Friday Fluff is Overrated

The folks at Feministing just posted a link to the blog Overrated List, a spectacular illustration of the principle that the most brilliant ideas are often the simplest. Overrated List draws its inspiration from well-known tool Christopher Hitchens, but I forgive it, because it goes on to be both funny and intriguing:

According to a 2006 New Yorker profile, Hitch once declared, apropos of nothing, “that the four most overrated things in life were champagne, lobsters, anal sex, and picnics.” Like all of Hitch’s opinions, this one offends everyone, for different reasons. Still, you can’t help but admit there’s something to it.

Now, thanks to the magic of the internet, we can all disseminate Overrated Lists of our own. The rules are simple. Each List contains exactly four (4) items. You only get one List, so take your time and make it good. While every List should be unique, try not to make yours too idiosyncratic (”the deli on my corner”; “stuff I am allergic to”). And keep in mind: overrated things are not just bad things (global warming and impetigo and Cleveland, for instance, would not make the cut, because they were never rated highly in the first place). In fact, most overrated things are good — just not that good, for crying out loud.

Reading the lists, which are cited only by first name, location, and age, is kind of amazing — they’re not only funny and thought-provoking, but they give insight into people’s minds with surprising clarity. My favorite list so far comes from an 85-year-old New Yorker:

  1. Open-mindedness
  2. Baseball
  3. Mushrooms
  4. A hot bath

Kate and I were discussing this last night; she said “so far, I’ve only got Cormac McCarthy and olives,” and I busted out laughing. Neither of those is particularly dear to my heart one way or the other, but somehow the combination of the two caused a very “I knew I liked you for a reason” moment. I’ve sent mine in already and since it’ll be credited I don’t want to post it here, but second-stringers included Lord of the Rings, bacon, internet fame, and positive attitudes. I’d love to hear what you guys come up with (and when you’re sure you’re done, send it on to overratedlist at gmail!).

Friday Fluff: Bad to Verse

It’s National Poetry Month, which I almost always forget about until it’s almost over. SM’s the poetry expert here, with an MFA in poeting, but I’ve got a Master’s in English and a deep-seated and ferocious love of good poetry. Many is the intense conversation we’ve had about how to interpret “The Waste Land,” or how our heads exploded at the last line of “Archaic Torso of Apollo.” We even have inside jokes about things like Inner Resources. I actually don’t know Kate’s feelings on poetry, but she is an overeducated dorko too so I have to assume they are positive. This is a poem-friendly space is what I’m saying.

But there are way too many amazing, amazing poems and way too much copyright trolling on the internet for me to post every poem I want you guys to read. Instead, I’d like to mine the rich vein of doggerel that runs through this community, particularly from champion poetasters like A Sarah and MissPrism. Nothing makes me happier than when a bit of rhyme shows up in the comments, so consider this a challenge to produce some deathless lyric, or at very least some silly stanzas, on the subject of dieting or body image or something completely unrelated to this blog. Need some inspiration? Check out Miss Conduct’s clerihew contest from last year (I got third place!) or our very own haiku Friday Fluff. Not a versifier? That’s okay — it’s still National Blank Verse Blog Week, so give us your best unrhymed shot.

To start you off, here is the great Ogden Nash with “Curl Up and Diet.” We wouldn’t have written it — a little too much thin-bashing — but the man is a towering versemaster if not an ahead-of-his-time paragon of feminist body-positivity.

Some ladies smoke too much and some ladies drink too much and some ladies pray too much,
But all ladies think that they weigh too much.
They may be as slender as a sylph or a dryad,
But just let them get on the scales and they embark on a doleful jeremiad:
No matter how low the figure the needle happens to touch,
They always claim it is at least five pounds to much;
To the world she may appear slinky and feline,
But she inspects herself in the mirror and cries, Oh, I look like a sea lion.
Yes, she tells you she is growing into the shape of a sea cow or manatee,
And if you say No, my dear, she says you are just lying to make her feel better, and if you say Yes, my dear, you injure her vanity.
Once upon a time there was a girl more beautiful and witty and charming than tongue can tell,
And she is now a dangerous raving maniac in a padded cell,
And the first indication her friends and relatives had that she was mentally overwrought
Was one day when she said, I weigh a hundred and twenty-seven, which is exactly what I ought.
Oh, often I am haunted
By the thought that somebody might someday discover a diet that would let ladies reduce just as much as they wanted,
Because I wonder if there is a woman in the world strong-minded enough to shed ten pounds or twenty,
And say There now, that’s plenty;
And I fear me one ten-pound loss would only arouse the craving for another,
So it wouldn’t do any good for ladies to get their ambition and look like somebody’s fourteen-year-old brother,
Because, having accomplished this with ease,
They would next want to look like somebody’s fourteen-year-old brother in the final stages of some obscure disease,
And the more success you have the more you want to get of it,
So then their goal would be to look like somebody’s fourteen-year-old brother’s ghost, or rather not the ghost itself, which is fairly solid, but a silhouette of it,
So I think it is very nice for ladies to be lithe and lissome.
But not so much so that you cut yourself if you happen to embrace or kissome.

Friday fluff: Take off your grownup hat

Someone gave me a very wise stress relief suggestion this week: get a big box of crayons and a coloring book and go to town. It was the absolute perfect idea for me — not only do I like coloring for letting me follow artistic impulses despite not even being able to draw a stick figure, but I also had a stretch of time in high school when my friends and I rediscovered crayons and coloring, so it satisfies a nostalgic itch too.

I had to dig in my craft drawer to find my sad little box of 24 crayons, but I fully intend to buy a 96-crayon box this weekend to get the full glory of burnt sienna and cadet blue. It’s funny — as an adult, I love lots of different crafts, but I forgot all about coloring because it’s so much more about the process than the finished picture (as opposed to, say, knitting something that becomes a garment or making stationery that later gets used for correspondence). Yes, I might have a psychedelic picture of Wallace & Gromit at the end of an hour, but what I really love is the action of coloring: picking up a crayon, reading the label, letting my hand wander over the page, building up layers and layers of color. I find it immensely satisfying in part because it’s purposeless, and as a grownup (and a grad student, for that matter) I spent so much energy being goal-oriented that it’s a great relief to do something just because I like to do it. Yesterday I spent an hour coloring and listening to music, and it was the most purely relaxing thing I’ve done in weeks.

The person who initially suggested picking up crayons to me wisely noted that there’s a lot of stuff that we think is “kids-only” that we don’t give ourselves permission to do unless we are actually around kids. Think of the trope of the dad buying a cool train set for his kids and then playing with it himself. When I was in high school, on sleepovers my friend and I would sometimes catch her dad sneaking in some Super Nintendo (which they bought “for the kids”) when he thought everyone else was asleep. There’s a lot of ideas about efficiency and purpose and productivity built into our cultural assumptions about adulthood, but that doesn’t mean we lose the impulses to goof off creatively — we just pretend we do because we’re afraid that if anyone catches us with a crayon or a model airplane, they’ll think we’re not really grownups after all.

So my fluff question for you is this: what did you do as a kid that you would secretly (or not so secretly) love to do again? If you’re a parent, what aspect of kids’ play do you most enjoy being part of? And of course, what’s your favorite Crayola color?

Friday Fluff: Skivvies Smackdown

Everyone is equal when it comes to underwear,
Because beneath your underwear it’s just yourself that’s there.
Everyone wears underwear — or at least they should.
Underwear is lots of things, but mostly it is good.

Some like the feel of cotton. I share this belief.
Likewise I don’t like boxer shorts, give me a pair of briefs.
Some don’t like to talk about it, that’s because they’re shy.
People laugh at underwear, but I do not know why.

– Barry Louis Polisar

I am well aware that I do not share fashion sense with the women at Manolo for the Big Girl. I read it because they post sale codes and because I’m a little in love with Twistie’s contributions over here, not because I will ever wear the things they feature. That’s fine; there’s room for everyone under the voluminous muumuu that is fatshion. If we all dressed the same, there’d be way too much competition for Fatshionista sales posts.

But recently they calumniated boxer briefs, and this simply will not stand. Boxer briefs are not only acceptable, they are literally the only men’s underwear that looks even a little bit hot. I have seen a LOT of banana hammocks in my day, disquieting as that is to say, and truly they demean us all. Boxers can be charming in a virginal sort of way, but I don’t find them remotely sexy. And the less said about tightie whities, the better. Boxer briefs, by contrast, are the black-tee-and-jeans of men’s unmentionables: no matter your size or shape, they will make you look just a little bit hotter, and just a little bit cooler. Even if you’re a girl.

Do you have opinions on men’s personal pants? What about other strong feelings on intimate items? For instance, is a girl in a sports bra ferociously hot or does she just make you wince in sympathy squishing? How come women tend to look good, or at least not laughable, in pants but no top or a top but no pants, but men in a top but no pants are impossibly comic? Would you wear a thong, and would you then make your booty go da na na? Do your bras match your knickers, or do you go without either or both? Fellas, if you’re out there, what do you wear and why?

Friday Fluff: I see you’ve got braces. I have braces too.

I’m meeting a woman for lunch today because we both have bags from the same company. I saw her bag, said “nice bag,” and it turned out we worked in the same building and had some other stuff in common. This in itself is amusing, but it’s not even the first time I’ve made friends with someone because we had the same bag! “Nice bag” was the first conversation I had with Cacie, too. (And don’t even get me started on all the friends I’ve brought into the fold. If you also want to make friends, this is the company and I cannot recommend them highly enough. Please don’t buy all the Sprout bags before I convince myself that yes, I do need to have another one even though my one is holding up beautifully.) I’ve also struck up conversations or cemented friendships over having the same combat boots. When I see that someone else with Corcoran field boots on, I feel a sense of kinship — and when I feel a sense of kinship with someone I try to get them to buy Corcs.

What do you own or wear that, expectedly or unexpectedly, turned out to make you a member of a community? What item of clothing or accessory always gets comments? And what’s the weirdest way you’ve made a friend?

Friday fluff: Fake holidays

This week contains both a Friday the 13th and Valentine’s Day. Somehow that seems appropriate to me, given the apparently culturally mandated freakout that is Valentine’s Day. Either you’re supposed to be single and hate all the happily paired off people around you, or you’re supposed to be using this trumped up holiday to grovel to your man (female version) or bribe your woman with fancy food and flowers in exchange for sex (male version).

As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m a Valentine’s Day cynic, so much so that I basically used to forget about the holiday altogether until the actual day arrived and I saw people carrying flowers on the bus or whatever. Which is how I managed to accidentally meet Mr Machine *on* Valentine’s Day — we had exchanged messages online and I suggested that if he wanted to meet in person, I’d be grading papers at a certain coffeeshop on a particular afternoon, and he could drop by. Not a date so much as a “let’s talk to each other in person before getting too excited” situation — but he did drop by, and we did meet, and it did happen to be Valentine’s Day, dammit, and here we are six years later. So since then, I’ve been compelled to celebrate Valentine’s Day against my will, except I call it “our anniversary” instead. Yay for us.

What do you do for Valentine’s Day, if anything? How do you feel about it as a holiday — is it a crock, or a nice occasion for romance? More importantly, has anything spooky happened to you today? Anything spookily romantic?

(And for anyone who’s feeling lonely this weekend, I humble recommend rereading this post of Kate’s.)

Friday Fluff: No Sex, Please, We’re Amoeboid Zingat-Ularians

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about Shapely Prose readers, it’s that they really love horrible creatures. But if there’s two things I’ve noticed, it’s that they like bonding over obscure and nerdy books, movies, and TV. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Mr. Show or Red Dwarf reference go unnoticed, and I’ve seen other inside jokes zinging around the comments that I don’t even get.

Your Friday Fluff challenge: Stump the Shapelings! Post the most arcane quotes you can think of and see if you can find your media soulmate.

Friday fluff: Read at your own risk!

All right, Shapelings, this is your own damn fault. For some reason we have not been able to stop talking about creepy-ass animals in comments all week, what with the coconut crabs and the megalodons and all. Comment threads are starting to induce nightmares and fits of madness. So let’s just get it out of our collective system and use this thread to scare the pants off each other.

I recently watched Sir David Attenborough’s Life of Mammals series (highly recommended), so I feel I have a bit of an advantage going into this thread. Whales themselves aren’t creepy to me, but that was of course before I learned that they have 12-foot wangs that emerge from slits in their abdomens (NSFW…maybe?):

The most epistemologically creepy type of animal, IMHO, is the  monotreme. Monotremes, in addition to giving us the classical example of fucked-up shit, the duck-billed platypus, are mammals that lay eggs, which is a little creepy. But that’s small potatoes compared to the fact that they do not have nipples, so they just OOZE MILK FROM THEIR TORSOS.

Ahem. I realize it’s not as “run for your life” scary as a crab that could bite your arm off, but it gives me the shivers. Plus they’ve got poisonous spurs.

So have at it: creepy animal time. Abandon all hope ye who click the comment threads.