Originally posted April 2004

Thanks to George for making this a better review, as he always does.

Books of historical fiction are based, in varying amounts, on the reality of the past. However, the lack of good record keeping, coupled with the problem of information conservation, has left us more often with mysteries than fact.

Art history is an excellent example of this predicament. Probably the most famous of these little mysteries is "Who was the Mona Lisa?" A less well known, but equally compelling question concerns the identity of the young girl in Johannes Vermeer's famous painting 'Girl With a Pearl Earring.'

The Book

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Book review originally posted June 2004

With thanks to Guthrum, oddly enough, who showed me loving horror didn't mean you were one. ;-)

King has actually written two books here. One is a surprisingly candid review of his memories of childhood and young adulthood. The other is about the craft of writing, and it is followed up with an equally candid examination of his almost fatal accident in 1999.

In some ways perusing someone else's memories, good as well as bad, is almost embarrassing, voyeuristic. You feel faint shock or horror at the grinding poverty, you guiltily try to remember if you were one of the abusers of the odd-kids-out in school, you read between the lines of his life experiences and wonder if this or that dreadful occurrence became part of one of King's books.

In other ways it's almost a relief to discover other people have the same feelings and concerns, albeit on different scales, as you had. Oh, good, someone else despised the popularity contest of high school! How nice to see you're not the only one who's had a half-guilty love affair with good writing all their life. What a relief to discover someone else who realizes memory is but chemical reactions in the brain, constantly being re-learned — who remembers montages of scenes, rather than gleefully reciting every teacher they'd had since kindergarten.

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Originally written December 2003: more of a grumble than usual…

As you probably don't know, by profession I am a web site designer. I take pride in my work, as I assume most competent craftspeople do. However, recently I've had the most incredible frustration in my job — on this very web site! — due to the lack of browser compatibility or standards.

Standards are such a simple, helpful, wonderful concept. Some informed body within a field of endeavor defines what the basics are that everyone will fulfill. They then make these standards public, and everyone uses them in order to create effectively.

Good examples are using a certain weight of stretched canvas for painters looking for good canvases on which to paint, using a certain quality of steel in the I-bars used for skyscrapers, or mandating the President of the United States must be a citizen of this country.

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Originally written in the late 1990's for a "Popular Culture" Anthropology class.

In her book Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature, Janice A. Radway explores the apparent fascination of romantic fiction to many women, and examines the needs this literary genre fulfills for its readers.

Our required reading was the Introduction and the first four chapters. The Introduction contains a more up-to-date critique of the study, while chapter 1 explains the technological advances that made the romance fiction phenomena possible.

Chapters 2 and 3 describe respectively the statistical breakdowns of the study group of women, and the reasons for and needs met by reading romances.

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Continuing from yesterday…

Kakou Korakos
I certainly agree with you that women are often societally trained to be too passive. Myself, I believe the answer is to quit training them to do that, rather than just nudging "nice guys" to be more assertive. I also agree that being the major decision-maker in a relationship is ultimately both exhausting and enervating — it's not a role I think either gender should have to consistently assume.

I'm fascinated that you initially chose the word 'passive' for women who do not pursue, but 'narcissistic' for yourself. Is this because you find the latter a more active descriptor? Hm… considering you're quite willing to "pursue," so to speak, in your work life, I would guess you're quite capable of doing so in your personal life as well — so it would appear to be your conscious choice not to. Makes sense to me; from what I've seen, we all have a myriad of different "faces" for different aspects of our lives. Also from what I've seen, that's a problem only when we allow one of our faces or masks to somehow stifle or damage us.

So do you consider yourself more… I don't know what phrase to use so I don't cause offense when I'm trying to explicate intense curiosity — um, more self-centered? More disinterested in working that hard? More desiring the ego-boo of pursuit?

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Continuing from yesterday…

Replies

Erin
(Brace yourself, Erin: I'm going to gush a little. *coughcough* Ahem. ;) )

Thank goodness for folks like you, who don't just think things through before acting — but try their best to pass that on to friends and children!

Heh. All gushing aside, I've really enjoyed reading your calmly practical, rational advice on how you address complex issues. It's been quite inspiring. Thank you!

John
Hm. Glancing at the amazon reviews for the book you've linked to above, I find myself wondering how this is new, regarding dating: both "Make it fun, be happy with your self and get down with your sexual self!" and "Avoid the crazy!" seem pretty basic rules for life, let alone dating. I admit I was not conventionally raised, but am I missing something obvious here? Serious question, please.

Regarding women bonding quickly after sex, I'm not sure I'd agree. I can offhand think of two or three former lovers where I woke up the next morning, thought, "This was a mistake," and got out as quickly and smoothly as I could — and I know I'm not unique in my absolute refusal to "bond" with "crazy." In fact, I'd have to say I've seen more men immediately bond and cling — far more quickly, and for longer — than the women I've seen do it.

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Continuing from yesterday…

"Whatcha gonna do / When they come for you?"

So why exactly does a bad boy seem to "get" more women? Leaving aside the repugnant assumptions inherent in that query (which would be an article in itself), the simple answer seems to be they're self-centered and arrogant enough to simply keep propositioning one woman after another until they find the ones insecure or weak enough to say yes. This is not to say these women don't know they're with a bad boy, or even that they're happy about it. Hm… thinking about it, I could also see the possibility that a strong and secure woman might say yes, simply because she's amused and would like a quick fling.

Two correspondents sent me links which I found interesting. The first one is Bad guys really do get the most girls (click here if that link is dead). I have two issues with this report — both of which might well be easily cleared up simply by reading the original studies, but unfortunately they're not actually cited. First, it is highly questionable science to examine behavior patterns now in existence — and then assert these must be based on genetic evolution. To do so implies we should be able to find those genes — and I've yet to read a report on the amazing discovery of the male's "selfish-asshole" gene. ;)

Thank goodness for that, too. Biology is not destiny, after all… and we can chose to change our behaviors — like rational and sapient adults.

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I was going to simply reply to the comments I received concerning the Firestarter titled Why Do We Ask Why Women Seem to Prefer Bad Boys to Nice Guys? However, I realized I had no way of notifying these kind individuals that I immensely appreciated their feedback, and had replied to them. Further, I wanted to muse a little on my writing, since it was a few years ago, and my attitudes have modified somewhat since then. So, once again: a redux. Enjoy!

My initial reaction on re-reading is amusement at myself. On a quick read of the article, it would appear I start with the premise that women do not prefer bad boys, and then I spend a great deal of writing explaining why they do. I should have better stated my conclusion, I fear, so here it is again:

    Women do not have a preference for "bad boys" — when the women are able to develop a strong, healthy sense of self-respect.

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Read part I and part II of this article

So no, I don't think women like assholes better. I think it's more they believe they don't deserve any better, or they're buying into societal myths about who they must be. They don't feel they can even ask the right guy without scaring him off… and due to shyness or whatever, the nice guys aren't making their interest known, and are spooked by nice girls who ask them first.

We know this on some level — we helped create the rubric. We are society. If we don't like it, it falls upon us to change it — not to just wander around plaintively bleating, "poor us, why don't any nice girls like us — instead of the mean guys who make us feel inadequate?"

Yes, that was unkind. But think about it: aren't we yet sick of asking such a stupid question? Aren't we tired yet of the peculiar and stifling gender roles it implies? Isn't it time to dump such restrictive roles for something better, healthier, and more fun for both genders?

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Read parts I and III of this article

Our hypothetical young female will probably deeply internalize just how much she sucks. No one could possibly ever like someone who is so worthless as she. She'll be lucky if anyone ever shows any interest in her at all. In fact, she'd probably better latch onto the first guy that comes along.

Alternatively, our hypothetical young female can internalize the media's classic good girl role instead, which is nothing more than a nurturer of others — a civilizing force, as it were. What does a properly good girl want in a guy, in the artificial realm of media?

They want someone who lets them really, completely fulfill that role — who needs their specific nurturing and civilizing. If she's the best nurturer ever, then obviously she doesn't suck. Her love will somehow save the wild boy, domesticating him into a good provider.

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Bestiaries depict mythical, moralizing animals, but are also potential allegorical sparks that can bloom into brilliant mental bonfires. My bestiary is this mythologizing animal's fascinated exploration of beauty & meaning in the wonder of existence -- in the hopes of inspiring yet more joyous flares of intellectual passion.

Enjoy!

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