Spring Break

Hey, folks, Shapely Prose is going on hiatus until on or about March 22. Everybody’s batteries are running low, and some shit’s changing behind the scenes, so it’s blogcation time. This will be an open thread unless I get pissed off and close it at some point, so… be good.

A Handy Guide to Not Plagiarizing

Via Hoyden About Town‘s Lauredhel* on Twitter, I just discovered this Mediaite post by Glynnis MacNicol** discussing a piece by NYT public editor Clark Hoyt*** regarding the latest plagiarism scandal to be blamed on the fast pace of blogging. Like Gerald Posner before him, Times business reporter Zachery Kouwe says his problem wasn’t that he meant to lift whole passages from other writers, but that when he was gathering information, he’d dump it all in one file, then totally forget which parts he’d written. And the real problem, if you want to know the truth, was tight online deadlines, which prevented him from carefully looking over his work for typos, awkward sentences and parts he did not write.


I mean, it’s possible they’re both that fucking stupid — I can’t rule that out. But I can tell you I’ve been blogging on deadline for some time now, and I have yet to steal substantial amounts of writing from anyone else. Sure, I could probably thank Dooce every time I use all caps for emphasis, and Sady Doyle every time I get exclamation point happy, and I don’t always correct people who credit me with coining the phrase “rack of doom,” even though I’ve explained a bunch of times that I stole it from someone on Fatshionista ages ago. I’m not saying I’m perfect. But you know what I don’t do? Copy other people’s work into my own files and then magically forget that I didn’t write it.

And you know how I don’t do that? It’s a pretty simple process.

1) I don’t copy other people’s work into my own files. When I find something I want to quote later, I do this fancy internet thing called opening a new tab, and then I toggle between that and what I’m writing. If I need to close the tab for some reason before I’m done writing, I do this other fancy internet thing called bookmarking.

2) I read everything over multiple times as I’m going along, and at least twice before I hit “publish.” Even this doesn’t keep me completely typo-free or prevent me from sometimes publishing dumbassed shit. But it’s a pretty reliable way to familiarize myself with what my own writing looks like, lest I confuse it with someone else’s.

3) I link to every online source I quote, and when it’s a longer passage, I often use the fancy internet blockquote function. This also helps minimize my own natural confusion between my writing and other people’s.

Here’s an example. Felix Salmon writes:

Kouwe once wrote, in an email quoted by Teri Buhl: “Things move so quickly on the Web that citing who had it first is something that is likely going away, especially in the age of blogs.”

Anybody who can or would write such a thing has no place working on a blog. If it’s clear who had a story first, then the move into the age of blogs has made it much easier to cite who had it first: blogs and bloggers should be much more generous with their hat-tips and hyperlinks than any print reporter can be.

I did not write any of that. It really works!

4) On the rare occasion when I do hit “publish” without remembering to include an appropriate link — it happens**** — I usually notice it when I read the piece over again. Things that tip me off to missing links: The name of another writer, the name of another website, quotation marks, blockquotes, phrases like “As X at Y put it…” If you routinely include such markers when you quote another writer’s work, you will have no trouble later identifying where your own work would benefit from a link to the source.

5) Also, I don’t pretend I wrote things I didn’t write.

That’s it — my whole system for not plagiarizing! And since this blog is coming up on its three-year anniversary with exactly zero instances of a writer here being unsure of whether she wrote something or stole it, I feel confident recommending that system to others. Please feel free to pass my advice along to any veteran journalists you know who understand nothing about online communication and thus assume they won’t get caught — er, rather,  get all confuzzled by the pace of blogging and can’t remember who wrote what. Just don’t fucking forget where you found it.

*See how I credited another blogger, and included a link? Not actually hard.

**And again!

***Works for old media types with an online presence, too!

****In fact, I forgot to link to the Fatshionista Livejournal community where it’s mentioned above before I first pubbed this post. Oops!

Oscars Liveblog Tonight/A Gabby Rant

For those who have been wondering, yes, we’ll be liveblogging the Oscars tonight! Snarky’s Machine, Sweet Machine, Fillyjonk and I are all on board, though we can’t guarantee we’ll all be there from start to finish. We’ll start with the red carpet at 6 EST/5 CST/3PST 7 EST/6CST/4PST (we decided we can’t take quite THAT much merriment) and keep going until we’re bored or too drunk to type.

All this will be happening over at the brand new Shapely Prose Liveblog site, which we hope will work better than Cover It Live did for the Golden Globes. If all goes well, that’s where we’ll do all liveblogging in the future, and the archives will remain there for anyone who missed the events.

If you can’t watch on TV, here’s a list of options for watching at least some of the coverage online. (We’ll try to agree on one of those sites toward the beginning, so we’re not all talking about 5 different things.)

In the meantime, Erica Kennedy has a glorious rant about Gabourey Sidibe’s stylists over at The Feminista Files. I’m not sure I agree that Andre Leon Talley is the answer here, because I still haven’t forgiven him for Jennifer Hudson’s space bolero, but I heartily agree with this:

Now if you had read this on USA Today’s site and not on another blog that was linking to it, you would have noted, as I did, that they felt the need to put “full-sized” in quotes like it’s such a derogatory thing to say about a woman that they needed to soften the blow with… well, kinda.

She IS full-sized, mofos. She’s not ashamed of it. Stop trying to be ashamed for her! DAMN.

I’d noticed that Gabby was showing up to a lot of stuff in off-the-rack dresses — mostly ones I’d lusted after on the Saks website, so at least it wasn’t like, as Kennedy puts it, “She HAS to do the red carpet and then to have to say 100x, ‘It’s… Lane Bryant’?!” But then I was online window shopping the other day, and I stopped by SWAK Designs, which at the time had a bunch of pictures of Gabby (supposedly) in their dresses — which I think top out at $99.99 — at major events. And she’s certainly been out on the town in Igigi.

Now, I’m a fan of Igigi, and when I have semi-formal events to attend, it’s one of the first places I check. And for most of us here in the real world, those dresses ain’t cheap. But most of us here in the real world are not FUCKING OSCAR-NOMINATED ACTRESSES. Gabby is allowed step it up. Gabby is expected to step it up, in the crowds she’s now running in. Remember when I attempted to run up an imaginary tab as high as Sarah Palin’s from high-end department stores, and utterly failed? Yeah, here’s what I said then:

If a fat woman were running for office at that level, she’d still be in suits that cost under $1,000, ’cause that’s all that’s out there. Some of the career wear for fatties is very well made and plenty expensive, but if you buy the only argument in support of Palin here — that women of her stature are expected to dress a certain way, and it costs that kind of money — then a fat woman who aspired to be a woman of Palin’s stature and look the part would be shit outta luck.

And of course, it goes without saying that a woman who wears over a size 24 is already shit outta luck. Everything I’m saying here about upper-class fat women being shut out of dressing like their peers goes quadruple for fat women who are sized out of high-end department stores.

Also, is Tadashi really the only fucking designer making plus-size evening wear? (What happened to Carmen Marc Valvo’s plus line?) There are loads of dresses that cost over $1,000 in Saks’s straight size section, and some a lot more than that, but only one over $500 in “Salon Z.” Again, if fat women want to move in the circles where women blow a couple thou on a dress for one night, we don’t even have the option of dressing to the same level. We’ve got to show up to our charity events and opera openings in gowns that don’t cost much more than the average bridesmaid’s dress.

Gabby is moving in circles where women blow many more than just a couple thou on a dress for one night (or at least, are loaned/given dresses worth that much). And yet all of the above still applies. (Except that David Meister has joined Tadashi in Salon Z –more on that in a moment.) Sure, she can also have stuff made — she did for the Golden Globes, and apparently for tonight. But even though Kevan Hall, who designed the GG dress, talks a good game — “it’s all about picking the right silhouette for her shape,” he told Robin Givhan — that dress was such a fucking disappointment to me.

I think the color’s gorgeous, but the sleeves are bog standard Fat Girl Arm Tents, and the beading doesn’t look much more impressive than what you find on a $150 Igigi. And as for it being “the right silhouette for her shape,” um, am I the only one who can’t even find her shape under there?

Which brings me around to the other side of this rant, in which I note that sometimes, off-the-rack is not such a bad thing. This dress, which she wore to a Precious press conference in Toronto (I have no idea who it is or where she got it), is slammin’ — sleeves and all.

And as for formal gowns, in my opinion, she has yet to top this $530 David Meister.

FAT GIRL IN SHINY FABRIC WITH BARE ARMS! THE HORROR! And yet, if you can get past that (and okay, the wrinkles at the bottom), she looks a lot younger and prettier than she did at the Golden Globes. There’s that.

As long as she looks like the beautiful, confident twentysomething it girl she is, I really don’t give a shit if her clothes were a dollar a pound at Goodwill. Sharon Stone wore Gap to the Oscars, and everyone found it charming. But the difference is, Sharon Stone had a bazillion other options. Her Gap top was seen as a conscious rejection of the pressure to princess out for Hollywood’s annual circle jerk, and hooray for that. But the problem for Gabby is, you can’t consciously reject things they won’t let you have in the first place.

And my big problem with Gabby’s event wardrobe is not that it’s cheap, comparatively  — as I said, some of her off-the-rack dresses have made me swoon —  it’s that it shows such a stunning failure of imagination on the part of whatever stylist(s) she’s working with. People who get paid a lot of money to make her look her absolute best apparently default all too often to the fashion approach ordinary fat women are all too familiar with: If it fits, it’ll do.

We all deserve a hell of a lot more than that, but an Oscar-nominated fat woman attending A-list events left and right not only deserves it, she should be able to get it easily. So if her stylists can’t be bothered to think outside the Salon Z, and designers can’t be bothered to cut more fabric for a hot, young, highly visible actress, we’ve got a problem. Not that that’s a surprise, but still.

Anyway! Here’s hoping Gabby looks more gorgeous than ever tonight.  If she doesn’t, I am going to be making this face all night.

See you at the liveblog.

Quote of the Day

We’ve gotten ourselves to the point where we’re behaviorally and neurochemically dependent upon food.

-MeMe Roth, during Nightline’s big fat debate

That’s right, you lazy gluttons! This is what your lack of respect for your bodies, the healthcare system, your fellow taxpayers and MeMe’s certificate from a degree mill have wrought.

We are now dependent on food.

It has gotten that bad, people.

I haven’t watched much of the debate, but kudos to The Rotund for getting in there! I don’t think I could have listened to MeMe say that (or anything else) in person without my eyes actually popping out of my head.

Kevin Smith Kicked off Southwest Flight for Being Fat

So, a famous person has finally been fucked by an airline’s fat policy. Director Kevin Smith got booted off a Southwest plane tonight, after he was already settled in “WITH ARM RESTS DOWN,” as he put it on Twitter, where he’s been documenting the experience. The captain apparently deemed him a “safety risk.” I’ll let Smith take that one:

@SouthwestAir, go fuck yourself. I broke no regulation, offered no “safety risk” (what, was I gonna roll on a fellow passenger?). I was wrongly ejected from the flight (even [attendant] Suzanne eventually agreed). And fuck your apologetic $100 voucher, @SouthwestAir. Thank God I don’t embarrass easily (bless you, JERSEY GIRL training). But I don’t sulk off either: so everyday, some new fuck-you Tweets for @SouthwestAir.

(That’s 3 tweets cobbled together.)

I am so sorry that Kevin Smith, human being, had to go through that. But quite frankly, a part of me is really happy that Kevin Smith, Famous Person With 1.6 Million Twitter Followers, is holding an airline’s feet to the fire over this bullshit. While watching him tweet furiously @SouthwestAir (and sending a few of my own), I could only think, “Oh, please, let this be Southwest’s Maytag moment.” And let the other airlines learn something from it. I’m the kind of person who thinks it was awesome that Heather Armstrong used her platform to shame Maytag into offering decent customer service, and I’d like to see more corporations realize that word of mouth is a whole new fucking ballgame in the age of social media. And the only way to make sure you don’t get burned is to offer decent service to everyone. Famous or not famous, fat or thin.

To Southwest’s meager credit, they’ve got somebody working their Twitter account who’s at least savvy enough to have apologized to Smith already and promised to make things right. For him. Smith is already on another flight, and has offered the airline his fattest look from there. But there are still probably millions of fat people who dread getting on flights — and not just on Southwest — because they don’t know if they’ll actually be allowed to use the tickets they paid for, or if they’ll be removed from the plane like criminals, forced to fly standby and in some cases, forced to fly standby and pay twice as much for it.  (That’s part of United’s policy, which I bitched about on CNN last April. Fillyjonk also wrote about airline douchebaggery here.) For instance, friend of SP Tari, who cheered Smith on, but then tweeted, “The @SouthwestAir / @ThatKevinSmith thing makes me acutely aware, though, that I’m flying to Atlanta this week. Delta: please don’t suck.”

I am really happy that Kevin Smith, human being, is on his way home, but I also hope Kevin Smith, Famous Person With 1.6 Million Twitter Followers keeps up the righteous indignation on behalf of all the fat people who aren’t in a position to say, “WELCOME TO YOUR PR NIGHTMARE, ASSHOLES.” And even though he is, and he did, and he doesn’t embarrass easily, and a whole lot of us thank him for all of that, his last tweet tonight says it all:

The @SouthwestAir Diet. How it works: you’re publicly shamed into a slimmer figure. Crying the weight right off has never been easier!

Update: Moving this up from comments — Smith’s back on the ground, and one of the first things he tweeted was, “Hey @SouthwestAir? Fuck making it right for me just ’cause I have a platform. I sat next to a big girl who was chastised for not buying an extra ticket because ‘all passengers deserve their space.’ Fucking flight wasn’t even full! Fuck your size-ist policy. Rude…”

Thanks, dude.

We Are the Boss of You

Shapelings, we need to talk. I just updated the comments policy with the following:

Eighth rule: If you’re having trouble processing the seventh rule, just know that sassing the mods is a very bad idea. There may come a time when one of the moderators —me, Fillyjonk, Sweet Machine, Snarky’s Machine, or A Sarah — tells you to step back, knock it off, shut up, get lost, etc., and you think, “But I didn’t do anything that bad! This is unfair!” And you know what? Sometimes,  it might even be unfair. As I said long ago of this blog’s zero-tolerance policy for headache-causing bullshit:

Realistically, this means that we have probably, on occasion, banned or berated a perfectly decent person who might have eventually blossomed into the kind of commenter we can’t wait to hear from. And you know what? We’re okay with that. We’re not proud of it, and we certainly don’t set out to exclude bright, interesting people from the conversation here. But if it happens every now and again, oh well — because overall, our being hardasses helps keep this blog readable and only rarely crazymaking.

But here’s pretty much the worst thing you can do if you find yourself in a situation where you’ve been upbraided by a mod, can’t figure out why, and are pissed off about it: Ignore the warning and spend your next comment or comments complaining about the unfairness and/or reiterating the point that earned you a warning. Because even if you didn’t do anything all that bad in the first place, now you’ve become a Person Who Doesn’t Take Mod Warnings Seriously, which will make all five of us much less favorably disposed toward you and seriously reduce your chances of bouncing back from a not-all-that-bad-actually incident.

I don’t know how to make this any clearer than I already have: Commenting here is not a right, and decisions about what’s appropriate are not made democratically. Each of the five bloggers here has complete authority to moderate as she sees fit. It is straight-up dictatorial, and not always benevolent. Some of us are more naturally inclined to couch warnings with assurances that we get what you’re trying to say and know you’re not a bad person or whatever. But none of us do that every time, and every official statement about our policies has reinforced the basic point that we feel no obligation to be patient, issue warm fuzzies, poll commenters on whether we’re overreacting or hold back when we’re pissed off. Moderating is a lot of work for zero remuneration, especially now that every post gets hundreds of responses, and sometimes, we do not have the energy to say anything beyond, “You are getting on my tits, and it needs to stop. Now.”

Now, let’s say you get a warning like that from a mod, and you’re genuinely confused about what just happened, and you have a history of making valuable contributions here and think you’ve earned the benefit of the doubt. Well, first, maybe you have and maybe you haven’t; we’re reasonable people who don’t get off on issuing warnings or bannings, but we’ve also never made promises about giving anyone the benefit of the doubt. Quite the opposite, in fact. Second, you need to ask yourself what your goal is, and then what the most practical way to achieve that goal would be.

If your goal is to continue participating in discussions here, then challenging the mod’s authority in the heat of the moment is, hands down, the least practical thing you can do. The very best thing you can do is just step away from the thread for a while — go look at lolcats, go for a walk, make yourself some tea, whatever. Remind yourself that blogdrama is only a teeny tiny part of your life, and the worst-case scenario here is that some people who’ve never met you and have no knowledge of all your wonderful characteristics will have some negative thoughts about your screenname, right up until they go look at lolcats or go for a walk themselves. And then remind yourself that the one way to guarantee the problem doesn’t escalate is to not comment while you’re pissed off. If you don’t comment, you cannot make the situation worse! And if you’ve been taken to task by a mod for something or other, and your goal is to continue participating in comments here, not making the situation worse is job one.

If, however, your goal is to make the mod feel like a turd, and/or gather the support of other Shapelings who think you’ve been treated unfairly for a good old-fashioned pile-on, I can see how continuing to comment and challenge the mod’s authority might seem like a good idea. But that behavior is extremely likely to get you banned, even if your original transgression wasn’t anywhere near banworthy and everything would have blown over in a day if you’d just taken a deep breath and backed off when you got the warning.

That’s the other thing to remember: This shit does blow over. As I’ve said before, there are at least a handful of long-time commenters here who’ve had run-ins with the mods, stepped away from the problematic threads, and never had a problem again. And you know what? I don’t even remember who most of them are. You have to work pretty hard at being such an asshole that out of the thousands of commenters who’ve dropped by and hundreds who are active at any given time, you stand out as a particular problem for us. (And usually, if you’ve pissed us off enough times that we do see your name and think, “Oh, it’s that pain in the ass again,” we ban you, so long-term animosity during your tenure as a commenter here is just not a big concern.)

If, after you’ve taken some time to let yourself — and, crucially, the mod in question — calm down, you feel like explaining yourself further or trying to smooth things over, you can feel free to e-mail that mod. She may or may not respond, and if she does, it may or may not be what you hoped for. It may or may not be a better idea than laying low for a bit and just letting it blow over. But that’s one thing you can do without escalating the situation on the blog and putting yourself on the fast track to bansville. I cannot stress this enough: If you want to keep commenting here, challenging a mod’s authority on the blog is a colossally bad idea.

I’m not kidding about the dictatorship thing (even if having 5 independent dictators is a bit of an unusual situation). One characteristic of a dictatorship is that even when the dictator is flat-out wrong, there’s not a damned thing anybody can do about it. There is no appeals process. There is no recourse. This is why no one wants to live under a dictator, or 5 of them, in real life. But when it comes to moderating blog comments, it’s the approach that makes things most manageable for us, so we’re sticking with it. The good news for you is, if you think we’re wrong and can’t stand our moderation style, you are free to leave at any time. You are free to stop commenting, to stop reading the blog, to stop thinking fondly of us. You’re free to shit-talk us all over the internet, if that’ll make you feel better. But you’re not free to go off on a mod in comments and expect to keep commenting here. It’s really that simple, and I really can’t believe I have to keep explaining this.

Holiday Meal Planning, Kate-Style

Shapelings, this is the first year since Al and I met that we will be spending Christmas at home instead of in Vegas. Since our families are spread all over two countries and we found out that some friends — specifically, Sweet Machine, Ottermatic, their respective partners and Ottermatic’s bestie (hereafter, OTMBFF) — would be kicking around Chicagoland with no other plans, we decided to host Christmas dinner here.

I’ve had friends over for holiday meals a few times before, and whenever I do, I am beset by an uncharacteristic urge to go full-tilt Martha — which, because I’m me and not Martha, inevitably ends in frustration, tears, and inedible gravy (see below).  I know I can handle turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing, which are all I actually want to eat on Thanksgiving or Christmas, but at some point the socially ingrained Lady Neurosis kicks in, and I decide I need to produce exquisite canapes involving lots of phyllo and a standing rib roast and eleven different vegetables requiring trips to three different ethnic markets and some dessert that demands the purchase of edible flowers, a proper pastry bag and a better oven. Usually, I obsess about building the perfect menu for three or four weeks in advance, then compromise on turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and a few new side dish and dessert recipes, only one of which will turn out to be worth the bother.

This year, in part because I’m older and wiser, and in part because we only decided a week ago that we definitely weren’t going to Vegas, I made a conscious decision to knock that shit off and keep it simple. I achieved this by asking myself the following questions before choosing any menu item: 1) Will the taste payoff be greater than the effort expended? 2) Is there any chance at all that my homemade version of this will be better than store-bought? 3) Is the likelihood of my fucking up the recipe greater than the likelihood that we will all be momentarily transported to food heaven?

Shapelings, I can’t tell you how much that simplified my ability to answer the questions that plague me every time I do this. For example:

  • Should I brine the turkey? No. (1, 3)
  • Should I try covering the turkey with a butter-soaked cheesecloth instead of aluminum foil? Sure, why not. (1)
  • Should I make my own pies? No. (1, 2, 3)
  • Should I look for exquisite canape recipes or just put out cheese, crackers and fruit? Cheese, crackers and fruit. (1, 3)
  • Should I dry, chop and season some whole-grain artisanal bread for stuffing or use a bag of Pepperidge Farm cubes? Pepperidge Farm. (1, 2)
  • Should I attempt any recipe for the first time on Christmas and pray that the cooking gods reward my adventurous spirit? Nooooo. (3)
  • What can my guests do if they think any of the above shortcuts mean I’m a failure as a hostess and/or woman? Suck it. (1, 2, 3)

It’s a pretty terrific system, but even that doesn’t mean I’m completely free of guilt and fear of judgment. I now present to you — mostly because it’s amusing but also because it reveals the depths of my issues around food, hostessing and other people’s opinions — an e-mail exchange I have had over the last two days with Ottermatic, the other guests and Al. (The only background info you need, apart from the above, is that Al’s contribution to the Christmas meal is a huge bottle of the cheapest possible vodka, filtered with a Brita to [theoretically] make it more like expensive vodka. He and Mr. Machine recently had a conversation about someone somewhere on the internet who tried that and swore it worked, so he decided to give it a whirl.)

OTM: What shall we bring? Wine or other alcohol and what else?

Me (just to her): What I told Sweet Machine when she asked the same thing last night is below:

I went for the simplest possible menu, so it’s pretty well taken care of.

Things I could still use help with, though:

  • If one or both of you have any talent for making gravy, awesome. I have never pulled it off, so I bought a thing of turkey gravy mix just in case, but if one of you is confident that you can make real pan gravy at game time, the job is yours.
  • I can practically guarantee I’ll need someone to run to 7-11 for shit I forgot, so that is another volunteer opportunity.
  • Solly will need extra snuggles to keep him out from under my feet.

Other than that, I can’t think of anything.

OTM: I will certainly take turns snuggling Solly, but I can also make gravy! Do you have chicken broth, flour, and butter?

Me: I do have all those things! HOORAY FOR GRAVY!

I have no idea why I am incapable of getting the ratio of flour to fat right, but history has shown that I am. The first time I did a holiday meal for friends, I fucked up the gravy so bad I was on the verge of tears until a friend came along and rescued it — but A) I’d already done so much damage that the rescue effort demanded extreme measures, and B) it was a Swedish friend, so the gravy ultimately involved red wine and cranberries and I dunno, Aquavit and mid-century furniture or something, so it was far from the old reliable midwestern taste I’d envisioned when I decided that cooking a bunch of shit I’d never tried to make before for 12 people was a REALLY GOOD IDEA. So from that I learned to A) make sure I had a jar of gravy or packet of gravy mix on hand and B) ask in advance if anyone else would like to take on gravy-making from start to finish.

FYI, I just investigated the flour situation, and I do have a mostly full container of Wondra “sauces and gravies” flour (which I bought ages ago thinking perhaps all-purpose flour was my gravy downfall, but I’ve never actually used it for anything except breading chicken breasts, like, twice). It expires in about two weeks, and I just realized the top was slightly open, so air’s been getting at it for however long, but it does not appear to be buggy. That is ALL YOURS if you want it — I honestly don’t know if the air thing is a real problem. If it is, you might want to bring flour.

OTM: I don’t think that exposing flour to air is bad, as long as it’s not exposed to bugs. I find ingredients in the back of our one, small kitchen cupboard that are expired and use them anyway all the time because the alternative is to buy a new package and then let that expire. I don’t know. I’m pretty cavalier about food safety. Which isn’t to say I’m going to put raw chicken in the gravy or anything, just that I am not afraid of your flour.

Me: I am similarly cavalier about food safety (there will, in fact, be raw chicken in the mashed potatoes, which will be served in a dented can), but I never want to admit that to other people, for fear they will judge me and never accept an invitation to dine in my home again.

This is sort of similar to the conversation I had with OTMBFF, in which he asked what was missing from the menu that he might bring, and I went, “Green vegetable?” and he was like, “Uh, do people really EAT green vegetables, other than green bean casserole, at holiday meals?” At which point I had to admit that no, they do not in my family (and I was never a huge fan of green bean casserole), but I am always afraid of being judged for just serving turkey and 7 kinds of carbs held together by fat instead of ensuring that my guests get as many phytonutrients as possible. Even though there’s a reason why carbs and fat with a side of protein is the traditional holiday meal, which is that it fucking TASTES GOOD, and it’s supposed to be a FEAST of things that TASTE GOOD, and I should probably reread that book by Marianne Kirby and what’s-her-name.

OTM: You should read it! It’s very good.

Me (to group):  OTM has volunteered to make gravy. Sweet Machine, you are now in charge of Solly snuggling.

Mr. Machine: I’ll take care of the cycling of oxygen into CO2.

Al: Also, bring barf bags, because we have a lot of really cheap vodka to taste test. I’m afraid, not even sure if I can go through with it. Mr. Machine, we bought a virgin smaller bottle of Skol for comparison’s sake.

We have a whole bunch of wine and other stuff, vodka, gin, whiskey, not sure what else, so if you’re not fussy, I’m sure we are covered on the beverages.

Me: Oh, we also have rum and eggnog, because it’s one of those things I think I should have, even though people rarely end up drinking it.

Al: Let’s invent a drink that uses eggnog, rum, Skol vodka, and 3 kinds of gin. Served with an olive float.

Me: We’ll call it a “Divorcetini.”

OTM: I’ll bring two barf bags.


So, to recap: Despite all my long-term efforts to stop moralizing about food and my determination to make this particular meal as stress-free as possible, I remain neurotic about 1) my gravy-making abilities, 2) the possibility that I will realize I forgot something at the last minute, even though we’ll still have enough food and booze for 25 people, 3) a meal I borked 10 years ago, 4) the quality of my flour, 5) being judged for my willingness to use questionable flour, 6) being judged for not providing a more balanced holiday feast, and 7) disappointing a hypothetical guest who really wanted rum and eggnog on Christmas, even if there are 95 other things to drink. And sadly, this is progress.

With that, I am going to go make everything I can possibly make in advance, then sit down with a glass of wine and remind myself that the point of all this is hanging out with good friends, not getting an A+ in Traditional Feminine Duties. Merry Christmas to those who celebrate, Merry Day Off to those who don’t, and Happy Day After Festivus to all — please feel free to air your grievances in comments.


You’ve all probably seen The Twilight Saga: New Moon in lolcats already, but in case you somehow missed it, you should click on that link right now. It’s especially hilarious if you know the plot (which, sadly, I do — I read the first two books, trying to get a handle on what everyone loved about them so much, before I gave up), but I think Al enjoyed it almost as much as I did, with only “She has to choose between a vampire and a werewolf” as context.

Beyond that, I’ll call this an open thread, but please keep it relatively light. We’re short a couple moderators, and those of us who are around right now can’t be here every minute, so if this thread pisses me off half as much as the last one, I’ll close it a lot faster.

Some Stuff

So, three of us have colds, one of us is out of town and indisposed, and the other one hates you all. (Kidding. Mostly.) Until we’re back into blogging shape, have some links.

I wrote about Lincoln University requiring fat students to take a “Fitness for Life” course before they can graduate here. I’ve got more thoughts, and we’ve got a half-assed SP roundtable going on about it behind the scenes, but that might take a while to get anywhere (see above), so start there.

I’m also writing for Broadsheet 5 days a week now (usually two posts a day), if I haven’t officially mentioned that, so there’s lots of other stuff there. For instance, I wrote today about a British “Next Top Model” kinda competition for women with disabilities, and a couple weeks ago about Candy Crowley’s weight and how The Rules will. not. die.

I would link to stuff other people are writing, but between working and and traveling and getting laid out with a cold over the holiday weekend (and thus spending 3 straight days doing nothing but watching 21 Jump Street on Hulu, which was actually kind of awesome), I haven’t been reading shit. Well, I did read Nick Hornby’s latest novel while I was traveling, and I loved it, but that’s about it.

One more link, though! Women, Action and the Media (WAM!)  is auctioning off a bunch of cool stuff to support their work for gender justice in the media, and one of the items is an opportunity to have me edit any prose manuscript up to 25 pages. I actually used to do that for a living, and I really miss it, so if you need feedback on something you’re writing, support WAM! and give me the chance to have some fun with it.