Some People Besides Me Who Are Voting for John Kerry
Watching Ashlee Simpson do her little hoedown dance makes me feel embarrassed to be human.
Once again, I wish that English had a word for when you feel humiliated on behalf of someone else. A friend once told me that there’s a word in Spanish that means “alien embarrassment”, but she couldn’t remember what it was and I have never been able to find it.
Of course, I mention this because I just finished watching the video of Ashlee Simpson from this past weekend’s Saturday Night Live. I have not watched the program in several years, so I am so very glad that this precious moment in musical history is preserved on the Interweb. It’s really, really funny—awful and excruciating, but funny. That little jig she does? Priceless.
What to Read: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
At this time last year, I was teaching a high-school class called “Dreams and Nightmares: Literature of the Sublime and the Uncanny”. The first book we read was The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Although some of my lesson plans met with more success than others, I think that it was, on the whole, an excellent pedagogical tool. The haunted house is, of course, the ne plus ultra of the uncanny as defined by Freud—the German term used by Freud, unheimlich, basically translates to “un-home-like” or “un-homey”—so Jackson’s story of a house that is “not sane" was a fine place to begin our class. The book also gave us a chance to talk about Freud’s theory of repression, which several of the youngsters found compelling, and every adolescent pays close attention to the teacher when the topic of conversation is lesbians.
The children were not nearly as fascinated by the concept of folie á deux as I was, nor did they care at all about the Misses Moberly and Jourdain and their strange story’s impact on Jackson’s narrative. While I am always disappointed by a lesson plan that goes nowhere, I had been teaching long enough not to be terribly surprised. What did surprise me, though—shocked me, really—was the fact that none of my students seemed to find The Haunting of Hill House at all frightening because, in my opinion, The Haunting of Hill House is really fucking scary.
I am not alone in thinking this. When, after I first read this book, I asked Sarah Hand if she had ever read it, her immediate response was a guttural noise of terror. When I asked my mom, the very question made her shudder. My first reading of the book prompted a physiological reaction that remains, for me, unique: my eyes watered from fear. This was not, I must explain, weeping. It was something else altogether, more like a cold sweat pouring from my eyes than crying. I just finished reading the book for a third time, and it still gives me the shivers.
I’ve tried to figure out why it is that the children didn’t find this book scary. It’s possible that they have been desensitized by the unsubtle gore and cartoonish morbidity of popular horror. But I wonder, too, if Jackson’s narrative of dissolution—of a woman losing her identity—might not be be properly appreciated only by people of some maturity. Adolescents are in flux anyway, just figuring themselves out; perhaps the idea of loss of self is not all that terrifying to people who are only just developing a self. And, reading the novel for a third time, I am struck anew by the calm elegance of Jackson’s prose. Without ever raising her voice or resorting to extravagant language, she is able to communicate situations that are absolutely existentially wrong—states of being that simply should not be. It’s impossible to describe how chilling some of her passages are, because to describe them—to paraphrase—would rob them of their considerable power. To appreciate these moments, though, requires patience and careful reading—not necessarily the kind of reading employed by students who have to get to page 163 before the next class.
So, anyway, I still can’t say why the teens weren’t scared by The Haunting of Hill House but I continue to find it terrifying after multiple readings. It’s a mystery. I can say however, that I stand by original assessment: this book is really fucking scary.
Beauty Review: Stila Pink Ribbon Set
I luv it when buying something frivolous feels like a good deed. So, I purchased the Stila Pink Ribbon set in much the same spirit as I buy Girl Scout cookies and band-camp candy bars. This adorable wee collection of eye shadow, blush, and lipstick is definitely more satisyfing than the latter, and almost as good as a box of old-recipe Thin Mints.
I’m a big fan of Stila eye shadows: they have a nice texture subtle sparkle—more of an irridescent sheen, really, that’s fun and glamorously grown-up. Heather is a smokey, earthy purple—a must-have shade for fall, according to Lucky—and Diamond Lil is nice pale pink. The blusher is called Bloom, and it’s a bright pink—brighter than I usually go for, but cute if applied with a light hand. The lipstick, Anni, is a lovely sheer rose, a color that’s like nature, but better.
Altogether, it’s a very nice set, and, as you might guess from the name and the packaging, a portion of the proceeds of every sale goes to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Nothings Says “I’m Sorry You Got Busted for Lying to the Feds” Like a Handmade Greeting Card
I assume that you, like me, are simultaneously morbidly fascinated by and lingeringly irritated about the fact that Martha Stewart is actually in prison. I also assume that you, like me, are a basically nice person, so the mild outrage wins out over the schadenfreude. I just sent her a nice handmade greeting card, and I urge you to do the same. She's having some trouble adjusting to incarceration—who wouldn’t?—and, as she says at marthatalks.com, she appreciates the support. She also asks that you please not send money. Yes, we all want to make sure that she is able to buy smokes in the prison commissary, but the wardens just take the cash away. She asks that you make a donation of the American Cancer Society instead.
Martha Stewart, No. 55170-054
Glen Ray Road, Box B
Alderson WV 24910
Now That’s Class
Kevin’s ex-galpal Shar Jackson seems cool with the idea of her kiddies’ daddy dumping her for Toxic Pop Tart [Britney Spears]. At Hollywood’s Tokio karaoke, Shar got up to perform and a patron shouted, “Sing a Britney Spears song!” Some folks gasped, but Shar just smiled and belted out a groovy rendition of “Baby One More Time.”—From The National Enquirer Online
A Question for Our President
Mr. Schieffer: We’ve come gentlemen, to our last question. And it occurred to me as I came to this debate tonight that the three of us share something. All three of us are surrounded by very strong women. We’re all married to strong women. Each of us have two daughters that make us very proud. I’d like to ask each of you what is the most important thing you’ve learned from these strong women?
Mr. Bush: To listen to them. [Laugh.] To stand up straight and not scowl. [Laugh] I love the strong women around me. I can’t tell you how much I love my wife and our daughters. I am, you know, it’s really interesting, I tell the people on the campaign trail when I asked Laura to marry me she said fine, just so long as I never have to give a speech. I said O.K., you’ve got a deal. Fortunately, she didn’t hold me to that deal. And she’s out campaigning along with our girls. And she speaks English a lot better than I do. I think people understand what she’s saying. But they see a compassionate, strong, great first lady in Laura Bush. I can’t tell you how luck I am when I met her in the backyard of Joe and Jan O’Neill in Midland, Tex. It was the classic backyard barbecue. O’Neil said come on over, I think you’ll find somebody who might interest you. So I said all right, bopped over there. There’s only four of us there. And not only did she interest me, I guess you could say it was love at first sight.
From the transcript of the third presidential debate, October 13, 2004
Um, so, are you saying that you’ve never actually learned anything from the women in your life? Yes, I know: we all enjoyed your little joke, your gently self-deprecating humor. But, seriously: you’ve gained no real knowledgeno insights, no ideas, no fascinating facts, not even an entertaining bit of triviafrom those “strong women” you claim to so admire. You had two whole minutes to come up with something, man. Nothing?
Look, I know that your girls probably don’t have any wisdom concerning underage fun to impart to a past master such as yourself, but your wife’s a librarian, for crying out loud. She’s all about teaching and learning and shit. I realize that you’re not really into reading, but surely, over the course of your marriage, she’s helped you navigate the complexities of the Dewey decimal system at least once.
And I know Bob Schieffer only mentioned Laura and the girls specifically, but you might have given a shout out to your mom, even if you secretly hate her. It would have been the classy thing to do. And how’s about scoring some points with the ladies in the electorate but giving credit to the strong women in your administration, Condaleeza Rice, for example. I might not agree with her politics myselfI might even think that she’s a tool of Satanbut I have to believe that every damn thing you know about foreign policy came from a flashcard she typed up for you, with the big words and names of exotic world leaders spelled phonetically.
You know, listening to you ramble and fumble and fail to come up with a single instance of learning anything from a woman, I couldn’t help but think of that time someone asked you to describe a mistake you’ve made, and you couldn’t. Does admitting that you’ve learned somethingthat there’s anything anyone, perhaps even particularly a woman, might teach youmake you feel weak? “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.” Dude, that’s Socrates talking, and other very smart people have said more or less the same thing in a thousand different ways. Even if Philosophy 101 conflicted with your frat hazing schedule, surely you must have seen this sentiment paraphrased on a poster or something. Of course, now that I think about it, pride of place on your dorm-room wall was probably given to Reasons Why Beer Is Better Than a Woman, which might explain both your inability to admit fallability and to acknowledge the female influence in your life.
[PROPS TO TED, MY HUSBAND, FOR BUSTING OUT THE PRECISE SOCRATIC QUOTATION I NEEDED. SEE, MR. PRESIDENT? IT’S NOT SO HARD.]
One Celebrity, One Vote
In their October 11 issue, the civic-minded folks at Us Weekly asked a variety of celebrities to give a shout out to their presidential candidate of choice. I want to make your trip to the ballot box even easier by taking that bit of infotainment one step further. In the following article, you will not only learn how Leonardo DiCaprio and Shannen Doherty plan to vote, but I have also rated each celebrity according to a highly subjective but, I think, fair set of criteria, and tallied up each celebrity’s worth according to that system. With these ratings, I am able to give John Kerry and George Bush a “Celebrity Quotient,” which will, I hope, be helpful to all you undecided voters out there. If we can’t turn to celebrities for political insight, where can we turn?
Voting for John Kerry
Overall hotness: +1
Appearing in an upcoming movie with Queen Latifah, Ice Cube, and Keshia Knight Pullman: +3
Appearing in several recent movies I’ve never heard of: -2
The fact that one of those movies is a drug movie by a Swedish director starring Jason Schwartzman: +2
The fact that that same movie also features Brittany Murphy and Mickey Rourke: -2
Ability to capitalize on American Beauty and American Pie fame: -2
Overall hotness: +3
Being Queen Amidala: +3
The fact that Star Wars Episodes 1 and 2 totally sucked: -2
Starred in Garden State: +3
Graduated from Harvard: +3
Dated Gael García Bernal: +5
Overall hotness: -1
One crappy movie after another: -4
Except that Jennifer Lopez is totally hot: +3
Currently dating Jennifer Garner: +3
Couldn’t he have found someone not named “Jennifer”?: -2
Seems serious about his political convictions: +5
Overall hotness: 0
Overall hotness of frequent girlfriend Gisele Bündchen: +4
Works often with Martin Scorcese: +4
Takes risks as an actor: +5
But still starred in the highest-grossing movie in the history of movies: +4
Sarah Jessica Parker
Overall hotness: +2
Sex and the City: +4
The fact that I have never seen Sex and the City because I’m pretty sure I would hate it: -3
Square Pegs: +5
Those Gap commercials with Lenny Kravitz: -4
Taste in clothes when she’s not in a Gap ad: +4
Has successfully maintained a longterm relationship with another actor: +4
That actor was Ferris Bueller: +2
Overall hotness: +4
Appearing in a John Waters movie: +4
Wearing enormous fake tits in that movie: +5
Taste in clothes when she’s not appearing in a John Waters movie: +4
Kissed Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions: +5
Married to a Zappa: +2
Graduated from the University of Michigan: +5
Loves animals: +5
John Kerry’s Celebrity Quotient: +77
Voting for George Bush
Overall hotness: -1
Went bald gracefully by shaving head: +3
Pulp Fiction: +5
Disney’s The Kid: -5
The Sixth Sense: +4
Die Hard 4.0: -5
The fact that Die Hard With a Vengeance should totally have been called “Die Hardest”: -2
Seems to be a pretty good sport about the whole Demi/Ashton thing: +3
Not satisfied with day job: -4
Overall hotness: +2
Second cutest girl ever on Survivor, after Colleen: +4
Ability to parlay reality-show fame into an actual career, as opposed to Playboy pictorial: +4
Married to a football player: -3
Overall hotness: +2
Sexy husky voice: +3
Not married to an actor: +3
Married to a football player: -3
Law & Order: +3
Work since leaving Law & Order: -4
Overall hotness: 0
Overall hotness when not playing Brenda Walsh: -2
Lost her TV virginity to Dylan McKay: +5
Pretty much everything she’s done since Heathers and Beverly Hills 90210: -3
Except Satan’s School for Girls: +4
Not invited to Tori Spelling’s wedding: -3
Married to Rick Salomon: -4
Divorced from Rick Salomon: +3
Rick Salomon was her second husband: -2
Reputation as a psycho: -4
Sentenced to anger management classes: -5
George Bush’s Celebrity Quotient: -23
So, to recap: Based on a random sampling of the famous, semi-famous, and formerly famous gleaned from the pages of Us Weekly, John Kerry has a Celebrity Quotient that’s 100 points higher than George Bush’s. Remember this when you go to the polls November 2.
I, of course, will be voting for Peabs.
Ted and I went south this past weekend for the annual gathering of clan Jernigan. The festivities began Friday night at the bar where my sister works. This was at the suggestion of the family matriarch, Grandma Reecie, who rediscovered her taste for drinks and dancing at my wedding reception. Everyone was in high spirits, telling jokes and old stories and shooting pool. Once, when we were walking from the bar back to the table, my grandma grabbed me and started dancing. “I didn’t mean to, Jessie,” she said, “I just couldn’t help it.” That was my favorite moment of the evening. Some folks will tell you, though, that the high point was when my mom mooned my uncle Dan. Lord, I don’t think there would have been enough therapy in the world for me to recover had I actually witnessed that; thankfully, I was busy talking to Ted when it happened.
The next day, we had a picnic. There was more storytelling, which is my favorite part of any family gathering. Most of the tales my dad and his siblings tell involve ghosts, UFOs, and youthful highjinks, and they all get better with each telling. This year, the topic of out-of-body experiences was introduced. Excellent. My dad deep-fried some turkeys, and we had a cake for Reecie, who turned 80 today. At dusk, we built big bonfires and toasted marshmallows.
Most everybody was pretty well lit by the time the evening ended, but no blood was shedthere weren’t even any fistfightsso I think we can all agree that it was an unqualified success.
Make Your Own Poncho, Cont’d.
Not long ago, I posted an entry that contained a variety of poncho patterns. Some of them were for the seasoned knitter; some of them were quite simple. Last night, however, I saw the easiest poncho ever. It was, I am fairly certain, a thrift-store baby blanket with a hole cut in the middle. I always admire a DIY project that combines economy, simplicity, and design success, and this thing had it all: it was a pretty pink; it was a lovely, soft knit; and it was the perfect size for a gal of slim-to-average build. So, if you want a poncho right now, and if you think you will want to be wearing it for approximately this fashion moment, this is an ideal solution.