We Have A Lot Of Nice Things For You People
Yr Editrix gave us a long weekend for the holiday, and yet here we are again with a Nice Things post because, like the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, we're all about duty, not to mention West Wing references. Also, We spent 10 very unproductive minutes trying to come up with a joke about how if Huey P. Long had ever gotten a national holiday, it would always be a Long weekend, but it never really gelled. What we are saying is that long weekends cannot last forever. So it goes.
Wonkette Book Club Rides Again!
After a couple months off, we're doing another Wonkette Book Club thing; this time out, we're going to read a classic of science fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, which was published 50 years ago if you can believe THAT. As you'd expect in a Le Guin novel, the story isn't driven by the whizbang machinery of SF -- interstellar ships (with full relativistic time messing -- no warp drive), or First Contact with a new world inhabited by descendants of ancient human ancestors.
The science in this fiction is far more on the anthropology/sociology side, as an interstellar ambassador finds himself on a very cold planet where humans are ambisexual -- most of the time, they have no gender at all, but they take on male or female sexual attributes randomly each month when they're in heat. One of the narrators, the Earth-born Genly Ai, keeps confronting -- usually quite badly -- his own preconceptions and squeamishness about these folks who are fully human, but don't conform to his gender expectations. (And yes, we'll definitely discuss how very "male" these allegedly nongendered folks ended up, a matter Le Guin herself came to believe she'd have addressed differently had she written the book decades later.)
Go dig up your copy, grab a used one at your local second-hand book shop, check it out of your local public library, or kick back a few groats to Yr Wonkette by buying the 50th-anniversary edition, which includes a new introduction by David Mitchell and a perfectly brilliant afterword essay by Charlie Jane Anders. A version of it was published in the Paris Review, so even if you use an older edition, consider Anders's essay assigned reading -- after you finish the novel. We haven't found Mitchell's intro online, but he did write a lovely memorial piece in the Guardian after she died last year. Also, we found an excellent 2015 interview with Le Guin you nerds should go read!
To give everyone time to do the reading, we'll break up our discussion over two posts, starting in two weeks. Here's our reading schedule:
July 21: Intro & Author's Note through Chapter 11.
July 28: Chapter 12 through Afterword.
This should be fun! Part of the adventure will be seeing just how many typos Dok can manage even though the author's last name just has six letters and a space.
Speaking Of Fiftieth Anniversaries!
1969 wasn't just the year for Left Hand of Darkness, but also for one of our other favorite, formative books: Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. To mark the occasion, NPR reran this 2003 interview with Uncle Kurt about how his old war buddy's wife stopped him from writing just another damn war book, thank The Accident.
You want the full 2003 interview? Here it is, as well as another from 2006, because if a bunch of Kurt Vonnegut interviews aren't nice, we don't know what is. And if you missed it the first couple times we mentioned it, go read Alex Horton's haunting essay "Reading Slaughterhouse-Five in Baghdad: What Vonnegut taught me about what comes after war."
You know, kids, I think maybe we should do a Slaughterhouse-Five book club before the year is out, no?
International House of Postmodernism
In the ChatCave the other day, Robyn said I had to go read this hilarious essay about IHOP's attempt to make itself more than a breakfast place, because, and I quote, "it is ridiculous and extremely your shit." So I read it, and it IS extremely my shit: A literary-theory meditation on the brand's frustration at "its inability to untether itself from the unyielding association with pancakes carried by the P'." In its latest promotion, IHOP has seemingly embraced the failure of its previous jokey campaign to rename itself "IHOB," because burgers. Everyone ridiculed that, so now they're calling their burgers "pancakes,' including a "pancake" (or burger) that has a pancake in it.
Psychoanalyst Evan Malater has entirely too much fun explaining why this is completely insane, leading to semiotic indigestion at best, Lacanian psychosis at worst:
With the advent of the IHOP/IHOB interventions, we are seeing something new: the arrival of a form of advertising that intentionally operates without its own internal consistency. Thus a burger is a pancake and a pancake is a pancake. The internal inconsistency is literally put in our faces and shoved down our throats — a primal feeding that nobody wants or needs, a force-feed of behavioral conditioning that would fill even BF Skinner with existential dread.
Like we say, extremely our shit, although in this case the analytic wordplay and frame-bending goes on farther up in the metabolic/metaphoric system, as befits an essay on meaning and chain restaurants. It's veritable digestive tract, one might say. But it really goes well beyond such alimentary thinking.
Malater's essay manages to be completely bonkers and ridiculously thoughtful, and it's one of the funniest damn things we've read in a long, long time. On Twitter, someone asked if people really write things like this for pay. We doubt it -- this looks like it was written for fun. Definitely food for thought, and thought for food.
Fine Here Are The Damned Cat Pictures Already
We have a new favorite Twitter to follow (remember, Twitter is horrible AND it has pockets of absolute delight that you should find and cherish!). Check out poorly drawn cats, a feed that truly lives up to its name. Heloísa, from Brazil, takes cat pictures and simplifies them, with beautiful results. To draw badly this well, she clearly knows what she's doing.
A surprising number of folks have taken the obvious next step, getting Poorly Drawn Cat Tats:
Yes, Heloísa, will do commissions, or you can get your cat drawn by contributing to her crowdsourced book fund. No, she will not just do a free cat drawing if you ask, and also it appears she is a student so her commissions may have to fit around her academic schedule.
Also, if you are one of the few dozen readers who has somehow missed our many previous exhortations to read Naomi Kritzer's epic short-short story "Cat Pictures Please," about a global computer network that becomes self-aware and doesn't launch a nuclear strike, then we'd say it's high time for you to correct that oversight in your education. It's breathtakingly nice.
Update: Oh, heck, how could we forget this thing? It's hypnotic. Better without sound, if you ask us.
Also: Earthquake Dogs
Kai Ryssdal, host of the public radio show "Marketplace," has a pretty chill pupper who took Friday's seismic events in stride. Or flat on its side:
Other dogs seemed to know something was up, like their chance to appear on social media:
And this dog wanted to play. Or maybe it has a bit of border collie lineage and wanted to herd the water back into the pool where it belonged.
Finally, two dumb things from Twitter I liked but which don't get their own category:
To which we can only say...
Earth, Wind & Fire - September (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com
Yr Wonkette is 100 percent supported by reader donations. If you were to send us some money, that would be an especially Nice Thing!
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.