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Showing posts from March, 2016

Guest Post: 'Wuthering Heights,' Or How Emily Bronte Made Me Grow a Vagina and then Kicked Me in It

We have here a re-run of one of my favorite Doug posts. For those unaware, my friend Doug is hilarious and great, and sometimes I make him read and review classic books that he hates 90% of the time. Here is his Wuthering Heights post. It's awesome.--------------------------------------

I'm not quite sure how to describe in words what it was like reading Wuthering Heights from beginning to end. Luckily, this kid found a way to sum it up perfectly...

Thank you, boy! Your hilarious suffering is not in vain. Hi, I'm Doug Wilkinson... Wait, what kind of Internet contributor name is that?

Hi, I'm DeathStarBlowJob69, and I would have rather been God-punched in the dick with a meteorite than have ever read this book. Now, I use such extremes for comedic purchase, but I assure you, every character in this book would have literally rather been God-punched in the dick with a meteorite than suffer the indignity of not behaving like a piece of shit.
Imagine you're back in school.…

The Creation of Patriarchy, Part III

The Creation of Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner is a 1986 study into the possible origins of our current societal structure. I'm reviewing it in sections, because each chapter has a lot of ideas worth discussing. Part I can be found here, and part II can be found here.

If you will remember, this book focuses on ancient civilizations and the earliest records we have of patriarchal formations. Most of these chapters talk about the Code of Hammurabi, and Babylonian, Assyrian, and Hebrew law. In these we can see the gradual subjugation of women as it became codified and then part of our collective consciousness. This post is solely focusing on chapter 5, as it got way too long while I was writing it.

Chapter 5: The Wife and the Concubine

[A] man's class status is determined by his economic relations and a woman's by her sexual relations...It is a principle which had remained valid for thousands of years. A civilization's laws don't show us how its citizens actually behaved, b…

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire: March 25th, 1911

Today is the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

On March 25th, 1911, a fire broke out on the 8th floor of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, a block away from Washington Square Park. Most of the people on that floor got out. They telephoned the 10th floor, but were unable to contact the 9th. There were only two elevators, and an arguably locked door, which surviving workers said was locked (illegally) to prevent theft. The only fire escape collapsed under the weight of the people on it. They all fell. There had been no fire drills, because they would eat up company time, and while fire sprinklers had been invented, they weren't mandatory, so companies would choose to save money and not install them.

Women worked with their chairs back to back, leaving no adequate escape routes. When the fire broke out, they had to climb onto the tables and step over sewing machines while trying to reach the exits.

What this came down to was extreme irresponsibility on the part of t…

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

Penguin sent me this book unsolicited, perhaps because my blog speaks so frequently of Victorian literature, murder, women, and disaster stories that it seemed a safe bet I would like it. And I did.

I thought at first that Jane Steele was just a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies approach to Jane Eyre, but where Jane is a murderer. It is SORT of like that, except Jane Eyre is mostly just referenced frequently throughout it as the heroine's favorite book, so her life is more inspired by it than it being a take-off of the direct text.

Inspired by it indeed! Jane Steele's life parallels the other Jane's in most ways, including her disgusting cousin at the beginning, her time in a loathsome school, and her work as governess for a mysterious man's ward. It reminded more of Christopher Moore's Lamb than anything else, as much like Lamb and its "differenty" take on Jesus's life, Jane Steele's story mirrors Jane Eyre's, except for some very interesting a…

Being a Nerd is Wonderful, and We Still Have a Problem

On Saturday I went to C2E2, a kickass nerd convention in downtown Chicago at our giant convention center, McCormick Place. This was my third year going, and second in costume. I entered it excited and left 70% still extremely happy, 30% enraged. Here's why:

Being a nerd is one of the most positive things to be. A nerd's main function is to be excited about something. You're SO excited about something that you become uncool, because cool is not caring too much about something, which frankly is a stupid fucking concept, but I digress.

C2E2 is WALL TO WALL NERDS. Thousands of people in one relatively condensed area, all excited about things, and frequently excited about the same things. C2E2 is the one time a year I can stop someone and excitedly yell "OH MY GOSH OH MY GOSH" and they don't look sincerely panicked. They just take it in stride, because they dressed like Rufio from Hook on purpose, and they knew it was going to cause every person who was a child in t…

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

 How did Hunter S. Thompson survive the 1970s.

That's the oft-repeated question that circles around your brain as you read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Thompson's drug-fueled report of the time he and his lawyer spent in Las Vegas in 1971. The trip was ostensibly for journalistic reasons, but it quickly devolved into Thompson and his lawyer streaking down the interstate in a giant Cadillac, pumped full of so many drugs and so much alcohol I have no idea how his organs retained any semblance of performing their sworn functions. 

I spent about two hours in the bar, drinking Bloody Marys for the V-8 nutritional content.
His catalogue of things seen while in his drug-induced insanity is worth reading, if only because if he had to ingest that many mind-altering substances, at least he wrote about it, so others could live vicariously through him while not destroying their bodies. And Thompson can obviously write. I won't begin to speculate on whether he would've been even be…

Angels & Monsters: Male and Female Sopranos in the Story of Opera

Opera is our most dramatic art form, and the most dramatic people within that art form are, arguably, sopranos. 


Angels & Monsters covers the soprano from her operatic inception in the late 1590s to about 1900, giving the reader an overview of every major operatic period from the 16th to the 20th centuries, as well as brief biographies of the biggest players on the stage and how their relationships with the key composers of their eras. Handel, Mozart, Donizetti, Bellini, Beethoven, Massenet, Rossini, Verdi, Wagner, and Puccini are all covered, as well as many more, and all within about 300 pages.

My primary knowledge concerning singers of the 19th century prior to this book came from a passing knowledge of some of their names, as well as information gleaned from a biography of Maria Malibran that intimated that opera singers were the rock stars of their time. "Their time" implying, I am aware, that that time is not now, proof of which I believe is evidenced in this Onion a…

Shiverton Hall by Emerald Fennell

Emerald Fennell is maddening. She is the daughter of a successful jeweler, she studied English at Oxford, she stars in BBC's extremely popular show Call the Midwife, and to top it all off, she wrote this excellent book.


You might recognize her from GIFs I've shoved at you of Call the Midwife's couple Patsy and Delia. They're the greatest. Just look at them:



But let's get away from three-dimensional, well-crafted 1960s lesbian couples on television and get into this three-dimensional, well-crafted 2013 book. Shiverton Hall follows a long line of predecessors in that it's set at an English boarding school. Inevitably comparisons will be drawn to Harry Potter, but that is silly and cut it right out. Shiverton Hall is much darker than Harry Potter ever pretended to be. (except for maybe the time that snake came out the old woman's mouth and she collapsed in a flesh pile)

Shiverton Hall is about a boy (Arthur) who has been sent to a new school (Shiverton) after som…

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

If you want men to leave you the hell alone in public, read this book. The title not only indicates you will not be afraid to yell at them if they harass you, but reading it also gives you the inner strength of 2.5 Gloria Steinems, which means you will yell at them if they harass you.

From the very beginning, Solnit puts it out there:

Most women fight wars on two fronts, one for whatever the putative topic is and one simply for the right to speak, to have ideas, to be acknowledged to be in possession of facts and truths, to have value, to be a human being.
Yeeeeees, Rebecca Solnit, speak to usss. This book is my jam, and it makes me want to read all of her stuff, because this one is hella short and only gives you a glimpse of her thoughts, fantastic as they are. People kept asking me if it's funny, and no it is not -- HOWEVER. I brought it on my church's women's retreat, and right before a session began, I told the woman sitting behind me the story behind the title, which me…