Friday, February 26, 2010


Okay, let me start by saying that growing up, I was a Barbie kind of girl (at least until Sailor Moon came out but that's neither here nor there).
You could cut her hair (well, once anyway), endlessly change her clothes, and when you got tired of what she came with, you could clothe Barbie (or as I called her, (Voluptua, Duchess of Awesome )in your own sensational designs utilizing such avant-garde upcycled (that's what the cool kids are calling it now, right?) materials like toilet paper and wads of tulle harvested from your mom's old bridesmaid dresses. After all, fashion is what Barbie is all about.

But let us not pidgeonhole the lady; she might have done a lot of modelling, but it's not how she defined herself. In the eighties and nineties, Barbie was all over the workforce. I like to think it's due to a staggering intellect and hunger for new experiences that she changed jobs so often. It could be that she was well-connected but incompetent, but honestly, anyone who rocks an outfit like this

Image sourced from

(in space, no less!) has to be some kind of maniacal genius.

Lately though, I've been worrying about the woman. Maybe she bought into that demented Hollywood mindset that sees all but a few women vanish from the screen after 35. Maybe the threat posed to her toy-aisle empire by Ghettofab Bratz dolls unhinged her. Whatever the cause, she seems to have regressed into a six year old Beauty Queen.

Now don't get me wrong, there's absolutely nothing wrong with spending an otherwise uneventful weekend making your own wings by stretching kitchen garbage bags over wire hanger armatures and smearing yourself with with your roommate's Raspberry Irridescent Dream Body Glitter in order to prance around the apartment waving a pink jelly Mermaid vibrator like a magical wand. It can be a lot of fun, especially if your roommate returns home unexpectedly and catches you mid-piroette trying to enchant the cat.

No, even the most hard-boiled broad has a little Ballarina in her soul and I don't think less of Barbie for breaking out the tutu now and then. What has me concerned is the frequency of these episodes- it seems that it's all she does these days. BARBIE WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR DREAMS OF BEING A VETERANARIAN ASTRONAUT?!

"I am a Space Kitten and I am not vaccinated against Space Rabies... Whatever Shall I Do?"


Whenever you see Barbie these days, it is most likely that she will be either a mermaid, fairy, or princess. Mermaid, fairy, princess. Mermaid, fairy, princess. Mermaid, fairy, princess. mermaidfairyprincess. Rabbitrabbitrabbit!
I was starting to get used to this, thinking that perhaps it was just a cute quirky phase like when Britney was pretending to be a virgin. But then....
Then, at my niece's birthday party, I had a moment of clarity when I saw her unwrap

What?! The fins turn into wings? But that-



It doesn't even make sense! Fairies live in the air, Mermaids, the sea. This unnatural hybrid creature is about as likely as a deep sea parrot, or a soaring air whale!


It's pink, glittering, Mariah Carey flavoured maddness, that's what it is.

With a heart of lead, I realized that day that Barbie was beyond redemption. Something vital had snapped, sending her mind to that enchanted kingdom from which there is no return.

Then I started thinking, "She's been spending an awful lot of time with my niece, and with other little girls. What must they be thinking?"

Panic-stricken, I grabbed the aformentioned child by the shoulders and shock her while screaming, "Quickly, what do you want to be when you grow up? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE?!"
When she finally stopped crying (Kids! Jesus!) She said that she wanted to be a princess.


"B-but why?" I stuttered, on the verge of tears. The afflicted child appeared lucid, but I braced myself for a full-blown fit of the crazies. After a moment of thought, she answered, "They wear pretty dresses and get rescued."
"But they don't do anything!"

The situation was far worst than anticipated. Not only had Barbie's frilly maddness infected the children with visions of Ballarinafairyhamburgers or whatever, but it was also making them lazy. Because of this, I wept tears of inconsolable sorrow for the inevitable future generations of barefootpregnantpolygamistchildbrides.

But then, a glorious ray of sunshine broke through the clouds.

"It's gotta be a fluke," I sighed. "No two little girls could possibly be this awesome."

I was wrong.

There is the possability that her parents are just dressing her up in tribute to their favorite childhood cartoon, but I don't think so. Look at the kid's face. She's badass and knows it.

You know what? As long as this keeps up, the kids are gonna be alright. I gotta go make my niece a Samus Aran Suit now.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Aspirations of Being An Aspiring Writer

While I'm taking a break from embroidering my little fingers off (sewing project. Last Minute. Very unpleasant.)it seemed like a good time to blog off some nervous energy.

I'm something of an aspiring writer, although it would, in fact, be more truthful to say that being an aspiring writer is something I aspire to. The writing moods come and go every few months, and when they're here, they are fierce. In a way, it's a bit like having a period, as at these times, entering my room unannounced while the keys are clacking means risking life and limb (The roommates sign legal waivers to this effect).

Since this magical time is again approaching, It seemed a good idea to talk a little about the creative process and how it applies to the collection of neuroses that is, as Mademoiselle Piggy might say, Moi.

It was a lot easier coming up with Ideas when I was younger, because I was a lot more interested in Fantasy. With Fantasy, pretty much anything is possible as long as you set certain rules and remember to stick with them. A wizard can shake a Deus Ex Machina out of his staff at the Hour of Oblivion, but it has to make sense in the world even if the world is crazy and nonsensical- Hell, especially if the world is crazy and nonsensical.

I think this consistency is one of the reasons that Fantasy appeals to a lot of younger people, as well as the stories' general tendency to be plot-driven rather than character driven- that is, Harold The Barbarian is too busy cleaving Orc skulls to spend much time addressing his aggression issues, or the Madonna/Whore complex that keeps him bouncing between Princess Snowdrop and Vulva The Dark Enchantress.

As a teen, I really enjoyed this focus on action: there'a something to be said for being swept along with the hero to all sorts of fabulously treacherous locales. Gradually though, somewhere between 18 and 21, I realized that I really didn't give a shit about whether or not Unlikely Hero from Bumblefuck-On-The-Shire overcame whatever set of Impossible Odds he had to in order to achieve his wonderful Destiny.
Unlikely Hero, it often seems, is so rarely very interesting outside his extraordinary circumstances. Take for example, LOTR's Aragorn and Frodo: These two guys exemplify the classic Fantasy Hero types, but would you want to have a Beer-And-Bullshit Session with either of them?

This disenchantment put my big (in High School anyway) dreams of Authorship on ice. I had the makings of two or three complete sagas (like bad things, fantasy stories always come in threes) ready to go, but no desire of actually sit down in front of Word and make the long trek to Mordor, so to speak. Imagine taking a cross-country roadtrip in a minibus full of boring people you can't stand. Yeah.

At the same time I'm not so deluded that I dream of writing the great Canadian novel. For starters, (as I mentioned to a good friend the other night) I absolutely, with very few exceptions, despise Canadian literature. Additionally, I feel too young, too uneducated, and too devoid of life experience to say anything suitably life-altering (or at least, self-important).

So what's a girl to do? The answer came care of this fellow here, and to a lesser extent, this guy, who you are much more likely to recognize.

Peter S Beagle, who you might recognize as the author of The Last Unicorn convinced me that genre writing need not be juvenile escapist fare. This is a man who was compared with Tom Wolfe and Kurt Vonnegut until his decision to write about Unicorns got a lot of literary panties in a twist. Magic and the supernatural are a big part of his books, but manage to seem less interesting than the characters, who run the gamut from cynical teenage girls to middle-aged Jewish widows, warrior monks, storytelling pirates, wizards, possessed cats and even beleagered stage managers. It takes a consummate storyteller to be able to write convincingly as such characters without seeming to speak through them.

I decided somewhere between The Inkeeper's Song and A Fine And Private Place that I wanted to do as he does, to write funny, human stories about interesting people in extraordinary circumstances.

Now it's just a matter of doing as was so eloquently said by Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith:

There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Popwords: Milquetoast

So I had an idea for a fun thing to do every so often. Pop culture is ephemeral, here and gone in a moment. A living language is a continually evolving entity. Sometimes the two cross, and we end up with words, that while once universally recognized for their reference to popular culture, are now a bit weird and well, not very comprehensible.
Our first case in point: Milquetoast says:
noun (sometimes initial capital letter)
a very timid, unassertive, spineless person, esp. one who is easily dominated or intimidated: a milquetoast who's afraid to ask for a raise.

You may have heard this used in old movies, or in reference to a human doormat. It's a funny sort of word, sure, but what does it really mean?
Meet cartoonist H.T. Webster's Casper Milquetoast, "the man who speaks softly and gets hit with a big stick."

Once upon a time, Mr. Milquetoast starred in his own comic, The Timid Soul. On second thought, "starred" is maybe too strong a word for this poor guy.

"Milquetoast" is a distortion of Milk Toast, which is an extremely bland breakfast food customarily fed to sick people. From what I can gather, it's a bit like French toast would be after having its spirit shattered irreparably serving hard time in a Turkish prison.

I imagine his voice sounds a little like Droopy Dog's.

An American Cartoonist, H.T. Webster(1885–1952)was active around the early to mid twentith century. His humour had a satirical edge to it- Wishy-washy Mr. Milquetoast is funny because in spite of Webster's comedic exaggerations, there is much truth in him.

Is that okay with you, Dear?

People in the 1930s and 40s emphatically agreed, which is how Milquetoast became part of our vocabulary. Unobtrusive Mr. Milquetoast isn't so well-known today as he once was, but his name, and his timid brethren, live on.

Green, Harry Lee. "The Timid Soul." Hairy Green Eyeball. 15122008., Web. 3 Feb 2010. .

Markstein, Don. "Don Markstein's Toonopedia: The Timid Soul." Don Markstein's Toonopedia. 2003. Don Markstein, Web. 3 Feb 2010. .