thinking


Up on the A.V. Club today is another of those AVQ&As, the topic this week being “What Entertainment Did You Unfortunately Inflict on Your Parents?” It got me thinking, as two films I regrettably showed my parents (and then a third) immediately sprang to mind. As it gave me a laugh I figured I’d share.

I will never forget showing (or rather, trying to show) my parents Tank Girl. As I recounted years

what was i thinking

what was i thinking

and years ago when Jesse and I were still doing Films of High Adventure, I saw a piece on probably Good Morning, America! or some shit about Tank Girl, wherein Lori Petty told the tale of how when she looked a the script she immediately shaved her head, went in, and screamed “I am Tank Girl!” at the casting director or whatever. I was breathless watching the clips; drooled during every preview. But I was not of age to see Rated R movies and there was no effing way my parents would take me to see Tank Girl in the theatre. But when it came to VHS I rented it.

They turned it off right after the scene where Malcolm McDowell quotes some poetry at an unimpressed Tank Girl. “No,” I remember my father saying. “No way.” My mom did not argue. She was sort of shell-shocked by what we’d watched, if memory serves, and as an adult I can’t really fault her reaction. I mean, I still love you, Tank Girl, but… damn.

I finished it the next day, on my own, as I had been completely enchanted by everything about the film. And really, I’m pretty grateful we didn’t finish it, because the sexual weirdness of watching Lori Petty and Naomi Watts getting sexy with kangaroo men was nothing I really needed to experience with my folks.

rhps

don’t get strung out

The second film I recall “unfortunately inflicting” on my parents was more of a success with them, which in some ways was far worse. I really, really wanted to go see a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show because that was what one did in the 90s in West Palm Beach, FL. My mom and dad wanted to vet the film before agreeing, and in my early teenage desperation I agreed, having really no idea what it was about, just that going to see it was supposed to be cool, and I wanted to do it. So we rented it.

Uhhhhh… yeah! So, sitting through that, with my parents, at maybe 14 years old… it was agonizing. I was mortified by the content, as any teen might be sitting on a couch next to one’s parents, watching Tim Curry strut erotically around the cheap sets in fishnets. I was perhaps more mortified, however, by the fact that my dad in particular thought the film was SUPER AMAZING. Maybe it was that he, too, used to watch crappy old scifi films at the late night double feature picture show, but he got really into it. I distinctly remember him jumping up, delighted, to put on the subwoofer and the rest of his expensive enormous mid-90s sound system to get the full effect of the music, which he thought was “a scream.” He even did a little dance, as it was during “Time Warp” I believe. Yeah… I’m re-embarrassed remembering this, even though it brings a smile to my face. Miss you, dad.

In a fit of madness, even after watching the film my parents agreed I was allowed to go to the midnight showing, where I was promptly shoved on stage by one of the handlers and forced to chant an obscene song and then eat whipped cream off of an inflatable sex doll’s breasts before the movie went on, as will happen. I remember enjoying that viewing much more, as I was surrounded by anonymous creeps and weirdos, not my parents.

Oh jeez, writing this I now remember I also went to see Interview with the Vampire in the theatre with my dad. That was hella awkward, as well, as you might imagine!

Good times!

John Langan, that illustrious author of quiet horror, was so good as to nominate me to be part of a Writing Process Blog Tour. I goofed and did not get to it in within a week, and as it’s sort of a chain letter, I guess I’ll be cursed or something. But, hey, first-hand curse experience isn’t such a bad thing in my field, I guess?

1) What are you working on?

Currently I’m working on a short novel. It’s been sold but not announced, so I don’t feel comfortable revealing the title yet. I will say it’s a period piece, and one with a limited speculative element. I hop it will please anyone who enjoyed the title novellas in A Pretty Mouth and Rumbullion.

2) How is your work different from others’ work in the same genre?

I tend to be a lot goofier, I guess. And I often write in historical settings. Horror/Weird/Lovecraftiana these days is very often Very Serious, or quiet and meditative, and largely modern. (I’m not dismissing any of the above; I love quite a bit of that stuff, most recently this story by Simon Strantzas, but you asked how I was different!) My most popular works, by contrast, tend to be ridiculous, and set in the past. For example, the first chapter of A Pretty Mouth (the novella), which is set just barely before the Restoration, involves a pudgy loser writing a poem honoring a schoolmate, not realizing it’s full of homoerotic entendre, getting shamed for it in front of his class, tripping, farting loudly, and then getting kicked in the ass by his professor. Not really deep, serious stuff. “The Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins” got a lot of attention because it has twincest and… okay, probably because of the twincest. And “Herbert West in Love,” another story that has been reprinted and will be reprinted again (announcement when I can!) is just ridiculous.

3) Why do you write what you do?

I write stories I’d like to read.

4) How does your writing process work?

With short fiction, sometimes a title comes first; sometimes an anthology has a theme that calls to me. Most often these days, someone asks me to write something for a project, and I try to produce something that I think will be different from everything else they’ll get, and that (again) I’d like to read if I picked up that anthology. I write so slowly it’s been a long time since I’ve just written a story “because.” I’m not bragging; I hope once I clear my plate of my current obligations I can write some short fiction just for fun, but I came up with an exciting new idea for a novel a few weeks back so I’ll probably go down that hole once I’m a bit more free.

I don’t know if I have a writing process, when it comes to getting words on paper. I sometimes just blart out things and then go over them, revising and reworking until the story I want takes shape. Sometimes, especially with longer projects, I’ll use Scrivener to organize myself. I wrote the first draft of Vermilion, my forthcoming novel, in Scrivener. But I wrote A Pretty Mouth in Word, so, who knows?

As most of what I write is historical, I tend to make a trip to the library to research before I put down a single word. Like with what I’m working on, I grabbed such books as Developments in the History of Sexualities, Disorderly Women in 18th Century London, and How to Create the Perfect Wife. (So that’s a clue as to what I’m working on!)

Then I just spit on my hands, pray to Dionysios, and hope for the best. Sometimes it works; sometimes not. I junk a lot of biz.

Okay! Thanks again to John Langan, whose trust I squandered. I think I’ll tag… Simon Strantzas, as I mentioned him above, and Ross Lockhart, who is a writer as well as an editor. Huzzah!

I’ve only once ever followed a print comic during its actual run (The Maxx, back in the day) until sometime last year my friend Oliver put me on to the Avatar: The Last Airbender comics. They’re… super-great. Gene Luen Yang is an amazingly talented writer (and artist; his American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints are both awesome). So when I saw that Dark Horse was releasing an Avatar short for Free Comic Book Day I figured I’d check it out and have my first ever Free Comic Book Day experience.

Well… my experience was that Free Comic Book Day involves a lot of waiting on lines for free comic books. I kind of knew that going in, though. Even so, it was fun. I saw some cute kids in costumes, and I picked up the free Avatar short, and some stuff I paid for.

Anyways, as I said, I really like Gene Yang’s writing, so I figured I’d enjoy the short—when I learned about the release, I looked up last year’s free Avatar comic by him and it was great. This year’s was, as well, but man… it was also an awesome call-out of some biz that’s been going on in geek/comics culture for way too long.

From the tiresome handwringing within the nerdosphere over the perceived threat of Fake Geek Girls, to the much darker, recent othering-plus-horrifying-rape-threats debacle surrounding Janelle Asselin’s reasonable remarks about Wonder Girl’s representation on the cover of the Teen Titans #1, fandom—be it comics, literature, cartoons/anime, films, shows, whatever—is a often a troubling and difficult space to negotiate if you’re a woman. Which is why it’s so awesome that this was Gene Yang’s chosen subject of the Avatar short for Free Comic Book Day:

photo-2Omg. Right?

So yeah, the whole thing is fairly transparently about the bogusness of snooty exclusivity in fan culture, done Avatar-style, and the solution is… okay, spoiler alert…

It’s solidarity. And sisterhood. And allies being fine with taking a back seat while those with the actual experience drive, so to speak.

Also kung fu. Shockingly enough, I really liked it!

The original Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of my favorite shows because it is sweet and thoughtful and very, very sincere. It also improved via adaptation in response to critique—after the first season where Katara was more or less The Girl Main Character, they introduced a bunch of super-interesting main female characters. I’m all about content creators hearing “you did an awesome job—now do better!” and instead of doubling down and saying “eh, whatever,” striving to improve… by listening. The Avatar creators could easily have become part of the “eh, whatever” culture that makes comic/geek culture so frustrating. But they didn’t.

It’s awesome that Gene Yang is continuing that tradition not only by writing engrossing, fun scripts for the Avatar comics, but actively making the point that comics, and fandom in general, is for everyone. While I don’t need my artistic heroes to also be nice people, it’s pretty wonderful when that actually happens.

My two weeks in England were both exciting and exhausting. I think I’m over the worst of the jet lag and thus reality seems a bit clearer.

my mom stands on london bridge, across from tower bridge.

my mom stands on london bridge, across from tower bridge.

My first week abroad I spent with my mom, in London, doing like… everything touristy in London. It was wonderful. I hadn’t done a lot of the big deal, famous stuff to do the last time I was in town, being on more of a budget. But this time, mom and I decided to do the whole London Pass thing. Man, we used it! Some, but not all of our adventures involved the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, the Aspley House, All Hallows at the Tower, The Soanes and British Museums (I went twice to the British—once with mom, and once during my last day in England, as there was an amazing exhibition of shunga that’s well worth the £7, imo), Windsor Castle and Eton, the Royal Mews… awesome. I have some pictures on Facebook, but there are far too many to put here. Also I’m not much of a photographer.

We also did some fun shopping around town, including a semi-traumatizing trip to Harrod’s (so busy! so snooty!) and a lovely walk around the Borough Market, which was just as fun as I remembered, having done that with John when we went six years ago.

book of the dead launchMy birthday occurred during the trip, and that night I got to do something very special: attend the book release party for The Book of the Dead, the anthology of mummy stories where my piece, “Mysterium Tremendum” appears alongside work by such authors as Will Hill, Den Patrick, Louis Greenberg, David Thomas Moore, Glen Mehn, and Jenni Hill—all of whom I met that night (and was lucky enough to spend more time with at the con down in Brighton). They are all extremely awesomely nice, as are Jared Shurin, the project’s editor, and Anne Perry, his partner and editor in her own right. And I’m sure the other contributors are fabulous too; having briefly met Gail Carriger once, and knowing Jesse Bullington well, it seems more than likely. Also: I wore a ridiculous dress, which you can almost see in this picture—sparkly and one-shouldered! I know, right? I figure turning 32 means I should spend more time wearing prom dresses intended for 16 year olds, not less. Anyways, pick up your copy of The Book of the Dead in ebook or paperback at Amazon or Spacewitch! It’s worth it! You’re worth it. 

553143_10201372579891100_274126655_nThe next day was equally exciting, as I got to see my second book! Yes, I held Rumbullion and Other Liminal Libations in my hands for the first time. That was a serious thrill. This book… the texture of it! It feels like parchment under the fingers, the black letters shine like wet ink, the paper is creamy and smooth. And I like to think what’s inside matches the outside. Um, meaning the prose is pretty, too. Anyways! You can order your copies either via Amazon or through Egaeus Press. (Also, check out our bordello-like hotel room in the background.)

I confess that after all the excitement of London, I was a bit apprehensive about heading to World Fantasy Convention in Brighton. I’d met a few attendees at the release of The Book of the Dead, of course, and knew others from the internet, but it was, on the whole, an intimidating prospect.

I needn’t have worried. Everyone I met was completely lovely. Things started off well when I was both delighted and terrified upon seeing Jonathan Howard had come to my reading (Jonathan is the author of the Johannes Cabal books which I adore). For some reason I was already feeling like I might faint… that didn’t help. So weird—I do readings all the time, and usually I’m totally cool about them, but that one threw me for a loop. Thankfully, everyone who attended was willing to make eye contact/talk to me after I gave what was undoubtedly the worst reading of my entire career—including Damien Walter, the chap who gave me that review in The Guardian that I squeed all over the place about earlier this year.

After I regained most of my color, Damien was kind enough to enquire if I wanted/needed a drink and dinner. Which I did. This chirked me up immensely, and began what proved to be extremely fun weekend at a con where I got to (among other things) discuss whiskey and matters sartorial with Mark Newton, eat the worst dinner I’ve ever eaten seated between Glen Mehn and David Moore, meet Nathan Long, and… uh fangirl out over Joe Abercrombie this one time. These are just a few highlights among many, many exciting moments.

Sometimes… to be honest, many cons have the effect on me where during and afterwards I want to /ragequit writing. Forever. This WFC, however, left me feeling enthusiastic about being part of a vibrant community of interesting people whom I like and respect. I won’t name everyone here who contributed to this sense of well-being, as I’d surely leave out someone, but I hope you know who you are. Many are already named above. Seriously though, damn. I won’t list all my theories as to why this was a better con for me. Suffice it to say that it was, and I feel like a changed, happier person in the wake of WFC ’13.

Oh! Oh! And if all that wasn’t enough, I totally took myself to Perfect Nonsense, the Jeeves and Wooster play now at The Duke of York’s, in London, on my last night in town. It ruled! I mean, there was little dramatic tension, as anyone who knows their Jeeves knows the storyline from The Code of the Woosters, but the clever staging of the production makes it more than worthwhile.

As I said, whew! 

Now I’m back. And writing.

Yesterday I saw a bunch of vegans I know online sharing this article, “The 19 Most Annoying Things About Being Vegan,” and it was pretty good for a laugh. It’s sadly true that most vegans I know (including myself) have experienced most it not all of the items on that list, including dealing with the hand-wringing of people who become suddenly concerned with our protein intake, or obviously take some sort of bizarre pleasure in playing “gotcha” by pointing out that abstaining from cheese and meat is (allegedly!) pointless because there’s pig fat in tires and animal by-products in plywood. It’s also an amusingly self-aware article about veganism, for friggin once, since instead of taking the but why do you refuse to think about the screaming of murdered baby pigs and cows you omni asshole tone so rampant in internet articles about veganism, even the “funny” ones, it instead points out that yeah, some of us do miss the taste of cheese sometimes, and yeah, we do laugh at jokes aimed at vegans because we do have a sense of humor, and yeah, while it’s frustrating to be fed plate after plate of grilled veggies at catered events, it’s super-nice of people to ensure there’s a vegan option.

But another reason that Buzzfeed piece made me laugh so much was that last week I saw at least (at least!) fifteen thousand people posting and reposting a Guardian article called, absurdly, “Can vegans stomach the unpalatable truth about quinoa?” Upon seeing it for the first of far-too-many times, I immediately felt my expression becoming frown-cat face because I’ve been vegan for nearly 7 years at this point and I can smell a finger-pointing, smug-but-misinformed locavore article a million miles away. It’s a talent, what can I say?

Anyways, the article starts out with a description of quinoa, a grain-like seed native to South America, and talks about how it’s become increasingly globally popular in recent years because it’s good for you and tastes pretty okay too. It’s also a “credibly nutritious substitute for meat” (reputable nutrition journalists without an obvious bias against vegans would simply call quinoa a “good source of protein”, btw).

It then talks about how the global appetite for quinoa has begun to affect Peru and Bolivia negatively, alleging that farmers in those areas no longer can afford their staple food and are eating less healthy, more processed alternatives. If accurate, this is obviously extremely distressing. I say “if accurate,” as it turns out that NPR ran a similar article in November of last year, but there has been some question about the truth behind some of their claims, which are similar to the concerns raised in the Guardian article. I don’t know for sure which side of the story is true; both sides raise interesting issues. Regardless, this concern for Bolivian and Peruvian farmers is certainly something I’ll be considering when making future food purchases.

Yet, setting aside the core of the article for a moment, I think it’s fascinating that the finger in the Guardian article is pointed directly at vegans. Vegans, it basically says, can you handle the truth that you’re also morally suspect when it comes to making ethical dietary choices?

Yes?

Duh?

Protip: That’s exactly why many of us vegans are vegan in the first place! (Shockingly enough, it’s not just that we hate fun and bacon and also really enjoy being a giant pain in the ass to everyone when traveling or deciding where to go to dinner!) Thus, the finger-pointing (and finger-waggling) the author utilizes to make the various points she’s trying to make beyond the whole quinoa thing that defined the first part of her exposé is kind of … stupid. Like this, for example:

Soya, a foodstuff beloved of the vegan lobby as an alternative to dairy products, is another problematic import, one that drives environmental destruction. Embarrassingly, for those who portray [soy] as a progressive alternative to planet-destroying meat, soya production is now one of the two main causes of deforestation in South America, along with cattle ranching, where vast expanses of forest and grassland have been felled to make way for huge plantations.

What’s actually embarrassing is that even the Guardian, who ran that dumbass article, can’t even stand behind the author’s claims—they have, since publishing the piece, added a footnote to the above quote I cited clarifying that, in their own words, “while soya is found in a variety of health products, the majority of production – 97% according to the UN report of 2006 – is used for animal feed.” Yep, it’s not actually those pesky vegans ruthlessly destroying the rain forest with our appetite for fake bacon bits and plant milks! Because—again, another protip—as vegans, we eat neither the animals fed with soy beans nor do we consume the products of animals fed with soy beans. (We just eat the soy beans. Yum!)

Additionally, the notion that such a small group of people out there—vegans are, I think, less than 2% of the population in the U.S.—could be the ones responsible for this problem is deeply silly. The bias in the Guardian article is so absurd, so obvious, so pointlessly, misguidedly accusatory, that it’s pretty cringe-worthy that this was presented not as an op-ed but as environmental/world news. Because, despite our efforts to vote with our dollars, vegans simply don’t have enough economic clout, enough large-scale buying power, to impact such an enormous change on the world. (The reason there’s ten jillion kinds of plant milk at the natural food store isn’t the vegan clientele—it’s that vegetarians and omnivores also like hemp milk.) While it’s true that I bought one bag of Bob’s Red Mill Quinoa a year and a half ago, and I have genuinely no idea if it’s South American or not … I’m still using it. Compared to, say, Whole Foods’ (omnivorous) salad bar, or the Boulder yuppievore restaurants around here who serve it alongside elk steaks and farm-to-table chicken and whatever else, I’m statistically insignificant. Not that my insignificance excuses my actions—like I said, I’ll be considering this issue whenever I think about buying quinoa in the future—but as a vegan, I simply don’t matter as much as the vastly larger population of rich omnivores who control the market for “health foods.”

Why am I bothering to point out this article’s bias against vegans? Surely the issue as regards farmers in South America is more important? Yes, definitely! And because of that, I feel that it’s important to note that the author’s ridiculous sputtering over those people who make different ethics-based dietary choices than she does is so extreme that she herself gets away from her point, wasting valuable space and time ranting about those troublesome vegans instead of doing actually good investigative journalism on what seems like a major issue. Instead of keeping her focus, her article devolves into an attempted ha-ha about soy, and asparagus, and how locally-raised meat and dairy are so much better for the earth and for humans (though she is just plain wrong about that … at least, so says the extreme leftist vegan propaganda engine called, uh, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.)

Anyways. I guess my overall point is that when it comes to talking about global food markets, shortages, economics, and the ways we can be better people … unless one’s goal is simply to get as many hits and comments as possible, surely focusing on the truth behind what our appetites are doing to the planet and the people living on it—and what we can do to change things for the better—is probably a better way to raise awareness about those issues?

Things have been both slow and hectic in my life of late. I’ve finally—finally—completed a piece of fiction, a short story around 5k words. It’s the first I’ve managed to write since Dad passed away. Not sure if my lack of writerly vim and vigor is related to his passing or to some anxieties regarding such heady, nebulous things as My Future that I’ve been feeling of late, but hopefully the worst of the drought has passed.

In more exciting news, last week I turned in my final proofreading pass on A Pretty Mouth, and I came away feeling very confident and enthusiastic about the project’s imminent publication. I still love the title novel as much as ever—maybe even more than when I wrote it, now that I have some distance from typing The End. Not sure about the hard date it will be available, but it will be mid-Octoberish, and I’ll definitely have copies to give away at MileHiCon. I’ll also be doing a few readings in Boulder and Denver, which I’m excited about. I really enjoy readings.

As I’ve been battling writer’s block (barf!) and proofreading A Pretty Mouth, other people have been doing cool, less navel-gazey stuff. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles of Innsmouth Free Press are trying to fund a new anthology, Sword and Mythos which … well, the title should tell you everything about the theme you need to know. I think this is an amazing idea, selfishly (I write S&S and Lovecraftiana, and would love to see a market open up for that combination), and also more in a general sense of What The Community Needs.

Why? Well, because Silvia and Paula are two editors who really care about not just including, but featuring alternative takes on established genres in their anthologies. That means it’s awesome they’re attempting this project, because if you like S&S, but desire fresh, new entries into that genre, it can be challenging to get your fix. Not impossible, by any means, but definitely challenging. And when you throw in the monkey wrench of S&S plus Mythos fiction … yeah.

I think that’s why Silvia, in particular, seems incredibly passionate about, in particular, the S&S aspect of this project. Over at her blog, as a way of drumming up excitement for Sword and Mythos, she’s been writing essays about why fresh new takes on S&S/mythos fiction are important. So far she’s talked about people of color in S&S (and did a separate piece on racism in the genre), the prevalence of beef/cheesecake in S&S, princesses and regular ladies in S&S, and a few more.

So yeah! Read Silvia’s stuff; consider throwing them some cash if you can spare it. I know those dollars will be well-spent. Plus, you can get cool rewards for donating, like free e-books/paperbacks, a hardcover copy of Fungi, the forthcoming all-fungus release from Innsmouth, a coffee mug, and lots of other treats.

Dad passed away. I got there in time to say goodbye, and help Hospice as much as I could, and be there for my mom, who handled things like a champ … but that’s about it. He went into a coma the day after I arrived, and did not come out of it again.

His last conversation was with my mom, and I’m glad they were able to say a few last things to one another. And I’m glad he went peacefully in the end. He deserved it, after fighting an unwinnable battle for 30 months.

I miss him like hell. It was strange having so many family friends gathered together without Dad there. I don’t know if I’d ever felt an absence so keenly before. He was always so very present during gatherings like that, keeping people on schedule, teasing everyone and taking it in equal measure, laughing, telling stories, cooking amazing food, and handling any and all situations that required knowledge of which roads to drive on, what technology to use, or which cars to take. And he loved it. One of the speakers at his service remarked upon how much Dad enjoyed everything about life, citing as an example his enthusiasm over even the little things, like buying a new kind of light bulb. It’s so true, and it made me smile—as did hearing his former co-workers at the Tampa Courthouse giggling over my dad’s love of his pedometer (“I’ve gotten in 12,000 steps today!”) and always eating the same sandwich for lunch every day (“It’s good. Why change?). And I know Dad would have wanted us to be smiling. He loved to laugh, and to make people laugh, too.

I think it always surprised him to see how much he was loved by so many different kinds of people. Dad always thought of himself as being a gruff, matter-of-fact kind of person, the guy you’d go to when you wanted to hear how it really was. And we who loved him saw him as that, yes, but also as an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy, a photographer, a brilliant financial and legal mind, a great appreciator of the natural world, a husband and a father, a mentor, and a friend. And that doesn’t even begin to cover it. He was the definition of unique. I loved him so much, and still do, and always will.

I posted on Facebook last week that if any of you out there have not yet watched Peter Greenaway’s The The Draughtsman's ContractDraughtsman’s Contract—one of my favorite movies of all time—the whole bally thing is up on YouTube.

It’s a weird movie, unapologetically so, as well as being slow and, I dunno. Tawdry? Maybe that’s the right word. It’s definitely really sexy, or at least full of sex (depending on your perspective/inclinations), so don’t watch it with your parents/kids/nieces and nephews/maiden uncles, unless you have a very different relationship with them than I do with my own. So, yeah. The film as a whole, sex included, will not be everyone’s cuppa of course, but I aspire to write a period piece as awesome as that. It’s my gold standard.

Anyways, the score is super-good, too. Like, I love that movie to pieces, and I consider the score to be one of the best parts. It’s by Michael Nyman, who is a genius of course (he wrote the score to The Piano, The Libertine, and Gattaca; he did a lot on the Ravenous soundtrack, and also wrote an opera based on The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, because why not?). It’s my favorite thing of his he’s done, which is saying something.

Nyman’s score for the film is up on Spotify and YouTube, and though it’s not as complete as I’d like, it’s still amazing and I listen to it all the time. In isolation it makes for wonderful listening; in situ, the score is another character in the film. So, anyways, being the nerd that I am, when I was looking up supplementary information on the movie, I discovered that apparently all the compositions in Nyman’s score are based on “grounds” (a “ground,” to my understanding, is like a “riff” in popular music, but I’m really not musical at all so that might be wrong in some ways) by Henry Purcell and William Croft, period-appropriate composers. Best of all, Wikipedia was kind enough to list the specific songs Nyman is referencing, which meant that I could hop back on Spotify and locate them.

Listening to the tracks side-by-side made for a fascinating listening experience. The original compositions are all beautiful (The Academy of Ancient Music’s rendition of Purcell’s “She Loves and She Confesses Too” with Barbara Bonny’s vocals, in particular, is completely magnificent if you can locate that version, and spellbinding after listening to “The Disposition of the Linen,” Nyman’s interpretation). You can really hear why Nyman selected these pieces in particular, they give The Draughtsman’s Contract the frothy, dark, decadent, dissipated, luscious, and thoroughly-Restoration “feel” it has throughout.

Draughtsman's Contract Still

yes, please. actually, come to think of it, I'll take two...

 

But more than the pleasure of being able to directly experience for myself a source of inspiration for one of my favorite artists of all time (not just “musical artists,” either: artists as a whole), listening to the pieces side-by-side was a weirdly enlightening experience. As a writer whose most popular, well-reviewed story to date is a “riff” on Lovecraftian themes, I understand encountering a piece of art and feeling the need to respond to it in an honest, creative way. I think the enduring popularity of the retold fairy tale speaks to this: Those with a creative streak often desire to play in the same sandbox as other creative types they admire, or take issue with, or whatever. Art can be found anywhere, and inspiration, too, so this makes sense.

But as someone whose musical abilities were never particularly amazing (much to my mother’s dismay—she and my grandmother are fundamentally musical people, whereas I was a mediocre singer and flautist … on a good day) it never really occurred to me that musicians might feel the same need as writers and fine artists to respond to those artists they found inspirational. Other than when listening to samples of this-and-that in rap/hip-hop/techno, and in a jazz class wherein we discussed “riffing” or whatever it’s called, I never really thought much about the way musicians comment on and are inspired by one another. I mean, I knew that musicians took subjects and responded to them musically (Into the Woods, the William Tell Overture, Nyman’s opera based on case studies of neurological abnormalities, etc.) but the notion of hearing something and then feeling an artistic need to reply to it in kind—that absolutely blows my mind.

Perhaps this is nothing new to anyone reading this, but if the idea of musicians pulling a Wide Sargasso Sea seems interesting, unusual, or curious to you, I encourage you to listen to the soundtrack for The Draughtsman’s Contract and then seek out the source compositions and listen to them. At the very least you’ll spend some enjoyable hours listening to gorgeous music…

… is over. I’ve been busy and that means no time for blogging—at least here. I did a guest blog for Damien Walters Grintalis, author of dark/horror fiction, vegan, and super-cool person all around. She was kind enough to offer me a spot and I’m kind of glad I left it a little late, because unintentionally I watched 3 super-cool lady-focused horror films this February (Alien, Aliens (rewatch), and the remake of The Thing), so I blogged about my thoughts on all three, and at least tried to tie it all together.

So please, check it out!

Argh, wtf happened to the internet this week?! Usually when I go on Facebook or wherever I am able to procrastinate over adorable pictures of cats and/or Dumbledore and/or whatever, but good Lord,  it’s apparently National Body-Shaming Week, and so I’m hoppin’ mad instead of mildly entertained. Ugghhh.

I guess people celebrate National Body-Shaming Week in a few exciting ways: If you’re a layperson, you post offensive memes about women’s bodies whereupon women of one size and shape are exulted for their attractiveness and women of another are shamed for theirs; if you’re a medical professional, it seems you celebrate by deciding to spend your money by putting up stupid-ass billboards featuring disembodied people with guts or, heaven forfend, cellulite, whilst alleging dubious claims about diet! Argh, no, please to stop?

when did pitting women against one another over the size of their bodies become feminist, more like

So yeah, Infuriating Body-Shaming Piece of Utter Bullshit Number One is the meme to the right. I’ve seen a couple different of these, all with pictures of some random skinny girl I would probably recognize if I read more magazines, and then Marilyn Monroe or Bettie Page, with the general theme of “When did [modern generally-unattainable beauty ideal] become more attractive than [generally-unattainable beauty ideal from days of yore]?”

Now, I get the sentiment behind this one. A certain ideal of tallness, slenderness, and fitness has put pressure on women of all sizes for years and years, put forward by the fashion/entertainment industry. It can be a toxic world out there if you don’t fit in to what people (allegedly) find popularly attractive: Larger women get used as examples of “what [some group of people] don’t want all the time, it can be hard if not impossible to shop for trendy, fashionable clothing if you’re bigger lady, getting adequate medical care can be super-difficult, the list goes on. Hell, it seems the best roles non-skinny actresses can land are either the super-depressing tragic kind, or the “good-natured but sassy friend” or whatever [see: Gilmore Girls, and like, I dunno, every other show. Even Parks & Rec, my current fave show is guilty of this to a point, though to be fair, everyone is ridiculous in his or her own way on that show, not just my girl Donna). It sucks. But it also sucks to promote some redonk “real women have curves” nonsense* by way of responding to this, because it’s feeding the same fire. First up: it’s still alleging that women are only valuable if [some group] finds them physically attractive. Second: it’s not okay to pit women against each other, especially over their bodies. Women get the message all the time that we are constantly in some sort of Darwinian cage match against one another, over men, over jobs, over being considered most fashionable/in shape/successful/whatever. It’s dumb and untrue, and it makes the world a lot scarier if one’s perception of sisterhood is believing the woman hugging you with one arm has a stiletto held behind her back with the other.

Now, I’m not 100% down with the fat-posi/health at any size movement–in fact, I disagree with a lot of what I’ve read of that group’s writings–but I do believe 100% in body-positivity (to be fair there is a lot of overlap). It’s healthy to love yourself, natch, whatever you look like. More on that later, though. I’m only mentioning the fat-posi/HAAS communities because I think the best thing they’ve managed to get out there is the stone-cold fact that you can’t know anything about a person’s health just by looking at him or her. I mean, my dad is the best example of this. He’s had pancreatic cancer for close to two goddamn years now, and still looks fantastic. You would never think he had anything wrong with him, and yet he’s been in beastly chemo since his diagnosis. Christ, he went to the gym yesterday and did weight lifting. I can’t get to the gym when I have a hangover. The point is, you can’t simply look at any person out there, fat or thin, and claim to know how healthy he or she really is. It’s true that obesity can up your risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, etc. but it’s also true that there are women out there every day who are in the overweight/obese category who eat right, exercise like total maniacs, and are perfectly healthy. By the same token–and here I am looking right goddamn at you moveon.org, you cannot look at a random skinny girl and decide she is anorexic. WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK. How body-negative, judgmental, and icky. And how dubious a conclusion to reach based on A FACEBOOK MEME, amiright? Because unless we’re going to diagnose every cat in the world with dyslexia … you know, I’m not even going to engage further with this, it is too ridiculous. But other bloggers have, and much more articulately than me, so, good.

wtf, really!?But, argh, wtf, it’s just too bad for common sense and kindness this week because even goddamn doctors are celebrating National Body-Shaming Week, too! See Infuriating Body-Shaming Piece of Utter Bullshit Number Two, to the left.

Behold: The PCRM, a group I usually like, has released the dumbest billboards this side of PETA, no small honor there. Every bit as bad as the “Save the Whales” campaign of whenever ago, the PCRM has erected the billboards to the left in Albany, NY, as some sort of … I dunno, anti-cheese-eating effort? AAAAHHHHWHAT. I know Americans eat a totally gross amount of cheese, which as I have noted more than once, is made from milk—a substance intended to turn tiny baby cows and sheep and goats into large cows and sheep and goats, meaning those dairy-industry claims that cheese will help you lose weight are REDONKULARIOUS—but this sort of body-shaming is a stupid, ineffective, and nasty way to try to motivate folks to cut back on the brie. First up: there are plenty of fat people who don’t eat cheese. Like, um, me? I was 40 lbs heavier this time last year and I hadn’t eaten cheese in five years. And guess what–now that I’m 40 lbs lighter, can run (knee permitting), hike up mountains, do unassisted pull-ups as of today, rock over 100 push ups at a stretch, lift heavy weights, and pretty much do any physical activity I want to … and, uh, I still have cellulite. OH NOES OMG PUT UP A PICTURE OF MY THIGHS TO SHAME THE MASSES.

Really, PCRM?! No one food makes anyone overweight; for some people, no amount of health eating and exercise will give them bodies that fit into the narrow range of acceptable/attractive in every way. That is some junk science right there.

And furthermore, how this repulsive fat-shaming fit into any of your stated goals? I just don’t get it: The message here is not one of “eat well and exercise as preventative medicine!” which is what I though the PCRM was all about according to their own, you know, “about” page. It says right there in black-on-white text that they are all about, allegedly, providing “vital information to tens of thousands of people” What is the vital information provided via those horrid billboards: “fat people are gross?” Gee, thanks!! That’s some truly revolutionary “bringing the message to the masses,” there. OMFG.

Maybe the worst part of this whole debacle is that waaaaay more motivated folks than me emailed the PCRM and are all getting the same stock response. My favorite parts have been these:

Thanks for being in touch. You’re making a good point, that people with weight problems might not be especially pleased about seeing obesity depicted on a billboard.

Um, I don’t have weight problems and … never mind.

Certainly, many people have enough self-esteem issues as it is. But that raises the question, what do we do to attack the problem of obesity?

Dude, y’all are supposed to be doctors or something. Even I know shame and fear are the worst motivators for long-term weight loss. Anyways hold onto your (cellulite-riddled, no doubt) butts, because here’s my favorite part of their form letter:

So how do we wake people up? Our ads are designed, not as any sort of “shaming” or falsified depiction of obesity, but rather simply as a view of ordinary obesity exactly as it is. If you thought “fat is beautiful” as some cultures have in the past, you would probably find the images attractive. Take another look, and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

I took another look, and OMG that’s so true! See?

I totally see your point now, PCRM! The warm, loving colors, attractive posing, and non-disembodiment featured in your billboard totalllllllly highlights human beauty if you’re just into fat chicks and dudes!

Anyways. ANYWAYS. Fat-shaming is super-gross, and scare tactics instead of science is a reprehensible approach for a medical group. Just sayin’. Stunts like this are annoying, ineffective, and make vegans look like judgmental crazy people (which, sadly, some are). They also do nothing to inform the public. Ugghhh. There’s so much better stuff out there to talk about with obesity and dietary concerns regarding the Standard American Diet and really pernicious foods like bacon and sausage and I don’t even know what else. But I guess this is dumber and easier, so yay!

Anyways. ARGH! Can we just be kinder to one another? Can we make a vow to celebrate beauty without a compare/contrast attitude that puts people falsely into opposition? Or—even better—not hold up arbitrary standards of physical attractiveness as any determinant of the worthwhileness of an individual, male or female? While we’re at it, can we also please work together to learn about how to make healthy, positive choices for our bodies and the planet? I know it’s hard, but I betcha it’ll be worth it in the end!

_________________

*What is a real woman? What is a curve? How do we define either of these terms? Is a FTM transexual like Buck Angel a “real woman?” He was born female, and he does have some curves: His enormous biceps are super-curvy (and sexxxy), but he identifies as a man/male. Anyways. The point is, it’s a stupid adage because real women come in all shapes and sizes, and anyways it’s crappy to assign concepts of “realness” or “fakeness” to something as nebulous and undefinable as being a woman.

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