Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I think it's still winter out there

But I'm not peeking through the shades to find out, not until I have to.

Of course, I clicked on that online headline yesterday about how middle age is the most depressing time of one's life...starting in the 40s. ( Oddly, this news perked me up, since I've already hit 43 and am so far beating the odds.

One of the theories is that "people realize they won't achieve many of their aspirations at middle age," but then learn to deal with it and get happier again as they get to their 50s and beyond.

Wow, some people take that long to realize they won't achieve their aspirations? I think I used up all my angst in my 20s, at least about, you know, fame and fortune and that best-seller I thought it would be so easy to write when I was eleven.

Actually, if I could do anything in the world, I'd mainly read and watch movies (preferably while
clumped with kitties), and then write about them. So although working interrupts that schedule slightly, I'm mostly living the dream!

Speaking of which, I'm perversely psyched about today's headline. There's a new Nightmare on Elm Street movie coming out. ( It'll probably suck, but it can't suck as bad as Freddy's Dead or The Dream Child.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tough times for the Hamburgese

Like so many residents of Hamburger-a-Go-Go-Land (and when will Louise Rennison have a new book out?), I have eaten way more than my fair share of hamburgers in this life. I've eaten hamburgers from one coast to the other. And while these hamburgers have varied dramatically in quality, as a rule, they were well-done. The thought of biting into a hamburger to find it pink and bloody inside would have always been the hallmark of a pretty nasty burger joint.

Only in the last few years, after some serious E. coli outbreaks and massive publicity about ground beef, raw eggs, and handling uncooked chicken, do I go to restaurants and have them ask with a straight face how I want my hamburgers cooked. And where once I would have pointed a raw burger innard would have elicited a "Ew, sorry," it now gets, "Oh, you wanted it well done," like I'm being a snooty aesthete. This is not a piece of steak: it's a hamburger. (I also learned today that the difference between ground beef and hamburger is the addition of extra fat. Like I need more reasons to stop eating hamburgers).

From the USDA:

"Is it dangerous to eat raw or undercooked ground beef?

Yes. Raw and undercooked meat may contain harmful bacteria. USDA recommends not eating or tasting raw or undercooked ground beef." (

How can this have trickled down to me, to whom food preparation is largely a mysery, and be so unknown to food service professionals?

Curiosity drove me to check out their other fact sheet on "Doneness Vs. Safety," in which they said that ground beef can and will turn brown before it's actually cooked all the way. So just being brown doesn't mean it's done. But how far from done is it when it's still pink and mooshy inside?

Wonder what I'm going to eat for lunch...

Friday, January 25, 2008

We can be Hiros...just for one day

(I'm cross-posting with my blog just because this is so bizarre that nobody should be left out).

Suddenly the word "bhoot" (Hindi for "ghost") is everywhere I turn. So prevalent that I finally just accepted my fate and ordered the DVD of the 2003 Indian movie Bhoot. On the minus side, it supposedly contains no dance numbers. On the plus side: Ajay Devgan! (The picture they have on the IMDB don't do him justice, but for the uninitiated:

I guess having a word like this pop up shouldn't be any surprise, since things like Bollywood ghost stories are my business. Well, not business in the sense that I get paid for it or anything; more like the business in "mind your own."

Anyway, here's a much stranger coincidence. A few weeks ago I discovered that there had been a novelization of David Cronenberg's Videodrome. The whole movie novelization industry is pretty peculiar, especially when they concoct things like Fred Saberhagen and James V. Hart's novelization of Bram Stoker's Dracula, based on the movie based on Bram Stoker's Dracula. Usually these books are somewhere in the ballpark of unreadable, but they often give insight into earlier versions of a movie's screenplay, so the cult fanatic can find some points of interest.

Needless to say, I had to purchase the book. Those of you who have, like me, watched Videodrome a billion times will remember the early scene in which James Woods meets some seedy Japanese businessmen, who are selling a softcore tv series called Samurai Dreams. The novelization (remember: 1983) names these minor (but entertaining) characters. The guy who talks in the movie is Shinji Kuraki. And the silent guy with the beard? "My associate, Hiro Nakamura." (p. 17)

I was sure it was never mentioned in the movie, but still, that name seemed oddly familiar. Then I thought, well, I can only think of one other Hiro I've ever heard of: Masi Oka's childlike innocent, the teleporter through time and space, on Heroes. So I looked him up. You guessed it. Hiro Nakamura.

Is this name the "John Smith" of Japan? Are the Heroes writers into buying obscure novelizations of '80s flicks on eBay? Or is it that Repo Man "lattice of coincidence" running amok again?

The Clyde Bruckner of Super-Computers

...figures prominently in the plot of Krrish, a Bollywood superhero film with music that is, sadly, unmemorable, but with great, manga-like action sequences.

The early section has a Smallville vibe: Grandma hides her super-powered grandson from a world that would exploit him. He begins to chafe, wanting to join the football team...I mean, from the general strain of hiding his light under a bushel. Then he meets a girl, and lets just say I like Hrithak Roshan much better when he's jumping out of planes and doing sword tricks than I do when he's wooing babes. Sometimes you've got to play to your strengths.

Eventually, wanting to protect his secret but still needing to save lives, he puts on a mask and voila! There's some Lois Lane "I'm gonna prove you're Krrish!" action, she realizes she really loves him just as he discovers she had just wanted to use his powers to help her television career ....And then the villain who killed his superhero father turns up.

Turns out that the father had helped the villain create a computer that could see the future. Of course, the fortune-telling device exposed the bad guy's evil intentions, so the father destroyed the computer, and now the villain has finally gotten it rebuilt. So the computer gets built twice, after years of work each time and umpteen dollars. Then it gets turned on once in each incarnation: each time showing the people using it of their imminent demises. If this computer ever develops a consciousness, it's also going to develop some kind of a complex.

On a side note, Krrish's real name is Krishna. In Singapore, he befriends an Asian street performer who needs money to help his wheelchair-bound little sister. The kid is eventually "unmasked" as Krrish, with evidence given to him by Krishna, who wants both to protect his real identity and to help them out by letting them claim some reward money. The kid's name is Kristian. So publicly, people think the hero is Kristian, but it's really Krishna. Who had previously stressed that they're both heroes, just in different ways, with their different talents.

I draw no conclusions from this quasi-theological factoid.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

My husband: the ultimate collectible

Yesterday I took part in a community event for kids that showcased different hobbies. There were two of us who brought in some of our collectibles. (Both of us women. Action figures: not just for teenage nerds and 40-year-old virgins any more!) She had mainly X-Men and Lord of the Rings figures; I had a lot of Star Wars stuff, plus some Doctor Who and Terminator.

Getting coffee in the morning, I mentioned the upcoming event to a super-barista friend, and she said I really ought to be bringing my husband. I practically smacked my forehead. If I'd planned ahead, I could have brought him in his Clone Trooper uniform. A living action figure!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Don't need a weatherman

We were out last night for the Sexy Librarian's Birthday Bash. The party was still going strong when I left, but I didn't wimp out too soon. I even found a few odd lucky tidbits on the Crappy TouchTunes System: "Straight to Hell," "Holiday in Cambodia," and...the Osmonds. That seemed really incongrous in the dive bar, so I had to play it.

On the way home, across the street and half a block back, some guy was walking and hollering. My first thought was almost sentimental: ah, just like Mpls used to be! From what we could make out, he was cursing the cold at the top of his lungs. All the "ambassadors" from the North Dakota tourism industry were so angry about the National Geographic magazine showing a cold empy prairie. Well, they should have been walking down Salvation Army street at eleven o'clock in twenty below weather.

And speaking of local media outrage, here's a letter on the smoking prohibition crusade which finally says what I think about it: The author is thought of locally as something of a crank, but he's not wrong about the cars. I'd have added that I've never almost been killed on the spot by someone's cigarette, but bringing up these many brushes with death just, well, makes me sound like a crank...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Deadlier than the male

Well, except nobody died. But I'm happy to have an excuse to put that "Female of the Species" song from Satan in High Heels into my head.

The local paper from my old hometown reported three violent crimes in four days, which is pretty unusual.

On Friday, someone was walking by the supermarket and was stabbed in the chest by an "an unknown assailant who walked up to him and stabbed him without provocation." No details are provided about the assailant yet, even his/her gender, which will seem more relevant in a minute.

On Sunday, a woman stabbed her ex-husband, also in the chest, during a post-weekend-visitation child exchange. (I can't help think of a hostage exchange, but that might not be inappropriate). First nobody stabs anybody for ages, and then suddenly, people are getting stabbed in the chest willy-nilly!

Then on Monday, a guy was picking up some "belongings" from a friend (a female one...I sense trouble!) This led to a fight, during which he was punched, scratched, and bitten on the cheek.
Please remember that all of these incidents are in the "alleged" stage, and the information is subject to change at any time.

My first thought after reading all three stories was: maybe it's some kind of government experiment gone awry. A radiation leak, chemicals in the water, something to turn the locals violent. I haven't gotten around to watching The Crazies yet, but I've read numerous comic books based on the concept. Oh, and there was the old classic Star Trek episode.

Maybe my parents got out of there in the nick of time!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"We're pinheads now. We are not whole."

And here I'm always such a know-it-all. Some things I learned reading Are We Not Men? We are Devo! by Jade Dellinger and David Giffels:

- Ernie Anderson, the influential Cleveland horror movie host (and father of Boogie Nights director Paul Thomas Anderson) did the voice-over announcing for ABC in the seventies. He's the one who pronounced it "The Loooooove Boat" in the promos.

- The title of "Jocko Homo," the song with the theme-music chorus "Are we not men? We are Devo," was taken from a 1924 anti-evolutionary pamphlet by B.H. Shadduck, author of works like "Puddle to Paradise" and "Gee-Haw of the Modern Jesu." They're scanned in online at The pamphlet itself translates "Jocko Homo" as "Monkey-Man" (as in "monkey men all, in business suits..."), but I can't find any information about the relationship of the "Monkey" in "Jocko" and the notion of "jocks," or the lack thereof.

- One of the early Devo manifestoes was an article called "Readers Vs. Breeders." That text is also available online at
Not that I'm opposed to anybody for their reproductive choices, but still, ha!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Chicken bone: functional AND adorable

So I'm actually going to plug a commercial entity today because, well, I got my chicken foot in the mail and I'm beyond the thrilled that I can leave in the eBay feedback form. In fact, I went to the site to get the URL this morning and ended up buying a couple more things. (See

Because the chicken foot comes customized, I asked for general protection for my household, specified as me, my honey, and two cats. And on the foot? Among other things, little man and woman charms, and then a charm bead with two little cats faces on it. Eeee, the cuteness! Hanging from a black, preserved...chicken foot. A lot bigger than I expected, really, but then, I've seen some pretty big chickens.

Doesn't THAT make me sound like a country girl?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hey, usually I'm the first to be enraged

But when I looked at the new National Geographic magazine article on my current home state, showing that small farming towns have turned into ghost towns, it didn't even occur to me to be outraged.

The headline of the local news article is "North Dakotans rage against the mag." Hey, I'm a North Dakotan! Nobody asked me. (See article at while it lasts).

"The reaction from North Dakotans and ex-North Dakotans has been furious. Dozens have written e-mails to the magazine – – prompted in part by the state Commerce Department’s appeal to its 2,000 “Ambassadors,” self-appointed, amateur image boosters and business recruiters."

Fortunately, I'm equal-opportunity cynical. Every criticism of the original article may have an element of truth. Sure, magazines may skew their coverage towards what makes a better story, and what might sell. Then, organized boosters respond by spearheading "grass roots" criticism, which may (or may not) reflect the opinion of the average Joan on the street. Outrage always spurs more response than appreciation...sad fact of life. So the critiques aren't from an impartial sample of representative North Dakotans, but people already identified as having an interest in promoting the state in a positive way.

Again, that doesn't invalidate their criticisms, but it is an important context if you're treating these people as a sample.

Then the local newspaper, which also has an interest in boosterism, gives a further, prominent forum for the same "Ambassadors," treating them as if they are representing North Dakotans and not a specific point of view.

My favorite comments are the ones about how "The article ... is old news. The population of rural areas throughout the upper Midwest region has been declining steadily for decades." That doesn't mean it isn't still true. There've been gang wars in L.A. for decades, but if they're still going on, it's fair to write articles about them. In North Dakota, certain areas are doing okay financially, but a lot of others aren't, and much of the loss is visible to the naked eye.

So let's just face facts: the media distorts everything. Everything. They can't help it; it's built in to the system. Media coverage is a faint echo of reality, an echo inside a structure that's specifically designed to make money for certain people. And to me, the media spin reaction just feeds the same system by adding a level of distortion to distortion, which is then treated as "news" by another branch of the media which is also, unavoidably, distorting things. PR efforts just cause the media to distort more.

I'm going to have to go read Babbitt again...

(Quick footnote: of the angry letter-writers who no longer live in the state, here are quotes from two. From Texas, "Would I live in North Dakota again???? You bet I would if my health would tolerate the cold weather." And from California, "If I could do there what I do here, I would go back in a heartbeat." Uh, kind of evidence for the other side here.

And by the way, yes, I'm a transplant. I moved to North Dakota of my own free will, and I'm pretty happy with the decision. But I don't pretend anything's perfect. Come to think of it, the media has almost never, ever reflected my experience accurately, so the distortion effect has always been obvious to me. Perhaps I'm zeroing in on in my critical purpose in life!)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Finale Day

Yesterday I watched the finale episodes of Veronica Mars (Season 3) and Doctor Who (Season 2), so I guess we're starting a new season of life here on the Anarchivist Channel.

I had various misgivings about Veronica Mars' second season, so it's bittersweet that the show got its groove back in the third, only to be canceled in the middle of assorted plotlines. Argh! Maybe the moral of the second season wasn't that season-long story arcs can't succeed, but rather, it's better to have shorter story arcs than ones than committing to a longer one that just isn't that interesting. And, you know, Piz....he was no Logan, but on the other hand, he was no Duncan either. So, six of one.

I also really enjoyed the whole plot point of Keith going back to where he started, as a respectable representative of law and order. Of course, there's a question of whether he can go back to his old pre-Lilly Kane murder self any more than Veronica can, which was beginning to be explored, but not resolved. (Sorry that this is completely unintelligible to non-VM watchers). As a detective, he'd grown used to working on the fringes of the law, and obviously gotten a taste for it. And then there's Veronica, doing many legally dubious things that she learned from him in the first place, now in conflict with his official authority.

Yummy plot material, now never to be.

The DVD contains a "presentation," twenty minutes or so, of the opening scenes for the non-existant Season 4, which would open with Veronica's first day at the FBI. Kind of an intriguing spin, but also problematic: see my comments about Keith. Since we'd have missed the character development in between, the show would have had to address the conflicts of Veronica trying to work within the law. After all, her moral ambiguity is what really set her apart.

So, I'm sad it's over, but at least the season was much more enjoyable. And we'll always have Season 1, still maybe the best television I've ever seen, or at least in the top five.

Now, Doctor Who. The show keeps going (we've already started watching Season 3), so I don't have the same kind of wrap-up to do. The biggest element (I mean, of course he saves the Earth again, duh) is that the finale wrote out Rose, although there are rumors of her guest-starring in Season 4. I have to say, in their teary, holographic goodbye, when he says he's going to carry on doing what he does, and she says, "On your own?" in this heartbroken voice, my snap thought was, "Not for long." And lo, the transmission ends, and a girl's been teleported into the TARDIS, setting up the next season. Fast even by the Doctor's standards.

I know I've gotten into this a little before, but since it's a Rose retrospective. It's not that I don't like Rose. She's fine. She's brave and heroic and big-hearted, everything everybody says she is. It's just...for people came aboard with the new series, Rose is their first companion. She's my umpteenth.

The version of the Doctor that she met was battle-scarred and more of a loner than we were used to. But it's not like he'd always been alone until she came along, far from it. So it irked me a little, how she seemed to be set apart as so much more special than the others, more so than Sarah Jane, or Ace, or Jamie (a guy, by the way), all people that, at the time, he seemed to have as strong connections with as this Doctor did with Rose (if without so much the "hey, wow, we're both young and attractive!" connotations). Or, you know, Susan, his own granddaughter, who he left behind somewhere for her own good....

And frankly, again, I liked the characters and all, but I got a little tired of her Mum and her flat and her ex-boyfriend and her going home to do laundry. There was too much of that for my taste, and I'm like, hey, let's get into outer space here! So yeah, it was sad for the characters (I'm not made of stone), but I'm not really unhappy to move on.

Friday, January 11, 2008

I just dropped my Dalek

The cat is trying to eat my Walkman.

And it looks like the chicken foot is in the mail.

These all sound like bizarre euphemisms, but God knows for what.

Friday feels like Tuesday

I never really know what exactly I mean when a day doesn't feel like itself. What does a Tuesday actually feel like? Yet somehow, it makes perfect sense to me.

Some kitties were particularly rambunctious last night, so I'm in a heavy groggy-eyed half-asleep kind of awake. My favorite part was when Charlie tracked down the little toy ball filled with the rattly seed things, hopped up on the bed with it in his mouth, and settled down to bat it between his paws. When I sat up to look at him, his body language was all contentment, with an expression on his face that said "get the hell up already." It was very cute, but unfortunately, nowhere near the time to get up. But here I am, bravely facing the day.

Not so bravely facing my Google Reader though. Some days the news contains more idiocy than I can stand. I did get a chuckle, though, out of the story at,
about how the FBI is losing crucial evidence gathered in wiretapping operations because of their unpaid phone bills. "More than half of 990 bills to pay for telecommunication surveillance in five unidentified FBI field offices were not paid on time, the report shows."

990 bills! Oh, you crazy FBI. I was a college student once, too. But I learned from experience. Sometimes you can only push your luck so far. That's my fortune cookie wisdom of the day.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Orleans on twenty-five cents a day

Thirty cents, if you include cigars with your meals. That's how much Lafcadio Hearn showed his readers you could get by on, if you avoided overpriced boarding house fare. Granted, that was in 1878, but still, a long way from Rachael Ray's $30.

On his arrival in New Orleans a year earlier, his first impression, as recorded in the article "Memphis to New Orleans" about his trip and arrival, was already of ruin and dilapidation. Again, from 1878: "I must speak with pain of her decay. The city is fading, mouldering, crumbling...Many of her noblest buildings are sinking into ruin...falling into dilapidation and bare but too often are being removed to make place for hideous modern structures." (Reprinted in Inventing New Orleans, p. 45-46).

Hey, that's my architectural word of choice: hideous!

Maybe it's just my temperament. I should count my blessings that I truly live in such a golden age of hideous modern architecture. This way, I don't have to feel mournful for things that aren't nearly as bad as they're going to get.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Is there an "Alphabet Song" in Hindi?

My Old English studies have been on the back burner (it's kind of crowded over there), but I was pleased to notice, when I was reading that Aspects of Anglo-Saxon Magic book, that I was able to understand more of the Old English text on a skim-through than I expected. I actually have retained some of the vocabulary, so I still live in hope that I'll improve.

In other kooky linguistic news, I ordered another Bollywood soundtrack yesterday, the one from The Killer. There's a very sexy dance number at the beginning, and the tune is very catchy, with an almost bellydance-appropriate tone. Now, Hindi is related to all the Indo-European languages, so it has a kinship to English way, way down the line. Because it doesn't use the English alphabet, though, but its own script, I don't think I'm going to picking up too much any time soon.

The song I'm talking about is called "Abhi To Main Jawan Hoon" on the album listing. And as I recall the chorus from when I watched the movie, the line means something about being young. The context was basically, "Now I'm young and sexy, so I may as well have a good time." I wanted to find out if the word "jawan" was the one that actually meant "young," since of course, we have the word "juvenile," and I'd have one of those connections. Which in the abstract makes it all sound much easier than it is.

With much more work than I anticipated, I determined that yes, it is the word that means "youth" (or a variation thereof). The tricky part comes in because it's variously transliterated as "juwan," "jawaan," and "yauvan." (In the song, it sounds to me most like "yauvan," for what it's worth). That doesn't make an Internet search, or even looking in a dictionary, any easier.

Still, nobody said anything would be easy, and at this point in life, there's no reason I should expect it.

"अब्धि तो मैं जवान हूँ"
Heaven knows what this Hindi transcription key is actually rendering that into, but I'm taking the spelling they use on the album. Somebody there must actually know Hindi. Right?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Equal opportunity irreverance

Hey, my true self is indestructible!

Listening to the crazy catchy Om Shanti Om soundtrack again yesterday, and walking around with Hindi snippets in my head all day. It's bringing me back to childhood, when I was always trying to sing Kyu Sakamoto's classic "Anoko No Namaewa" phonetically, without knowing a word of Japanese. Tricky.

Now, that's a great song. But since you can't find it on CD, I'm pretty sure it's not on MySpace. Worth a look though, just in case.

Anyway, that got me jumping online to find out the actual meanings of the words "om" and "shanti" ... of course "om" is the famous meditation word, and "shanti" means "peace," which I thought from the movie, but I wanted to be sure. So I found this site,, which explains the "om" in more detail.
And then this delightful explanation:

"The correct attitude
When repeating "Om shanthi, shanthi, shanthi" the correct attitude should be one of personal surrender of your egoistic Self together with its attendant emotional and physical baggage, but with the understanding that your true self is indestructible."

Hey, maybe I'll accidentally find enlightenment! In my case, repeating 'Om Shanti" causes me to dance around the living room like a crazy person, but if that's what it takes to surrender my egoistic Self, I guess that's what it's going to take.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Have guitars gone as far as they can go?

I had that new White Stripes record, Icky Thump, on hold at the library for quite some time. When it finally came in, I took it home, popped it in the player, and my instant gut reaction was "I love this!" Then it went on, and halfway through the CD I realized I was sick to DEATH of Jack White. I turned it off, and returned it from whence it came.

I suspect that someday I'll hear an individual song from it on Pandora or somewhere and think, hey, I like this, but I found the whole record impossible to bear.

I'm not sure about the cause of my dislike. There just seemed something -- cute about it. In the sense that annoys grandfathers: "Don't get cute with me." Garage rock can be done with a sense of humor, and often is. But ironic garage rock is like...oh, flashback to the days of Ashton Kutcher and his trucker cap. Thank God Demi Moore took him off our hands, so we don't have to see him in the magazines all the time anymore.

More interesting to me was why I initially liked it. I think I've been feeling ... hungry for guitars. Something that sounds like rock is supposed to sound. Not trippy or blippy or emo. The first song starts with a squall of guitars, a pounding drum line, even an organ. It's classic rock, not in the radio format sense, but in the sense of classic elements all being in place.

Sure, I have lots of music with guitars. But I've heard all of that before. I'd really like to hear something new and fresh that makes use of the aggression of guitars. But I'm not seeming to find much of anything new anymore that hits the spot, and I don't think I have for a while.

I hate to think that the guitar has run its course. I mean, I like the guitar. There's a lot that can be done with it. But then, a lot has already been done. It's got to be harder all the time to make it sound new. Not that it can't be done. Especially since you've all heard me rant about the idea that nothing new can be done with words, and look how over-worked they are.

But please, innovators of the future: we need you! The White Stripes are taking the audience you should have.

(No offense meant to anyone who likes the White Stripes or their new album. Just not my cup of coffee. Speaking of which...)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Gossip Girl, 1981

It all started with that CREEM book that just came out. That was my favorite rock magazine back in the early eighties (I'd only seen a handful of the seventies issues, which was probably its real heyday). Rolling Stone was already past its prime, developing its self-congratulatory tone, but CREEM was still pretty hard-hitting in its criticism, and generally full of stuff to, you know, read.

And, of course, I have a whole series of book collecting articles from various music publications: the old NY Punk zine, SF's Search and Destroy, Britain's Sniffin' Glue, etc. So I thought, a CREEM compilation is a great idea. But when I saw it out at the B&N, I discovered a big, glossy, coffee table book, light on text and heavy on photos. That just doesn't seem right for a mostly black and white, sometimes scruffy-looking magazine that came on pulpy newsprint in the first place.

So I didn't buy it. Instead, I found the Christgau Consumer Guide online, which reprints his columns at Lots of his other writing available there too.

Then I hit eBay to pick up a few back issues, which have started trickling in. The record review section is just pages of text. High school kids, heavy metallers, and aspiring New Wavers really used to have attention spans. Way before Ritalin, even. Hmmm.

Oh, and speaking of time travel, this is from the "Confessions of a Film Fox" gossip column, March 1981:

"Mia Farrow and Woody Allen apparently will take that long stroll down the aisle...which will make the not-quite-father-material Allen stepfather to seven little Previns...(will his next flick be a remake of Father Goose...? Or The Terror of Tinytown?)"

Yes, it's late in the day to make a Woody Allen joke. But still, this totally goes to prove that sometimes even the snarkier-than-usual isn't nearly snarky enough!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Gossip Girl, 1709

"You may indeed preach to him to avoid vice, but then you must teach him to avoid mankind." -- Delarivier Manley

I finally got started reading The New Atalantis (of "Germanicus, naked from his bath..." fame), and it's quite a fun read for a book about allegorical figures. I doubt Jackie Collins will be so amusing three hundred years from now. The character of Justice has abandoned humanity in disgust for our bad behavior, but decides to pay a visit to help out a rare worthy Prince. Along the way, she meets her mother, Virtue, who's wandering around in rags, likewise despairing of humanity. "Innocence is banished by the first dawn of early knowledge. Sensual corruptions and hasty enjoyments affright me..." (p. 5)

They decide to travel together and, needing a guide, call upon Intelligence to travel with them and tell them everyone's stories. That's Intelligence in the CIA sense, more like information than discernment or reasoning. This Intelligence works for Fame (which they acknowledge as a much bigger motivator than Virtue), and has all the dish, which is mainly taken as accurate, although she herself isn't too concerned about whether it's true.

This gives Manley a pretext to tell scandalous stories about people she knew at the courts of Charles II (the "Merrie Monarch," known for his debauchery) and James II, with the names changed, which led to her arrest for libel and the book's eventual suppression.

Where Manley really shines is in playing both sides: relating lascivious anecdotes, full of sexy detail, and then condeming pornography and immorality; tsk-tsking about gossip while doing nothing but indulging in it. If you can do that with enough conviction, you might find yourself with a best-seller, no matter what the age. Because obviously then her readers can likewise indulge while still feeling morally superior. Masterful!

Given my taste, my favorite story is about poor Charlot, an orphan raised by a powerful man as a potential wife for his son. He's convinced of the need for absolutely strict morality, and educates her accordingly. She's forbidden "airy romances, plays, dangerous novels," and "he wisely and early forewarned her from what seemed natural to her, a desire of being applauded for her wit... Whatever carried her beyond the knowledge of her duty, carried her too far; all other embellishments of the mind were more dangerous than useful, and to be avoided as her ruin." (p. 30)

Then, of course, he falls for her himself, and realizes this moral education is going to get in the way of seducing her, so he starts introducing her to the works of Ovid. Ha!