February: Cornelia’s Ten Antidote Suggestions

By Cornelia Read

Okay, it’s FUCKING FEBRUARY and I now live near the arctic circle, here in Cow Hampshire. I hate February. I know deep in my tiny black heart that T.S. Eliot was totally, irredeemably, hopelessly misguided about that whole “April is the cruelest month” crap. April is a big fat snooze of a year-twelfth, by comparison–taxes and all.  The only thing that can be said in February’s defense is that it’s the shortest, even though of course it actually consumes five years of mental time because, (oh, did I mention this already?) February SUCKS SUCH GINORMOUS BUTT!

Like I was filling my car with gas so I could drive down to New York last weekend, and it was so goddamn cold it almost made me cry, no shit. So cold it made my face ache the minute I opened the car door and I unscrewed the gas-cap and thought my hands were going to shatter and fall off, which is not something you want when you’re on deadline.

Luckily, I did not actually burst into tears, because they probably would have frozen before leaving my tear ducts and made my head explode. Or implode, or whatever. I don’t actually know, because I got a D-minus in chemistry back in high school, which allows me to disavow all knowledge of such things. Except that it was too fucking cold out.

Having lived in the northeast before, however (starting at age fifteen, when I left California for an east-coast education), I know that the only way to get through this shitbox of a month is to stockpile happy things. I don’t mean kittens and puppies (especially because they’d freeze to death, HELLO), but the kind of things that can nurture the human spirit even when it’s fully dark by four in the afternoon and you begin considering the option of investing in a balaclava with especially tiny eyeholes. (the gun would of course freeze to your hand, so bank robberies are probably out until April).

Yes, if you live somewhere as cold as here and you’re not one of those genetically Calvinist psychos who run outside yelling “Yea! Now I can go build a hut out on a big lake and catch fish through a hole in the ice!”, I know you probably just want to curl up under the sofa with a cake-mixing bowl of mashed potatoes with four or five sticks of butter shoved into the middle, but this is not a sustainable plan of attack on a daily basis. Trust me, I’ve tried.


 Herewith, the ten things that have sustained me through the worst month of past winters:

1. Anti-Depressants


Why not start with the big guns? And remember, they’re cheaper than cocaine and probably not cut with Italian baby laxative. Bonus!

2. Web Comics

Free, available, funny. How awesome is THAT?



Dinosaur comics at http://www.qwantz.com






3. SPAM Haiku


SPAM by candle light
What could be more romantic?
Open the Night Train.

–John Mitchell


unlabeled tin cube
purchased it in a thrift store
thoughts of Pandora



SPAM, too, needs a wife.
What consort for my Pork Prince?
Ah! The Velveeta!

–John Mitchell

Munch serves his guest SPAM.
The next day he paints “The Scream.”
Mere coincidence?

–Chris Fishel

Thank you, John Nagamichi Cho, S.P.A.M. (Spam Haiku Archive Master):

4. Vintage Eddie Murphy

How does he make the boomerang-shoe noise? Genius! And so NSFW…


5. The car air freshener my pal Maggie bought me.

Because you* deserve a laugh after you’ve just scraped your windshield off with a metal spatula from IKEA, since even though you left California in August, you keep forgetting to buy a real ice-scraper thing at Wal-Greens. (*And by “you” I mean “me.” But you probably figured that out already. {And that last time, “you” actually meant “you.”})***

And also, it makes your incredibly bone-chilling car interior smell like tomatoes and basil.

***asterisk humor totally stolen from Daisy James, my writing-group pal.

6. Road trip to Manhattan to hang out with pals.


Because all the good stuff there happens INDOORS, and everyone delivers.

Not to mention free cold sesame noodles:

Oh, and you can take your kid out to buy H&H bagels that are still hot, along with some Tem-Tee whipped cream cheese and a pound of Nova from Zabars (since unfortunately Barney Greengrass, “The Sturgeon King,” is closed on Mondays), which totally doesn’t suck.

Because all they have in Cow Hampshire are these:

Which are the goyish-carbohydrate answer to SPAM.


7. Go outside SOMETIMES

Like to watch the sun set over the frozen waters of the mighty Squamscott, very happy that they will light up those cupolas for the long dark night ahead.


8. Practice some “Snowman Noir”



9. Drink some Haitian rum


I don’t mean on an hourly basis or anything, but hey, every once in a while when it feels like it’s been the first week in February for the last twenty seven years, go for it. I mean, there’s got to be SOME upside to the sun going down so early, right?

Plus which, at this point it’s for a good cause.


10. Remember that there are still people in the world who stand up for what’s right. Then get to your feet and stand up beside them.


An example, this morning I re-read Joss Whedon’s essay “Nothing But Red,” written in response to the “honor” killing of Du’a Khalil Aswad on April 7, 2007.

Here it is:

May 20, 2007

(Du’a Khalil as a child)


Let’s Watch A Girl Get Beaten To Death. This is not my blog, but I don’t have a blog, or a space, and I’d like to be heard for a bit. 

Last month seventeen year old Dua Khalil was pulled into a crowd of young men, some of them (the instigators) family, who then kicked and stoned her to death. This is an example of the breath-taking oxymoron “honor killing”, in which a family member (almost always female) is murdered for some religious or ethical transgression. Dua Khalil, who was of the Yazidi faith, had been seen in the company of a Sunni Muslim, and possibly suspected of having married him or converted. That she was torturously murdered for this is not, in fact, a particularly uncommon story. But now you can watch the action up close on CNN. Because as the girl was on the ground trying to get up, her face nothing but red, the few in the group of more than twenty men who were not busy kicking her and hurling stones at her were filming the event with their camera-phones.

               (Du’a at seventeen)

There were security officers standing outside the area doing nothing, but the footage of the murder was taken – by more than one phone – from the front row. Which means whoever shot it did so not to record the horror of the event, but to commemorate it. To share it. Because it was cool. 

I could start a rant about the level to which we have become desensitized to violence, about the evils of the voyeuristic digital world in which everything is shown and everything is game, but honestly, it’s been said. And I certainly have no jingoistic cultural agenda. I like to think that in America this would be considered unbearably appalling, that Kitty Genovese is still remembered, that we are more evolved. But coincidentally, right before I stumbled on this vid I watched the trailer for “Captivity”.

A few of you may know that I took public exception to the billboard campaign for this film, which showed a concise narrative of the kidnapping, torture and murder of a sexy young woman. I wanted to see if the film was perhaps more substantial (especially given the fact that it was directed by “The Killing Fields” Roland Joffe) than the exploitive ad campaign had painted it. The trailer resembles nothing so much as the CNN story on Dua Khalil. Pretty much all you learn is that Elisha Cuthbert is beautiful, then kidnapped, inventively, repeatedly and horrifically tortured, and that the first thing she screams is “I’m sorry”.

“I’m sorry.”

What is wrong with women?

I mean wrong. Physically. Spiritually. Something unnatural, something destructive, something that needs to be corrected.

How did more than half the people in the world come out incorrectly? I have spent a good part of my life trying to do that math, and I’m no closer to a viable equation. And I have yet to find a culture that doesn’t buy into it. Women’s inferiority – in fact, their malevolence — is as ingrained in American popular culture as it is anywhere they’re sporting burkhas. I find it in movies, I hear it in the jokes of colleagues, I see it plastered on billboards, and not just the ones for horror movies. Women are weak. Women are manipulative. Women are somehow morally unfinished. (Objectification: another tangential rant avoided.) And the logical extension of this line of thinking is that women are, at the very least, expendable.

(Screenshots, camera-phone video of the stoning of Du’a Khalil)

I try to think how we got here. The theory I developed in college (shared by many I’m sure) is one I have yet to beat: Womb Envy. Biology: women are generally smaller and weaker than men. But they’re also much tougher. Put simply, men are strong enough to overpower a woman and propagate. Women are tough enough to have and nurture children, with or without the aid of a man. Oh, and they’ve also got the equipment to do that, to be part of the life cycle, to create and bond in a way no man ever really will. Somewhere a long time ago a bunch of men got together and said, “If all we do is hunt and gather, let’s make hunting and gathering the awesomest achievement, and let’s make childbirth kinda weak and shameful.” It’s a rather silly simplification, but I believe on a mass, unconscious level, it’s entirely true. How else to explain the fact that cultures who would die to eradicate each other have always agreed on one issue? That every popular religion puts restrictions on women’s behavior that are practically untenable? That the act of being a free, attractive, self-assertive woman is punishable by torture and death? In the case of this upcoming torture-porn, fictional. In the case of Dua Khalil, mundanely, unthinkably real. And both available for your viewing pleasure.

It’s safe to say that I’ve snapped. That something broke, like one of those robots you can conquer with a logical conundrum. All my life I’ve looked at this faulty equation, trying to understand, and I’ve shorted out. I don’t pretend to be a great guy; I know really really well about objectification, trust me. And I’m not for a second going down the “women are saints” route – that just leads to more stone-throwing (and occasional Joan-burning). I just think there is the staggering imbalance in the world that we all just take for granted. If we were all told the sky was evil, or at best a little embarrassing, and we ought not look at it, wouldn’t that tradition eventually fall apart? (I was going to use ‘trees’ as my example, but at the rate we’re getting rid of them I’m pretty sure we really do think they’re evil. See how all rants become one?)

(Next to her in this shot is a cinderblock used by her attackers)

Now those of you who frequent this site are, in my wildly biased opinion, fairly evolved. You may hear nothing new here. You may be way ahead of me. But I can’t contain my despair, for Dua Khalil, for humanity, for the world we’re shaping. Those of you who have followed the link I set up know that it doesn’t bring you to a video of a murder. It brings you to a place of sanity, of people who have never stopped asking the question of what is wrong with this world and have set about trying to change the answer. Because it’s no longer enough to be a decent person. It’s no longer enough to shake our heads and make concerned grimaces at the news. True enlightened activism is the only thing that can save humanity from itself. I’ve always had a bent towards apocalyptic fiction, and I’m beginning to understand why. I look and I see the earth in flames. Her face was nothing but red.

All I ask is this: Do something. Try something. Speaking out, showing up, writing a letter, a check, a strongly worded e-mail. Pick a cause – there are few unworthy ones. And nudge yourself past the brink of tacit support to action. Once a month, once a year, or just once. If you can’t think of what to do, there is this handy link. Even just learning enough about a subject so you can speak against an opponent eloquently makes you an unusual personage. Start with that. Any one of you would have cried out, would have intervened, had you been in that crowd in Bashiqa. Well thanks to digital technology, you’re all in it now.

I have never had any faith in humanity. But I will give us props on this: if we can evolve, invent and theorize our way into the technologically magical, culturally diverse and artistically magnificent race we are and still get people to buy the idiotic idea that half of us are inferior, we’re pretty amazing. Let our next sleight of hand be to make that myth disappear. 

The sky isn’t evil. Try looking up.

(Her grave)


Inspired by Whedon’s essay, a group of people decided to collect essays and artwork for an anthology, called Nothing But Red. Here’s the website: http://nothingbutred.wordpress.com/

Here’s where you can buy the book, edited by Skyla Dawn Cameron: http://stores.lulu.com/nothingbutred

(Now that’s a case where self-publishing is AWESOME.)

If only Du’a Khalil’s death were an aberration… but no.

According to the website http://www.peacepalpitations.com/dua.html:

“Killings of young girls and women in Kurdistan are rapidly rising and such killings occur even more openly than before. After the murder of Du’a Khalil Aswad, a 17-year-old Yezidi girl stoned to death in public, at least another 40 women have been killed – among them Amina, a 12 year old girl killed by her father, under the pretext that she was ‘in love with a neighbor,’ and Sara an 11-year-old.”

My pal Susan sent me a link to a Huffington Post article written by Peter Daou this morning, which is what got me thinking about the Whedon essay.

It was this part of the piece that compelled me to search for something to ease my sense of despair:

“13-year old Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was stoned to death in Somalia by insurgents because she was raped. Reports indicate that she was raped by three men while traveling by foot to visit her grandmother in Mogadishu. When she went to the authorities to report the crime, they accused her of adultery and sentenced her to death. Aisha was forced into a hole in a stadium of 1,000 onlookers as 50 men buried her up to the neck and cast stones at her until she died. A witness who spoke to the BBC’s Today programme said she had been crying and had to be forced into a hole before the stoning, reported to have taken place in a football stadium. … She said: ‘I’m not going, I’m not going. Don’t kill me, don’t kill me.’ A few minutes later more than 50 men tried to stone her. The witness said people crowding round to see the execution said it was ‘awful.'”

The sky isn’t evil, but it sure can feel like it.

Buy a copy of Nothing But Red. Proceeds benefit Equality Now, whose mission statement reads:

Equality Now works to end violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world through the mobilization of public pressure. Issues of concern to Equality Now include:


That’s something we can all get behind, especially in February.

37 thoughts on “February: Cornelia’s Ten Antidote Suggestions

  1. Twist

    O Cornelia.
    As soon as I can speak again, I am calling SPAN (Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, a human rights organization committed to ending violence against women, youth and children) to volunteer.

  2. berenmind

    I think that the 14 Murderati Apostles "stand up for what’s right" in every book they write. A perquisite of authorship. The altruistic instinct is inherent in your craft. Perhaps that is why you all (that is the Okie way to say y’all) chose to write in the first place. You just didn’t know it. Excusing your career choice by calling it a "fun way to make a living", when what you are actually doing is expanding the reader’s awareness of others and sensitivity to multifarious life situations through every characterization.

    So there ; – }


  3. berenmind

    OK Cornelia. I know we’ve joked about this before, but I now realize you are in crisis. I will overnight you the goose down L.L. Bean mask today. You’re gonna run short on that rum soon and that will necessitate going OUT.

  4. Chris Hamilton

    They don’t fish in those little cabins on the lake. They sit around and drink beer without irritating their wives.

    On another thought, we can certainly be shitty to each other.

  5. Cornelia Read

    Maybe I will build a little ice hut then, Chris. Just in case I ever remarry.

    And yeah, we sure can be shitty to each other. Makes me think of Abraham Lincoln’s line in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: "Be excellent to each other." That would make a nice religion, you know?

  6. pari noskin taichert

    February is my birthday month, Cornelia. Don’t knock it.

    And if you think New Hampshire is cold, try the Midwest. In Ann Arbor when I was there, I remember my hair freezing — click click click — when I ran across a street. Another time, my eyelids froze shut for a few seconds.

    However, when I read that article — along with the one about the girl in Turkey who was buried alive for talking to boys (HuffPo again)– and my heart became far colder than anything I’ve ever experienced before.

    Only righteous action against this kind of insane cruelty will thaw it once again.

  7. Louise Ure

    I was all prepared to tell you that the Perils of Self-Publishing cartoon and the cold sesame noodles were my favorite … until I got to the blog post on Du’a Khalil Aswad. I’d heard her story before and it shames me that people can be so monstrous, so cruel, and believe they’re doing the right thing. I will take action, but truly I have no hope for us. How can you cure pure evil?

  8. Cornelia Read

    Pari, knowing this is your birthday month already makes it feel a little less daunting. Mine is March, so I have something to live for.

    And yes… the Midwest. That’s from whence the first photo of the guy at eye-level with the telephone poles cometh. I utterly lack the kind of moral fiber it would take to survive there, this time of year.

    I’m with you on the righteous action being the only way to thaw our hearts, after reading about these girls. Incomprehensible…

  9. JT Ellison

    Cold – it’s cold everywhere! I’m in Florida and it’s cold down here, and windy too. Rough winter, huh?

    Thank you for sharing Joss Whedon’s essay. If that doesn’t move people to action, nothing will.

  10. Cornelia Read

    Curtis, I will definitely check out Subnormality. And I suppose Barbados rum could work. In a pinch. not as good in the voodoo altars, though.

    Rae, you are adorable. And I am missing PorchCon so much right now.

    JT… cold in Florida? Now that’s just depressing. I guess I’ll have to figure out how to get back to Oahu, then.

    Chris, Winter SHOULD be optional. I’m 10000% with you on that.

    Alex, glad you liked the Whedon, and the links. I read that essay before I’d ever seen any of his work, and it made me want to watch everything he’s ever done. Cool and inspiring guy.

  11. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Cornelia

    I agree with Alex – this is almost a year’s supply of blog post topics all rolled into one – amazing. So here are some random thoughts in reply.

    When we nearly got stuck in the snow for six hours trying to get home – and failing – after New Year, I finally cracked open the silver hypothermia blanket we bought years ago in a Bass Pro Outlet. It’s brilliant – drape it over your legs and it instantly feels like someone’s plugged it in.

    Have you thought of getting heated seats fitted to your car? Or the heated waistcoats or gloves that motorcyclists wear?

    Your snowmen pictures WAY outdo mine. Although if we get any more of the white stuff up here, I may try to replicate that ‘Up Winter’ one on the village green …

    SPAM sushi?!? Don’t tell the supermarkets over here – they’re already offering chicken tikka roll sushi. Argh!

    All the report on what happened to Du’a Khalil was utterly heartbreaking. Whatever horrors we contrive on the page, they are nothing compared to what’s already out there, being done, and always has been done. The difference is, in fiction, justice can be done. Shame that doesn’t happen so often in life.

    And it’s not so long ago that women who had been raped in the UK and become pregnant as a result were locked away in mental institutions for the rest of their lives. Not quite on a level with being stoned to death in the street, I agree, but not damn well far off it.

    Great post.

  12. Cornelia Read

    Zoe, we used to call those "space blankets." They’re great. Maybe I can make a mask out of one?

    I’m still amazed by your iceberg photos–I had to go Google more of them the day you posted, and I’m not usually that into nature pix.

    This is definitely a bit of a bi-polar post. I think the final bit was because the best thing I can do when I feel snarky and yuck is to think about something really big, really outside myself. And it just all came up yesterday because of Susan’s emails.

  13. berenmind

    Hmmnn. Righteous action. That is a difficult term. The people who stone women to death really believe they are performing a ‘righteous act’, as abhorrent a thought as that may seem. Jeezus.

    You crime/mystery writers are up to your necks in the The Great Teleological/Deontological Swamp on an intimate daily basis. You can take shower after shower but at the end of the day you won’t have loofahed off the dead cells of ethical dilemmas because it is the matrix of the lit genre you chose. You struggle to portray what is right and what is wrong. What is good and what is evil. You show the reader the consequences of action or inaction. Righteousness or despair. Passion or detachment. Your readers wade through your soul sucking moral morass and strangling bog weeds of means, ends and in-betweens, with you guiding them through it all to the final inexplicable, irrational, ultimate conundrum of that most final immoral act………… murder.

    The Mystery offers a balm for the armchair civil actioneer and it is addictive in that it’s readers NEED to know that the good guy will win in the end. That the evil forces out there will surely be quashed in THIS book. Mysteries give us that cubby-wubby-womb feeling that it will be alright. All you have to do is get through the white-knuckle-sick-to-your-stomach-fear-inducing pages that precede the happy ending……..and then smile in smugness at having "figured it out" all on your own! YOU knew who the ‘bad" guy was. You knew how he did it all along! That it was Col. Mustard, in The Conservatory, with the Ikea metal spatula.

    (I don’t even know what I am talking about I am so full of shit)

    ; – }

  14. pari noskin taichert

    So there are a lot of lousy ideas when it comes to sushi — but here’s one that’s ab-fab. I just had it for lunch: New Mexico Roll
    Tempura battered and fried whole New Mexican green chile, rice, nori. Can’t be beat.

  15. Cornelia Read

    Susan, you are NOT full of shit. I think a lot of us get into this genre as readers and writers because we crave some sort of white-hot burning away of all the bad shit that makes us so crazy in real life. We want justice, we want the little guy to find the courage to prevail in the midst of all hell breaking loose, we want, ahem, to forge a conscience that can withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous bullshit, indignity, and wrongdoing. There’s a reason my favorite show was Batman, when I was little. POW! WHAM! etc.

    Pari, now that’s just mean–taunting someone stranded in New England with the idea of whole New Mexican green chiles. I’ve had to rely on the canned version since I left Colorado in ’97, and they’re not even the big giant Hatch cans, just the ridiculous two-ounce things and completely gross. I may have to come after you with my IKEA spatula, woman!

  16. berenmind

    Gracias,Chica. The New Mexico Roll !!!! Wonderful….I’m gonna make those for tomorrow’s football! No avocado?

  17. berenmind

    I’m not sure, but I think that the Ikea metal spatula would be a good murder weapon in the right hands.
    Miss Cornelia’s! In New Hampshire. In February.

  18. berenmind

    Ah yes…………the tax-free liquor store……….motive?

    T’would be that her cellar was emptied of Veuve Clicquot during the last blizzard.

    Her lawyer will plead temp insanity brought on by a frozen punim, extreme thirst and a panic over the stubborn layer of ice on her windshield that prevented her from driving home with her new stash.

  19. kit

    we are currently having a light snowfall…..I live in ND…it’s supposed to turn into a full fledged blizzard as the weekend progresses…so with that in mind…I have two suggestions…
    one is: skip the rum…go for *wedding hooch* …180 proof alcohol, burnt sugar & flavoring.
    Similar to the Baldwin sisters’ RECIPE on the old tv show THE WALTONS.
    and the second- invest in one of these, you will never, ever regret it


    and lastly, thank you for the links you posted. I have passed them on to my firends and plan to look into how we can all help on a personal level….take care, kit

  20. mbh

    The Gin with Lime will prevent scurvy, and ideally the fabu pizza place will deliver. 30 inches of snow here and I am going batshit.
    You are the best and I am sending your blog all around.
    Remember, we don’t want to drive in this crap anyway!

  21. Daisy

    As far as web toons, may I recommend Axe Cop? http://axecop.com/ Story conceived by a five-year-old, brought to life by his cartoonist brother.

    And feel free to steal the asterixes as much as you like. I may not actually have invented them*.

    *And I definitely do not know how to pluralize them.

  22. Ariel

    I love your 10 favorite things…only I would cut Spam and add baths, coal oven pizza, and home improvement shows. The other stuff is so horrible, I just cower when I read it. I usually give to UNICEF but I’ll look into Equality Now.


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