Some Toughts Scribbled Between Sets

The body loves progressive challenge. Incrementally increasing the challenge creates a space where we are always in the sweet spot of difficult but not impossible. Weightlifting is like progression raiding except instead of getting nerfed by 5% every few weeks, the boss gets harder to meet you at the place of challenge. More weights are always avaialble. The only person who can cheat you is yourself.

A Weightroom of One’s Own

License to Lift

The orange notebook where I track
	repetitions of the stitches that I knit
		and repetitions of the big three

is my tiny passport into the country of Squat.
	The muscled border guards need only see
		numbers and hashmarks and the focused look
			on my reddening face.

“Excuse me
	Could I
		Get a spot?”

I mean, could a woman get
	a spot 'round here? A bit of space?
		A weightroom of one's own?
			A squat rack of one's own at least?

I know I don't look like the type
	but turn my hands over and you can read
		my palm, my past, the yellow calluses on the pads.

The natives
	are grunting
		but each day

I flash my orange passport
	and take my place
		under the Olympic bar

I drop 
	down
		with more plates
				on the bar
					each time

	My rainbow socks flash and I
get up again.

Another hashmark in the book.
	I've been around,
		and more important:
				I'll be back.

Fat Tuesday Traditional Pączki Recipe

This is my quick translation of the traditional Polish pączki recipe from Kuchnia Poska just in time for Fat Tuesday. I advise you to read the whole recipe before you begin and to think over it carefully. This is an old style of recipe which elides a great deal and assumes you know what you are doing. You can see it by the way the quantities are given.

10 dekagrams* baker’s yeast
1 kilogram wheat flour
1/2 liter milk
6 egg yolks
1 egg
10-15 dekagrams sugar
vanilla to taste
juice of one lemon
zest of one lemon
salt to taste
1 shot of clear spirits (eg vodka, Everclear)
5-6 tablespoons oil or 10 dekagrams butter
40 dekagrams marmalade for filling
1 kilogram oil or lard for frying*
10 dekagrams powdered sugar with vanilla*
 

Make a solution of crushed baker’s yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar, 20 dekagrams flour, and milk. Let stand in a warm place to rise.

Beat the yolks, egg, and sugar, then sift in the remaining flour. Add the risen solution, vanilla, lemon juice, zest, milk, pinch of salt, and spirits.

Knead the dough until it is smooth, lustrous, doesn’t stick to your hands, and small bubbles form on its surface. Add the oil or soft butter bit by bit and knead the dough for a short while more. The dough should not be too dense. Scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl, smooth out the dough, and leave it in a warm place to rise for 10 to 15 minutes. When the dough rises, begin frying it immediately.

Method I. Using a tablespoon scoop small portions of the dough from the mixing bowl (ideally weighing 4 dekagrams each). With fingers moistened with melted fat shape in your palm small rounds, and place in the center 1/2 a teaspoon marmalade or filling of your choice. Seal them carefully, forming a sphere. Place them sealed side down on a flour dusted board and cover them with a cloth.

Heat the cooking oil. Check that the oil is hot enough. Clean the flour off of the fully risen pączki using a brush. Place them into the hot oil with their top side down. Cover with a lid and fry. Pączki should freely float. When they turn golden on the bottom, turn them over with a fork, and finish frying uncovered. Place fried pączki onto paper and to drain the fat. While they are hot place the pączki on a platter side by side and sprinkle them with powdered sugar. Once they are completely cooled, pączki can be stacked.

Method II. After kneading the dough, cover, and leave in a warm place to rise. When the volume of the dough doubles, place sections onto a board covered in flour, and gently roll out into a thickness of 1.5 to 2 cm. Divide the rolled out dough into 2 sections. Into one section trace circles using a form with a 4cm diameter. In the centers of the circles put a bit of marmalade or other filling. Cut the other section into circles using the same form, and put them on top of the circles with marmalade. Pinch carefully around the edges to seal, then use the form to cut out the circles. Place the pączki on a floured board to rise. Once they have risen, fry them as in Method I.

My notes: One dekagram, sometimes spelled decagram, is 10 grams. If you don’t have baker’s yeast, active dry yeast should work fine as long as you calculate the proportions accurately. 

You don’t necessarily need this much cooking fat, as you can fry them in smaller batches. They also don’t need to be entirely covered in fat. It works just fine as long as half each pączek is submerged in hot oil.

I’m not sure why the cookbook insists on vanilla powdered sugar. My family always used plain powdered sugar.

There is a third and considerably easier method for filling that bakeries use. Fry the pączki without any filling. Then, using a pastry bag and a sharp tip, squeeze the filling into each pączek.

An Open Love Letter to All Dudes In Rock Bands

“Would you still love me if I wrote you bad songs?” one of your legion asked me once, theoretically, I suppose. Well, theoretically speaking—

No.

Wait, actually, I guess I could.  Especially if I met you at a party where I was really drunk and you didn’t mention that you’re in a band.  Of course eventually I might let it slip that I write poetry and am learning to play the guitar, because I am dumb like that, and then you would get all excited and tell me you’re in a band.

I would probably ask you would kind of band, and you’d say “rock band”—unless you have some pretentious label that sounds cooler, which is fine.  I’m obviously all for the pretentious if it’s done artfully enough.

But sooner or later the moment would come when you’d give me a burned CD of your band’s music, or maybe even a mix.  Perhaps you’d be coy and say that your band is at its best live and would ask me to refrain from listening to recordings of your music.  Somehow, I’d fall in love with you anyway.  Love is mysterious and who knows why, but let’s say I would.

Then, after weeks of anticipation on your part, and weeks of busy indifference on mine, that fateful weekday in a dive bar would come when you would be the headline band.  Since you really wanted me to have the real [insert your band name here] experience, you wouldn’t let me hang out while you set up.  Oh no!  You’d put me on your comp list and tell me to come at 10pm.

I’d show up and the bouncer would say I’m not on the damned list, or else I’d be there but my name would be all misspelled and he wouldn’t believe I’m me.  It would be one of those bouncers who takes things mighty literally.  He’d refuse to even call you over to prove my identity.  I’d end up having to pay the $5 cover while secretly wondering if this wasn’t a deliberate scheme of yours based on some asshat speed seduction technique.

I’d come over to say hello to you on stage, and you, in full rock star mode, would give me one of your drink tickets.  I’d debate whether I should tell you of the comp-list debacle but refrain.

Then I’d go over to the bar and try to order a Guinness, only to find out that the drink tickets are good for well drinks and beer on tap, which the Guinness is not.  WTF?  Well, whatever.  I settle for a Miller High Life.  It’s free beer after all.  Then I realize, hey waitaminute.  It’s not really free beer! I paid the freaking cover!  Suddenly the cheap beer just doesn’t taste as good and the seeds of resentment are planted in my ungrateful soul.

At least I’m in a cozy dive bar.  Ritzy bars always make me feel out of place.  Give me sticky tables and dirty couches any day.

I settle into a pleasant dark corner on a couch that used to be orange once, I think.  I tuck my feet under my butt, lean on the arm rest, and drink the beer as quickly as I can to properly prepare my blood-alcohol-level for rocking out.

You step in front of the microphone.  It screeches as you try to dramatically remove it from the mic stand.  Was that on purpose to make you seem rough and wild?  You introduce [insert your band name here] and enjoin everyone in the bar to prepare him or herself to rock because this will be one wild show.  I look around and it mostly looks like people who’ve come here after work —I’m not sure that anyone is actually ready to rock.  I try to finish my beer since—did I mention this before?  —I hate rock and roll.  I would say scrap the whole thing if it were not for the Velvet Underground.

I prepare to rock, in as far as a lady who is not from this country and lives in a hole in the ground, pop-culturally speaking, is able to.

One, Two, Three, Four!

And you suck.  Oh my God, does [insert your band name here] suck.

I’m glad I’m in the dark corner because you can’t see me cringing.  After about three songs I get up and order several Tequila shots.  After all, it’s not just some crappy bar band I don’t care about.  It’s the crappy bar band of the man I love!  You can’t possibly imagine how uncomfortable I feel.

After I’ve returned to me seat with another crappy beer to chase down the tequila, I feel that the situation has become vaguely tolerable.  And then it turns out I was wrong.

You’ve been giving cute intros in between songs all along so it takes me a moment to process that this one is different.

Wait, no, you’re not actually trying to pronounce my name?  I guess that does sound like my name if you squint and turn your head sideways.

You what?  You want me to come on stage.  Oh no.  No way.  No fucking way man!

You’re coming here?  You’re getting off stage and actually dragging me there with you?

Can I at least take my beer?

You make me stand next to you on the “stage” while you sing a song ostensibly dedicated to me.  Thank the pain of its badness reaches me only dimly, through a dull haze of alcoholic anesthesia.

You’ve stuck to the radio-play formula and your song is hardly more than 3 minutes long after which I’m allowed to return to my seat on the dirty couch.  If I were you though, I wouldn’t have asked that question.  I mean the question “Would you still love me if I wrote you bad songs” because I’m forced to consider it seriously now.

I do still love you, but I have to admit that my love is mixed with pity and contempt.

It’s cute that you have a rock band that you’re passionate about.  It’s cute any time someone is passionate about something, even if it’s kind of bad.  But at the same time, your complete lack of ability to see how awful you are is pitiable.

Depending on a number of factors I might love you for months or even years after hearing your terrible songs.  My contempt and pity will only grow, but as H.L. Mencken wisely points out, contempt is the feeling a woman must have for a man to marry him, and so we’ll probably get married and heck, even have a couple of kids.

I’ll still love you and rock band will still suck.  Over time I won’t love you any more, but we’ll stay married because of the kids, who I will love.

When we’re both in our 40s your rock band will get picked up by a major label and you’ll be surrounded by groupies who love you and think your music is pure sex.  Kids these days! I’ll say.  You’ll insist you have no interest in the fresh 18-year old bodies they throw at you, but you’re only human and eventually you’ll hook up with one or a dozen of them.

One day I’ll discover I have crabs and you’ll be forced to admit your infidelity.  Not only that, your love for the other woman, a 22 year old brunette with oatmeal for brains.

Since by that point my love will have turned entirely to contempt, we’ll part on pretty good terms.  I mean, I don’t care if you sleep with your groupies.  Good luck to you.  The kids are in college and they’ll be just fine.  Especially since you’re now rich enough to afford the very best in psychotherapy for them.

The only point of contention will be the money.  Your lawyers are going to do their best to screw me out of it, but guess who was smart enough to sign a pre-nup about you making it big and not having to share the earnings with your ex-wife?  No, not you! You were a dumb romantic and now you’ll have to give me money for the rest of my life.

Sweet!

Then I’ll realized that heterosexuality was just a passing, experimental phase of my life and live with my lesbian lover and her pit bulls in Noe Valley.  We’ll go to wine tastings and Long Now Foundation talks.  Our kids will be torn whether it’s more uncomfortable to have a rock star dad or a frumpy lesbian mom.  Your dad sleeps with people your own age or your momma wears combat boots (and sleeps with a woman her own age)?

Anyway, maybe you’d be better off dating someone who doesn’t hate rock music.

Twittsterhood is Powerful, Feminist Gamers of the Intertubes

When you’re a woman gamer, it’s hard not to feel like an anomaly. Even though there actually are a lot of us, we’re represented as a minority. Both in the official imagery of games (and their marketing), and in the surrounding gamer culture, we get the message that this space isn’t really for us. When things get shitty, or even just sort of odd and uncomfortable, we wonder “is it me? or is something really amiss?” 

One can get a little crazy thinking like that, and thinking like that is definitely encouraged by the little corner of the Patriarchy that is gamer culture. You, gamer gal*, must adjust to this world, and if this world is intolerable to you, then the problem is you.

There’s only one antidote to that kind of gaslighting: connecting with other women who share your experiences. Then you get to see that no, it isn’t you, you special snowflake with your personality flaws that you must fix via the self improvement megacorporate insecurity generating complex (happy New Year folks!), it’s actually a whole friggin’ system of culture wide oppression playing itself out in our corner of the world where we play video games and do nerd things. On the one hand, dang, what a bummer. Even our escapism is poisoned with Patriarchy. On the other hand, hey, we’re not crazy!

In 2011 I found, frankly to my complete surprise, a whole community of feminist gamers and nerds on Twitter. Until I started blogging and tweeting about feminism and gaming, I had no idea there were so many of us. There’s also a surprisingly large community of women and men who have shown themselves to be allies of feminist thought, even though they aren’t ready to join us in the glorious revolution quite yet.

When I started blogging about gaming and feminism this year, I felt alone. I could think of one feminist gamer in my community. Thanks to the Twitter community, I now know and interact with at least a dozen, and I know there are many, many more. I’ve gone from feeling like an anomaly, to feeling like I’m part of a movement, or at least a supportive group of like minded individuals. We can, and do, disagree, but not in a way that undermines our lived experience. (At least, I hope if I ever write something that makes someone feel I’m undermining their lived experience, they’ll call me on it)

Finding the feminist gamers on Twitter is one of the best things of 2011. I’m so glad to have you as my Internet Friends. You inspire me; you make me examine and often revise my ideas; you make me feel like I’m not alone. Even this post was inspired by Twitter conversations in the last few days. Happy New Year, and thank you for being awesome.

* It is the official postion of Games and Trips to adopt the term “gamer gal” to identify women-identified gamers as a compromise term between the problematically infantalizing yet alluringly allitrative “gamer girl” and the tin-tongued if accurately seriouscat “woman gamer” as our commitment on the editorial board to truth is equalled by our commitment to elegance of expression. 

Spirit Link Totem is Communist Totem

Just as Communist wealth redistribution schemes take wealth from those who have more and redistribute it across society so everyone has an equal share, so does Spirit Link Totem take health and redistributes it evenly among your party or raid so everyone has an equal share. Thus, it is fair to say that Spirit Link Totem is Communist.

To remind everyone of the glorious power of Spirit Link Totem, I use the following macro to announce to my raid when I drop it:

/cast Spirit Link Totem
/yell FROM EACH ACCORDING TO THEIR ABILITY TO EACH ACCORDING TO THEIR  NEED

Go therefore, and do you likewise.

The Muscular Female Body Under Scrutiny

I read some articles written by men in the fitness industry explaining the phenomenon of women being accused of looking too muscular or worrying that they might look too muscular. It was adorable, like watching children develop superstitious causality theories based on incomplete evidence. Women, these men posit, develop neuroses about their bodies because they look at women’s magazines which feature really skinny women, so it’s actually women who cause women to be crazy about how they look, when men, they cheerfully, paternalisticly explain, actually prefer women who have a bit of meat on them! (They then illustrate with examples of unrealistically skinny women to show what women who are not unrealistically skinny look like. I actually laughed out loud.)

Embedded in these discussion is the assumption that fitness is something that women do to look good to men. Embedded in these discussion is that fitness is ultimately about vanity. Embedded in these discussion is the assumption that women’s bodies are public property and deserve to be judged.

Fitness trainers have stumbled into a tiny corner of the patriarchy, the one where women are judged for being too muscular. They misattribute the discomfort women feel in their own skin to women’s mistaken notions about what men find attractive. They pull out examples of muscular looking female celebrities getting shit for looking too muscular. It’s true, women do get shit for looking strong and muscular!

Women also get shit for looking too skinny, too fat, too flat chested, to plain faced, to made up, too busty, too slutty, too uptight, too masculine, too femme, too pregnant, too unhappy, too out in public and being female. If you are a woman, whatever you are doing with your body, you’re wrong. You will be constantly judged by arbitrary, ever-shifting criteria. The whole point of the schema is not to get women to look a certain way. The point is to remind women that our bodies are not our own.

One of the beautiful things about fitness, and I find, particularly about strength training, is that it can shift your perception of your own body. Instead of thinking of the body as an object to be looked at, we can, if only for the brief joyful period of our workout, think of it as an instrument of action. It’s not enough, it’s not the revolution that we need, but at least it’s an act of rebellion.

A female body that falls outside of the ever-shifting norms of beauty is a rebel body. When a woman chooses deliberately to become muscular she chooses an act of rebellion. If I were a personal trainer I wouldn’t try to re-assure women that they won’t get too big, or that they can stop if they get too big, or that men will actually find them more attractive this way.

I would say instead, woman, whatever you do is wrong, you know that. The game is rigged against you. Skinny or fat or muscular or not, you’ll get shit for it. Why not therefore, rebel? At least you’ll have the satisfaction of physical strength.

Don’t Blame Twilight for Accurately Depicting the Sickness of Romantic Love

Say what you will about Twilight, but it accurately captures the experience of teenage girl sexual obsession.That the way teenage girl sexual love expresses itself is kind of unhealthy is reflected pretty accurately in its plot. If you hate Twilight because you hate the way girls are socialized to experience sexual love, then welcome to the good fight. Don’t blame the girls and women who find an echo of their experience in Twilight. Blame the Patriarchy.

The End of War

I was having coffee with a friend today and seeing that there were a lot more people around than the usual slackers and bums like us, he wondered out loud if it was some kind of holiday.

“Armistice Day,” I said. That’s what 11/11 has been to me ever since I became aware that it was a holiday. After World War I, which was only The Great War then, people, sick of war, seeing how now it was fought, agreed to fight no more wars. After the great horror, a great hope.

All day I’ve been seeing people on the intertubes reflecting on the war veterans among their friends and families, as the holiday is now Veteran’s Day. I felt a perplexity within when I thought whether I knew any veterans in my family. I suppose all my family members who survived WWII are veterans in a way, because they all participated in the Resistance in some way. It didn’t make sense to single them out in the same way. It was more important to celebrate the end of war than particular individuals who resisted in a particular way. Everyone in the resistance took risks with their lives, whether they lived and died in Warsaw’s sewers, or sneaked food into the soldiers in the forest.

I don’t want to celebrate the fighting and killing. I don’t want to celebrate that fighting and killing becomes so much of a person’s identity that this is what we call them now, a soldier. I’m not an absolute pacifist. I do believe that sometimes we must fight, and must use violence. But I don’t want to celebrate that.

I want to celebrate armistice, the end of war.