14 January 2012

Reviews of movies.

I've actually been working on a best-of for last year, but it's stalled. I've also got some notes in the works for further reflection on "weird girls" and girls you should date (no, I swear, I will). But I've also been watching a lot of movies lately, and I want to say a few words about them before I forget what they are. (Which happens on a distressingly regular basis.) So:

The Guard
Irish countryside:
Drugs and swearing and Goncharov
and Gleason are love.

The Departed
Saggy plotting kills
good men. Bodies line the streets;
Boondock Saints 's better.

J. Edgar
Spying on people
and going to the races make
Gay Edgar lonely.

He's Just Not That Into You
Baltimore looks cool:
strong female cast deal with men;
amusing and kind.

Starter for 10
McAvoy leaves beach
for uni; Parties, Sherlock
make life a fun hell.

11 January 2012

The girl you should date maybe has something to say about it.

So, there's this post. It's turned up on my facebook wall more than once, the wording more or less the same.

And I have to say, as a girl, I have some serious problems with it. People tend to talk about how "moving" it is, how "true" it is, how "romantic" it is. But right now, I'd like to take a couple of minutes to call bullshit when I see it. So let's break this baby down, and see what's under the hood.

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

All right, now. First sentence? Well, yeah. You want to breed for stupid, be my guest. But now let's look at the next two. What, I ask, is wrong with spending money on clothes? I like clothes. I think they're interesting; I think they're fun; I think they help me make my life more like my books. Why, then, should I have "problems with closet space" for the sake of my library? I should be able to have both. I thought feminism was far enough along for that, but perhaps I was mistaken. (Incidentally, book lists are terribly nineteenth century -- not exactly the best time to be a woman. Also, I've had a library card... SINCE I WAS 6.)

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

Again, the first sentence is pretty anodyne. Unread books? Lovingly poring over shelves? Fine, fine. Let's move along to the word choice in sentence 4 here. "You see the weird chick...?" 

"Weird chick"? How kind. You should certainly have this attitude towards "a girl you should date." This is entirely appropriate. And of course, it's equally appropriate to cruise used bookstores for girls, because they are definitely there to meet guys who think they're weird. Thanks, but no. 

As for sentence 4, do I even need to mention this Bill Hicks sketch? No? Good. Moving on...

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

There's a lot wrong here, so I'll go through it sentence by sentence. 

  1. "That coffee shop down the street" is, for me, a Starbucks in a grocery store. So no, I'm not the one reading in the coffee shop. The one reading in the coffee shop is the one blocking all the carts and pissing everyone off. One wonders where this is, then. 
  2. Who, in the name of God, goes to a coffee shop to have coffee that has cheapass non-dairy creamer? We're thinking of that nasty powdered stuff you get at Family Dollar for $1.50, right? That stuff? That stuff is NASTY.
  3. Sentence fragment -- ignore. 
  4. No. Do not presume on her time. If she's there and she's reading, then she probably had to make the time for this. Leave her the hell alone. If she wants to talk to you, she'll look at you. Or she won't.
  5. She can and she should. 
  6. No. Ask her if she minds you sitting there. If she says no, proceed to this question. If she says no, but seems annoyed, sit quietly and unless she starts talking to you, make an excuse and get out; she wants to be left alone. If she says yes, believe her. 
Buy her another cup of coffee. Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

As far as buying her another cup of coffee, see how things went with the previous attempts at conversation. If she told you to go away, I hope you did. 

But also:  Why should she care what you think of Murakami? Which one? How dumb do you think she is, that she wouldn't have gotten through the first chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring

Furthermore, who would say that about Ulysses? If you were smart enough to read it and understand it, you should also be smart enough not to want to date someone dumb enough to lie about understanding it. (But if you really understood it, you're probably a Joycean scholar, and don't you have better things to do?) If you didn't understand it, why would you assume that this girl you want to date is as dumb as you or wants to impress you or needs to try to sound intelligent? Why would you assume this in someone you supposedly want to -- or ought to -- date? 

Also, Alice? Really? Again, which one? I think of a couple of famous ones from literature off the top of my head, and several of them are not ones I would like to be, and all but one of them, I dislike. 

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.
She has to give it a shot somehow.

Fine. Whatever. Make it easy -- for you. Moving on. 

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

NO. NO NO NO. DON'T lie to her, unless you want her to be pissed off at you about it, at best. If she really believes the things listed in sentence 2, she will also believe that behind all words, there is also truth. It may not be the end of the world, but a part of her will die when she learns of what you did. 

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.
Did you see the caps in the previous paragraph I wrote? Did you see how many times I wrote "no" with the capslock on? Multiply it by a thousand, then another thousand, then add forty, then throw it all over the floor so you can't even count it anymore. That is how wrong this is. 

If this really is a girl you should date, she will also realize that narrative arcs, especially the ones involving the hero's descent into hell, are to be avoided. She will know that hell is someplace she doesn't want to go. She doesn't want to have to put up with your BS until the sequel shows up. She doesn't want to have to begin again; she doesn't want you to be the hero of her life. Sure, life is meant to have a villain or two -- but if you fail a girl, and especially if you fail her on purpose, YOU are that villain. You will not be granted the sympathy and hope that she would grant the reformed villain of her favorite book series. You are not that guy. 

Too true about the Twilight series, though. 

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.
You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

As far as sentence 2 goes, she doesn't need to be clutching a book to her chest; if she's up at 2am weeping under any circumstance, you should be holding her and making her tea and comforting her (unless you failed her, in which case you should slink off with your tail between your legs and never bother her again). If you "lose her" for a couple of hours, maybe what you should do is remind yourself that she's a girl -- or how about a woman, or a lady? -- not your pet, nor your property. And why shouldn't she talk as if characters in books are real? If "you" are the kind of person you seem to be from this post, they're probably more interesting and nicer, anyway. 

Of course, you're going to propose to her! All every girl wants is to get married! 

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

It's all about you, isn't it? And after all that reading, she's just going to want to have your babies. Not that there's anything wrong with that -- if it's what she wants. Will she be okay with taking over your children's literary education? Does she even like Keats? These things are moderately important. Just, you know -- just moderately.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

"You deserve it"? You do? What about her? What does she deserve? Because what I'm seeing here is a girl who is, in fact, getting a guy who is only capable of giving her "monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals," because you -- poor, much-abused reader -- think only of yourself. Her love gives you so much -- and, what precisely, have you given her? So far, you have given her only your aspirations, your needs, your desires and your plans. Have you so much as asked her what she wants? Has there been any indication that you even care? 

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

Only if you want to end up in a novel, you will. And -- as a lady novelist, I can promise -- it won't be a flattering portrait. Goya-esque is the best you can hope for there. 

I realize this isn't a major text of anti-feminism or anything like that. I realize that the writer wasn't intending to imply that you should disregard young women's wishes, that she -- and it probably was a she -- meant to be romantic and charming and sweet. But this is the worst kind of romanticism. This post displays a horrible denial of good manners, an utter disregard for women's desires and needs, a complete self-centeredness on the part of the mysterious "you" to whom the post is addressed. 

What makes me angry is that this post, and many of the comments on it, is/are generated by women. Why? 

ETA:  Apparently, the post I've replied to is itself a response to this worthless pile of assholery. I'm not even touching that steaming heap of chicken poo, not even with a pike.