Notes on Susan Sonntag's Notes on Camp (recursive enough?)

I found a really interesting article on ‘camp’ (as an adjective) linked in the comments of someone else’s journal. I finally put some time aside to read it:

Susan Sonntag: Notes on Camp

My reactions follow, all jotted as I read. You should read the article and form your own opinions first.

Now, I don’t care for ‘camp’ as a whole, so don’t expect any coherent thoughts and opinions from me here. I probably would fit in in some ways with a ‘queer’ (hate that word) way of looking at things, though, so I’m definitely interested to read on…

“The more we study Art, the less we care for Nature.”
– The Decay of Lying

An offhand quote that caught my eye. It could be in a nutshell why I don’t like art (or, rather, why I think of myself as someone who doesn’t like art. The other reason being school art lessons), and why I am less and less likely to like any individual artwork the more it deviates from the strictly realistic, or at least the methodically representational.

(Yes, even if it portrays something that doesn’t exist, it could have the courtesy to look right.)

As a taste in persons, Camp responds particularly to the markedly attenuated and to the strongly exaggerated. The androgyne is certainly one of the great images of Camp sensibility. […]

Allied to the Camp taste for the androgynous is something that seems quite different but isn’t: a relish for the exaggeration of sexual characteristics and personality mannerisms.

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Roleplayers: why NOT to ask someone to write a female character to give you children

What occasioned this post was a request made to me by a writing partner a long time ago. I declined the request. You’ll see why. “Ten years later” is pushing the definition of a snappy comeback, but this post is really aimed at other guys who might have this idea.

John Boy, as we’ll call him, had a male character. His Vision™ for his character, he’d decided one day, included two children whom the character would raise. His request: “Mutt, will you write a female character who’ll have these children for him and then hand them over?”

As it happens, the idea of writing female pregnancy gets into some deep problems for me, and I never intend to do it. I don’t recall that I’d mentioned this to John Boy in the past, so he gets a free pass in this instance on the insensitivity front.

However, when I told him I would never be comfortable writing a pregnant woman, his suggestion? “Maybe she’s from a species where she has to breed in order to become a neuter.” OK, so… forcing a transgendered character to breed in order to line des gender up with des sex? That was insensitive. Chaps, we’re all pretty smart here. Let’s all agree never to suggest this to a transgendered person, OK?

Anyhow, those are my personal issues and we’ll lay them aside. Now here’s the response I wish I’d given all those years ago, to help John Boy understand why asking any writer to make up a woman character, in order to give your man character instant children, is somewhat on the odd side.

Actually, John Boy, my personal horror at writing pregnancy is not my only problem with this suggestion. The main issue is that you want a female character whose entire purpose in life, at least from your point of view and your plot’s, is to have children.

I hope even you wouldn’t remain unmoved if someone in real life were to say a woman’s only purpose is to be a mother… but that’s what you’re asking here. I have to admit, I expected better from you.

Consider also that your gay Marty Stu is going to have to force himself to sleep with this woman – or, more likely in your universe, use hand-wavey magical insemination, so that he doesn’t even have to touch her – and then he will expect her to give up the children and never bother him again. This doesn’t sound like an attractive offer to any self-respecting woman.

John Boy, your offer is rejected firmly and without prejudice, and I hope if you think about what I’ve said you’ll realise why. My advice to you is to write a frog woman and have them spawn in a pond, or, preferably, rethink the plot idea that requires a woman to bear your character two children and then disappear.

We’ll leave our imaginary ten-years-younger John Boy alone now. We just gave him a lot to think about. We’re older and wiser, though, so here’s another point for you to ponder…

Do you know what pregnancy does to a woman’s body and hormones? I don’t have much idea, for the obvious reason, but I know it’s huge. To take one example that might cause a particular problem with this ‘plot’ idea, women don’t always want to give up their children.

Sound obvious? But really, they don’t always, even if they were OK with the idea beforehand. This is not because women are nuts. Your mother was a woman. Everyone’s mother was a woman. And that’s rather the point. We humans evolved to what we are because mothers have a strong bond with their weak, helpless spawn, who remain helpless for about 6 years and weak for at least 8 more. You don’t put up with a burden like that unless you love it, and this is where your hormones, leaving nothing to chance, make sure you do. Sometimes they’ll go wrong or a woman will feel able to overcome the effect, but that isn’t predictable.

This is why you will read in magazines about women acting as surrogate mothers, who find themselves unable to give up children they’ve carried for another couple. Repeat, this is not because the woman is nuts, or a liar. Chances are she had every intention beforehand of carrying through with the agreement. I doubt she really wants to bring up, on her own, the child of a man who’s in a relationship with someone else. Not even for the child support payments (seriously, no woman who is in touch with reality ever gets pregnant because she thinks it’ll make her rich). But you can’t always help whom you fall in love with.

Conclusion: women don’t always oblige by breeding and then handing over their children, even if that’s what your script says.

This post only is: Creative Commons License
licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.
Attribution to Herm Baskerville with an optional link back to this page. (The author would prefer that you link to this post, in case de edits or improves it.)

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Gooey puppy

We went to an RSPCA talk at the Eighth Day last night.

Beforehand was a vegan buffet, all included in the £10 ticket price, and it was completely amazing. There were quiches and dips and things you’d expect in veg*n nosh, all very nice, and also some awesome tofu-nut wrappy things. Some non-vegetarians there remarked that they wouldn’t mind eating like this every night, and I have to agree. There was lots of nummy fresh fruit and, horror of horrors, the ACTUAL MOST DELICIOUS BROWNIES EVER, which also happened to be vegan, as well as thick, chocolatey, nutty and all gooey in the middle. Just to torment me, these aren’t included on the Eighth Day recipes page.

The talk was cool too. The emphasis was on information rather than stories of outrage (not that I particuarly mind stories of outrage; such things are happening to my brethren, cats, rabbits and miscellaneous, and everyone should know about it).

Facts I heard last night:

  • The RSPCA was formed before the police. William Wilberforce was one of the founders. Police officers who sneer at RSPCA inspectors for not being ‘proper’ inspectors are barking up the wrong history.
  • The maximum prison sentence for even the most disturbing animal abuse is six months. What with the law not doing what it says it will, this can in practice mean buggerall. People can be banned from keeping animals for life, but you aren’t checked against any kind of record when you buy a pet.
  • In case you think the RSPCA is too court-happy, only 1% of the calls to its national helpline results in prosecution. What’s really interesting is that 98% of prosecutions brought by the RSPCA result in successful convictions. In comparison to the CPS, which quotes 80.7% (the inspector claimed a lower figure last night, which might have been for a different category of cases, can’t remember), that’s pretty freaking amazing, and brought about through honest, meticulous effort in by presenting their cases.
  • The RSPCA can’t do anything about stray dogs. That’s the legal responsibility of local councils, who will still put a dog to sleep after 7 days if he or she is sick or injured.
  • Unless an animal has been abandoned for a specified period, the RSPCA can’t take him/her – or it’s theft. (Taking and neutering someone’s pet would be criminal damage!) This leads inspectors to farcical dances like putting tape over keyholes and cards in hinges to prove the owner hasn’t returned, and feeding animals through letterboxes for a couple of days before they can be rescued.
  • When it comes to proscutions the RSPCA takes the same line as mental health employees are advised to take when assaulted by their patients. Even though the offenders are often vulnerable people, the RSPCA will prosecute anyway, because it needs to be on record that this person is dangerous – and in cases of animal abuse, without necessarily apportioning blame, they absolutely should be prevented from keeping animals.
  • A funny-horrific local story is going to hit the headlines later this month (subject to court proceedings). I’m not sure how much I should say, but it’ll be notable for some oddities about the offender, as well as the sheer number of animals involved.

I didn’t realise the RSPCA has an international section, and definitely didn’t realise that each local division is a completely separate, individual charity, acting rather like a ‘franchise’ of the national charity. They work with the inspectorate (who are the national bit) but don’t receive any funding from them (they have to raise it themselves), and have quite a bit of autonomy around the core RSPCA rules.

Which prompts me to include the local RSPCA in my payroll giving, now I know that’s a separate thing from the national org…

My mother’s come away with the idea of fostering pregnant queens, which is worrying. I took her there for the greater glory of DOGS WITH WHITE HAIRS ON THEIR MUZZLES, not PULSATING KITTY MOTHERSHIPS INCUBATING TINY KITTY-CLONES. Puppies I can appreciate; red panda cubs likewise melt my stony heart; newborn kittens are disgusting mewling wet things that might as well be human for all the appeal they hold for any right-thinking person.

Now here’s a random video I found about recyclable cloth gift-wrapping. Like anything vaguely origami-ish, I find it both fascinating and completely incomprehensible. I just watched it happen, but how does it work?

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Tweeting a painting

Today I did a painting, and very tiring it was too.

Giant tiny kitty!!!

I tweeted it as I went, so you can skip back through the stages.

This is fairly obviously an in-joke of some kind. There’s a whole anecdote about a toy tiger and a pot plant.

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Brother Mine (pun intended)

A happy little tale about monks and collapsed buildings. Contains injury.

Gentle feedback welcomed as ever.

“evil” –Kat
“dark” –Jenny
“Love it” –Vespers
“badass kitty” –Anke
“tasty goodness” –Ree
Thanks guys, I really appreciate it.

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And still it continues.

Frerene was the only woman in the world.

The continuing adventures of Dork Boy and Panty.

I’d written half a post, sat on it for getting on for a week, and finally decided I should post it rather than waiting for the rest to occur. I still don’t know where I’m going to finish this.

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The king of the stick

“Do you know any… tricks? Besides sitting up and offering a paw?”

“Yeah, loads,” said Mistake. “Well, some. Well, one. Well… look, I’m a really fast learner when I want to be, right?”

Some dark-lords-in-training just can’t seem to catch a break.

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Reptile on Rails, or Shell Access, or Tetsudo Make Me a Sandwich

From someone on Yammer, source unknown:

[Freeman Dyson] took his tortoise on the train many years ago. Back then they had ‘dog tickets’, but did you need to get one for a tortoise, he asked the conductor? The priceless reply: “cats is dogs, rabbits is dogs but tortoises is insects and travel free according.”

I suspect this will amuse Anke, who thought my fictional religious order that classifies snakes as fish but lizards as rats was odd… ;)

I desperately want a tortoise… or a dog. OR! Both. I reason that I could set a jaguar on them to try to knock them into the river, and then they’d morph into pangolins. (Source for this unimpeachable logic.)

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Young Swiffy and canine

“Rabbits!” he added, and ran away and stuck his head down a hole.

Hell yes there’s more.

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More dreadful doggish doings

The hellhound adoption saga continues with Suitov helpfully pointing out all the apparent plot holes so far.

When I considered how to approach this story, which is an alternative telling of Basaltine’s version of events, I considered writing until the point at which Basaltine’s tale ends and then stopping. But that really would be pointless, because, other than some divergences in detail and a heavy difference in style, they’re telling the same story.

Besides, it’s in Suitov’s character to question everything, even when it’s potentially to his own detriment, and I rather wanted to work one particular detail in (namely the dog’s name. Sometimes I think if I don’t use some of the random facts and backstory in my mind, I’ll drive myself nuts with frustration). So on we go, and hope that I can work out where I’m going to end it before the end…

Probably ought to have named the housekeeper, because it’s far more in Suitov’s character to think of people by name than as ‘Servant Q’, but I haven’t thought of a name for her yet. So it’s actually me giving her short shrift, not him…

edit, 13:13 24/03: Leaning towards Bryony Navesink or Neversink. I first thought of Catriona, but that’s both Gaelic and the name of a schooldays friend of mine.

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Some wench stealing my ideas. ;)

Robin McKinley: In which it is demonstrated that there is more than one kind of hellhound

The hussy! Because, well, clearly she has been looking at my site and reading my ongoing stray hellhound story. Because all Real Authors steal stuff off random unpublished amateurs on the internet. This is known.

Nice coincidence, though. Have to admit I’ve never read any of her books, because they have names like The Hero and the Crown and summaries like Aerin is the only child of Arlbeth, king of Damar, and his second wife, a foreigner from the North. Aerin inherits her mother’s pale skin and fiery red hair, setting her apart from all other Damarians (who are dark-haired and dark-skinned) and causing her to be feared and ostracized by them. (from Wikipedia)

Thanks to Ree for sending me the link. It can go in my hellmutts collection.

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One of the regular commenters on Platitude for the Day has got me into clerihews (wikip). An example from me this morning follows (with some peculiarities, following her trend).

“Jesus said1 be subtler
Than the snakes to whom Saint Pat gave the shove.
Unfortunately everyone in Northern Ireland seems to have forgotten the second part about the doves.”

1 Matthew 10:16, New Testament, Bible

You can therefore blame Dinah for the tombs of the Suitov lords’ “friends and family” mausoleum being furnished with a clerihew apiece.

edit: Oddly, come to think of it, if you wanted something that defines Englishness and the English sense of humour, I reckon the whole clerihew thing would have to be an excellent example. Dry, irreverent, quirky and wordy. Mine’s not a great example, but look at the ones on Wikipedia to see what I mean.

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Devil Dog: Hound of Hell

Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell is a very silly film with a very good doggie in it. It’s quite schlock made-for-TV horrorish with atrocious special effects and mostly low-key acting and production, apart from some scenes ostensibly in Ecuador (complete with bowler-hatted people).

There isn’t much surprise to the plot, and the acting (of the dogs) is pretty bad.

I enjoyed it.

It gets minus points for the old “woman possessed by the devil becomes sex-mad because sex is evil” trope. And minus a squillion points for equating my Barghest with Christian mystical junk, but that was a given; said so right in the title.

The DVD has won a place in my hellmutts library, along with Zoltan, Hound of Dracula. (Which was even worse.)

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And I wrote something.

Another Twine Wars prequel, what I am mostly calling Baine’s Resignation.

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Free the Zenda Cannon Girls!11!

I think I have the complete Canon as radio plays now. This is extremely cool and I have been listening to some of them on the walk to and from work.

It’s someone called Clive Merrison playing Holmes. He’s fine at it, and most impressively, he did a complete run (recorded all of the Canon stories—and, indeed, some extras). Wikipedia says he’s the only person to have done so. This makes Merrison cool on a par with David Suchet (who, IIRC, has signed on with ITV to do the complete Hercule Poirot). He also looks cool: here he is with Andrew Sachs, who played Watson after the original Watson died.

Also, Irene Adler fans should go here.

I’m glad to have finished tagging and cataloguing the mp3s, anyway. It’s kept me up far too late for two nights on the trot.

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Attempt at a Weft in profile

He is not a kitty. (PNG, 600×400, 58KB)

And yes, his skull’s weird. Skull reference for artists and Zuni doll lovers

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Picture for Vespurs


And as an icon

Because We have decreed that he doth need one.

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