Read the book first or watch the movie first?

While watching old vlogbrothers videos, I found out they have a campaign to “read the book first“, that is you should read the book before watching the movie.

The book is (almost always) better than the movie… I think everyone can agree on that.  It’s an almost universal truth with only enough exceptions that they prove the rule.

Because most people prefer pleasure to increase over time rather than decrease, it makes sense to save the best for last.  Watch the movie.  Then read the book.

What about spoilers?  I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like surprises, so I’m fine with spoilers.  I love wikipedia so much because I can read plot synopses before deciding to watch a show.  If you really love to be surprised, then yeah, you should probably read the book first, though keep in mind that the movie often deviates substantially from the book for cinematic reasons, so you might not be as spoilered as you think you are.

#2 says:  The correct answer is: read the book first and watch the movie never.  The movie is NEVER as good as what’s in my head when I read!  It’s not worth it.

There, solved that for ya.

#1 disagrees.  CASE IN POINT:  The Princess Bride.  YES, the book is better, but the movie is AMAZEBALLS.  Watch the movie first, then cherish the book.  Similarly, Captain Blood.  Delightful movie with Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHaviland.  Even better book (free on kindle!).  Both are worth the experience.  And then there are fantastic adaptations, think Clueless based on Emma.  Same plot, different experiences.

Obviously some movies suck and aren’t worth watching ever even though the book is good (I’m looking at you, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh).  But there are a lot of excellent movies adapted from excellent books.  Experience both!

What about you?  Which first?

Thoughts on Brave New World

In college we had to give a writing sample on a book that changed the way we view the world.  I wrote about Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.  I failed that writing test in college and had to re-take the test with a different question (so as not to have to take remedial writing!) because I’m fairly sure the person who graded me didn’t like what I got out of it.  I knew what I was supposed to get out of it, but the tired civilized man dystopia/ wild man utopia always seemed false to me and I felt it must have been tacked on because Aldous Huxley had created a world that, though frightening and different than our own, was too perfect.  Huxley had to come up with a way to destroy its merits, and that destruction fell flat in my mind.  1984 is a far more obvious dystopia; Huxley had to work at destroying his utopia.  Instead, I wrote about how I learned to think like an anthropologist from the book , though I didn’t phrase it as being thinking like an anthropologist.  I just talked about how it showed me that culture shapes the way we view our world (using um, culture’s views of sex being a primary cause of rape as my primary example, which I still know to be correct– if there is no shame to sex, it can no longer be used as a weapon).*

I’ve been thinking about Brave New World and how what I got out of it is different than most literary theory about it.  Anyhow, I think I got something different out of Brave New World for two main reasons:  1.  Although none of the true main characters are women (the one main character woman is kind of a cog who exists to reflect the male main characters), women in that utopia world sure have a hell of a lot better life than women in the real world, even if men don’t necessarily and 2.  I’m an alpha and when I read Brave New World life sucked so much as an alpha and if I rebelled against the social order in Brave New World my punishment would have been to go to a true island utopia populated only by other alphas and oh man oh man that was a dream world for middle-school me (one that came true in high school!).

So I looked up feminist criticisms of brave new world on google, and after adding the name “huxley” so as not to get so much stuff about modern sex that just uses the phrase, I came up with a few interesting articles.  Margaret Atwood (who literally wrote the book on feminist dystopia) has an interesting article on how it has stood up after 75 years.   This google book has some neat discussion questions from a feminist perspective.

And I wonder about how our perceptions in our current society shape what we view as utopia and dystopia, and how clear it is that we need more authors willing and able to write from different perspectives.  How much literary theory only makes sense from a middle-class white male viewpoint?  How many messages seem shallow when you’re not the intended audience?  Feminist theory shouldn’t be relegated in its own niche and ignored by everybody who isn’t a feminist theorist.  We could all benefit from a little anthropology in our world-views.

How often do you feel like you’re not the target audience?  Do you feel like that has shaped your world-view for when you are the target?  And what did you get out of reading Brave New World?**

*Despite not finishing the make-up test and freaking out about that, the writing instructor who graded the make-up told me that based on that writing, it didn’t make sense that I had to take the make-up in the first place, which made me feel better.  I got asked to be a writing tutor a year later.  So I’m pretty sure whoever graded me just didn’t like my arguments.  Another reason for me to never go into the humanities.  And yes, my formal writing is much less stream-of-consciousness than my blogging.  I’m a big believer in outlines and topic sentences.

**It’s short!  And not as traumatic as say, The Handmaid’s Tale (to me, anyway).

Making friends as a professor or as an adult

One of the problems with being a young untenured sort of person is that, outside of your department, the majority of people you meet your age are graduate students.  Graduate students have this unfortunate tendency to graduate and LEAVE.

You can be friends with colleagues, but you can’t tell them too much before tenure.  And sometimes if you get too close you realize they’re not only crazy but you have to work with them for potentially the next SIXTY YEARS.  So a little distance with most of them can be nice.

If you have kids, you will end up socializing a lot with parents of other kids, but a lot of times even though your kids may be able to discuss Minecraft for hours, you actually have little to nothing in common with them.  Of course, if you’re not extroverted, then having kids and kids having activities uses up all your people time and you’re just kind of stuck not really wanting to talk to anybody else.  (Hopefully you enjoy spending time with your family!)

If you live in a thriving metropolis, you can meet people with your interests online or through meet-ups.  Even in smaller towns you can be active in interest groups.  Maybe politics.  Maybe school board.  Maybe board-games.  If your hobbies and interests go more in the direction of watching bad tv and reading novels, that’s not going to work so well.  (Recall that book clubs seem like *work* to many academics.)

In the end, after my new friends left and graduated, and I found the right amount of closeness/distance with colleagues, and I split children’s activities with DH, most of my new friends are conference buddies.  I see and socialize with people I like and enjoy talking with (small-talk even!) a few times a year.  Sometimes we email in between, sometimes we don’t.  Sometimes we miss each other for a year or two or three, sometimes we see each other several months in a row.  Sometimes we make time to have meals, sometimes we just chat at 10 min breaks.  It’s odd having closer friends that I travel and see than I have in my own home town, but I bet I’m not alone in this.

Have you made friends as an adult?  How have you gone about it?  Do you wish you had more or are you happy with what you have?

Do you think there’s any point …

Occasionally we stumble upon mommy-blogs in which the author is extremely anxious about the cleanliness of her house or her lack of making beautiful baked goods or what she’s doing or not doing with her children or I don’t know, whatever it is that the NYTimes is telling women and mothers to be anxious about.  Sometimes her husband is a lazy asshole and she feels like she can never measure up to his wants and needs while still taking care of the children and house (and sometimes, though not always, her job).  And she’s worried about her (normal-range) weight to boot.

And sometimes I will “poo” in her comments section, questioning why she believes that magazine or blog article she read telling her that her life is worthless if her kitchen floor isn’t sparkly.  (I haven’t seen articles like that, but bloggers claim they exist.  Maybe they have subscriptions to Patriarchy Monthly:  Keeping women down since the beginning of time?)

This little scat packet of mine rarely goes over well.  I’m not the target demo.  The target demo is other women who also feel like their kitchen floor will never be clean enough who are supposed to commiserate.  *shudder.*

And I wonder… is there any point to saying, “Cleanliness is next to cleanser, not next to Godliness” and “Why are you making yourself miserable because you don’t measure up to some artificial standard created by the patriarchy?”  (Because the blogger is always miserable.  And she always blames herself and never the magazines.)  Not usually in those words, but it doesn’t actually matter how gently or politely the words are phrased.  Harsh comments and gentle comments get the same response.

If it weren’t for the patriarchy or those women’s magazines, would they find something else to be miserable about?  Is it really the patriarchy bringing them down, and would understanding it do any good?

Really what I ought to do is to completely leechblock such blogs so I don’t have to read them myself, because they depress me.  Reading about women who are upset when they don’t need to be depresses me.  I don’t like reading about people who stay with lazy husbands they don’t love and don’t communicate with who make them miserable (and say all relationships are like that, anyone who says differently is lying, so why change).  I don’t like reading about people feeling guilty and anxious and worthless because they’re buying the line that the patriarchy is selling them.  I don’t like reading about people being determined to stay miserable and anxious.

And no, I don’t blame these women, but it makes me feel sad and helpless to see the comments agreeing that that’s just the way life is and everybody feels like that and all women are worthless and not measuring up to arbitrary standards that they believe are important that don’t have to be important.  And voices of dissent get attacked– it’s self-policing.  Will it always stay that way?  And is one lone blogging voice saying no, don’t believe it, doing more harm than good?

What’s the point?

More thoughts on class

We love being upper-middle class.  Upper middle class is a wonderful world.  #1 never ever wants to go back.

Visiting DH’s family for the holidays provides perspective in many ways.  They have a lot of money pressures that we don’t have because given our current economic class, we don’t have anything to prove.

One of the weird things about our current social/educational/economic class is that … for example… I don’t throw away a sock just because there’s a small hole in it.  I don’t really care if there’s a hole in it or not.  The hole doesn’t say anything about me or my needs.  I don’t wear thick socks often enough to need a bunch of extras, so some of the socks with holes end up getting packed when we visit the in-laws over break.  I don’t really think it’s a big deal, but my SIL comments.  My MIL got me thick socks for Christmas this year.

And we don’t have car payments because we never bought an SUV.  Two kids in carseats fit into a 10 year old Hyundai Accent.  (And we never did get the cosmetic work done when DH’s Civic got hit while parked.  I wonder if they think we’re misers.  Though my SIL must not have noticed, or she would have said something.)

Another example– we’ve talked about the crazy gift-giving before.  We only get that from DH’s side of the family.  So Santa just does stockings and we get a small gift for each DC (this year it was a winter coat for DC1, nothing for DC2 because ze is too young to notice who gives each gift).  My parents mainly get us books.  (My parents are kind of weird class-wise.)  This insane amount of gift-buying is standard for DH’s family– even when they didn’t have money when DH was little, they still scrimped and saved to spoil their kids at Christmas.  DH’s extended relatives who are even less well-off go into deeper debt each year to provide presents– spending more money on each kid (and on their worse-off extended relatives) than we would spend even if DH’s parents didn’t provide presents.  It’s a way of proving that they’re not poor that keeps them from ever getting ahead of their debt.

We also haven’t had to buy much clothing for our children other than shoes and the occasional set of underpants or socks because of the generosity of DH’s parents and hand-me-downs we’ve gotten from friends, colleagues, students, etc.  Families we know making hundreds of thousands of dollars/year in Northern CA have extensive hand-me-down chains.

DH’s brother’s (SAH) wife was talking about how they get that huge amount of gifts and clothing new from both sets of grandparents, and now that they’re having a third child (whose gender will presumably match the gender of one of the first two children), they are buying more things on top of that.  Why do they buy clothing when the children already have more clothing than they could ever wear?  Because children shouldn’t wear hand-me-downs.

We are totally on board with hand-me-downs.  But many of the hand-me-downs we get are very nice quality (because they were presents to our likewise-affluent friends).  Of course, we also don’t mind putting our toddlers in heavily stained (but otherwise clean) clothing either– they have both been very good at adding additional stains.  Nobody that we work or socialize with is going to think that we can’t afford nice clothing or that we don’t take care of our children if they wear a shirt with stain marks across the front.  We’ve got the luxury and privilege of people not making negative assumptions about our income or net worth based on what our children wear.  (Also, DC1 wears uniforms to school.  And I don’t have to go to SAHM playgroups.)  We also have the luxury of handing the clothing down again and being able to feel affluent about that, rather than needing to sell it.

Being able to buy high quality clothing that lasts a long time also means that it’s easier to buy classics that don’t really go out of style, which means they can be worn longer.  I have a lot of basics in classic styles.  When you live an H&M lifestyle, you have to keep changing out your clothing because it’s easy to tell when something goes out of fashion, and the quality isn’t good enough to keep it for 30+ years even if it weren’t fashionable.  Current fashion changes mean I can mix and match sweater sets rather than wearing matched sets, but I can still wear the same pieces, just in different combinations.  And again, nobody is going to think I’m poor because I’m wearing a (thrift-store purchased) 10-15 year old Ann Taylor or Brooks Brothers business casual outfit because nobody is going to know.  The same isn’t necessarily true of Walmart’s finest (though I do have some t-shirts from Walmart that I got in high school that are just now wearing out…).

As a (mostly lower middle class, occasionally genteel poor, always worried about lack of money) kid there were definitely more pressures to spend for appearances’ sake.  But people didn’t just tease me about the rusty VW bug my mom drove (that I loved) or my lack of an Express bag (I eventually got one)… my material possessions were pretty low on the list of things I was bullied about (and the only thing that was external to me).  It was easier for me to just reject their views of fashion and go completely into my own funky style (which involved a lot of thrift-store hats), at least until grunge came into fashion (a style I completely embraced).  But those pressures are gone among the people we associate with and we only see them in action when we visit DH’s family.

Feelings and privilege are complex.

Now, we’re in the educated liberal crunchy upper-middle-class.  Not the wealthy (lower) upper-class.  We don’t rub shoulders with movie stars or even corporate lawyers or financiers.  We’d love to be making that kind of money, but still living our crunchy upper middle class lives.  We hear from people who do rub shoulders with lawyers and financiers that there’s lots of stupid money stresses there too.  Cars and diamonds and so on are back to being status symbols.  Items are expensive not because they’re quality but because they’re in fashion.  It all sounds very nouveau riche.  Crass.  Obviously I must come from old money… or my parents are Northern Californians instead of Southern.  We probably have something we compete on or use as a class marker that we’re too blind to see, but it isn’t $tuff, and that saves us a lot of money.

Update:  This NYMag article is really interesting.  (It definitely does show that my family growing up is very weird class-wise.)

Do people judge you by how you spend your money or what kind of clothing you wear?  Do you have to spend money for status reasons or can you save money because you don’t have anything to prove?  How do you deal with the pressure of trying not to seem poor?

Employee initiative or employee management?

DH had separate conversations with his brother and his cousin this break in which they both said the same thing.

Whenever each asked his boss how he was doing, the boss said, you’re doing fine.  When asked to elaborate, the boss would say, you do what we ask you to do.

However, at end of the year evaluation, each was told that just doing what was asked isn’t enough to excel.  It’s enough to do ok.  But to excel each needs to show initiative and to figure out what to do before being asked to do it.

DH’s brother maintains that that’s just not his way, and if his manager were a good manager he’d manage DH’s brother so that DH’s brother would excel without having to show initiative (though he didn’t use the words “initiative”– that’s me not knowing how else to describe it) — he’d be told what to do and he’d do it and he would excel.

DH’s cousin’s situation is a bit more dysfunctional in that he actually gets in trouble for showing initiative and is thus getting severely mixed signals.  DH’s cousin’s boss sounds a lot worse than DH’s brother’s boss.

This made me think about education levels and management and what makes a good employee.

DH and I kind of agree with the brother’s boss.  We have PhDs.  We’re trained to have initiative.  We couldn’t do our work without a lot of self-direction.  We both supervise people without PhDs for whom we do the vast majority of the direction.  And it’s great when we get an employee who shows some initiative because they’re closer to the work and often see things that we don’t and it decreases our mental load (though it’s good when they ask before going off on a wild goose chase).  The PhD, in essence, is valuable in the work world because we don’t think there’s anything wrong with being asked to do self-direction and we expect to do it and we know how to do it.  Hopefully that translates over for humanities PhDs and other areas where supply outstrips academic demand.  That ability to work independently is worth money to industry and government.

DH’s brother has an MS (masters of science).  DH’s cousin has an AS (that’s the practical version of a 2 year community college degree– associates of science).  DH’s brother’s boss is fine.  DH’s cousin’s boss is pretty bad.  Why should you get education?  To make it easier to avoid terrible bosses.  And maybe each extra degree really does make you more productive– there’s a lot to be said for independent thinking and independent work skills.  Sure, there’s something to be said for being able to be a cog, but right now there’s a lot of people able to be cogs and not as many able to direct the gears on their own.  So gear direction is worth something.

So what do you think– should employees show more initiative even if they don’t want to or should good bosses be better micromanagers?  (That’s a loaded framing– perhaps you have a way to load it the other direction?)  Is higher education worth something?  Does it really teach thinking and self-direction?

Do you feel any pressure to be a “super mom”?

whatever that is

I don’t.  The only time I even come across this concept is when I accidentally click on the NYTimes or spend too much time on blogrolls full of professional mommy-bloggers making their money pretending to be SAHM.  (Oops, hear that sound?  that’s the sound of us losing readership because we’re terrible horrible people who could never make it on BlogHer. Whoops!)

From what I can tell it has something to do with being Martha Stewart + Sheryl Sandberg put together.  Not 100% sure there.  And not having an equal partner in parenting and taking care of the homestead, despite living with an adult husband.  Having a sparkly clean house definitely fits in there as a measure as your worth as a person.  Thank goodness nobody I know IRL ever talks about that kind of thing.  We would have to get a house-cleaner or something.

Maybe this is why people get weird about how much responsibility we’ve piled on our elementary schooler.  Maybe I’m supposed to be taking care of all that stuff under the super-mom rubric.  Meh.

This is kind of like that post where we asked if baking was a *thing* in reality or just on the internet.

I was flipping through mommy blogs recently and felt like I’d seen every single topic before and had already posted a reaction post, like 2-4 years ago.  Some of my reaction posts though aren’t very polite to post on people’s sites who are clearly hurting because the patriarchy is making them believe stupid things.  Still, I kind of wish I could.  WTF is up with people’s entire feelings of value and worth being wrapped up in whether or not their house is clean?  Oh wait, we already asked that two years ago.  Oh and Choice feminism, we’ve addressed you (we’re pro-, but not for the standard, why can’t we all get along reasons).  Women feeling like they have to say they’re not perfect, check.  Why we can thank our mothers for not feeling guilty for working…  And what is UP with all that guilt in parenting nonsense in the first place?  If you believe the internet, all women hate each other, are neurotic about the state of their houses, and are wracked with extreme guilt about their parenting choices (or are super defensive about not being parents).  That just doesn’t mesh with our reality AT ALL.  The internet is a super weird place.

Am I just oblivious and is this super-mom pressure really a thing?  Or is it yet another way the patriarchy introduces anxieties to women in order to make money off them?

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