thurber.  These “asides” are both charming and insightful, inviting the reader to intellectually understand where a dog is coming from while reminding the reader that we are, after all, only human and no matter how much we know about our dogs, they will charm us into thinking otherwise.

I adore this book. I want to buy a copy for all of my friends who either have dogs or want to get a dog.  I definitely plan on keeping it and reading it again someday.  I even learned a few things about Siberian Huskies that I didn’t know already.  Of course, I went into reading this book anticipating I would learn a lot.  And I did.  I even learned a few things about myself and how I relate to others–not just canines but humans too.  Highly recommended reading.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

1001 Delicious Dessert for People With Diabetes by Sue Spitler

1001 Delicious Dessert for People With Diabetes by Sue Spitler (with Linda Eugene and Linda R Yoakam) is a recipe book with, as the title suggests, a lot of desserts.  But how delicious are they really?

Really.

Delicious.

Really.

Now, we haven't been immediately thrilled with all of the recipes.  For instance, the cardamom crisps.  We loved the flavor but they weren't fulfilling on their own.  But, if you serve one as a base, with a scoop of low-carb (no sugar added) vanilla ice cream, with some peaches and a sprinkle of slivered almonds . . . seriously decadent and delicious.

We also liked the blushing bread pudding which we made with a rosemary infused loaf of bread.  Everyone said it was yummy, served with unsweetened whipped cream.  Rob suggested that it would also be good with ice cream. I further suggested that a sweeter bread, perhaps a brioche, would be even better than the more savory rosemary loaf we used.

The chocolate mango tarts were a hit even though most of us don't even like mango!  Seriously.  How is this even possible?  I don't know but kudos to the authors.  Rob, however, was not thrilled with the banana pecan cake although Marc and I liked it very much.  Perhaps not as a dessert so much as a quick bread type recipe.  Still, yummmmm . . .

Of course, we haven't tried all 1001 recipes yet but if the ones we've already tried (and there are others not mentioned above) no doubt we will have many recipes to enjoy and share for many days to come.

Monday, September 27, 2010

QOTD

Rob:  I see why others shouldn't watch television with you.

(Context:

Me:  I get why they are talking about Moby Dick.  I just don't get the footballs.
Rob:  What footballs?
Me:  The ones being thrown on the beach.
Rob:  That was a different commercial.
Me:  That was a different commercial?  Oh.  (pause)  Now you see why I shouldn't watch television.
Rob:  No.  (pause)  I see why others shouldn't watch television with you.)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Buddhist Scriptures translated by Edward Conze


Buddhist Scriptures selected and translated by Edward Conze is a collection of various Buddhist texts offering the reader an overview of what Buddhism teaches and what Buddhists believe.  This approach is both effective and limited.  With a wealth of literature upon which to draw, it is difficult to summarize millennia of spiritual teachings.  Perhaps there is even an implied hubris in attempting to do so.

For me the attempt is inadequate as I had hoped to read not only some of the mythology upon which this spiritual path is built but also explore some of the more practical applications.  It is in this latter expectation that this book falls short for there is very little one can read and transfer into one’s personal life.  Of course, with so many different schools of Buddhism, perhaps it was naive for me to expect anything more.

I confess I was put off by some of the teachings.  While discussing the various reincarnations, implying a level of rebirth that will lead to Nirvana, one of the “lower births” includes being born as a woman.  Lovely.  And let us not forget that the Buddha is born without the impurities of the womb . . . *sigh*.  I also found it interesting to catch little hints of the editor’s own biases in favor of one school of Buddhism over another.  (Of course one could argue that these reflect a contradictory bias as people often over-compensate innate favoritism by outwardly favoring something else.)

For anyone who wants to read the mythology behind the Buddha’s birth and his promised return, about the heavens and hells of rebirth, and such then this book will probably be a delight.  But for the reader who wanted to explore the Buddha’s teaching on how to live, on meditation, on life in general, then perhaps this is not the book to read.  Is there such a book out there?  For all I know, based on what this book has to show me, the Buddha never taught much about these things at all.  I suppose it is my own fault.  After all, I know that desire leads to suffering and I desired so much more than this book provided.  Hence, I suffer.

Okay.  Not really.  But I can’t give this book a glowing review.