Sunday, July 27, 2008

People are so odd

Flying home from Chicago this morning I sat in a row with a woman in possession of at least 50 years who--I shit you not--clutched a stuffed animal the entire flight.

Come on. Have some dignity. Either you'll make it home or you won't, but remember what your mother used to say about always wearing crisp underwear in case you find yourself offending some poor paramedic with your sagging elastic and skid marks? I'm going to suggest that you think about how you'll be remembered if the plane does go down and your mangled corpse is discovered clinging to Boo Boo Kitty.

I was sitting by the window and Kitty Klinger was on the aisle; between us was a college girl on her way back to school. The moment KK sat down she started babbling at this poor kid. Her rather alarming introductory declaration: "I've got to take my Dramamine now. The older I get I just get worse and worse. The last time I flew I got so sick!"

Um. Not so much what your fellow passengers want to hear while we're buckling ourselves in next to you? Thanks.

Then she went off about her kids and her grandkid and all the jobs she's had since she got divorced because she always put her kids first you know that was the way she approached it so if a job started to interfere with that why she went and found another one.

I hate people like this so, so much. I am not pathologically unfriendly, but I could not be less interested in being trapped by the boring lives of strangers. It's rude to do this, to take advantage of the politeness of others and force them to endure your bullshit. And put down that stupid toy, you weirdo.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Thoughts while viewing Project Runway tonight

[Begin DVR replay]

Yay! Project Runway!

Yay! Heidi and Tim! Er...Heidi looks somewhat...emaciated. Maybe I'm just used to seeing her pregnant?


Stella = Cher in Mask.

So many cute bangs on the young women these days. I wish I could wear those bangs. Alas, I am old. I would look like Stella.

Time for judging!

Heidi is too thin for reals.

AUSTIN SCARLETT!!eleven!1!!!1!!!

I like the first lawn chair dress. And the cup dress.

The mop crochet shirt = not something I want to imagine my boobs in at this point in my life cycle, but definitely striking.

Pasta skirt is kind of cool looking.

Like the yellow fly swatter decor.

Everyone who used a tablecloth = go home loser

"Girlicious" = DIE NOW. She looks like a stuffed toy your puppy ripped the guts out of. Or a sufferer of some hideous creeping crotch fungus. With shoulder pads.

Winner: dyed vacuum bag skirt. Gorgeous, innovative. She made her own hook and eye closures for the back from a spiral notebook binding. Suck it, tablecloth wussies.

This season on Project Runway: Tim says something looks like "a pterodactyl in a gay Jurassic Park." Oh, Tim. Call me.

[end DVR replay]

More cracker news

Remember my earlier post about the Great Wafer Caper of 2008? According to the latest post at Pharyngula, one of the raving morons who emailed a threat to Professor Myers (demonstrating his superior Christian love, of course) used his wife's work email account and got her fired.

I was listening to the Non-Prophets podcast yesterday as they discussed the bizarre story of PZ Myers and the sacred wafer, and I learned something I did not know: Priests have recently begun placing the communion wafer in the recipient's hand instead of directly into the mouth because of health concerns.

Am I to understand that Jesus's body bits are sacred but not guaranteed sanitary? How magical can this cracker possibly be if it can't even eliminate 99.9% of household germs?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Oh, David Sedaris, how I love thee

I'm reading When You Are Engulfed By Flames and it's slaying me. It's making me behave more obnoxiously than normal at home, too, because I keep cornering my husband and son and making them listen to me read passages.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Gosh, how long has it been?

OK, I suck. It's all my fault. Just...don't even start, OK?

I don't even have an explanation for my defection from blogging. I just didn't have anything to say for awhile. Got bored with myself I guess.

But I'm going to try to do better.

The most interesting thing I did this summer (so far) was deliver a conference paper arguing that Joss Whedon's film Serenity is a new atheist text. It went well, I think, though I was excruciatingly nervous. I took one for the atheist team anyway. I got some odd--though, I guess, not unpredictable--questions from the audience. One young woman tried to claim that the media portray stereotypes about Xianity that aren't true. I didn't say "bitch, please, the media and politicians all kiss religion's collective ass," nor did I ask, "oh, you mean like when CNN trotted all the candidates for president out and made them prattle about their faith on television?" No, like the professional that I am, I steered the conversation back to my actual material and said, "Well, I have to disagree that the ideas I identify in the film rely on stereotypes. At some point you either believe that Mal must accept Christ into his heart or be doomed don't. That's not something imposed on Xianity by others--it's doctrine." (Score, me!)

Then I got some old dude trying to tell me about how there are all these different ways to be religious and even to be Xian! (Golly! For reals?) I replied that this really wasn't much of an endorsement because once you start spreading your base that thin you have a hard time making any truth claims at all. I finally said that the bottom line--and what I see the film criticizing--is that to maintain a religious perspective you always end up at a place where you must believe something without evidence. That got a few nods and a few sneers so...good?

I have to confess again that I was terrified doing this. I'm always nervous when I read at conferences. I know it seems strange, a college professor who imparts wisdom to rooms full of people for a living sweating with stage fright, but students don't know if you're full of shit most of the time. They just don't. Your peers are different. And it doesn't help when you're dealing with provocative subject matter. The real shock, though, was how easy it turned out to be. I could answer every question without straining myself. I credit all the glorious atheist debaters and writers and speakers and podcasters and bloggers who helped me prepare for my first anti-crusade. Thanks!

Here's a brief excerpt from my talk, if you're interested:

The Alliance’s scientific inquiry seeks methods of control, not enrichment, of the public, specifically of people’s natural impulses and drives, including the Freudian libido. Referring to those drives as “sin” establishes an overt religious context that informs further allusions. For example, River’s association with Eve aligns with Miranda’s association with Eden. The use of “Miranda” as a proper name apparently occurs for the first time in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, as the name of Prospero’s naïve, untainted daughter. The word “Miranda” translates from the Latin to mean “worthy of being admired” and shares its root with the words “miracle,” “admire,” and, awesomely, “mirror.” I presume it’s no coincidence that Shakespeare’s Miranda grows up on a beautiful isolated island, ignorant of the outside world and protected in that ignorance by an overbearing magical father who is obsessively invested in her sexual purity. River first encounters her buried memory of Miranda in The Maidenhead, a reference to female sexual innocence, underscoring the repression of River’s natural drives and impulses in favor of the forced ones implanted by the Alliance. Her childish affect and dependence represent the Alliance’s infantilizing influence, further mirroring the arrogant paternalism of the Alliance toward the people on Miranda: “We just wanted to make them safe.” The Edenic situation is one of eternal childhood, ignorant, provided for by daddy-god, naked without sexual tension or embarrassment like the ubiquitous snapshots of our toddlers in the bathtub, free from pesky knowledge and understanding and thus from the responsibility of moral choices.

I once heard Philip Pullman interviewed about The Golden Compass, and he said he saw his protagonist, Lyra, as an Eve character, a girl who obtained information she wasn't meant to have and then acted upon it and bore the consequences. River is like that too. If the Alliance tried to create a new Eden, employing the same ideas as Genesis in the privileging of ignorance over knowledge and passivity over activity, then River is the one whose appropriation of forbidden knowledge dismantles the hierarchy. The story of Eden is a story of who is allowed to possess knowledge, and River knows something she isn’t supposed to and has the courage to pass that knowledge to others, going viral, just as they feared she would. The Operative calls River an albatross. In a sly moment, Whedon uses the reference to the Coleridge poem to show that Mal is a more honest reader than the Operative; he read the poem to understand it not to bend it to his own purposes. The reference also clarifies the intensity of the Operative’s desire to kill River. Like the albatross around the ancient mariner’s neck, River is a physical reminder of a crime against nature motivated by selfishness and superstition, the punishment for which is the mariner’s spending eternity telling the story, like another signal that never stops. At the heart of Christianity is the scapegoat, the belief that sacrificing one person can erase the guilt of others. River is a living embodiment of the Alliance’s crimes; kill River and you kill the Alliance’s guilt.

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