The Ceasefire

Like probably millions of women (and men) all over world I am currently at war. I am at war with my body. We have been at war since I was a little girl. Since the very first time some other little girl told me I was too fat. If it’s not weight, it’s something else – there’s always something. Not to say I don’t love my body – we’re frenemies. But I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve thought that I would do anything to look different.

Today, however, we’re experiencing a ceasefire, because every once in a while I realize just how awesome it is. I realize that despite being bombarded with negative (at worst) and confusing (at best) messages from the media about my body every day – it’s mine and at the end of the day I am the only person who needs to make peace with it. While I am vividly aware of being a good distance from anyone’s ideal, I’m not unhappy with my body. There’s a lot of things I like.

What brought this (temporary – tomorrow we will return to arguements about calories, sunscreen, moisturizer, cellulite, and whether to lie away a couple inches of height.) ceasefire about was that today I started and finsihed making a pair of hand sewn hot pink and black stain ruffly panties. Now, why you ask, would I make my own panties, when even women such myself can buy delightful panties? Well, because I had an idea and it was one which said, you know what, fat stores and skinny stores and department stores and the internet – I no longer care what you say about me, and more so, what I should be wearing. I’ll make what I want and I’ll make something that makes me feel good, makes me feel sexy.

I don’t know exactly what I was thinking when I started this project, except that I have writer’s block and want something to do with my time that will make me feel productive (usually, when I feel this way I start making things – dresses, bags, and now…panties.) and that things like lingerie are among my favorite things. I like things like lace and ruffles, perfume and sparkly jewelry. I also like believing that we can control our own body image, and today I proved that to myself.

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Moments of Searing Villainy!

I’d like to think I’m pretty pleased with my lot in life but there are days, when like anyone, I am distinctly dissatisfied. I often wonder what people daydream about when they are feeling listless, uncomfortable in their own skin –

I always think about how much I’d like to be a villain. Ideally, a super villain, but I’ll take a entry position to start. The kind of villain who can melt faces right off with her awesomeness. Villains, bad guys, nemesis’s, archenemies. These are the people who make good guys and heroes worth having – and they are almost always totally bad ass. I like to imagine I have a really impressive lair, equipped with an elevator and a giant fish tank. A ridiculously fast car and an entire wardrobe of menacing black outfits, and a maniacal laugh that makes toddlers pee themselves. How cool would that be?! I’d have a nemesis, of course, some startling goody-goody who I would thwart with ardor and intense devotion. Even if I always lost, I’d be a passionate villain.

While driving today I was pondering the whole…plan D (Plan A: phD, life in academia. Plan B: marry millionaire. Plan C: burlesque dancer. Plan D: villain.) and was thinking about some of my favorite fictional villains. Sure, I have favorite real life bad guys, but I actually think it’s more fun to talk about fictional ones, it allows me to be excited without being creepy or tasteless.

So to celebrate this, here is a quick run down of my favorite fictional villains, in no particular order:

Voldie

1. Lord Voldemort (of Harry Potter fame) I love Lord Voldemort (or Voldie) because he’s so unrelentingly evil, he’s always got something utterly mind-bendingly wicked to get up to! And whenever it seemed like he could sink no lower, ta-da more evil. Also, it’s pretty unusual to know so much about a villain’s back story. With Voldie, we learn about his family, childhood, adulthood – it makes him a fully rounded character. I think he’s probably secretly pretty lovable.

Jokers

2. The Joker (of Batman fame) Now, I have no real preference on who I prefer as The Joker (though I love Jack), because it’s the character I’m most interested in. I like that he’s eccentric and colorful – and that we don’t really know what motivates the character, anarchy, fame, money . He’s also extraordinary interesting on film because of the image of a pervert and scary clown being enacted on the audience.

Branagh as Iago

3. Iago (Othello) Iago is the best Shakespeare villain OF ALL TIME. Yes, other Shakespearean villains are interesting, but Iago is exactly the kind of scheming, self-serving worm I love. His ability to prey on the emotional vulnerabilities of people and weave whole realities for people to buy into really speaks to his power as a manipulator. A truly impressive manipulative monster. Also, it’s hard to forget the film version with Kenneth Branagh as a dangerously sexy, homoerotic Iago.

Ursula the Sea Witch

4. Ursula the Sea Witch (Disney’s The Little Mermaid) The Little Mermaid is my favorite Disney movie and I always felt like Ursula got a bum deal in it. She’s not a mermaid, she’s a fat purple lady with a big black octopus for bottom, awesome. I bet she felt really confident growing up in Triton’s kingdom of waifish, beautiful mergirls. Of course she’s evil, everyone’s probably been mean to her. And besides, she’s the only character with an once of common sense – she actually understands how life works – you want something, you got to pay the price. Also, I don’t think it’s Ursula’s fault Ariel was willing to give up her family and voice to catch a man, if anything Ursula pointed out what a dumb idea that was.

Leatherface

5.  Leatherface (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is probably my favorite horror movie ever, and I think Leatherface is marvelous. Like many who have come after (Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, most notably) Leatherface doesn’t talk. He’s usually really quiet, he makes unearthly, scary noises when he’s shot or hurt but mostly this terrifying, hulking, mute monster. Oh, and he chops people up while they’re still alive, wears a butcher’s apron (why is he worried about his clothes?) and uses his victim’s skin to craft a nifty mask to hide his terribly disfigured face , sometimes he even hacks ’em up and cooks them for his family – Leatherface is truly the horror world’s Martha Stuart.

Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula

6. Dracula – Not only is Dracula is greatest vampire of all time, he’s awesome at being bad. He has a lot of skills other vampires, since him, have not had. Dracula could: turn into a wolf, a bat, a beast, a mist, a bunch of rats, or bugs, wilt flowers, manipulate the weather, hypnotize people, had superhuman strength, speed, and libido and on top of this kicked ass, took names, no aging, and he was an aristocrat! So he didn’t have a reflection, or much love for daytime and he got staked BUT he’s lived on in our imaginations as one of the most important literary, film, media figures in history, evil or not, as well as being a sex symbol. Rock on Count!

Satan

7. Satan – Ever since Milton thought Satan would make a pretty neat bad guy he’s been popping up all over the place totally dominating the super villain scene. Any time Satan is present he immediately out-awesomes everyone else. Why? Because not only is he dizzyingly powerful but he takes time for the little things – how many times have we seen Satan pitching up to fight it out with the powers of good for one measly soul? Apparently, every soul counts which makes Satan a very attentive villain. He could just lord it up on his big ol’ throne in Pandemonium, but no, he’s on Earth right now busting his ass to damn your soul.

Saruman

8. Saruman (of The Lord of the Rings fame) Now, a lot of people seem to think the Sauron is really the ‘it’ villain of this peice, but I have a lot more respect for Saruman. Firstly, during the material of the trilogy we mostly see Sauron pretending to be a giant CCTV over Mordor while Saruman is on the ground working. Breeding Uruk-hai, destroying forests, being wicked, burning and pillaging and most importantly (at least at first) deceiving other Istari, which I think we all know is no small feat. Secondly, Saruman is exactly the kind of character that people’s mistakenly think of as a side-kick, not so. He was doing his own evil without Sauron.

Hopkins as Dr. Lecter

9. Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, Hannibal) Sometimes I don’t even know if Dr. Lecter is a villain, that’s just how much I love him. The intensely creepy cannibal psychologist of Thomas Harris’ books-turned-films is a character that truly gets under your skin. When I think of him, it’s usually of Sir Anthony Hopkins doling out equal measures of perversity and intellectualism. Dr. Lecter is a truly thinking villain, a strategist and manipulator.

Patrick Bateman

10. Patrick Bateman (American Psycho) American Psycho is a book which probably never should have been made into a film, and it’s a film I probably should not have seen when I was 15. It was the first time I’d seen Christian Bale in a movie since Newsies. What a shock. Patrick Bateman is a highly successful, mentally deranged Wall Street executive with a penchant for violently abusing and killing prostitutes, bums and at one point in the book, a kitten. The character is brilliantly developed, moving rapidly from calm to frighteningly frenetic action. Brett Easton Ellis’ book features scenes which took even me aback and seeing the character on film is part revulsion and delight. I have a total crush on Patrick Bateman. Hmmm, chainsaws.

Film: Birdemic – Shock and Terror

Today, I experienced something beautiful. Sonora, Paul and I went and saw Birdemic – Shock and Terror, the epic “romantic thriller” by genre master, James Nguyen. Now, don’t get me wrong, Birdemic is an unrelentingly terrible film, awful by every possible standard, however it is also a beautiful thing to watch.

The narrative follows two main characters, the alarmingly slow moving Rod and his love interest, Nathalie (Victoria’s Secret model in the making.) They apparently went to high school together, where he sat two seats behind her in English (and collected her fallen hairs) and get accidentally reunited outside a diner in California. They go on a series of painfully boring dates, while Ron does very well at work. He’s a software salesperson, and has “silicon valley dreams”. What’s even better is that as all this incredibly mundane business is being inflicted upon the oft hysterical audience the film pushes a far-less-than-subtle message regarding polar bears dying and the other effects of global warming.

The plot really picks up when after a night of passionate laying next to each other, Rod and Nathalie awaken to find their sweet, Californian town has been ravaged by killer eagles and vultures. Eagles and vultures with ear-splitting shrieks, rendered in the most spectacular gif animation I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. They proceed to join up with another couple, and find themselves in a mini-van (read: Epic death trap). From here they spend the rest of this rolicking, joy-ride of a film doing incredibly foolish things, getting in and out of the vehicle for no apparent reason, leaving valuables behind (jerry can of gas, gun, etc.) and gathering dead weights (children). All the while they are regularly attacked by these maniacal bloody birds, and occasionally encounter sage-like individuals who proceed to unleash needlessly long diatribes about the negative affects of pollution, vehicle emissions, and global warming in general. By the time you’ve seen 20 minutes of this it becomes painfully obvious that the filmmakers are seriously trying to attempt to convey a cautionary message regarding the environment. Sometimes it feels as if Birdemic is the spotty, unwanted love-child of An Inconvenient Truth and Avatar.

I won’t go on and ruin the delicate nuances of the narrative, however, what is more remarkable about this innovative piece of film is the perceptive and effective use of the pan shot, sound editing and special effects. Never have I seen frightening, predatory birds rendered quite so poetically as Nguyen’s clunky, super-imposed creatures. Nor have I seen such epic, magical use of the pan-shot. Pans up and down, left and right, two, three, four, five, six in a row – revolutionary to say the very least. Finally, the sound editing is something to truly marvel at, the deeply moving effect of having key lines of “meaningful” dialogue being washed out by appalling soundtrack or on set background noise. Never have I felt so effectively sutured into intricacies of a film.

What is interesting about films such as Birdemic is that the people who produce them truly do deserve respect. While their films may appear to be travesties to the conditioned eye of the Hollywood film viewer, they are, actually, the products of considerable work, devotion, love and effort. I deeply respect the work of these independent filmmakers. In part because I know how proud I would be of making my own feature film, and also because it allows the average film-viewer to appreciate the detail and tremendous care that goes into the making of a major film. What is generally lacking in these sorts of films is attention to the myriad of small details, very few of these details are overlooked in the making of a major picture. It really makes me respect all the editors, effects specialists, gaffers, sound technicians, etc all the more.

We saw Birdemic at E St. Cinema in Washington D.C. It was a nearly sold-out show, and much of the audience were midnight movie regulars, and “Roomies” (people who attend cult screenings of Tommy Wisseau’s remarkable disaster, The Room). These sorts of film audiences are full on participants, funny and excited. Watching a movie with them creates a great sense of community and comradeship.

I would strongly recommend Birdemic – Shock and Terror as well as any of the film experiences in E St. Cinema’s midnight madness film screenings.

For The Love Of Handbags…

One of my mother’s favorite anecdotes about my early childhood is my first “bag crush”. As she remembers it I was maybe 3 or 4, I don’t remember it, but then I don’t remember learning to speak either.

We were on holiday in South Africa, and as she and I walked into a store (probably Woolworths) there was a display which included a white, round, shiny, pleather, crossbody bags with a multi-colored design on one side. I walked directly up to this bag, touched it and said,

“Oh, mommy, look at this…” in awe. When my mother asked what I was so interested in, I responded, “mommy, this bag is perfect!” She asked why, and then apparently I, in depth, told her all the ways and with what I would wear this perfect bag. I told her I would carry my pencils, my doll, and my notebook in it. I got the bag and it was indeed perfect.
I have since met many perfect bags. Many times I have walked into a store and immediately fallen in love with a bag. Sometimes these bags come home with me, sometimes they don’t. But I can say almost every bag I’ve ever bought has had a moment of being perfect. I’ve often “sold” friends on bags based on the love theory. If you see a bag, and you feel like you can’t live without it, you shouldn’t run the risk, you may very well die, or at least be struck ill. I’ve had sleepless nights worrying about whether I should or should not procure a bag, hours of thought into how to construct a base, or strap.

I am in love with handbags. I love clothes, scarves, shoes, and jewelry. I love making, buying and revamping all these things, but handbags, I am IN love with them.  I believe that a handbag can change a whole outfit, whole day, my mood, how people will respond to me, everything. The right bag will make the whole world flow in sync magically and the wrong bag will ruin my day. I am in love with all sorts of bags: big ones, small ones, hobos, totes, satchels, clutches, cross bodies, and in all sorts of colors and materials.  I have had love affairs with many bags over my life, classic and futuristic (I had a light blue inflatable backpack in middle school, and slaughtered many a plushie animal for the faux fur.)

But don’t get me wrong, I am in no way a bag snob, I love beautiful bags and I can practically sniff out certain ones, but one of my favorite things is designing and making my own bags. It’s where I find my greatest sense of stylistic development occurring. I feel like my desire to make comes from my, anti-shopping mother and desire to browse, hunt and buy is from my shopping-friendly father. I think they both think my perpetual bag crushes are silly. (“Mom…I’m in Puerto Rico…yes, it’s nice here…yeah, the weather is beautiful…yes, they are fine. Mom…there’s this bag…it’s on sale…but Mom…it’s turquoise…” I definitely had this phone conversation in a Coach store.)

So if you’re in a room with me and you find me staring at your handbag, it’s not a criminal urge bubbling up, it’s more likely me fighting the design to pet your bag.

The Question of Snownership

And in the face of snowpocalypse, here is something light…

There is a lot of snow around Washington D.C. today, epic piles of it. There has been snow around, in varying quantities since before Christmas, actually. I really like snow, I am fascinated by it because I didn’t grow up with it. Every time I see it, it’s an exciting adventure. I also like to play with it. Now, I don’t mean throwing or building massive sculptures – just sort of push it around a bit, touch it, eat it, mould it into little chunks – the way people who are fascinated by snow are prone to do.

Now as I understand it, people play with snow local to them. Like one’s children go out into the local park, or one’s garden and play in snow. So if you have a house, with a garden the snow that falls on the garden is your snow, for you to play with, just as the snow that falls on your drive is yours to shovel. Similarly, if I lived in an apartment with a balcony I would assume that the snow on my balcony was mine. I used to think that living in an apartment I had less snow to my name, perhaps just the snow that fell on my car – because I own the car, so surely I own that snow. When I was an undergrad the snow that fell around my building at Mason was snow I had the right to play with.

I now live in an apartment block, behind a public building and my car lives in a garage. As I see it there is no snow for me.

So, I have been pondering what snow I can play with:

It is acceptable to play with the snow on other people’s cars, or in their gardens? If you were a car owner or homeowner and you came out one morning and found the snow atop your vehicle had been tampered with, would you feel violated? Similarly, if the snow in your front garden was disgruntled from play, would you feel something had been taken from you, the chance to muss your own snow up as you shuffle to your buried mailbox? I know I would.

Similarly, there is a space for walking dogs in my building complex, but I do not have a dog. Am I allowed to play with that snow, or will I seem like I’m waiting to steal someone’s terrier?

So, I think the snow I am allowed to play with is either National Snow, the snow that has fallen on the monuments or the Mall in Washington, or the snow at Georgetown (but even that’s a stretch because I’m not living on campus – but I pay tuition, surely that buys me some snow!) And both of these places are quite far away from where I live, there’s basically no snow in Virginia for me! I’ve been borrowing people’s snow! Playing with snow at Katharine’s house or at Paul’s house and asking stupidly, “may I play with this snow?”

Right now, I have to satisfy myself with the little bit of snow that has become trapped between my screen and my windows.