Cousinly love

Image from Mansfield Park film
Everyone’s favorite “kissing cousins”

While we’re on the subject of Mauprat–what is it about romance between relatives? Because it makes us uncomfortable these days, we have a tendency to shrug our shoulders, look the other way and say, “well, that was the olden days, they didn’t know any better.” Although clearly, of course, they did; 19th century novelists and the characters who populate their work were the wealthiest people in agricultural economies; they understood breeding just fine.

Historians can tell us that marriages between cousins were a fiscal strategy of the upper class, a way to soften the blow of female disenfranchisement, lessen the impact of primogeniture and keep wealth concentrated within the family. This political and financial necessity was deliberately romanticized in the culture, some argue. It was desirable from a prudential standpoint, and so it became desirable form a psychosocial one as well.

But, as all diligent english majors know, cousin love in 19th century novels isn’t about practicality or money or social acceptability or even, really, about love. Its a way of expressing the fundamental sameness between two individuals. Romances of this period are obsessed by the idea of transcendental love, of fated spiritual connection, a union of souls–of two people who are, in some mysterious way actually one personThis concept is not infrequently expressed as familial relationship. Blood of my blood. All that. Its also a sneaky blow for gender equality. In depicting male and female characters as two halves of one whole, brothers and sisters (don’t worry, its a figure of speech), matched souls, these authors are tacitly placing them on equal footing.

New Years 2013

New Years Resolution imageNot so long ago (or at least it doesn’t feel long ago), in a fit of credulous sentimentality, I made the mistake of publicly posting my New Years resolutions, in the mistaken belief that it would somehow make a difference. The whole exercise was ludicrous  and I don’t know what’s wrong with me. But, since I did that, I might as well do this….

 

5. Care for skin. I didn’t do so bad with this one, actually. No shocking sunburns. Nothing but a mild tan acquired despite layers of spf. The liklihood of my getting skin cancer has not risen since last year.

4. Weigh 125 lbs. Not so much. Its not that I didn’t loose any weight; its just that I gained it all back. Carry that one over into 2013, I guess.

3. Achieve a modicum of financial stability. Not so bad in this department either. More lucrative job? Check. Two, actually. Small savings? Check. It was hard. Really, really hard. But its there somehow, and I’m not touching it.

2. Graduate! Oh, right. No thesis; no diploma. May 2013, here I come.

1. Write everyday. Um…no. Huge improvements in this area actually; I’ve put in a lot of work. But everyday? No. It does occur to me that this was a dumb idea. That if I was going insist on quantifying, I should have gone with something like total pages, or total hours. Excuses, excuses.

Top 5 Worst Calendars of 2013

When shopping for a calendar turned into an extended exercise in yikes, I decided to share. If you really think about wall calendars, they’re all a little strange–flowers, pets, farm animals, sports teams, scenic views, children dressed like adults–but these are each in one way or another, a new level of terrible. I give you, the worst calendars of 2013.

The rules: No Cafe Press weirdness (examples: this or this). Too easy. You could fill up a top fifty list in 5 minutes on there. Calendars must be offered on websites which feature mostly mainstream products normal people could conceivably want.

The Worst of the Worst

5. Butter my ButtFull title: Butter my butt and call me a biscuit. Classin’ up the joint, I see. Well, I’ll be.

4. Underwater Dogs. What. the. fuck. This gives me the shivers, but people love this calendar: 58 positive customer reviews.

3. The Peeps Show. Something the quirky-hot-girl in a romantic comedy would come up with. Listen, honey, you’re not that charming. Just stop.

2. Thomas Kinkade: The Disney Dreams CollectionAppalling. There is so much sentimental bullshit crammed into this, its hard to know what to say.

1. Celebrity Feast. I take that back. Now it’s hard to know what to say.

Runners up:

Breastfeeding Mamas. Okay, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for breast feeding, empowered moms, cute babies, and going topless. I’m just saying: wouldn’t this look great on my desk at work?

One Direction. Its like there was a most-unintentionally-homoerotic photo contest.

 

Ma’s Dolls. Six haphazard snapshots of super creepy mice dolls. Alright.

Goals for 2012

I decided to make my 2013 New Years Resolutions public. At least as public as a blog read by exactly 2 people can be. Partly for purposes of accountability, and partly so that I do not loose the piece of paper I wrote them down on and forget what they were. Without further ado then, my resolutions, in order of importance, are:

5. Care for skin. This means sunscreen. And aloe, and lotion, and no more super-hot showers.

4. Weigh 125 lbs. I’m not going to tell you how much weight loss will be required to achieve this. Suffice it to say that it will be challenging, but neither impossible nor unhealthy.

3. Achieve a modicum of financial stability. Pay off some debt, spend responsibly, find a more lucrative job, develop a small savings account, win lottery.

2. Graduate! I am currently two classes (6 unites) behind if I want to graduate in December 2012. Somehow, I’m going to have to find some way to make up for this. But how?

And, the big one…

1. Write everyday. I mean fiction. If you count journals and letters, I actually do this. But I write fiction, and do pretty much everything else, in slightly frantic bouts spanning 1-4 days, with respites in between of inappropriate duration. This must stop! This is not the first time I’ve made this particular commitment, but this time it’s the serious number one thing. I will call in sick to work, I will miss an assignment at school (anathema!); if I have a 103 degree fever I will write about my visions, if I’m on a road trip I will pull over by the side of the road, if I’m tired I will drink a case of 5-hour energy. This one is the one.

Politics?

At this point, I should probably take that one little word out of the subtitle. The fact is, at the time I started this whole blog thing, I had: a) definite interest in the mid-term elections, b) an intellectual willingness examine issues from different sides, and c) a great deal of spare time, during which I needed give the appearance of working on something.

These days, between my two-and-a-half hour daily commute, frantic-fanatic work environment, grad school, semi-regular writing, and bare semblance of social life, I find my waking hours are pretty well filled up. That, and I can hardly bare to glance in the direction of the whole political sphere at all. I’ve caught a bit of news coverage, a few convention speeches, and most of the debates, but all of that leaves me not so much well informed as angry and depressed.

I feel bad for Obama, I really do. He seems to have fought his way into office (over my preferred candidate, ah-hem) only to enjoy a startling fall from grace, fading in a few short years from a bastion of hope and change to the main obstacle in the way of the sweeping tide of corporate Christian right. Keep your finger in the dam, bro, that’s all I can say–and, best case scenario, I really think that’s all anyone who likes women, the environment, education, or any form of regulatory enforcement can reasonably expect for the next four years.

As for the rest…

Mitt Romney is just a tool. That’s all there is to it. I honestly don’t think he’s a bad person–he’s just bumbling, weak, wishy-washy, and divorced from reality. He’s like the stereotypical sheltered high school nerd, book smart and culturally clueless, arrogant yet eager for approval, repeating whatever the cool kids say by rout, unsuspicious of just how far off the mark he really is. The examples are manifold, from the ridiculous (dog on the roof of the car, binders full of women) to the disturbing (healthcare, England).

I have a visceral reaction to Paul Ryan so strong I actually get nervous nausea when he talks. Something about his big slow-blinking eyes, set back deep in his scull like Shelley Duvall’s, that way he has of raising his eyebrows, and his parentheses bracketed smile, makes me so profoundly uncomfortable.

If I have to hear smilin’ Joe Biden mention Scranton just once more, I just don’t know what I’ll do.

What really baffles me are these so-called ‘independent’ or ‘undecided’ voters. Where are these people, and more importantly, where are their brains?

This must be a news media fiction. Maybe in the 90s when the two main party candidates essentially stood toe-to-toe on opposite sides of the fifty yard line, and candidates like Ralph Nader or Harry Browne were really out there, voters on either end of the spectrum might reasonably waver. But now–with the two candidates at completely opposite polls, with only one shared goal (job creation) and virtually no similarity in any of their policies or strategies–who could possibly have any doubt?

I suppose maybe, maybe…if you cared about nothing but the tax code, and wanted determine which candidate’s policy would save you more? But, as my rant so far has now doubt illustrated, very few people are so rational in their decision-making process.

Notes from a Writing Workshop

While looking through my files in search of something else (obviously) I stumbled upon the list of requirement from my senior writing workshop. They read,

No crying, and absolutely no single tears.
No vomiting, except in cases of drunkenness or illness.
No opening the mouth without speaking.

(I have to admit, I had been guilty of the vomiting thing.)

Other rules for this class included, but were not limited to:

Double space everything, and print only on one side of the paper. No, I don’t care what the college says. Writers hate trees.

I will lock the door behind me. Don’t knock; if you arrive after me, you cannot come in.

In the (unlikely) event that anyone ever asks me to lead a workshop I will adopt all these rules.

Super tiny boarding house style studio apartment, unfurnished

I’ve moved. Not entirely because I wanted to, and yet, here I am. In a $750 studio apartment in the Bay Area. Some would call it The Dream.

Studio floor plan
The floor plan. Big room = office, bedroom, dining room. Small room = kitchen. Bathroom and shower are to be found down the hall.

Room #1: Everything! Because this is a studio!

Super tiny studio apartment
The view from the door. Love the light. The view? I let you know how the naked people look.
Studio apartment closets
Stage Right. That is, look to your left. Double closets: one with doors, one without; site of future dresser and library respectively. Also, strange mystery cubes which have been painted shut. Better believe I’ll get those open.
closer…
Closer…
Studio apartment
Stage left. Primary features: wall where bed lives, door to kitchen, door to closet.
Studio apartment closets
That would be the front door. Closet door to the left.

Room #2: The kitchen!

Entering the kitchen, looking to the left.
Built-in cabinets
And to the right. You can’t tell, but the fridge is smaller than average, and that built-in is HUGE.
Studio apartment medicine cabinet, above the kitchen sink.
Cute little medicine cabinet, above the kitchen sink.
Mystery valve
Strange valve coming out of the floor, exactly where I’d like to put my desk.
Kitchen shelf and hooks
Crazily tilting kitchen shelf. By the way, see that open window in the back ground; yeah, landlord says never to close that. Hmmmmm….
tiny windows
Tiny windows, wavy glass. You’ve got to love the details.

Bad Teacher

Guess I need to start vetting art books better before I bring them into class. One of my fifth graders discovered a photo of a live pig with the word ‘fuck’ spray painted on it’s side during our half hour reading time yesterday.

Another student insisted that a group photo of French street artists included several who were “showing their privates.” However I contend that those are just the kind of shorts French people wear.

Needless to say, the art books are extremely popular during reading time.

Um…so, like, blog or what? On re-reading the Meg Cabot cannon instead of. Well. Everything.

I have been sick. I have addressed this issue by taking the world’s grossest vitamins and lying in bed reading eight (count them eight) Meg Cobot novels. That’s two whole series. Consecutively. I’m not even kidding.

What is it about illness that leaves you longing to read about 2000 pages of mindless crap about tall guys with great abs who fall inexplicably in love with obtuse and accident prone but otherwise average women, instead of, you know, Waverly (which is what I told people I was reading, when they asked–thank God (and my boyfriend) for the Kindle) or Skippy Dies, which I have seriously got to finish someday? Also, run-on sentences. The woman leaves us all babbling about guys asses in jeans and the complete unfairness of existence for, like, paragraphs on end. I’m even starting to write like Meg Cabot. Christ. How embarrassing.

But also, you know, if only. Because that woman is funny. And smart. And laughing all the way to the bank, probably. That hair cut in her author photo must have cost about $300, if you count in the highlights. And Harper isn’t exactly known for its air brushing.

Just for comparison, today, a bunch of third graders pointed out to me that I had eye liner up by my eyebrow (Although what they actually said say, “Ms Linds, do you have a black eye?”). At like, five in the afternoon. Which means I’d been going around like that all day. Guess I forgot the make-up remover last night. All of my neighbors and coworkers, and the people at Boulange, probably think I get beat. Plus, you know, the children.

The worst part is I can’t even legitimately argue that I’ve been using the excess brain power for writing, since my computer’s been out of commission for something like two weeks.

Funny story:

So, I’m sitting at the Church Street Cafe, typing away (on my novel no less), when all of a sudden a framed photo of an elderly Native American woman (I’m not even joking) jumps off the wall, right onto my table (and my shoulder) setting off a chain reaction that ends with a fresh 16 oz coffee flooding my key board.

That was a Tuesday. I spent the rest of the week waiting, hoping maybe some time to drain and the judicious application of a space heater might dry the thing out enough to, you know, at least flash me the screen of death or whatever. No such luck.

Those are some edits that are gone forever, let me tell you.

A week or so at the Apple Store seems to have resolved the issue, however. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing left that’s actually original to my computer at this point, except the power cord, since I had the screen replaced a while back due to a malfunction, and this most recent crisis resulted in a new case, keyboard, mouse, hard drive, optical drive, logic board, battery, and who knows what all.

I’m not saying I didn’t write all week. I’m just saying 20 notebook pages is like four and a half typed pages, which doesn’t exactly meet my goal…

But today was a good morning, writing-wise, at least. And there’s nothing to do, really, but move on, and hope my own characters don’t start to exhibit too strong a tendency toward angry make-out sessions and premature marriage proposals (i.e. an undue Cabot influence).

An ode to absent roommates. Six years. Six addresses. 23 roommates. The end of an erra.

credit: Liz Henry, Flickr
Roommate image

I reflect fondly on your boyfriend’s Grey Goose bottle bong, and the incredibly strong weed that sent me to my first ever publishing job still stoned, and thrilled to have my very own rolly office chair to play with.

Also, on the lime green living room with the hammock in it, the mouse that lived in the leather chair, the Katrina fire pit, and the owl with the glowing eyes. The way my bathtub used to vibrate from the base on your speakers, the same song over and over again as you wrote it. The bouncy boxing party when the cops came, that terrible girl who climbed in the window and covered my bed with mud, the way you told her that Native Americans invented the dimmer switch, and the way she believed you.

I miss drinking whiskey and torturing the downstairs neighbor. Painting the living room Gothic Rose pink and listening to that one Be Good Tanyas album over and over again. Eating ice cream and watching Bride and Prejudice. Buying bargain bin underwear in Oakland and dancing at the KitKat Club. Even the time you flipped the breaker box for April Fools.

I do not miss the way you itemized the dirty dishes and assigned pantry space based on percentage of total rent. The way you walked through my office (also known as the laundry room) to get outside, even when I asked you not to. The way you ignored my advice then blamed me when things went wrong. That time you locked me out because I said your dinner party was terrible, which it was.

I do not miss your drunk hipster friends passed out in my bedroom, or the vomit dried to a crust in the bottom of the tub when I came back from a long weekend in Santa Cruz. I don’t miss your loud friends playing cards at 3:00 AM on Tuesday, or the way you never cleaned, or the notes you left, complaining about fruit juice on the counter even though the sink was packed with your dirty dishes. I never understood how your boyfriend just moved in one day. I thought your bike was stupid, and I still do.

I hated coming home early the Friday before a holiday weekend to find you passed out on the sofa surrounded by nitrous canisters, and the way you let your cat destroy my sofa, then tried to make me get rid of it because it was so shabby. I hated you for your preachy crap about cars and street parking, your awful “films” and your insistence that I ask you about your day. I hated that restaurant you worked at. I don’t care what you say; it’s a cult. I hated never knowing what might have drugs in it–like those Altoids in the dish in the living room, or those brownies I ate for breakfast once, when I was running late for a PPR meeting, leaving me, once again, stoned in an office chair.

I hated your tantrums, and your made-up stories about your own heroic encounters with famous people. I hated your oily hair, and the way all your texts were always tagged ‘urgent.’ Your crazy cats, who continued the destruction of my sofa and always ran away when I entered a room. Your horror movie sex noises, your disgusting contact lenses, the way your hair stuck to the walls of the bathroom after you blow dried it. Also the hair in the shower drain and the animal hair all over the floors. The sad sound of your dog, crying and flinging herself at the back of your bedroom door. The cat box in the hall closet. The way you never paid PG&E on time, ever, and the self-righteous way you tried to dick me out of my deposit. The dumb shit you said, and the fact that you never ever cleaned anything, except sometimes, after a party.

Good bye, good and bad. It’s hard to feel honestly nostalgic about anything so recent and so nuts, but somehow, I think I’ll manage…