Katherine Mansfield and the Fickle Critic

She who begins as a Genius must never be allowed to outshine Chekhov…

Of course Miss Mansfield has been compared to Tchehov. There is a story of his, “The Party,” with much of the same situation as Miss Mansfield’s “The Garden Party”; and like it, a story of surcharged fickle emotional weather.

–Robert Littell, Review of Katherine Mansfield’s The Garden Party and Other Stories, July 5, 1922


Miss Fickle Shout-out, Lupus Style!

One more note for today: my post on me shredding myself with too much beach-going found its way into the leisure section of Life With Lupus, an online newsletter packed with info on lupus and related chronic illnesses.  Thanks to Miss Anne-Marie for passing along my meandering thoughts to the outside world!!!

Damn You, Ironyf!

You know something? I knew this would happen.  I knew if I got cocky about my super-stupendous proofreading skills they’d turn out to be not so super-stupendous after all.  That’s what you get when you show off in front of the Spelling Gods.  Unlike many mortals, the Spelling Gods know the meaning of the word irony.  Also, hubris.

So this morning I posted a fun little factlet in the form of this review of the second “Sin City” movie, the headline of which contained a misspelling of the word “vicious.”  And this wasn’t an article from some crap publication, either–it was the Washington Post, and “vicious” was spelled correctly within the review.  You’d think a 17-word headline would be easier to spell-check than a 9-paragraph article, right?  Apparently, not so much, since as of right now the headline STILL contains the misspelling.  Ugh. What’s the world coming to if you can’t count on the Washington Post to uphold the rigorous rules of standardized American English.


Then later today, I got a ping from a Simpsons blog, Dead Homer Society, with a roundup of fun, dull, and aggravating posts about “The Simpsons” from around the web.  And there–right there at the end!–is my post about being in Ocean City and getting a garbage bag full of popcorn!  Another Miss Fickle Shout-out!  Calloo Callay!!!

But, wait a second…that first sentence quoted from my blog…what does that say again?

Now, when you say “open,” the teenager sticks your tub and lid inside a clear plastic garbage bag and shovel as much popcorn as could be expected to fit in or around your tub.

“…the teenager sticks…and shovel???”  That should be “shovels”!  With an “s” on the end!  That’s straight ahead subject/verb agreement I got horribly wrong!  And I always proofread all my goddamn posts so that something like this never happens!


Lisa Simpson, Ship’s Proofreader on board the rocket evacuating Earth after the Y2K disaster,* would be terribly disappointed in me.

For all you readers out there firing up your schadenfreude (as I would definitely be under other circumstances): I’ve already corrected this particular mistake, so you can’t see my original screw-up with your own eyes.  However, I’m sure there are plenty of other gaffes, should you choose to scrutinize my five months’ worth of posts.  And I invite you to do so if you want to call me out on this.  It’s only fair.  Those whom the Spelling Gods have chastised should not go about hiding their shame. Or challenging the Washington Post to a proofreading smackdown.  Damn journalists with their troll-seeking voodoo dolls…

*From “Treehouse of Horror X,” in case anyone’s keeping track.

Miss Fickle’s Free Proofreading Help: You’re Welcome, Washington Post

Headline from yesterday’s Washington Post:

‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ movie review: A viscious return to Frank Miller’s stylized world

Last time I checked, “viscious” wasn’t a word–not even as a cross between something ruthless and something thick and sticky.

Come on, Washington Post.  This is just sad.

Miss Fickle’s Boring-Ass Beach Blog! Part 2: Wherein My Body Rebels

And lo, after four days of merriment and Revelry (Get it?  Revelry?  Cause Inspector Spacetime and I went on a big overnight to the Doomed Revel casino in Atlantic City???), my body goes kaput.  Now, I’m sitting here in our rented beach flat, missing Little Fickle’s first kite-flying expedition, because every time I move around I feel like barfing.  This is what happens when you have a chronic illness. You try to keep up with the crowd, and then your body takes over, tells you it’s had enough, and instantly you become an 80-year-old housebound recluse.

In the lupus community, there’s a well-known blog post about chronic illness and the “spoons” theory.  The idea is that you start out the day with a number of spoons, with spoons representing the energy you have that day.  People, especially Young’uns, with no health problems have a virtually unlimited number of spoons, while lupus patients only have a certain quantity.  Once you spend all your spoons on daily activities (and for Christin Miserandino, the author, getting up and showering already costs you a couple of spoons), you’re done for the day.  You have no energy left.  You have to lie down and sleep for twelve hours.  Or, at least, that’s what happens to me.  I’m an utterly terrible Spooner.  If on some day, I have a mysterious quantity of extra spoons, I’m giddy.  “Yay, spoons!” I think to myself.  “I’m a normal person again!!!”  Then I go out and spend spoons like crazy for a few days at a stretch, and then comes Crash Time, when I lie around Internet surfing and bemoaning my overall uselessness.

Granted, this is not in any way a model for dealing with chronic illness.  I have a mild case of lupus, and for a long time I could skate by on denial.  But now that I’m an old coot and a mom, I can’t do that anymore.  I have to suck it up and admit when my body is frayed.  Also, there’s been a bit of blowback against the Spoons theory: the author of this post–a blogger with the handle “it was lupus,” which if you’re a House fan you gotta love–claims the spoon thing is just a grab for self-pity and a way to rationalize not taking care of yourself particularly well.  Could be.  But then, lupus is also a highly subjective illness.  Symptoms differ from person to person, as well as the psychological impact of those symptoms.  I’m not one to point fingers at who’s right and who’s wrong in dealing with their illness, but if you’re someone like itwaslupus who can juggle all the demands lupus makes of you, and you can still say, “screw you, lupus, I’m not defined by you,” more power to you.  I wish I was still in that camp myself.

Nana Lemon and Grandpa Fickle just came back.  Apparently, tomorrow there’s a 60% chance of rain here in Ocean City.  So there may not be any last-day trip to the beach, which is kinda what I was saving up my Pity Spoons for.  Oh, well.  Can’t push yourself when your body’s already shredded.

Miss Fickle Reader’s Boring-Ass Beach Blog! Part 1: Why I Haven’t Been Blogging

Hey, Fickle Readers!  Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything remotely literary on this blog.  So I thought I’d drop in to announce that the literary dry spell will, in fact be longer still!  Right now, I’m in Ocean City, New Jersey, with a huge wing of the extended Fickle Family:  me, Inspector Spacetime, Little Fickle (whose full name is Little Fickle Spacetime, in case you were wondering), Grampa Fickle, Nana Lemon aka my stepmom, and Nana Lemon’s daughter Liz.  This is the Fickle-Spacetimes’ first foray into Ocean City.  Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

1.  They ought to call this place the Diabetes Capital of the World.  Ocean City is dry, meaning that there’s no booze being sold anywhere within city limits.  Apparently, the town’s food purveyors decided to make up for this missing social vice by playing up another: gluttony–specifically, the gluttonous urge to stuff one’s gullet with every nutritionally bankrupt food imaginable.  The first night we came, we walked on the boardwalk for a little while, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen such a variety of sweets available in a three-block stretch.  We’re not just talking fudge, custard, and taffy (although they’re all here in abundance).  There’s also gelato!  Molasses paddles!  Dippin’ dots!  Soft serve!  DQ!  Orange Julius–holy God, they still have Orange Julius??  Water ice, both traditional and Polish (??)!  For those who crave fat rather than sweets, you’ve got everything fried you can think of, including (and I’m not kidding about this) crab fries.  And, if you’ve just given up on the whole fat/sweet debate and simply want to get a quick calorie high, check out this sign in the window of a fudge shop:


Would this be a selling point anywhere else in the country?  That’s a question for the ages…

2. The world of the Simpsons is officially our world now. Speaking of gluttony, there’s this shop on the boardwalk called Johnson’s, which sells caramel corn.  You can buy a tub and then, for a small discount, bring it back to be refilled.  Johnson’s has been around for a long time, and according to Nana Lemon and Liz, there’s a ritual that’s grown up around the carmel corn tub that people follow to this day.  On our first night, Liz, Nana, and I headed for Johnson’s after a quick gelato (did I mention the fine tradition of gluttony here in Ocean City?), while Nana filled me in on how to order: 1) you put your tub on the counter, 2) the teenager behind the counter asks if you want your tub open or closed (i.e., with the lid on), 3) you say “open,” “because (says Nana Lemon) if you ask for it open, they make a mound of caramel corn over the top of the tub, so who wants it closed?”  So we had big hopes for Johnson’s when we finally made it to one of their eight locations.  (Okay, maybe not eight, but there’s several.)  Yet Nana Lemon hadn’t been to Ocean City for years.  In fact, the Johnson’s ritual had changed slightly.  Now, when you say “open,” the teenager sticks your tub and lid inside a clear plastic garbage bag and shovels as much popcorn as can be expected to fit in or around your tub.

Anyone see the Simpsons reference here?  “King-Sized Homer,” when Homer decides to make himself “hyper-obese”?  He goes to a matinee of “Honk If You’re Horny,” and the manager says they don’t have wide enough seats for him, but if he leaves quietly they’ll offer him–you guessed it!–“a garbage bag full of popcorn.”  Matt Groening, give yourself a gold star.  “The Simpsons” has now become completely enmeshed with reality.

3. Who are the welfare cheats, now?  Inspector Spacetime and I just came back from an anniversary getaway to Atlantic City for a night.  Not only was it the first time Little Fickle was without both of us overnight (did great–yay!), it was our first and most likely only visit to Revel, the upscale hotel/casino, built in 2012, that’s closing its doors next month.  Really a shame, too: it’s a beautiful place: sleek lines, decorated in shades of sand and sea blue, excellent food (went to Jose Garces’s Amada last night; possibly even better than the flagship restaurant in downtown Philly), and yet whoever designed the place seemed determined to attract the high-roller/conventioneer clientele of Vegas, when Atlantic City is more of a gambling granny/family destination.  Inspector Spacetime says the Revel people wanted to “revitalize Atlantic City,” and then didn’t.  Sad.

Then the Inspector mentions how sad it is that the people who built Revel, in their quest to “revitalize” AC, got huge chunks of New Jersey money to add to their investment.  “Excuse me???” I said.  I mean, I’ve heard of corporate welfare going to lots of different industries: banks, automakers, Big Oil, solar energy.  But casinos?  They get money, too?  Do all rich people these days feel like they have the right to take money from taxpayers, for whatever the hell they feel like spending it on?  Hot-air balloon silkeries?  Factories for making robotic napkin folders?  An app that sells individual jelly beans?  Have they no dignity at all?

I know I have only the Inspector’s word on this.  I’m too afraid to research this, though.  I would think that, for a group of people who scorn subsidies for health insurance, unemployed people, and mothers who can’t work because of their kids, they would never stoop to take government money for any of their own personal investment needs.  Please, someone, tell me I’m wrong.

Like Freedom? Like Thought? Stop Liking Things on Facebook!

Hi, Fickle Readers!  This is a departure from my usual rants on literature, Shakespeare, and the state of the writing industry in the 21st century, but sometimes I just gotta write what falls out of my brain.  And with the Internet overflowing with awful, awful news this week (hey, Ferguson cops, you get your stories straight yet?), I discovered I really did want to write about one of the tiny changes we could all make in our lives that would give us back some control and serve as the smallest pocket of resistance to Big Everything.

In the past week, I discovered (on Facebook–hah!) two intrepid Facebook experimenters who posted articles on two independently conducted yet similar studies on the function of that little blocky thumb in everyone’s news feed.  First, over at Wired, Mat Honan writes about what he found when he decided to Like everything that crossed his path on Facebook, even if he actually hated what he was looking at.  So what happened?  Advertising algorithms ate all the content from non-corporate human beings:

My News Feed took on an entirely new character in a surprisingly short amount of time. After checking in and liking a bunch of stuff over the course of an hour, there were no human beings in my feed anymore. It became about brands and messaging, rather than humans with messages.

Not only did he manage to wreck his own feed in less than two days, his actions became a contagion affecting his friends’ feeds as well.

When I posted a status update to Facebook just saying “I like you,” I heard from numerous people that my weirdo activity had been overrunning their feeds. “My newsfeed is 70 percent things Mat has liked,” noted my pal Heather. Eventually, I would hear from someone who worked at Facebook, who had noticed my activity and wanted to connect me with the company’s PR department.

After 48 soul-deadening hours, Honan pulled the plug on the experiment.

On the opposite side of the equation, blogger Elan Morgan discussed her experiences after she announced she’d no longer be Liking any content on Facebook.  Beginning on August 1st, she stopped using that tempting little “Like” link and claims that the results were profound and positive.  First, she no longer has shock-and-awe click-bait material exploding all over her feed because, by quieting all the Likes, the Facebook ad-bots no longer try to spew out content that may be related to her interests in topic but not in tone (e.g., liking a kitten pic and suddenly being swamped with info on animal torture–thank God I’m not a big kitten pic fan).  Second, since she’s no longer automatically pressing a button to express her approval, she’s started doing what Facebook ought to be doing for us in the first place: she’s communicating with people again, thinking up things to say instead of just giving the equivalent of a wave from a speeding car.

I had been suffering a sense of disconnection within my online communities prior to swearing off Facebook likes. It seemed that there were fewer conversations, more empty platitudes and praise, and a slew of political and religious pageantry. It was tiring and depressing. After swearing off the Facebook Like, though, all of this changed. I became more present and more engaged, because I had to use my words rather than an unnuanced Like function. I took the time to tell people what I thought and felt, to acknowledge friend’s lives, to share both joys and pains with other human beings.

That’s nice to hear, isn’t it?  I mean, one of the main reasons I joined Facebook was to stay in touch with friends from high school and college that I hadn’t seen in years and feared I’d never see again.   I was so overjoyed to find members of my old D&D group from college (yeah, I’ve done my share of role-playing; shut up), I almost cried.  Then I laughed, because a few nostalgic posts brought out exactly what I missed about these guys.  (One of them, who played an extremely upright Paladin, was well known in our campaign for inadvertently sending a messenger boy to his death inside a seedy tavern.  Said player replied with something to the effect of: “You rescue your fellow adventurers dozens of times, and does anyone remember that?  No.  You send ONE adorable urchin into harm’s way, and that’s ALL anyone wants to talk about.”)

Because of Facebook, I know where all these friends wound up in the world, I hear about their lives, I see pictures of their families.  That, to me, is extraordinarily important, seeing as how, with all my family’s health issues, etc., we often can’t go and visit people we want to see.  That includes people who live down the friggin’ street from us.  There’s so much human interacting I want to do, why would I want to waste the precious seconds of my life scrolling through lists of “mind-blowing” facts about London?  (That wasn’t in my Facebook feed.  It was one of over 72 million hits I got when I plugged “will blow your mind,” a popular headline phrase these days, into Google.)

Then there’s that feeling that all you are is a marketing guinea pig being scrutinized by Mark Zuckerberg and his pals.  Or the feeling that there are about 7 bazillion items you want to see based on your Friend list and all you get are Buzzfeed personality quizzes.  (Not that I’m against personality quizzes.  I just don’t like the fact that they have a tendency to replicate ad infinitum after you click a single link.)  I get that Facebook and other web sites need ad revenue, but they don’t need it that badly.  I want my interests catered to and my mind as free of distraction and commercial manipulation as possible.  Somehow, with all the hot steaming gobs of capital these Facebook tycoons are earning, I think they don’t need my help learning how to further exploit the human mind.

So, Fickle Readers, and those who are writers, too, I invite you to  join Elan Morgan’s bid to shake ourselves of the psyche-dulling inanities of the Like function, and maybe even stop clicking “Share” or on any links we find in Facebook.  I know, I know, it’s likely an impossible Utopia I’m imagining, but it seems like it might be worth the power we could recover from that omnipotent site that holds our friends hostage for a couple of Levi’s ads.  Also, the nasty, evil, spiteful side of me just plum enjoys the idea that I and my ilk will be irritating executives everywhere.  Anyone who’s old enough to remember the first time you could fast forward through ads on a VCR–or even silence ads with a mute button–will know what I’m talking about.