Weathering the bizarre post-RT shitstorm

At 6:15 yesterday morning, I boarded an airport shuttle with my friend Ursula. I was tired. Worn out from the RT Booklover’s Convention and lots of walking in NOLA. I was surprised and pleased to see my local friend Nan on the shuttle. As I sat down, she said, “How was your RT?”

I said, “It was Ursula.”

Now, see, I had the following thought in my tired head, I should introduce Nan to Ursula. I’m not sure if they know each other. That’s polite. It’s good to be polite pre-dawn, otherwise we become barbarians. Wait. Nan asked me a question. I should answer that first. I’ll say, “It was fine, thanks. By the way, do you know Ursula?” But the brain got short-circuited and I mixed my messages because I was thinking one thing while trying to address something else. So I said, “It was Ursula.”

Common, forgivable mistake, right?

There’s a shitstorm going on now in the wake of the Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention.* As an attendee and as someone who was at the Giant Book Fair on Saturday, I’m very confused about this storm.

Facts:

  1. The Book Fair had two rooms. One for authors published by publishing houses and one for indie (self-pub) authors. The indie author room was called “The Indie Author Room.” I think our room was called the “Published Author” room, or something more descriptive and less offensive. Ursula even mentioned how diplomatic it was.**
  2. The books were sold with two different business plans. Publishers give bookstores a returns program, so if they don’t sell books, they can return them. Indie authors can’t offer the same perk. So RT purchased their pub house books from distributors and told indie authors they could sell on consignment. I wasn’t in the indie author room, so I don’t know too many details about this, but it’s broken down here in this post by Courney Milan.
  3. The fact no one is talking about- RT gave away several identifying badge ribbons. I received one that said “Published Author.” Another one I saw several people wearing was “Aspiring Author.” People weren’t forced to wear these. Aspiring wasn’t a derogatory term. Aspiring also didn’t mean indie.

My theory: A harried volunteer – RT is a HUGE convention, and the volunteers often seemed frustrated or confused – saw someone’s “Aspiring Author” ribbon, got that phrase stuck in their head, and instead of directing someone to the “indie author room” instead said, “aspiring author” room.

This is just a theory. But I was there, and I never once heard about this “aspiring author” room although the indie room was mentioned many times over the loudspeaker. Still, word has gotten out, and the rumor mill is going strong (fueled in part by Hugh Howey) about how horrible RT is for treating indie self-pub authors as “aspiring.” Civil rights terms are coming up in boggling misappropriation, even.

SHOULD the pub authors and the indie authors have been placed together? Probably. We certainly weren’t separated based on popularity or books sold; I would bet cash money that a lot of the indie authors sold more books than I did. They had their fans, their books were in demand.

COULD the authors have been placed together? Frankly, with the very confusing setup and the nightmare lines that were already there, I think mixing the two groups would have made everything so much worse.

So the real question here is, was there a way to keep both authors in the same room? Honestly, no, our room was full to “Oh god I hope there isn’t a fire” with 200 authors and more fans. Could the group have been separated by A-L authors in one room and M-Z in the other? That might make sense. But there’s still the problem of the consignment vs bookstore-provided books. The “let the cashier figure it out” isn’t an option, trust me when I say these lines were hellishly long. It took hours for some people to get through.

(Course I did wonder why they just didn’t have it like an SF convention with one big dealer room open the whole con instead of four intense hours, where the author drops by the booth when she can, but that’s another story.)

There is something to talk about here, but focusing on a slip of one volunteer’s tongue and stirring a shitstorm of WE ARE NOT RESPECTED11!!11!!!! is not the way to do it. I’m not saying this is a tone argument, I’m saying this is misinformation that is getting a hell of a lot more attention than the truth is. It’s heavily distracting from the real issue of “is there a way to mix the two groups in an efficient way that’s good to the authors AND the poor fans already so patient to wait in hell-lines?”

*Tiny, shameful aside – is anyone else glad it’s not SFF that’s the genre-of-shitstorm-focus this week?

**Ursula and I are both hybrid publishers.

 

Why Point of View is so damn important. AKA: Go, eagle, go!

Breaking Bad spoilers below.

I’m a tangential watcher of Breaking Bad. We don’t have cable so I’ve watched via Netflix, and usually while doing something else. Jim fills me in. I did get a chance to see last week’s episode and watched with fascinated horror at The Phone Call. Many people have apparently been talking about The Phone Call, trying so hard to whitewash Walt into remaining a hero, doing things for his family, how he said things to try to throw the blame off Skyler, and how Skyler is a bitch and deserved it anyway, etc. This article says why that’s stupid, why that’s making the show as stupider than it is. (also because sexism, but that’s not the point of this post.) Like real people, Walt is neither Good nor Evil. He loves his family and hates his wife and does horrible things for what he thinks is a good reason and has killed and rescued and poisoned and caused the death of his brother-in-law and mourned that death. He is capable of many things, good and evil. He’s complex.

So why, asks the article writer, do some people so desperately want Walt to be the “good guy” – why do they justify his actions? Part of it, yes, is the fact that we liked Walt in the beginning, and we are good people (in our own eyes), so we can’t be evil, so Walt isn’t evil.

This is the same justification people use when they say racist things. “Racists are bad. I’m not bad. So what I said wasn’t racist.”

But the real reason we can root for bad guys is point of view.

Several years ago I was watching a nature program and suddenly saw through the careful emotional manipulation – in a freaking NATURE program – that they plunge the viewer into. They’ll talk about the migrating bird that flies thousands of miles and gets maybe a mouthful of food along the way but OH NO HERE IS A HUNGRY EAGLE, RUN MIGRATING BIRD!!!

In another scene we’ll get a view of the mama cheetah who has been kicked in the face by a zebra and will soon die, as will her cubs. Fuckin zebras, man. Poor cheetah family.

Even though the nature shows show the prey’s POV a majority of the time, and therefore we find ourselves rooting for the antelope to get away, sometimes we see it from the predators’ point of view, and suddenly we feel for the wolf who hasn’t eaten in days during the lean winter months, and the hungry babies, poor puppies!

While in the scene above we easily felt for the poor migrating bird who was nearly starving and wouldn’t eat until it reached its destination a billion miles away, like a dad who won’t stop to pee on a long trip to grandma’s in Kalamazoo, the scene could have been told from the POV of the hungry eagle, who perhaps had an injured wing and had chicks to feed, and maybe one had fallen out of the nest or been eaten by a snake, and the narrator would have been all GO, EAGLE, GO! EAT THAT BIRD!

We have seen most of Breaking Bad from Walt’s POV. We have seen his professional despair, his cancer diagnosis, his denial of coverage, his controlling wife. Then we see him take control of his life and his money and then do that thing that always makes us like a character- he does something well. He does something better than anyone else, and that’s cook. We see him start to try to help his family by doing horrible things. We know he loves his family. We know he even loves Hank. We know he goes into every horrible thing he does with, if not reluctance, with a grim sense of “this is the only choice I have.” All of these things can make people believe “it’s not his fault.”

MINOR spoilers for A Song of Ice and Fire series:

George RR Martin has masterfully used POV in A Song of Ice and Fire. He sets up Jamie Lannister to be reprehensible early on. We don’t start getting Jamie’s point of view until a few books in when he begins to look sympathetic, and we see his change from inside him. We can even start liking him a little, or at least rooting for him, even when we’re reminded that he’s a complex character who is not embracing the “good” way of life by any stretch of the imagination. (Remember the threat he made against an infant in the Tully family? Yeah, he’s still a Lannister.)

Back to Breaking Bad, imagine the story from Skyler’s POV. A woman whose husband is getting screwed in his job and then diagnosed with cancer and then denied treatment, and bam, unexpectedly she turns up pregnant. That’s a lot of shit to deal with. Then her husband begins to cook, and she has no idea, but knows that Something is Up. When she finds out, she is forced to decide whether to keep her family together or high tail it out of there. She becomes his accomplice, still not knowing the depth of the shit he’s gotten into, until enough people die that she starts to notice. She’s seeming pretty sympathetic to me right now.

While we never want the Lannisters to win in ASoIaF, we do want Tyrion Lannister to succeed, because we see his sympathetic POV – this made the Blackwater battle a complex one because we hated something to happen to Tyrion but wanted Joffrey’s city to fall. A lot of people complain that Sansa is a bitch for not liking Tyrion even though he did the very nice thing of not raping her, but they forget that Sansa thinks the Imp is evil, still believes he tried to kill her brother, he fights for the Lannisters, hell, he IS a Lannister, etc. We want her to see the good in him that WE see, because we’ve seen his POV, but we forget that a) he hasn’t told her the truth of anything because b) he (rightly) thinks she will never believe him. Sansa can’t have Tyrion’s POV, so she hates him. When we see him through her eyes, he’s a horrible, ugly man who is an attempted murderer, part of a family who has nothing but horrible people in it, a drunk, a frequent visitor of brothels, incapable of decency or love.

Anyway, the way to get people to like or sympathize with a character is to show the character doing something well (Remember Italians said that Mussolini made the trains run on time?), or doing a kindness to someone, or see them mistreated.  But also give them a POV so we can see their different layers, the shades of gray that make up everybody’s soul, and remember, like Walt, like Jamie, we all do what we do because we believe it’s the right thing, or the only thing to do.

Pound Cakes Need Flour

I can’t take credit for this. This is taken directly from a conversation I had with Ursula Vernon, who was trying to give me a “buck up little camper!” talk.

Damn but I love me some Fire Emblem...

Damn, but I love me some Fire Emblem on the DS…

See, what happened was I was procrastinating and playing my DS and doing laundry and watching The Office when there was something work-related I had to do. When I finally got my head straight and did what I was supposed to, I killed it, efficiently, well, and even got a compliment from the client. But as I was walking to lunch, I still felt lousy and unaccomplished because I’d wasted that time. I thought, man, if I could be productive like that all the time, I’d be unstoppable.

Ursula gave me a great metaphor for this (well, no, first she said, “if you did that all the time, you would die.” Then she gave the metaphor): traditionally, a pound cake needs a pound of butter, a pound of flour, and a pound of sugar. The thing that makes it really good is the butter, right? * So if butter is the best part, why not make a butter cake? THREE POUNDS OF BUTTER. CHURCH LUNCHEON, HERE I COME!

Three pounds of butter? You’d die.

The butter in this metaphor, says Ursula, is the time that you work and you’re on top of it, you’re nailing everything, you’re creative and clever and productive and awesome. But if you ate just butter, if you were so on fire creatively all the time, you’d die. The flour is the boring stuff in your life, the laundry and the gardening and the cooking and the driving. It’s boring and tasteless, but the butter needs it for support to make a cake. **

Your mind needs downtime to process awesome creative stuff. You need time to wind up the clockwork toy that is your brain, and the winding up is the part of your life where you’re not sitting at the computer (or notebook or easel or drawing pad or musical instrument, etc). How many ideas do you have when you’re away from your computer? Driving? Showering? Shopping?

This is why I worry when someone says they can’t wait to quit their job so they can “write all the time.” I have no day job, thanks to the economy, and promise you, people who write as their day job don’t do it all the time. Just like we don’t eat butter all the time. We need procrastination, manual things to do, times where our brain clicks off to let the subconscious play for a bit. ***

One thing the day job and parenting gives you, besides all the negative stuff I’m pretty sure you’re thinking of right now, is structure in your life. You have a time you need to be at work, you have a time to get home, you have a kid who needs its own schedule. While this can give you a sense of being overwhelmed, you can look at your schedule and see where your holes are. If you fill the holes up with TV and video games (I don’t judge; I do the same thing) then think about removing those things and writing.

Because right now, I look at the day, and the time I have to write is a huge lump that procrasti-brain decides can be pushed back further and further, and suddenly it’s 9:30pm and I should be relaxing but I haven’t written yet and HOW CAN THIS BE WHAT EVIL CREATURE HAS EATEN MY DAY?

I think I’m talking about two different, but linked, things here. The point is, time doing things other than creating is necessary. Wishing for a full day with nothing to do but write, well, be careful what you wish for. If, right now, you are finding other things to do than write when you have 30 min of free time, you will do the same thing if given 8 hours. I promise.

So. Pound cake. Turns out the flour is necessary. I’m going to go do a load of laundry now.


Work in Progress: MIND THE DRAPES (working title)

* Note-  I could argue that the most important thing was the sugar, but that’s a moot point in regards to her argument.

** Note- if I am completely honest with myself I will admit that DS playing is not really flour in my life. It’s not much of anything except for dopamine hits to my easily-addicted brain. Maybe it’s Cheetos.

*** Note- While procrastination and the like are necessary, remember what happens if you have too much flour and too little butter. Yuck. Don’t go overboard.

Christmas Song Review: Santa Claus is Coming To Town

Now, I know what you’re going to say. I’m going to make the same old jokes about how Santa is likely a pervert at worst, or the FBI at least with this surveillance. That Santa Claus is like ceiling cat, watching you masturbate.

I know, I know. Ew.

No, I want to talk about another part of the song, the part that is left out half the time, but is LOADED with meaning. I’d sung this song my whole life and never heard this intro until Ella Fitzgerald sang it, and since then I’ve heard it elsewhere.

This is not a song about Santa. This is a song about a being so much more powerful than Santa, and s/he is teasing us that we have to watch out for Santa… or else something worse might happen…

I just came back from a lovely trip, along the Milky Way
I stopped off at the North Pole, to spend a holiday
I called on dear old Santa Claus, to see what I could see
He took me to his workshop, and told his plans to me.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

Stop a moment and think about this. Santa does the amazing feat of going around the world in one night and leaving presents for all the good little girls and boys (who celebrate Christmas, that is.) That’s pretty freaking amazing, and we attribute this power to magic.

BUT WHO IS THIS GODLIKE BEING WHO SKIPS ACROSS OUR GALAXY? I mean, according to a recent post by my buddy Phil Plait (totally name dropping, I know, I know), our galaxy is “a flat disk about 100,000 light years across and a thousand light years thick.”

So we’ve got this being who possibly has Star Trek-like technology. Who just casually wanders across 100,000 light  years. Who thinks dropping in on Santa is like asking your neighbor for some sugar.

…. Probably not.

Who on this entire planet is cool enough to just drop in on Santa? No one, that’s who. This being is powerful enough to just stop by for a cup of tea, and Santa will put everything on hold to take this person on a tour of the workshop. It’s Christmas Eve and he’s editing the naughty list? Forget it, the VIP is visiting.

Is this Santa’s boss? A respected colleague who’s a gift giver on another planet? A GOD? The entire song is a veiled threat – “do what Santa says, because if you fear his wrath, you can’t even comprehend what I have in store for you!”

I’m terrified of this god-being who is Santa’s house guest, and I welcome him or her as my eventual overlord. I think Santa is his/her Silver Surfer and the bigger, badder, more magic being is coming.

They’re coming.

I also fear Bruce Springsteen because when he sings the song I fear he’s going to burst a vein in his face. Sometimes when I listen to it, I imagine this has already happened and HE is the great new god’s herald, covered in blood and red fur.

Grade: A. I am too scared to give it anything else.

Christmas Song Review: Wonderful Christmas Time

$400,000 in royalties every year. Please don’t stab yourself because of this.

When you have someone like Paul McCartney writing a Christmas song, you have high expectations. You don’t expect Justin Bieber* to write a thoughtful, touching song with depth and purpose, and you don’t expect Paul McCartney to write a dog.

Then I tried to think, well, a bad Neil Gaiman story is pretty much better than any other story, right? Does that mean a bad McCartney song is better than any other song? Can we judge it apart from its “DUDE WAS IN THE BEATLES FOR THOR’S SAKE!” shadow?

No. No, we can’t. Paul, you wrote this damn song, now you will THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU’VE DONE.

The moon is right
The spirit’s up

Ooookay. From the first line, we have puzzling things. What does the moon have to do with Christmas? The moon drives EASTER.** In my mind I suddenly see Paul’s baby face sticking out from under a white hood (druid hood, not KKK) and looking at the moon, and smiling. “It’s time.”

We’re here tonight
And that’s enough

Kind of fatalistic. “We drink, for tomorrow we die!” I know this was written before Linda McCartney had cancer – it if had been written around that time, this line would have had more meaningful weight. I guess you could look at it as, “The world’s problems don’t go away just because of Christmas, so let’s just try to take this moment and enjoy it.” Not a bad message.

Simply having a wonderful Christmas time
Simply having a wonderful Christmas time

Here is, I think, where most people’s Christmas Rage-o-meter starts to rise. It is the first of many repetitions. It reminds me of the Lucille line from Arrested Development. “I sent her on a wonderful cruise. You just missed a wonderful call from her. She just came back from a wonderful costume party that the captain threw. She gained ten pounds, there’s so much food on that boat. She’s up to 74. She tried pesto for the first time. Imagine that, 92 years old and she never tried pesto. It was wonderful. Just wonderful.”

The party’s on
The feelin’s here
That only comes
This time of year

OK, it’s not Shakespeare, but it’s a pop Christmas song from the ’70′s….Written by Paul McCartney. No, Paul, you don’t get a bye. This is “She loves you yeah yeah yeah” level, beginning of career level writing. Not several-decades in. “Hmmm, what rhymes with here… fear, beer, deer, leer, near, rear, sear, tear, veer, YEAR!”

Simply having a wonderful Christmas time
Simply having a wonderful Christmas time

So, going right back to that already, huh?

The choir of children sing their song
Ding dong, ding dong
Ding dong, ding, oh, oh

Oh come on, “oh oh” doesn’t really reflect what’s going on here. We’ve got falsetto “ooo-oooo-ooooo-oooooo-OOOOO! ooo-oooo-ooooo-oooooo-OOOOO! … OOO-OOO-oo!” The pause always confused me. Did the children forget their ooos? Did they miss a ding dong?

And I’m sure there could be a penis joke thrown in here for the “ding dongs” but we’re all above that. And if you’re not, you can make your own joke, I’m sure. (OK, I am NOT above that, see yesterday’s Christmas cock, but I do like the penis jokes to be a bit more subtle than, “huh huh he sang ‘ding dong.’”)

So, what kind of Christmas are you having, Paul?

Simply having a wonderful Christmas time
Simply having a wonderful Christmas time

The word is out
About the town
To lift a glass
Ah, don’t look down

AUGH! WHY NOT? What’s down there? Spiders? Did you pants me? Did you magically transport me high into the sky with Superman-like powers and you’re going to drop me like a bad poetry-spouting Lois Lane if I tell you how bad this song is? Are YOU the bad-poetry-spouting Lois Lane?

But wait, this is the word on the street, all the gangs are talking about it. What does it mean? This verse has always confused me. What are we afraid of at Christmas, Paul? What monster lurks around your loafers?

Simply having a wonderful Christmas time
Simply having a wonderful Christmas time

The choir of children sing their song
They practiced all year long

Ding dong, ding dong
Ding dong, ding dong
Ding dong, ding dong

Oh man. As a parent, I can tell you if a kid had to practice singing their ONE song all year, someone would die. I get twitchy after a couple of weeks with the same piano practice piece. This is not a joyful thing, this is an auditorium filled with parents who are very proud, but also frazzled and fingering pens inside their purses and backpacks, wishing they were knives so they could go rampage if they hear Deck The Halls one…more…time…

Remember when George Bailey lost his shit when his daughter was practicing “Hark! The Herald Angel Sings?” That had nothing to do with the missing $8000, it had everything to do with having heard it one too many times.

The party’s on
The spirit’s up
We’re here tonight
And that’s enough

Simply having a wonderful Christmas time
Simply having a wonderful Christmas time

The moon is right
The spirit’s up
We’re here tonight
And that’s enough

Yeah, ran out of words, it’s cool, just repeat the last verse, we’re at the end anyway, no one will notice.

Simply having a wonderful Christmas time
Simply having a wonderful Christmas time
Simply having a wonderful Christmas time
Simply having a wonderful Christmas time

So admittedly I don’t know a lot about McCartney’s music from the 70′s and 80′s, but sources tell me it was much like this; insipid. LA LA LA LA LA LA daises and dancing and easy rhyming! I saw a bear over there covered in hair! SEND ME ROYALTIES!***

It made me realize how much McCartney needed Lennon to bring him down, and Lennon needed McCartney to bring him up. Together they were like the perfect balance of dinosaurs and sodomy. Alone, McCartney is dancing with the velociraptors.

Grade: D+ It’s not as bad as “Last Christmas,” but lord, it isn’t good.

*Did a quick web search on Bieber just to make sure he was a song writer as well as a hair stylist, and found out more than I wanted to know. His mom’s a bigot, nearly didn’t let him go record with the company that discovered him because the marketing exec was a Jew. WHY didn’t God send her a Christian man to help Justin? *cries* I wonder how she feels about him dating Selena Gomez. And then I realized I just wondered about the Bieber/Gomez relationship and now my self loathing is so extreme I am going to cancel Christmas.

**(Easter takes places on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Equinox.)

***Wikipedia reports that royalties on “Wonderful Christmastime” are about $400,000 per year. If any creative person reads this and feels suicidal, please call a hotline or listen to my next I Should Be Writing.

Christmas Song Review: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

There were better images for this song, but HOLY SHIT ROD STEWART IS GROWING WOMEN’S LEGS OUT OF HIS HIP. Two more and he will become ARACH-ROD STWEART.

[Trigger warning and foul language ahead.]

Ahhh, Christmas. Mistletoe, presents, innocence, starlight, rebirth, and date rape.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Now, I’m going to be giving a boatload of benefit of the doubt to this song because there’s always someone who complains that it’s a sweet duet about love. I will grant you that this is a cute duet that attempts to be a seduction song. And seduction is sexy and fun when you trust your partner. Sadly, we don’t see a lot of trust here. Nor do we see any reason to trust this guy.

I really can’t stay – Baby it’s cold outside
I’ve got to go away – Baby it’s cold outside
This evening has been – Been hoping that you’d drop in
So very nice – I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice

OK, so it’s been a nice evening. We get a sense that it’s like 20, 30 degrees below zero out there and he is really concerned for her imminent frostbite. I mean, it’s “cover every spot of your body” cold. Otherwise why would he be so concerned, is she without coat? They had a good time, but it’s the end of the evening.

My mother will start to worry – Beautiful, what’s your hurry
My father will be pacing the floor – Listen to the fireplace roar
So really I’d better scurry – Beautiful, please don’t hurry
Well Maybe just a half a drink more – Put some music on while I pour

Here comes the coercion. The “awww, do you really have to go? you’re so pretty, and it’s so romantic in here, and your boundaries and concerns mean nothing to me and my CHRISTMAS COCK.”

Think I went too far with Christmas cock? I haven’t even begun.

The neighbors might think – Baby, it’s bad out there
Say, what’s in this drink – No cabs to be had out there

WHOA. What the fuck? Seriously, dude. “Oh gosh I’m SOOOO drunk, I guess I’ll stay and have ANOTHER DRINK WITH YOU BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT THEY SAID TO DO IN 1956 HEALTH CLASS.”

You can’t excuse this line. She is showing suspicion, concern, and distrust. Did he make a double when he said he was making a small drink? Did she not want alcohol at all and he gave her something tasty and hidden? Or did he do the most reprehensible of all, slip her a roofie? What is in the drink, asshole? You stop singing right now and tell me or I’m calling the motherfucking cops before I pass out, you sick pervert.

I wish I knew how – Your eyes are like starlight now

That’s probably my eyes glazing over from the ROOFIE, YOU FUCK.

To break this spell – I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell
I ought to say no, no, no, sir – Mind if I move a little closer
At least I’m gonna say that I tried – What’s the sense in hurting my pride
I really can’t stay – Baby don’t hold out
Ahh, but it’s cold outside

See, this song is all about him. It’s about his wants, his needs, his pride, his Christmas cock. She’s resisting, but realizing she will lose this battle. “Baby don’t hold out.” Really. Why not? Is your Christmas cock needing some trimming? Is your pride worth more than her reputation, self-worth, boundaries, and rights as another human being?

Now we are at the other unforgivable line of this song.

I simply must go – Baby, it’s cold outside
The answer is no – Ooh baby, it’s cold outside

There it is. How many health classes and college posters say it? No means no. As much as we need to tell the world that “maybe” or “Oh, I don’t know” doesn’t mean yes, we at least can all agree that NO means NO. Right?

It keeps on in this vein. How can you give me blue balls when my Christmas cock is waiting here for you? Your reputation means nothing to me, your worries and your resistance, nothing.

CHRISTMAS COCK RULES ALL.

You know, this song doesn’t mention Christmas at all. At some point someone said, “if it mentions snow, it’s about Christmas.” It’s one of those songs I never heard until I was an adult and now I can’t fucking escape it.

And whenever someone points the discomfort many people have with this song, someone else complains that you’re trying to remove romance from the world, how can people meet up and fall in love if there isn’t just a little bit of date rape in the world? But it seems that what the public sometimes sees as romance, the women involved aren’t even considered.

This iconic post-war image? Romantic? No. It was recently revealed that this woman was pounced on by a drunken celebrating sailor. She didn’t know him; her first introduction was his tongue in her mouth. Check her body language. Bringing this up upsets some people who complain that we’re ruining the romance. The romance was never there in the first place.

The thing that bugs me the most – besides that whole date rape thing – is the fact that the song was written with the line: “Maybe just a cigarette more.” They don’t sing that anymore, they say “half a drink” or “maybe just a few minutes more.” Because cigarettes are bad.

Cigarettes are bad. That is what someone got out of this song. No one thought, “Huh, it’s not considered cool to spike women’s drinks, maybe we should kill that line.” Nope. Cigarettes are bad.

Some people (like She and Him) do a cute role reversal with the song where the woman is trying to get the man to stay, but it still doesn’t gloss over the whole, “Did you slip me something?” And “The answer is no.” You can’t explain that away with romance, and this song is frankly dangerous if it lodges in peoples brain that it’s OK to act like this. It tells men they can wear women down so they will fuck them, and it tells women that resistance and boundaries will be disregarded so you might as well just give in in the name of “romance.”

Grade: G. Yup. It’s not good enough for an F.

I saw a link on twitter this morning that makes me so happy. Lilith Saintcrow posted this video which is entitled “Baby, It’s Consensual Outside.” I really hope someone records this and gives Chase Gregory a big bag of money.

Christmas Song Review: 12 Days of Christmas

OK, as the Cure once said, let’s get happy!

The 12 Days of Christmas. One of the standard Christmas songs, and yet it’s so antiquated and surreal that none of us can relate to it. Few of us know what a calling bird is, much less want four of them around, AND WHO IS GOING TO HAVE TO CLEAN THE CAGE, HUH? THANKS FOR GIVING ME TEN CRAP MACHINES IN THE FIRST FOUR DAYS, TRUE LOVE! Don’t even get me started on the swans and geese. My family had geese when I was growing up. I know from geese. And since the maids are a-milking, do they come with cows? Cause I don’t have a barn. And who knows ten lords, and how much political power does this true love have to convince the lords to come to my house and jump around?

Incidentally I was listening to the radio and a version came on that I had never heard. It had the croony-style of the 1940s, and the dude messed up all the later verses, and it made me physically uncomfortable. 12 lords a-leaping? ARE YOU INSANE, MAN? I’m supposed to get TEN of those. TEN. You fool!

So it’s surreal and illogical, but it’s so deeply set in my psyche that it bugs me when someone gets it wrong. Admittedly, it’s a pointless song, about as relevant as roasting chestnuts. And once you accept that, OK, some weird twitterpated guy out there is sending me birds and servants and possibly cows – and it gets even scarier if you consider the song as compound interest: 12 partridges and pear trees, 35 gold rings, 35 maids a milking, 22 turtle doves, etc – the song is incredibly tedious and repetitive. (I’ll cover overall repetitive Christmas songs on another day.)

Why do I love it so?

Because it is the most parodied Christmas song*, and those parodies are often awesome.

First we’ll look at the 12 Pains of Christmas by Bob Rivers, my far my favorite. I laugh every time I hear this. Every single time. Here’s why- the 12 verses are as follows:

The first thing at Christmas that’s such a pain to me…

  1. Finding a Christmas Tree
  2. Rigging up the lights
  3. Hangovers
  4. Sending Christmas cards
  5. Five months of bills
  6. Facing the in-laws
  7. The salvation army
  8. [kid whining]
  9. No parking spaces
  10. Batteries not included
  11. Stale TV specials
  12. Singing Christmas Carols

The funny part though is once the verse has been established, the singers often deviate the next time it’s their turn. So for example, the woman who sings about the in-laws also sings “she’s a witch, I hate her!” and “Gotta make em dinner!” instead of “facing the in-laws.” My favorite is the Christmas Cards guy, who has the line, “Oh, I don’t even KNOW half these people!” Actually guys 2, 3, and 4 are the best, as the rigging up the lights guy goes apoplectic with rage and the hangover guy gets more and more miserable/cranky.

Let’s look at Day 10.

The tenth thing at Christmas that’s such a pain to me:

  • Batteries not included
  • No parking spaces
  • BUY ME SOMETHING
  • Get a job you bum!
  • Oh, facing the in-laws!
  • Five months of bills!
  • Yo-ho sending Christmas cards!
  • Oh Geez, look at this
  • NOW WHY THE HELL ARE THEY BLINKING?
  • And finding a Christmas tree!

The song devolves at the end, I’ll just let you see for yourself.

Another one that is a favorite is only good for Phineas and Ferb fans, which also does a slight deviation from the repetition, only not as often as Bob Rivers does. The fifth day is Doofenshmirtz who wants “the entire tri-state area… or maybe just two states… or one single state… or promotion to colonel sounds pretty good, can I change mine?” The best line is Day 12, which I won’t spoil for the P&F fans- just watch.

Those are the only two I’m going to list, because I could go on all day and I really have some writing and laundry to do. But I can usually be amused by any 12 Days of Christmas song. I think it’s surreal antiquation works for it because you don’t get the outrage of changing the lyrics the way you would if there were a billion parodies of Away in a Manger. Don’t mess with the baby Jesus, but kick those milking maids and their cows out the door to make room for Batteries not included, or a weapon from A Terrorist Christmas (funnier before the turn of the millennium, admittedly), or Perry the Platypus gurgling.

Grade: B

* This is my own experience, it’s possible there is another one more parodied, but I haven’t found it.

Christmas Song Review: Christmas Shoes

I hesitated to write this one today, because I’m not going to be writing reviews of just songs that I hate. Snark is fun, but it’s Christmas, dammit, and I want to be jolly. But Brand Gamblin and Jason Ramboz begged for it yesterday, and I figured I’d get it out of the way. It must be written about. I gotta get it out of my system.

Actually, I got tons of suggestions for future reviews. So I will be doing Christmas Wrapping, Dominic The Donkey, Wonderful Christmastime, and Baby It’s Cold Outside. If you have requests for reviews, leave them in the comments!

So. Christmas Shoes. Hans Christian Anderson’s skeleton is nodding happily to itself somewhere, so very pleased that people are still writing maudlin death stories for the holidays. Mama and the Little Matchstick Girl, hand in hand!

This review will contain swear words. It can’t be helped.

Rob Lowe proves there can be a 120% bounceback after a sex tape scandal. “I was in a shameful movie with Rob Lowe. No, the other movie. The shitty one about the shoes.”

It was almost Christmas time, there I stood in another line
Tryin’ to buy that last gift or two, not really in the Christmas mood

Is anyone in the Christmas mood while shopping? For me, I get to the store, smile at the decorations, but by the time I’m in line, I have exhaustion, anxiety that I’ve purchased the wrong thing or annoyance that I’ve not found what I wanted, and just want some hot chocolate or gin, or hot chocolate AND gin, and my home and a Christmas movie (Something better than The Christmas Shoes, a made for TV movie based on this song). That is to say, dude in line, you’re not unique in this feeling.

Standing right in front of me was a little boy waiting anxiously
Pacing ’round like little boys do
And in his hands he held a pair of shoes

OK, so there’s a kid (who needs to pee) in front of him. Carrying shoes. Nothing too weird about this on the surface, but not a lot of kids buy adult things on their own with no adult nearby. Kind of odd.

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there’s not much time
You see she’s been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

So kid, what you’re telling me is, your mom is dying (presumably of cancer, or more likely movie disease) and instead of being by her side, you’re shopping. No, your DAD has told you there isn’t much time, so that implies he knows you’re out here and you’re buying shoes instead of being with your mom. “There’s not a lot of time, Timmy, come back ‘afore she’s dead, OK? I’ll text you if she looks like she’s goin’.”

And I get that you want the pretty shoes, but your mom is likely in a hospital gown, and the best shoes in the world are NOT going to spruce that up. Also, you never see cadavers’ feet in the coffins, so she won’t need these for the viewing. I’d go for a pair of earrings, myself.

And fuck, kid, what kind of god do you worship that’s going to judge your mama on her accessories? Is that a Commandment I haven’t heard of? I’m suddenly seeing Jesus as Carson from Queer Eye who just rolls his eyes and purses his lips when you get to him, saying that you’re going straight to hell for those Birkenstocks.

And I know this is cynical, that it’s sweet that he wants to do this. But honestly, he should be with his family, and if they’re this poor, save the goddamn money for a morphine drip.

He counted pennies for what seemed like years
Then the cashier said, “Son, there’s not enough here”
He searched his pockets frantically
Then he turned and he looked at me
He said Mama made Christmas good at our house
Though most years she just did without
Tell me Sir, what am I going to do,
Somehow I’ve got to buy her these Christmas shoes

DUDE YOU ARE BEING PLAYED. Those big eyes, the sob story… The little shit probably doesn’t have a sick mom; he is going to turn right around and return the shoes and go buy some licorice or Bey Blades or whatever kids are buying these days.

So I laid the money down, I just had to help him out
I’ll never forget the look on his face when he said
Mama’s gonna look so great

I’m sorry kid, but she’s not. In fact, someone sick with movie disease is usually pale and emaciated, with limp hair. Mama’s going to need a LOT more than shoes to make her look great.

And what the fuck are we teaching our kids that the most important thing at a deathbed is how you look? How obsessed are we with women’s beauty being the most important thing in the world that a boy is worried his Mama is going to hell because she wears Keds?

And Jesus said unto them, ‘Lo, it’s easier for a rich man to fit through the eye of a needle than a woman with shit shoes to get to heaven.”

I knew I’d caught a glimpse of heaven’s love
As he thanked me and ran out
I knew that God had sent that little boy
To remind me just what Christmas is all about

OH MY FUCKING THOR. GOD PLANNED THIS?

God: “Hm, there’s a mortal who isn’t feeling the spirit of Christmas. Let me dedicate my all-powerful mind to solving this problem. Hey! I’ll send a little boy with a dying mom in to need his help, and then he will feel warm and fuzzy inside!”

Dying Mama: “Um. Over here? Dying?”

God: “No, sorry, I need you, see. If you’re not dying then this man won’t see the true meaning of Christmas.”

Dying Mama: “I will see the true meaning of Christmas if you heal me.”

God: “Hush. This man’s epiphany is more important than some poor dying woman.”

This view of God is utterly, completely baffling to me. God has infinite power, and he shows it by FUCKING UP SOMEONE ELSE’S LIFE JUST SO YOU CAN GET A WARM FUZZY BY HELPING THEM (and remember it’s a fake problem the kid has created, the ugly-shoes-that-make-Jesus-hate-you.) God doesn’t make life actually any better. He just puts you in a situation where you can let your Visa make you feel good even though the kid’s mom is going to fucking die anyway… But that’s OK, cause the narrator is who we’re following, not the kid. The narrator goes home to some eggnog and carols, and maybe decorates a tree and ponders the true Meaning of Christmas, yay warm fuzzies and fa la la. The kid goes back to his shack, or the hospital his father can never hope to pay for, and his mom’s probably so far gone she won’t even see the shoes, and he’ll always remember Mom died on Christmas, and fuck Christmas and Jesus anyway cause Jesus didn’t lift a finger to save my mom because he was too busy MAKING SOME FUCK FEEL THE TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS.

So. What has this song taught us?

Christmas is about looking good even if the last thing you want in the world is to shove your feet into the torture devices that is women’s shoes. Christmas is about leaving your mother’s deathbed in order to go shopping. Christmas is about worrying if you look good enough for Jesus.

Also, you see God’s work when He shows you people who need help, but He doesn’t actually help them Himself. Let the poor woman die, what’s important is we’ve taught this man an important lesson!

God has fucked up priorities. That’s what this song is telling me.

Grade: F-

Christmas Song Review: Last Christmas

Last Christmas, a darkly obsessive cry for help

The thing that gets me about Christmas songs and movies is their reliance on CHRISTMAS overshadowing any failure in the story. Some supposed holiday songs don’t even mention the holidays at all – Jingle Bells, Winter Wonderland, My Favorite Things (which was never played during the holidays as a child, so I’m always suspicious when it’s played during the holidays – but I can cover that song later), and Baby, It’s Cold Outside (hate hate hate rage hate. Again, for another time.)

One song that always makes me kinda sad is not the actual mournful songs, like Blue Christmas, or Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, but the one that sounds hopeful but has an underlying current of self deception and misery. I give you, “Last Christmas” by Wham! (written by George Michael.)

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart
the very next day, you gave it away

Clearly, the singer had his heart broken by a terrible, terrible man. (What, you forgot George Michael’s gay? I know they had girlfriends in the video; they were beards. Let’s move beyond thinking that every song reflects your hetero view of the world, OK?) A man who enjoyed the romance of the season, toyed with the narrator, and then dumped him. We’ve all been there. It sucks.

This year, to save me from tears, I’ll give it to someone special

The narrator – let’s call him George – is determined to move on. This year will be better than the last, bright eyes, open to possibility! Only…

Once bitten and twice shy
I keep my distance
But you still catch my eye
Tell me baby
Do you recognize me?

He’s dwelling on the past, like to the point of me wanting to say, “Hey dude, you need to perhaps get some therapy if you can’t move on from this guy. Let’s hit some singles bars or something. Have a rebound, eat some ice cream, get good and drunk. Let’s burn his Christmas present to you! Catharsis!”

The whole song is like that. While he claims to be finding someone new to love, the message is targeted toward the past and the ex, the mean guy who broke his heart. There’s no, “This Christmas You’ll Help Me Forget Him, Baby.” Or “All I Want For Christmas is a One Night Stand,” or “Rebound Christmas.” Which are still sad but at least would be more honest with himself.

Hm. I bet I could write a book called Rebound Christmas about a woman who got dumped and just wants to find someone fun to be with, no strings, and OMG THEN THEY WILL FALL IN LOVE UNDER THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS. There may be mall elves involved. Because everything is better with mall elves. Hah. I’ll make a mint like those other vapid novels!

Uh, never mind. Moving on.

Now I know what a fool I’ve been
But if you kissed me now
I know you’d fool me again

Now it’s getting obsessive. He’s not moving on. He’s not even considering moving on. He’s standing under the mistletoe, tears glistening in his eyes, saying, “I’m totally over you,” with a slight quaver in his voice, hoping Mr. Heartbreaker will feel the MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS and take him into his arms for a big Christmas kiss. There may be glitter involved.

Now I’ve found a real love you’ll never fool me again

Riiiiight, George. And he lives in Canada and he’s six-foot four with broad shoulders and green bedroom eyes, right? And he was going to be at this Christmas party but he got called in at the last minute to do emergency brain surgery because he’s a brain surgeon slash rugby player slash model. He SO wanted to meet everybody.

This is the only line in the song where he says he’s actually in love with someone. Who I’m sure, if he exists, is totally thrilled with the fact that his boyfriend just wrote an entire “nyah nyah” song to the guy he’s clearly not over. This new, “real love” boyfriend will probably dump him after the party…

Wait a minute. Wham! just blew my mind…

AND THEN NEW BOYFRIEND WILL BECOME NEXT CHRISTMAS’ “LAST CHRISTMAS!” George Michael is stuck in a downward spiral of being dumped on Christmas, finding someone new, obsessing over the old guy, and getting dumped on Christmas again. Like elephants, it’s Last Christmas” all the way down! What was once a kind of sad Christmas song now becomes a terrifying dark look into an obsessive’s soul.

Well played, Wham!. You have more depth than I thought.

Grade: C-