Friday, April 17, 2009

Susan Boyle & Beauty

I have moved this post to, and probably all future posts.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

11p. Yay.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Pick Up Line

Just saw a glimpse from a show called Ibiza Uncovered II:

The man physically takes a piece of ice, steps on it then says 'Now that I've broken the ice, let's get busy.' He then completes this with some sort of bow-legged pose.

The pain. Go help these people. Someone. Anyone.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Amazon Fail

If you've not heard of it, beloved Amazon has done something very naughty.

Here is the definition inspired by this: Amazon Rank

So, what do you think is most effective? Petitions, complaints to customer services or Google Bomb?

Why, Amazon, why?

Price of Passion by Susan Napier

I decided to read the free Harlequin Presents ebook (out of 16 total all on this page here) offered as part of their 60th anniversary. Since so many books have the feminist criticism, I'm trying to do it from the pick-up artistry criticism angle. This is difficult because I'm a) not male b) not a pick-up artist (PUA). But, what the heck, I'll have a go.

Ch 1 & 2

Terms like 'neg', 'kino', 'SWPL' and 'bitch lawyer' have been floating through my consciousness. He's already been spotted with a hot half-naked redhead. It's not even page 28. The hero's already been a total angry man (aka Drake) and our heroine (aka Kate) is lying to the man's face, criticising him for suspecting her lies. It's all full of brilliant sexual tension, but a bit heavy on the infodumpage.

There's already a teeny twist not suggested by the way this thing began (but by other things such as blurbs. You don't read those, do you, you just skip straight to chapter 1!): these guys have history, which explains their wierdness to each other.

I like this Drake-delivered line: 'Don't tell me you're on one of those new faddy diets your mother is always suggesting you take. What is it this time -- South Pacific Colony? Kidney-cleansing Vegan?'

So far, Drake has been a bit heavy with the presumed 'negative' in 'neg'. Although he seems to have some basis for this. After accusing our Kate of being a consummate actress, he says:

‘So you just went ahead and trotted out your cheerful little spiel as blandly as if I was someone you’d never met before rather than the man you’ve been sleeping with for the past two years.’
Yeah, girl, what's up with that? She gives as good as she gets, implying he's paranoid and needs to be taken away by the men in white coats he threatened her with for her stalkery ways.

Her inner femininity is fighting off the bitch-ed her mother has given her, including such gems as 'Don't get mad, get even.' Ice cool sophistication is what she's fighting for, with Kate trying to speak about their history in business-like relationship terms. The man's not letting her have any of it, gets under her skin, confusing her about how he wants her to act and pissing her off.

One thing that romance novel heroes tend to have is a deep voice. I have an acquaintance who is nicknamed after a certain animal known for its high squeaks. He does not attract the women. Men, deepen your voice.

Ah, Drake has just used his eyes to caress without a touch. PUAs have probably talked about this. It's creepy if you don't establish attraction first. It really is. Please don't use admiring female anatomy as an opener.

Drake now negs her choice in clothing (well known by PUAs):
‘Bright, splashy colours suit you rather well in this setting. That dress makes you look very much the part…’ he trailed off suggestively and she obligingly snapped at the bait.
‘What part?’
‘The young, frivolous holiday-maker out looking for trouble.’
‘I’ve never been frivolous in my life,’ said Kate, offended.
He compounded the offence with a mocking grin that creased the sunfolds at the outer corners of his eyes. ‘Sorry, perhaps I should have said “carefree”…’
A lot he knew! ‘And I’m not “looking for trouble”, either,’ she added, far less sincerely.
Beautifully carried out if I say so myself. He's not outright insulting her and the long top-down look he gave her showed appreciation, but he's not really complimenting her either. He adjusts his language if she got offended by it, not acutally retracting what he said. The man's clearly not sorry. Now he takes her through a 'rollercoaster of emotion' (should be well-discussed between PUAs):

‘No? What about your handsome young fisherman?’
‘What?’ She took a moment to trace the origins of his non sequitur. ‘That was a joke.’
‘Was it?’
His cynical response make her hackles rise. ‘You know it was!’
‘Do I? ’He lowered his chair with a thud and leaned forward on the table, the amusement wiped from his face.‘Because it’s not as if there’s anything to hold you back from experimenting.We never promised each other total fidelity, did we, Kate?’

The man does not miss one verbal beat. Did I mention he's an author by trade in this novel? Unfortunately, Drake won the little verbal battles but not the match. Kate sensed what he was fishing for: her to go crazy and go madly jealous. She ended up with exaggerated calm, telling him that he could have his women and do his 'experimenting -- offshore'; this made poor Drake slip a little and lose his cool. She got control of her hormones long enough to point out how he was losing his cool and had just been causing a scene. Sorry, Drake. No sugar for you.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Female Crying

I just saw this tweet and wondered. I know men are uncomfortable around crying but would you rather your significant other did it away from your view?

What's the point of a manly chest if you can't use it for crying upon? Go on, men, tell me what you'd want your significant other to do.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Classic Beta Plays

When you think of the beta: don't think of the romantic guy who knows what, when and how to do the right thing. Think more of the outcast, strange and unfit teenager who is hopelessly in lust with a bitchy cheerleader, labelling this 'love'.

Persistence (anti)game
There is a guy I think we may all know: perhaps he's a friend, or perhaps he's an acquaintance. Perhaps it happened to you or perhaps it happened to someone else. He will not give up. He will be there; he'll wait until you think he's given up but he hasn't. You will move countries, forget to take contact details and he will find you, possibly following you. Sometimes you feel like the lines into stalking may have been crossed. He will remain your friend, and you will have to be a complete and utter unsubtle bitch to get rid of him. He will take care not to cross that line. He will repeatedly reassure you of his affection, be the first to rush in at the remotest hint of emotional vulnerability, be the first to scoop you up on any rebound by being a 'nice guy'. He will think of himself as your valiant hero, there to rush in when you suffer. Let's be honest about what he's thinking here: he is alternately blaming you, being bitter at your -- to his mind -- cruel inattention or rejection and lusting after you. You represent something to him and he probably does not have a realistic picture of you. He is being obsessive and unstable. You will think his intentions are pure, that he is the nicest guy around but remember this: he is self-serving. He sticks with you because he knows that attrition will eventually win. It is a huge probability that he does not love you and that he simply can't find any women to distract from his attentions; they reject him and he uses you as a justification for this. He rationalises it is not that they reject him, it is that he is hung up on you so that his heart is not into it. He justifies the raft of alternate women he pursued by likening them to you (notice: they are nothing like you, except for select physical features). Stay away from a persistence man -- try to cut him off but if you cannot -- do not under any circumstances turn to him when you need someone. He will exploit this and you will regret it. Remember everything about what turns you off about him and don't let the rose-tinted glasses of friendship make you forget them: is he overemotional, clingy, strange in any way, odd-looking, abrasive, unempathetic, prone to misunderstanding or misinterpretation, overtly analytical of your actions or words, self-obsessed, excessively self-pitying, uneducated, unambitious, dependent, unfit, immature, moody, showing signs of suffering from a mental illness? Err on the side of being harsh.

He is not and will not be a friend; regardless of how friendly he pretends to be. He is poison.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Legacy by Lois McMaster Bujold

This is volume two in The Sharing Knife series. I suggest you read volume one (excerpt is quite long) before this review if you want to avoid spoilers!

I enjoyed volume one, Beguilement, which saw the union of our two protagonists. Here, Fawn and Dag must go to Dag's home and confront the Lakewalkers with their controversial union. Legacy is taken up a great deal by this. In essence, Dag and Fawn are having a honeymoon whereby he shows her his Lakewalker world, his self and his family. Although there was some considerable action later in the book, it was little compared to the constant movement and danger in Beguilement. Each person concerned was given the space to react to Dag's pronouncement at their leisure, revealing miles about their character meanwhile. Dag's identity is dramatically and has dramatically changed; this book explores this.

I didn't feel it too badly, because of Bujold's beautiful writing: spiffy & charged dialogue, gorgeous imagery and sparkling* characters. The escalating tension between Dag, Fawn and certain individuals in the Lakewalker camp could sometimes be as real -- if more agnosingly drawn out -- then strategising against a malice (the dark monster the Lakewalkers make it their quest to slay). It's amazing the helplesness this inspires as contrasted to facing great evil. You wish that the problems with your mother-in-law could be stabbed with a knife and then simply go poof, but that ain't happening, sister.

When the action heated up, Bujold brought out the big guns with a threat that was bigger than ever. However, things ended up a little too neatly in some ways but that's fine in this case because it would've been too depressing otherwise. Fawn was suffering from a case of terminal uselesness in this book so I'm glad she had a role. I breathed a sigh of relief at the ending -- which I'm not sure I could've predicted actually -- and there was a lot of uncertainty about it that I'm anxious to read the next book to resolve. This gets 4 marriage cords out of 5 from me.

*(pardon the pun)

You can buy it on Amazon here (US) and here (UK).

Bitch To Your Face

This is an idea I've seen repeated over and over. If you have something negative to say, say it to that person directly. I can disagree with this: what if you view a lot of what they do as negative, what if you fear for your personal safety, what if you know what you're saying is out of proportion, what if it's an inappropriate situation, what if there's a power imbalance (i.e. they're your employer), what if you've tried confronting them already and they're not receptive?

Perhaps it's not justified to say it to their face, then perhaps it's also not justified to say it to someone else. Must you let it fester inside?

On the other hand: how else will they have the chance to defend themselves or adjust what it is?

Why's this concept so important? What do you think of a person who just doesn't want to confront you with their views?

Friday, April 03, 2009

Dad: King or Mouse?

There's this Arabic family we know. There's only one man in the house and that's the four girls' dad.

He's not perfect. I really like him though.

He can be deceptively easygoing. He's got this way of gently teasing, which can drive his eldest mad. He's not outwardly controlling and places absolute trust in his family to do what they're meant to. When he tells them off, it's not with an angry tone. He casts it in a lightly sardonic comment and they never seem to need any more than that. He seems in perfect control of his household. When his wife went into mourning further than he thought appropriate for a close relative, he didn't shy away from the threat of divorce if she continued. He's the major breadwinner, though his wife works the occasional part-time job and he's bought a nice big house for them all. He's educated, very considerate of his guests (refusing to eat until they're all comfortable and well served), open when in a discussion and greatly encouraging of his daughters' different personalities and dreams. Together with his wife, he's instilled in them a knowledge of their culture and language obvious in their interactions with the world.

There're some aspects where he could probably interfere more, but he seems to have chosen not to.

There's nothing immediately obvious that screams power about him. Overall, though, I think of him as an alpha dad.

I think that he's a demonstration of what they say: the sign of having power is that you don't need to use it.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

I bought this novel expecting more of the same humour and subtle messages by Gail Carson Levine, as I'd found in her book Ella Enchanted.

I wasn't particularly happy with this book. Aza -- our heroine -- is constantly obsessed with her perceived ugliness. The theme of beauty, what it meant, what influence it gave, what price is paid for it runs throughout the book. As it does, indeed, in Snow White. I found the heroine herself lacking in some way: perhaps a lack of humour, a lack of a certain something that would make her loveable. She let too much of her identity become wrapped within her flaws, rather than her strengths. As I'm sure a lot of girls do (it's a rare girl who feels beautiful without hours of make up and preperation), I have issues with the way I look. I didn't feel like I connected with the heroine about this, however. Her reaction to feeling ugly was too exaggerated and not something you as the reader could fully empathise with. Similar themes were explored by Scott Westerfeld (Uglies) and I adore his treatment in contrast to Levine's.

The world itself was lovingly described, though it could sometimes be a bit 'crowded'; too much information about one scene at one time. Still, I felt quite immersed in it, particularly the descriptions of the colour 'htun'. A kingdom obsessed with singing's an interesting concept; there were some lyrical gems in there. However, mentally imagining them singing some of the lines they sang: too often without meaning, or rhyme, was painful. It would get very annoying as a movie.

Example of irritating sung line:
"Where is the pitcher?" ...
"Did Sir Peter"... "steal the pitcher?"
"But,"... "it's very large for stealing."
Don't get me wrong, I love randomly bursting into song. However: you just know that if it was someone constantly doing that in real life, you'd find aforementioned pitcher just to be able to bash them around the head with it and make them please God stop.

There was something lacking in the interaction with our prince -- Ijori -- who had a token flaw or two. I didn't really know him that well. I knew Ivi -- the new queen who is the center of the conflict within the book -- much better than most of the other characters. She was beautifully explored and much more real. I liked the glimpses of the secondary characters; however we did not stay long enough to know them properly. The young adult voice here seems to have held the writer back, stopping her from properly bringing everything truly alive.

While the themes and world were explored nicely, this book seemed to lack the soul, wit and sparkle I expected from Levine; as well as the engaging with her heroine.

This gets a 2.5 magic mirrors out of 5 from me.

You can buy it here (UK) or here (US).


I didn't realise it, but it had been more than six months before I'd been in a venue where males and females mixed together in nothing but dance. If I think about it, it was a tame thing compared to others I've been to: the boys and girls were relatively restrained teenagers, there was no alcohol and a couple of parental figures were present.

I remember being shocked at the arrival of a couple of black boys to a party thrown by an Arabic girl; I wasn't similarly shocked by any black girls (no whites present, though, unless you count the white-looking extremely westernised Arabs). It was a primitive, incomprehensible reaction: from their carriage to their clothes, they were fulfilling my notions of the hypersexualised wannabe gangster built up from my UK school days and the media.

Overall, I was experiencing acute anxiety and discomfort. I'm not sure of the cause: probably a combination of my recently bad experience with males and the presence of my mother and aunt. I was wearing clothes that I felt were incredibly revealing: a strapless short ruffly dress with tights, black patent leather boots with chains plus steel heels and an inadequate scarf to cover my bare shoulders and arms. This was topped off with the trademark heavy make-up Arabs around the Gulf area tend to favour, which I don't even know how to apply myself; my aunt plastered it on me and I have to admit I look much better with it on. I had been yelled at earlier in the evening by my mother which tended to put me in a rather anti-social, sensitive mood.

As soon as we had walked in, my mother expressed contempt for the girls present, who apparently held no candle to the flame of my charms and beauty (you've just got to love the peerless objectivity of a mother), after which she instructed me to win the admiration of all males present. That's not wholly accurate: the literal translation was that she instructed me to, rather appropriately, 'hang them' (ah, the glorious connotations of the Arabic language are worthy of their own post). Talk about pressure, as well as an idea that didn't sit well with me. What was I supposed to do with all that attention, badly misdirected from their deserving, more age appropriate peers?

Since all notions of acting naturally had been quashed by the self-consciousness induced by the combined factors discussed above, I commenced to sit down and not move. With musical selections that swung between Akon and Arabic instrumental bellydancing beats, I pondered my situation. Dance? In front of mixed company? With boys who were apparently worthy of 'hanging'? No way. The shame, the sexuality of it and the vulnerability of it were paralysing. I thought of my father: oceans away, no help to me here. What would he think?

No matter how much I didn't want to, I was going to bury my feelings about it and I was going to dance. I knew it. If my mother was there and she wanted me to, I would. That's how it always happens. And that's how it did happen.

The final worsening was when my family members fixated on one particular boy. They urged me to go over, they told me to 'trap him', they told me to go show off my dancing skills. Looking for support from my brother, he only told me 'I would.' This was all based on the boy's looks and apparent Arabic country of origin. No personality analysis, not even speaking to him, nothing.

There was only one boy who'd caught my attention and it wasn't him. I remembered this boy when he was coming in and he was standing in the doorway, shading the lower half of his face in what appeared to be a shy gesture. It grew apparent that what he was actually doing was surveying the field; he walked in and introduced himself straight to the parentals with confident handshakes. Excellent move in an Arabic setting; establishing respect with the father figure is always a good move and charming the mother is also equally important. He was introducing himself to my family figures but I made myself scarce using my aunt (who ironically was only calling me over to urge me to get myself introduced to this fellow).

Overall, every tactic used by family to market me backfired majorly. No idea why they want me marketed, except that it's the norm for Arabic culture; a common equivalent of wishing a person well is expressing the desire to see 'The day of your wedding!'.

I can also conclude that I am worse than ever in my discomfort about sexuality and males. Even if they're just boys.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009