16 October 2010

Weekend Free-For-All: California Politics Edition

Well here's the kind of thing that ensures my vote:

Sarah Palin says that Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer live on a "unicorn ranch in fantasy land."

So many questions. Does she know because they bring their unicorns to visit her on her griffin/manticore ranch? Is she aware of the irony here? Is she aware of the concept of irony? Why didn't she name any of the actual Republican candidates she was supposedly stumping for? Who thought it was a good idea to bring her to California in the first place?

14 October 2010

What's in a name?

in which Wordwrestler considers waves and fishnets.

Since the name Fishnet Bluestockings was my idea, I felt like I should explain a bit about what it means, and what it doesn't mean.

6 for 6

6 tips to remember when hitting on a lone girl who is waiting on the street corner at 6 in the morning:

1. The intro: approaching with an outstretched hand and an introduction is friendly, though a bit inappropriate for the time of day. It's just a bit too forward. perhaps start off with a gentle concern for lone girl's safety, or break the ice with an obvious-but-true statement "wow, doesn't it suck to be up this early" - whatever you do, don't douche it up by following the intro with "ha ha, you look so confused."

2. Conversation: keeping to general topics (time of day (6am!), what-brings-you-here, etc) is fine, but getting into personal details is, again, a bit inappropriate. This girl is waiting on the street corner, she's not in a bar, she's not necessarily looking for company/conversation/a date and she won't necessarily want to share information about herself.

3. Physicality: be mindful of personal space bubbles, and how they tend to be larger when it's an empty street corner at 6am in the morning. In other words - don't stand so close.

4. Interactions: take cues from the lone girl - if she seems unresponsive or is giving one word answers to your questions, perhaps this is a cue for you to do something else. like not talk to her, or pursue a different course of conversation, or maybe just be less obvious about the fact that you are trying to pick her up.

5. The goodbye: Don't ask for her number. Offer yours if need be, but if she refuses to give it to you and makes no move to get yours, odds are she will not call you even if you do manage to stop her while she's sitting in the cab waiting to leave. Keep context in mind. For instance, if she mentioned she was concerned about her cab getting there on time, making her shuffle about looking for a pen and paper because she feels uncomfortable outright rejecting you even though she JUST refused your number would be a rude thing to do.

6. Don't. It's 6am. I'm going to be late for my opening shift. I don't want to be hit on right now. I understand that random happenstance meetings, especially at odd locations or times are the things quirky indie romance movies are made of, but it's also the stuff of sexual harassment police reports. Your agenda is showing like woah, I'm tired and just want to get to work on time. So don't. Just. Don't.

12 October 2010

Step By Step

I totally intended this first 'proper' post of mine to be an amazing intellectual discussion of an important issue - particularly as I had a couple of guilty twinges when reading Arcadian's fantastic post! However, events sort of overtook me, and I think I'm going to have to use this post to tell anyone who hasn't heard yet about an amazing thing currently going on in British culture.

The BBC and The British Museum have joined forces to produce a project called A History of The World (in 100 Objects). It does what it says on the tin: the BBC are producing 100 15 min long radio programmes - also downloadable from itunes FREE as podcasts! - written and narrated by Neil MacGregor, director of the British museum, tracing the history of our world (us humans) through the objects we have made and used over the last 2 million years. Each episode looks at one object from the British museum and details what we can tell from it - who made it, what it was used for etc - and what that says about our development as a species.

Now I appreciate that not everyone is a history nerd or BBC fangirl, but I challenge any one of you to download any one of the episodes available (we're now in the early 80's with an early victorian tea set) FREE (did I say that?) and not be intrigued.

The reason I'm a little bit obsessed at the moment is that somehow, despite being a history nerd and BBC fangirl, I managed to miss this until now. This project has been running since January, so I have quite a bit to catch up on. Despite seeing many posters, and hearing about it, it was only on one of my many ridiculously long commutes to work a couple of weeks ago that I managed to stumble accross an episode on BBC. After 15 mins of hearing why spanish silver pieces of eight represent the first international trading company and one of the first financial bubbles you'd think I'd be asleep at the wheel. Not the case. What MacGregor does skilfully is make even the slightes detail sound interesting - and most importantly, guides the listener through an actual history of the world. This isn't an account of all the stuff the British have looted over the years (though that element of colonialism is certainly acknowledged) - it's a genuine account of the way we as a species have developed. Each five objects is grouped into 'topics' such as 'After the Ice Age: Food and Sex' (9000-3500 BC), or 'Exploration, Exploitation and Enlightenment' (1680-1820 AD) rather than countries of origin, and MacGregor draws on every aspect of the object to build a picture of what was going on globally as well as in the minds of the makers. Because we're looking at objects - from the most richly decorated statues, to a mundane clay bowl - rather than wars or rulers the effect is of accessible fluidity, time moving on regardless of dynastys, countries or calenders.

I've listened to the first 15 episodes, and in those brief snapshots I feel like I've learned more about history in general than any attempt at school to fill my head with dates and names. And I want to learn more. And more. And more. And it sounds trite, but in these little glimpses into the lives of humans living and working and dying thousands of years ago has made me think about how far, and how not far we've come. We're still identified and to a certain extent defined by the objects we choose to make and keep around us. To me, that's what good history - or good anything - does. Makes you think, and then want more.

Have a listen, and let me know what you think. I'm going to go and find out about Mesopotamian writing tablet.

11 October 2010

No Judgment

Is it just me, or is “no judgment” kind of like the “no homo” of enlightened liberal feminists?  It’s what we say when we think someone is stupid for liking something, but don’t want to come across as a self-righteous prick because probably our own tastes are not above reproach. “She’s the kind of person who likes Twilight – I mean, no judgment, but it just shows you what I’m talking about.” In the same way that “no homo” comes after a statement that could be interpreted – either by a twelve-year-old or by everyone ever, with no in-between – of suggesting homosexuality, “no judgment” comes when we are feeling quite judge-y, but don't wish to be called on it.

Maybe it is just me, just my world – but I have heard myself say something like that dozens of times. (Dozens of times in the last month.)

And on another note, not unrelated -- there are dozens and dozens of my likes that I feel the need to apologize for or over-explain. Yeah, I ... sometimes read romance novels. In fact, I'd rather read a Jennifer Crusie than a Malcolm Gladwell. (By a long shot.) Every Friday morning, I go on Hulu and catch the latest episode of The Vampire Diaries. I'm totally jonesing to see Easy A. When I'm feeling tired and stressed, I reread the entire Tamora Pierce oeuvre, and when I'm doing dishes, I sing along to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

And none of that makes me stupid, any more than liking Shakespeare, and Racine, and Plato, and owning Citizen Kane, and browsing around Overthinkingit.com make me smart. 

That's what I'm really trying to get at here. We judge other people based on what they do and don't do, what they say and don't say, and what they like and don't like. None of those are invalid, and I am certainly not saying that we should stop judging others. (I don't think I'd be allowed to talk if I weren't allowed to be judgmental.) But I do think that the way we think that smart people only like smart things and dumb people only like dumb things does a disservice to pretty much everyone in the entire world, including us, the judges.

I once read a quotation that epitomized that idea: "Great minds discuss ideas; mediocre minds discuss events; shallow minds discuss people." I call bullshit. I never met a person in my life who didn't enjoy discussing all three. Especially if they got to be judgmental about it.

The other myth is that some things are just too dumb to have intelligent conversations about, and I call bullshit on that one too. Isn't that why uni is fun?  Didn't anyone else sit around discussing how James Bond uses humorous tropes first introduced by Aristophanes? (Actually, he probably ripped someone else off, if we're being honest.)

Then there's the feminist element in all this: I start feeling guilty if my likes are too girly. Girl stuff is dumb! It's just stupid and pink! Boy stuff all the way!  But if you like boy stuff too much (I should know, I grew up on Star Trek) that's not okay either. That means you're trying to trap some poor boy into being your boyfriend by being a tomboy. You couldn't actually like that stuff, because if you did, you'd be unfeminine. You just want the attention.

Now, I don't think those attitudes are really out in the open anymore, but I do see them swimming around below the surface, ready to eat teenagers in a vicious way. (Yeah, I'm not kidding.) I say screw that. (I know, I'm such a radical.)  

Can we talk about what we think about what we like? Why we like the things we do? What need we might have that those things meet? I know at least two smart, feminist women, who read the whole Twilight saga and enjoyed it, because something about the Bella/Edward/Jacob thing jived with the way they thought about love, or at least entertainment. They also do and think and say a million things to the effect that women are people and not clever monkeys.

My mom likes to say that you just like the things you like, and if you try to give reasons for liking them, someone somewhere will be able to come up with something that has all the same characteristics -- something that you should like -- but it doesn't speak to you in the same way, and you dismiss it out of hand. I definitely can't prove her wrong. But I still think discussing why we like something is a lot more legitimate than discussing what you like. People like a million things. Judge them when they say they like Bella because she has such a great backbone.