Trying to get my reading mojo back after grad school + What I’m reading right now

As some of you know, I have an English degree. No one ever told me about the side effects of an English degree. I just hope they wear off one day. Seriously, academia should come with a warning: “May cause uncontrollable analysing of every piece of media, immediate recognition of the tiniest bit of symbolism, smartassery, and saying ‘actually’ a lot”.

For the first few months after completing my degree I was unable to read. Anything. Books had become so much a part of uni I couldn’t relax with them. Books = work. Why aren’t you taking notes on this? This is a vital plot point, illustrating the effect of capitalism on the common person. This is also a vital plot point, drawing directly on outdated concepts of psychoanalysis. This sentence echoes Foucault’s Discipline and Punish almost to the letter.

And it just went on and on and on. It’s bad enough that I can’t watch any TV show in German without my brain translating everything to English immediately and without my explicit order. On a more positive note, I think I finally got rid of the Thereforeitis. It’s when every sentence you say starts with therefore because after the fifteenth academic paper it’s just become a habit.

So for the last few weeks I have made an effort to read leisurely. It’s hard. It’s like training a muscle I haven’t used since the accident. Books can be fun, I tell myself. Reading is good for your mental health. Escapism is the goal here. Don’t think about how it might have fit in with your thesis.

Reading doesn’t exactly relax me. For one, I read a lot of sci-fi, which means action. And if it’s well-written, I can’t put it down. I have this terrible habit of devouring reading material like chocolate cake during a particularly bad period. And just like with cake, once it’s gone I feel empty. So I got to read more. And it begins to stress me because omg, can’t read fast enough, must know plot, arrgh!

Reading before bed is especially dangerous, no matter if fiction or something academical, and yes, I do still read scientific articles. Either I sit up until 4 am reading through someone’s adventure, or my brain is up until 4 am thinking about the topic at hand, composing my own paper in my head. You might think, well, there’s an easy solution: just write down everything you think. I can’t write that fast. I can’t even type half as fast as I think. I’ll be up until 6 am because I keep forgetting something. I tried, okay?

If I have to sleep, the number one priority is not to wake up the brain again. It loves thinking way too much. It’s not fucking healthy.

And if you’re now curious about what I could possibly read that is so interesting, here, have a list of books I read (or am still reading, because one book at a time is sooo preschool) so far this year for fun:

Ann Leckie – Ancillary Justice:

I’m about halfway through with this one. The story… well, if I told you this is about the mind of a 2000 year old space ship trapped in a human body trying to get revenge on the multi-bodied demigod emperor of the galaxy you’d think you know what it’s about, but you really, really wouldn’t. This one has world-building and flashbacks galore, but that also makes the main story move very slowly. I’m smack in the middle and the protagonist is still on the same planet. And also in the same house. 2000 year old ships are patient, I guess?


Naomi Alderman – The Power:

Funny tidbit about this book: Way back at uni I once wrote a short story with an almost identical premise, just a different ending. Feeling kinda stupid now that I never did anything with it after that, but at least this proves my hypothesis that people across continents can have the same idea at almost the same time without ever interacting. What’s it about? Well, three points: Women get power that makes them stronger, men get scared, paradigm shifts occur. Do youself a favour and read it. Like, right now. I liked it, overall. I had kinda wished for a different conclusion, but you can’t have everything. Most of the plot twists are kinda forseeable (it is a kind of dark comedy satire that way), but there was one that hit me out of nowhere, so good job, Naomi. The narrative is told through the lens of multiple characters, the plot is interspersed with drawings of archeological finds that already hint at where the story is going. It was something different, which I liked a lot.

Ann Aguirre – Grimspace:

This is the exact opposite of Ancillary Justice. I’m one fifth in and already there have been three fights, one flight on a spaceship, an attack by alien wild life, and at least five deaths. It’s a riot! The book is sectioned into many small chapters, which is good as you need a breather between all the action. What I particularly like is that protagonist Sirantha Jax (yes, that’s her real name) is not a teenager or twenty-something, as sci-fi space operas are wont to include, but a woman in her thirties who swears like a pirate. Woo for old women in space! I feel so understood! The motley crew seems diverse in terms of race and sexual orientation, too, that’s a plus for me. I don’t think I’ll be getting any hot lesbian space action any time soon, but hey, you take what you can get.

Mary Beard – Women and Power:

In these two reproduced lectures originally held in 2014, classicist Mary Beard takes on the relationship between power and gender, focusing mainly on ancient Greek and Roman times. But you don’t need to be an expert on antique history to get into this. Got it at the same time as The Power because my academia-addled brain thought it would make for some nice secondary literature. I heard people complain about the book being too short, but hey, it’s two lectures, and it is very concise. Not every academic pulls a Foucault and rambles on for 500 pages.

Arthur Machen – The Great God Pan:

I came across this little late Victorian horror gem on this post. I mean, I had told myself no more books that months, but as the great poet Macklemore once said, shit, it was 49 cents (Kindle edition). It’s more of a novella, so I finished it within a few hours. The story is simple: A scientist who insists he’s not mad does experiments on a young woman, everything goes horribly wrong, twenty years later a mysterious woman is terrorizing London and people die, two men decide to play detective. Like most Victorian horror, you couldn’t scare a fly with this thing, it’s super foreseeable, but it was interesting, always alluding to something, but never being precise about what exactly is so horrible about the god Pan or the woman everyone’s afraid of. But if you’re looking for an easy read and like seeing Victorian men scared out of their wits, this is one for you.

Right now, that’s it! Since I’ve declared No Fun February I can’t get any books until next month. Until then, I’m taking suggestions.


Soul What?

Leaving aside for a moment the pressing question of whether or not a thing like the soul even exists in any scientifically tangible way…

How do I define soulmate? What kind of tired TV trope even is this ‘soulmate’ business?

Okay, so as far as my understanding goes, cultivated by abundant amounts of American movies, a soulmate is That One Person who just ‘Gets’ You (or anyway the person you end up with in act three of every romantic comedy after the Big Terrible Misunderstanding has been cleared up with minimal to zero effort). You know, that instant connection, something-meaningful-to-connect-two-people-for-the-rest-of-their-lives-and-no-one-else-can-ever-be-this-special kind of tired ass bullshit. It’s bullshit because every kind of media would have you believe that your soulmate absolutely has to also be your One True Love.

I like to call this the soulmate romance fallacy. Let’s try an example: Imagine you know this absolutely wonderful person, you’ve known each other for years, you just click, you can talk for hours, if you are apart for a while you fall right back into your old habits when you’re reunited, you have so many things in common, you’re a comfort to each other, you complement and complete each other, you stick to each other’s side in good times and bad alike. But you can’t be in a romantic relationship because you’re both women and heterosexual. Now what? Back to square one?

This obsessive tying of soulmateship and romance is what I see as the principle problem of the entire damn concept. Nothing about the suggestion that a soulmate is the person you like best and that you have the most in common with and that you get along with the best suggests an automatic romantic or sexual connection, yet this is probably the only kind ever to be portrayed in media. So, because I’m notoriously unromantic, I’ll give you some other possible scenarios:

1)Soulmate + Romance

a) You and your soulmate are in a romantic relationship. Everything’s fine, roll the credits.

b) You and your soulmate are in a romantic relationship, but it’s not going well. Despite your many similarities, your sleep schedules crash, you have different ideas what a commitment is due to your upbringing, and your levels of OCD when it comes to household cleanliness are not the same. So what do you do? Break it off like every other relationship that is not working out or stick with it because you feel obligated because after all, this is your soulmate and you’ve seen all the movies and know how it’s supposed to go? Are you still soulmates if you’re not together?

2) Soulmate + Unrequited Love

a) You found your soulmate. For whatever reason, however, you can’t be together. They’re in a relationship. You’re in a relationship. Maybe they’re gay. Maybe you’re not. Maybe you live half a planet away and only communicate online while both of you are happily coupled with someone else. Maybe you live next door but there just is no sexual attraction for any number of reasons. What do you do? Become romantically involved anyway, even though it will not work out?

b) You found your soulmate. You’re in love with your soulmate. They very much do not feel the same for you, even if you are their most important person, they just don’t feel that way about you. So now what? Do you remain friends? Do you get over it? Do you do the awkward fade out? Do you obsessively try to make them fall for you because after all, you’re soulmates? Maybe they are in a relationship with someone else, would you sabotage that so you can be together?

3) Soulmateship vs. The Infinite Irony of the Universe

a) You found your soulmate. But you are not this person’s soulmate. No one ever said soulmateship had to be a mutual thing.

b) Your soulmate was born in a different time than yours, either having died before you two could meet or they are yet to be born, probably when you’re dead.

c) What if your soulmate is not even a human being, but, say, a cat? One of the twenty five you own because you’re convinced you never met your soulmate and opted for the next best thing, namely dying a crazy cat lady/man death? Or maybe it’s a place, or an occupation, or a book, or a culture, or, dunno, horticulture?

d) Your soulmate was born in a different part of the planet, or even on a different planet, and you’ll never meet.

e) Your soulmate is a giant squiggly ten-eyed tentacled alien from planet Zoon but you’ll never find out because you two have absolutely no way of communicating with each other even if you do meet. Star-cross’d lovers indeed.

4) Soulmates and Numbers

a) Where is it set in stone that everyone gets only one soulmate? Who decided this? First door on the right, one soulmate each? I don’t think so. So you have one and then they die, then what? You can never have a soulmate again? You spend the rest of your live in sub-par relationships because, after all, they’re not your soulmates but merely props to fill the void in your sad trampled heeeeaaaarrrrrt, so they can’t possibly be as meaningful?

b) What if you have multiple soulmates at the same time? But not all of them are mutual? And not all of them are in your time or your planet? This is getting pretty confusing.

5) Extra Credit

You’re your own soulmate. Boom!

And that, in a nutshell, is why the entire idea of a soulmate is doomed from birth. Too many variables. Too damn complicated. Also, too damn clichéd, go back to watching The Notebook if that’s what you’re into. Your soulmate sure as hell isn’t.

Is There Even One Chore I Like?

No, there isn’t, otherwise it wouldn’t be called a chore. Oh for life to be like an MMO! Move your hands over the fire and tada, food! Hack at some rock and receive ore. Twiddle your hands again to make clothes. Oh to carry a wand and not a broom!

Now there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with chores. After all, eliminating bacteria from your living environment is a good thing. But then again, it’s wooooork. I mean, who actually likes scrubbing toilets? And I’m sure only very specialised perverts like taking out the trash. And worse than the fact that it’s work, there’re the people who share your living space who seem to be on a constant mission to thwart your efforts. So let’s rank things according to groan-worthiness.

11. Laundry. Ranked lowest because I have a washerdryer I bought myself because fuck everyone, there’s no room for a decent dryer in my house and I’m not hanging things out to dry. Can’t get a decent load of laundry hung up on a drying rack.

10. Dishes. We have a dishwasher. I insisted we get a dishwasher when we moved in here. I fought tooth and nail because everyone told me, oh but you’re only two people. I said, you’re right, and got the dishwasher anyway. Early in our relationship Boyfriend and me decided that dishes should be his chore. And of course nothing ever got done because Boyfriend can be a lazy sack o’ something and the only way he ever did the damn dishes was by being nagged to almost-death. So I put my foot down and said, dishwasher. Thinking of course that this would free him up for additional chores so I didn’t have to do everything. Did that work? Nope. And as if to mock me he always, with military precision, puts his dishes on top of the dishwasher instead of taking the five seconds to open the damn thing and putting the dishes inside.

9. Kitchen cleaning. I usually wipe the kitchen counter any chance I get. Put something in the oven? Perfect time for a wipe. Put something in the microwave? Let’s see how clean I can get this sink in 60 seconds. Now wiping the fronts of cabinets, that’s a real chore. And one reserved for spring cleaning.

8. Taking out the trash. Now this is also one of Boyfriends chores and also involves a lot of nagging. Why nagging? Because a friendly “Could you please take out the kitchen trash when you leave for work tomorrow?” is always met with a groan of agony like I just asked him to get me peaches from Tibet.

7. Dusting. This is annoying because I have to do it every second day because I’m allergic. Of course being allergic doesn’t make it easier to dust. A couple times a year, usually somewhere around a holiday, I bite the proverbial bullet, get out the ladder and even dust in places my 5’4” ass usually can’t reach.

6. Changing bedsheets. I don’t know what it is with changing bedsheets and covers but I find it supremely annoying and time-consuming. Like I have to take everything off the bed, get the new covers, strip the old covers off, put the new covers on, take the old sheet off, put a new one on, then make the bed, then put everything that was on it on it again.

5. Bathroom cleaning. Who even invented shower cubicles and who decided they should be so difficult to keep clean? Also, why is there beard hair all over the damn place? I can have the bathroom spotless by mid-afternoon and by 6 pm at the latest it will be ruined again because Boyfriend showers and somehow manages to flood the room and get hair from various parts of his body all over everything.

4. Ironing. It’s not really the ironing itself, because I’m actually pretty fast. I can get two loads of laundry ironed and folded in an hour. What I don’t like about it is the fact that, because I usually iron on the weekends, Boyfriend just sits around in the same room, playing on his computer, leisurely as you please, while I have to do manual work that makes me feel like such a housewife. Dammit, I want some free weekend, too, dammit!

3. Groceries. One, everything is expensive as hell and I get severely depressed each time I see the numbers at the checkout. Two, so I make a list. A nice comprehensive list that takes into account this weeks meal plan as well as the kitchen inventory I did not half an hour before leaving the house. Then Boyfriend keeps putting things in the cart that aren’t on the list. And then I have to argue. I don’t like that. Just keep to the list.

2. Vacuum cleaning. The vacuum cleaner is heavy. I don’t like dragging heavy things around, especially not if they snag on every damn corner or door or whatever is lying on the floor again that I didn’t put there. And I always have to change the front part for another because someone decided you can’t vacuum furniture with the normal part. And then I lean the whole thing against a wall or something and it won’t stand still for one goddamn second and falls on my foot.

1. COOKING! OMG, nothing I hate more! Do people who don’t cook even realise how much mental effort goes into cooking? It’s small wonder I suffer from decision fatigue. Like, you have to budget. You have to make a more-or-less plan for an entire week because shit you have other things to do when you get home besides deciding what you’ll eat today (you know, like laundry and vacuum cleaning because ain’t no one gonna help you). You have to buy groceries accordingly and hope to heaven or hell that the thing you bought on Friday that’s supposed to be good for a week will not have gone bad by Monday. Then you have to consider all the other people who’re gonna eat the same thing. And then you cook, you chop your veggies, you agonize over too crisply cooked meat, you feel guilty because this meal is not entirely in line with your diet and you really need to lose weight and why do humans even have to eat? And then you serve and it takes forever to get the people who live with you to abandon their digital devices and come tot he table, and then they don’t like it. And then they don’t feel like it. And then they’d rather have something else, like X, you didn’t make X in a while. And this has to be done every day, over and over and over, until you finally snap, reach for the steak knife and stab your way into the history of great criminal cases.

And I don’t even have kids. Guess I better keep it that way.

The Day Someone Made a Conscious Decision to Put Nipples on Mannequins

Oh, to be a shameless and unseen eavesdropper. The places I would be in! Let me count ’em all! I would love to be a fly on the wall…

  • When it was decided to put nipples on mannequins. That didn’t just happen. Someone made a conscious decision to put nipples on mannequins.
  • When someone decided to put nipples on the bat suit in Batman and Robin. That also didn’t just happen.
  • When someone decided to make Batman and Robin.
  • When that James person decided to actually sell her Twilight fanfiction.
  • With whoever decided to name a character Mr Sinister. Extra silly name even by X-Men standards. Same with Sinister Six, I mean just go the whole 500 yards and name your group the Evil League of Evil.
  • When Tinder was invented. “Hey, I have a great business idea! Let’s create a thing that helps people find a shag! I volunteer myself for the first test rounds!”
  • When someone looked at a camera and was like, “You know what? I’m going to use this astounding new technology to film people during coitus!”
  • At the set of the Anaconda video.
  • When the first codpiece was invented.
  • When this guy was painting because I’m pretty sure he was high as a kite all of the time.
  • After every job interview I ever had, I want to know what you bitches are saying about me!
  • Same goes for ever application I ever sent anywhere.
  • When this particular call to the fire brigade happened.
  • Actually, just put me on the wall of any emergency room on a weekend because this kinda shit just happens waaaay too often. “It’s kind of a long story…” – “There’s a halibut up your butt.” – “Yes, well, as I said, it’s kind of a long story…”
  • When Ben Franklin decided to go kite-flying in a storm. “I have the best idea ever!”
  • When Ching Shih decided to show everyone how to do this whole pirate thing.
  • When food bloggers take their pictures. I’m sure the food gets cold in the process. Or is there a magic trick?
  • When corsets were invented because I’m pretty sure the inventor was a mortician. “You know what’s sexy? Girls not breathing!”
  • When Nyan Cat happened. “Let’s put a rainbow cat and some annoying music together! We’ll troll the entire online world!”
  • The first time a horse was ridden by a human. Horse must’ve been like, “The fuck is this hairless ape doing, off!”
  • To find out what really happened when Mary Shelley got the idea for Frankenstein.
  • When Hannibal was like, “Yeah, drag the elephants up the mountains, that’ll show those Romans!”
  • When the first blow-up doll was produced. “Can’t get a date? Now you can, just take a deep breath.”
  • When the stage-manager read through the script: “What do you mean, ‘exit pursued by a bear’? You want to get a real bear? Will, you’re nuts!”
  • Hypothetically, in the Tardis when the Doctor, any incarnation, is alone aboard because I have the sneaking suspicion they’re all doing the dance scene from Risky Business when no-one’s watching. Or at least I hope so because it would be awesome.
  • And while we’re at it, can I be a fly on the wall when the first aliens discover life on planet Earth?

A Guide to Home Workouts

So the holiday festivities have been over for a month now, and who’s still trying to get the feast weight off? Me, for one. For the new year, all the women in the world have resolved to lose weight and I thought… eh, actually, wouldn’t be bad, I mean I gained five pounds.

Like a few million others out there I’m on a constant quest of finding a way to stay fit and thin sexy healthy without putting in effort, time, and/or money. Well, unfortunately, your average fitness journey is a pick-at-least-two kind of deal, and since I don’t have any goddamn money, for me it’s effort and time. The solution: work out at home! Of course! If the internet can help you pack on pounds by making you sit in front of your computer eating chocolate, it can just as well help you lose that weight again (It’s like a women’s magazine: “Love yourself the way you are”, “To-die-for cake recipes”, “Lose 10 pounds in 10 days”). So here is a handy totally not-in-any-way-exaggerated guide to your typical, average, easily-doable-by-everyone home workout:

Step 1: Start by spending 2-3 hours dicking around the internet to gather mental strength.

Step 2: Struggle into your sports bra. This counts as warm-up.

Step 3: Rearrange your two breast friends to a comfortable position inside your sports bra. This may take a while.

Step 4: Get distracted by how the material of your sports bra makes your tit-arranging hand look like a skeleton hand. Boo, I’m a ghost! Lol, so tweeting this.

Step 5: Admire how strong your shoulders look when you’re wearing a sports bra. Re-enact the “You talkin’ to me?”-scene from Taxi Driver.

Step 6: Put on the rest of your workout clothes. Doesn’t matter what, really, can be your overpriced super-absorbent, super-airy, super-anything anything, or just some old t-shirt you found lying on the floor.

Step 7: Now that you’re adequately prepared, choose your workout vids. You might choose a DVD or one of the gazillion Youtube instructors. Get your equipment ready, yoga mat, weights, whatever.

Step 8: Start your workout.

Step 9: Take a fifty second break after the first ten seconds to catch your breath because holy French fries are you out of shape.

Step 10: Exercise is a great way to change your perspective on things! As you’re lying on your back, working your abs or whatever, you catch sight of the floor, look around the room and think, “Why is there stuff on the floor? I just vacuumed the whole place yesterday!” Skip the next ten reps to agonize about how your house gets dirty so quickly.

Step 11: Remember that e-mail you meant to write an answer to and make a mental note not to forget about it.

Step 12: Pause your vid and answer that e-mail because suddenly you can’t concentrate on anything else.

Step 13: Have a drink of water and continue with your workout. Catch sight of your mirror image in the TV screen and admire your butt for a good thirty seconds. Whoa, mama!

Step 14: Lose your balance while staring at your butt and fall over.

Step 15: Skip that one exercise you can’t do.

Step 16: Skip that one exercise you don’t like.

Step 17: Skip that one exercise you technically can do, but it’s hard and you’re not in the mood for hard, you just want to keep that high calorie meal you had earlier from turning into weight!

Step 18: Continue with the exercises you can do and want to do.

Step 19: Five minutes left! Get super motivated because your workout is almost over and then you can finally go and get ice cream!

Step 20: Finally! Workout done, video off, and you off to the shower. Man, you must be really fit already, you’re not even that sweaty!

Step 21: Have ice cream for your post workout meal, you earned it! And ice cream is basically pure protein anyway, right?