Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Precisely Pregnant

* My disclaimer:  if, dear reader, the following post applies to you, please bear with me as I am somewhat of a grammar martinet. What I am suggesting is that the fault may lie more with me and less with you.  Please understand that I love you and have not judged character based on the following.  Therefore, at the risk of being less popular than I already am, I proceed.

I have never been one for euphemisms.  I like words, so I see no need to pad the actual meaning of something with a softer, less-precise substitution.  I like the power of words, therefore,  I even have a hard time with phrases like "passed away."  "Passed away"  is so vague, so transitory sounding.  At the risk of seeming insensitive, I prefer the precision of "died."  You know, the Wallace Steven's "Emporer of Ice-cream"  approach?  "Let the lamp affix its beam. . ."   What is IS and really no words can soften the blow or change the facts, so why not say it as it is?  I feel that my preference is a practical one and helps facilitate clear communication (however, I am also one who feels that the rules of proper grammar are for disambiguation and not solely to inflict torture on composition students. That's just an added bonus.)

There was once a time when the public at large felt that "pregnancy"  was too strong a term.  It was just so suggestive, so adult and thus, all of the euphemisms for pregnancy came to be. Proper women were not "pregnant," they were "PG" or "expecting" or "in a family way"  and babies were either found in the cabbage patch or delivered by the stork.  It's funny that people were ever squemish discussing what is not only natural and obvious, but also essential to the propogation of the human race. So, why the taboo?  

Thankfully, it seems we have gotten over ourselves and are no longer embarrassed to admit that humans reproduce sexually, however, the euphemisms still exist.  With the advent of political correctness, the world, post-feminist movement, still resorts to the old euphemisms with their old puritanical undertones, but has given them a new face.  Why else do modern day couples announce the forth-coming members of their families with the phrase, "we're pregnant?"  

The declaration of  "we're pregnant" baffles me.  It is impossible that both a woman and her husband are pregnant.  As much as I would love to share child bearing duties with my husband, such will never be.  "We're pregnant" is biologically an incorrect phrase therefore, it is also grammatically incorrect (in the same sense that it is grammatically incorrect to say that a person is "quite pregnant" or "quite dead."  Either s/he is or is not.  It is not correct to state absolutes in qualified ways.)

I also find that the phrase diminishes my (the woman's) role in pregnancy.  I am the one who deserves the credit for carrying the child for 40 weeks, therefore, I get to claim pregnancy status for myself.  I get to be the one who can, unabashedly, look a person in the eye and say, "I am pregnant."  What is so hard about that for a married woman who has obviously procreated on 3 previous occassions?

I agree that in the age of paternal ambiguities, it is nice to acknowledge my husband for his small though crucial role in the conception and his vital and ongoing role as father, so I might add something to the effect of, "and my husband and I are very excited to be expecting our fourth." However, until the day Brett dons pants bearing a tag illuminated with the words " adjustable maternity panel," I reserve the honor of being pregnant for myself.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Love for Less than $30.00: My Favorite Collectible

My first regular job was cashiering at a thrift store. There were many aspects to that job I actually liked. Literally, there was never a dull day. I worked with learning disabled people who I found to be surprisingly normal and in many ways more likable and interesting than their "fully functioning" counterparts. The clientele were a dynamic flow of shoppers ranging from collectors, to conniseurs, to bargain shoppers. In some ways, working in a thrift store is more rewarding than regular retail. It is a more laid back environment free of the commercialism and snootiness of other retail businesses. However,  despite my love for the thrift store workers and clientele, the greatest perk had to be that I got first pick of what came out on the floor.

If you think about the junk that fills a thrift store as carrion, then I was top vulture. Amongst my best finds were an 18 karat gold class ring dated 1949, and an authentic antique cameo. However, thrift store shopping, like any hobby can become addictive and the more one surrounds oneself with thrift store rummage deals, the more kitsch seems like invaluable treasure andthe more glass beads look like pearls. In short, as the months passed and as I carried home my "irresistable finds," the more my room took on the appearance of multi-family garage sale.

Thankfully, the thrift store job only lasted a year and it only took a couple of months of detox for me to realize that my room wasn't bohemian chic like I hoped, it was more like my great-grandmother's spare bedroom.  And so little by little, I pared down my "collectibles."  I decided that I probably wasn't that into Asian souveniers and that the hand sewn pink flowered bed spread was doing nothing to establish my reputation as a modern career woman.  And little by little, I "returned" the treasures from whence they came.  I even got gutsy enough to purge my shelves  of a few of the books I had amassed (Twelve Criticisms on Goethe's Faust- not even on my most erudite days. And Deutsche Gedicht?  Who was I trying to kid?)

I had to admit that perhaps I had a wee bit of a tendency (and if you know my family you know that I come by it honestly.)  And so I decided that unless I wanted to spend the rest of my life talking around the (white) elephant in the room, I should probably try to curb my desire to collect.  Though instead of abandoning my tendencies wholesale, I deemed it best to choose a single collectible, my one exception to my mantra that open space was more valuable than clutter. It would have to be good. I wanted something reflective of my personality, something easy to maintain, inexpensive, and easy to store.  I found my ideal collectible in pop-up books.

For those who may not be aware, pop-up books have come a long way since our childhood days. Mainly because of pioneers in paper-engineering, Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda, pop-ups have transformed from child's play to vertical works of mutable sculpture.  In addition to scenes that stand up over a foot off the page, the new pop-ups also feature movable parts (no lever reqired) as well as  flocked and metallic papers.  There is one that has, as its grand finale, light up weapons (Reinhart's Star Wars.) 

In my personal (small though growing) collection, my favorites are Reinhart's The Jungle Book and  Greenburg and Sabuda's The Pop-up Book of Nightmares.  My most unusual piece to date is a pop-up adaptation of Stephen King's The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (how such a gem made it to the Border's $3.99 clearance shelf is beyond me.)

So, in pop-up books I have found a way to sate my inner pack rat, my inner child, and my inner adult sophisticate simultaneously and all for under $29.99.  Now if Neil Gaiman would release a pop-up Coraline even my inner high school Goth might (for once) be satisfied.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My Inner HS Goth meets Neil Gaiman

I love the website goodreads.com.  If you haven't discovered it, please visit, set up an account, and add yourself to my friends list.

If you know me, you know that my tastes lean a bit toward the well. . .macabre.  It isn't because I have an image to maintain or because I'm depressed.  It's just part of me.  I joke that I have the heart of a HS goth girl.  Admittedly, I did have leanings in that direction during my high school years, but I was never hard core:  no red-blooded Goth would have ever welcomed me into her coven.  I did: wear a lot of black clothing, listen to alternative music, and hang out in the lower, darker levels of dance clubs for under-aged kids.  I occassionally though seldom: wore black cosmetics, powdered my face white, wore a black cloak (though I blush to admit it.)  I never: owned a Marilyn Manson CD, dyed my hair black, dated a guy who more black lipstick than I did, purposely cut myself,  or considered getting a vampire-bite tattoo.

I am joyous to say I grew out of that stage a long time ago.  I re-introduced color to my wardrobe when I left home for college.  I have since traded my Doc Martens for high-heeled boots.  My religion defines my character now much more than my music.  However, there is a part of me that can't totally give up on the macabre,  try as I might.

So what of my former HS bad Goth self remains?  I will always love Tim Burton movies.  I will never stop listening to Oingo Boingo or The Beautiful South (though, thankfully, my tastes have matured and  diversified.)  I will always love Edward Gorey books.  I think the Goth girl in me will always be attracted to Edward Cullen and Criss Angel (No, my husband is nothing like them. Yes, I find him attractive, too).  I really enjoy hanging out in old graveyards, the older the better.

This would be my segue for discussion of Neil Gaiman's  The Graveyard Book which I recently reviewed on Goodreads and which has high macabre appeal.  For those of you who are not (yet) my friend on Goodreads, here is my review:

I am so sad that I only recently discovered Neil Gaiman.  There is no doubt that between the release of the movie, "Coraline," and the recent bestowal of the Newberry on the novel The Graveyard Book, Gaiman is at the peak of his popularity.  It is only because of his recent acclaim that I have heard of Gaiman at all.  He is the sort of author I would love to be able to say, "Oh, I've been a huge fan for years.  I started reading his books before anyone else had even heard of him." Unfortuately, I have no right to that claim, but I am glad I found his books even if I had to wait this long.

The Graveyard Book is essentially and unabashedly a retelling of Kipling's A Jungle Book.  Bod, an ambitious infant, happens into a historical graveyard on the night he is orphaned.  Fortunately, he is taken in by the some of the graveyard's disembodied though kindly inhabitants.  There, he is protected, raised, and educated.  Ghosts, witches, and other "fearful" creatures are Bod's family and comrades. Needless to say, Bod grows up with an entirely different perception of dark and fear than most people.

The Graveyard Book is a coming of age story that is organized into seperate though intertwining vingettes; each self contained, but building toward the climax.

Gaiman has an infallible ear for language and dialogue.  He also pays homage to his literary predecessors.  Besides references to Kipling, there are elements of The Odyssey and The Hobbit. Even though this book is clearly in the fantasy genre, anyone with an appreciation for interesting characters, a good story, and good storytelling will enjoy The Graveyard Book.

If, like me, you have only recently heard of Gaiman, I highly recommend the following websites:

Where I made this flower:


And this picture of myself:

Might I also recommend Gaiman's official website:

If you are too much of a cheapskate to buy The Graveyard Book while it is still hardcover, you can listen to the ENTIRE novel read by Gaiman himself from the website listed above.  How's that for generous?  My inner high school Goth girl is purring contentedly.