{ thinking out loud about the things i care about }

Archive for July, 2009

A Message from an Hourglass Figure

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

I’ve got two weddings to go to in August so the last two weeks have largely been spent searching for something suitable to wear. Altogether I’ve spent around 30 hours shopping and today at lunch finally managed to find something that fit. AND not only did it fit, which is a miracle in and of itself, but it also looks nice. WHOA.

I spent all day Saturday at one of the largest indoor shopping malls in the world and didn’t find a single thing that I could wear, and I’m not exaggerating at all. I get that I’m a highly unusual body type what with my extreme hourglass shape combined with my height, but one would think somewhere in the six million square feet of WEM there would be something that fit me, especially since I was searching without a cap on my budget. If I’d found something for $200 I’d have bought it. I must have tried on over sixty dresses, and not one of them was even within a tailor’s ballpark of being wearable. It really took the wind out of my sails on Saturday.

Go ahead and roll your eyes at my whining if you like. I get it all the time. People would kill for my figure and that’s fine, you can fucking have it. My curves may be coveted and photoshopped into ads and video games and comic books, but I’m sick of being glorified and idealized and sensationalized, and then having people tut-tut me and tell me how fucking lucky I am when I talk about the constant back pain caused by carrying a couple of 32G breasts around all day and the frustration of not being able to find a blouse/tank top/t-shirt/other top/dress that even sort-of-kind-of fits in a world that assumes a B or C cup. The cognative dissonance of knowing my body is an object of envy and lust colliding in the fitting room with the feeling that my shape is freakishly irregular and inconceivably off proportion makes me want to scream.

Tailoring isn’t an option. Going up enough sizes to accommodate for my chest leaves the arm holes and shoulders drooping somewhere around my elbows. Take it from someone who’s done some tailoring in her day, that isn’t something you can fix. The reality is it would be ten times easier for me to find clothes that fit if I gained 80 pounds. What a delightful option that is.

Right now especially the trends are killing me. Everything has seams meant to fall under the bust, and on me they typically fall around nipple height; how very attractive. I can’t wear halters, strapless dresses, spaghetti-straps, or anything with an open back because not even the expensive European designers make strapless bras that actually support me (believe me, I’ve tried on enough of them to know), and the straps on bras that come in my size are an inch wide or wider. And any of those mod-style dresses hide the one thing I’m supposed to be highlighting: my curves. How gloriously frumpy.

Anyway, I suppose all that doesn’t matter because at the end of it all I did find something, but surgery next year cannot come soon enough as far as I’m concerned. I dream of days without back pain and summer shopping for flirty dresses and bras that cost less than $150.

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International Blog Against Racism Week

Monday, July 27th, 2009

International Blog Against Racism Week starts today and runs until August 2. It just happens to coincide with some links I wanted to throw out there.

Justine Larbalestier has posted on her blog regarding the white-washed US cover of her book, Liar, which features a black female protagonist. She talks about how she fought against the cover, but ultimately lost the battle because authors have very little control over the covers of their books. Publishers pick a cover they think will sell, and right now the publishing and retail worlds believe books with faces on them sell better unless those faces are black ones. Larbalestier draws the connection between marketing dollars and black faces, saying “I have found few examples of books with a person of colour on the cover that have had the full weight of a publishing house behind them … all we can say is that poorly publicised books with “black covers” don’t sell [which] is usually true of poorly publicised books with “white covers”.” She then wonders if “the big publishing houses really only in the business of selling books to white people” and I can’t help but agree with her.

Larbalestier goes on to speak about how covers can change the way people read books:

Liar is a book about a compulsive (possibly pathological) liar who is determined to stop lying but finds it much harder than she supposed. I worked very hard to make sure that the fundamentals of who Micah is were believable: that she’s a girl, that she’s a teenager, that she’s black, that she’s USian. One of the most upsetting impacts of the cover is that it’s led readers to question everything about Micah: If she doesn’t look anything like the girl on the cover maybe nothing she says is true. At which point the entire book, and all my hard work, crumbles.

Online reviews show this is exactly what’s happening. So, even aside from the fact that white-washing these covers is racist (and that’s a huge aside), they also affect the artistic and thematic integrity of the work they’re supposed to be representing.

International Blog Against Racism Week is just starting up, and I’ll be taking some time out of my week to read through the posts that come from it. Even if you have nothing to add, it’s an important conversation to listen to.

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Amazon Fail of a Different Sort

Friday, July 24th, 2009

I love the idea of the Kindle as a device that can instantly connect me to any and every book out there. At least 60% of my reading takes place on a computer of some sort, either through pdf ebooks or fanfic. All my news comes from the screen, and the idea of having a device built for comfortable reading that fits in my purse and links me wirelessly to all that is an extremely appealing thought.

Tethered devices are not necessarily all good, though, as Kindle owners are discovering. Tethered devices don’t only mean you can reach in and grab what you want from the cloud, it also means the cloud can reach down to your Kindle and grab it back.

Recently, Amazon remotely removed digital copies of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm because of a rights issue, refunding all the users their $0.99 back. The symbolism was not lost on anyone, particularly the news media and the affected Kindle customers. The uproar has been significant enough that Amazon released a statement promising they will stop deleting the already-downloaded books on user’s Kindles when they delete rights-violating content from their archives.

This is not the first time Amazon has removed books from user’s Kindles, but it got the most press for the obvious ironic reasons. Some people don’t get why this is an issue, but consider how this affects ownership. When you buy a physical book and take it home, even if it’s pulled off the shelves the minute you walk out the store, no one comes round demanding the return of the already purchased ones. Once you’ve bought it, you own that copy. Book burning is a serious yet mostly symbolic affair, largely because copies always survive. Someone finds a copy in their attic or hides one under their bed.

A world where books are tethered to devices is problematic because it allows someone to take back those books — all of them — quickly and efficiently, without warning. You may not even realize it’s missing. The ebooks you buy don’t really belong to you, not the same way real paper books do. This is how book burning will look in the future, when everything is published via data instead of as ink. Remember how much AmazonFail sucked? Think how much worse it would have been if someone had ticked the wrong box in their content admin tool and deleted all those books from thousands of people’s personal libraries. Some day (and probably some day soon) someone will write a letter or make a phone call complaining about some book or other, and an underpaid and overworked manager will log on and click the delete button without really considering the ramifications, and next time there might not be a way to take it back.

This problem doesn’t just affect books. It affects applications (Apple, a company I love dearly, has some serious issues in this regard when it comes to iPhone apps and it makes me furious), music, and gaming every day. This is the way companies will seek to control their copyright in the future, with tethered devices and back doors.

Please do not hand wave this issue off. Pay attention to it, because it affects everyone. Understand that an age of cloud-computing is descending where everything is computer-based and everything is connected and everything is stored somewhere else. Google docs are wonderful tools, but Google can easily remove the content you’ve built or the service entire. Livejournal can delete years of personal journaling, writing and art, and no matter what you say or how loudly you complain they don’t have to give it back to you. That “right” is build into the user agreements no one reads but everyone accepts when they sign up for a service.

Be aware of how the world is changing, not just how it benefits but also how it restricts. We’re not just talking about books and music, we’re talking about the fundamentals of ownership.

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Half Blood Prince, The Day After (Part Two)

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

I know it’s technically the day after the day after, but let’s not split hairs. :D Part one of my HBP review this way.

The good stuff! (Yes! There was good stuff! Haters to the left and all that!)

MMMmmm… Spoilers

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Half Blood Prince, The Day After (Part One)

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

(Okay, wow. This got long fast, and I’m not done yet. Many more comments to make, but I think this is long enough to be going on with right now. I’m going to break this up into two posts, otherwise for sure no one will read it. This post contains most of my major criticisms of the movie, and the second will include more of the positives/squee-worthy stuff, though they do cross over a bit. I had no idea I had this much to say.)

Okay. I’ll admit Half Blood Prince is by no means the easiest of the books to turn into a movie. The book was low action with no clear villain to pit the trio against (at least OotP had Umbridge), and its fundamental purpose was always to deliver us important back story, exposition, and character information on Snape, Malfoy, Voldemort, and Dumbledore that was vital for Deathly Hallows. Yes, there’s a Mystery To Solve™ but let’s face it: mostly HBP is a book where nothing really happens.

I knew this would be problematic to turn into a movie: at least in OotP when nothing was happening, Harry was really angry about it and capslocking all over the place. Harry’s journey in OotP was much simpler to portray visually and follow than his journey in HBP, which is more about finally getting his gimmie hands on the information he’s been denied and preparing to take an active role in the fight against Voldemort. Where it worked — I think quite well — in the book, I can see how translating that content from narrative to dialogue/action must have been difficult.

Yates and Kloves responded to the challenges of HBP by providing the bare minimum of exposition about Voldemort they thought they could get away with (and I’m holding off criticising that choice too much until I see the DH movies through to the end, but my gut reaction is they sacrificed too much there), instead shifting focus to Those Wacky Kids In Love and Draco’s journey.

Because of this, the movie is missing a central supporting core theme or thread that would string the scenes together and make them feel less like a series of skip-to plot-points, which is the same thing I feel the GoF and PS movies suffered from. They were so concerned about fitting as much as possible in that they didn’t spend the time adapting and sculpting the story of the movie the way I think they did much better in PoA and OotP, even though more liberties were taken translating those stories. HBP feels a little like a connect-the-dots picture. You can tell what the drawing is, but it’s just a series of unnatural straight lines with no curves and no style.

Some of the changes/additions they made did work for me, though. Seeing Ollivander abducted, the destruction of the walking bridge, and the destruction of the Burrow were all good choices, I think. They added some action breaks that were comparatively shorter than the gratuitous spider-chases/Quidditch scenes/car-flights we’ve seen in past movies, and much more on-point. We get told in the book via conversations about the sacrifices Molly and Arthur are making and the trouble they invite by supporting Harry; the attack on the Burrow in the movie is a way of showing that instead of telling it, and I think it worked. Certainly the look on Molly’s face as the Burrow burns made that point, and bonus points for breaking my heart. Hogwarts as a safe place makes the war as reported by The Daily Prophet a distant someone-else’s problem, and in a conversation-heavy movie I welcomed those show-not-tell departures. I expect that will be a somewhat unpopular fandom opinion, though. As canon-focused as I am, I always prefer a good movie adaptation to canon-loyalty when it comes to film.

I’m on the fence about starting off the movie with Harry and random!girl flirting. It seems pretty outlandish to say Harry’s got a huge target on his head and then have him hanging out at the corner cafe, picking up chicks, without incident or rebuke. I do understand the need to cut the Privet Drive stuff, and while I adore the scene where Dumbledore annoys the Dursleys in the book, I don’t think it would have fit Gambon’s Dumbledore at all. It was lazy, but I guess it got the job done, and I can’t convince myself to get too worked up about it.

I assumed they were going to cut the Tonks/Remus angst side-plot, but I am glad they nodded to it and allowed me my moment of Tonks/Remus fandom squee. It also gives me hope that we’ll see more of them in DH, and that Teddy Lupin won’t be one of the things that falls by the wayside. I love Remus and I’ve grown to adore David’ Thewlis’ version of him just as much as book-Remus, so I’ll take what I can get. As far as I’m concerned, everything can be made better by the addition of more Remus.

I went in optimistic about the addition of the Weasley-is-our-King section to this movie, but was actually disappointed. Ron’s journey in OotP was about gaining self-esteem, which is what made that plot worthwhile and what I assumed would be transferred along with it to HBP. Instead, it seems to be meant to justify having girls moon over him, but since Lavendar started that up in Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes (AND OMG SIDENOTE — THE STORE WAS AWESOME) I’m not sure what the point of the Quidditch stuff was, especially since Ron’s problems were reduced to the level of a little bit of stage-fright. It was short, at least, so I guess that’s something, but I would have cut it in favour of another (maybe two) Voldemort memories.

The Half Blood Prince story was horribly side-lined in my opinion, and I say this not just as a Snape-lover from way back. The movie is CALLED HALF BLOOD PRINCE FOR FUCK’S SAKE, and it’s basically a footnote. Some of the time spent talking about boys/girls/love angst could have easily been devoted to some conversation about the Prince or suspicious!Snape scenes or even that humourous moment in the book where Harry tries out the Levicorpus spell and hoists Ron up by his ankle. In a book generally agreed to be Snape’s Book, we instead get…

… the Draco Angst Show! Which, to be fair, didn’t entirely suck. And WHOA has Tom Felton A) growed up and, B) learned to act a little. I actually gave a tiny little shit about Draco, which everyone knows is basically impossible for me, the girl who rolls her eyes every time his name is mentioned. This is another place where the book and the movie diverged: in the book the focus is on Harry’s obsession with catching Draco up to no good and the reader not sure whether to believe Harry or side with the Doubty-McDoubters brigade. I think the choice to follow Draco’s journey was generally a good one, though it did dissipate most of the mystery and contributed to the Plot-Point feel of the whole thing. It’s hard to create any kind of tension when we know for sure who the perp is and what he’s up to. The Where’s-Waldo approach was a bit heavy-handed and got pretty old after the upteenth time of panning to brooding-Malfoy at the end of random unrelated scene #49.

The biggest general weakness was length and pacing, which was due in large part to the following three major chronic problems:

  • Dialogue pauses. I haven’t had time to re-watch OotP since watching HBP, but there’s no way there were this many awkward pauses between lines in the last one, right? At times it was paaaaainful to watch and if this had been a live theatre show I’d've assumed it was because the actors didn’t know their cues very well. The most curious thing? It wasn’t just the young, less experienced actors here; Gambon, Broadbent and Coltrane were all equally as guilty, forcing me to wonder if they were performing as directed. Whether the WTF goes to the actors or to Yates, it still stands as a giant WTF.
  • Non-reaction reaction shots. The number of times the camera hung on a blank face just about killed me in this movie. Grint, who’s biggest issue is usually overreacting to everything, was one of the biggest offenders, but all the kids — Radcliffe, Watson, Wright, etc. — were guilty of this on multiple occasions. I think it may have been a case of attempted subtlety, but give me something to look at. It’s like they all went to Kristen Stewart’s school of Lock-Jaw acting or something. It all translated to a “their hearts just weren’t in it” feel.
  • Lack of underscore. I cannot be the only one that noticed this, I just can’t. The first half hour was almost entirely devoid of musical underscore, and when combined with the previous two points the whole thing just dragged and felt unfinished and unpolished. Underscore is pivotal in movies, people. It helps tell you how you’re supposed to be feeling about something, helps augment the character’s emotional headspace at any given time, and plants subliminal street signs for the audience that differentiates the funny from the drama and the scales of both therein. Just because things are light and comedic or dialogue-heavy doesn’t mean you can walk away from orchestral direction. Just go back and watch the last movies and note how often there’s quiet music underneath dialogue to tie the scene together, and then go back and watch HBP and tell me you can’t feel the void. For me it was a gaping black hole.

Part two that-a-way.

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