The Essential Steven Spielberg

… and incidentally why he’s so popular:

Spielberg is one of the greatest screen stylists in history, but he is a deeply conventional in his thinking. He has the imagination of a white suburban baby boomer who grew up wholly enamored of America’s civic mythology, where figures like Abraham Lincoln (like the citizen soldiers of the Second World War) loom like gods.

Read the rest of the review; it’s pretty good.

100 Ways To Raise My Blood Pressure

A site called “A Circle of Christian Women” has a list of “100 Ways to Reduce Stress.” Let’s take a look at this thing:

1. Get Enough Sleep
2. Wake up 15 minutes early.

Uh. Doesn’t one contradict the other? And why should the woman get up fifteen minutes early? Since this is a “Christian” woman site I’m going to assume the focus is on married women, so why can’t hubby get up early? Oh haha what am I saying, of course wifey has to get up early to prepare everything for everyone else.

3. Prepare for the morning the night before.
4. Avoid tight-fitting clothes.

Sensible. Okay.

5. Don’t rely on your memory.

Um, what. That’s all they say; you really need to qualify a statement like that with some explanation and tips, like “stress can make us forget things; keep a to-do list handy just in case.” Or else it sounds like you’re saying “you flighty woman, you know you can’t remember shit and it gets you all stressed out. Chillax and ask your husband!”

6. Practice preventative maintenance.

O-kay, though they don’t say of what — car, house, you? I’m thinking they’re referring to health, because treating our bodies like cars that need regular oil changes is so American. (Stay tuned, I’ll have more to say on that subject.)

7. Make duplicate keys and store them where you can get to them.

Sensible, but who doesn’t do that. Oh I forgot — “women are so flighty and silly they need to be told to make duplicate keys.”

8. Say “no” more often.
9. Set priorities in your life.
10. Avoid negative people.
11. Use your time wisely.
12. Simplify everything you can.

I’d like to know who the Christian woman, who is supposed to devote her life to family and God, is allowed to say “no” to. Besides Satan of course. I’m going to assume this list is designed for everyday normal stress, not “Satan is here and he wants your soul” stress. So, who can the average Christian woman, who is supposed to be agreeable, say “no” to? Her kids, I guess, when they want snacks between meals, to stay out past 8 PM on a school night, or to be gay, I guess. As for number 9., that’s funny. I thought proper Christian women let others (God, their husbands) set priorities for them. I guess those priorities then are “do what God and your husband say, because their commandments are one and the same.”

Sorry, I’m letting my snark show aren’t I? Okay, on to number 10- avoid negative people. Gosh. What if those people are the ones they live with? Like, say, their husband? Numbers 11 and 12 sound like my New England-bred grandmother’s “use it up/wear it out/make it do/do without” dictum. Other than that I have no real objection to them, unless it’s to point out that a Christian wife and mother is not always the one in charge of how her time is used. (Nor are any of us, but let’s focus.)

13. Make copies of important papers and store them where you’ll be able to find them.

Okay, again, who doesn’t do this? Well, lots of people actually… but again this sounds a lot like a “you silly woman” thing. And also there are “important papers” that copies of are generally useless, like things that are notarized and stamped — house deeds and so on. I don’t know what good a copy would be in case of, say, a fire, if it’s one of those documents that needs to be original to be recognized. A better suggestion would be to get a safety deposit box or fireproof safe for your important papers. Just my two cents.

14. Repair anything that doesn’t work properly.

Yeah, do it yourself. I guess. (Note: repairing some things is sometimes more expensive than just chucking the broken desk lamp and buying another one for five bucks at Walmart. YMMV.)

15. Ask for help.

American advice always has this in it, but we don’t mean it. Asking for help, as everyone knows, just reveals that you’re a useless moocher and parasite and also a loser and weak so go ahead, carry those cinder blocks from the car to the garage wall you’re fixing yourself (because your husband has a golf meeting with the pastor and your kids are ages 3, 5, and 7). Your ruined back will prove to the world that you’re a martyr to Doing It Yourself And Being Good Frontier Wife all in one.

16. Chunk down big jobs into little ones.

Carry the cinder blocks one at a time. (As long as you can get them all piled up before it’s time to make dinner.)

17. View problems as challenges.
18. Look at challenges as opportunities.

This is an American list for Americans. No one else says goofy shit like this as if it were a real thing that people believed.

19. Unclutter your life.

Leave the church, divorce your husband, dump the kids at Grandma’s… oh that’s not what you meant. Sorry, I’m untrainable.

20. Smile
21. Be prepared for rain.
22. Laugh at something.
23. Pet a dog or cat
24. Don’t try to know all the answers.
25. Look for the silver lining.
26. Say something nice to someone.
27. Teach a kid to fly a kite.
28. Walk in the rain.
29. Schedule some time each day to play.

Here it is, in a nutshell: the training American women get into being nicey-nice Miss Sunshine Happy Face at all fucking times no matter what. Turn that frown upside down! Be nice to everyone! Don’t think too many thoughts — they make frown lines! Be a giggly happy playmate! Be nice to everyone no matter how they fuck you over! Also bonus aim-her-at-a-kid, any kid: just grab some random kid off the street and teach them to fly a kite, never mind whether they want to learn to fly a kite or not, whether or not you even have access to a kite, or the outdoors. Anything but have a moment alone without some freshly-spawned human mite dependent on you. Good God.

Anyway I’m tired of copying-and-pasting. The list just goes on and on, telling women to de-stress by doing things like putting air-fresheners in their car, going to a ball game and screaming (I hate sports, so no), and the last one, my personal favorite: “stop counting things.” No really, that’s number 100 on this list. Well then.

That list of 10 scifi novels everyone pretends to have read

Oh lists, how I love you. Anyway, apparently there are people going around “pretending” to have read books they have not, in fact, read. Insert something about our increasingly conformist, status-hungry society… you know my themes. The books in this list are apparently Important so I guess people feel like they should have read them, and are too embarrassed to admit they haven’t. Well I’m not. A book you haven’t read is a book you haven’t thrown across the room in disgust or tossed in the donation bin at Goodwill. I’ve read a lot of books, some of them over and over. I’ve even read some of the books on the list. Here is my list:

1.Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. I’ve not read this. I looked through it at the bookstore and it just didn’t seem like my cup of tea. Still doesn’t.

2. Dune, by Frank Herbert. Oh come on. Who pretends they read this book? I was unaware that having a movie and a miniseries made from a book turns it from a cult classic into a Must Have Read (So Chillax With These Cliff Notes). Anyway, I’ve read it. I even reread it a couple of times. But sometime ago I lost interest in the whole Dune thing. Still, guess what my fave part of the book is: The footnotes, chapter quotes, and appendices just like in a “real” scholarly work only they refer to things inside the novel (as in, they all refer to not real things). I just love that kind of shit. But Jack Vance does them better.

3 Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon. I have never read this and never will. Pretentious arse-wash.

4. Foundation, by Isaac Asimov. I read this in high school at the behest of a guy friend I ate lunch with. It was okay, but already seemed dated (one of the few female figures, as I recall, was the wife of some official, who the hero promptly won over — he was looking to get funding or something yawn INO — because he gave her some kind of high-tech gizmo that gave instant pretty dresses at the press of a button.

5. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. This book was a big disappointment to me. I couldn’t finish it. It started off delightfully, with fully drawn interesting characters and a unique situation. But it bogged down in the middle like nothing I’ve read. This was some serious bog time. Everyone in the book just seemed to stop in their tracks and go off into reminiscing mode. I can’t even say this was a big block of exposition or speechifying or any of the other things that ruin a book. I can’t say what it was actually, that slowed the story down so much that it felt like time really was slowing down. There were just too many scenes of fairies and their captive humans dancing dancing dancing.

6. 1984, by George Orwell. Nope, not read it. I mean to though. I did flip through a copy and found a scene where Winston has found a book with blank pages, and decided to start writing a diary. His first effort is so much like the first blog post of someone who has gotten into blogs for the first time that I laughed and laughed.

7. First and Last Men and Star Maker, by Olaf Stapledon. This is very early scifi and is weird up the wazoo. I’ve read First and Last Men, can’t recall if I read Star Maker. You can find them if you go to Gutenberg e-text, but be prepared, because those old guys had really strange hobbies.

8. The Long Tomorrow, by Leigh Brackett. I’ve never even heard of this thing. I’ve read some other Leigh Brackett stuff. In any case, this would not be some of it, because in general I avoided and still avoid post-Apocalyptic novels. I just can’t. No one who is not my age or older remembers what it was like living under the constant fear that one or the other of the principals involved in the Cold War would eat a piece of bad fish, or break up with their girlfriend, or something, and then PHOOM it’s all over. Also maybe back then it was New and Now but eleventy-umpteen years and novels with interchangeable plots involving wandering across a post-nuke landscape and encountering religious crazies (always Christian or Christian-derived cults) and my phaser is set to “avoid as thou wouldst a band of ravenous radioactive mutants.”

9. Dhalgren, by Samuel R. Delaney. Nnnoooo thanks. I’ve read a couple of Delaney novels (Babel-17 and Tales of Nevèrÿon) but was never attracted to his more arcane stuff.

10. Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. I’ll pass, thanks. For one thing, I was traumatized by reading one of his short stories about a couple who accidentally boil their baby. As for this one, reading the plot is enough to keep me away. I have no patience with the constantly reiterated obsession Americans have with Daddy and celebrity.

Anyway, there you are. Some of them I’ve read, some I haven’t but plan to, some I haven’t and never will.

I don’t even

Okay folks. I am on the Twitter (by the way, my handle is now @SpinsterAndCat), and I find this news: apparently the Senate wants to legalize propaganda. My first thought: oh great, more fascism. Then I had a second thought: I didn’t actually realize it was illegal. I mean, I thought the reason we didn’t see any more of those “the Commies are coming in the night for YOU!” things was because, well, no more Berlin Wall and stuff. I can’t find a link to anything on the above-linked page, though they say some stuff they got off Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed is a site that has a shitload of crap on just about everything and I’m too tired to go through it looking for this specific thing. So instead, read this amusing tale of a man who really, really wanted his taco. Anyway, maybe soon the government will be sending subliminal messages through our iPods to tell us to not be Commies or something. Also they can now lie to us which I’m sure that no government official has been able to do for years. *dismay*

Anyway, I am on the Twitter, because lately I’ve only been able to write in short bursts of 140 characters or less. It hurt me physically and psychically to type these many words in a text box, but I do it for you, my people.

Andrea Harris:

This is pretty much what I think.

Originally posted on Clarissa's Blog:

Many Conservatives long for a non-existent, mythologized past while many Progressives long for a non-existent, mythologized future. Such Conservatives reject certain aspects of the present objective reality because it doesn’t fit into their doctrine. In the meanwhile, the Progressives reject the way human beings actually are because only the completely different, vastly improved human beings will fit into their doctrine.

Neither group is all that interested in existing people and actual reality. I, for one, can’t say whether I prefer a political movement that exists for the sake of an impossible past or the one that exists for the sake of an equally impossible future. I also can’t say whether a political group that considers people to be a lot worse than they are is preferable to the group that considers human beings to be a lot better than they are.

There is too much myth-making on both sides.

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