Thursday, February 26

50 Levels of Criticism

(Note: this post is NOT about 50 Shades of Grey, although I use the book as the jumping off point for the real point of this post.)

Most of you know I am a voracious reader. I absorb books the way my skin sucks up moisturizer in the winter months. To start, I had at best, a passing interest in the 50 Shades trilogy and so didn't bother with it for a long time. After all, my TO-READ list is l o n g and no matter how popular a book is, if it doesn't interest me on some level, I'm not going to bother. Case in point: I still haven't read The Fault in Our Stars and I don't really care if I ever do. I've read a couple of Nicholas Sparks books and I can honestly say that if you've read one "true-love/fatal disease/we'll-always-be-together-no-matter-what-comes-between-us" crap story you've read them all. (Forgive my antagonism, but I really hate Nicholas Sparks. It's formulaic storytelling that makes Harlequin Romances seem original.) 

Still, having a mild curiosity, I tried reading it once, long ago, and dear God, I couldn't get past page ten. I skipped ahead, hoping it was just the intro that was boring. And I was wrong. So after spending about 30 minutes of my life on the book, I reached this conclusion:

That was over a year ago.
Then the movie got made and the whole thing got even more attention. Not all of it good. 
I have friends on both sides of the 50 Shades debate. Some think it is harmless erotic escapism. Others are repulsed by the story and point out that Christian Grey is an abusive sexual predator. I became more curious, simply by the vehement levels of passion on both sides of the debate. People who defend it get just as much spit and fire in their breath as those who vilify it. Clearly, I had to form my own opinion, so I checked it out again and this time, forced myself to read it. Yes, I say forced because I mean forced.
I'm not going to get into the debate about whether the book glorifies abuse or whether Ana was this or Christian was that.

Here's what I want to talk about: 
I was engaged in a discussion about the book with *Christine, and as she was asking for my opinion, I explained that I was only on chapter thirteen, but the book was freaking atrocious. (I still feel this way.) I went on to discuss what was of real issue with me - the actual writing.
Seriously? One of the top five worst books I've ever read - and that's saying something. I told Christine I thought the characters were flat, dumb, and one-dimensional. Saying the prose was mediocre would be generous, and the dialogue was stilted and forced in the best cases.

Yeah....she (a devout fan of the trilogy) accused me of being too critical when I read. She said I needed to stop worrying so much about things like character, voice, tone, pacing, etc., and just enjoy a good story when I read it and enjoy it for the story, regardless of how well it is written. 
When I passed this tidbit onto a friend who despises the books with everything inside of her, she agreed the writing is God-awful and also mentioned that maybe it's not such a bad thing to forgive some things now and then. (Which I do - but hating a book is a lot like hating a person or a bad TV show - once you start noticing the things that are stupid, suddenly that's all you see. It's like a twisted version of "I, Spy.")

Now, I confess, whether on purpose or not, I make a lot of observations when I read. It's just how I am. Often, those observations are...cutting. (To be fair, after I've written a draft of my review of any book, I always google other reviews from various sources - everything from casual readers impressions to the opinion of professional critics. Most often, when my review boils down to "this book was lame" - I'm not alone in my opinion. But I like knowing what other people are thinking.) 
Finally, as I look back on my previous book reviews, I have to point out that my critiques are not so much like that of a professional critic, but as if I was telling a friend what I thought of the book. In several reviews, I even concede that some of the criticisms I had were simply personality quirks that put me off. Sometimes points I make are not even criticism, but just observations. My little analyses are mostly for me and perhaps someone who might stumble upon them in search of a review. 
But this poses a problem. I wonder if I waste my time, if I am too catty, and also I wonder if perhaps, theoretically, I would be shooting myself in the foot if I ever did try to publish my own writing. 
So these are the things I'm pondering. 

Saturday, February 7

Things That Have Actually Been Said

A friend of mine has a tumblr. Here are some things that were filed under "personal" that I wanted to share.

Miscommunication about bacon.

The Internet = Mos Eisley

Bitch Said What? (aka: Unsolicited input. Let the children be.)

I actually have a tumblr, too.
(I'm not particularly good at posting on it regularly or following up on checking tumblr blogs regularly - I usually do a binge session once every few days) - but if you like, you can check it out.
Here is a snippet from a post I shared:

1.) After heading directly from the shower to the bedroom and sharing an intimate time with my husband, when we were finished, I asked him to hand me a comb “to get the knots out of my hair.” To which he replied, “If you don’t comb your hair, it can get knots in it?” 
To which I nodded and he added, “Being a girl is weird.”

Yes, yes it is.

2.) My brother recently made himself some soup and I watched as he crumbled an exorbitant amount of crackers onto it. “Holy crackers!” I exclaimed. 
“Well, I don’t like liquidy soup,” he replied.  

Experiment: Glue as Blackhead Remover

Experiment: School Glue to Remove Blackheads:
- For: 
A cheap and fun alternative to pore strips
- How to: 
Pretty self explanatory, I think. However, I did a half-ass browse of this post and I watched this video (albeit with the sound off as I was on the phone with my sister at the time) before conducting my own experiments. (Overall, I think the video provides better technique.) Here is what I did: 

Please note I didn't have any makeup on and for authenticity, I didn't alter the photos except for cropping, so please, be gentle.
 Don't mind the glob of toothpaste: I had a little pimple.

A bit more close up.

Couldn't decide which to use, so I did both.

Looking terrible. I used the gel on my chin (applied with a plastic spoon) 
and used the glue stick on my nose. Still got the toothpaste.

Toothpaste pimple treatment getting crumbly, the nose glue has dried completely
clear, and you can see the gel on my chin has dried and is starting to peel.

After. I'm not in a bad mood, it's RBF because I just couldn't get a good 
close up shot and also had a fight with the cat.*

- The Outcome: 
Kinda hard to tell from a non close up shot, but yeah, no blackheads were removed in the making of this post. It didn't bother my skin, or anything - essentially it was no different than doing a cheap drugstore cucumber peel mask. 
- Final Verdict:
A mildly amusing waste of time. 

*When peeling off glue, do not leave pieces sitting on the counter and look away from them for even 10 seconds because you WILL end up in a cage match with your cat when she decides to try to eat them and you have to dig them out of her mouth. 

Thursday, February 5

Emotional Eating

Emotional eating. 
For me, food is comfort. 
I wish I could say it's because I grew up in a large ethnic family where mealtime was a celebration. Kind of the opposite. Food was not an abundant joy to be lingered over, but preparing it was a chore and eating it was...well...average. You ate your food. You ate what you were given. If it was something you didn't like, it sucked to be you. If it was something you did like, you tried to get as much as possible because who knew when you'd have it again?
We grew up like the typical poor-but-not-impoverished American family. Uncomplicated casseroles were generally the star of our mealtimes. Tuna casserole and stroganoff were particular favorites, both of which I refuse to eat to this day. We had a lot of soup and sandwiches - which is a lot more than most people have, I must admit.  Macaroni & cheese in various incarnations featured prominently in our food rotation and often with hot dogs. For me, to this day, macaroni & cheese is a loaded food. For me it is love, comfort, feeling nurtured, literally like a warm hug in a bowl. It is also painful, confusing, resentment, wondering why my family lived on mac & cheese and PB&J while other families had fresh fruit, roast chicken and potatoes, good lunch meat with the expensive lettuce. 
I should say my parents did what they could. They were not terrible people by any stretch. Of course we are all fallible and make mistakes, but my parents weren't evil. When it concerns food, they had a strict budget and made it work. They did what they could to feed two adults and three children and get some form of nutrition into our bellies. This was also the 80's, when pasta was considered king, everyone drank Kool-Aid like it was going out of style, barely anyone had even heard of kale, and organic veggies were for hippies. 
I didn't grow up with a propensity for drugs or alcohol because (for the most part) I hated that feeling of losing control. I had to be in control. So when I wanted to "be bad" - I ate food.
Fast forward to adulthood. 
As a child, I never learned to trust my body. In fact, quite the opposite. As an adult, I basically had no clue what the hell I was doing. I worked hard and lost weight over a long period of time, but I still ate too much and often not healthy foods. 
For me, a big thing is the noise-noise-noise of the diet and health industry and also everyone's well-intentioned-because-it's-right-for-them-but-is-really-just-more-noise ideas of what to do.

Eat fat to burn fat. Go vegetarian. But soy is bad for you. Go vegan. You probably will lack a lot of vitamins and protein though. Sugar is the devil. No, artificial sweetener is the devil. Some vegetables are basically sugar. Basically anything that has any form of sweetness in it is the devil. Carrots are too starchy, they are bad for you. But carrots have vitamins your body needs. Just eat clean and you'll lose weight. It's all the chemicals that are bad for you. (Seriously, eating clean is an undertaking more costly and involved and emotionally draining than buying a house, I swear.) No, no, see, just watch your fat grams. Actually, just cut out dairy because dairy is the devil. No, gluten is the devil. Actually, wheat is the devil. Red meat is the devil. Processed foods are the devil. It's just calories in, calories out.
You kind of end up feeling like:

angry animated GIF

And as the dust settles, you finally reach that point where you're like: 

Fuck this, I'm out.

And that's where I'm at now. So what am I doing? 
I'm working on checking in with myself emotionally. Listening to my body. Slowing down my eating. Blocking out the noise and listening to myself, my own body. Being more conscious of my emotions. Asking myself questions. Being more aware and more importantly, more accepting of what I'm feeling or wanting or - well, anything. All of it. 
My struggles with depression and anxiety and my struggles with food and eating are two sides of the same coin; they are irrevocably tied together and one will never truly heal one without healing the other. My issue is not one of needing to keep my calories within X amount per day, or needing to eliminate all of this or that from my diet or needing to have my food pre-measured or anything. It's a matter of listening to my body and and my feelings and deciphering true hunger. Slowing down and chewing and being more aware of the moment instead of numbing out. It's about knowing why I'm eating what I'm eating and accepting it and stopping when I'm full instead of keeping on until I'm stuffed and my emotions are dulled. 

So when I say, fuck this, I'm out, I don't mean I'm giving up. I mean, I am working on finding my own path of healing and self care, doing what I need to do for me, because that is the only way I will truly get better.