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07 November 2014

The Gilmore Girls Diet

Tonight, in the middle of a rendition of "Don't Cha," which I was singing to my cat as I cradled her in my arms and scanned the kitchen cupboard for all snacky food that I don't have in the house, I realized this was all the conversation I had today:
  • Informing the cat that she is so soft, the softest little kitty ever.
  • Asking the cat if she wanted belly scratches, while giving her belly scratches.
  • Informing the cat that she is a "pretty little girl."
  • Gently suggesting to the cat that she get off the counter while I stuffed Port Salut into slices of turkey lunch meat which I prepared to smear with fancy mustard. (The only snacking option in the house other than the bag of candy corn and candy corn varietals, from which I already consumed too much within this 24-hour period.)
  • Telling the cat that "I love my baby kitty! I love her so much!"
It wasn't a straight rendition of "Don't Cha." It involved other people wishing their kitty was as soft as Cleo. I started laughing and composing this blog post in the middle of it.

None of this is relevant to the main topic of the blog post. It's just an adorable prologue. We play fast and loose with titles and how long it takes to get around to validating them with a subject around here. Although, I was standing in the kitchen looking for snacks because I was watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix and those women are just constantly eating all the damn time. They talk about burgers and Chinese food a lot, and there are always gratuitous shots of luscious-looking pizza, in every episode. Every damned episode. While I sip wine in my workout clothes, craving snacks, and admonish myself for already eating dinner tonight. (Romaine salad with tomatoes and tuna.) Which was already sinful because I allowed into it to include Bleu cheese dressing rather than the usual "good girl" dressing-mixture of olive oil, pepper and Parmesan. (Even when I'm being good I include the cheese. Leave me alone.)

Gilmore Girls arrived on Netflix a month or so ago. Half my Twitter feed was watching it, commenting on various character's shittiness, mostly correctly. Jess is a pretentious shithead and a mistake that every smart girl needs to inevitably make. Gilmore Girls featured the best indie music years before The OC and Zach Braff's over-rated movie. (It was on the WB and it was about a niche segment of the population - women - so most people didn't notice.) Sookie is the best ever, followed closely by Sookie's dimples. Lane should've gotten an abortion. Anyway, I can only take so much of this before I'm tempted to re-live GG. So yeah. While eating, while chasing spiders, while editing photos, while fiercely climbing the cat tree, and while doing any other some such Internet flitting (some of these things are more Cleo-type activities, and some are more Amanda-type activities), Cleo and I enjoy fast-paced, jokey conversations, gratuitous shots of pepperoni pizza, and Sookie's dimples.

Holy crap, Melissa McCarthy's dimples. And they seem so much dimplier in Gilmore Girls than in everything I've ever seen her in. Last Friday - I was in Minneapolis last Friday - I was out for dinner with friends, and sometime in the middle of one of my whiskey-infused cocktails our many conversations, I rowdily hypothesized that it's impossible to be an evil person and have dimples at the same time. We tried to think of bad people, and whether they had dimples. Ted Bundy? Hitler? The only conclusion we reached was that Hitler's Dimples would make a great, only-locally-successful band name. (Or that might have been my own conclusion that I didn't say out loud, now that I think about it. It used to be a joke with my old roommates Monica and Mike, and Monica's BF Shane, to think of ridiculous band names and write them on the white board in the kitchen. I would list examples but they were all much more profane than Hitler's Dimples, and usually involved body parts more scandalous than dimples / bodily fluids. I enjoy writing - and saying! - swear words, but this isn't a Blue Blog.)

How is it that Dimple-Havers don't just completely rule the world? [Attempts to think of any world leaders who might have dimples.] I feel like Melissa McCarthy could make me do ANYTHING by flashing her fucking Sookie St. James dimples at me. Dimple-Havers, do you find that the world seems so much more difficult, according to other people? Do you find yourself noticing people obeying your every whim, particularly at times when you are smiling? I assumed that nice people have dimples because the world is good to them, and how can a person be evil to a world that has only ever expressed delight at their existence? But maybe Dimple-Havers are more in danger of becoming evil, because the hordes of people who wish to suck up the sweet nectar of sunlight exuding from their dimples has made them power-hungry and megalo-maniacal. Hitler's Dimples. (I Google-image searched Hitler, but he's glaring in almost every photo, and his Hitler 'Stache is very distracting.)

The dimple page in Wikipedia is sadly lacking in information about the psychological and sociological impacts of dimples.

Typical nap pose.
Cats don't have dimples because the universe was already good enough to give us cats.

Back to food. (I can't think of anything else to say about dimples.) I was certain that the issue of Gilmore Girls and junk food had been thoroughly covered on the Internet since the advent of lady journals and blogs and "Feminist thinkpieces," so after one particularly grueling shot of pizza, I did a quick search. I just needed to read someone saying "Okay so HAHA the Gilmore Girls don't cook and hate vegetables but let's all admit that this junk food theme plus the thin, attractive actresses was sort of bullshitty and sexist, right?!" And I found that. And it was! It plays into the Cool Girl trope of being thin and beautiful while somehow maintaining a constant diet of high fat, high sugar, low nutrition, crap food. Not that Gilmore Girls, or any show, has to be the television show equivalent of a Perfect Feminist, but it's an important trope to examine.

(Even though the trope is obnoxious, I appreciated one scene in which Lorelai and Rory are wolfing down pizza while Dean eats a salad. Nice, Gilmore Girls. In the scene, Dean is suggesting that the Donna Reed Traditional Housewife ideal wasn't always a bad thing. It's either a brilliant or a contradictory juxtaposition.)

So it was rather edifying to read, in a linked article in one of these blogs, an interview with Lauren Graham, in which she states that she's been on a diet "since I was born," and admits to being an exercise fanatic. (Exercise after spending the whole day skiing? What?) Not that I think it's great - or not great, since I don't know her life - that anyone feels that they have to eat like they are dieting for their entire life. But it helps to read the reality side of things. Being as thin and fit as Lorelai Gilmore clearly is in Gilmore Girls, while eating what she eats, is a fiction. The vast majority of 36-year old (and older) women have to work very, very hard to look how the actress who played her (still) looks. Graham eats brown rice and has a personal trainer. I wouldn't mind having a personal trainer, and exercise is important for every person, but I sure as hell will never be am eater of brown rice. Or wheat pasta. (Stop telling me to switch to wheat pasta, health gurus!) So I'm just going to have to deal with being healthy within reasonable bounds (wine and Port Salut and non-wheat pasta are included within these reasonable bounds) and not looking like actresses, by reading things about how the Gilmore Girls Diet is a fiction, and I will be fine.

This post makes it sound like I had some kind of food-related freak-out tonight, but that wasn't at all the case. (Just, snackiness.) These food thoughts are thoughts that most women have to think about every damn day. (Bleu cheese dressing? AND Port Salut and Candy Corn?!) My point is merely, that Gilmore Girls doesn't help with that situation!

But I'm enjoying it on Netflix!

And there is probably some pepperoni pizza in my not-too distant future.

23 October 2014

Browser/Tabs Check: 23 October 14 Edition

HELLO AGAIN!

I'm working on a regular post (ie. with paragraphs), at the moment, about returning home from my trip to SE Asia. But in the meantime, I want to put my toes back in the water of this blogging thing that I used to do. Here's a variation of a list post. It's way less angsty than the last time I did one of these. *wink*

Browser/Tabs Today:
  • Yahoo Mail - naturally
  • Facebook - Good gravy, I love hating Facebook.
  • Flickr - In and out of my account on this site while editing SE Asia (!) photos for the last couple of days.
  • Wikipedia - Neanderthal entry - I randomly looked this up because I heard an American on the radio say "neandertal," and thought exasperatedly to myself, "REALLY? We have to pronounce it with a British "th" now??" It's spelled with either a "th" or just a "t," sez Wikipedia. Then the next American on the radio pronounced the word with the "th" as the English digraph (not the plain "t" sound). So I guess we're in HARassment/harASSment territory.
  • Feedly - news and blogs
  • The ToastWomen In Eagles Songs, In Order Of Trustworthiness
  • SoundCloud - Stars, "No One Is Lost" - There's a brand new Stars album! Yippee! This song is dance-y and upbeat and yet still characteristically fatalist and existential. ...Stars!
  • Zappos - ...maybe looking up some Frye boots...just for fun...
  • YouTube - 18+, "All The Time"
  • Slate - Dear Prudence again! In which Prudie finds a diplomatic way to say "You need to stop being a heartless piece of crap." The letter is so stereotypically "mean, rich person," I wondered whether it was actually real.
  • Blogger - Um, this blog post.
  • Brain Pickings - Ursula K. Le Guin on Being a Man
    That’s who I am. I am the generic he, as in, “If anybody needs an abortion he will have to go to another state,” or “A writer knows which side his bread is buttered on.” That’s me, the writer, him. I am a man. Not maybe a first-rate man. I’m perfectly willing to admit that I may be in fact a kind of second-rate or imitation man, a Pretend-a-Him. As a him, I am to a genuine male him as a microwaved fish stick is to a whole grilled Chinook salmon.
So THERE. Totally *not* ridiculously Feministy all the time.

16 September 2014

Singapore '09 and Singapore '14

I'm going to Singapore again. I thought I'd seen enough of Singapore five years ago to sate me, in favor of exploring other countries in the world before I die, but MB is going to be in Singapore on a Liberty Port, so Singapore is where I'm going. Again.

The original Liberty Port destination was Hong Kong. So I bought a ticket for Hong Kong. Luckily, I planned to be away for about three weeks, so when the port was moved to Singapore (farther west and thus farther into the future on the calendar), it was just a matter of having to buy ticket to Singapore. (Cheaper than buying a ticket from California to South Dakota.) And why not? It's not like I saw *everything* when I was there last. Although, since I did see quite a lot in 2009, I won't be in tourist-mode hyper-drive, and the visit will be more relaxed. Poor MB can get lots of hotel-and-sleeping-in-a-real-bed time. As much as he wants, maybe. So I will be in Hong Kong for a couple of days, and then I will fly to Singapore. And then I will fly to Bangkok (yep) and journey to wherever else I have time to visit in SE Asia (via bus, via plane? who knows?!?! modern infrastructure in SE Asia is the limit!), and then I will fly back to Hong Kong (maybe another day or two there if I missed out on anything a couple of week previous), and then I will fly home.

Also, I expect to see J-Dawg in Thailand. Yay!

...So that is my big news. I'm excited. This time I'm fairly certain my passport is in order.

While thinking about my upcoming trip, I reviewed a couple of the blog posts I wrote about the first Singapore experience. I was a much more prolific blogger back then, but I also happened to be extremely busy (with trips to Two Harbors, MN and South Dakota, then San Diego, and then the whole business with moving to California to be with my boyfriend and taking a Great Western Road Trip en route), and I never got around to writing much about Singapore. So I thought I'd post a bunch of photos of the trip. And then when I post more photos of Singapore II in a couple of months, we can all laugh about how much younger MB and I look a mere five years earlier, and it will be sooooo funny and totally not depressing at all.

our hotel room

This was our room. Even though it was after midnight when we arrived at the hotel, we still ran around the room, bouncing everywhere, playing music and drinking champagne. (At least, that's how I remember it.) When I went to take shower (international plane ride), MB insisted I take a glass of champagne with me. (Because...decadence?) Of course, I promptly dropped it in the shower. Glass went everywhere. Party time. The next morning, I woke up in a way I've never woken up, not up until then and not even five years later: my head was at the foot of the bed, under the covers, and my feet up by my pillow. I don't toss around much when I sleep, I don't sleep walk or talk in my sleep, either...this was seriously weird. At first I thought it was because I was on the other side of the world, but the I remembered that Singapore is still in the Northern Hemisphere, by one degree. So how did I get turned upside down?

grape gulp

When I stepped out of a cab into the Singapore midday sun for the first time, I was shocked by how oppressive and HOT it was. One degree above the Equator! So I had to do things to keep cool, like go on a boat ride, and tour an air-conditioned museum, and buy this grape pop in a mall.

the rules clearly state

Whoops I failed to take a photo of the herds of cattle roaming through the skyscrapers of Singapore in a vain attempt to traverse the Cavenagh Bridge.

how things used to be

We did stop in the Asian Civilisations Museum for an hour or two because it was being blasted on the inside by air conditioning. Luscious, wonderful air conditioning. The photo above is my photo of one of their photos on display, a recording of what the Singapore River used to look like: covered in houseboats and trades-boats. Before I arrived in the city, I thought I would find the old river culture intact, just like when I traveled to Chichen Itza and I thought I'd be able to climb the pyramids. Wrong on both accounts. My knowledge of the world is apparently derived from National Geographic magazines from the 1960s.

I love how even-handed the recounting of history is in the ACM. Here's a transcript of the display:
The 1977
Clean Rivers Project

The Clean Rivers Project was initiated by the Ministry of Environment in October 1977. The $200-million scheme aimed to alleviate the pollution of the Singapore River and other waterways over ten years.

Apart from the physical challenge of cleaning up hundreds of tons of debris, there was the awkward job of changing the River's entire social, cultural and economic landscape. Seemingly overnight, long-time denizens of the Singapore River - lightermen, shopowners, food hawkers and residents - had to comply with new stringent regulations or leave their waterway. 
The removal of the lighters
On 31 August 1983, the last 300 twakow (lighters) on the Singapore River were piloted out to new berths in Pasir Panjang. The removal of these key elements of the riverscape brought its history as as a trade waterway to an end.

Their absence only accentuated the Singapore River's new silence and stillness. People felt the loss keenly: the boats and the Singapore River had formed a natural whole, their fortunes intrinsically linked. They were, as one lighterman put it, like the scales on the 'belly of the carp', the auspicious nickname for the crescent formed by Boat Quay. Remove the scales, and the fish would die.

In 1987, the Clean Rivers Project ended on a resoundingly successful note. Its success was commemorated by a mass swim in the Singapore River. The old waterway was officially clean.

But the River had lost more than dirt and debris: the tide of change had also washed away its thriving, vibrant history as a trade waterway. By comparison, its newly-cleaned water now also appeared characterless and sterile.
under Cavenagh Bridge

Here is a view of the historic Cavenagh Bridge, taken during the aforementioned riverboat tour. The ACM was not kidding about the sterility and quietude of the river. It was still pretty, though.

approaching the Merlion

The Merlion! The halfway point (at which the boat turns around and heads back to the origin point) of our riverboat tour was the Merlion, a representation of the "national personification" of Singapore. The lion part comes from the name Singapore, "Singa" for lion.

Classic Singapore Skyline

Another view of the Merlion, with Singapore's famous cluster of downtown skyscrapers in the background, and the historic Fullerton Hotel on the right.

together on the river boat

Here we are at the end of the tour! There were only two other riders - a man and his son. We drank Tiger beers during the ride (that MB hid for the photo). I think someone was selling them next to the ticket stand for the tour.

satay snack

Room service, at one point. I was craving satay and a Coke, and MB was craving more Tiger beers. They cost a *fortune* at the hotel.

portrait of us

Dinner at one of the restaurants in the hotel. MB kept ordering champagne for us because he had no idea how expensive it would be to move me to California in a couple of months. It was cute of him, though.

Awwww... We were so teeny and adorable back then!

first Hindu temple sighting!

On one of the days, I insisted that we walk through Little India. Turns out, I *adore* Little India.

Hindu Dudes

Hindu statues. I tried not to be too touristy with my camera (as far as a white, wide-eyed, Western woman can attempt to not be too touristy in the Little India section of a SE Asian city), because Little India is just people living their lives. Except for a few trinket shops, there wasn't a commercialized section dedicated to hawking watered-down representations of Little India to the gullible masses.

Little India five foot way

This is a "five foot way" in Little India. Many of the streets in this quarter are built this way, with five feet of depth from the first floor overhanging the ground-floor, providing shade and cover for the sidewalk.

offering

An offering. (This is common - we saw offerings everywhere. I promise this wasn't just someone's unattended lunch.)

five foot way

Another scenic five foot way.

Amanda and Marty snacking

As we were wandering further away from the main Little India thoroughfare, it suddenly started to rain, and we didn't happen to be in a five foot way. So we decided to duck into a quiet restaurant for what the menu advertised as "traditional Singaporean fare." (Looks like I'm drinking a Coke again. I can't explain it - I don't drink pop in my everyday life, but I craved Coca Cola most of the time I was in Singapore.) Regrets: That we didn't eat at an Indian restaurant?! Also: That I didn't note what kind of traditional Singaporean fare we snacked on. Luckily, I am getting another chance to do such things!

Raffles Hotel Singapore Slings!

Later on the agenda: Singapore Slings (because duh) in the Long Bar at the historic Raffles Hotel, the originator of the Singapore Sling.

Fun Fact: Singapore Slings taste like cough syrup. Historic, colonial cough syrup!

fans in the Long Bar

Historic, colonial fans in the Long Bar.

Marty and Singapore Sling

Mmmmm!

(This was before MB had fully cultivated his "MB loves" expression. He wasn't used to my constant camera-ing yet, and he was in love, aw.)

difficult to fit in the frame

Here is the Civilian War Memorial in Singapore. During the WWII, the British lost Singapore (a British colony at the time) to the Imperial Japanese Army, after the Battle of Singapore. Horrors ensued, which I will only link, because they are sad. The four pillars represent the four ethnic peoples of Singapore.

Amanda and Singapore I

Amanda, with downtown Singapore and the Merlion, and The Fullerton in the background

c'mere!

Coercing MB into a couples' selfie, above. He had to report back to the ship after this day, and I had another day in Singapore on my own, before flying out myself. (The embarrassing reason for my abbreviated visit to Singapore is discussed in the link above that refers to my passport being in order.)

giant trees on Orchard Road

And here's the other day in Singapore! This is Orchard Road, a huge thoroughfare filled with giant, multi-level malls - on every block. That's right. Not a mall. Not "a couple malls." A mall on every block. There are other significant buildings - I remember passing the Royal Thai Embassy.  But the malls made the biggest impression. And the trees. Those massive trees! I gaped at the trees, wondering if they'd been planted when the road was constructed (they must have, since they are uniform to the road), which couldn't have been too long ago, in tree-time, as Singapore was a mere fishing village in the mid-19th century. (That the British snagged for its valuable location in trade purposes.) And had the trees grown so large, so fast, because the natural state of this part of the earth is "jungle?"

How to get up to the park.

These photos are just highlights. After wandering, stunned, down Orchard Road (and buying a few things, what the hell why not), I found a subway station (subway as in USian underground train) and figured out how to "work" the fare and the riding of the train. I took it to Fort Canning, the mound of land that forms a large park in the middle of the city. Here is an escalator one can use to travel into the park.

SAM across the fountain National Singapore Museum

But before exploring the park, I decided to hit up a couple of museums. No need to choose between the Singapore Art Museum and the National Singapore Museum when you can go to both! And they were both pretty great. SAM features a respectable collection of modern art (including the heart-emblazoned tanks in this post). The National Singapore Museum contains a thorough history of everything about Singapore, ever. It was extremely interesting (apologies for the vague superlatives), actually, and I again admired the even-handed recounting of uglier details, such as the sad history of prostitution in the city, which was illustrated with an interactive display, including models of humans in replica shacks, and recorded voices telling these women's stories. However, the second museum was so thorough, I wasn't able to look at absolutely everything, and still catch some daylight for Fort Canning.

Fort Canning Park is for Lovers

Fort Canning is for lovers. (I'm not going to post more Fort Canning shots. It's a park with trees and grass, fashioned on a large hill. You get it. Pretty though.)

Fort Canning Park Self Portrait

Oh, I guess this self-portrait is in Fort Canning. The sun wasn't working with me, but there I am! City in the background.

Singapore Cat Things are everywhere.

These are statues featuring Singa, The Courtesy Lion! I looooooved Singa The Courtesy Lion. He was everywhere. He was adopted as part of the "Singapore Kindness Movement," which I also love. The Singapore Kindness Movement! Doesn't that sound wonderful? And a little culty? It's not a cult, though, it's a non-profit that was started by government officials. And what are the goals? To influence people to be gracious, kind and considerate to each other. That's so...lovely! I love it so much.

Alas, alas!!! While looking up Singa The Courtesty Lion again for this post, I discovered some alarming information. Singa The Courtesy Lion QUIT. Seriously! He resigned. From his resignation letter:
I suppose it's about time. After all, I've been doing this for over 30 years - first, as the Courtesy Lion, and more recently, as your mascot for kindness. I'm just too tired to continue facing an increasingly angry and disagreeable society.
WHAT. Whoa! I hope everything is okay and that people still care about being kind! Singa said it's time for the mascot to step aside and for real people to step up. This all sounds sensible, but I'm a believer in the power of symbols. Why not have kindness statues everywhere reminding people to just BE NICE to each other? Hmph. Maybe people are just annoyed with them.

I'm not, though! Singa resigned last year, but I hope I still see him when I visit.

the backs of buildings

ANYWAY. After Fort Canning, I walked through the city toward Chinatown. Here is a cool photo of spiral staircases in the backs of buildings.

Food Street

Chinatown was packed with the usual tourist trinkets, fish mongers, lights and colorful paper and cloths. When I'd toured the whole business, I hit a street filled with hawker stalls for more satay - which was infinitely better than the hotel satay, so much so that I was quite surprised - and more Coke.

satay chicken, peanut sauce and Coke

It was my last night in town.

And there ya go. Singapore recounted, a mere five years after the trip!