Friday, October 31, 2008

Truly Horrifying

In honor of this, the spookiest of holidays, I decided to post a series of YouTube clips that are both dear to my heart and incredibly disturbing. Those who have known me for more than a couple of years can probably remember a time in my life when I harbored what some might term an unhealthy obsession with little girl beauty pageants. There was no sense of pedophilia involved; more like a feminist-driven anger. My obsession was born one late summer evening in the late nineties, when browsing the satellite TV channels at my parents' house, I happened upon this little gem:

Painted Babies. This documentary was made by the BBC, and featured two little girls, white trash Asia and spoiled rich girl Brooke Breedwell (I am totally not kidding). I instantly realized the rewatch value of this doc, and taped it onto a VHS that became worn in the next few years, as myself and my sick friends viewed it time and time again, memorizing key lines and critiquing it in ways it was never meant to be critiqued (we had a habit of doing this, most memorably with the classic Lifetime film For My Daughter's Honor; that's a story for another day, however). The most exciting part about PB is that they just made a sequel, and my mother has promised to tape it for me. Painted Babies at 17!

Anyway, some years passed, I taped some more specials, slowly building a master VHS that had Baby Beauty Queens from A&E, and also an episode of American Justice about the Jon Benet murder. Then, in 2001, HBO did me the great favor of getting into the game with my next featured selection:

Living Dolls: The Making of a Child Beauty Queen (dammit, embedding is disabled)

This lovely focuses mainly on a little girl named Swan, and her trashy (and now, unfortunately, dead) mother's quest to win them money and fame on the beauty queen circuit. However, it is worth mentioning that there is an INCREDIBLE subplot regarding Shane & Michael, a gay couple living in Alabama, who for a few thousand dollars can turn even the homeliest little girl into a champion. I can't tell you how it makes me feel inside when I see Shane do a complicated choreographed routine, swirling a blazer and strutting so enthusiastically for an audience of one 4-year-old girl who is expected to mimic him, but I can tell you that your life will change for the better if you see this too. I've learned through scouring the internet that Shane and Michael have since seperated, and it really bums me out. Bums me out that Swan's mom is dead too, but... you know...

All right, the final selection for any BBQ (that is Baby Beauty Queen, not bar-be-que) virgins out there is a totally new doc I discovered when rewatching these a few weeks ago, and that is

Toddlers & Tiaras (once again, embedding disabled)

I have only watched this one once, so I don't have much to say other than you will get to see a toddler spray tanned until she cries, and there's a pair of African-American lesbian moms who, for some Godawful reason both a) live in Jackson, MS [I just don't imagine Jackson is too gay-friendly. If I was gay, I'd save my money until I could move to a major city. I'm just saying, is all] and b) have decided to put their adorable, sassy little girls in this terrible pageant. Regardless, it's really interesting, not to mention the fact that their friend handmade their dresses from material they bought at like Hobby Lobby, which would normally be disastrous, but since he's so fierce, they turned out amazing.

All right, those are your spooky Halloween goodies. I'm going to "work" for another hour, go home, strap on my moustache and tie and go to Bette's H'ween party. Hope everyone has a safe weekend.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

In which Amanda exercises her civic duty

Today I early voted for Barack Obama at the Pyramid Recovery center in South Memphis. The whole process took nearly an hour and a half because there were so many people there, and, also, the computer system went down temporarily (Goddamn, these electronic voting machines are a bad idea people. A bad idea!). When I arrived, I counted approximately 30 people in line ahead of me, and when I left, there were at least 50 still waiting, including a huge group of kids that had to have just turned 18 this year; they were all baby-faced and flirting with one another while waiting their turn, but really well-behaved. There were also people there so elderly that they could not walk without assistance; the turnout today in S. Memphis really ran the gamut.

In line, I looked up on the wall to see a trio of portraits: Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Nelson Mandela, and I was seized by my own satisfaction in being able to vote for an African-American man for president in a city, in a region, that has seen so much violent oppression of minorities. My stomach clenched and my eyes filled as I thought about Dr. King and all the other activists who did not live to see this day in America, a day in which it seems (not getting overly cocky here), a majority of people are eager to put a black man in the White House.

Maybe I was relieved because there have been so many stories in the press in recent weeks that exposed the inherent racism that still thrives in this country. I hate it when stories like that become commonplace, and they have, and it makes me so sick and sad that people cling so desperately to hate. Even members of my own family find it easy to toss off comments that reveal their own distrust and distaste of Obama, indeed their own negativity toward anyone Not White, and I'm so pathetic that I can't even find a way to express how wrong they are.

I cannot speak of race eloquently, so I'm not going to try. But when I stepped up to that little machine, I took a deep breath and stared at the screen for a long time; I wanted to register the moment in my memory, and I wanted to really feel it in my heart. Every once in awhile I need a day like this, in which I feel a little bit proud of my country and the things that can be accomplished here, the -- dare I say -- Change that can occur when wrongs turn to right.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Keywords, Pt. 2

Will I ever tire of this game? Probably not.
People are crazy. And sick. And weird. And, yes, sometimes just inquisitive.

Keywords that sent people to my blog:

"his finger in my belly button"
benefits of playing with tambourines for children
cumming gaces (?)
jim beam and headache
jim beam bedroom
jim beam vomit
long, tall lady sex (I really like this one)

OK, in retrospect this list is not as good as the last one, but I've already typed it now. I haven't posted all week and it leaves me troubled. Will my dear readers, lovers of the words "cumming," "animals," and "Jim Beam" desert me if my internet presence fails?

Things I'll do this weekend: go thrifting for my "well-dressed man" H'ween costume. Cook a chicken & cornbread for dressing for the potluck Sunday. Clean house. Do laundry. Force myself into doing school work (I've really slacked this week). Smooch on husband. Avoid hangovers.

Friday, October 17, 2008

When I don't have anything to say, I'll just repost something political from now on, OK?

Ok, I read this essay earlier and it kept resonating with me, and I just had to repost it here. In my mind, it's the ultimate truth about this election, as well as the generalized present day bullshit political climate in this country. It was written by Joan Didion, and has reminded me that I need to read The Year of Magical Thinking, immediately. It also makes me wish I was smarter.

P.S. I got it from here, and it's really short, so you need to read it. Read it now.
Election by sound bite
Obsessed by "lipstick on a pig," economic "free fall" and other "great stories," America has failed to see the real challenges it faces.
By Joan Didion

Midway through August, before the Democratic and Republican conventions, Chris Matthews made an offhand judgment on MSNBC that pretty much summed up the political mood in which the country found itself: "I've seen this election before, I think it was 1988." He was referring of course to what was supposed to have been the certain 1988 victory of Michael Dukakis over George H.W. Bush, and to the ways in which a political party, most reliably the Democratic, can get overtaken by its own enthusiasm for being victimized; but what he said resonated beyond the concerns about Senator Obama's candidacy just then beginning to surface.

It resonated because what seemed striking about the long and impassioned run-up to this election was not how different it had been -- but precisely how similar it had been to previous such seasons.

We had kept talking about how different it was, but it wasn’t.

On a single mid-September morning these phrases would appear on the front page of The Washington Post: "stocks plummet," "panic on Wall Street," "as banks lost faith in one another," "one of the most tumultuous days ever for financial markets," "giant blue-chip financial institutions swept away," "banks refusing to lend," "Russia closing its stock market," "panicked selling," "free fall," and "the greatest destruction of financial wealth that the world has ever seen."

These were not entirely unpredictable developments.

For at least some months it had been clear that we were living in a different America, one that had moved from feeling rich to feeling poor. Many had seen a mandate for political change. Yet in the end the old notes had been struck, the old language used. The prospect for any given figure had been evaluated, now as before, by his or her "story." She has "a wonderful story" we had heard about Condoleezza Rice during her 2005 confirmation hearings. "We all admire her story." "I think she’s formidable," Senator Biden said about Governor Palin a few weeks ago. "She has a great story. She has a great family."

Senator Biden himself was said to have "a great story," the one that revolved around the death of his first wife and child and taking the train from Washington to Wilmington to be with his surviving children. Senator McCain, everyone agreed, had "a great story." Now as then, the "story" worked to "humanize" the figure under discussion, which is to say to downplay his or her potential for trouble. Condoleezza Rice's "story," for example, had come down to her "doing an excellent job as provost of Stanford" (this had kept getting mentioned, as if everyone at Fox News had come straight off the provost beat) and being "an accomplished concert pianist."

Now as then, the same intractable questions were avoided and in the end successfully evaded. The matter of our continuing engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan and our looming engagements throughout the region had been reduced to bickering over who had or had not exhibited "belief in the surge." "Belief in the surge" had been equated with the "success" of the surge, and by extension of our entire engagement in Iraq, as if that "success" were a fact rather than a wish. Such doublespeak was rampant. The increasing destabilization of the economy was already clear -- an average of 81,000 jobs a month were lost all through the summer -- but discussion of how to resolve the bleeding still centered on such familiar favorites as tort reform. This word "reform" kept resurfacing, but the question of who exactly was to be reformed was left to be explored mainly on "The View," by Barbara Walters.

The leading candidates duly presented their "health care solutions," not one of which addressed the core problem, which is the $350 billion a year it costs, according to a Harvard Medical School study, to cut in the commercial insurance industry. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, we were assured, had run into trouble not because of the systematic deregulation of the financial industry, the delinking of loans from any imperative to get them paid off -- but because, according to Governor Palin (who had apparently missed the briefing at which it was explained that neither entity received government funding until the recent necessity for bailing them out), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were "too big and too expensive to the taxpayer."

Time got wasted in the familiar ways. The presence of Barack Obama in the electoral process allowed us to talk as if "the race issue" had reached a happy ending. We did not need to talk about how the question of race has been and continues to be used to exacerbate the real issue in American life, which is class, or absence of equal opportunity. Instead we could talk about what Barack Obama meant by "lipstick on a pig," and whether it was appropriate for him to go off on vacation "to some sort of foreign, exotic place." The "foreign, exotic place" in question was of course Hawaii.

We could argue over whether "intelligent design" should be taught in our schools as an alternative to evolution, and overlook the fact that the rankings of American schools have already dropped to twenty-first in the world in the teaching of science and twenty-fifth in the world in the teaching of math. We could argue over whether or not the McCain campaign had sufficiently vetted its candidate for vice-president, but take at face value the campaign's description of that vetting as "an exhaustive process" including a "seventy-question survey." Most people in those countries where they still teach math and science would not consider seventy questions a particularly taxing assignment, but we could forget this. Amnesia was our preferred state. In what had become our national coma we could forget about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch and AIG and Washington Mutual and the 81,000 jobs a month and the fact that the national debt had been approaching $10.6 trillion even before Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke mentioned the imperative need to spend, which is to say to borrow, $700 billion for securities backed by bad mortgages, a maneuver likely to raise the debt another trillion dollars. ("We need this to be clean and quick," Paulson told ABC.)

We could forget the 70 percent of American eighth graders who do not now and never will read at eighth-grade levels, meaning they will never qualify to hold one of those jobs we no longer have. We could forget that we ourselves induced the coma, by indulging the government in its fantasy of absolute power, wielded absolutely. So general is this fantasy by now that we approach this election with no clear idea where bottom is: what damage has been done, what alliances have been formed and broken, what concealed reefs lie ahead. Whoever we elect president is about to find some of that out.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"They hanged 13 natives at a time in honor of Christ Our Savior and the 12 apostles"

Clip from the film "The Canary Effect;" you can get more information here.

Happy Thursday! I leave you with the subjugation of native peoples!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

so it's better my sweet, that we hover like bees, 'cause there's no sure footing...

I'll tell you what I hate, and that's having an evening like I did last night. Come home from school, take off your bra, reheat the pineapple tofu leftovers from the Saigon Le, talk to your husband and say, "Stay at the bar as long as you want, I've got homework to do anyway," eat some salad with entirely too much ranch dressing on it, throwing your fears of fattyhood to the wind for the moment, sit down in front of the laptop to study genetics and attachment theory and the like, only to find yourself totally seized by THE TRUTH. THE TRUTH will not leave your pathetic little brain alone; it talks to you in both the voices of a sing-songy little child as well as a smug, know-it-all adult. Last night THE TRUTH shared with me the shivery proposition that all this school nonsense might be a total waste of time, and it's possible I get done and still find myself in total hate with whatever job I have, which, as THE TRUTH helpfully reminded me, I am right now. In hate with my job, that is. It smirked as it said "You always talk shit about college being a waste of time, do you really think it's your hope for this so called 'better life,' Amanda? What a chump."

THE TRUTH is really fucking rude.

So I slid down the mega-slide of doom, which happens to me pretty rarely in these modern times, especially considering the depressive mess I was from, oh, I don't know, 15-22? When reaching the bottom of the mega-slide of doom, I can stare at a wall for hours. I guess the idea of proposition of living in complete misery for the rest of my life entertains me so much, I don't need anything else. If I saw someone staring at a wall like I do in these times, I'd say "Jesus Christ, that person is fucking depressed!"

I hate remembering things like, in my life, I'll spend more of my waking hours being paid for working somewhere instead of getting to spend time with the people who actually mean something to me, and I have to have a full-time job in order to have health insurance so that anything that might happen to me wouldn't destroy our lives financially. All this, plus you just die at the end of it all, anyway. Sometimes I just don't think I am cut out to live a conventional life, but I've been hammered into the shape of it by the way I was raised and my poor little brain just freaks out and feels desperate when trying to figure out a way to escape it all.

I'll be better in a few days, I always am. I don't really stew in misery that much anymore, something I am really grateful for. There are a lot of things I am grateful for, actually, don't get me wrong. I am so happy that we have these great friends in this city that love us as much as we love them, and I'm happy that I have an understanding mother who is my best friend in a lot of ways, and I can share so much with. I'm so happy that I have a partner who I can lay in bed with at night and be completely entertained and entertaining by dumbass shit we do for one another, and laugh until I cry with him. So, I'm not miserable. I am just boringly confused and uneasy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Photo tour of the potluck life...

Well, we had our second potluck on Sunday night, and I have got to say, first off, that these fools can cook. Earlier in the week I had sent out a big email suggesting that we have an Italian theme, and everybody went all out and once again the food was muy delicioso. Which is a fucked up thing to say, technically, but I don't know any Italian. We had fresh pasta and meatballs, toasted lasagna, antipasto, vegetarian white lasagna, wild mushroom risotto, an Italian spinach dish, some awesome sauce with eggplant, and a lovely selection of wine brought by the wonderful David, who keeps any party well-lubricated. Since we were expecting to have several people over, Brandon set up the photobooth and took some pretty lovely pictures. He's so smart, y'all.

What can I say, other than these folks can photograph as well as they can cook. The whole set can be found right here, including one of Brandon with NO SHIRT ON. Back off ladies. Potluck will be back in session not this coming weekend, because I'm going to Decatur county to hang out with my mom and attempt to make & can butternut squash chutney, but the next, October 26. I think we are going to do the whole traditional Southern home cooking thing, so y'all can put on your thinking caps, which, in this case, may be camo trucker hats, and start conceptualizing.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Photography Love -- NSFW

I got Brandon this book for his birthday, and when we were browsing it in the tent during our camping trip, I came upon the work of the photographer Justine Kurland, and was just overwhelmed by my appreciation. The first set are from a later series, "Of Woman Born," the next four are from an earlier series she did with adolescent girls in gorgeous landscapes. I just love these, so I wanted to share them. You can read an interview/profile of her from the NYT here.

"The Milk Sucker"

"Mama Baby Procession"

"Waterfall Lesson, Drawing Stick Figure"

"Walking the Rowena Dells"

"Raft Expedition"


"The Mud Puddle"

"Jungle Gym"

"Grassland Drifters"

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

you're a mean ole daddy, but i like you

Is it just me, or am I being bombarded by images of jiggly flab bellies on a large number of websites these days? Even the fantasic food blog Smitten Kitchen sometimes has large ads that scream suddenly, out of the midst of images of glorious full fat foods, suggesting that maybe I need to lose weight, and the simple act of clicking will reveal calorie-burning secrets I've never even considered. The tummies on Myspace are really too much; I wonder if it's targeted for women, or those of a certain age, or if everyone gets them. I know that sometimes, when they catch me off guard, I suck in my breath and my gut at the possibility that I look just like that when I take my shirt off.

I'm in need of a butcher; Sunday night potluck is on again this week after our Arkansas hiatus last weekend, and the theme is Italian. I am determined to make meatballs with beef, pork, and veal, and after visiting a butcher in Millington on our first camping trip, I'm pretty convinced this is the way to go. Note to self: Check Viet Hoa and see if they have veal. After all, they have duck heads.

School has been kicking my ass this week, but I have to say that the more I am immersed in the cirriculum, the more I feel as though I am doing the right thing. The bottom line of all my policy studies so far is social justice, a concept I can confidently say means a lot to me. I've been learning all about Clinton's welfare reform, why it is bullshit/doesn't work, and, most interestingly, why corporates appointees had a say in the changes and the corporate interest in welfare reform. It's a lot like listening to Democracy Now; the truth about the nation is gut-wrenchingly depressing, but putting your fingers in your ears and pretending that none of it exists is even moreso. Anyway, all this reading and studying has at least saved me from the string of violent hangovers that seem to have affected my Memphis peoples this week.

OhmyGod tonight I will make veggie sushi rolls and EATTHEMALLUP because the sushi craving has hit and I haven't made any at home in a coon's age.


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