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I never seem to post good news. I'm always feeling melancholy when I have a chance to post anything. It's not like I expected anything to come of the Amazon novel contest, but still, getting the "sorry, you're not a semi-finalist" has made me all "kick the can, what's the point, why am I kidding myself with this writing thing anyway?" *sigh*

It's not like I don't have good things happening, after all. Things are going well at work (I'm expecting a nice raise), we're all nicely in the black when it comes to money (or will be, when I pay off the Christmas stuff, not counting the new mortgage, which is counted as "good debt"), we has great kitchen, I have the best partner in the world, I just installed my brand-new surround-sound DVD/CD theatre system (my tenth anniversary giftee from my office), it should all be good.

Yet I'm all weepy. No wonder Vulcans eschewed emotions.

It may also be the whole writer's strike thing. I want my shows back. All I'm watching are talk shows (Craig Ferguson and Ellen). Of course, there were new shows last night, but I TIVO'd them since sillymagpie couldn't be here, so I'll probably watch 'em on Friday.

And one of my favorite independent singers, quite possibly the greatest country singer alive today (because I have no problems at all with putting him in the same category with Hank Sr., Johnny Cash, and Lefty Frizzell), is FINALLY getting some mainstream acknowledgement, with his newest video going into rotation on CMT (and believe me, he puts the country back in that station identification): Dale Watson's Hollywood Hillbilly. I don't know if it's worth sitting through any CMT for, but the video is at YouTube. (I've been able to embed a You Tube video once successfully, but I'm too tired to figure it out again right now...)

And speaking of indie singers, Dave Insley's new album will be coming out in March, featuring some of his best stuff from his live shows.

So I should be happy. I will be. Dang it. I have a Torchwood to watch, after all (probably tomorrow).

Someone on rahirah's F-list sent us some Mighty Fine cookies. I'm not sure of your LJ name, but if you read my journal, as well, then thanks! They're YUMMY!


ETA:

Op-Ed Contributor
Women Are Never Front-Runners

By GLORIA STEINEM
Published: January 8, 2008

Correction Appended

THE woman in question became a lawyer after some years as a community organizer, married a corporate lawyer and is the mother of two little girls, ages 9 and 6. Herself the daughter of a white American mother and a black African father — in this race-conscious country, she is considered black — she served as a state legislator for eight years, and became an inspirational voice for national unity.

Be honest: Do you think this is the biography of someone who could be elected to the United States Senate? After less than one term there, do you believe she could be a viable candidate to head the most powerful nation on earth?

If you answered no to either question, you’re not alone. Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House. This country is way down the list of countries electing women and, according to one study, it polarizes gender roles more than the average democracy.

That’s why the Iowa primary was following our historical pattern of making change. Black men were given the vote a half-century before women of any race were allowed to mark a ballot, and generally have ascended to positions of power, from the military to the boardroom, before any women (with the possible exception of obedient family members in the latter).

If the lawyer described above had been just as charismatic but named, say, Achola Obama instead of Barack Obama, her goose would have been cooked long ago. Indeed, neither she nor Hillary Clinton could have used Mr. Obama’s public style — or Bill Clinton’s either — without being considered too emotional by Washington pundits.

So why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one? The reasons are as pervasive as the air we breathe: because sexism is still confused with nature as racism once was; because anything that affects males is seen as more serious than anything that affects “only” the female half of the human race; because children are still raised mostly by women (to put it mildly) so men especially tend to feel they are regressing to childhood when dealing with a powerful woman; because racism stereotyped black men as more “masculine” for so long that some white men find their presence to be masculinity-affirming (as long as there aren’t too many of them); and because there is still no “right” way to be a woman in public power without being considered a you-know-what.

I’m not advocating a competition for who has it toughest. The caste systems of sex and race are interdependent and can only be uprooted together. That’s why Senators Clinton and Obama have to be careful not to let a healthy debate turn into the kind of hostility that the news media love. Both will need a coalition of outsiders to win a general election. The abolition and suffrage movements progressed when united and were damaged by division; we should remember that.

I’m supporting Senator Clinton because like Senator Obama she has community organizing experience, but she also has more years in the Senate, an unprecedented eight years of on-the-job training in the White House, no masculinity to prove, the potential to tap a huge reservoir of this country’s talent by her example, and now even the courage to break the no-tears rule. I’m not opposing Mr. Obama; if he’s the nominee, I’ll volunteer. Indeed, if you look at votes during their two-year overlap in the Senate, they were the same more than 90 percent of the time. Besides, to clean up the mess left by President Bush, we may need two terms of President Clinton and two of President Obama.

But what worries me is that he is seen as unifying by his race while she is seen as divisive by her sex.

What worries me is that she is accused of “playing the gender card” when citing the old boys’ club, while he is seen as unifying by citing civil rights confrontations.

What worries me is that male Iowa voters were seen as gender-free when supporting their own, while female voters were seen as biased if they did and disloyal if they didn’t.

What worries me is that reporters ignore Mr. Obama’s dependence on the old — for instance, the frequent campaign comparisons to John F. Kennedy — while not challenging the slander that her progressive policies are part of the Washington status quo.

What worries me is that some women, perhaps especially younger ones, hope to deny or escape the sexual caste system; thus Iowa women over 50 and 60, who disproportionately supported Senator Clinton, proved once again that women are the one group that grows more radical with age.

This country can no longer afford to choose our leaders from a talent pool limited by sex, race, money, powerful fathers and paper degrees. It’s time to take equal pride in breaking all the barriers. We have to be able to say: “I’m supporting her because she’ll be a great president and because she’s a woman.”

Gloria Steinem is a co-founder of the Women’s Media Center.

AND

Film
Take the Kids, and Don’t Feel Guilty
By A. O. SCOTT
Published: January 11, 2008

Over the last few years, in the course of many parent conferences and elementary-school curriculum nights, I’ve become familiar with the concept of the “just-right book.” This, my children’s teachers patiently explain, is a book that is perfectly suited to a child’s reading ability: neither too easy, in which case he or she will grow bored, nor too difficult, which risks frustration and confusion.

I defer to the pedagogical expertise of the professionals, but something in me nonetheless rebels against the idea that the books children choose should always be safely within their developmental comfort zone. There is pleasure to be found in bewilderment, in the struggle to make sense of what is just above your head, and there is wisdom as well. For similar reasons, while I am happy (or at least willing) to take my children to the latest animated or tweener-star-driven “family” movies — with their singing chipmunks and chirpy Loch Ness Monsters — we gravitate more and more toward age- inappropriate fare, exploring the grown-up realms of PG-13 and even, sometimes, R.

Is this just wrong? Maybe. I blanch when I see very young children at “American Gangster.” But I also roll my eyes when friends choose to interpret the PG-13 rating as a literal injunction rather than an attempt by the movie industry to protect itself from complainers.

We all know what’s right for our own children, and I’m not going to advise anyone to subject young eyeballs to the cruelty of “There Will Be Blood” (which isn’t, until the very end, all that bloody) or the menace of “No Country for Old Men.” But there are a lot of interesting movies to see with children right now, including many that are not marketed that way.

On Christmas, my annual busman’s holiday, I took my daughter to see “Enchanted,” a just-right movie for her if ever there was one. Its blend of satire and sweetness, princessy romance and feminist pluck was expertly calibrated to satisfy a third-grade girl. Which was just the problem. At the end, as is my custom (I have to get my insights from somewhere), I asked her what she thought. “It was good,” she said. “But I felt like I knew what was going to happen the whole time.” That’s true of a lot of movies, maybe most of them. But isn’t it more fun — if also perhaps more risky — not to know, to be apprehensive and attentive and maybe a little uncertain?

That’s the kind of movie I like, and I don’t think that’s just a matter of grown-up taste. On the contrary. The mind of a child is made for learning, and even movies that have no explicit didactic intention can teach a lot. An adult companion is helpful to provide explanations.

Which is what may make some parents uncomfortable: not the bad stuff their sons and daughters will see, but the difficult stuff they may find themselves asked to explain. The same Christmas Day, my son, who is in sixth grade, went to see “Charlie Wilson’s War” with his mother and other family members. When he came back he had some hard questions, but they had nothing to do with naked congressmen in hot tubs or cocaine or extramarital dalliances, all of which feature prominently in that movie. “Why did the Russians invade Afghanistan in the first place?” he wanted to know.

And if you are prepared to tackle that — I could have used a little help, frankly — then by all means take a curious child with an interest in spycraft and skulduggery to see “Charlie Wilson’s War.” It’s appealing in part because it’s a grown-up movie of a kind that used to be more common. It’s brisk, funny and frank about sex and politics, demonstrating the ease and worldliness that are among the most fascinating and mysterious features of adulthood. More so, I suspect, than the nudity, smoking and swearing that are also part of Charlie Wilson’s world.

Like “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is rated R, in this case for geysers of arterial blood rather than for disrobed flesh or untamed language. It is a scary, brutal, horrifying film — also a musical, by the way — and two-thirds of the way through it my son turned to me and said, “I’m loving this.” And why wouldn’t he?

The music, though not his usual genre, got into his head and under his skin, and he recognized most of the stars from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Harry Potter” movies. There were Severus Snape and Bellatrix Lestrange (Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham-Carter) locked in a revenger’s tragedy with Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). And there was the French guy from “Talledega Nights,” Sacha Baron Cohen, also known as Borat. (Yes, he’s seen that too. Terrible, I know. I wish it had been around when I was his age.)

Those familiar pop-cultural faces were his point of entry into a story that was a good deal stranger and darker than most musicals. He was a bit rattled, but also fascinated. “It’s one of the best movies of the year,” he said. Regular readers will know I share his judgment.

But children, more than critics, are receptive to anything that doesn’t bore them. Mine were enchanted by “Persepolis,” for instance, which is after all the story of a rebellious young girl contending with unjust authority. It’s not so different from “The Golden Compass” (which they also liked), except that instead of taking place in a computer-generated fantasy world full of armored bears it is set in the real country of Iran, which is rendered in beautifully drawn ink-washed two-dimensional animation. “Persepolis” is also in French, but don’t let that put you off. If your children can read just-right books, surely they can read subtitles too.

Death and sexuality figure in the story, but those themes are handled with such wit and delicacy that “Persepolis” is more likely to inspire interesting conversations than awkward questions or uncomfortable feelings. The same might not be true of “Juno,” the story of a 16-year-old girl’s unintended pregnancy and her entanglement with the couple who want to adopt her baby.

Like other parents I’ve spoken to about it, I wish “Juno” were just a bit less lighthearted about teenage pregnancy, the real social and psychological consequences of which are never quite acknowledged. But the movie’s spirit is sweet and smart and youthful, and the relationships it depicts feel very tender and real. If it provokes you to have that long-dreaded talk with your son or daughter, so much the better. You might have needed to anyway.

And the more movies you see, the more there is to talk about and to learn. I suppose a trip to see “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” might inspire a multigenerational inquiry into the history of the American presidency and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. But this is likely to be lost in the childlike excitement at the action sequences and adult puzzlement about what ever happened to Nicolas Cage. (It may take a viewing of decidedly not-just-right movies like “Leaving Las Vegas” and “Wild at Heart” to explain that one. Though you could just as easily rent “Raising Arizona” or “Moonstruck.”)

But there are in any case better cinematic windows on the past. You can explore the painful history of Afghanistan not only in “Charlie Wilson’s War” (which leavens the pain with some boisterous and nostalgic cold war patriotism) but also in “The Kite Runner,” which is after all a tale of childhood friendship. “The Great Debaters” wraps its history lesson, about the American South in the era of Jim Crow, in a rousing (if somewhat formulaic) sports movie about a tough coach and his team of overachieving underdogs. There are some intimations of sex and violence, but nothing that is shocking or out of place, and the performances, especially by some of the younger actors, are examples of the excellence that is the movie’s theme.

So there is no need to shell out for a baby sitter, or subject yourself to repeated viewings of “Alvin and the Chipmunks” or “The Water Horse” — though if that’s your thing, I won’t stop you. But there are a lot of good movies out there right now, and if you haven’t seen them yet — in addition to the one’s I’ve mentioned there are “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” and “Into the Wild,” “I Am Legend” and “Michael Clayton” — consider taking the children along. Some of these films may be too hot or too rough, but for that reason they may also be just right.



Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
nutmeg3
Jan. 17th, 2008 05:08 am (UTC)
I'm sorry about the contest. But the good things really are good. And man, I wish my office would give me a surround sound system. ::envies::
wildrider
Jan. 17th, 2008 12:14 pm (UTC)
One thing about where I work, some of the perks are pretty awesome (gifts at five, ten, fifteen, etc. anniversaries, for one); there used to be even more, but they've streamlined a LOT in recent years. Some old-timers (including me, at a big ten years) gripe about what we've lost, but when I think about what we still have, it's really not a bad place at all to work...

ljs
Jan. 17th, 2008 11:44 am (UTC)
I so sympathize with your disappointment re contest -- but hurrah for the good things on your list.

And, re cookies -- I'm on your flist too. :-))

Hugs and a happier Thursday!
wildrider
Jan. 17th, 2008 12:17 pm (UTC)
Ah! I wondered if it was you, but I wasn't sure.

Am I right, it's the old so-called "Neiman Marcus" recipe? If so, how do you make them so moist and chewy? The one time I did them they were good, but dry as the Sahara! I never tried again, but now I'm encouraged to do so...
ljs
Jan. 17th, 2008 05:17 pm (UTC)
Hi!

Was it this version of the Neiman Marcus recipe you used last time? This works well for me (although I confess to using more vanilla extract than is called for!). :-)

Happy Thursday!
wildrider
Jan. 18th, 2008 01:50 am (UTC)
Wow, no, that's TOTALLY different. For one thing, it's cut down to a manageable size (the recipe I was following made MILLIONS of cookies)! Ah, a quick trip on Google finds the one I did. Along with the ol' urban legend it goes with! Now I have both...

cornerofmadness
Jan. 17th, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC)
Gah I'm so sorry and the worst of it is one of the novels I know got in on the gen. fic is so unworthy of being there
wildrider
Jan. 18th, 2008 01:47 am (UTC)
I suppose I fall into the "it was an honor to be selected for the contest at all," but STILL...

cornerofmadness
Jan. 18th, 2008 03:20 am (UTC)
yeah still blows
typographer
Jan. 17th, 2008 04:12 pm (UTC)
:(
sillymagpie
Jan. 18th, 2008 06:23 am (UTC)
I have to take my sister to her bank tomorrow (gawd, will this week never end?!), but I can come over after, if I'm not exhausted.
wildrider
Jan. 18th, 2008 11:57 am (UTC)
Poor Maggie! If you need to collapse, that's okay. There's always Caturday. *g*

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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