There is no gender separation, only Zuul.

This is a great idea.

As someone who doesn’t currently have kids, I rarely shop for kids’ toys or bedding at Target. However, as someone who wants to have kids someday, and someone who once was a kid, I’m really glad to hear Target is announcing plans to phase out gender-based signage.

There are two main arguments I can see against a move like this. The first, the argument that gender division in things like toys and bedding is more a product of nature than socialization, that dolls and princesses aren’t for boys and trucks and superheroes aren’t for girls and children will somehow have their psyches damaged if they play with the wrong gender’s toys, is an argument I don’t intend to dignify with more than one paragraph.

The second potential argument, which I see as a bit more reasonable, is the argument that a step like this isn’t necessary. That as it stands, there’s nothing but the attitude of the shopper keeping anyone from grabbing a toy from the “boy” aisle to give to a girl or vice versa, and that this is just another move by the PC police to keep us all wrapped in cotton wool so our delicate feelings don’t get hurt, or something to that effect.

Which…yeah, sure. Gender-based signage in a store is not some kind of impenetrable wall that can’t be crossed. I grew up in a household with one girl and one boy, and while my brother and I were often given gender-specific toys, there was nothing stopping us from playing with each other’s toys; we could, and did. And I would imagine there are also families with only girls or only boys who don’t let signage stop them from buying the toys their children want, whichever aisle they fall on.

But do you think that gender-based signage, packaging, and marketing doesn’t still have an impact on children? And while kids are capable of handling that impact–I did, other children do–is there any good reason not to remove that impact, if we can?

As I said, I played with a lot of “boy” toys growing up; nothing stopped me. But I was always aware that I was a girl playing with boy toys. That even though I was allowed to ply with them, they had been bought for and given to my brother. That on some level they weren’t for me in the same way they were for him.

It wasn’t anything I couldn’t deal with, but it was something I had to deal with. And if/when I have kids of my own, I don’t want them to experience that. Whatever their gender, whatever they’re into, I want them to just be kids playing with toys. And I’m in support of any act by a corporation that helps make that easier.


Oh, right, I have a blog.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Bedtime Stories.”

So I haven’t written anything here in…a while. Can I blame that on grad school even though some people manage to go to grad school and blog at the same time? I’m totally going to blame it on grad school.

Anyway, yes, grad school! That was a thing that I did! A thing that would theoretically make a good subject for a blog post! But that is not the blog post I am going to write today. Today I am taking WordPress’s daily prompt as my impetus to write something here, so we’re going to talk about BOOKS.

What was your favorite book as a child? Did it influence the person you are now?

Unsurprisingly, this is a subject I could talk about a LOT, although all that talking would not necessarily reveal a single favorite because I have far too many beloved childhood books to pick.

I was raised with a love of books and reading, and a lot of the books of my early childhood are still some of my most beloved ones. Some that stand out in my memory:

  • The Wuggie Norple Story, a tale of a kitten who keeps getting bigger and a bunch of pets with increasingly ridiculous names. Someday, if no one stops me, I will name a dog Freckleface Chilibean.
  • A Time to Keep: The Tasha Tudor Book of Holidays is the kind of book that makes you nostalgic for a time you weren’t actually alive during. It’s full of absolutely gorgeous illustrations, which is a big part of what makes it stand out in my mind.
  • The Patchwork Cat–I had a lot of beloved childhood books about cats, raise your hand if you’re surprised.
  • Each Peach Pear Plum–If I try to talk about this book I’ll probably just end up quoting the whole thing from memory, so I’ll just leave this here.
  • The works of Lewis Carroll–I have to give a shout-out to Alice, of course, and to Carroll’s other works. I don’t know if the linked collection is the same one we had, but in any case, my mom read Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass to me and my brother from a book that also had a lot of Carroll’s other works collected in it, which led to my brother and I quoting “Brother and Sister” at each other a lot.
  • Outside Over There…okay, I know I said at the start that I couldn’t pick a favorite, but if I HAD to, like, on pain of death, Outside Over There might be it. I would list it over Where The Wild Things Are as my favorite Sendak (FIGHT ME), and it’s an incredibly formative story for me in a lot of ways.

So those are some of the books I remember loving to have read to me or reading on my own when I was little. There were, of course, many, many more, and I’ve held onto that love of books and reading even if I don’t read as many books as I used to these days (look, the internet is DISTRACTING).

Did loving these and other books influence the person I am now? Well, I’m pursuing a career as a librarian. I own more books than I do shelf space to put them on, even after paring down my collection a few times. And when I think about being a parent, which I would like to be eventually, one of the big things I think about is getting to buy children’s books for my kids and read to them and try to pass on that love of reading.

A List of Lists

Lists I currently have somewhere in or on my desk/purse/fridge/phone/Google Drive, in no particular order:

  • a work list of things I should do today, things I should do before the end of the semester (December 7th), and things I should do during intersession
  • a Thanksgiving checklist that includes what I still have to buy, what I have to make, and what I’m going to wear
  • a Christmas checklist that includes important dates, gift ideas, and shopping lists (this one will eventually have lists of what I’m going to wear to various things, too, but I’m not quite list-crazy enough to plan my outfits a month in advance (yet))
  • a list of things I need to do for my classes before the end of the semester
  • a list of classes I still need to take for the MLIS program and the semesters I am hoping to take them in
  • a list of bills I need to pay
  • a list of wardrobe pieces I would like to acquire as my discretionary funds permit
  • a list of non-necessity purchases made this month so I know how my discretionary funds are doing
  • a list of kitchen equipment I could use to make cool, fancy things if I remembered to spend my discretionary funds on them and not new clothes and eating out (but I like new clothes and eating out)
  • an ongoing list of kitchen staples I have run out of
  • a general to-do list of things that don’t fit on any of my other lists
  • a list in the “Reminders” app on my phone that contains the most important and/or time-sensitive things from all the lists so that I will be reminded of them whenever I compulsively fiddle with my phone

I am both a person who enjoys being organized and productive, and a person who can be very lazy if I let myself. Having determined, after 27 years of this, that I am not likely to wake up tomorrow as a person whoisn’t going to be very lazy if I let myself, I try to keep myself on my toes while there’s stuff to be done and enjoy the time I get to be lazy afterward. Hence: lists.

I’m going to spend a lot of time over the next few weeks complaining about how much stuff I have to do, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t enjoy it.

A random series of Halloween movie posts: A meditation on the Halloweens, mostly the first.

Happy Halloween, everyone! This series of posts has been a lot of fun for me to write and I hope it’s been fun to read. Let’s round this off with the appropriate franchise.


For my money, the best Halloweens are the original and H20. I will admit this assessment is not based on a viewing experience that is either thorough, or impartial–I’ve only watched about ten minutes of 6, have only seen 2 once or twice, and haven’t seen 3 (although I’ve heard that if you can get over that one not being connected to the rest of the franchise, it’s a good movie in its own right, and I’d like to see it) or the remakes. Nevertheless, I maintain the right to be shamelessly biased on my own blog, and I maintain that the first and seventh are the best Halloween movies because they are the ones where Laurie a) is in the whole movie and b) gets to be awesome. She’s in the whole movie in the second one, but decidedly less awesome, and we will not speak of the eighth).

Michael Myers is a great, classic villain, yes. But horror movies in which the villain is basically the protagonist are a dime a dozen. And at the end of the day, I guess I’m just not really a villain girl. I love a good villain, but I love seeing them battle a good hero, someone I can get invested in and root for. And in the Halloween franchise, Laurie is it for me. An argument could be made for Loomis being the hero, but he just doesn’t strike me as hero material–he’s the wise but cryptic older guy that people don’t listen to as much as they should, Obi-Wan to Laurie’s Luke Skywalker and Michael’s Darth Vader. Jamie is cute as a button and the idea that Michael’s evil might be hereditary is an interesting horror movie premise, but she’s not really hero material either, and watching Michael Myers chase a little girl around for two movies just seems unsporting in a way that watching him chase teenagers around somehow doesn’t.

So in the end, Michael is only really compelling to me when he’s facing off with Laurie, and that’s why I rank H20 as a favorite alongside the original. Sure, the original was a game-changer for the genre and H20 is basically one more trope-fest following in the original’s footsteps, but how many other trope-fests have Laurie Strode coming face-to-face with her greatest fear, gripping an axe as she strides towards a long-awaited family reunion?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before Laurie was a pretty badass functional alcoholic headmistress, she was a teenage babysitter. And she was pretty badass then, too. Halloween may have popularized the whole virginal final girl thing, but of course it’s not that simple. For a good portion of the film, Laurie survives only because of Michael’s desire to play cat and mouse with her, which isn’t very comforting. But given a chance to realize what’s happening and react to it (something Annie, Bob, and Lynda don’t get–by the time they realize they’re in danger, they’re already dead), Laurie fights back. And what impresses me so much about her in the first movie is that even as a teenager thrust into this terrifying situation, she holds it together. She protects the children who are in her care, she doesn’t flinch or cry when she says “I killed him”, and even as she’s cowering and screaming in a closet while Michael hacks at the door, she’s also fashioning a crude weapon out of a household object. She spends most of the second movie so heavily in shock and sedated that she’s either immobile or crawling and she still–with no markmanship training that we are aware of–manages to shoot Michael’s eyes out. Laurie doesn’t survive because she’s a virgin–she survives because she’s a survivor.

Which brings us to H20. I really love 20-years-later Laurie. She’s obviously messed up and self-medicating with alcohol. She’s still living in fear, and it’s putting a growing strain on her relationship with her son. But when the thing she’s spent decades being afraid of comes to pass, she doesn’t fall apart. She knows exactly what to do, and she knows that this time, if she wants it to be over, she’s going to have to make sure it’s over.

And then it was over and there was never another sequel or a remake. Yaaaaaaaaay!

A random series of Halloween movie posts: Insidious, Grave Encounters

Finding new horror movies that I will enjoy isn’t always as easy as I’d like, because I’m kind of picky about it. I like the classic slashers–your Halloweens, your Screams and occasionally, if nothing better comes along, your Friday the 13ths–but for the most part I prefer hauntings to stabbings. I tolerate gore pretty well if I’m otherwise interested in the movie, but I don’t get much of a kick out of it, so if something looks like a straight-up gorefest I’m likely to pass it by. Torture porn usually leaves me an unpleasant mix of uncomfortable and bored. Sexual violence isn’t a trigger or a strict deal-breaker, but I feel like I’ve seen so much cinematic rape at this point that unless a movie offers something else to make it worth my while, I end up in the uncomfortable-yet-bored place again. I like ghosts and old creepy houses and suspense, but the jackpot, ghosts-and-creepiness movies that actually, really scare me, seem all too rare sometimes.

So when I find them, I get pretty excited. That’s what tonight’s subjects are–recently made and recently watched movies that gave me some genuine scares along with an enjoyable viewing experience. BONUS: they are both available on Netflix Instant, or at least were at the time of this writing.


Insidious is my new favorite horror movie. It is practically everything I want in a horror movie and almost nothing I don’t want (I could do with fewer Shrieky Violin moments on the soundtrack, because I feel like Shrieky Violins on horror soundtracks are often used as a crutch–it’s not hard to make ANYTHING seem scary when you accompany it with that sound, and I end up wishing they would stop torturing that poor violin and let the scares stand or fall on their own /Shrieky Violin rant). Insidious is about a family (parents played wonderfully by Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson) who start experiencing a haunting at around the same time that their oldest son falls into a coma. Rose Byrne gets sufficiently freaked out that she convinces Patrick Wilson that they need to move–and the haunting follows them to their new house.

That right there is enough for me to like it. They accept that freaky shit happening! The husband chooses to believe a haunting is possible rather than believe his wife is crazy! THEY MOVE OUT OF THE HOUSE!…And it doesn’t work.

Insidious offers a good blend of classic horror moments–if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it–and inventiveness that makes it stand out from other haunting movies. It has neat cinematography and some excellent scares. And it has Lin Shaye (an actress I didn’t really know before watching it and now I want to watch everything she’s ever been in because of how much I love her in this) as Elise Rainier. Forget Tangina–if I ever find out my house is haunted, I want Elise on the job.

I believe there’s supposed to be a sequel coming out in 2013, which is good because THE ENDING. I’m not going to say anymore than that, but jeeeeez, the ending.

Grave Encounters

Okay, so–I watch a fair amount of horror movies. I tend to watch them alone in my apartment at night. I get a little wigged out, I jump at the “Gotcha!” moments, I double-check that my front and back doors are both securely locked before going to sleep. Usually, that’s about how scared I get. Usually, the only reason I won’t finish one on the first viewing is because it doesn’t hold my interest.

Grave Encounters freaked me out so much that I paused it about two-thirds of the way through so that I could finish watching it in broad daylight the next morning.

It’s a found-footage movie, but don’t let that prejudice you against it. The cast of a Ghosthunters-type show, who of course have never seen real evidence of the supernatural and are all jaded, set out to do an episode in an abandoned psychiatric hospital, which is of course actually haunted. Badness ensues. But not at first–they spend the night in the hospital, and there’s some creepy foreshadowing but nothing much. And then they get ready to leave. And then something happens, which I will not spoil for you, but was the reason I spent the rest of the movie with my heart pounding and eventually decided I needed to take a break if I wanted to sleep that night.

It’s hard to convey why I got so freaked out without just saying what it is, and I wish I could, because it’s something I think may not be super-scary to everyone but is PURE, UNADULTERATED NIGHTMARE FUEL for me. It has to do with feeling like the rug has been yanked right out from under your feet, that nothing makes sense anymore and you don’t have a chance because everything you think you know about how to survive in a haunted house will do you no good here. It has very little to do with the scary-face ghost girl in the trailer, but she doesn’t hurt.

I both want more horror movies like Grave Encounters, and don’t want them, ever, because I am fond of sleeping without nightmares. Oh, hey, there’s a sequel now…

A random series of Halloween movie posts: Hocus Pocus, Disney’s Halloween Treat

…Okay, so maybe every other day is a more realistic posting schedule. ANYWAY. After The Exorcist, I feel like we could use something a little lighter! Like a movie about witches who suck the life force out of children, and a Halloween special with several parts I found legitimately terrifying as a child. Yaaaaaaaaaay!

Hocus Pocus

First of all, this is an excellent article about Hocus Pocus and you should go read it.

Hocus Pocus is one of those movies from my generation’s childhood that we’ve gleefully gone on loving right into adulthood. We’re a nostalgic bunch–probably every generation is to at least some extent, but mine also came of age on the Internet, and the Internet is great for bringing back stuff from your childhood so that you can yell about how much you love it on Tumblr. And Hocus Pocus is, I think, a viewing experience that ages well. Watching it as an adult, you get the nostalgia value from the parts of the movie that are aimed at younger viewers, but you also get the moments of adult humor that were kind of weird and off-putting when you were a kid, as well as the ones that went completely over your head (Hocus Pocus is the only kids’ movie I can think of that references a musical about a burlesque dancer. If you know of another one, please share). You’re more aware of the gleeful, unapologetic anachronisms–the witches are baffled by a paved street and have to step on it to realize it’s solid! But they can put on a show-stopping musical number two minutes after walking into a nightclub!–but those just seem like part of the fun. Or maybe you write a pedantic post somewhere about all the inaccuracies, in which case I guess it’s still part of the fun, but your idea of fun is somewhat different than mine. BUT ANYWAY. And as you watch, you realize that adults getting a kick out of Hocus Pocus is nothing new, because Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimi are all clearly having more fun than should be legal playing these characters who are genuinely evil and dangerous, but also silly and funny and kind of fabulous.

Also, if this movie didn’t make you want an immortal talking cat as a pet, you’re wrong. Sorry.

Disney’s Halloween Treat

There were apparently several different Disney Halloween specials that used similar clips, and looking around on Youtube recently, I couldn’t find any version that lines up exactly with the taped-from-TV VHS of my memory (the one I remember did have the Magic Mirror and didn’t have the talking jack-o-lantern, although it did have a great deal of the talking jack-o-lantern’s narration). Still, watching some of the familiar clips makes for a great nostalgia fest. One of my favorites as a kid–and also, of course, the one that scared me the most–was the Old Mill. I also loved the cat stuff (some of which I only recently realized was part of a longer Disney thing about cats), and the Donald Duck cartoon with Witch Hazel, which I now regard as a sort of G-rated Trick’R’Treat (you better not be stingy, or your nightmares will come true). And while I may not be able to hunt down my version on Youtube and our VHS may not exist anymore, Disney’s Halloween treat will always hold a special place in my heart for being one of my first Halloween traditions. Looking back, it laid a lot of the seeds of my love for the holiday.

A random series of Halloween movie posts: The Exorcist

Trying to get this in under the wire so that at least I’ve only missed one day in my “post every day up to Halloween” plan. Just one tonight, because it’s one I have a LOT to say about.

The Exorcist

Even before I decided to write about horror movies in October, writing something about The Exorcist was on my mind, because I rewatched it a few months ago. For the second time.

Yep, I’m a horror movie fan who’s only watched The Exorcist all the way through twice (and still haven’t seen the version with the spider walk. I’m working up to it). This is not because I don’t think it’s a good horror movie, but rather, because it’s such a great one–my first viewing gave me the most profound scare of any horror movie ever. And while if I’d ever really made an effort to screw my courage to the sticking place and watch it again, I probably could have, I just didn’t until a few months ago.

So, the first viewing: I was thirteen, sleeping over at a friend’s house. I knew it was a movie my mother wouldn’t have wanted me to watch at thirteen, and I had already made up my mind that when she picked me up the next morning and asked me what we did last night, I wasn’t going to tell her about it. That just made the idea of watching it seem even more exciting and dangerous (yes, watching R-rated movies and then lying by omission to my mother about them was one of my most common forms of adolescent rebellion).

So we watched The Exorcist. And it was super creepy and had some pretty disturbing scenes (the crucifix scene in particular being a special kind of traumatic for a sheltered thirteen-year-old), but at the time, I found the viewing experience…almost a little underwhelming. I mean, this was THE EXORCIST. It was supposed to be the scariest movie of all time. I’d expected to end up huddled in a corner unable to look, and aside from a few moments where I flinched, I found I could look at it just fine.

And then we went to bed, and I found out I couldn’t bring myself to close my eyes and try to go to sleep. If I closed my eyes, Pazuzu would show up and possess me (how, exactly, keeping my eyes open was supposed to STOP Pazuzu from showing up to possess me, I was not clear on, but I still felt a little better as long as I could keep an eye on the door and the windows and the corners of the room). I stayed awake until it started to get light outside, and then snatched a couple of hours’ sleep. And then I went home, and I don’t remember having trouble sleeping the next night, and outwardly, at least, things pretty much went back to normal.

But the movie was still with me, and at idle moments it would seep into my mind and start freaking me out all over again. At this point I should probably mention that I was raised Catholic, and at thirteen I was just starting to question my religious upbringing. The Exorcist hit me all the harder because of that, and I don’t think it would have been quite such an experience if I’d seen it at any other time in my life. It’s still the only movie that I can point to as having put me in a genuine moral and spiritual panic. All of a sudden, I wasn’t just asking myself “Is God really real?”, I was asking myself “What if God and the devil are BOTH really real and someday the devil comes for me and God won’t help me because he knows I’ve questioned his existence?”. Pretty heady stuff for an eighth-grader. For a while, I threw myself back into Catholicism and basically tried to will myself into being more pious, but it didn’t quite fit anymore. Eventually I would reach the conclusion that fear of punishment makes a really crappy foundation for faith, be really angrily about religion for a few years, and then finally get over being really angry and settle into my current comfortable agnosticism. So The Exorcist ended up being a pretty big piece of my personal spiritual journey, and now I’m grateful for it. Back when I was a teenager in legitimate fear for her soul? Not so grateful.

I was also haunted by the fact that Reagan was so innocent. I’ve been trying and failing to come up with specific examples and my memory may not be trustworthy, but pre-Exorcist, my experience with horror films and ghost stories and other spooky stuff mostly seemed to involve SOME sense of causation–the ghosts weren’t at peace because they’d been murdered or something sacred had been stolen, or the protagonist brought bad things down on themselves by spending the night in the haunted house or reading from the cursed book or having sex at summer camp. Reagan was a little girl, and she’d done nothing. Well, okay, she played with a Ouija board. But for all the spookiness that pop culture had invested them with, Ouija boards were sold by Mattel and thus not, to my thirteen-year-old mind, serious business. When they did feature in my horror experience, it was usually in connection with other stuff that was Definitely Bad (an X-Files episode where there’s underage drinking AND sex AND a Ouija board AND girls playing “Bloody Mary” in a bathroom comes to mind). Reagan’s use of the Oujia board was as innocent and harmless as she was, and she’d done nothing else that seemed remotely wrong. And yet she wasn’t safe. And if Reagan wasn’t safe, no one was safe. I wasn’t safe.

It seems painfully obvious now, and my past self seems painfully naive. Of course being innocent doesn’t give you some magical protection against harm (any more than underage drinking and having sex means you deserve it), and all you need to do to know that is watch the news. But that’s part of what horror movies are for, isn’t it? To take the dark truths, the hard lessons we may not be ready for but have to learn sometime, and wrap them in fiction so that they’re easy to swallow.

So there was that. And then there was over a decade wherein I was not really too scared to rewatch The Exorcist, not precisely, it’s just that I felt like I should prepare myself and be in the right frame of mind to watch it again and I just never got around to it and anyway there were all these other movies out there in the world to watch so maybe I’ll just watch one of those, hmm? Until this summer, when I found myself really wanting to watch a good horror movie, and found out that The Exorcist was available on Netflix Instant, and decided the time had come.

How did it hold up? Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t quite the boogeyman I’d built it up to be through more than a decade of avoidance, but it’s still scary. I’m definitely more able to appreciate it as a movie now–the score, the cinematography, the performances. It’s probably going to remain a movie I have to be in the right frame of mind to watch, but that seems like the way it should be. In short, as far as I’m concerned, it’s still definitely deserving of the title of scariest movie of all time. And it may have taken me a while to get there, but I’m glad it’s one I’ve seen.