On the (Rest of the) Net: Pre-Christmas Stocking Stuffer Edition.

This time in four days most of us will have already made a beeline for what’s underneath the Christmas tree, though not everyone is so fortunate to have an abundance of gifts this silly season. For those of us who are happy, healthy and wealthy, whatever that may mean to you, take a little time out to wish those not so well off a safe and merry holiday period. Merry Christmas!

etsy abortaments

Just in time for Christmas, “abortaments”. Hmm… [Jezebel]

White American masculinity and gun violence. [Ms. Magazine]

The strong female characters in film this year. [New York Times]

Forget Halloween. Presenting: slutty Christmas costumes! [Jezebel]

The apparent “nice guys” of dating websites now have their own snarky Tumblr. [NiceGuysofOKCupid]

Image via Jezebel.

My Week in Pictures.

This week it was my housemate, Eddie’s, birthday, so it was all about him. Well, actually, my friend Laura is moving back to Perth tomorrow, so really, it was all about her and her myriad of going away thingies.

But the week in pictures consists pretty much of Eddie-related goodness, as Laura’s goodbye dinner at the East Brunswick club last night consisted mostly of her crying and me contemplating my meal. I’m not good with emotions.

The present.

Eddie sure has eclectic tastes! We both share a penchant for Lindsay Lohan (the pics are mediocre at best but I will always love you, Lindsay!), Ryan Reynolds (he’s the bigger fan) and Disney flicks. Hope you liked your presents, Eddie!

It’s Daria!

The birthday boy on the dancefloor.

The Green-themed birthday.

With two of his highest anticipated movies, Green Lantern and The Muppets, being released last year, Eddie ran with his favourite colour as the theme for his 26th birthday. I couldn’t be assed with a costume (me without a costume: who woulda thunk it?! I think I’m getting old…), so I wore a turquoise necklace and wrote “It’s not easy being green on my hand”. Pretty good effort, I think!

Well, it was more of an effort than Callum put in, who decided last minute to rock up after work. The first rule of club going is no singlets and no thongs! Callum disobeyed both rules but, luckily, he was seen cavorting with some hot chicks out the front by the bouncer and was let in with them (ie. us!). Thank you, the Lion Hotel!

The stack.

After the Christmas and New Year break, the mag people are getting back into the swing of things, and so am I. I’m nearly finished with this secondhand bookstore Barbie find, which will make way for Big Porn Inc. I’m chomping at the bit to read this!

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Magazine Cover of the Weel: Lindsay Lohan’s Latest Foray into Marilyn Monroe Impersonation.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Top 11 Films of 2011.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Conservative Feminist Melinda Tankard Reist for Sunday Life.

My Month in Pictures.

It’s been a little while since a “My Week in Pictures” post so, what with Christmas and all that jazz, I thought I’d catch you up on what’s been going on in my life over the past month. First up…

… Christmas partying in the Garden of Eden, honey.

The theme: heroes and villains. Some notable costumes: Rebecca Brooks, Shane Warne, Joan of Arc (to which some philistine partygoers knowingly replied, “Oh, like Noah’s wife.” Hmm.), Darth Maul and a Planeteer. Funnily enough, my original idea for a costume was a Captain Planet and the Planeteers group effort, but I thought Adam and Eve was more appropriate so I coerced my coworker Jackson into baring almost all for, you know, authenticity purposes. It turns out we made the right decision, as we won best group costume!

The Muppets movie.

I won four free passes to see The Muppets early in December, thanks to the folks at All Star Comics. I got swept up in the awesomeness of it originally, so I plan to see it again once it’s on general release. Review pending.

Baking Christmas goods.

Okay, “baking” might be too strenuous of a word. My Mum did most of the hard work while I whipped some cream for a chocolate ripple cake. Mmm…

Rocking around the Christmas tree.

This being my first Christmas at my place, not the family home, there was an abundance of presents under the Christmas tree, including an overnight bag for my Mum, some books and ornamental items for my room for me, a fondue set for my housemate, Eddie (personal joke), not a lot for my sister as her present is still en route from the U.K., and chocolate goodness for everybody! What did you get for Christmas?

New Years Evil movie marathon.

Both my housemate and I aren’t big fans of New Years, so we decided to do a housemate-only all-day movie marathon. We watched MacGruber, Black Swan, The Good Son, Silence of the Lambs, Trick ’R Treat, The Last House on the Left (both 1972 and 2009 versions) and I Know Who Killed Me. As you can see, they’re mostly thrillers/horrors, hence the “New Years Evil” title. Yes, we need to get lives.

White Christmas.

As I’m sure you heard/saw/read about on the news, many parts of Australia suffered extreme weather conditions on Christmas Day. What started out as a hot, low-30s day ended up with golf ball-sized hail storms and flooding in Melbourne. While my area didn’t cop the brunt of it, we still experienced somewhat of a white Christmas.

Christmas Eve Eve party.

For the past two years my friend Laura has held a Christmas Eve Eve party (23rd December). Last year I wasn’t able to attend as I was back home in Bendigo, but this year my Mum came to stay with me, so I left her home alone and hit the town Brunswick. We ate, drank, listened to Carols and played Christmas celebrity heads. The night was bittersweet, as Laura’s moving back to Perth, where she’s from, next week.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Getting Our Pirate On, Christmas Party Style.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Top 11 Films of 2011.

Elsewhere: [All Star Comics Melbourne] Homepage.

My Week in Pictures.

I’ve been taking it easy lately, trying to recharge my batteries and “find myself” again, so “My Week in Pictures” has been on hiatus for the last fortnight or so.

This week I:

Went to the Myer Christmas window with April.

We also shopped for clothes we “needed” (translation: wanted) and spent way too much!

Put up my Christmas tree.

I love the festive season and so does my housemate, Eddie. The bottom of the tree is adorned with his childhood ornaments and my Belle ornament that April gave me for Secret Santa last year, and Eddie did the star-putting-on honours. He also went overboard on the decorating of the house, which I will be toning down on Friday, the first of my three-day weekend!

Saw Elton John in concert.

And what a concert it was! I’m not the biggest Elton John fan, but I do find his voice positively beautiful and figured this was potentially a once in a lifetime opportunity. I was not disappointed. As my Facebook status said on the night: “I can die a happy woman having heard Elton John play ‘Candle in the Wind’ live.”

Caught up on some reading.

All this free, non-socialising time I’ve had up my sleeve has allowed me to (almost) finish Téa Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife, plow through a few magazines, and some longer articles (some of which will be featured on “On the (Rest of the) Net” tomorrow). What have you been reading?

Collected the final components of my work Christmas party costume.

Thanks to Laura for picking up the vines. Can you guess from the picture who I might be going as? (Hint: I have written about it here this week.)

On the (Rest of the) Net.

The male body image crisis. [Details]

“Geeks Get Eating Disorders, Too” [Jezebel, via Geek Feminism Blog]

“The Joys & Sorrows of Being a Misfit.” [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

“Princess Bitchface Syndrome” in politics, the media and celebrity culture. [Girl with a Satchel]

In defence of the feminist blogosphere:

“As writer Amanda Marcotte says, laughing in recollection, ‘We had a running joke about how every three months, another guy would publish a post about “Why don’t women blog?” And we would all comment, “We’re out here; fuck you!”’” [New York Magazine]

What the seventh billionth human, and babies in general, mean for the environment. [Sydney Morning Herald]

Ahh, my two MamaMia crushes in the one post: media wunderkind Sean Power on Sam de Brito.

Is there such a thing as “sexy” costumes for men? (More on this to come as the Christmas party season gets into gear.) [Ms. Magazine]

Still with costumes, next Halloween why don’t you go as your favourite victim of domestic violence?! [Ms. Magazine]

Think you’re too smart to care about beauty? Think again. [Eat the Damn Cake]

Drag queens VS. drag kings. [Rachel Rabbit White]

“A Tale of Two Rape Prevention Campaigns.” [We Mixed Our Drinks]

The problem with the Occupy protests: sexism. [Global Comment]

“Should Michele Bachmann Quit?” Probably, because “barring everyone else dying or converting to Islam, it’s pretty obvious at this point that Michele Bachmann will not be the Republican party’s 2012 Presidential nominee.” Yay! [Jezebel]

Birth control can apparently bring us world peace but, in the same instance, it makes sex bad. [Jezebel]

Choice, and the politics of being hot:

“Until the woman who doesn’t want to be seen as sexually available can go out with certainty that she won’t be harassed or ogled, your choice to turn heads and revel in attention is a privileged one. Until the woman who doesn’t prioritize appearance gets taken just as seriously in just the same contexts, it’s a privileged choice to achieve certain standards of beauty. You may be doing what you love, but you’re also doing what you’re told.” [XOJane]

Gah! Now this is enough to give me nightmares for the rest of my Halloweens: “Woman Trapped in Anti-Abortion Haunted House”. [Jezebel]

“Obamanalysis.” [New York Magazine]

Another black girl woman is filmed giving a blow job; heralded as “the next Amber Cole”:

“At this point, the most noteworthy thing about someone doing something with someone else’s privates is the fact that we still make such a big fucking deal about it. Yes, that’s a penis. Yes, that’s a woman’s mouth. Yes, that’s ejaculate. Let’s all carry on with our daily lives and quit acting like we’ve never seen a blow job before. Move along, folks. Nothing to carry on about here. Literally hundreds of people are getting blow jobs right this second. By the end of the day, thousands of people will have received blow jobs. Maybe you’ll get a blow job! Maybe you’ll give one. Maybe you’ve already given or gotten one today. But enough with the gathering, giggling, judging, and Tweeting.

“There are real things going on in the world. Kardashians are getting divorced.” [Jezebel]

Speaking of Kardashians, an attempt to decode them. [MamaMia]

Feminine hygiene product ads with actual blood in them! Who woulda thunk it? [Jezebel]

Don’t tell me to love myself:

“It’s a lot of pressure. Stop feeling unattractive! Just decide to love yourself! And then you’ll look good! If you look bad, it’s because you’re insecure. Get secure!” [MamaMia]

On being sex-positive. [The Pervocracy]

And masturbation means you’re gay, didn’t you know? [Feministe]

Also from Feministe, the “Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street” gets all rapey,

Cheerleading is a sport, dammit! [Fit & Feminist]

Cutting off “gender studies” to spite “women’s studies”? [The Good Men Project]

Images via Details, New York Magazine.

Book Review: My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampike by Joyce Carol Oates.

My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampike had me at hello its first two sentences:

“Dysfunctional families are all alike. Ditto ‘survivors.’

“Me, I’m the ‘surviving’ child of an infamous American family…”

My favourite book being a fictional account of the O.J. Simpson murder trial, Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne, I’m a sucker for true crime and conspiracy theories.

My Sister, My Love is the fictionalised account of the JonBenet Ramsey murder of Christmas 1996, a story that has captivated me since it hit the newsstands some fifteen years ago.

It is written by the awesome Joyce Carol Oates, whom I’ve never read in novel form before, but whose articles I have come across online. Since its publication in 2008, I’ve longed to read it, and serendipitously came across it in a secondhand bookstore earlier this year. It has taken me since then to read it!

But coming in at 562 pages, it’s not exactly light reading, both in size and subject matter.

The book focuses on the life of Skyler Rampike, brother to child ice-skating prodigy, Bliss Rampike (nee Edna Louise Rampike), and he and his parents’ struggle to come to terms with her murder.

The book is somewhat longwinded, but thoroughly enjoyable. Some parts before and after the murder could have been spared, but it’s all part of Oates’ effort to build the story and the characters within it.

The story is written from Skyler’s perspective, but switches rapidly from first- to second- to third-person narration, which can be jarring at first but ultimately lends itself to the insight we get into the twisted and troubled mind of Skyler.

Oates also borrows from other high-profile pop cultureisms, like the Simpson murder (Skyler’s boarding school for troubled/famous children girlfriend is most definitely supposed to be Simpson’s daughter), Wicked (“Popular! In America, what else matters?” [p. 152]), and The Catcher in the Rye, with Skyler calling faux snow “phony-looking” (p. 319). In fact, I think Oates’ key inspiration was probably J.D. Salinger’s most famous fictional outing.

It’s hard to separate the fictional Rampike family Oates has so expertly crafted from the real Ramsey family, which has fallen to pieces since JonBenet’s murder. As in real life, mother Betsey died, and father Bix remarried. But what do we know of Burke Ramsey, whom Skyler was based on? Nothing much.

And that’s where Oates saw an opening: to tell one of America’s most fascinating unsolved murders from the perspective of the person who, by a lot of peoples’ accounts, is the prime suspect.

 

 

 

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Book Now, Bendigo.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] My Week in Pictures 14th July 2011.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Stacked.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] It’s All About Pop-U-Lar.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Ten Books I Wanted to Read This Year But Didn’t.

Books: Stacked.

The other day a friend asked me how I “prioritise my stack” of books, and I thought it might make an interesting blog post, if only so I can navel-gaze at the books, magazines and articles piling up on my bedside table and bookshelf as opposed to offering any valuable insight into how I get through them.

’Cause the answer is, there is no system to getting through them. If anything, more books, magazines and articles are added to the piles than what is taken away from them and filed neatly in the bookshelf or recycling bin.

My friends often tease me ’cause it usually takes me several months to get through a book. The book I’m currently on, My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampike by Joyce Carol Oates, I started over two months ago! I try to put away a few chapters each night, but this is in addition to the probably 500 other pages of content I read per week. Blogs, magazines, articles. If you ask me, that’s a pretty good effort. I wonder how many of the haters get through a 500 page book per week :P.

My love of taking in anything and everything in the feminist blogosphere is both a blessing and a curse. I love that there’s always new content and I’m always being informed, but at the same time, it would be so easy to just curl up in bed with a good book and turn my brain off for a few hours. Then again, if I really wanted to turn my brain off, I’d carve out a nook in the couch and flick through channels all night. And who has time for that?

Currently in my book stack, I have three books that were gifts from my birthday last year, and winning a worst dressed contest (Fables comic book, The Big Book of Small Business and Self-Publishing for Dummies); three that are borrowed (Walt Disney’s biography by Neal Gabler, Russell Brand’s second memoir and Kristin Chenoweth’s autobiography); two I bought from Amazon in January (Marilyn Monroe’s Fragments and Sloane Crosley’s second book of essays, How Did You Get This Number?); and the rest (The Night Listener and Maybe the Moon by Armistead Maupin, Brock Lesnar’s Death Clutch, Less Than Zero and Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis, Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth and Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile) I’ve bought in recent months, mostly secondhand.

And the magazines and article stack, which is a complete eyesore on my bedside table, consists of several Vanity Fair’s, some Monthly’s and… to be honest, I don’t actually know what’s in there! When I go on holidays next week, I aim to get through that stack, and it will be a veritable treasure trove! Like Christmas morning!

Seeing as I can offer absolutely no substance to “how do I prioritise my stack”, I’m handing it over to you. Does anyone have any tried and true methods? Here’s one, at the suggestion of my friend Clare: stop buying books til I’ve finished the ones I already have. But they’re too good!

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] My Week in Pictures 14th July 2011.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Bad Taste Foxymorons.

Book Review: Mia Culpa—Confessions from the Watercooler of Life by Mia Freedman.

Mia Freedman really is a brand unto herself. We all know she revolutionised the magazine world at age 25 as editor of Cosmopolitan. Her blog, MamaMia, really came into its own during last year’s federal election, offering a different take on politics for modern women. And she’s now a three-time published author with her own television show on SkyNews!

Of course she credits her husband, Jason, her kids, friends, family and MamaMia team with supporting her and helping run her media juggernaut, all of whom she writes about—sometimes anonymously, but oftentimes not—in her latest memoir-cum-“long, wonderful dinner-party conversation”, Mia Culpa: Confessions from the Watercooler of Life.

A lot of the material that makes up Mia Culpa I’ve read before, I will admit, in Freedman’s Sunday Life column, her blog, and various other publications she makes appearances in. But I’ve been known to revisit favourite blog posts and articles before, so it was very enjoyable to read Freedman’s musings on everything from sex to SNAGS (p. 64–67) to showering (p. 290) to breastfeeding (p. 175–179) to interior design (p. 129) to social stamina (read: non-existent when you have a young family, p. 131–136) to Christmas (p. 148–152) to how many children you want/have (p. 71–75) to the hypocrisy of being a certain-meat eater (“I’ve never eaten things like duck or rabbit or deer because I relate to those animals in a way I don’t relate to chickens—perhaps because many of them were storybook characters. Bambi, anyone?” [p. 145]. Guilty as charged) to Disney princesses (p. 180) to The Secret (p. 301).

Some of my favourite parts existed in the first chapter and were a nice way to begin the book. In it, Freedman writes about grooming standards in long-term relationships (p. 4–12), choosing between your ass or your face as you grow older (p. 13–16), skinny-shaming VS. fat-shaming (p. 16–23) and the pre-requisite rant on unrealistic portrayal of women VS. men in the media (p. 23–32). But when she puts it like this, it’s hard not to see Freedman’s point:

“Pretend the world was full of pictures of naked men. On billboards and the sides of buses, in magazines and ads for beer, cars and deodorant. Imagine there were penises everywhere you turned and you couldn’t escape seeing them every day.

“And all the images of nude men were fake. Every male model and celebrity had had penile enlargement surgery, and afterwards, his penis had been extensively photoshopped to make it look even bigger. So now, all the penises you saw in the media every day were knee-length and as thick as an arm.

“One day, next to a magazine article about a celebrity with a foot-long penis, you read the headline: ‘This is what a 43-year-old penis looks like’. The caption underneath read: ‘Asked for the secret to his long schlong, former male model Markus Schenkenberg insists he was just born that way. “I wear cotton boxer shorts and I exfoliate in the shower,” he shrugs. “That’s all I do.”’

“After reading a hundred stories like that and being bombarded by 10,000 images of men with surgically altered and digitally enhanced penises, do you think you might look down at your natural, un-photoshopped trouser snake and feel a little… deflated? Inadequate? Insecure? Angry?”

There’s also some of Freedman’s fascinating thoughts on being a “try-sexual” as per Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” (p. 241–244), which has been written about extensively on sites like MamaMia and Rachel Hills, and tattoos (more on that to come later today).

You don’t have to be a Freedman fan-girl to enjoy this book; I would recommend it to anyone who happens to be of the female gender, and even those who don’t happen to be but are just looking for some enlightenment on the species.

[MamaMia] MamaMia Gets a TV Show.

[MamaMia] Cindy Crawford is Naked in Allure Magazine. And 43.

[MamaMia] I Kissed a Girl. Because I Had Something to Sell.

[MamaMia] Kissing a Woman Does Not a Lesbian Make.

[Rachel Hills] The Rise of the Guy-On-Guy Kiss.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] MamaMia: A Memoir of Mistakes, Magazines & Motherhood by Mia Freedman Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] UPDATED: Skinny-Shaming VS. Fat-Shaming.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] “Who the Bloody Hell Are We?”: The Sentimental Bloke at the Wheeler Centre.

Image via Australian Women Online.

On the Net: Nine Lives.

Tavi Gevinson wished she was a cat, so she could have nine lives to fulfill all her dreams:

“I would have a life to fulfill my fashion dreams, one to fulfill my acting dreams, one for guitar, one for writing, one for movie directing, one for photography, one for fine arts, one for a normal life, and one for teaching…

“Also I could poop in a box.”

Lately I’ve felt like I’m barely existing (and this could be attributed to Mercury being in retrograde), let alone fulfilling the copious amount of dreams I have.

I remember at the end of my first year of uni I wrote a list of all my dream jobs, in case writing didn’t work out for me. I’d been exposed to so many new things during that first year that I was somewhat questioning my decision to be a writer. So, instead of facing my future, I pondered the unreality…

Wedding Planner.

Being a wedding planner would combine my love of aesthetics, organisation, bossing people around, flowers, location-scouting and weddings in general. Matthew McConaughey is just a bonus.

Wrestler.

I’ve loved professional wrestling for ten years now. I never desired to be a pumped-up, over-inflated ring decoration until World Wrestling Entertainment starting doing their annual Tribute to the Troops Christmas show in war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq, and I saw the dedication and emotion that goes into the mission, by both the troops and the WWE Superstars.

I still have no desire to be a pumped-up, over-inflated ring decoration; I would much rather be an actual professionally-trained, fight to the death pinfall/submission, respected female wrestler. Except for the fact that I have asthma, am not flexible, and get hurt too easily!

Historian.

After reading over-hyped works of fiction like The Da Vinci Code and The Historian, I thought being an historian wouldn’t be so bad. You get to fight vampires and unearth “the greatest cover-up in human history”. Or I could just be a character in a Stephenie Meyer work!

Big Cat Trainer.

Tavi wanted to be a cat, I wanted to train them. Not your everyday domestic housecats either.

Mia Freedman.

Okay, so I can’t actually be Mia Freedman, but I can continue in my unadulterated admiration for her. In all seriousness, her current career as blogger, author and media commentator is highly coveted, in my opinion.

Australian Idol Contestant. (I guess that would be X Factor contestant now…)

So this isn’t really a “job” per se, and I don’t really have the skills for it, ie. a voice. However, I do have a mental catalogue of the songs I would sing if I did have said skills. “Need You Tonight” by INXS, anyone…?

Magazine Editor.

When I was still interested in working in magazines in Sydney, I thought being the editor of Cosmo was definitely in my stars. Fast-forward a few years: not so much. A lot of the magazines I envisioned myself working for have gone so far downhill that I think the blogosphere and freelancing are where it’s at.

Small Business Owner.

As recently as last year I wanted to have my own small business within the next couple of years. That’s not my focus anymore, but I do see myself owning some kind of business in the future. All that’s left now is to decide what line of business that might be. It’s a Romy & Michele conundrum.

Stylist.

I would die to be a Rachel Zoe wannabe, but from what little exposure to the fashion world I have had, I’ve drawn the conclusion that it is far too pretentious for me. As Whitney Port said, “They’re just clothes.”

Okay, so some of those are more within reach than others, and some aren’t actually all that impossible. It would be awesome to be something like a big cat trainer or a wedding planner, but in all honesty, I think of myself as a go-getter-type person, and if I really wanted to be an editor or an historian, I would be fighting tooth and nail (hey, maybe I wouldn’t make such a bad wrestler after all!) to be, instead of working away on this here blog.

[The Style Rookie] Dreams.

[Gala Darling] How To Survive Mercury in Retrograde.

Images via YouTube, All Movie Photo, Amazelabs, The Business Bakery, Purseblog.