Open Thread

My friend posted this doozy of a poem the other day:

“Fairy-tale Logic”

Fairy tales are full of impossible tasks:
Gather the chin hairs of a man-eating goat,
Or cross a sulphuric lake in a leaky boat,
Select the prince from a row of identical masks,
Tiptoe up to a dragon where it basks
And snatch its bone; count dust specks, mote by mote,
Or learn the phone directory by rote.
Always it’s impossible what someone asks—

You have to fight magic with magic. You have to believe
That you have something impossible up your sleeve,
The language of snakes, perhaps, an invisible cloak,
An army of ants at your beck, or a lethal joke,
The will to do whatever must be done:
Marry a monster. Hand over your firstborn son.

–A.E. Stallings

It made me wonder what impossible things we’ve all done. When did you defeat the monster in its lair? When did you think something was going to be impossible, only to look up a year later and realize you’d done it already, you’d survived? WHAT ARE YOU KICKING ASS AT THESE DAYS? Tell us your proud moments, people.

Good thread, everyone! Comments on this discussion are closed as of 9/14.


Sorting through and packing up my books for moving, and asked for book recommendations by a friend, I realized that there is a short list of titles & authors that I repeatedly find myself shoving into people’s hands (usually after being lucky enough to have them shoved into my hands).  And I thought, who do I know who likes reading? And who do I know who recommends great stuff to me?

So let’s have a thread. Having been around the Fannish Moderation block a time or two, allow me to set some ground rules:

  • List no more than 5 creators.
  • If you like, give a brief, spoiler-free description of the work. Edited to Add: If you want to warn for violence or other potentially trigger-y stuff, word on the Tweet is that posters would greatly appreciate it.
  • The spam queue will get extra hungry for linky posts, so I recommend that you link only to works that exist solely online. We can GooBingle something that interests us.
  • If you didn’t enjoy something that someone recommends, please do not use your words.

To elaborate on that last point, this is an enthusiasm thread, not a critique thread. People are saying “Here is stuff I love and recommend to people all the time.” They are not saying “and you should feel the same way I do about itor even read it.

  • Correct: “If you enjoy that, you’ll probably enjoy x thing, too – I thought it did y aspect really well.”
  • Incorrect: “I did not enjoy x thing because….” “Y thing is way better…” “I wanted to like x but I was disappointed because….” “All the hype over x really put me off….”

…and if you find yourself typing the word “overrated” at any point, just delete your comment, ok? Come back when you like something. We are to an extent ignoring potentially problematic elements of the works in this discussion, but that’s because the basis of the discussion is subjective enjoyment, i.e., What stuff do you like?


EDITED TO ADD: Ok, based on some heated feedback on Twitter that I admit I am not handling all that well, let’s change this up slightly.

–If you want to give content notes about elements in something you are recommending, for example, if you enjoyed Swamplandia! but want people to know that it gets rapey before they pick it up (soooooooooo rapey), it would be appreciated by many readers. I feel like a lot of people are doing this anyway and do this here in general.

–If you are reading the thread, please know before you go in:

a) This was not the rule or request from the beginning, and my post + 177 192 comments and counting are already through the net.

b) So if something caught your eye and you want to read it but you have known triggers or stuff you are trying to avoid, ask the person who recommended it directly and/or do a little due diligence on Goodreads, etc. before picking it up. Script: “That sounds neat. I’m trying to avoid stuff with x and y. Am I likely to encounter it?”  I really, really don’t want to trick you into reading stuff that will harm you.

Even if we’d done this right from the start, people might warn for all kinds of stuff and still miss the thing that would bother or trigger you.  So ask or do as @staranise recommends: GooBingle “title” + “sexist”, & etc. or “title” + “problematic” as a failsafe, because even the most conscientious of rec’rs won’t catch everything.

c) CAVEAT EMPTOR. These are not necessarily “safe” books on any level. Many of mine have murder & really chilling portrayals of sociopaths in them. (& bonus historical inaccuracies!)  Before you go in the thread, before you read anything that anyone here has recommended, know that these books are not being screened for anything but “some stranger on the internet really liked it.

Against all odds, I am still trying to avoid conversations like this:

Poster A:I cannot wait for Dr. Who to start back up!”

Poster B:I loved it until (yep, totally problematic) thing…” or “Here are all the (legitimate!) ways that Stephen Moffat is doing it wrong…..

…as the call-and-response here.

:quietly checks BBC schedule for any announcements re: Sherlock Season 3:

I think critical engagement with media is vitally important, and it’s not the general policy of the blog (in other threads, discuss problematic shit away, we do it all the time) to gloss it over. Also, I believe that the forums, when they are fully operational, will have areas specifically devoted this kind of analysis.

But for purposes of this particular thread on this particular day, I want to know what people enthusiastically love, even if it has problematic elements, even if it is not literary or cool or critically acclaimed. lf you are like “I really love Flowers In the Attic” I will say “Cool, did you see this interview with the editor who acquired it? Because it is fascinating, and knowing that she was physically immobile makes the claustrophobia and isolation of the characters much more interesting. Also, how weird is it that all of our moms were reading it at the same time?

There are legitimate reasons to avoid certain works beyond subjectively not liking them, and it is a privileged position to equate the two and gloss over “isms.” After taking a Twitter break (thanks to people looking out for me who said ‘stop being an ass’!) I see why people were upset and how I was equating the two things incorrectly.  However, today, in this thread, I am okay with a potentially “bad” book getting through the net. It is okay if you don’t like something and just quietly go on not liking it. It is okay if you quietly lower your opinion of someone based on their taste without engaging.

So what do you love? That’s where I wanted to hang out today. Can we still do it?


Read More

Are you about to start university? Are you in the middle of your studies? Are you a recent grad with tips to share?

This is your thread to talk to each other. Anxieties? Things you are most excited about? Tips on self care? Figuring out how to live away from home and deal with roommates? Study skillz? Academics? Time management? Mental health stuff? Sex, drugs, rock’n’roll? The thread is yours.

Ground Rules:

  • I’d like to prioritize the voices of people who are undergraduate students now.
  • If your college/university experience is still fresh, as in, within the last 3 years, chime in. What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were just starting out?
  • If you work at a college or university – professor, student affairs person, counselor, etc. (I think we have MANY in this community), also chime in.
  • If your advice comes from “10-20 years ago, when was just starting college….” maybe it’s not your thread. I say this as someone who started college 20 years ago and as someone who teaches Freshpeople: Stuff has really, really changed.

The Captain Awkward Dot Com Pledge Drive is still rolling for another 3-4 days, so here is your daily jingle of the tip jar. If you enjoy the blog and have a few $ to contribute, please consider making a (non-tax deductible) gift  through PayPal or  via Dwolla (for which you must be in the USA with a bank account). Thank you to everyone who has donated so far!

P.S. Librarians are the greatest.

(College students, save your $. You’ll need it. )

Couple on the Quai in Paris

Photo credit: J. Peepas, Paris, 2008

It’s Day 2 of the Pledge Drive. Thank you so much for the kind donations so far!  One of the things I plan to do with the donations is save for a new computer. Two years ago, your generous support made it possible for me to buy a used computer when I moved out of a place where I shared one with a partner. The thing still works, but the time where it just wants to sit in the rocking chair in the sun resting its creaky joints and telling stories about The Good Old Days is nigh. If you have a few $ to contribute, please consider making a (non-tax deductible) gift  through PayPal or  via Dwolla (for which you must be in the USA with a bank account). Thank you!

By popular request, this is a thread for people who are currently in long distance relationships to talk with each other. Here’s my favorite poem about that:

2 teens on Paris commuter train sharing headphones.

Photo credit: J. Peepas, Paris, 2007

Long Distance Isn’t – Samuel Hazo

Separated by a sea, two shores,
the clans of Vercingetorix, the Brenner
Pass, the boot of Italy
from just below the knee to halfway
down the calf, we nix them all
by phone.
Our voices kiss.
Who cares if the Atlantic bashes
Maine, Land’s End, or Normandy?
We leapfrog hemispheres the way
the mind cavorts through God-knows-what
millenia, what dynasties, what
samples of our kind from
australopithecus to Charlie Chaplin.
The body’s place?
Cross latitude
by longitude, and it is there.
The body’s age?
Count up
from birth or back from death,
and it is there.
But words?
We launch them out like vows against the wind.
Creating what we are,
they wing through seas and continents
and make us more than elegies
to yesterday.
Forget the cost.
Talk louder and ignore the static.
Pretend we’re walking through the dark.
Don’t stop.
Don’t stop or look
behind you.
As long as you
keep talking, I can find you.

Thanks for all the recipes and books! I need to step away from moderation for the next few days due to some work deadlines and can’t pay attention to the spam queue, so am closing comments. We’ll do another one of these sometime soon. 

In the meantime, work on finding us a rich benefactor so we can throw a legendary potluck.


Hello, Awkwardeers!

How are you? It is Friday. I am grading final projects. Let’s have an open thread!

Inspired by madgastronomer’s recent sharing of a key lime pie recipe, if you feel inclined, please share a recipe that you love to make.

Ground Rules: If you read the recipe and it contains something you hate, don’t eat, or can’t eat, it would be great if you just skipped over the comment completely without comment. You can ask about substitutions, but no “Ew” or “It sounds awesome except for x ingredient, which is the food of Satan” or “well, I’m allergic so I can’t” or “Not everyone can afford to shop at Whole Paycheck.” Chances are that you’re not going to make whatever it is anyway, and those comments are just a downer for the person who shared it in the first place. Also, there will be zero diet-talk, discussion of calories, weight loss, relative healthfulness, “sinfulness,” shame, moralizing, or guilt. We can do this, I think.

If you also feel so inclined, I’d also love to know what you are reading these days that you love.


I am about 3/4 way through Swamplandia! and loving it so far. I’ve been reading a ton of Connie Willis & Octavia Butler, also.

Foodwise, I am hoping the farmer’s market has asparagus tomorrow, so I can go back to this for breakfast.

This is a standby cheap & healthy dinner, though my solo-dinner making has resembled this more often than not of late. If you make the broccoli/chickpea/tomato thing, one secret thing I figured out thanks to SweetMachineSP is that if you roast the chickpeas & broccoli (toss with olive oil, salt, and your choice of spices, spread out on a cookie sheet, roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-40 minutes) instead of steaming it takes it to eleven.

Happy reading & eating! Happy graduation to my former students, I am proud of you! And happy weekend!

Pumpkin & Lemon Chess pie slices on a plate.

Photo by AlyssssylA on Flickr, used courtesy of a Creative Commons license. (Recipes at link!)

Good morning. I hope everyone had a nice December 25th. I spent the day playing computer games and hanging out with the Gentleman Caller, trying to shake this disgusting sinus infection that’s laid me low for the past two weeks. A phlegm haiku to start your day off right:

lung-butter sculptures

land in the porcelain bowl

morning-time splendor

I’d love to hear from people about their holidays so far. Any awkward encounters? Tales of boundary enforcement/subject changes/shutting down of bullies? Really thoughtful or really unthoughtful gifts? Highs, lows, mehs? See any good movies this week? Thoughts on the Dr. Who Christmas special?*

Ooh, also, check out this piece by Sady at Rookie: Fight Like A Girl, recommended by awesome blog reader Megan M. So much great stuff in here about how being direct and using your words is better than suffering in silence or becoming passive-aggressive.

Read More

The Decemberists, looking adorable.

This is just to say that I am enjoying the new Decemberists album quite a bit, even though I’m used to more songs about stabbing and murder from them. Did they go on antidepressants?  The Crane Wife is one of my “desert island” albums, but this is pretty good.  “January Hymn” is sad in just the right way, and “Rox in the Box” is pleasantly earwormy.  I need to listen a few more times before everything gels.

This is also an experiment with an open thread.  I’ve got a bunch of questions in my mailbox about Facebook and the whole process of “friending” and “unfriending” that I’m not quite ready to answer yet.  I feel a rant coming on about how despite appearances not everyone in your life is allowed to play in your sandbox all the time, but I need to sleep on it.

Questions? Thoughts?  Harrowing tales of Facebook drama? Favorite Decemberists song or album? Read any good books lately?  This blog is your blog.