Am I Pretty or Ugly?

Jane Garvey (my favorite) presented a piece on Women's Hour, today, about the trend of girls posting videos on YouTube asking, "Am I pretty or ugly?" You can listen here (7 min).

She interviewed artist/performer Louise Orwin who has recently done her own version of these videos, while playing different characters, as a kind of experiment. They were downcast at the idea of young girls asking the internet whether they're pretty or not.

I'm writing this post to say that I disagree with Jane's sad head-shaking, and I never disagree with her, hardly.

I watched some of the videos for myself. Lots of the girls are wearing heavy make-up, and on some you can tell they're making the videos late at night on their family's desktop. The worst ones are where you can overhear family members talking. They're in the same room with the girl and just letting her ask high-charge questions to the internet! Come on people.

While I wouldn't recommend watching these videos - it feels pretty creepy - I don't fault people for making them. They're being sensible.

Here's how I break down the Ugly/Pretty YouTube trend:

1. Attractiveness is a social currency.

For girls it is the social currency. Every little girl, by the time she gets to high school, knows that inner beauty is the Weimar Mark to outer beauty's dollar.

2. Social currency is important.

Because it gets you laid. (Plus other things - like people just generally being kinder to you and all those studies about attractive people making more money and living longer and being uniformed of the gross hardship that is suffering of any kind! But mostly it gets you laid.)

3. Attractiveness isn't objective. But it is, kind of.

Those "she don't know she's beautiful" songs absolutely lie. If a woman is getting a top 40 song written about her, bitch* knows she's beautiful. No question.

Otherwise, there's a lot of grey area - 50 shades of it - wah wah. A lot of average-y looking girls who are wondering if they're going to be allowed to participate in any grand adventures, if they're going to be anybody's princess, if crowds of people will love or remember them. It's important in mapping out expectations for her life, for a girl to know whether or not she's pretty.

It's like all these girls are given so many drachmas of beauty and shoved into a strange country. These YouTube videos are just queries to find out what the exchange rate is.

*Am I allowed to say "bitch" on here? Do I believe in that? Oh well, if I wake up in the night feeling remorseful about it (happens), I can alter it.

I remember thinking in college that if I just knew exactly where I was in the spectrum of pretty, then I could budget for the social-currency equivalent of some Pringles.

Economic metaphors aside, so much of life is an assessment of risk. Should I talk to that guy? Should I crack a joke? If I get up in front of these people, will they be mean to me? Having an objective-ish idea of her attractiveness is an important element when a girl evaluates risk. So why the shock and dismay when she consults the internet about it?

It's like Old Gregg says, "Make an assessment."


Confidentiality Spice

This is a quick post about my insecurities. I may need at least two other people in my presence to justify my right choices in life activities. Mitch is a good start, but he's legally bound to me, at this point, which, I'm afraid, might make him nil. Nilify him.

he ho he ho (breathe, it's going to be okay)

I have been watching through season one of Community. (I break down the plot lines of each of them because I want to be a TV writer, which makes my watching lots of TV by myself okay! AHAHAH...) And in episode 8 Act 2, Jeff moves into Abed's dorm room.

(Complete sidebar/ tangent: once Jon Fox and some other members of our friend group saw Danny Pudi at Andy's, one of our go-to bars when we lived in Spokane after college. I didn't see him, which was dissappointing, but this serves to prove that at one point I had a sitcom-worthy living situation.)

Abed watches cartoons and eats cereal and is happy and content.

TV is great, these days, but I have trouble watching the best shows without worrying - Ah... am I being adequately social? Are the unpopular police going to come and take me away?

It's not actually quite that bad, but I do envy Abed's (and other people like him) ability to sit down and whole-heartedly enjoy a thing without worrying about whether or not they're doing it wrong. "It" meaning life, and I don't like to talk about it. Which is clearly a lie.


I had a bad reaction to autumnal decorations, yesterday.

There was a slow onset. Mitch and I were at some friends' apartment, and it was clean and cozy. Some festive leaves and a birdhouse awaited us at the threshold. And this should register somewhere from neutral to nice in my brain, but instead I had an irrational reaction to it. WE'RE DOING THIS NOW? I thought angrily.

This couple, they have framed photographs of vegetables in their kitchen. Glossy ones, cut out of magazines, and put behind glass. You can't tell me that someone has a sentimental attachment to plums, that the memory of sweet potatoes helps get them through their day. No. This is all-out, 100% decoration. They have a "Eat, Drink, and Be Merry" plaque hung unironically. And the worst part about all of it? IT'S FUCKING NICE!

Pumpkin-smelling candles! Little paper pennants in gold and eggplant!

I asked Mitch in the car ride home, what he thought of the fall decour, and he said, "It made me feel really comfortable." "WHY DON'T YOU MARRY THEM THEN?" I replied. Fine times.

The thing about it is that I'm not like that, and I'm okay with myself. I grew up in a house that had the nice decorations. People have actually hired my mom to decorate their houses. So my parents' house does pretty good in the decorative festivities. I picked up a lot of things from my mom, but the interior decorating wasn't one of them. My mom rides her bike across states, builds art installations, and helps old and hurt people learn how to walk again. I'll take some of that, please.

It's odd, though, how I feel like we all need to be doing the same thing, that the way other people live their lives has a bearing on mine. Human empathy, probably. But it's too bad that I can't just leave the nice people's gourds alone.

I figure it's a good time for this.


Church of Gravity

Mitch and I just saw the movie Gravity in 3D. It opens with a gorgeous shot of Earth from orbit. No people or ships are in frame for a minute or so.

It's hard to describe how gorgeous this depiction of Earth is. High definintion. 3D. Big Screen. Instead of just oceans, clouds, and the glow of the atmosphere, we see land masses, deserts, and major rivers. Then the, like, little shuttle shows up and the rest of the movie gets on with itself.

What I think would be really cool is if there was an extension of that opening sequence available for people whenever. If they played, in theatres, a long sequence of a view from space with the Earth slowly turning. You could walk in whenever, into the dark. Put on your 3D glasses and sit in the quiet. It would be like church, the beauty and magnitude of the planet that offers perspective.

Sometimes I think about Earth, how unusual it is that we live on a place that sustains life. The distance between us and anything remotely like us is astronomical (hah). I just feel like I should be happy since it's so unlikely for me to be alive and breathing oxygen and drinking water.

Even that doesn't always do the trick. If I could see the Earth on big screen once in a while, it would be therapeutic.


New Writer-- Rachel

Hello internet, NSA, and readers of blogs.

My name is Rachel Ewing and I have been blessed with an invitation to share my thoughts on this very blog. I am a long time reader of the Westovar(ian) and have found much joy from it.

Some things about me, the new writer:
1.) I should have been born British.
2.) Leonard Oakland changed my life. He was the first person to be like "Ah. You don't give a f*ck about grammar or punctuation, but you are a writer."
3.) I don't give a f*ck about grammar or punctuation.
4.) I believe that it is just as stupid to refuse to do something because it’s a fad as it is to do something because it is a fad. Popular opinion shouldn’t play such a large role in our decision making process.
5.) If I get a beverage with a label, I always peel the label off of it before I can drink more then a sip. If I get an unlabeled beverage, I do not trust it. 
6.) I have broken a rib and did not know about it until after it healed.
7.) I pretend to be a penguin every time I'm in the shower.
8.) My favorite word is trachea.
9.) I'm a Second Year Dramatic Writing Grad Student at NYU Tisch with a focus on Television.
10.) I like to order red wine in public places in the hopes of one day throwing it on someone.

So. Yes. Look forward to my writings, dear reader. They will probably center on TV shows, nerd fodder, rants, wines, and why America should never have separated from England.

As you were. 


How to Have a Life Story

Stories are important to me. I think God created us all, in the first place, and gave us the ability to screw up because he is interested in story.

And yet real life, looked at from any degree of emotional distance, seems to make no story at all. (See here) It seems to be one thing leading to another without any real shape or intention. How disappointing.

I think people lie to themselves about it. That's why romantic engagement photos exist - this isn't a just a marriage, it's a love story. It is grand and inevitable - and why folks insist "everything happens for a reason."

A string of events is not a story, even if they are your events. That's not to say that real-life stories don't exist. I'm just saying that just because Stories = Important and One's Life = Important does not mean that One's Life = Grand Story. A life story, an actual narrative, is not something we're guaranteed. In fact, it's probably rare. It's probably why we as humans write fiction in the first place. (Hooray, fiction!)

I think, though, that there are some things that one can do to increase the odds of having a real-life story.

The first building block of story structure is to have a character with a want. The more a character is committed to this want, the more he drives a story. Stories need conflict, and regular people avoid conflict. But if you have a character who is committed to satisfying his want, he won't avoid conflict. Character + Want + Conflict = Story, or at least something well on its way.

So maybe want something in life. One working definition of coolness is to be totally free of wants. No Wants = No Vulnerability. To be cool is to have no skin in the game. I was under the impression for a long time that people would like me if I was cool.

But the thing is that people will watch a character who wants something. People will relate to that character. They'll follow him.

And besides, having a want or a goal might provide you with a narrative arc. Give you that talky voice making sense of things. I think it's worth a try.


Harmontown was Good This Week


That there above this is the link to the episode I'm talking about. It's kind of a draining listen because in their discussion about morality they end up talking about pedophiles a lot. The existence of pedophiles is emotionally draining.

But! There's good stuff in it. Like Dan saying that we, in modern society, don't have adequate outlets for our rage. I was listening while answering monotonous email after frustratingly monotonous email thinking, "I DON'T HAVE SUFFICIENT OUTLETS FOR MY RAGE."

It also gets into the crossover between morality and society to the point where it's argued that morality = society. When run into one another, one person says, "Good morning." And it's safe for the other person to say "Good morning" back. With any deviation from this response, or addition to it, we run the risk of the other person going, "You freak! You monster!" The problem, though, with strictly adhering to the standard response is that it allows for no individuality. We can't express who we are without individuality. And when we can't communicate who we are, individually, to people, we can't connect with them.

And therefore we're up late writing blog posts. Us, generally.

I'll be shopping around for rage outlets.