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100% autobiographical

19 Apr

hey, the History Major Heraldic Beast tumblr posted my submission!

alternate version: the time someone on my dash talked about how much she liked Elizabeth because of the "medieval" costumes.STRAIGHT FROM MY LIFE. Don’t even get me started on the time someone on my Tumblr dash talked about how much she enjoyed Elizabeth because it was so great seeing these actors she loved in “medieval” costume.

explanation: Jane Austen lived from 1775 to 1817; she died twenty years before Queen Victoria was crowned and two years before she was even born. She’s generally classified as “Regency”, the period from 1811 to 1820 during which George III had been deemed unfit to rule and the Prince of Wales was ruling as Prince Regent. “Georgian” would also probably be okay, or at least closer.

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In which I am having trouble lifting stuff on account of this chip on my shoulder.

14 Oct

So, apparently people are abuzz with talk about the Millennials! This is relevant to my interests, on account of how I’m generally considered as belonging to that generation (1985). This article in the Chronicle of Higher Education talks about the practice of generational studies, which, like so much of academia, mostly seems to involve saying some stuff and then arguing about it with people who are saying slightly different stuff. It’s a pretty interesting article and definitely worth a read, and I’m now interested in adding the books referenced to my list of things to get next time I’m at the library!

I mostly wanted to say, though, dear Neil Howe and William Strauss, I have a hard time taking your study seriously when you base all your observations on a survey not only of one county and one alone, but of Fairfax County in particular. Now, admittedly, I have a bit of a complex about Fairfax County, being from the county everyone in Fairfax makes fun of: for instance, I once had someone from Fairfax, on finding out that I had grown up in Woodbridge, across the river in Prince William County, respond with “wow, I didn’t know that was something people admitted to in public” (this is why I feel a certain kinship with New Jersey, just FYI). But dudes, Fairfax County is hardly representative of the entire country in any way. As the article points out, in 2007 Fairfax “became the first county in the nation to have a median household income of more than $100,000, about twice the national average.” Admittedly, in the DC Metro area, an income of $100,000 doesn’t go as far as it would elsewhere in the country, because the cost of living is so high, but dudes, leaving aside the class issues, what about the regional differences? What about urban vs. suburban vs. rural?

Like, I am willing to hear out some talk of generational theory, at least insofar as it loosely corresponds to historical trends, but dudes. Seriously. The sample size is pretty good, but that is not much in the way of sample variety. Probably the funniest point, for me, comes in a discussion of an admissions officer’s doubts about this whole business:

He wondered if the sample of students in Millennials Rising had corrupted the findings. After all, most students do not apply to top-20 colleges.

Which pretty much sums it up right there. Oh, Fairfax County.

At first glance, this post probably looks like a thinly-veiled excuse for me to vent some spleen re: Fairfax County, but look closer! What I’m talking about is actually a pretty important thing to pay attention to when doing Serious Historical Research. Obviously, having grown up in the Northern Virginia area during the period Strauss and Howe were studying, I’m able to spot a lot more quickly that drawing conclusions about an entire nation’s worth of young people based on the teenagers in that county alone is stupid, because that county is very much exceptional. But you do need to be careful when faced with raw data, which these dudes seem to have forgotten: in the United States there’s tons of regional variation, and while this might be useful as a study of, say, Mid-Atlantic teenagers, or teenagers in busy, rich, suburban/urban areas, it’s not useful as a study of an entire nation’s teenagers.

In conclusion, though, seriously: FAIRFAX COUNTY, DUDES. SO TOTALLY NOT THE REST OF THE COUNTRY. If they were, I would probably emigrate.

In which I have thoughts on stage parents.

3 Oct

So there was an interesting letter in Salon’s broadsheet tying together the Polanski case and a recent incident in which a photograph of Brooke Shields was removed from the Tate Modern in London on the grounds that it might constitute child pornography. It got me thinking about how I am really bothered by everyone who blames the parents in situations like this! Like obviously what Brooke Shields’s parents did strikes me as pretty creepy. But the constant barrage of people saying “well, what about Samantha Geimer’s mother” in the Polanski case are making me really mad, because you know, it’s ultimately shifting the blame for his raping a thirteen-year-old girl to someone else, and a woman at that. And yes, it sounds like Samantha Geimer’s mother was a crappy exploitative stage parent for putting her daughter in a situation where she could be drugged and raped to begin with, but on the other hand, my parents sent me and my sister to a gymnastics school that was later closed down and our coach was arrested for raping students there. Possibly I am projecting a bit, but I don’t know, it’s still ultimately not their fault the dude was raping girls, it’s his fault.

I guess the insistence on tying it into terrible parenting—actually, not just terrible parenting, but terrible mothering, which I feel it’s important to note, because no one is talking about the fathers specifically in these situations, just the awful awful mothers—bothers me, because it’s a way of shifting the blame from the dude who actually drugged and raped a thirteen-year-old girl, and shifting it to a woman besides. And in an exploitation case like that of Brooke Shields, examining the parents’ behavior is valid, but when it’s a case like the Roman Polanski one, where Samantha Geimer was put into an exploitative situation and then raped, it seems really problematic to me to blame the mother instead of, you know, the guy who actually did the raping.

It’s also striking me as sketchy that Tracy Clark-Flory has reduced the judge in the Shields case to practically a footnote. Like, the focus is on how terrible the parents’ behavior is, not the judge who basically said that since Brooke Shields had done suggestive jeans ads as a teenager, she had no right to get upset about the creepy kiddie-porny picture that was taken of her when she was ten. This is a pretty classic example of what we in the Getting Irritated About Lady Matters biz call “victim-blaming”, and I would like to hear a hell of a lot more excoriation of that dude in this case, you know?

Like, there is more than enough blame to go around in our culture, because I do subscribe to the idea that we live in a rape culture and there are a lot of people who fucked up royally and betrayed both Brooke Shields and Samantha Geimer and, if they didn’t directly exploit them, at least allowed them to be exploited. But this just doesn’t sit right with me.

IDK, I originally intended to tell you guys how much I liked Zombieland! Maybe that will be an entry for tomorrow or something.

In which the news is not all completely infuriating!

30 Sep

Some of it is hilarious! In the midst of the Polanski business (here’s a free tip, readers: if you don’t want to go to jail for raping a child, maybe you shouldn’t rape a child), here are some articles that have shown up in my reader and did not make me want to punch a lot of people!

First of all, the Telegraph reports that apparently archaeologists are now thinking that the Battle of Bosworth Fields actually took place about a mile away from the site that’s been previously used to mark it. Awkward!

Also from the Telegraph comes news that a dude who made some wacky claims about Hitler’s skull fragment on a History Channel special never actually examined the fragment. Hey, remember when the History Channel wasn’t all WWII all the time? Yeah, me neither.

And the Times reports that a Van Dyck self-portrait is due to be sold! They also say, however, that “modern detractors argue that van Dyck is to blame for 400 years of flattery and airbrushing in depictions of the famous and the powerful”; maybe I am not so up to date with the art history world, but I have never heard this at all. Is this true?

Or if “what wacky times we live in” is your thing, the BBC reports that a PoW camp in County Durham is for sale on eBay!

Ah, that was refreshing. By the way, for those of you who’d like to know whose movies to illegally download borrow from your friends instead of buying from now on, the LiveJournal celeb-gossip community ohnotheydidn’t has a list of people who’ve signed the “Free Polanski” petition. Fortunately, most of my favorite celebrities and imaginary significant others are not really important enough for anyone to have asked their opinions on the matter, so I can continue with planning our imaginary weddings, but man, this is bad enough. Et tu, Tilda Swinton?

In which the legends are indeed true

29 Sep

What’s that I spy in the distance? Is it another mirage, or is it indeed an article that isn’t defending Roman Polanski for raping a child? Oh my God, it is!

Roman Polanski may be a great director, an old man, a husband, a father, a friend to many powerful people, and even the target of some questionable legal shenanigans. He may very well be no threat to society at this point. He may even be a good person on balance, whatever that means. But none of that changes the basic, undisputed fact: Roman Polanski raped a child. And rushing past that point to focus on the reasons why we should forgive him, pity him, respect him, admire him, support him, whatever, is absolutely twisted.

Like, I was willing to hear out the people who didn’t think Michael Jackson did what he was accused of. I wasn’t sure I agreed, but I could see where they were coming from.

But when we are dealing with a dude who actually pled guilty to raping someone (sidebar: I love that in the linked piece, Harding notes how the defenses would probably get even creepier if the girl hadn’t been thirteen at the time), uh, I’m sorry, but how is there any room for debate there?

I have more thoughts on this, obviously, but that will probably be something for tomorrow instead.

In which some cave paintings set me off.

16 Sep

So there was a neat article that popped up in my RSS reader from the London Times, about how there’s been some speculation that the cave paintings at Pech-Merle are not all by dudes! The article is here, and this is pretty interesting stuff, but there is a lot in that article that is…not exactly irritating, but kind of weird and off-putting, pretty much from the first paragraph.

Cave art seems always to have been thought of, for no especially good reason, as the work of men.

Okay, that’s fair enough, I guess? I never thought much about it one way or the other, but I guess that’s as good an opening for an article about ladies doing cave-paintings as any.

Perhaps it is because much of the art lies in deep, dark caverns,

Wait, what? Is there any way anyone can find to interpret this that does not boil down to “this is why we figure dudes made them, because everyone knows ladies are afraid of the dark”? Any way at all?

or because many of the paintings and engravings are of large food animals such as mammoth and bison, which men might be supposed to have hunted.

Wait, what? Because…ancient ladies would’ve been completely divorced from the process of hunting, if they weren’t hunting those animals themselves? If they weren’t the ones out there killing the big tough animals like the manly men were, there is no way they could possibly have known what those animals looked like? Seriously, dude, I do not understand what you are saying here.

Cartoons have often suggested that women played a part, however, with the animals shown as a shopping list, or as home décor.

I recognize that this is not meant to be lending sexist cartoons the same weight as actual scholarship, let alone saying that those cartoons may be right, but I don’t know, man, something about this sentence is still just rubbing me the wrong way. That might just be that it’s hard to get sarcasm across in print, though.

Handprints are not found in all, or indeed most, caves, however, and since many are those of men, it is so far impossible to say firmly which if any of the great animal friezes in caves such as Lascaux or Chauvet might be women’s work.

NONE OF THE IMPORTANT STUFF WAS BY LADIES, RIGHT? RIGHT?

While Professor Snow’s research shows that we cannot rule out either sex in any cave as the world’s first muralists, no doubt cartoonists will find in his findings a fertile new field for their humour.

IN CASE YOU DIDN’T CATCH IT THE FIRST TIME, LADIES LIKE TO DECORATE THINGS AND GO SHOPPING, AND THAT’S PRETTY HILARIOUS. Like, seriously, though, if cartoonists have already been making jokes about cave paintings being ~ladythings~, what the heck is finding out that these paintings may actually have been made by women going to accomplish? The jokes have already been made, and instead if you are the type of person who says that the only reason an ancient woman would’ve painted something would’ve been by way of a) decorating or b) nagging, JUST LIKE THOSE ARE THE ONLY THING LADIES ARE GOOD FOR NOW, AMIRITE OR AMIRITE, you instead are probably just going to cite this as proof of that. If, meanwhile, you are genuinely interested in this finding, you will probably just get irritated at how clumsily-written this article is.

In which a publishing company crosses the line.

11 Sep

So today was going to be Part 2 on Mrs. Bennet, but this turned out to be timely, considering, so Mrs. Bennet will have to wait a day or two.

Look, I will grant that the Twilight books have gorgeous cover designs. Far prettier than they deserve, IMO. But you, HarperCollins, have gone too far. Good day to you, sirs.

Stephenie Meyer presents Pride and Prejudice

I SAID GOOD DAY.