Moss Street Paint-in

July 23, 2003 at 11:07 pm | In yulelogStories | 3 Comments

Last Saturday was the annual Moss Street Paint-In here in Victoria. Moss Street is around the corner from my house, so even I didn’t have an excuse not to go. It was a lot of fun: tremendous crowds, the art was a mixed bag (Miles Lowry stood out), and there were a couple of life-moments that jumped out of the art frame. First, there’s the guy on a front stoop chatting up a lovely woman; behind him sits a man with a make-shift sign, complete with arrow pointing directly at the chatting man’s head. The sign says: “Smart, funny, intelligent MAN looking for a positive relationship.” Everybody (women) who walked by the house wanted to talk to this guy! Next up, this guy with his Harlequin Calf, er, Harlequin Great Dane, caused a stir. The dog was more painted than some of the art. I wonder if his human has a snow-shovel-sized pooper-scooper at home? Some artists brought their own models for live drawing: And some decided to draw directly on the sidewalk, irrespective of models, transience, permanence, or material gain: I liked this last one, Michelangelesque bodies on the floor instead of the ceiling. The car tire-tracks add a particularly modern, insouciant touch. The people-watching was the best part of the afternoon. I kept wondering what happened to that chatting couple and what the relationship between the man holding the sign and the man being designated was…?

Dueling Banjos

July 23, 2003 at 5:32 pm | In yulelogStories | 6 Comments

Teresa Nielsen Hayden points to a very funny “dueling” animation on her site Making Light. Very useful cheering tonic — better than an Apple a day.

Bad Apple

July 22, 2003 at 7:30 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

The Mac expert at the computer place finally got back from vacation. It turns out that the motherboard on my iBook is fried. I have no idea what this means, except that it’s going to cost much much more to repair than fixing a VCR, which costs less to repair, but still costs more than buying a new VCR. In Canada, I’m looking at nearly $900 to repair this thing, plus 7% Provincial Sales Tax and 7.5% Goods and Services Tax (or vice versa). Anyway, 14.5% sales tax in total. I also don’t know if it will make my laptop reliably functional, or if it will be subject to further troubles. I totally blame it on the missing feng shui centre of this L-shaped house of course.

Grrls

July 20, 2003 at 11:53 am | In yulelogStories | 8 Comments

My last blog entry was almost completely beside the point, and I apologize to anyone who was led even further down the garden path by it. Instead of doing some homework, I assumed that Halley somehow originated the term “girlism,” and if Joel hadn’t mentioned the word grrl, I would never have realized that Halley’s use of the term “girlism” represents a hijacking of what a decade ago was a complex punk-feminist strategy. I was on the right track with Cyndi Lauper, but my despising of the queen of sell-out, Madonna, blinded me to the early connections between Lauper, Madonna, Courtney Love, and others. I’ve said sarcastic stuff about Madonna in past blog entries, and it’s time I explained why. When Madonna first came on the scene in the early 80s she was cool. She used sex as a performance to punch holes in the status quo. This was at a time when MTV was just starting out and many of us were seeing our first music videos on local late-night cable channels, not via the soon-to-become giant retailer. The success of MTV changed all that. By the 90s she was utterly co-opted, and “Madonna-sex” was used as a marketing tool. I’ll admit that this disappointed me very much, and although Madonna doesn’t control the media economy, I expected more of her than simple acquiescence. When she pulled her original version of the video Life in America at the start of the second Iraq war, she just kind of dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s. As for wannabes like Britney Spears: she never even started with what Madonna had: Britney’s a sale flyer for K-Mart. It’s like the difference between de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom in the late 18th century and its 20th century dialectical incarnation, as shown by Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film in which de Sade’s treatise becomes a catalogue of fascist-totalitarian tortures. If a thing has potentially subversive powers in one epoch, it doesn’t necessarily carry them over into others, especially if it can be used to fuel an economic or political rationale. And that’s what happened to girlism, which gained such force by the early 90s that it was theorized by pre-eminent postmodern feminists like Judith Butler. (In a typo-slip, the author of this article refers to her as Judith Butter: Tango, anyone? Yes, it’s always back to sex.) Butler rejects gender as a fixed category and instead prefers “those historical and anthropological positions that understand gender as a relation among socially constituted subjects in specifiable contexts.” Gender isn’t fixed; gender identity can shift and change according to context and circumstance. Our actual bodies are at issue, as are their representations: if your gender identity is fixed upon a set of categories — “girl,” “woman,” “man” — you, as an individual, are left with no room to maneuvre, to resist, to change. Hence, gender identity has to be fluid and changeable if it is to have any liberatory or explosive force. The connection between punk feminism, “girlism,” and punk girl bands — with names like Hole (Courtney Love), Cunts with Attitude, The Slits, Dickless — came about because these performers enacted a transgressive feminity — “look, no dick!, slit instead!, fuck you anyway!” — which used the symbols of femininity and pre-sexualized girlhood (hence the “girlism”) as an in-your-face slap to status quo notions of “womanhood.” While a juggernaut of theory was built up around this punk music praxis almost immediately, it was also nearly immediately co-opted into marketing and branding, especially via MTV. There is no way you can turn subversion into an ism (which is why feminism isn’t subversive per se: it is constructive, with all the attendant problems that entails). Grrls and girlist practice was originally a subversive performance that had nothing whatsoever to do with the slick, hole-less and artificially dick-ified Angels of Chuck. It had nothing to do with the glossy, mass-marketed “beauty” of the entertainment and advertising industries, beauty ideals that are destructive and limiting for the (individually beautiful) individual, but which hound that individual at every turn. It deliberately used “ugliness” and crudity, and in its nastier moments figuratively shat on the perfect model abstraction of the Beauty Queen. Butler’s theory that gender can be manipulated by the individual with some kind of freedom remains wishful thinking, however. From the link above: “Butler says: ‘There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; … identity is performatively constituted by the very “expressions” that are said to be its results.’ (Gender Trouble, p. 25). In other words, gender is a performance; it’s what you do at particular times, rather than a universal who you are.” This is true as far as I can see, but as a blueprint for action, it is also immediately constrained by the realities of co-optation. For example, if the grrls use girlish signifiers to masquerade a femininity that confounds patriarchy, their theorists should be reminded that it’s legal in Canada to have sex with real, actual 14-year old girls. And if marketing makes it ever more desirable to sell sexualized “play-with-the-markers-of-femininity-but-dress-like-a-slut” clothing to 6-year-olds, we’ll just see more sexualized children, not more playful adults free of gender-constraints.

“Girlism” makes about as much sense as “funism”

July 17, 2003 at 11:07 pm | In yulelogStories | 7 Comments

For more background, see Burning Bird and Halley’s Comment. Halley doesn’t have a comment box, Shelley (Burning Bird) Powers’s box is overflowing. My thoughts here: Do we really need another “ism,” robed in the language of marketing, and peddling a conventional adherence to conformity, flogged our way? A queen of lethal “girlism,” the Patsy Stone character on the British comedy Absolutely Fabulous illustrates just how manipulative you have to be to buy into this ideology. Admittedly, her version has no pretensions to the sweet or romantic, but might reveal more of its true nature. Yet even she calls thongs “dental floss wedged up your chocolate starfish.” In so many words, fuck fashion fascism, including “girlism.” Remember that song by Cyndi Lauper, Girls just want to have fun? That had a subversive moment, at least it did when seen together with the video: Cyndi, in a get-up that a “real” man would have found ugly (but which since has been manufactured to be bought off the rack, such is the way of co-optation), has liberatory fun, including getting her big-guy hairy dad to loosen up. It was a great “moment”: girl has fun throwing off shackles of oppression & authority (job & dad). And it was immediately frozen, merchandised, and sold. That Lauper was singing about working girls looking for release, and that her Fun Girl had a revolutionary core, was lost as soon as it was marketed. Today, the flamboyant anti-fashion that Lauper’s music video wage-slave character wore is peddled to 8-year-olds who shouldn’t have to wear a bloody uniform to HAVE FUN because they shouldn’t yet be working, either. But that’s the reality of conformism, and “girlism” smells suspiciously like another marketing ploy to conform conform conform to the powers that be. Hey, any girl could imagine being Cyndi Lauper in a goofball outfit for the nanosecond that her video lasted, and find it freeing. But imagining being a Charlie’s Angel or a Legally Blonde or whatever it is the Culture Industry is spewing out these days? That sounds like work galore. It’s regimental, it’s oppressive, it’s authoritarian: the diets, the workouts, the hair, the skin, ugh! So much for having fun. Feminism enabled women to make demands for personal & collective liberation in an organized way. Its limit might well be that fun is a kind of antipode to any “ism.” Fun is anarchy, it’s revolutionary, and it’s not on the rack of some store: it’s not an “ism.” “Girlism” is just another form of drudgery where, maybe, you get the guy. At least with feminism, maybe you get the well-deserved raise, too.

Medical benefits of DIY

July 17, 2003 at 8:58 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Medical benefits of DIY

Who can say if this does middle-aged guys any good, but their sons might be interested.

Carol Shields

July 17, 2003 at 4:34 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Carol Shields

Carol Shields died on Wednesday night in Victoria after a five-year battle against breast cancer. “She took up writing largely out of frustration as a reader, saying she couldn’t find enough interesting books about women’s lives.” About her latest book, Unless, Constance Rooke said in the Ottawa Citizen‘s obituary that “‘It’s a book that has a great deal of feminist anger. […] Carol was aware that women generally suffer from diminution and invisibility in certain kinds of situations.’ Rooke said that because of the gentleness and tenderness in Shields’ books ‘there was the risk of her work being seen as just celebrating the quiet domestic life.’ But Shields needs to be understood as a feminist writer, she said, one who ‘suffered from the condescension that Jane Austen did.'” Amid the many international obituaries (including this excellent one in the NY Times), BBC published a brief excerpt from Unless.

Save-a-stamp time

July 16, 2003 at 9:17 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Save-a-stamp time

When we lived in Vancouver in the early 80s, we used to joke that Canada was the Italy of the north because you never knew what or who was going to be on strike next: anything could go at almost any time. When we moved to the US, we were amazed to have mail delivery on Saturdays, brought up as we were on the strictures of work to rule, with weekends sacrosanct time-off. And Reagan being President then, any US postie union member suggesting collective action would probably have been shot on sight. (Which is basically what R.R. did with the air traffic controllers, who can now go postal without benefit of a contract.) Well, next week it will likely be the Nada Post Service here since the Canadian postal union is set to strike, starting this Friday. Oh Canada.

Canadian Kraft, a triple medley

July 16, 2003 at 4:23 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Canadian Kraft, a triple medley

Check out this alarming but funny article by David Olive of The Toronto Star, Kraft cooks up a plan to avoid obesity lawsuits. Aside from real information, there’s trivia, too: did you know that company founder J.L. Kraft was the “second-oldest of 11 children in a Mennonite farm family, was the Henry Ford of food, a trailblazer in the mass marketing of cheese, caramels, marshmallows and jams and jellies,” and was from Canada? How about that the food industry is a US$ 1 trillion business which spends US$ 4.5 billion annually on advertising? If you read books like Rick Gallop’s The G.I. Diet (“glycemic index diet”), the fast food and obesity linkage becomes even more apparent. Every molecule in processed & fast food is designed to be converted as quickly as possible into sugar (glucose) in your bloodstream, with your body incapable of putting up any resistance. The G.I. Index was developed by Dr. David Jenkins, a professor of nutrition at the University of Toronto. Another Canadian, eh, and because the diet is NIH (that doesn’t stand for National Institutes of Health, it stands for “not invented here”), you won’t hear much about it in the US. But it’s great if you need to watch heart health & weight. Or need more ammunition to convince your kids to stay away from white bread, commercial peanut butter and jam. And speaking of the kids: the Canadian Home Economics Association is disbanding. As the local paper here puts it, it’s “a sign of modern times now that home ec is no longer taught in many schools and the group doesn’t have the numbers to keep up its credibility.” I learned to make muffins in home ec. I never make them now, but my husband does, for breakfast, and he never took home ec, which might prove the value of disbanding the Home Ec Association. On the other hand, learning to cook has become an upper-middle class aspiration: the gourmet touch, showing that you’re worldly, that you’re more sophisticated than that, meaning that you’re better than white bread and peanut butter. So my kids will keep getting exposed to kitchen chemistry, to exotic foods, and to pretensions of gourmet skills at the stove and food prep counter. You should see our collection of knives! The pots! The Kitchen Aid appliance! The spices! The pizza stone! The Reggiano in a solid (and expensive) wedge! Yeah, yeah, no problem. But what about the kids who are getting raised on white bread junk, with no upper-middle-class aspirations to learn gourmet cooking? Disbanding home ec in those cases just helps the fast food industry get more customers down the road.

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