Thursday, October 25, 2007

It’s Just Your 19th Literary Conundrum

When I first heard about Dumbledore being gay, I thought, well, you know, that explains some things. So much like it usually happens in real life. But I didn't think it was anything that was going to bear on my life.

Then I started trying to smooth out the tangles in that novel I've been working on, and had a realization about why so much writing is so "on the nose." It's because the author is in a can't-win situation when it comes to character revelation and development. Well, some people can win, in my opinion, but I bet everybody has their detractors. If you tell too much, then it's bad writing. If you don't tell enough, then it's not there.

What I mean is: my favorite Dumbledore articles here are the ones that talk about authorial intentionality. A clear example is at "Rowling would not appear to have any authority to declare the print version of Dumbledore gay, straight or bi. Her views on such matters are naturally of interest to fans of her books, but the work must stand on its own."

Now, I studied literary criticism. I know all about the intentional fallacy, and how you have to use the text as evidence. (Which prevents people from just making up other stories, like Jane Eyre was really a man. Hey, maybe she was!) Read up on New Criticism, at, if you want more info on how college utterly warped my mind. No, I'm kidding. Some of these ideas are actually useful. But everything can be taken too far. And because of my background, I know that they can.

Talk about inhibiting!

As the author, I can make up anything about the character I want, and it'll be "real." But the intentional fallacy hardcores seem to imply that it's only if I do it explicitly. Which would lead to the kind of writing snubbed by the kind of people who know terms like "intentional fallacy."

In a Harlequin romance, they'll come right out and tell you what they mean. "He made her feel so vulnerable. It was important to her to be in control, and she was afraid of letting go. If she fell in love, she'd risk getting hurt."

I'm making that up, but I'm pretty sure I read that plot in several romances when I was in junior high. When I flip through more "mainstream" fiction, I see loads of this: spelling out the character. Obviously, I'm hoity-toitier than that. I want to write well. To do that, I'm supposed to infer. Let the story get those ideas across without just saying "Plunk! Here's the character."

In a bad novel, the author would have no compunction about saying, "Albus was gay, but he could barely acknowledge it even to himself. Not after the disaster that had been his first love..."

So, yes, when it comes down to it, it's all ME, ME, ME! How do I do this in my writing? How do I get across those things that are important to me to get across, without saying them? When I know that some readers will say that if I don't say them, they don't exist? (Whoa, that's pretzelly, even for me. Hey, I'm on one cup of coffee here).

I guess I escape all my conundrums in the traditional Anarchivist way: aw, screw what other people think!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My own vineyard is mine to give

I'd been vaguely aware of these "Biblezines," I guess they call them; they look like teenybopper girls' magazines, but one of them includes the text of the New Testament. The one I picked up cheap is called Revolve, and contains all my favorite books of the Bible: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. Yes, it's the suffering of Job...with beauty tips! And the despair of Ecclesiastes (or as I know it, Qoheleth. Sounds Klingon, doesn't it?) with quizzes on your instant messaging style!

How I wish I were clever enough to be making this stuff up.

Normally it's Job and Ecclesiastes that interest me, and depending on my attention span, I might get more into that. This time around, though, it was the atypically sexy Song of Solomon that caught my eye. I'd forgotten about the kind of "really like your peaches/wanna shake your tree" stuff (see Song of Solomon 7:7-8).

Then there's the whole repeated thing in 3:1-4 and 5:6-8, where the girl goes out alone in the city at night to track down her missing lover. In both, she runs afoul of the "watchmen." In the first example, she finds her man and brings him back to her place. In the second, she can't find him until the next book, but in the meantime, she wants him to know she is "weak with love."

Since I've been thinking about whether I was, in fact, warped by my childhood reading, it occurs to me that I read this book in its entirety when I was in elementary school. And since I've always been a fairly forward gal (I am batting my eyes, looking coy and innocent, even as we speak!), it's another of those chicken/eggs. At least I've got Biblical support for my bad behavior.

The translation I'm using puts in a heading in both scenes that "The Woman Dreams," maybe to get out of the implications. But the text clearly states that she was sleeping and woke up to find her man gone. So for once I don't think I'm the one making things up.

It's the same translation they use in the "zine," a New Century Version I'm otherwise unfamiliar with. Revolve includes their footnote at the first mention of the heroine wearing a veil, that "This was the way a prostitute usually dressed." But they pass quietly by the fact that her wearing a veil gets mentioned several times more in the book.

So is the beloved a hooker? I mean, that's fine with me. I don't know if it would be so fine with them. But they brought it up!

This translation, accurate or not, does put a good spin on the protective verses (labeled here "The Woman's Brothers Speak") about how "We have a little sister, and her breasts are not yet grown." (8:8) The Woman responds that "my breasts are like towers," which implies that she can take care of herself, and she's not as young as they think she is. (8:10) Then she mentions how Solomon had a great vineyard that he rented out. "But my own vineyard is mine to give." (8:12)

Amen, sister!

For a million dollars, I'll write the whole screenplay


A dim library corridor, shadowy shelves visible.

As the camera travels slowly down the corridor, there is a faint, unsettling squeaking sound. Otherwise, there is absolute quiet.

A pair of feet, wearing flip-flops, and the wheels of a grey book cart. The squeaking continues until the cart stops, and camera stays on the wheels as the feet step away.

A second of silence, broken by the loud whirr of a pencil sharpener.


An attractive female LIBRARY ASSOCIATE, apparently alone, is startled by the sound. She is holding a few books in her left hand, and drops the one that was in her right hand.

An old hardcover copy of Agatha Christie's The Body in the Library.


Bright sunshine flows over the library's check-out desk. The phone is ringing. The same young LIBRARY ASSOCIATE picks up the phone.

Circulation Desk. How may I help you?


A CREEPY-LOOKING GUY, dark circles under his eyes, sits at a reading room table with newspapers spread out in front of him. He looks up with a glare.

At a small public library…


A CREEPY-LOOKING WOMAN is using the photocopier, a bunch of file folders stacked up on the table next to her. She mutters darkly to herself, as if making an incantantion.

A dark secret has been misshelved….

A library card is being cut in half with a very sharp scissors. A "Reference Desk" label is visible on the side of the scissors.

And terror….


In the dim stacks, a LIBRARIAN'S back, as she stretches to reach a book on the top shelf, obviously out of her reach. The shadow of another figure falls across her back.

Is long overdue…


The LIBRARY ASSOCIATE, backed against the wall of books.

You killed her!

She holds up her hands in front of her, in a defensive position. They are covered with blood.

She was out of date.

The LIBRARY ASSOCIATE screams as the screen goes black.


Coming Soon.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Torturing the neighbors with my snooze alarm

Hey, I somehow erased the screen again. I wish I knew how to do that on purpose. I was going off about how the guilt is sometimes the only thing that dredges me out of bed in the morning, when the clock radio blares startling snippets of bad music into the quiet morning. Especially when my honey should be getting to sleep in late, and I'm the one with the problematic early schedule. But at least he married me voluntarily, and the poor neighbors are probably cursing me.

I don't even know what station it's on. Whatever we'd actually picked degenerated into static, and boy, was that unpleasant to wake up to. This morning there was something intrumental, then a commercial, and then it cut into a song right at the lyric "She's out of my league." I jumped up and hit the "off" button. (Of course, when I went to get my glasses, little Chloe jumped on my chest and tried to pin me back down. I thought cats were supposed to wake you up, not force you back to bed).

The coffee was starting before I even realized what the song was. "She's Like the Wind." Eek!

Of course, I'm listening to REO Speedwagon right now, so I'm not in any position to judge. (But pre Hi Infidelity, of course). I was thinking about a few of those other songs I heard a million times in my childhood and never hear anymore. I was particularly taken with the lyrics, "A woman can't be high class in a lonely farmers' town."

Damn right. That's why I grew up, escaped, and came all the way to....North Dakota. Because I'm so sophisticated. But at least it's the Manhattan of North Dakota.

Oh, I do crack myself up, and it is sad.

We're Having Much More Fun

First a study says that swearing boosts morale and team spirit. I mean, fuckin' DUH!

And now a study says that "women with egalitarian attitudes do find mates and men do find them attractive. In fact, results reveal they are having a good time, maybe a better time than the non-feminists."

I better stay offline before my luck runs out.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"I need something to scoop the guts out!"

...I called into the kitchen last night, then realized how it would sound out of context. Maybe because I was holding a "big, sharp kitchen knife" and wearing a shirt of Michael Myers wielding the same.

Yes, it was carving time at the Anarchivist household. Jacks were lanterned. Styrofoam tombstones were removed from plastic wrap. A light rain spattered at the windows, and when I took the bag of innards out to the garbage, I tracked in a bunch of wet yellow leaves when I came back in. And the whole porch ended up smelling like warm pumpkin.

Then we went in and watched Hellraiser. Perfect night.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

But if they made bioluminescent lipstick...

The world is full of crazy critters!


Like so many people who read Jaws as a kid, I have a big soft spot for marine biology. I'm particularly fond of the cephalopods. The story, however, reminds me of the other day when they ran the dramatic story about how our lipsticks might be dangerous. Hundreds of common lipsticks have been tested and contain lead! My reaction was, uh, is there a list? Where can I go to see the results of the study? Might be important if I have a killer in my handbag.

In this case, I was thinking, this is a nice little blurb about this expedition I haven't heard of. But if you want more content, not only doesn't the media give it to you, it doesn't give you much to go on to find it yourself. Fortunately, I'm an excellent searcher.

The real website of the organization (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution at is also a little publicity-heavy for my taste, but I guess that's what works. But I was able to go into the expedition page and find out more info about that cute little jellyfish:

"This lovely red medusa, Atolla gigantea, about 15 cm in diameter, was collected in midwater by the ROV and photographed in the bigger kreisel. When a species like this is caught with a net, the soft gelatinous tissue is shredded by the net fabric or squashed by other captured animals and the tentacles are torn off. This beautiful red color is common among mesopelagic “jellies” because it isn’t visible in the perpetually dark water, yet it masks any bioluminescence emitted by prey inside the pigmented predator’s gut. Image courtesy of 2007: Exploring the Inner Space of the Celebes Sea."

Now that's a caption! I've actually always thought that the bioluminescence, while very, very cool-looking (the disco balls of the sea?), might have negative consequences. The revenge of the eaten?

(For those of you who can't read my mind, at the aquarium in Chicago they have some totally clear, see-through jellyfish, and they'll each have a shrimp glowing in the middle of them. Freaky looking).

Anyway...usually in these cases, it's obvious that it would have taken almost no work on their part to give us a little extra "for more info" link. I can't be the last person in the world who'll read something and want to know more about it. Even in America.

In a related question: when people (for convenience, let's include individuals, organizations, the news media, anybody really) have communication problems...and there are so many of people not really want to communicate, or don't they know how? How do we tell the difference?

Uh oh, I'm veering into the sociology of everyday life again. Better to think about jellyfish! Hmm, maybe that's my "power animal."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

One of the Beautiful People

I read the first Gossip Girl book last night. It took about an hour, but it wasn't terrible, and certainly all the people howling about its immorality can't have read it, or didn't read it carefully. (As carefully as I did in an hour, ha!)

As you may or may not know, this is a very popular teen book series, now a tv show, all about the spoiled, privileged children of the super-rich. They're depicted as basically the richest, most beautiful, most stylish people on the planet. Two lipsticks were namechecked in the first book: Urban Decay's Gash and Chanel's Vamp. I have owned and worn both of these lipsticks. They're probably still floating around in various handbags, which is where I always find my lipsticks. I don't even know where my Pallor is (also Urban Decay), and that's probably the one I wear the most.

Anyway, the book came out in 2002, and I associate Gash and Vamp with, oh, '95-'97, so I was all like, hey, I'm the it girl! Waaay ahead of the Manhattan trendies! (More likely that the author had it in manuscript awhile. Gee, I don't know what that's like).

Some of you who know me are chuckling at the idea of me wearing makeup at all. It has happened, on occasion. I think the Revlon Red Tomato is still my favorite. I used to buy it at the drugstore in the hood, and at least one friend told me it was their Grandma's shade. But alas, it's probably full of lead.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thrill me with your straight razor

Hmmm. That sounds like an homage to Dressed to Kill. Inadvertent!

We've gotten caught up to the invisible man episodes of Heroes, and when I saw Christopher Eccleston's name in the credits, I actually squealed. I hadn't realized how much I've missed having him on Doctor Who. Then when he turned up all scruffy and morally ambiguous...ah, qualities I like in a man!

Also on Heroes: you know, I'm not positive I've ever seen a straight razor in my life. I have no idea where you'd even buy one. But nobody in the land of television ever shaves any other way. Usually with a chick holding the razor. I don't know if this is a fantasy for guys, but trust me, nobody wants to put a straight razor into my hand and say "Here, make sure it's really trimmed near the jugular." Jesus! Razor technology has come a long way, people.

Also in the weekendness, watched a movie called Neon Maniacs that was promising, but it turned out to be no Future-Kill. I guess that's too much to expect. I did, however, love Night of the Creeps. I especially loved Tom Atkins (likeable in the original The Fog, serviceable in Halloween III) as a jaded, sarcastic police detective. I want to get to the point in my career where I can answer the phone by saying, "Thrill me."

Look at that! A professional goal! Hey, it can't be all 80s B-movies and nattering about Old English here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

New Zealand Gruesome

I don't know what's going on there in these scenic islands, but the New Zealand cinema certainly has a way with the gore. Black Sheep is a very odd movie, with strong comedic elements and an obviously comedic premise (zombie sheep attack humans, and their victims become weresheep). But that doesn't stop them from pouring on buckets of offal. Funny that I saw this just after I finally ordered Peter Jackson's finest moment, Dead-Alive, which also mixes off-beat humor with tons o' splatter. (In fact, when I saw it, I thought: the splatter film to end all splatter films! But of course, just like wars, there's always someone with a new twist).

Seriously, there are a few moments that are not for the weak of stomach. Some of them involve just ... meat cooking, which isn't something I like to think about if I want to actually eat it. (I'm not a vegetarian; just grossed out about being a carnivore. Self-conscious but not actually evolved. Story of the human race?) Otherwise, I definitely recommend it. The reaction shots of ordinary sheep just get funnier as the movie progresses. Sort of like in Frogs, although that makes way less sense.

Less sense than zombie sheep? Oh yeah!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Trainspotting goes all cyber on us

Now that I'm a stranger to the town where I grew up (well, to be fair, I was always was), I attempt to keep in touch with it in little ways. I have the local paper in my Google Reader; I've been doing a little research on the kidnapping case and other historical news events; and last night I plunked the town's name into YouTube.

I don't know why this seems so wacky to me, but it does:
Yes, people film the trains that go by in small towns. They ID the types of the cars, and then post the videos to the Internet. The main poster I found here seems to travel around the country, filming trains. I'm not sure how you'd get into such a thing. But I'm always glad to find other people's peculiar interests, even if I can't fathom where these interests would come from.

Unless you were looking for grafitti trains, which would make perfect sense...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Where else would it come from but beyond?

From Beyond (1986)

A super-young-looking Jeffrey Combs (1986) plays a physicist more normal than Dr. Herbert West, but possibly more hysterical. He's assisting in research to stimulate the pineal gland, largely because for his genius mentor, "The five senses weren't enough...He wanted more." Things go awry and havoc is wreaked, what with the carnivorous otherworldly jellyfish and assorted creatures which people can suddenly see under the influence of the Resonator they've invented. Even worse, the creatures can see the people.

This time, Re-Animator's sweet Barbara Crampton gets to play the ambitious scientist, but she still winds up naked and screaming, and eventually strapped to a table. Some things never change. Then, under the Resonator's influence, she dresses up in leather S&M gear, and starts getting freaky with Combs, who's been rendered hairless and alien-looking, remarkably like Mr. Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Hippies talking about the third eye will never be the same again.

My new teen literacy slogan: "Read. It pisses people off."

I haven't watched It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in years, and while I knew it was an intended satire on the belief in Santa Claus, I hadn't really appreciated what a total religious analogy it is. You have Linus being mocked and harassed for his (admittedly groundless) beliefs. At the same time, it's implicit that the people mocking him uncritically believe on Santa Claus, mainly because it's the irrational thing that everybody else believes in. Hmmm...

So it came up in conversation yesterday that, deep down, I still don't understand the idea of appropriate reading levels for kids any more than I did when I was a kid. Maybe it's a good thing that I'm raising cats. A valid point was made about the frustration level some kids feel when reading something that's beyond them on a technical level, that turns some kids off...But that seems more like a function of the standardized education lumping all the individual levels together.

I mean, the kid's in a class, being made to read something that s/he can't understand. Or if they understand the words, they can't really "get it." I can see how that could be a problem, but that's already a symptom of an unhealthy attitude to the whole thing. (Frankly, I think the whole educational system is unhealthy, but that's a whole book, so, sorry to skim over the surface of an abyss of controversy).

What I mean is a kid who's at the "correct" level in school, who's got the basic concepts, and wants to go to the library and get more ten more books. To read for themselves. The idea that they'd be prevented, because the books might be too advanced for them, is crazy to me.
I didn't get such a ludicrous vocabulary by learning ten words a week in English class. I flung myself into things that were too advanced, because I wanted to. Nobody was there to make any kind of big deal out of it if I found something really too advanced; I just deemed it "boring" and read something else. In the beginning, I pestered my big sisters for the meanings of words I didn't know (big sisters are a definite advantage in precocious learning, so I got lucky there). Then I graduated to looking them up. And eventually I learned to mainly pick up the meanings by context. (Still the best method).

But enough about me. Ha ha, just kidding! This is all just my background in the mechanics, if you will, of reading. Because as we were chatting, an intelligent person of my acquaintance put in the viewpoint that kids shouldn't read beyond their emotional or mental level. That if they don't have the experience to understand something, and are exposed to some ideas before they're ready, it could have some adverse effect.

I actually thought for a minute, maybe I'm wrong. (OMG, mark your calendars). It was almost an existential moment. Maybe my whole existence is based on something that was actually damaging to me, and I just don't recognize it, because of the damage that was done.

Or is this a concept that's been peddled to make even intelligent, liberal, well-educated parents think that knowledge and reading and thinking for themselves can hurt their children? I was reassured to think that as a kid, that's the view I would have taken, when I was all about how much I wanted to read and know. And it was clear that this made even some of the teachers nervous.

Maybe I'd have been better socialized if my reading had been curtailed. On the other hand, I always managed to find and read what I wanted to, as if it were porn or something. Like, "the Man can't tell me what to read!" Which again, is maybe why I'm still such a voracious reader today. My reading in general, and many of my selections in particular, either freaked people out, or pissed them off.

So kids! Nothing makes your teachers madder than being smart! Nothing upsets your parents like thinking for yourself! (I know, there are cool teachers and cool parents. I know plenty of them personally. But there's a lot of the alternative out there too).

Tabby Luchadore

I had to turn the heat on last night, which is always like admitting defeat. That's what all that keeping the thermostat turned down will do to a kid in her formative years. Like I'm not just saving money and energy, I'm proving my moral superiority over the elements by holding out as long as possible.

So his morning, Charlie was staring at the vent like it was possessed by an evil spirit. It could be that last winter is like a dream in his little head.

He and Chloe slept pretty much all day on Sunday, waking up only to yawn. The consequence? A Monday of tearing through the house, jumping on the high shelves they've never bothered before, knocking and dragging boxes around, a whiskers-breadth from a literal bouncing off the walls. And the wrestling! Along with the squealing!

Fortunately, they were friends again by bedime. Now this morning, after vent investigation, I've got a Charlie on my lap, purring like he's never been anything but mellow. That's my bipolar baby!

PS, review of Equinox up at www., for those with time on their hands...

"What’s that in your ear, Randell?"

I was browsing the local paper online when I came upon a column by a gal I know. And she's nice and well-meaning, so I hate to pick on her, but since I am from the older generation, I feel obligated to comment. She was describing a relaxing walk in the park with a friend, and how they kept passing joggers with iPods. "We agreed that we didn't quite "get" the need for noise that is a hallmark for the current generation of teens and twenty-somethings."

I keep hearing stuff like this about the iPod, and about the plugged-in, multi-tasky world of today's teen, and how they read or study while listening to their headphones. Does this mean they're more technologically in-tune? Or is it having a negative effect on their brain? Does this mean that they're solipsistic and isolated, or trying to distract themselves with constant noise?


Haven't these people ever heard of a Walkman? "Kids today" didn't invent listening to music while they do other things, for pete's sake, and they certainly didn't invent the headphone. Twenty years ago, I used to walk down by the river in this same town, and I never did it without my Walkman. My favorite park-walking music was X's Under the Big Black Sun and Siouxise and the Banshees' Kiss in the Dreamhouse, just to date myself.

Come to think of it, in elementary school I had an earpiece that fit the transistor radio and my Panasonic tape player...just like the one Riff Randell, Rock 'n' Roller, goes everywhere listening to in 1979's Rock 'n' Roll High School.

Nobody's going to convince me that there's such a drastic difference between people my age and kids today unless they stop using examples that just don't add up.

Besides, the whole Generation Gap is soooooooo 60s.

The Honesty's Just Too Much

I stayed home from work yesterday with this cold (and I still have the sneeze, which is something like an enormous balloon inflating and deflating again, but compressed to a second). So on the one hand: nothing much to talk about from the outpost of relative isolation. For someone who's always been pretty sociable, I could get used to life as a hermit.

The funny thing about not going to work is that I dreamed about work. My unconcious says: you're not getting away that easily! The last thing I remember is looking for a stash of specially designed paper products that we use, and as I was retrieving them from a shelf, the song "Sometimes When We Touch" came on the radio, and my coworkers and I joined in mockery.

But Dan Hill gets the last laugh. I woke up with the song still in my head.

Earlier in the dream, a childhood friend, someone I haven't talked to in -- twenty years? -- asked me to help her track down a video. Of course, this is something that could actually happen...