Fluff: “Arnold raced out of the door,”

Fans of Murder, She Wrote are often as fascinated by every detail of the opening credit sequence as they are with the actual episodes. In the sequence, Jessica engages in a host of wholesome activities having little to do with staging murders to later solve or writing about those staged murders. The exception is a few scenes providing the audience a glimpse into Jessica’s writing process, which involves a lot of focused keystroking, carriage returning and the shuffling of papers into what looks to be a menu from Red Lobster.

The few flashes of manuscript – thought to be from Fletcher’s first novel, The Corpse Danced at Midnight – only allow viewers seconds to absorb this particular phrase:

I vacillate between sensing there is more to the Arnold story than twelve seasons worth of episodes and two seconds of screen time reveal to believing Arnold – like the second most famous guest star appearing in any episode of Murder, She Wroteis just a red herring. As far as I know neither the producers of the program nor Angela Lansbury have ever publicly addressed the issue. In addition, Arnold has never come forward with his own version of the events.

I should point out one of my favorite Murder, She Wrote related activity is coming up with lyrics for the instrumental theme:

    There is a murder, a murder she wrote…Jessica can kill you by bus, bike or boat… Jessica, get out of there (cello solo) Jessica, get out of there…

It’s Friday and in some areas of the country – though not here – it’s Spring. It’s a fluffy open post, which hopefully will stay fluffy and can encompass any range of topics, AS LONG AS IT IS FLUFFY in nature. If you can cuddle it, water it, read it, write it, hot glue it, dance to it in your undies or bake it in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes it’s all good. You can even dish Murder, She Wrote. Whatever.

In the meantime please enjoy this faithfully rendered send up of the opening sequence.


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A version of this previously appeared on Snarky’s Machine

Slightly Pre-Friday Sorta-Fluff: I’m Kate Fucking Harding

So, the other night, I went to see my friend (and sometime Shapeling) Tari play at a local bar, and as usual, I was slightly surprised by how awesome she is. Not because I have any good reason to underestimate her, but because A) I just don’t hear her play all that often, and B) it’s always a little surprising to see someone you mostly know in one context (in this case, the internet and $5 martini night at another local bar) in a different context, where they happen to kick a hundred kinds of ass. I have all sorts of friends who are writers and artists and performers, all of whom I know are tremendously talented and hardworking, and yet, when I see evidence of their tremendous talent and hard work, I still go, “Oh! Right! You really aren’t fucking around, are you?” ‘Cause it always seems a little magical, even if you know better.

So I did that the other night, when Tari came over to talk to Al and me in between sets. I was all, “Holy shit, that was so awesome!” like she’d just spontaneously done a backflip off the bar or rescued a kitten from a burning building or something, as opposed to doing something she has spent basically her entire fucking life training to do, and which she practices continuously, and which makes up a substantial portion of her identity. Like, WHO KNEW?

You know who knew? (I mean, besides me, if I’d thought about it for half a second.) Tari. She is, after all, the one practicing and performing and listening to herself all the damned time. And here is the actually surprising (well, not if you know Tari, but still) awesome thing: She said as much. Instead of just being all, “Aw, shucks, thank you, you’re too kind, and really, XYZ didn’t go as well as I hoped, and I’m still working on ABC, but I guess I’ve had worse shows…” she said something like, “Thanks. Yeah, I like to think I’m good at what I do. I could act all self-deprecating, but it is, you know… what I do.

And Shapelings, I am ashamed to tell you I had a moment there — just a little one, like a second long — of thinking, “Wow, that was –” Except, before I could even get to what it was — arrogant? cocky? inappropriate? — I was like, KATE WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU WHAT THAT WAS WAS THE TRUTH. And P.S. You think exactly the same thing about yourself.

And so I said as much. Something like, “Yeah, I know what you mean. After 25 years or so of practice, I’m pretty sure I can write.”

And we laughed. And part of my brain even noted, in that moment, that what just happened was unusual and very cool: Two women had just had a conversation in which they admitted out loud that they were good at something, without feeling the need to qualify it with a bunch of stuff about how they’re not as good as they could be, or how other people are so much better, or how the things they’re good at aren’t really important in the scheme of things. I almost said “a bunch of bullshit” there, but you know, it’s not bullshit. We’re not as good as we could be, because who is? (Also, the years ahead would be pretty bleak if we had no improvement to look forward to.) And there are people who are much better at what we do. And in certain schemes of certain things, at least, who gives a rat’s ass if you can write or sing well? So none of those statements actually qualify as bullshit, in and of themselves. But that compulsive need to acknowledge all of those things whenever someone gives you a compliment, to make sure no one could ever accuse you of being arrogant or cocky or inappropriately self-congratulatory about a demonstrated skill you have worked really hard on building? That’s bullshit.

And I thought maybe I should write a post about that, about how qualifying anything that might sound even vaguely self-esteemy is such an ingrained habit for so many women, we not only do it to ourselves, we police our friends when they don’t. About how I sat there for that one second, even if that’s all it was, and thought “WTF? She’s not supposed to say that!” when Tari said the exact same thing about herself that I’d just said. And there is a whole other post somewhere in my brain about how believing that only other people had the authority to determine whether I was good or bad, pretty or unpretty, funny or unfunny, etc., was at the core of my self-hatred and miserable body image for oh, 15 or 20 years.

But right now, I don’t want to talk about that. Right now, I want to talk about Sady fucking Doyle.

Sady fucking Doyle, if for some reason you’re not familiar with her, is the proprietress of Tiger Beatdown. And she recently went gloriously apeshit on a troll called Freddie, who was your fairly typical, if impressively relentless, mansplainer who totes considers himself a feminist but fears for the future of the movement because it’s full of all these lady feminists saying things he doesn’t agree with and/or things he ostensibly agrees with but not presented the way he would say them (note: joking makes feminists seem unserious, even if everything else makes us humorless), and if we would all just shut up for five minutes and listen to reason, we could work together and really get some social justice going! But tragically for womankind and indeed humanity, all these unpleasant, talking, joking women everywhere make feminism a hard sell to normal people! DID YOU EVER THINK OF THAT, YOU GUYS?

So, yeah. Sady went off. And then she went off some more and some more and some more and there were a lot of delightful boner jokes, and the phrase “I’m Sady fucking Doyle!” was invoked, and you should go catch up on all that if you missed it. I just got myself fully caught up today, and that’s when I learned that Sady has already pretty much written the post I wanted to write about that little moment with Tari, which you should read all of, but here’s the paragraph that says it all:

And, yeah, the “I’m Sady fucking Doyle” thing turned people off. You think I didn’t know it would turn people off? Women are not supposed to say that shit, even when it’s true. And it was there completely on purpose, with full acknowledgement that people would call me a narcissist, self-absorbed, in love with myself, etc, for saying it. Because I wanted to convey to Freddie that Freddie ain’t shit, largely because he actually ain’t. But I also wanted Freddie, who is hugely terrified of women who assert their authority and primacy in the feminist movement, to be confronted with the sight of a woman acknowledging, accepting, and reveling in her own authority and power. That shit is terrifying, often even to women, but definitely to men. So now Freddie’s sulking that Sady Doyle is “telling everyone about how impressed with herself she is.” And I am. Because I knew that would piss him the hell off. Because I’m a woman, and I have accordingly been taught my entire life to view myself as lesser-than, to devalue my own accomplishments, to accept it when other people treat me as lesser-than and devalue me, which they (if they are men, especially) have been taught to do. And I refuse. I say no. I tell you I’m Sady fucking Doyle, and I expect you to believe it. Being a woman who likes herself, is proud of herself, is impressed with herself, in public: There might not be a more subversive act.

I believe it.  And  you know that opinion is worth something because I’m Kate fucking Harding.

So this is actually not a very fluffy topic, but it at least struck me as an opportunity for some positive feel-good commentary (in addition to the usual analysis). Because Shapelings, I want to know what makes you awesome. We’ve actually done “toot your own horn” fluff threads before, but this time, I’m not interested in anything so ladylike as a mere toot. Today, I’m not interested in your tiny superpowers; I’m interested in your power. I want to know what makes you Screen fucking Name.  Lay it on me.

Friday fluff: The forbidden tongue

Apparently, Randy Michaels, the CEO of Tribune Co. here in Chicago, has issued a list to the reporters on WGN, our local public radio station, containing words and phrases they must no longer speak on air. These are not dirty words, a la George Carlin, but words that sound like “newsspeak” (according to WGN news director Charlie Meyerson, who passed along the list to the article’s author). Presumably, this means sounding too much like a cliched newscaster and is not to be confused with cracking down on thoughtcrime. Some of the phrases listed probably do deserve to be retired as outworn cliches: giving 110%; mother of all (anything); senseless murder. Some of them, though, seem designed to make a reporter’s life a lot more difficult: how are you supposed to report one of those senseless murders without using the word “alleged”?

All this makes me feel a little dictatorial myself. I propose that we make a list of words and phrases that should be verboten in reporting about women’s issues, starting with the phrase “women’s issues.” Here’s a few to start our list:

  • Sex and The City references
  • reference to shoes when the article is not about shoes
  • spinster

What would you add?

Friday fluff: What Super Bowl?

So apparently there is some kind of football game going on this weekend? I know this for two reasons:

1. Feminist bloggers keep posting about Tim Tebow (boo) and Scott Fujita (yay).

2. My friend The Urban Gastronome has been posting mouthwatering “game day” recipes. MMMMMM CUPCAKES

Shapelings, are you watching the game? If so, is it because you follow football or because you like the yearly party? I am hoping that you are at a place with your own eating that you don’t need temporary permission to eat nachos or chili or what have you, because you already have a license to eat that whenever you want, no  matter what’s on the tube.

If you’re not watching, what are you doing this weekend instead? Personally, I’m planning on turning some ancient sheets into a bathmat, because our Ikea bathmat fucking MELTED onto our tiles recently. (Ah, steam heat.) Do you have a weekend project? Does it involve football or bathmats or nachos?

Friday fluff: Step up, step up!

Kate sent along an article this morning about the death of Bruce Snowdon, the last sideshow fat man. Mostly she was boggled by this bit:

Until the mid-1960s, traveling carnivals frequently featured fat acts. But sideshows declined in popularity as waistlines expanded and obesity became less of a laughing matter.

As the years went by, spotting a man who weighed more than half a ton was not that unusual – and that was bad news, if you were in Snowdon’s line of work.

As Kate pointed out, um, isn’t a ton 2,000 pounds? “More than half a ton” is 1,000+ pounds in English, 1,102+ pounds in metric, and people who weigh that much are still actually pretty fucking unusual. Unless we are talking about people who WOULD weigh more than half a ton IF THEY WERE STANDING ON THE SUN, in which case, okay. If that’s not what you mean, I suggest that your fact-checker commence vigorous head-desking.

Anyway, I was ready to spin that off into a rant about how NOBODY KNOWS WHAT WEIGHT LOOKS LIKE, MY GOD, DO PEOPLE REALLY THINK THAT “60% OVERWEIGHT” MEANS THAT FOLKS WHO WEIGH 1,000+ POUNDS ARE SWANNING AROUND ALL OVER THE PLACE, but meh, we’ve done that post, and it’s Friday. Instead, I want to call your attention to the part of the article I really loved, where they reproduced some of the talker’s patter about Snowdon:

“He’s so big and so fat, it takes four girls to hug him and a boxcar to lug him,” Hall would say of Snowdon at shows.

“When he dances you’ll swear he must be full of jelly, ’cause jam don’t shake that way. And you know, girls, he is single and looking for a wife. He’ll make some lucky girl a fine husband. Why, he’s so big and fat, he’ll provide you with a lot of shade in the summertime, keep you nice and warm in the wintertime, and give you lots of good, heavy loving all the time.”

I kinda love that! I am not averse to talking (even in a fluff post) about the sideshow phenomenon and whether it’s okay that parts of it have been reclaimed, but I do think it’s interesting that as far as I know, patter about carnival fat men and fat women was generally othering but positive. People were there to gawk, yes, but not in an unfriendly way — the talker draws attention to Snowdown as a curiosity but not as a grotesquerie. In fact, the rhetoric is about him being attractive, even sexually attractive. Now, in the modern era there’s probably some irony operating there — the audience assumes a fat man is grotesque, and the patter feeds off of that assumption by turning it on its head. But I still find it appealing.

And really, we’re all curiosities in a way — not necessarily because of our bodies (though I will freely admit that I, for instance, am upsettingly double-jointed), but because of everything that makes us singular and unique. So, Shapelings, what would it look like if you wrote your own sideshow patter? Would it focus on your warmth and heaviness, like Snowdon’s, or your skills and talents, or your personal flair, or your tiny superpowers? What’s the script for the guy outside the Shapely Prose ten-in-one?

Friday fluff: Tiny crafts

As those of you on Ravelry know, I’m kind of an obsessive knitter. I mostly do scarves, hats, and sweaters, but lately I’ve been charmed by the idea of making really small items that only take a few hours to do. Just this past week I’ve been making washcloths (shapes like stars and fish and other cute things) and kitty toys (filled with catnip — I cannot even sew them shut before my cats try to steal them away).

I think one reason this kind of tiny project appeals to me is that my attention span is completely shot right now due to grief and winter-induced depression. Crafting makes me feel better, but I can really only do an hour or so at a time before my brain starts going in spirals or I need to do something else.

Do you have tiny projects for the times when you don’t have a whole scarf/painting/letter in you? What small activity lifts you up for a few minutes at a time? What do you do with your itty bitty bouts of creativity?

Bonus: a great poem about a tiny painting.

Friday Semi-Fluff: Letters to Santa

Ohferbleepssake.

This Christmas, the Pennsylvania Medical Society is asking children to ease up on the milk and cookies for Santa Claus. That way, his ample waistline won’t be further widened by the 787.5 million calories he would otherwise consume in that state alone.

No, see, I get that large chunks of this are written with a knowing wink to the adults. I get that this is somebody’s/bodies’ unsuccessful attempt at whimsy with a moral. I get it. But I also live in a house with two young PBS watchers. So when I see this:

The poll is part of the society’s annual campaign to highlight a Christmas tradition as a way to teach a health lesson to those who don’t park reindeer on the roof.

…it strikes a familiar chord. Yes, God forbid we have a situation involving BOTH children AND food that doesn’t teach a dad-blame HEALTH LESSON. Because that strategy — teaching children to associate tasty bites of food with shaming, moralizing lectures — has clearly proven SO successful to human happiness that we can’t afford to suspend it even for one stinking second during a holiday celebration.

“The average person gains 1.4 pounds per year, one pound of which is often gained over the holidays because of overeating,” said Pennsylvania Medical Society President James Goodyear, MD. “There’s no better time than right now to adopt the Santa Snack Plan — to help Santa and yourself not only on Dec. 24, but also all year.”

The Santa Snack Plan is a way to cut down Santa’s (and your) unhealthy eating, such as the strategy modeled by the small percentage of Pennsylvanians who said they would leave carrots, apple slices and celery sticks for St. Nick.

Yeah, ‘kay. Couple things. First, let’s note that it’s weird to call something the “Santa Snack Plan” when part of your whole pearls-clutching point is that the traditional and widely-favored Santa snacks are OMGBADFOODS! You might consider calling it the “Opposite of Santa Snacks Snack Plan” or the “We Can’t Stop Moralizing About Food Even One Evening A Year Snack Plan” or the “We’re Stuck At Home Having Snacks Because We’re So Obnoxious and Ungracious Nobody Will Have Us Over For Christmas Dinner For Fear of Being Lectured At Snack Plan.” Possibilities abound.

Second, uhhh, I’m pretty sure kids – especially any demographic that might, conceivably, Look To Santa As A Role Model For Their Own Eating Habits – are supposed to gain quite a bit more than 1.4 pounds a year. Whence the panic, O Pennsylvania Medical Society?

Third, I’m trying to figure out what the children’s thought processes are imagined to be, such that this particular health lesson is called for. Once a year, some kids in some parts of the world leave cookies and milk out for Santa Claus. So the thinking is that kids love Santa, and Santa eats cookies, and therefore… kids will eat cookies cookies nothing but cookies until they puke and gain 1.4 pounds a year and get fat and become our national shame and drain health care dollars and die?

Right, well, is that before or after they go back in time, become Anatolian bishops, give lots of stuff to the poor, die, get canonized by the Catholic and Orthodox churches, have a feast day named for them, hang out for a few centuries, get coopted by Coca-Cola, move to the North Pole, hire elves, raise reindeer, and start making and delivering Wiis for all the children of the land? I mean, if Santa’s eating cookies is such an OVERWHELMINGLY TEMPTING EXAMPLE that children are POWERLESS TO RESIST HIM?

Or is the idea that parents leave the cookies out and then eat them, which is totally NOT OKAY because even in a season of celebration, the very worst thing you can be is a fat fat fatty fat cookie eater, a setter of bad examples for the children, who’s getting fatter by the year? A whole 1.4 pounds fatter!

They’re. Just. Cookies. Sheesh, people took notice when Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster felt the need to clarify that cookies are a “sometimes food.” But MOTHER OF PEARL, special once-a-year holiday things are the very SOMETIMESIEST of sometimes foods. But no. Sorry. Not even then, and not even for Santa.

(And say, incidentally, you know what makes yummy apple slices and refreshing carrot sticks* completely suck? When they’re given to you as a consolation prize along with a lecture about exercising unfailing control over what you eat, for the rest of your life, without taking a break, lest you eat the ohhh-soooo-tempting COOKIES that are not for YOU!)

So here’s your Friday Fluff assignment, Shapelings. Write an over-the-top joy-sucking, earnest, moralizing, Grinchy note to Santa to leave out with your lack of cookies. Here’s mine.

Dear Santa: Suck it. You’re fat. Here are some wafer thin ass-wipe flavored mints, letters from all your exes listing your flaws and failures in excruciating detail, and a self-improvement handbook. Also, some coupons for things you don’t like, and a box of tooth whitener. I hope you hate yourself enough, because the children of the world see you as a role model, you dirtbag. Please leave my stuff under the tree and get the hell out of my house. Love, A Sarah.

(Readers of other faiths or none should feel free to address their letters accordingly. Just make sure they suck all the joy out of an ordinarily joyful experience.)

*-Sorry, but I do not care for raw celery sticks, ever.