Unless you're living in Antarctica right now, you know that the media has been in an uproar over Miley Cyrus's lascivious performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. My first reaction was: "Meh." Much ado about nothing. But the more I've seen written about it, the more interested I've become, not in Miley's silly dance, but in the media's reaction to it.
A few days ago I watched the dance on YouTube to see what all the fuss was about. There's Miley shaking her tail feathers and simulating oral sex, surrounded by people dressed up as giant plush toys. The choreography didn't wow me, nor did the artistic vision behind the display, but the entire thing is very clearly the work of many professionals. To get something like that together, a juggernaut of producers, choreographers, audio-visual experts, software engineers, costume designers, dancers, and cameramen all had to come together to execute this folly. Miley Cyrus herself must have had an enormous staff of people, from the agents who fought to get her the gig, (which must have been sought after by many performers,) to her make-up artists and hair specialists, not to mention all the dancing lessons and coaching she must have gotten regarding how to properly twerk.
And then: OUTRAGE! How dare Miley Cyrus behave like a wanton slattern, stripping down to her underwear to gyrate so suggestively! Suddenly she is at the center of a disapproval vortex for performing in a dance that someone else designed, being asked to explain herself only to have her absolute dumbest sound-bites published. (Were there any intelligent sounding bites? Perhaps we'll never know.) This twenty year old girl is being grilled rather mercilessly.
Considering, though, all the people involved in the show, I have to ask why isn't anyone else being held accountable? Somehow I doubt the dancing puppets, the twerking, or even the song were all Miley's idea. After all, she was hired for this gig by somebody, and told what was expected of her. She was given a job to do, and she did it.
I did a quick web search looking for the names of the choreographers and producers who are ultimately responsible for the show, but I couldn't turn up any interviews done with them. All the attention and scorn is for Miley. I went to the MTV website and found triumphant reports of Miley's record sales skyrocketing, and proud mention of how her name dominates social media. She sure is cashing in on all that disapproval, and so are a lot of other people. So I can't help wondering: Wasn't she just trying to do what they asked of her? And I'm sorry to say this, but at the age of twenty, I would never expect her to have the kind of judgment an older woman would have. She's young, ambitious, she wanted to please her bosses.
In the final analysis, what I see when I look at that performance is a young woman's body being exploited --by a multinational corporation, by producers, by music executives, and by herself. Was she a victim? Not at all. She was more than complicit in that performance; she obviously embraced it. But I have to wonder at all the many people behind that dance number, the people pulling all the strings to make it happen, and question why twenty year old Miley is the only one sitting on hot coals.
To me the answer is obvious: Because the ones behind the scenes are mostly wealthy middle aged businessmen, and she is a young woman.
Yes, ladies and gentleman, I'm pulling out the sexism card.
As soon as a woman exposes her body to suggest sexuality, she is labeled a slut. No matter that she was fulfilling a contract, no matter that a thousand other people are making money off what some see as her degradation. She's called the slut. She's named the whore. My personal reaction to her dance was to feel a little grossed out, but rather than heap all responsibility on her head, I think the responsibility can be spread around to plenty of other people who made the cynical choice to display her that way for the sake of money. They knew exactly what would happen in the media, and probably so did Ms. Cyrus. This tempest in a teapot is every bit as choreographed as Miley's twerking, only in this case, you and I are the performers, and we are fulfilling our role splendidly.
We are talking about it, we are blogging about it, tweeting and twerking about it. We are dancing where they want us to go, and with us come our dollars. Because they knew that nothing gets people more worked up than seeing a young woman unapologetically embracing her role as a sexual object. If it hadn't been Hannah Montana it would have been someone else, but they chose Miley because a few short years ago she had a wholesome, spotless image, and turning that image on its head would provoke the most heated response, and bring in the most money.
I don't have a problem with Miley Cyrus. I have a problem with the system that made such a display so damn profitable.
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Amy's thoughts on young adult literature, the universe, and her dog Miles. Amy is the author of Vibes and Shadow Falls.
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Unless you're living in Antarctica right now, you know that the media has been in an uproar over Miley Cyrus's lascivious performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. My first reaction was: "Meh." Much ado about nothing. But the more I've seen written about it, the more interested I've become, not in Miley's silly dance, but in the media's reaction to it.
The thing about middle school is that you are thrown into close proximity with people who you would never socialize with by choice. The kids tend to self sort, so the smarties hang out together, and the burn-outs corner a table in the lunch room from which they emit their dreadful vibes. But that doesn't mean you won't get stuck sitting next to someone who loathes your very soul in math class.
There was this one guy I remember from school who seemed to see into the very pit of my being and recognize some irredeemable shortcoming there. His name was Mark Something. I didn't think much of him either. I was always a good student, and he never seemed to try very hard. He was kind of chunky, and he walked with the kind of lumbering gait you see more often on a middle aged retiree. We were in band together, and he was a consummate musician. He played the French horn, or the Souzaphone, or some large, curly brass instrument. I played rhythm piano, quite poorly I might add, which probably didn't do anything to dispel his contempt.
It was people like this I learned to avoid. I sat with my speech team compadres at lunch, I hung out after school with my goofball pal Annika, I avoided parties altogether. In short, I was not very sociable, though I felt like I ought to be, and to be honest, that hasn't changed much even three decades later.
I wasn't without my petty rebellions, though. One day I wrote on the corner of my desk, "This sucks." I thought I'd gotten away with something occult and mysterious. I'd defaced public property! I was a true rebel! Imagine my surprise when the next day I discovered that someone who sat in my desk during another period wrote a reply: "No kidding." I had a partner in crime! Naturally I don't remember the conversation, but it went something like this:
"School is boring."
"I hate social studies."
"Who cares what the Netherlands exports?"
"You got a problem with tulips?"
"Yeah. I got a problem with tulips. What of it?"
Like that. Meaningless banter, but kind of funny, kind of entertaining, and healing to my introverted soul.
Finally, after a couple weeks of this exchange, I committed a fatal error. I finally breached the firewall of our concealed identities, and asked the name of my desk buddy. The reply came: "Mark Something. Who are you?"
Mark Something? The guy who loathes me in band? The chubby guy who walks like my grandpa? Mark SOMETHING? I was very disappointed.
I wrote something I wish very much I hadn't. I wrote: "I'm Amy Ryan. I'm not thrilled about it either."
And boom. When I saw Mark Something in band class his loathing had morphed into a complete withdrawal of any kind of emotion whatsoever. He no longer looked into my being and found it wanting. He no longer looked at me at all. I did not exist to him. All desk banter stopped.
And ever since, I can't help wondering if I'd left that last bit off. If I'd just told him my name and waited for his reaction, if he might have become my friend? We had a connection after all. If I hadn't assumed that he would be bummed out to see my name under his, if I hadn't been so defensive, maybe band class could have become fun instead of boring, and I'd have made a friend instead of an enemy.
That is one of thousands of moments in my life I wish I could go back and fix. Mark Something, if you're reading this, I'm sorry I ruined it. You can write on my desk anytime.
That's the problem, though. I will probably never see him again, and even if I did, I doubt I'd recognize him. But I remember what happened. It has stayed with me through the decades, even haunted me a little, as though it were whispering in my ear that I was supposed to learn something from it.
The connections we have with people make life interesting and worthwhile. Before our desk graffiti, I had a connection with Mark, even if it was defined by a mutual dislike. The graffiti could have changed that, and gave us a chance to create a different mode in our relation to each other, but I was too stubborn to let my idea of our connection change. With one sentence I gave Mark a reason to sever our tie altogether. Maybe if I'd been willing to tolerate the ambiguity of our relationship, something even more special and interesting than our desk graffiti would have happened. But I couldn't tolerate that ambiguity. I had to keep defining us as enemies, so I wasn't open to anything else. Something about that negative definition felt safer to me than the possibility of change.
If I hadn't been defensive, if I'd just let my name hang there, he might have responded meanly, or he might have decided to offer friendship. I couldn't have done anything to prevent him from putting me down if he'd wanted to. My only power in the situation was how I behaved. I don't know if I let Mark Something down, but I think I did let myself down a little in the name of self protection. I don't know if the experience really changed me, or if I learned anything from it at the time. I think I was too young to think very deeply about what this exchange meant for me and the way I related to the world. But I can think about it now.
It reminds me of a quote from the poet W.H. Auden: "How do I know what I think until I see what I say?"
So here's what I think: My definition of Mark Something as an enemy was actually useless. It was useless to define him at all. A better attitude would have been to accept the fact that I had no idea how he would react to seeing my name written on that desk. I had no control in the situation. Trying to maintain our old orientation to each other, persisting in seeing him as my enemy, was cowardly. If I'd been brave, if I'd been open to change, I might have a happy memory of that time instead of a sad one.
It is better to face the world with an open heart than a closed one.
Sometimes it's better to let your name stand alone.
I've been an on again, off again runner for most of my adult life. When I'm off, it's because I've overdone it and injured myself. When I'm on, instead of enjoying the run I'm on, I'm always thinking about how far I'm GOING to be able to run. I would read articles written by seasoned marathoners, and followed the advice of these experts who tell you that you can build your mileage quickly if you take a one minute walking break in the middle of a run, or that you can increase your mileage ten percent per week. I dutifully followed these rules, confident I was doing what I was 'supposed' to do, yet they still led to injury. I would end up with a wicked case of plantar fasciitis, runner's knee, or incredibly painful clicking hip joints. I thought for a long time that soreness is simply a part of running, that it's normal. After all, most runners' magazines are filled with tips about how to wrap sore feet or properly ice a throbbing knee, so I ignored what my body was telling me. The truth is, I am an impatient person, I want what I want right now, and if that means I have to damage my body trying to reach my goal, I tend to grit my teeth and try to run through the pain --until I can't anymore.
Since the last time I was running in my mid thirties, I've had my kids, put on a bit of weight, and turned forty. For a while I tried to tell myself that I can't run anymore, that I shouldn't even try it. Instead I walked, or used my elliptical trainer. After all I've got kids to keep up with. I can't afford to be limping around after them. But I miss running. Nothing makes me feel stronger. So a couple months ago, I got an idea. What if it is possible for me to run pain free? What if I went even slower than the experts tell me to go?
So I started running again, but I'm building my miles at a snail's pace. The first week I got back to running, I ran for one minute. Was I tempted to go farther? Hell yes. It felt good to be on the trails again, but when my timer ran out, I quit and walked the rest of the way. The next week I ran for two minutes. I've continued the pattern for ten weeks now. I figure, since I'm slow, that once I reach twelve minutes of running I'll have broken the mile. The impatient voice inside my head demands, "According to the experts, I could be running a 5K by now!" But I ignore that voice. I'm no longer trying to be the hare. I'm going for turtle.
It's agonizingly slow, it's frustrating, but you know what? I've been running for three months now, and I don't have plantar fasciitis, runner's knee, or clicking hips. I'm not limping. Instead of listening to experts about what my body should be able to deliver, I'm listening to my body, and it's working.
For a long time I made the mistake of trying to fit into the expectations of other people. I ignored the pain, which was a message from my body that I didn't fit into the experts' rubric, that I am different from the norm. Maybe my body is more fragile, maybe my joints are too loose and wobbly for me to ever be a marathoner, but maybe, if I pay attention to the signals I'm getting from my feet, knees, and hips, and take it slow, after another year of running I might finally reach my goal of five miles.
It's taken me four decades to accept myself as I am, to stop trying to measure up to an ideal that simply isn't possible for me. Just because I can't measure up to the ideal doesn't mean I should give up on something I enjoy. So what if I'll never run a marathon? I accept that. And, if I find my upper mileage limit is three instead of five, I'll accept that too. I'd rather run a regular three miles for the next ten years than run five miles this year, only to burn out and quit again. The important thing is to keep running, and to do it in a way that respects my body.
When I am writing to meet a deadline, I just don't write much on my blog. I've been feverishly working on my next novel, FLAME, which ought to come out in January sometime. I just turned it in to my editor on Friday, and it's going right into copy editing this week. This was by far the most difficult of the three Sky Chaser novels to write because I had to tie up about a thousand pages of story into a meaningful denouement. I feel good about the end product, and I hope my readers enjoy it.
Other than that, I've been raising my cute kids, walking my dogs, and tending my garden. As the summer wore on I became less and less attentive to my garden, but once things are planted they tend to take care of themselves. I've got tomatoes, beans, lettuce, and carrots to harvest, so much that I'm not always sure what to do with it!
Now that I'm not on deadline, I'll have lots more time for my blog, and I'm looking forward to getting back into it. I've sadly neglected my online presence, but the nice thing about the internet is it's never too late to dive in!
I'm excited to help sound the clarion call for my friend Catherine Stine's new e-book, Ruby's Fire!
If you're interested in imaginative science fiction with a romantic twist, you should check it out! Here is an excerpt and some links to help you find (or win!) a copy of RUBY'S FIRE, book TWO in the innovative FIRESEED series.
Here is a list, compiled from my long, ignoble dating career, that will help the young ladies spot a dud early on. (I hope.)
1. He doesn't laugh at your jokes. This is a lame power play, and a subtle way of embarrassing you.
2. He is rude to your friends or family. If he's a nice guy and he really likes you, he would want to please the people in your life, not drive a wedge between you and them.
3. He either arrives late for a date, or stands you up. No brainer, right? Dump him.
4. He checks out other girls while he's with you. This is impolite and uncool. You're the one he's with. He should be paying attention only to you.
5. He lets his buddies make jokes at your expense. Any guy worth hanging out with has nice friends, and won't let anyone treat you with disrespect.
6. He talks meanly about girls he's dated in the past. If he pulls out the "B" word about another girl when he's on a date with you, he'll probably say something nasty about you later on too.
7. He doesn't make eye contact with you while you're talking. There is shyness, and then there is rude disregard. Learn to tell the difference.
8. You find yourself making excuses for him, or you spend a lot of time trying to understand his behavior. A jerk acts like a jerk because he is a jerk. Nice guys don't need excuses made for them.
9. He's mean to animals or younger siblings. This is a sure sign of a bully. A good guy doesn't use his strength to hurt someone who can't defend themselves. Get this guy out of your life ASAP.
10. He bosses you around. "Don't do this." "Do that." A good guy asks nicely, says please, and doesn't expect obedience.
The sexier a guy is physically, the more likely you are to stick around past his expiration date. The best way a young woman can protect herself and stop wasting time on jerks is to think clearly and logically, look at the behavior, and not let her mind get too clouded by hormones. Easier said than done. But I do wish I'd had a list like this when I was a teen and even into my twenties, and I wish I'd run from the guys I describe above. Time is precious. Don't waste it on someone who doesn't deserve it.
I see plenty of girls who like their lacy tops and their denim, and they rock theirs even more than I do because they haven't had kids and they're young and gorgeous. ***
When I was younger, and I would dress for work, I would ignore the voice in my head that said, "Perhaps showing your bra strap while serving people ice cream is somehow NOT a good idea." This voice sounded like my mother, so naturally I disregarded it.
Mom always said I'd get the "wrong kind" of male attention if I showed too much skin. She wasn't wrong. I got plenty of gross come-ons, but I knew how to shoot down a guy who was less than respectful. I didn't realize that it wasn't the guys I should be worried about. It was the girls. And the women.
When I dressed in my skimpies at work, I was sending the signal that I was AVAILABLE. The signal wasn't wrong. I was available, looking for a boyfriend, and I didn't want to miss out on any opportunities. The problem was the CONTEXT: An ice cream shop where husbands and wives brought their little kids in for a cone.
Now that I'm married, I know that any man who has a pulse can't really help but look. And the older I get, I know that no matter how good I look for my age, I can't compete with a teenager. And so when my husband and I take the kids for ice cream and I see a hottie who would be prettier than me wearing a HASMAT suit, and she's showing off her lacy bra under her skimpy little top, and I see my husband pretending not to look, I hate her a little bit. Can't help it. I'm human.
And so I run through my memories, and understand all those times when a friend who thought herself unattractive clammed up whenever I wore a sexy top just to hang out, or when an older woman stared daggers at me for no discernible reason, or a male professor or teacher or boss was checking out my boobs when I was trying to impress him with my brain --and I get it. I finally get it.
It's about context. I was all good wearing those sexy lacies to a party, on a date with my boyfriend, or to a dance. There, all the girls are showing the goods. But the sexy lacies ought to have stayed in the drawer when I was in a context that wasn't all about attracting a man. Work. School. Hanging out with girlfriends, some of them sixes like me, some of them tens, some of them fours. And especially when I'm around married couples. When you're young and gorgeous, it's just considerate not to dress too sexy. Other women, the young and the old, will appreciate it, even if they don't say so.
***Even if you don't think you're gorgeous, wait until you're 40. You will realize that you were gorgeous when you were young. So don't miss it. Just admit that you're gorgeous and stop worrying about not looking like a model. Display Comments Add a Comment
This most recent shooting in Connecticut has our nation reeling with the unimaginable horror of it. How could anyone do that? How sick and evil can a person get? And why the hell did he have an assault rifle?
The pro-gun lobby in this country is holding us hostage. Until our leadership grows spine enough to stand up to them, killings like this will continue.
Nicholas Kristoff has written an excellent Op-Ed in the New York Times on the subject and puts forward some sobering statistics: "Children ages 5 to 14 in America are 13 times as likely to be murdered with guns as children in other industrialized countries, according to David Hemenway, a public health specialist at Harvard who has written an excellent book on gun violence." For the full article, click here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/16/opinion/sunday/kristof-do-we-have-the-courage-to-stop-this.html?smid=fb-share
Kristoff goes on to give some impressive examples of how other governments have curbed gun violence with some sensible laws:
"Other countries offer a road map. In Australia in 1996, a mass killing of 35 people galvanized the nation’s conservative prime minister to ban certain rapid-fire long guns. The “national firearms agreement,” as it was known, led to the buyback of 650,000 guns and to tighter rules for licensing and safe storage of those remaining in public hands.
I am a contributor to the awesome anthology Dear Teen Me, in which authors of YA books write letters to their younger selves.
Check out the book trailer to see some of the fabulous authors who contributed!
To pre-order your copy, follow the links:
A: When I first started off as a writer in my twenties, and I would tell people that's what I wanted to do for a living, I almost always got some warning like, "Being a writer involves lots of rejection..." Few people were particularly encouraging of my dream. Now that I think about it, this might have been my first taste of what was to come. I didn't sell anything at all in my twenties. I wrote short stories and poems and sent them off to very unrealistic places like The New Yorker, or The Paris Review. I don't think I was so naive as to think I'd be accepted. I always received those rejection letters with a grim kind of complacence. Probably deep down I knew that what I was sending off wasn't actually good enough, and so the rejection came as no surprise. It's when I started really getting serious, and trying my hardest, that the rejection started to hurt.
Please check out this interview with me on author Catherine Stine's awesome blog, Idea City:
Bananas for Books:
Candace's Book Blog:
The Teen Bookworm:
The Book Swarm:
Genre Go Round:
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Some people think that guns are really cool. I do not really see the appeal, but I'm willing to concede that most people who own guns are decent, responsible citizens who would never engage in such senseless violence. They're not the ones I'm worried about. I'm worried about the nut-jobs.
A dozen people are dead now because some total lunatic got his hands on four guns and decided to externalize his angst in a public place. One of the dead is a little six year old kid.
I am tired of this. I want stricter gun control. If it were up to me, and I wish it were, we as a nation would take every gun we own, melt them down, and use them to make useful things that don't kill people. How many more people have to die before our "leaders" stand up to the NRA and create some legislation that at least tries to keep guns away from the mad men? I for one am tired of our kids dying violent, painful, terrifying deaths, and I'm tired of our politicians doing nothing about it just because some people think that guns are cool.
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Too hot for gardening. Too hot for walking dogs. Too hot for playing outside. Too hot for firefighters trying to kill a wildfire. It is too hot.
My garden soil is cracking. The worms are baking dry. The more I water my plants the more they wilt. I stepped outside to spread some mulch, and after ten minutes I looked at my shoulders to discover they had aged 50 years. My skin is wrinkling and sagging, scaling and blowing away in the wind. It is too hot.
I saw a butterfly land on the hood of my car and vaporize, so I mashed up butter in a bowl. I added sugar, flour, spices, and chocolate chips. I spread the dough out on my dashboard to make cookies. They burned. Now my car smells like the Keebler Elves (TM) torched their tree for the insurance money. It is too hot.
I saw a small child step from the shade into the sun and a fine trail of smoke rose from her feathery hair. I called out to her, "It is too hot!" She ran back to the shade, leaving smoking footsteps in the grass behind her. I called the police. They sent a rescue squad. Four strong men in protective clothing wrapped her in non-combustible blankets and rushed her to the ER. She is recovering but the freckles on her nose have joined into a chain that spells out: "It is too hot."
The trees are burning. The grass is burning. The cabins are burning. They were beginning to take the High Park fire in hand, but now...
It is too hot.
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I'm getting excited for the release of SPARK, coming up on July 17th! It's always daunting writing a sequel, so I was very relieved when my editor told me she thought it was even better than GLOW. That sentiment has been reiterated again and again, by readers, bloggers, reviewers, and my staunchest critic: my brother. As an 'artiste', I should be above such gratification, but I freely admit I am not. With all this approval flowing in, massaging my fragile writer's ego, I'm feeling pretty good about this book.
I guess I agree that in some ways SPARK is better than GLOW, if only because with the second novel I had room to really get into the characters' minds. I'm especially proud of the work Seth's character does to improve himself. He's not a good guy in GLOW, but now he recognizes his mistakes and flaws, and he wants to try harder to be the kind of man who would deserve Waverly. Kieran, on the other hand, finds himself in increasingly difficult situations as the leader of the Empyrean, and I love how his pure heart gets twisted by the pressure. In SPARK, though, no one is more twisted than Waverly. She's still recovering from what happened on the New Horizon, and her experiences left a mark on her. She's a bit of a loose cannon, and though she always thinks she has good reasons for doing what she does, by the end of the book she has begun to seriously compromise herself. Spark is dark, it's fiery, and it's fun. At least, I had fun writing it and I hope my readers will have fun reading it!
So raise your figurative glass and toast the coming arrival of SPARK! May you read! May you enjoy! May you tell your friends! May they read it and enjoy it too! And may it sell well so my kids can go to college! Hurray for SPARK!
This enterprising young woman is using the power of the internet to effect change. Her target: school lunch.
She is fighting the system one unappetizing picture at a time. Every day she takes a photo of the lunch she is served at school, and I must agree with her that they seem to be planning their menus rather monochromatically. Very starchy. Few veggies.
I think she and her parents are brilliantly using the TRUTH as a weapon for change. Bully for her!
Link to her blog:
I don't have time to write. It's a common excuse. It's one I use frequently because it is frequently true. I don't have time to write if I make time for other things, like hugging my kids, walking the dogs, making dinner, spending a couple hours with hubby after the girls go to sleep... Having a life.
Life gets in the way. It does for every writer.
That's because, for most writers, there is no one looking over our shoulder making sure we're getting our work done. Our boss is our own sense of discipline, and that can be a pretty lame task master. Even a contract and a deadline are a weak force that acts like gravity: The further away the deadline is, the weaker its pull.
The problem with writing is, even for a professional, it can feel like a hobby. That's because for the longest time, before we get published, writing is basically a hobby. It's something we as beginning writers did in our spare time, like weeding the garden or embroidering linen napkins.
But the truth is, if you want to get published and keep getting published, your hobby has to be your job. That means you have to be willing to let writing be more important than walking the dogs or opening the mail. Sometimes it even has to be more important than hugging your kids. Even though we might work in our pajamas, writers have to at least pretend that when the whistle blows, we must be working. The other things will just have to wait. Because if we had real jobs, you can bet we'd do all kinds of acrobatics to put the cute babies down and give the dog a chewy and rush out the door to get to work on time.
So here's me pretending that I hear my boss coming down the hallway to check on my progress. Here's me getting to work.
Here's me writing:
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I've been thinking lately about what people think of as "psychologically healthy" in our society, and how value-laden that term really is. I think a "healthy" person is defined as someone who can have loving, stable ties with others, can be a productive member of our society, doesn't do unnecessary violence to persons or animals, and is prepared to take personal responsibility for his/her own problems. I think a person like this is generally fairly content with life, which is probably a huge factor in one's health. Perhaps more importantly, if everyone were healthy in this way, our society overall would be a healthy one.
Of course, not everyone is "healthy." Interestingly, it is accepted by most psychologists that there are sociopaths among us, people who were born with wiring that is very different from most people's. The sociopath, I understand, is an individual who lacks the ability to form meaningful lasting ties with other people because they do not possess empathy. The sociopath tends to see other people as a means to an end, and are often quite willing to do violence to people if they think they can get away with it. They also lack the ability to experience or process feelings of guilt. Some sociopaths are made, through horrific abuse or neglect from caregivers. But not all abused children grow up to be sociopaths. In fact, very few do. Most abused kids grow up to be quite lovely people themselves. The reasoning is, therefore, that sociopathy arises organically in some individuals. In other words, sociopaths are born with the natural tendency, and then their horrible parents bring it out in them.
Why would this be, though? Evolutionary theory posits that most traits present in the population of a social species are there because in some way those traits benefit the species as a whole. This may not be true for all traits or for all species, but natural selection tends to work pretty well. In other words, it tends to help useful traits survive in a population, and it tends to suppress traits that don't work well for survival. (The operative word being "tend," because there are some traits, like armpit hair, that persist for no real reason. But that's another essay.) So assuming natural selection is acting on our population still, it has found a balance. The human population tends to produce pretty nice people who are good at working together and who find plenty of other people to like and love. But it also tends to produce a few members of the society who don't think like this, who are willing to do violence when it is necessary, and who, it seems, are actually pretty good at it.
If you look at history, it becomes pretty clear that sometimes these sociopaths rise up to lead their tribe, their clan, their nations. Stalin, Hitler, Amin... There is a long depressing list, and I'll stop there. Somehow these crazy nut-jobs get the healthy people to follow them down a rabbit hole of horrors. Why?
I'm no evolutionary psychologist, but I have a theory about this. (I doubt I'm the first, but whatever. It's my blog.) Most of the time, the healthy personality thrives, and helps everyone else thrive too. The healthy people work together to create a vibrant, happy, healthy community that is stable and safe for its members. This worked very well for thousands, maybe millions of years of human evolution. But sometimes it doesn't work. Sometimes there is a horrible threat from outside, a threat from other people, and sometimes the healthy people have to take up arms, and go against their kinder natures, and do violence to other people.
In these conditions, the sociopath shines. The sociopath doesn't look at the onrushing tribe with their stone axes and think about how he'd really rather not kill other people. The sociopath looks at them and says to himself, "Remove the threat." And unlike the healthy people who are preoccupied with empathy and guilt, he coolly and efficiently sees the most expedient way to remove that threat. Instinctively, the healthy ones see how efficient th
Yesterday was my seventh wedding anniversary, so today hubby and I took a break from being parents and drove to a nearby touristy town to walk around. There were lots of cute shops with colorful merchandise, and plenty of fun stuff to see and people to watch. It was wonderfully freeing to be out and about, wandering around, with nowhere to be, nothing to do, no stinky diapers to change. It was a full day of playing hooky.
We had a beautiful lunch at a mediterranean restaurant, and seriously considered buying some totally awesome lighting fixtures for our house. I thought about a nifty twirly-kite looking thingy for our entryway, and I bought some sandals. It felt like when we were first married, when we had no obligations and life was mostly just about having fun together and making each other laugh. It felt great.
But right around nap time, when it would be time to cuddle my sweethearts and sing them to sleep, I started missing them SO MUCH! There is something so addictive about your children. Their smell, their laugh, their smile... If you're away from them too long you go into withdrawal. So I phoned the sitter and found out they had a good lunch and played hard outside and were basically having a lovely break from being parented. Just like daddy and mommy, maybe they needed a little space too.
When hubby and I walked in the door, though, it was all hugs and kisses and a few minutes of desperate competing for the first cuddle from Mommy and Daddy. I could tell they missed us too.
So all in all, a very good day. Would it have been quite so good a day though if they hadn't so clearly missed us? I don't think so. It's a little selfish of me, but I'm glad they wanted me when I wasn't there.
I've got a friend who, at the tender age of forty-ish, has joined up with the rock'em, sock'em roller derby. She skates like quicksilver around the track and rams into other women with her shoulder, whether her opponent is still in play or not. She gets sent to the box and then sniggers about it on Facebook the next day. She is my hero.
After seeing Drew Barrymore's awesome film Whip It, I considered joining our local derby. I was attracted to the camaraderie and general sassiness it represented. The goofiness was also a plus. I imagined the fun of being part of a team, the thrills of speed, the rewards of skating like a demon in front of a roaring crowd... Then I imagined knee surgery and decided against it.
Not my friend. She is fearless. Daily she writes of her aches and pains with plucky cheerfulness. And her recently posted pics of herself as she cruises around the track, her eyes on the back of a toothsome girl with a blonde ponytail, teeth gritted, eyes ablaze with fury --she's downright scary. And, oh yeah: She took her down.
People like to think that girls don't have that "killer instinct." We belong on the sidelines of battle, ready to tend the wounds and wipe the sweaty brows of our brave fighting men. I myself have no interest in soldiering, but I think the assumption we often make about the docility of women might be a little off. In fact, some of the meanest, most aggressive, black hearted people I know have been women.
So let's hear it for the general bitchiness of our sex. Women are tough. Women are scary. Women are mean. Do not cross us. Or we'll shoulder-check you in the kidneys and gloat at you from the penalty box.
A wild fire is burning in the mountains near where I live. The smoke is thick, and it stings our eyes and burns our throats. It's making my little daughters cough. They couldn't play outside yesterday, and they won't get to today either. We're running an air purifier in our house, and we're thinking of buying more because it still smells like smoke in our living room and the fire shows no sign of slowing down. This could go on for weeks. Even months.
Fires are a natural part of the cycle of any forest in the western United States. What isn't natural are the thousands of dead trees still standing, red tufts among the green, made ready for the flames by years of rampant pine beetle infestations. The pine beetles have been loving the warmer winters we're had over the last two decades. These warmer temperatures were predicted by scientists studying how the climate would change due to man-made pollution. These same people are predicting that temperatures will continue to rise, which means worse tornados, worse wild-fires, worse hurricanes...
There are a lot of people who want to deny that man-made climate change is real. None of them are, however, climate scientists. Sure, Fox News can find the occasional weatherman to act as an "expert" and tell us all to go on using our lawn mowers and driving our giant cars. But a weatherman is not a climate scientist. He's a meteorologist. He studies local weather patterns and makes predictions on a small scale. The climate scientist is the guy who dedicates his life to studying long term global weather trends. Man-made climate change has been tested and re-tested and verified hundreds of times by thousands of scientists. Yet so many people refuse to believe it. Why?
I think a lot of it has to do with a distrust of "experts." Because some experts are wrong some of the time, in some people's minds, they think that means experts as a group are untrustworthy and foolhardy. But this anti-intellectualism isn't the whole problem. Huge corporations spend gazillions of dollars on propaganda designed to make everyone feel better about our present energy and transportation infrastructure, because these companies stand to make a whole lot of money harvesting non-renewable resources like coal and oil and selling it to the very people they're poisoning. Because of these huge propaganda machines, lots of regular people are fully willing to bet the planet that the true experts have got it wrong.
For the sake of argument, let's ignore the science for a moment and imagine there's a 50% chance climate scientists' predictions about climate change are wrong. I'm not such a gambler that I'm willing to bet the entire WORLD on a coin toss. Are you?
Even if we don't agree on climate change theory, can't we all agree that the smoke from coal power plants isn't good for people to breathe? Can we agree that there are good medical reasons why we don't all lustily inhale the exhaust from our cars? Can we agree that it is better for our children to drink clean water rather than water polluted with petrochemicals? Why is it so bad to expect our industries to work toward clean solutions to these problems?
When will it change? What can we do? I'm asking you guys. Tell me. I want to know what you think.
I just finished a great book called The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson. Reading good writing always makes me want to write. There's something inspiring about finding a fresh use of language, savoring it, and trying to use it for my own purposes. Some writers fear influence, but this has never made sense to me. Language flows through individual people like tributaries, each of us contributing to the great river of thoughts and sounds that make up the very grand, very adaptable English Language. This is how language changes. Writers should never fear influence from other great writers. I believe reading excellent work is what improves us as craftsmen.
Vibes certainly had many influences. I pulled the device of telepathy as a means of exploring the human condition from the brilliant Ray Bradbury. His work in The Martian Chroniclesuses telepathy to reveal how faulty are our constructions of reality, how individual, how fragile. Emma, by Jane Austen, was also a big influence on Vibes. Emma, just like Kristi, starts out thinking she's got everyone's number, but ends up learning that she is much more deceived and confused than anyone. I think Kristi's caustic wit was also borrowed from Austen, who can be every bit as caustic as any modern teenager. I very purposefully madeVibes a comedy in the Shakespearean sense, for the plot follows the basic outline of Add a Comment
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