Sunday, October 16, 2016

Why "I couldn't help myself" is not an acceptable excuse

For obvious reasons, there's lots of discussion lately about sexual assault. I had a conversation with a friend the other day where we compared whether or not we had been sexually assaulted. We decided we hadn't, not in the blatant ways they're talking about now. Though it's true that no strange man has ever grabbed me on the street, I have felt threatened by men, or assessed by men, or worried about men while out and about, particularly when I lived in Chicago in my twenties. But unwanted attention doesn't always come from strangers, it more often happens with someone you know.  I can't count the number of times some guy I know has accidentally touched me where he shouldn't--just a brush by, often with an apology. Same goes for unwanted contact with men I've dated. Women say yes to things or more accurately "not no" to sexual encounters way more than men might think. We're caught in this weird bind where if you don't want to fool around, the guy might loose interest or think you're uptight and if you do say yes, they also might think you're easy or indiscriminate. Sometimes (many times?), we say yes (or again, not no) because we (1). don't want to hurt your feelings, (2). are afraid you won't like us, (3). are used to it and no longer think it matters; (4). have bought the biological argument that you just can't help yourselves.

The claim now is that the women are inventing the attacks, because they didn't come forward sooner. Why would they come forward in the moment? Who would take them seriously? They know that the following options are a likely outcome: no one will believe them and they will be harassed, threatened, and called liars; if they are believed, they will be considered too sensitive because who cares if some guy grabs your breast? Third option is that they will be accused of being complicit in the act, egging the guy on by dressing provocatively or drinking too much or smiling in his general direction. The likely outcome of an unwanted kiss or an opportunistic grope is almost never jail time, or a fine, or any other penalty. In fact, that kind of behavior from men is often rewarded or encouraged by other men. High five, dude. Or, as DT would say, I couldn't help myself. 

How do you want us to prove it? Because even when you have proof, even when the man brags about doing it, it's still not believed.The truth is, I think most people do believe he did it, they just don't think it matters. I'm waiting for the moment when DT accidentally says what many are thinking, "Grow a pair of balls, ladies. Get over it. It's not like you were raped." That's true. Rape is much more traumatizing in many, many ways. But sexual assault is insidious. It confirms what many women fight against, which is this medieval idea that we don't have the right to our own bodies or space; that we are still, in many ways, property whose value is determined by how "do-able" we are.

If you are a heterosexual male of consenting age, my guess is that you have had moments of behavior with women that are iffy. I don't mean that every guy is a rapist; just that he has likely been in a situation where he pushed or insisted or begged or asserted when he knew the woman wasn't really interested. And if you have a culture that calls that behavior okay (or even condones it), it's a slippery slope.

I wonder, do men worry when they walk down the street at night that someone might come up to them from behind, shove them into an unlit place, and rape them? Does that thought ever cross their minds? It does for me. I think about it every time I'm out walking the dog past sunset.

Even posting this seems risky to me, like I'll make someone mad or sound like an hysterics who makes blanket statements. But if those women can say something and know that they're going to get crucified by the pro-Trumpets, so can I.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Watching the Wire, 12 Years Later

We don't tend to be up on TV series, especially those on paid movie channels like HBO or Showtime, and I have no idea what I was watching in the mid-2000s when The Wire was on (besides The Bachelor). Never got hooked on any of the network shows either. Grey's Anatomy seemed like a more soap opera-ish version of ER and none of cop procedurals ever measured up to Homicide or even further back, Hill Street Blues. Current shows like Scandal or How to Get Away with Murder or Mistresses seem geared toward college students. Okay, but so, we got free HBO for three months and started The Wire, in large part because everyone who has seen it raves about it, and Dan has never quite recovered from Breaking Bad, which set the bar high, high, high for him. We're now up to season 3, episode 3 and it feels like we are watching it in hopes of getting hooked. We are not hooked. We care mostly about Omar, but less so about McNulty or any of the other cops. I liked season 1, which focused mostly on the development of this special team of police misfits at war with drug lords in Baltimore. Season 2 brought the union story line and was moderately compelling, if you care about the struggles of underpaid dock workers who smuggle women and drugs for minor profits. Season 3 seems to be focused on the governmental arm of corruption and we're still not energized by it.

My guess is that much of its popularity came from the fact that it was the first of its kind, a show that followed a large cast of characters and points of view at a fairly slow pace, giving equal time to the investigative arm and the drug sellers side (both portrayed with equal sympathy). It set up a path for later shows that borrowed from the idea that single episodes weren't stand alone pieces, but tied together into more and more intricate story lines of a big cast, with no single character fixed at the center. Having seen some of those inspired programs first and this series later, it's hard to be blown away by the narrative. The pace is slow, and we're often confused by what's actually happening, especially with the various lieutenants and majors and officers and politicians doing underhanded deals, and the turf wars among drug sellers. The tech end of it isn't compelling, because it's basically about listening to phone calls, which may have been novel in the early 2000s, but is less fresh now. And for me, there's also the fact that you have only two major female characters (a cop and a district attorney), and the rest of the cast and story lines revolve around dudes. For some reason, though, we're reluctant to give it up; still moving forward under the persuasion of other viewers who loved it, but watching it seems more like a dogged commitment than a pleasure. 

I'd love it if someone who watched the show when it was on would go back and start it again to see if it has the same power today as it did when it first aired. Adam??

Write whatever you want

I'm reading this pretty goofy (but fun) book I got at the library called Dear Emma. I'm certain there's a tie-in to the Austen book, but I haven't read Emma in a while, so I'm not keyed into the parallels.

This book is a first-person account of life in college as told by Harriet, who writes an advice column for the school newspaper called "Dear Emma." She's in love with a guy from one of classes who has ghosted away and is now dating her co-worker at the library. I read half of it yesterday in a blink because it's entertaining.

This morning, I was thinking about a recent column I wrote for Philadelphia Stories about MFA programs (to do or not to do), and then thinking it would be enjoyable to write a satire of MFA's though this must have been done to death. And then I also dismissed the idea out of hand because it wasn't potentially serious enough for a first published novel. It wonder if other people do this--reject a writing idea for not being Updike-ian enough before it's even written. It's not like I have 500 other novel ideas and this one is among the masses. I have actually one other novel idea that I haven't fleshed out which probably would be more serious, but would also require research.

So, that's my excuse for not embarking on novel idea that does have more emotional center; I might have to read a book about hospital practices. But then I've been reading more Joyce Carol Oates than usual (coincidentally just finished a book by her called Jack of Spades about an author who also writes gruesome novels under a pen name) and she seems not to weigh the external factors (should I write a book that is not so loosely based on the brother of Jon Bennett Ramsey? Should I write a book about a pedophile who wants to lobotomize kids to be his sex slaves? Should I write a book called Rape: A Love Story?), but to say F-it and write it anyway. Of course, she is JCO.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Nightmares & Trains

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Slut book

Finished a collection of short stories called Barbara the Slut by Lauren Holmes that was funny and engaging and not that deep. There were about 10 stories and maybe all of them were in first person and a few were told from the point of view of a teenager, but not in a cutified way. One story was told from the point of view of a dog. I skipped that one the first time around, but went back to it after I ran out of other stories. Nothing deep about them--I mean, for the title one, you didn't get all of this detail about why the teenager slept with all of these boys--except maybe because she had an autistic brother and over-educated and slightly clueless parents, but I liked that about it--that she was just a girl who didn't really know how to be around boys and thought she had to sleep with them.

It reminded me that I don't have to try so hard to give back story or meaning to my stories. That there doesn't have to be some big reveal, but I just have to render it in a funny or interesting or truthful way. It makes me want to go back to the Hammersly story and figure it out a bit more, because it's not all that different from what Holmes was writing, and in fact, is a little bit more interesting and dark. Maybe she got her collection published by Penguin because she went to the Iowa Writer's Workshop.

Maybe I should send my work to the same publisher: Riverhead Books. Yes, ten stories and all of them are first person. That's almost like cheating. I'm also still interested in the serial killer of men one. Maybe that should just be a short story told from the point of view of the detective in charge of the case.

He who should be named lest you call up the devil

Donald Tr*** continues to amaze and incite with his "Nuremberg-like rallies" (says Martin Amis in an article about Trump's books) and his latest proposal is that we ban all Muslims from the United States and then invade Iraq and take all of their oil to cut off their money supply.

Anderson Cooper had to interview a guy from Trump's staff and try to not to guffaw out loud as he was saying, "So, wait, you agree with Trump that we should go into Iraq, one of our allies, and take all of their oil? You don't think that will create even more dissent and radicals? And how exactly would we do this?"

The guy goes, "Well, Anderson, the devil is in the details. We'd have to figure out how to get it done, but I'll leave that up to the people who do this kind of thing."

The collective strategy of that group is to propose whatever preposterous, xenophobic, racist idea they can come up with ("Build a wall and make them pay for it! Take the oil! Send back the Muslim babies!") and then to say they will defer to the experts about how to execute said plan.

It's the Emperor's new clothes---you have all of these supposedly learned people espousing the most hateful nonsense who then react with a sense of wounded dignity whenever they're challenged.

Did you see this artwork of the new nude statues placed in cities across the country? No?


Friday, August 26, 2016


Reading Eggers' Heroes of the Frontier and wondering why he didn't call it Heroines of the Frontier since the central character, the one whose head we're inside, is a woman--a former dentist who has a loose-bowled ex-husband and two children--one brave and reckless (the girl) and one introspective and protective (the boy). She's at a crossroads in her life and decides to rent a rickety RV and take her children to Alaska to visit her friend/rival, Samantha. I thought I wouldn't like the book that much because I've been mostly reading mysteries, but it is funny and unexpected and not too big for its own britches. I also was resistant to the male author borrowing the female experience to tell the story, but it would be something else completely if the main character were a single dad--you'd have to focus on the weirdness of that, and he would almost be saintified by society for raising two kids on his own--so, I guess Eggers needed her to be a woman. She's also not preoccupied with finding a man--her focus is on figuring out who she's supposed to be, where she's supposed to be, what she's supposed to be. It's highly relatable and maybe highly American--this idea that in the land of opportunity, there are almost too many choices, too many ways to be dissatisfied. He writes this whole long great paragraph about disappointment that I am too lazy to retype here.

On the flip side, I know someone who knows DE and says he's an asshole. I guess it's not necessary that you like the writer, but I am disappointed that he's not a totally awesome guy (according to my source).

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Botox, babes, and bros

I missed the first fifteen minutes of paradizzz and all that's happened is that there's a new lady on the island who has gotten her claws into the unrecognizable, bearded Nick (former poet turned bro). The other women (particularly Mom x 2/Baby Voice) are upset because the new lady has had some lip work done and, of course, the false eyelashes.

Lace has taken it down a notch by doing only two shots instead of one before lunch. She's desperately trying to establish a relationship with Grant. We watch her take another shot. Vinny conveys this to Grant and so Grant decides to go find her. I hope she doesn't start crying because her fake eyelashes will come right off.  STOP drinking.

Meanwhile, Leah, the new girl, is on a one-on-one date with Nick. She says she's really attracted to his lumberjack look, even though he doesn't look at all like a lumberjack. They kiss as the sun sets behind their heads, but we know from the previews that she will go home soon.  Baby voice talks to her child but we can't tell who is speaking--her or the two year old. Nick gets the next date card because there are no rules in paradice-y. He chooses....Amanda. Leah's face falls as do her three necklaces. She's wearing two chokers and one longer necklace. Amanda tells one of the twins that she's super nervous. Leah comes over and says, "Stop trying to be me, Amanda. Just kidding!" Leah says she's on an emotional roller coaster.

Nick's hair cut is like a really short mullet. He wears jeans with a rip in the knee ala Pacey from season 2 of Dawson's Creek.  He takes Amanda out for giant glasses of wine at the local cabana. Amanda thinks she has a big heart and she's not a doormat, and she's so proud of herself for that. She can't stop touching her hair. We should all be wearing off the shoulder shirts, y'all. Next stop, the fire pit. They both proclaim to be having a great time and so make out  Leah is flabbergasted that this hasn't worked out for her.

Evan is hanging out with Carly on this huge mat. Carly is waiting for Evan to make a move on her and he won't. She wants him to stop being so sweet and throw her on the beach until her imprint is deeper than the Grand Canyon. She just wants a rose. Must we see him sitting in bed fondling his chest. She hated the kiss. It was unbearable. She can't believe he has actually reproduced. But...she's still into him.

Cut to drunk Lace walking on the beach and Lace asking Grant if he likes her or what. She also asks him if he wants to see her bruises and they kiss. Lace thinks he has a banging body and she loves that he's a firefighter. They go to bed together and she drinks the first sip of non-alcoholic beverage that she's had all day. Cue sound of moaning.

Amanda is flat-ironing her hair while Leah blows up a giant swan.

Tonight is the rose ceremony and Sarah is nervous because she's the only one with a missing arm. The guys all wear button down shirts, including Chris Harrison in his Barney's blazer. At least two of the ladies are going home, but if one of the twins gets a rose, the other one is allowed to stay as well, which seems unfair.

Sarah pleads her case with Vinny and he makes out with her. She has no trouble wearing a sleeveless dress. Then Izzy shows up and he downs a shot and then makes out with her. She purposefully puts both her arms around him.

Leah shows up in the brightest red lipstick I've ever seen but just the one necklace this time. Her titties are almost popping out. Nick listens with his super huge seashell ears. The guys are super confident because the women have to beg them for roses, like it's a job interview. "Look at me!" she says. Nick takes out his retainer to tell her that he's probably giving the rose to Amanda. Leah feels blind-sided, but she still has time to put on more lipstick and throw herself at someone else, including Daniel, the slimy Canadian who refers to himself as the big dog and an eagle who won't drop down to a pigeon level, but if he was going to bang someone tonight, it would be one of the twins. Just typing what he says.

Rose ceremony in paradizzy. Grant goes first. He has to pick Lace because she has on ten pounds of foundation and they had sex last night. Nick picks Amanda. Evan will pick Carly even though she hated the kiss. She giggles and hugs him like he's her brother. Ashton K./Jared will probably pick one of the twins...He picks Emily. Aw, Jubilee will go home. Vinny better not pick Izzy. He chooses to wear a short sleeved white shirt and gives the rose to...Izzy. Now Sarah has to depend on slimy Canadian to pick her. Daniel will pick Leah because he is super shallow. He loves the power. Oh...He picks Sarah. Ha-ha, Leah and Jubilee are going home. I mean, I'm sad for Jubilee, but not Leah.

A new day dawns and the power has shifted to the women. Josh shows up with s giant row of white teeth. Was he in another relationship? I can't remember if he got picked before or not--oh, right, Andi picked Josh over Nick and then it didn't work out. Josh tells Amanda that his eight year old dog has cancer. Amanda is about as interesting as a brown paper bag. A brown paper bag with a baby voice. Josh digs her, but would she really like him?  Andi wrote a tell-all and it's mostly about Josh and how horrible he was. They can be together. I do not care. Nick contemplatively walks on the beach, kicking crabs and not snorkeling with anyone.

Evan has decided to wear a patriotic wife beater with a flag on it. Carly says she needs to stop dating feminine guys. Who will she pick instead? Evan gets the date card and asks Carly. She pauses and says, Sure with hardly any enthusiasm. She has never not wanted to go on a date so much in her life. She decides not to change her clothes at all. They end up walking on to a stage filled with screaming fans. They have a chance to make history tonight by eating peppers in front of people.

Okay, guys, this is where I say good night. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Multiple cries for help

Observations: Nick has decided to knock it off with the poet demeanor to take on the beefcake persona. I think he may also be wearing a retainer as he sounds as if he has developed a lisp.

ED and Chad are back. Chad's face has become even more over-grown. Omigod, Chad has a Morkie. Chaplin is a Morkie. But Chap is way cuter. Chad's Mork is white and runny-eyed.

Remember Amanda and her two toddlers and her off the shoulder shirts (perhaps that's where JoJo got the idea)? She's back.

First to arrive is mommy x 2, followed by Nick. This is his third time on a Bachelor type show. Is no one going to comment on the crazy sound of the birds overtaking the stilted dialogue? I forgot that Amanda talks in a baby voice. Jubilee is arrival number three and she has earlier told us that she is practicing not looking like a bitch when her face is resting. Fourth = Evan aka The Penis Guy (according to Jubilee). Amanda likes that he's a dad. Vinny yells and he's in. Then that woman, Carly, who looks like an actress whose name I can't remember, but I will find a photo. When did greasy-looking, close to the head, tri colored hair come into vogue. Next is Grant, =the  black guy, then Cicada, I mean the Canadian.

I just remembered. Carly is the spitting image of Jenna from 30 Rock.

Canadian feels like all the women there are dogs. Or street mutts, rather. What kind of dog is he? I'm going to go with a dookie-eating Newfoundland.

The one-armed lady is back. She could wear a prosthetic. I think I've been over this territory before. Like, why should she conform to the standards, but also, is she just not wearing a prosthetic because the show won't let her because it's more interesting?  Chris goes to her, "Maybe it will work this time. Fingers crossed."  On the one hand.

Twins are next.  Then Izzy, who I don't remember at all, and then Lace, who is wearing--guess what--lace. She feels that she has made so much progress on herself and is now only drinking white wine. Unlike other shows, this one never seems to have commercials. And now, Ashton Kutchner/Jared. My favorite so far is Evan. He seems like the most normal of all and the most against type.

Chad shows up and apologizes to Evan. Lace feels like they've totally hit it off. She's wearing three layers of fake eyelashes. So is Carly. I guess they all are. And the ones who aren't look like they should be. Time to start doing shots and head stands. Here's how this works--if they're not in a serious relationship within 7 hours, they have to go home.

Lace has broken her promise to her yoga-self by getting slurringly-drunk within one hour. She fights with Grant for not asking her enough complex questions about herself. She asks Chad to show her the softer side of himself and then attempts to drown him in a man-made lagoon. Chad says he likes her because she's as psychotic as he is. Both are alphas and so are about to pee on each other. Lace wins.

Jubilee compliments Ashton/Jared by telling him that he's a big nerd and she admires that. Aside: they are sitting under a canopy of pinatas for no discernible reason, except to remind us that this is FUN! Until a clown shows up. The clown says that they are a beauitful couple except that Jared is losing is hair.

Izzy and Vinny couple up in the water. Vinny says he wears his heart on his bicep. Izzy wraps her legs around him as they float in the sea. Lace and Chad are making out and calling each other "bitches." He might beat her. He says he will throw her under a bus and she punches him in the stomach to show him how mean he's being. The crowd watches it happen while eating chicken wings. They are both very drunk and breaking up already as Carly points out, in the shortest amount of time in the show's history. Time for Lace to start crying her fake eyelashes off. Oh, nope, she didn't. She's telling him go drink some water. This show is really about alcohol addiction.

The Canadian guy is asking Chad if he still thinks he's like Hitler or Hannibal Lector. Sarah says she didn't come to paradise to be around drunk jerks who don't respect women. I wonder if he will say anything---oh, he did--he just said, "F*** that one-armed bitch." They all walk away. Sarah is crying. They have to let him stay on the show though because he's good TV. That's the same reason He Who Shall Not be Named (presidential candidate) got where he did. People love to watch bad behavior. I am no different.
Chad passes out and they don't worry that he might die.  A crab crawls in his hair and they turn up the sound effects of snoring as he chokes on his own vomit.

Day dawns and Lace seems to have recovered from her hang over. Chad wakes up without any underwear on. He won't remember any of his antics, such as pooping in his own pants, which, instead of being a red flag, becomes a joke.

How many earrings do the twins have in each ear? Forty.

Chris Harrison does a fake intervention while Chad asks for a glass of wine. Chris asks him if this is the time to be glib and Chad says, "I don't know what that word means, but you're right, it's probably not the time to be glib." Chris reminds Chad that he told everyone on the staff to go suck a dick. Chad doesn't remember. He has been asked to leave. He goes, but leaves behind a single flip flop and tells Chris to go drink his mimosas in his robe.

Until the next ceremony, Chaplin will accept this biscuit.