Archive for the ‘Words’ Category

How Bossy!

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

ban-bossy-badge2

Oh god, political correctness. Now, They want us to ban the word ‘bossy’ because it inhibits girls from ‘leaning in.’ I would much rather ban ‘lean in’ if I were Minister of Language.

The new Ban Bossy campaign is predictably strident, sanctimonious and victimmy. Its stated aim is to encourage girls to become leaders. But how can they become leaders if they’re not bossy? Should they lead by manipulation instead?

‘Ban Bossy’ is brought to you by Lean In, the organization founded by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and author of the bossy best-seller that made ‘lean in’ a trendy and divisive concept for the media to feed on.

Lean In has managed to get the Girl Scouts in on the ‘Ban Bossy’ campaign, as well as bossy women like Condi Rice and Beyonce.  You can go to the website and take the pledge to stop using the word ‘bossy.’

Or you can use whatever words you want. I want to lean out or at the very least, lean back. I don’t want to be treated like an idiot by some pseudo-feminist figureheads and business groups.

I wish I had been a lot more bossy when I was younger. I’m making up for it now, though. Tell me what you think. And that’s an order.

 

 

Oh Shut Up, Jezebel

Friday, January 17th, 2014

lena-dunhams-arm-is-missing-in-vogue-photoshop-fail

 

Can someone explain why people pay attention to Jezebel? I know it’s supposed to be a staunchly feminist website but it’s just so godawful! I have already registered my disgust at its policy of auditioning its commenters. But the offenses keep piling up.

Now Jezebel is offering $10,000 to anyone who can provide the original unphotoshopped pictures of Vogue’s February covergirl, Lena Dunham. How many things are wrong with this stupid gambit for attention?

1. Why offer cash, turning their ‘quest for truth’ into a bounty-hunting exercise?
2. Why humiliate a woman they profess to admire?
3. Why claim “This is about Vogue, and what Vogue decides to do with a specific woman who has very publicly stated that she’s fine just the way she is, and the world needs to get on board with that. ” when that is so clearly a hypocritical lie?

It’s about page hits! But meanwhile, any claim to ‘feminism’ is surely negated by this mean fumble at pseudo-truth seeking.

Poor Lena. I don’t like her TV show but she doesn’t deserve this. DUH, the picture is photoshopped, they left out her fucking arm! Why don’t they choose a more traditional thin beauty-queen type to humiliate?

This is some kind of shaming situation, even if it’s just Vogue-shaming or Lena-shaming. Feminists are not supposed to approve of shaming! Recently, Jezebel engaged in some chola-shaming when they denounced Lana Del Rey for dressing like a home-girl. What fucking fuckers they are.

Jezebel is more dead to me than ever.

Charlotte’s Web

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Magnum Opus - Garth Williams

 

Recently, some words from ‘Charlotte’s Web‘ surfaced from my unconscious. (If you’ve never read Charlotte’s Web, I don’t know what you’re doing here. We are probably from different planets.)

When Wilbur sees Charlotte’s egg sac, he asks if it’s a plaything. Charlotte replies:

“It is my egg sac, my magnum opus.” “I don’t know what a magnum opus is,” said Wilbur. “That’s Latin,” explained Charlotte. “It means ‘great work.’ This egg sac is my great work – the finest thing I have ever made.”

This is how I feel about my children, how I imagine all mothers must feel about their children. They were my gift to the world. And they are gone, one from the world and one from the nest.

At least Charlotte got to go first. That is the natural order of things. There is no consolation for me, but there is art.

What a wonderful book! It is so full of wisdom. I always thought it was about friendship, but it is also about death. I guess it’s about everything. When I read it to my kids, I remember feeling upset by Wilbur’s panic when he thinks that Charlotte’s children are leaving him.  It triggers my fear of abandonment.

Wilbur was frantic. 'Come back, children!' he cried.

Watching the last season of ‘The Wire’ the other night, I wondered if Templeton, the unscrupulous reporter, was an homage to E.B. White’s Templeton, a rat. Maybe all roads lead to Charlotte’s web.

Here is an excerpt from Eudora Welty‘s review of Charlotte’s Web, written in 1952 (which I found here)

What the book is about is friendship on earth, affection and protection, adventure and miracle, life and death, trust and treachery, pleasure and pain, and the passing of time. As a piece of work it is just about perfect, and just about magical in the way it is done. What it all proves–in the words of the minister in the story which he hands down to his congregation after Charlotte writes “Some Pig” in her web–is “that human beings must always be on the watch for the coming of wonders.” Dr. Dorian says in another place, “Oh, no, I don’t understand it. But for that matter I don’t understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.” The author will only say, “Charlotte was in a class by herself.”

~

*illustrations by Garth Williams

Time To Banish Words!

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Axe Murderer jude

 

It might be a little early but let’s make our list of words we don’t want to hear in 2014.

Time online is asking readers to vote on a list of 15 annoying words or terms. “Selfie” is a must for any list of awful words, but what the hell is “FOMO?”  I only just learned YOLO!

I may be too old and out-of-it to know all the linguistic outrages of 2013 (‘At the end of the day’ and ‘Reach out’ are perennials) but so far I’m on board with these:

Selfie
Hashtag
Because + noun
Kimye
Farm-to-table
Lean in
Millenials
Optics
Game-changer
Cultural Appropriation
Celeb
Instagram

Okay, you can see I need help.  Suggestions?

Open Letters to Miley, Sinead, et al

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

miley and sinead

 

While the US Congress attempts to hasten the Rapture, I think we should all take time to write some open letters to Miley, Sinead, and all those who have inserted themselves into the melee - Ann Magnuson, Amanda Palmer, Brooke Shields, and Annie Lennox, thus far.

If you’ve been dying to get in on this, here’s your chance!

I will begin:

Dear Miley, I saw you on SNL and I read about you in Rolling Stone. I don’t know why your face is so flat. Also, were you born with a hare lip or not? I don’t care about your body or your tongue, although I wouldn’t mind if you put on a little weight. Also, I’m sorry your father molested you. However, this doesn’t mean you should ridicule poor Sinead for needing mental health services. That was a pretty fucked up move. You could help out by supporting mental health services and working to de-stigmatize mental illness. Otherwise, do whatever you need to do.  Love, Sister Wolf.

Dear Sinead, I love you. I have always loved you. Your shaved head, your brilliant early records, your anti-Catholicism, your boyfriends, your kids, your rebellious emotional frankness, rage on, girl! But don’t expect that bitch Miley to apologize. Mean girls never apologize, ever. Stupid people can’t get enlightened because that’s just how it works. I wish you’d accept my apology on behalf of Miley! Then you could get back to whatever you were doing. Love, Sister Wolf.

Okay, your turn.

Human Kindness Overflowing

Friday, July 5th, 2013

Nandini Valli Muthiah small

 

Last night, I stayed up until dawn after taking in too much suffering. I am trying to learn tonglen, a method of breathing in suffering and breathing out compassion, but I forgot. I forgot, and found myself dwelling on my own misery.

Earlier in the day, I wrote a letter to someone whose partner killed himself. Later in the day, I answered an email from a man whose depressed wife has taken to her bed, leaving him with two jobs and the care of their children. Then I read about the mother who killed her 14 year old autistic son, incurring the understandable wrath of the disability community and beyond.

So many problems and so many tragic circumstances with no easy solutions. It’s overwhelming. You have to do something, though, right?

I have a bunch of Facebook “friends” who I don’t know in real life. I acquire them for the usual reasons. One of them, Jon, had an accident a few weeks ago that left him paralyzed in a wheelchair and unable to keep his apartment. His story triggered memories of Max’s despair over his injuries.

I was determined to help Jon. I noticed that he had more than 1,000 Facebook friends. He is a political activist and provokes lively discussion on his Facebook page. So I posted my idea on his page: I exhorted Jon’s friends to each make a $5 donation to his Paypal account. What a great idea, I thought proudly! I felt deeply satisfied by my plan to rescue this person in need.

Jon received four donations, including mine.

He was okay with it, but I was horrified. I couldn’t get over it. Five dollars?? Wouldn’t anybody give five dollars to a human being in such difficult circumstances? What the fuck is wrong with people?

I’m upset by indifference, even though I’m guilty of it all the time. I would like to see more compassion. Coincidentally, I just came across this study in how compassion and kindness can be taught and developed, literally changing the brain in the process.

More kindness would be great. The messages I’ve received from strangers who read my blog have often brought me to tears, just because kindness seems like such a meaningful gift. When we breathe in each other’s suffering and breathe out compassion, we are all that much closer to healing the unbearable pain of being human.

in out

 

*photo (c) Nandini Valli Muthiah

Goodbye to Johnny Depp

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

silly depp

 

I’m making it official. After twenty years of devotion to Johnny Depp as my go-to romantic fantasy, I’m breaking up with him.

The silly hats and the hobo outfits have been trying. The prayer-hands in response to applause have been embarrassing. The unceasing bromances with every male cultural icon from Hunter Thompson to Marlon Brando, ick.

Through it all, I excused his pretentious bullshit because he was Johnny Depp. He was just quirky.

But according to a new interview in Rolling Stone, Johnny Depp “always carries around a copy of Finnegan’s Wake, which he’s been puzzling through for years.”

Jesus, no.

There are limits to what is forgivable, and this is mine. Just last week, I defended Johnny Depp when my friend denounced him for dating a 27 year old model. I told her that he deserved a 27 year old model. His taste in women has always run to perfect doll-like beauties. Who could blame him, I lectured, he’s Johnny Depp.

But now I’m sorry I took his side. ‘Finnegan’s Wake?? ‘Ulysses‘ wouldn’t be poseur enough for him? Nobody can understand Finnegan’s Wake except my brother-in-law, and the rest of us know to stop trying after two pages. Johnny Depp is like a college girl carrying around Anais Nin. People who try to seem intellectual are just sad.  I’ll always remember a pop singer who said in an interview that her idols were Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina. Every time I hear her voice, I feel sad for her. That’s how nice I am.

Goodbye, Johnny. You were so cute, so sexy, so fucking adorable in ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.’ But it’s over.

 

goodbye

Torturing the Guests

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

William Macy in Edmond

 

Over the weekend, we hosted a small family birthday party. We had chosen the movie Edmond for the post-dinner entertainment, confident that none of our guests had seen it, since no one has, except for us and some disgruntled reviewers.

As we watched the movie, I began to regret choosing it. Maybe the guests weren’t in the mood to watch someone kicking the shit out of a pimp while screaming “Nigger! Coon!” or stabbing a waitress with such gusto that the squishing sounds are even worse that the images. I felt guilty for imposing such an ordeal on six innocent (or at least, fairly innocent) people. The movie is a bleak and punishing exploration of White Male Rage, but my husband and I find it hilarious.

My nephew and his girlfriend watched with wide grins on their faces, so that was a relief. I’m not too sure about the others. At least I found a reviewer who regards Edmond as a black comedy. See it at your own risk.

After the movie, we continued to eat and drink. The conversation turned to music festivals and LSD. I recalled a guy I knew who took some acid at a rock festival and never returned to his normal self. His blue eyes remained bugged out with paranoia and who knows what.

Now my nephew took issue with my description of tripping as a psychotic state. He argued about the meaning of psychotic. He denied that the patterns you see on LSD are hallucinations. The argument became increasingly energetic. Others joined in to try to define the word hallucination. My husband got our nephew to agree that if you saw a talking cow, it would be a hallucination. Unless there really was a talking cow in the room, then no.

The nephew’s adorable girlfriend gave an improvised performance of an acid-induced anxiety attack brought on by needing to pee.  Her body language was perfect. It reminded me how grateful I am to not be tripping.

Now we started to argue about using the word ‘read’ as a noun. I find it unbearable. Don’t ask “Is it a good read?” when you mean “Is it a good book?” or “Is it a good essay?” Our nephew strenuously defended this usage, just to be annoying, but complained about using ‘gift’ as a verb. Voices were raised and dictionaries consulted. The word ‘curator’ turned out to mean something so broad that if you buy into the Merriam-Webster definition, you can rightly call yourself a curator of anything you’re in charge of, like nail polish or goldfish.  Fuck that. I need the OED definition, or something else that I can agree with.

The guests stayed until around 2 a.m., but I couldn’t help feeling that somehow I had failed miserably as a hostess. But maybe tormenting people is preferable to boring them? I don’t know. However, that’s been my assumption and operating procedure for as long as I can remember, and I’m too old to change.

Sisters!

Monday, May 20th, 2013

The Sutherland Sisters sepia

 

I am truly blessed in the sister department. One of my sisters who lives in a Scandinavian country and who I will call “Clinique,” posted this on facebook:

[My daughter's school-class is taking a trip to Poland and] will be visiting Auschwitz concentration camps. It should be an amazing, informative, and emotional trip.

I can’t even describe my reaction to this.

But I’ll focus on the word usage. When she writes ‘Auschwitz concentration camps’ does she mean, as opposed to the Auschwitz Bar and Grill or the Auschwitz Shopping Center?

Meanwhile,Tennis just sent a list of her services to the trust, which included a charge of $600 to prepare six checks.

Flannery O’Connor

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Years ago, I read the story A good Man is Hard to Find at the recommendation of a friend. I remember staying up late to finish it, and fighting the urge to call my friend to berate her for failing to warn me about the story’s brutal impact.

Now I’ve just read Flannery O’Connor’s second novel,The Violent Bear it Away with no prompting from anyone and no one to blame for my distress except for the writer’s merciless vision and brilliant prose. Her writing is peculiar, terrifying, and exhilarating. (If you’re thinking about writing fiction, it will certainly take the wind out of your sails.)

Flannery O’Connor is now officially my idol. She is fearless in going after her characters and relentless in probing their twisted relationships with god and/or morality.

Here’s what the poet Robert Lowell says: ”Much savagery, compassion, farce, art, and truth have gone into these stories. O’Connor’s characters are wholeheartedly horrible, and almost better than life. I find it hard to think of a funnier or more frightening writer.” 

I could not agree more. If you’re looking for a book to remove you from your everyday reality and you’re not afraid to explore the dark Southern Gothic heart of the heart of darkness, you could not do better than “The Violent Bear it Away.”  

Let me know if you read it, or if you have any recommendations for me.