December, 2011

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It all started with my mother, doesn’t everything?

According to Wikipedia, when I was 10 Post-It notes began to be sold throughout the US.  From that point forward I could count on two thing in my Christmas sock: an orange, and a pack of post-its.  Although I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her actually use one, my mother is addicted to Post-It notes.  Actually, her addiction extends to nearly any kind of office supply; it also extends to my little sister and myself.

Seriously, if you want to cheer one of us up just take us to Staples or Office Depot, stick a cup of coffee in our hands, and let us wander the aisle, stare at the pens, and stroke the notebooks until closing.  If you want us to squeal like little girls, give us money to spend.  My mother may have ensured that each of her daughters  fell prey to her office supply addiction, but of course I have to be special.  As my mother likes to put it, I have “champagne tastes on a beer budget.”  Yep.  Stick me in a room with 3 of anything, tell me to choose, and 9 times out of 10 I’ll pick the most expensive of the bunch.  I could probably even do it blindfolded.

So, while the DH might find pleasure in the more traditional internet porn sites, I click on over to Levengers. I might not need, or ever be able to afford, a $100 pen, but sometimes a girl needs to dream.  The only thing more useless than an expensive pen is probably an expensive notebook.  Of course the Levengers product I most covet is the Circa Notebook.  Even I can’t justify those prices for just a notebook, but long ago I convinced myself that I could justify the expense if I got a planner that I could use again, and again.  Once I paid the outrageous price for the initial set up, I could just by refills.  I know. I know.

The good part of this story is that several years ago Staples tried to get into the customizable notebook racket with a system they called Rolla.  Same idea, the ability to move your pages around, and all that.  At the time I bought a couple of notebooks, and really did find them useful when I was studying for comps. The Cajun Princess even received one from me as a study aid.  For some reason, Staples decided Rolla wasn’t doing it, so they re-branded the whole system Arc.  You can probably tell where this is going.

In an effort to get myself out of the funk I’ve been in for the last few days, I went to Staples earlier this afternoon to look for a 2012 planner.  One of the effects of accepting the administrative nature of my position, and taking the additional work this summer, is accepting the fact that I am no longer on an academic calendar.  Instead of planning from August – June, I need to be able to chart my  year from Jan – Dec like everyone else in the world.  Hence, the need for a new planner 1/2 way through the year.

Of course the Levenger weekly/monthly planner was on my Christmas list, and of course no one else in the world was foolish enough to pay that much money for it.  I’m glad no one got it for me because Staples finally came to their senses and created a weekly/monthly planner refill packet for the Arc system.  Yes, it does  still fit the Rolla notebooks I have.  Look:

Here is the  cover.  The 1″ discs that came with the notebook were just slightly too small, so I had to get 1 1/2″ discs that are now a little big.  I’ll just have to fill the space with notebook pages.  🙂

Monthly View

Here is the monthly view.  The only problem with the refill pack was that it didn’t include tabs to separate the months.  I bought a couple of divider packs, and now my planner is all multi-colored.  🙂

Weekly ViewHere is the weekly view.  You might not be able to see it, but the week is divided over two pages horizontally. (Mon- Wed on the left, Thurs – Sunday on right)  Personally, I really prefer a vertical organization to my week, but I liked everything else enough to give this a try.  Since I’m trying to organize my work more by smaller tasks than big projects, I like the shaded column that divide up the days.  One column can be for appointments, the other for tasks.

The best part of this all is that the Arc refill was only $9.99.  Even after buying new rings, and two packages of dividers, this was still cheaper than any other planner there.

After Staples I hit the nail place next door to get my eyebrows waxed, so all I have to do is trim my bangs, and I will be ready to go back to work on Monday. The funk is not completely lifted, but going back to work will at least distract me enough to keep me going for a while.

Joyeux Noel

Wishing for you all to have a wonderful day!

Forbidden Writing, or Rizzoli & Isles Pt. 2

Having only written about 490 words yesterday, there is no way I should be writing here this morning. As someone who can follow every rule, but the one she set for herself — well, it’s probably pretty predictable that I would be writing here this morning.

Having vented a little of my general frustration with Rizzoli & Isles, I can actually be a little more articulate about what it is that bothers me about the show.  Rizzoli & Isles is a textbook example of embedded feminism being used to mask enlightened sexism.  Last year, Susan J. Douglas’s book Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message that Feminism’s Work is Done was published, and if it is not on your reading list already, put it there.  Douglas defined embedded feminism as “the way in which women’s achievements, or their desire for achievement, are simply a part of the cultural landscape” (9).  Embedded feminism is partly achieved through the representational parity numbers game.  The networks can say, “Look at all the women doctors, lawyers, cops, etc.  on tv, clearly women can be anything they want now.”  Networks can claim that airing shows with strong women in professional careers some how makes up for the blatant misogyny in a show like Two and a Half Men, or the only slighly more subtle misogyny in Big Bang Theory.  If you are, like me, a little crime show obsessed, Dr. Kimberly DeTardo-Bora’s 2009 article in Women & Criminal Justice, “Criminal Justice ‘Hollywood Style’: How Women in Criminal Justice Professions Are Depicted in Prime-Time Crime Dramas,” is a fascinating read. The short summary is that women are over-represented compared to their actual presence in the criminal justice field.  It is of course more complicated than that – the article is a fascinating read.

Taking its name from the two lead women, Rizzoli & Isles clearly establishes a kind of embedded feminism; it also establishes a “look how far we’ve come” ethos by subtly calling Cagney & Lacey to mind.  I’d love to do a stronger comparison between the two shows, but I don’t have many clear memeories of Cagney & Lacey, and haven’t seen an episode since I was nine. Both titular characters are strong women, and have achieved success in their careers, and really that is about it for feminism in Rizzoli & Isles.

A constant companion to embedded feminism, enlightened sexism is “[the insistence] that women have made plenty of progress because of feminism – indeed, full equality has allegedly been achieved—so now it’s okay, even amusing, to resurrect sexist stereotypes of girls and women” (9).  This explains why we are supposed to laugh when Rizzoli is tricked into a dress and a date by her mother.  Her inability to conform to accepted modes of femininity, while clearly embodying those forms, is constant fodder for humor in the show. Nothing is funnier than trying to get Rizzoli in a dress, but … damn, if doesn’t she fill out a dress perfectly.

But what about Dr. Isles she is amazing at her job, and manages to do it all in style with perfect hair, fashionable clothes, and always, always in killer heels.  I’d have to go through episodes again, but I’m pretty sure we’ve never seen Dr. Isles (even mid-autopsy) in scrubs.  I’m pretty sure I don’t have to explain the absurdity of that.  Even if I’m wrong about the scrubs, the bigger issue is that despite the fact that she is clearly smart, and feminine, she can’t keep a date because she only looks feminine. She drives men away because she cannot hide her intelligence.

At their very core, these two characters, who are supposed to embody at least one feminist goal (having a career), are played for laughs for all the ways they do not conform to cultural stereotypes about women.  Yet, because it is couched in humor, and we’re supposedly smarter than buying into the stereotypes, if we find the show’s treatment of its titular characters offensive, it is because we don’t know how to take a joke.

Disappointment – Rizzoli & Isles

As an incentive to keep myself from giving up on my dissertation today I promised myself that if I wrote 1000 dissertation words, I’d reward myself by writing a review of TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles.  All the books say never to reward yourself by taking a day off writing, they don’t say anything about rewarding yourself by more writing.  Yes, it does sound a little sick when I say it out loud.

As a fan of Tess Gerritsen’s books, when I learned TNT was giving Gerritsen’s central characters a show of their own, I was excited, and set my dvr accordingly. Then, I set about waiting to see who had been cast in the titular roles.  Don’t ask, it never really occurs to me that I could, you know, use the internet to find out stuff like that in advance.  It was obvious from the first commercials I saw that whatever TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles was going to be, it wasn’t going to be too much like the books.  For about 7 books I’d imagined Rizzoli, as she is described, with a mop of unruly dark curls, and as good looking, but in a unconventional way;  Dr. Isles was, as she is often described, the queen of the dead, a little goth, with red lipstick and straight black hair cut in a bob with straight bangs – which is, as it turns out, how Ms. Gerritsen looks (well, not exactly goth, but you get the idea).  While there was never any doubt in my mind these women would be beautiful in their own ways, um … Angie Harmon and Sasha Anderson were not exactly the faces that lept into my mind as I read these books.

To paraphrase Mr. Gump, casting is as casting does.  It was silly to have any hopes that these women might be cast differently.  This is a review of the show not the books, so this is the last comparison I will make between the two.  One of the most compelling aspects of these characters as written are their insecurities, and Jane Rizzoli’s insecurities are tied to her place in a male profession, and what she sees as her inability to meet feminine standards of beauty; it is impossible to make those insecurities play when the woman playing Rizzoli is Angie Harmon.

Like I said, although I’d initially hoped for something a little different, this review isn’t about comparing the television show to the books.  The characters, stories, and tone of each is distinct enough that a real comparison is impossible.  The books are detective fiction, pure and simple.  The television show walks the genre lines between serious police procedural and comedy.  It is almost as if the producers really wanted an hour long comedy, and knew stretching a sit com that long would grow tedious, so they decided to incorporate a police procedural to bump up the story.  I’ve never seen an episode, so I could be wrong, but Rizzoli & Isles makes me think it is like a female Nash Bridges.

It might surprise you, but the light nature of the show is not really what bothers me.  A lot of police procedurals err in the opposite way, taking themselves too seriously. What bothers me about Rizzoli & Isles is that the light tone is achieved at the expense of the title characters. At every turn the show undermines the power of two strong women working together, and becoming friends by making every second conversation between the two about getting, or having, a relationship, every third conversation about the case – as if their jobs are an afterthought, and the remaining conversations about clothes and shoes.  There has to be some sort of heterosexual romance for at least one of the women in nearly every episode because the writers are working overtime to ensure that it is clear Rizzoli & Isles are not lesbians.  (Well, except for those episodes where they pretend to be lesbians – you know, for laughs.)  As a viewer it is impossible to take either Rizzoli or Isles seriously because at every turn we are reminded that Rizzoli can’t get a man because she is not feminine enough, and that despite looking like a fashion plate Isles can’t function socially because she is just too smart.

I keep watching, hoping, for that moment when instead of going for the obvious – undermining women stereotype or joke, the writers will surprise me.

Slogging Through …

Well, it is the point of no return.  I have to, absolutely, no room for error, must defend my dissertation in May.

All of that would mean that I have to you know, write my dissertation.  The writing is … going, and I guess that is good enough.  My momentum was really getting into swing, but then December hit.  Suddenly, I couldn’t avoid having lunch with colleagues, and so my lunch time writing fell apart.  On top of that, for various reasons, I have had to drive into work a little more often than normal, which means my bus writing has also been spotty.

Unbelievably there is a silver lining to all of this!  The Cajun Princess, and Tech Oracle also plan to defend in May, so we are all in this boat together.  The plan is to use this time to keep each other going.

To get back on the writing horse my plan has been to write lightly this weekend, which I’ve done, with the knowledge that starting tomorrow there is no looking back.  I’ve two days left at work and then I am out until January 2nd.  The plan is to write my fingers into bloody little stumps in that time.  No goals about the number of pages, or chapters, just to write until I can’t write anymore.  When I set goals that have to do with word counts/page numbers, or the like it’s too easy for me to feel derailed.  As in, “Well, I’m never going to make 15 pages, so why bother at all?!”  The other thing is I know that when I get back to work in January I’ll be busy for at least a month, and more like 6 weeks.  I need to have enough done that getting busy at work won’t stop my progress.

There are no promises about what will happen in this space over the next few weeks.  Sometimes when I write like this my posting actually increases, because I need an outlet.  Other times I just need to walk away from all writing for a while.