Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thesaurus Thursday: "Oxer."

Because I started taking riding lessons not long ago, I thought that I would choose a word related to riding.  Today's word "oxer."  An oxer is a spread fence or jump consisting of two or more standards (the poles holding the rails), making the jump wider.  Obviously, being an object, it is a noun.  There are various types of oxers, but here is a very basic example:

I cannot even canter yet, so I certainly could not jump an oxer, because the horse would need enough momentum to get over it and would also land in a canter.

As usual, the next regular post will be up Saturday or Sunday!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Women of WoT: Beauty in the Eye of the Reader.

Many readers have criticized Robert Jordan's portrayal of women in his popular Wheel of Time series.  One of the main complaints that even Mr. Nerd has is that the women all have the same hang-ups about men and all seem to want to push men around, fearing that if they don't act "strong" (re: b****y) that the menfolk will get uppity and start giving themselves airs.  I don't find this as much offensive as annoying, but then again, I am not easily offended by depictions of the sexes with which I don't necessarily agree.  Even though I think it a bit harsh, this critique details most of the complaints that you could possibly have about the novels from a sexism/gender stereotype standpoint.  The purpose of this post will be looking at the physical and not the often-touched-upon emotional depiction of women.

The first thing I noticed about the women in WoT, after the smoothing of skirts and sniffing, was that nearly all of them are described as "slender," with a few "plump" and a few "stocky" girls thrown in.  It got a little silly after a while.  True, fantasy is not a genre in which plus-size female characters traditionally thrive, but do you expect us to suspend our disbelief enough to accept that 95%+ of the women are slim/slender?  This is a general complaint I have with the genre and not just this series; it irks me some, as it implies that people "fantasize" about only one size of woman, which I don't believe is true. In this vein, the only character description in WoT that actually made me upset was Graendal's.  I understand that she is supposed to be a lush and only concerned with her own comfort, but "beautiful, but somewhat fleshy"?  I'm not a fan of the term "fleshy" in the first place, but if it means what I think it does, why is there a "but"?  Could she not be both?

I appreciated, however, that no woman was actually called ugly or unattractive due to size.  Mat, one of the main male characters, is in fact often quite taken with women who are not very slim, and "plump" is frequently used as a complimentary adjective. I can find only one woman out of hundreds who has her personal appearance described in distinctly negative terms: an older Red sitter, Teslyn Baradon, who is referred to as bony and gaunt.  Perhaps I am being optimistic in my interpretation of the lack of criticism of women's looks, and Jordan simply does not have women he/his readers might consider unattractive in his universe, but with the wide variety of appearances besides the slenderness, not knocking female characters for meeting a specific ideal is admirable.  The women described as pretty and beautiful range from very pale to ebony-skinned (Lanfear/ the Sea Folk), from short to tall (Moiraine/ Aviendha), from blonde to bald (Liandrin/ Tuon), from curvy to straight-shaped (Berelain/ Tuon).  There are times when characters get jealous of another's looks, yes, but I know very few women who can honestly say they haven't been jealous of another woman at some point in their lives.

My favorite thing about the novels relating to women and body image is that the women do not strive to look like anyone but themselves.  Some, like Elayne, have an interest in revealing fashions that seems to appeal more to their vanity than their sense of expressing themselves, but there aren't really any diets or crazy exercise routines or thick coats of makeup. While Berelain and Lanfear, two of the most beautiful women in the world according to the series, do look remarkably similar, not one woman looks at either of them and says, "I ought to look like her."  They get jealous of the attentions the two receive due to their looks, but they don't actively try to look like them, which I find very refreshing living in a day and age in which plastic surgery is widespread.  Faile dislikes Berelain because she worries that Berelain will try to tempt Perrin away from her, but Faile does not then look at herself and mourn because she is not taller with a smaller nose.  Yes, I wish that the characters, and real-life women for that matter, did not get jealous over looks, but is this not still a small step in the right direction?

I am not sure that the sci-fi/fantasy world will ever truly embrace all sizes as I would wish, but WoT does a reasonably good job embracing color, shape, and individual characteristics in women's appearances.  At least it's a start.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Delay in Post/ Technology & Me

Hello everyone!  Due to the craziness surrounding the couple weeks before Thanksgiving, I will have to postpone my post on body image and WOT until next weekend.  I would like it to be well-thought-out and insightful and have not had the time to do enough preparation for it yet.  In the meantime, I promised an entry on my love/hate relationship with technology.

"Er... I don't think you don't understand.  Technology hates me."

No one believes me when I say this for the first time.  They smile and nod in what they believe is a reassuring way that really tacitly implies, "Of course, dear.  We'll pretend like your technical ineptitude is really the fault of the machine if it makes you feel better."  Weeks later, those same people will grudgingly acknowledge that I know what I'm doing (for the most part; I'm no skilled programmer or anything), but they won't allow me near their electronics, because they fear The Girl Who Curses Technology.  Batteries dying long before they are supposed to, hard drive failures, BSOD, that ever-so-helpful internet message: We're sorry. Something went wrong; when it comes to computers, phones and tablets, I am Murphy's Law.  I spent a day sending text messages reading C!n yOU r#!$ %hI@ m#@@!g#??? because my phone somehow decided that the a, s, d, e, t and h keys were !, @, $, #, and % respectively, and apparently all other vowels needed to be capitalized.  

Yet, despite this, I have a smart phone and laptop and genuinely enjoy using them.  Yes, they allow me to communicate with others quickly and efficiently, and yes, they allow me endless sessions of Angry Birds (suggestion: don't play this in public.  Angry mutters of "Die, pigs, die!" don't go over well in a lot of places.), but mostly, I am amazed by how intricate the hardware is and how detailed the software can get.  For example: processors are now getting so small that electrons move discretely across transistors instead of continuously, an effect known as quantum tunneling, which basically means that they are running into the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle when trying to make transistors smaller; still, Intel is hoping to get them down to 5nm in the not-too-distant future (that's 50 atoms wide.  Yes, atoms.  It seems the race is on to keep proving Moore's Law.)   1080p TV's are rapidly becoming less impressive. The new Nexus 10, boasting the highest resolution of any tablet, sold out within 24 hours (Mr. Nerd will be insufferable when he gets his tomorrow... I think he was camped out in front of the computer). There are apps that will recognize song titles and writers when a phone is simply held up to a singer- that's cool. Scaling programs for all these differently sized screens turns out to be a lot more complicated than it might seem- that's interesting.  The Windows 8 operating system came out- that's... er...

In short, technology is fascinating.  Does it really matter that whenever I touch a device a string of 0's and 1's form the signal "Error: Does Not Compute"?  Should that prevent me from marveling at and enjoying the advances of modern science?  

I really don't think so.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thesaurus Thursday: "Rondure."

It's Thesaurus Thursday again, and today's word is "rondure," a noun signifying an arched, rounded line or object.  It can mean either circular, spherical, or gracefully curved.  The word comes from the French word "rondeur" ("roundness").

The clouds skidded across the night sky, tauntingly hiding and revealing the moon's bright rondure from the travelers. 

BODY NOTE: "Rondure" is often used in literature when describing the female form.  It is used when describing women of various sizes, just like the word "curvy."

If you can find a woman whose body is comprised of only angles, I will give you money (not much, alas, but money nonetheless). You can be slender and curvy, larger and curvy, small or plus-size and slim-hipped or smaller-chested, and all are beautiful and actually have some rondure! 

The next regular post on women and body image in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series will be up this weekend!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Appeal of Skyrim to a Nerdy Non-Gamer

I love all things sci-fi and fantasy, enjoy classic literature, and have a special place in my heart for Weird Al Yankovic's "White & Nerdy." Even so, if we're getting into technicalities, I consider myself more "nerd" than "geek," because technology foils me every time (a post on my love/hate relationship with it will be forthcoming), and I am not and probably never will be a gamer. The last video game I played was Super Mario on a Nintendo 64 console in the late 90's, and I thought I was the bomb when I could get down the snow slide in "Cool, Cool Mountain" without falling off.

Oh, yeah!

So when Mr. Nerd got all excited when his newest purchase- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim- arrived, I didn't understand the hype.  Isn't it more fun to read a book and use your imagination?  What is so entertaining about "leveling up"? What on Earth is a "Dwemer"?  One evening, I decided to watch him play so that I could understand the appeal, and you know what?  I think I found it.  So, without further ado, here are the four main reasons that Skyrim appeals to me, a non-gamer.

#1 The Scenery
Snow-covered mountains, imposing fortresses, eerie underground caverns, still forests... as much as I like forming my own image of fantastical worlds while reading, this one is pretty amazing. While Mr. Nerd was busy trying to figure out where to go on his quests, I gawked at the landscape. Maybe it's not as mind boggling to someone who plays video games all the time with a GeForce GTX 690 graphics card and has gotten used to graphics designers cramming in details, but to someone who has never "gotten" gaming, this

(Image from

is pretty impressive.

#2 The Action
I had always thought of single-player video games being formulaic and dull.  Perhaps I have been living under a rock; I did not realize that there is an almost infinite number of possible quests in most games, and player actions have an impact on how the game progresses.  There are countless wikis for Skyrim telling you how to find hidden levers to open doors, where to go in a labyrinthine castle, or how to best kill a Dwemer spider (a metal guardian made by the Dwemer, a race of cave-dwellers known as ‘Dwarves’ but not actually shorter than men).  Still, just because parts of the game are rote doesn’t mean that you will have any idea when those spiders will attack or when an ice wolf will jump out and scare the life out of you (ok, fine, out of your partner watching you play).  You will be kept on your toes during the game.  Just don’t try to jump of any five-foot cliffs, because you’ll probably die.  You’ll stay alive swimming 500 meters in freezing water in plate mail, though.

#3 The Characters
Other than all being fairly war-like (with the exception of an occasional innkeeper or Shetland pony), there is remarkable variety in looks and temperaments among characters.  Some are valiant, some conniving, some downright insane, and this keeps the game interesting.  Each of the 10 races that you can play has a cultural history and its own unique powers and defining characteristics, and although learning about each of these could take a while, it makes the Skyrim world easier to immerse yourself in.  Even though the female bodies are fairly one-size-fits-all, and some things are physically a little odd about the animal-race females, as mentioned about the ones in the World of Warcraft in an article on Hourglassy, I found myself appreciating that women in the game are for the most part treated no differently than men.  I watched Mr. Nerdy’s character interact with a few women, including Lydia and Legate Rikke, both of whom were portrayed as fierce warriors just as much as their male counterparts. 

Delphine, a Blade, I found kind of annoying, but she is definitely a warrior.

#4 The Magic and the Weapons
Who doesn’t want to be able to hurl fireballs at their enemies?  Or be able to control a dragon with their voice?   Leveling up, I found out, can make your magic that much more awesome.  Now, I am sure that there are myriad lists of what all the potions, weapons, and spells do, but part of the fun seems to be asking, “What happens if I try this?”, dying as you’re thrown backward off of one of those frickin’ tiny cliffs, and then trying the next item in your arsenal (also, immortality! Well, sort of… it will go back to the last “Save.”).    With all the insane weapons like the Orcish Blade, Staff of Chain Lightning, Ancient Nord War Axe, Exploding Dwarven Bolt of Shock, etc., why wouldn’t you use all of them?

Perhaps a Potion of Minor Kick-Ass would be beneficial in this situation?

So my advice to you, fellow non-gamers, is to go put on your Metal Greaves of Cause Lots of Pain and go slay some dragons!  Or at least watch a fellow nerd play for a while and see what all the fuss is about.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thesaurus Thursday: Outlandish Terminology in Place of Everyday Vocabulary!

Welcome to the first Thesaurus Thursday.  Learn new words, improve your English skills, and impress your friends (or be able to annoy them by sounding pretentious!).

Today's word is "abderian," an adjective meaning "given to foolish or incessant merriment." The word comes from the town of Abder, the Thracian home of the "Laughing Philosopher" Democritus.

*The partygoers were bewildered by the abderian hostess and wondered if she had one too many glasses of wine before realizing that her lengthy semi-amusing stories were just an expression of nerves.*

I hope you enjoyed Thesaurus Thursday.  The next regular blog post- The Appeal of Skyrim to a Nerdy Non-Gamer- will be up this weekend.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Star Wars (A New Fear) and The Hobbit (There and Even Farther Back Again)

Hello, internet.  Perhaps I should introduce myself.  I'm Cat, and as my blog title suggests, I am indeed an absurd curvy nerd.  The purpose of this blog is to share my love of all things nerdy, geeky, and often a little crazy, as well as my enthusiasm for promoting positive body image by using the tools I know best- literature, movies and music.  Some posts will focus on or even be wholly about one of those, but my hope is that both will get a lot of time.  I thought the best way to get the ball rolling would be to jump right in with a post about two of my favorite nerdy things: Star Wars and The Hobbit.  So enjoy!

I was tentatively excited about The Hobbit movie.  Words cannot describe how pleased I was when the trailer indicated that all thirteen Dwarves would be included in the film.  It also appears that Peter Jackson might not be solely using them as comic relief characters-- something I very much disliked about his portrayal of Gimli in Lord of the Rings.  However, upon finding out that The Hobbit will be divided into three entire films, I began to worry.  When it came out that Cate Blanchett and Orlando Bloom would be reprising their respective roles as Galadriel and Legolas, I started to worry even more.  When I saw that Benedict Cumberbatch was set to be "The Voice of the Necromancer," I said, "What the hell?!" and decided to boycott Hollywood forever.  Ok, so perhaps I didn't go that far.  I understand that movies can't always include everything in a book, and even sometimes have to make tweaks that will keep an audience hooked on the on-screen drama.  What I don't understand is when additions are made to screen adaptations of books that already have a great deal of action in the plot and don't actually need much more.  Yes, yes, I've heard that Jackson is "pulling from the indexes," but unless he's going back to LOTR or The Silmarillion, there just isn't that much in the index of The Hobbit.  There's certainly no Galadriel or Legolas, and the Necromancer is only briefly mentioned throughout the novel as someone to be avoided at all costs, and, well, they avoid him.  Yet... I still find myself still tentatively excited.  Perhaps it's because I love the novel so much.  Perhaps it's because I'm subconsciously masochistic.  Please, Peter Jackson, just don't disappoint me too much.

My first reaction hearing about Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm and the other new nerd films coming out- the new Star Wars trilogy set to begin in 2015- was less positive and probably that of thousands of people world-(internet-)wide: I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.  Why Disney?  Why do you want to trample our childhood memories?  Why? Whhhhyyyy?  Upon waking from my blackout holding a light saber, with tiny fragments of a mouse-eared cap strewn around me, I sat down to think calmly about the issue and see what others were saying about it.  What I found was... surprisingly optimistic.  As my mind was busy rebelling at the thought of "Mesa Bing-Bing" cartoons and a kitschy happily-married Han and Leia, it turns out that others were seeing possibilities: unique perspectives on the aftermath of the Rebellion, new characters from other planets in the Star Wars universe, and actors who can (gasp!) actually act.  I've never been all that interested in detailed fan fiction for... well, anything... but it turns out that among the gazillions (I think it is literally gazillions) of Star Wars novels, there are actually some that people who know about this kind of thing think are pretty good and might be adapted into decent films.  Also, as many pointed out, Disney has made some, um, fairly good movies recently (e.g. The Avengers).  While I dread the inevitable Star Wars: Space Adventures! animated series, I'm no longer all that terrified by the prospect of a new trilogy (as long as they don't mess with the originals and possibly forget Episodes I, II and III).  Just remember, if Disney's new Star Wars is any good, that *&#*'s going in "The Vault" at some point and NEVER coming out of copyright.  Ever.