Saturday, October 30, 2004

Toot Toot Tootsie

Had some naive hopes for Comedy Central's new Drawn Together cartoon series: a mock reality program featuring animated icons from all eras of cartooning, the show features a plump Betty Boop figure named Toots Braunstein as one of eight characters thrown together in a Real World house setting. But after watching the series' debut this week, I'm much less optimistic. The Toots character is shown as fat and desperate; when she's not futilely attempting to put the moves on a gay knight, she's either squirting Cheez Whiz into her mouth or depressively cutting her thighs with razors. When the black-and-white character is attacked by a belligerent animé character named Ling Ling, her slashed open stomach oozes yellow gloppiness because she's fat. When she dances in the kitchen, we get an unflattering close-up of flabby thighs as the whole room shakes. To those FAs with fond memories of Betty Boop and her fluctuating weight (first seen in the early cartoons, but best memorialized in a later weight-loss-&-gain entry entitled "Betty Boop And Little Jimmy," where weight gain is seen as no big deal), the mistreatment of this zaftig icon is pretty depressing. Betty Boop fat? There's no way she can be appealing, right? The answer to that rhetorical, in teevee terms, is all too predictable. . .

Thursday, October 28, 2004

One Route Into Wilson's Libido

This made my morning: pics of the sweetly bespectacled BBW Delaney eating a sub. Now I can get through the rest of my workday. . .


Following my earlier posting about Yahoo Groups, I was reminded of the treats that can occasionally surprise regular visitors to these small corners of the web. At Fatter Than Reality 2, the second of two groups devoted to extreme weight gain graphics and the occasional story, writer/artist StudioFA recently submitted a black-and-white rear view shot of a seated bottom-heavy BBW. It's been ages since I'd seen a new Studio graphic. A few years back, I edited and put together a Dimensions On-Line section devoted to his work, which I enjoy immensely, but after a prolific stint of producing both art and stories, he apparently ran out of free time to indulge his fantasies.

This is too damn bad, since over the relatively short amount of time he was active Studio developed into one helluva fanta-sizer. His bountiful femmes, in particular, have a believable heft to 'em that few FA artists effectively convey. Somewhere in the Barbers diskette collection is a single panel from an unfinished magical weight gain comic, which if completed would’ve been the second full FA comic after his marvelous mega-WG fantasy, "Paige's Story." As a small joke, Studio rewrote the panel's narration so that my wife and I are the story’s protagonists. If only it were true.

Still, it was cool to see the man taking time out of his real-world work schedule to dash off a new pic. In a better world, guys like Studio (and BeakerFA and Ned Sonntag and. . .) would be able to spend their days rendering big beautiful fantasies – and get supported for their efforts. Instead, their fans are forced to make do with whatever they have time to produce at the end of their regular nine-to-five. To these eyes, it's never enough, but as a professional fanta-sizer, you’d expect me to say that, right? Like the ol' r-&-b song sez: Too Much Is Never Enough. . .

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

“I Know I’m Fakin’ It . . .”

The other day, while checking out the Hotmail address where I receive stories for inclusion in Dimensions Online's "Weight Room," I received an email from a writer who respectfully asked me to remove their submission. Per this contributor:
"My friends from town found it, and are now spreading it about to everyone I know in an effort to humiliate me and ruin my life and any chances I had with any women. I guess liking fat girls really is a crime. I hate to admit it, but I'd rather fake liking skinny ones than be subjected to the kind of ridicule I'm receiving now."
I honored the young man's request (from the tone and focus of his email, I assume he's young) and removed the material. But at the same time I couldn't help feeling a little down about it. Even if (as is often the case with online correspondence), the writer was yanking my chain, the story still has a ring of believability.

As someone who's been married to a BBW for over fifteen years, it's easy for me to sometimes forget what a huge leap openly admitting one's love of fat womanhood can be in this thin-obsessed culture. In the pack-minded world of pre- and young adulthood, it ain't easy to go against the standards set by yer peers. Sometimes I think I was especially fortunate to've passed through my adolescence during an era when a fat woman singer could pose with the rest of her folk-rock hippie group in a bathtub – and it was considered kinda cool. There was plenty that was cheesy & phony about the late sixties, but for a young FA just beginning to step out of the closet, there was also room for a kind of group acceptance that I suspect today's emerging FAs don't so readily find.

But at the risk of sounding preachy, I've still gotta state: no matter psychically bruising the alternative may seem, "faking it" is not the way to go through the rest of your life. . .

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Group Think

Gotta admit I've got an ambivalent attitude toward the proliferation of Yahoo! Groups on the web. Seems like barely a week goes by without a new one trumpeting its existence (they're nearly as rabbity as blogs!) Oh look, here's another collection of amateur fat graphics! Hey, there's another intermingling of real and fake feedees! Here's a group devoted to an artist who'll never show any new free stuff again on the Internet 'coz he's aligned himself with Expandemonium!

Yeah, Wilson's being cranky. But for all that they provide cheap-&-easy space to FAs eager to offer their own vision of beauteousness to the world, there's a clunkiness to the group format that I personally find off-putting. The monotonous front page looks ugly, and the Files and Photo folder template is a strain to rummage through over time. I know that putting together your own website is a lot more time intensive and requires a small amount of studying, but if done right, it can be so much visitor friendly. And is there anything more frustrating than seeing a new message that promises a newly uploaded file – only to discover that it's spam for some frigging dating service?

I know: Yahoo! (and MSNBC) Groups are a freebie service and a convenience – and a lotta young FAs probably would still be in hiding if they didn't have this outlet for their fantasies. And there are some groups that I genuinely enjoy seeing updated: Koudelka's Fatter Than Reality and US Cartoon Comic Book Heroines Get Fat groups immediately come to mind, but I also like the idea that older artists like Bigggie and Jay Tee have tribute sites managed by an FA fan of theirs. Yet the html aesthete in me still wishes that we had more full-blown open fat appreciation pages on the web than we do "members only" clubs. There's something intrinsically hermetic about the whole Group scene that goes against my personal grain. . .

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

“Denise, Denise. . .”

Those of you familiar with my fanta-sizing fiction perhaps know that this isn't my first experience with blogging: over a year ago, I constructed a "Fat Magic" story, utilizing the blog format, entitled "Mystery Shopper." Set several years back in an October much like this 'un, it tells the story of Denise Purchess, a comely Midwesterner (many of my "Fat Magic" fictions feature comely Midwesterners) who gets a job as a professional shopper just as she begins her web diary. The company, Ample Stuffing, is one that figures prominently in several of my "Fat Magic"s: it's a company comprised of FAs whose mission appears to be to transform as many good-lookin' women as possible into mega-sized BBWs. By signing on to be a contract worker for the company, Denise unknowingly sets magical forces in motion that assure her own change.

Denise's new job takes her to a series of area restaurants where she is expected to review the quality of their service and menus. As we read each day of blog entries, we quickly realize that our heroine is spending more and more time at these eateries, adding poundage to her frame at an astounding speed. By the end of the month, she's grown to ten times her old weight. In so doing, she wins the heart of her boss, an Ample Stuffing executive whose name we never learn (our billowing blogger calls him "Tripper," a joking reference that also has echoes of John Ritter's character name from the old sitcom Three's Company).

In the fantasy world of the "Fat Magic" stories, few characters regret their transmogrification into hyper-obesity: in many of these stories, their preternatural size is connected to both mystic capacity and an almost transcendental awareness of the world around them. For all of the women and occasional men in these tales, their new size proves strangely liberating. They've entered a world where conventional standards no longer apply, where culturally demanded restraint has become irrelevant. And because their changes are tied to magical influences, many of the difficulties associated with their Guinness Book of World Records weights aren't even a concern.

Crafting "Mystery Shopper" turned out to be one of my more enjoyable writing experiences: some stories require a lot of straining and head-scratching; others come trippingly to the page. "Shopper," despite its length (around 27,000 words), came fairly rapidly. Some of this I attribute to the first person mock blog format (swiped the basic template from Pop Culture Gadabout), which was fun to play with; some I connect to the story's heroine, who I found myself liking the longer I used her voice. And, as with many of my favorite creations, every now and then I find myself wondering how Denise is doin' several years down the road.

I'm pretty sure I know the answer to that question though because, hey, it's my fantasy, right?


Friday, October 15, 2004

Mos' Fresh

I don't live anywhere near New York – and my Internet connection remains a crawly dial-up – so I've never heard Kimberly Massengill's radio shows on such varied & sundry stations as WFMU and WPKN. (Lookin' at her play lists, I truly like her taste in music, though.) But I do enjoy the music-focused writing she does for a city entertainment site entitled Murphguide, the most recent of which is a review of an ACLU Freedom Concert. The benefit concert featured both pop (Paul Simon, Mos' Def) and artier music types (Philip Glass) doing one and two-song performances, interspersed with readings by actors and various literary scenesters about free speech fights: the type of show that can be deadly to review – mainly because you're forced to address both performance and underlying message equally – and just as hard to read.

Ran into no such problems reading Miz M.'s piece, though, because she's a personable and witty writer who injects herself into her articles without being overbearing about it. Plus: she obviously knows her music scene and is able to write about it without descending into cheap mockery (an overused pop writer's tool – I wield it all the time) or p.r. fannishness. And Plus II: as a look at her too infrequently updated web page reveals, she's a gorgeous fat woman, who definitely looks better than the grungy rock types she is occasionally seen standing next to. (I'm talkin' about you, Bruce Springsteen! [Wha'd I tell ya about that cheap mockery thing?]) I've recently gotten hooked on her "Music For That Not-So-Fresh Feeling" column – and so should you, if you're a fan of good music writing and/or cool BBWs. . .

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Fireman's Carry

I've been haphazardly following the fx summer series, Rescue Me, but recent discussion on the Dimensions Weight Board about the show's young fireman in lust with a sexy fat woman subplot re-affixed my attention on this series. The "probie" fireman, Michael Lombardi's Mike Siletti, has had a number of short-term sexual encounters in the show’s first season – with an older woman and a big-sexual couple, most notably – but this seems to be a longer running 'un: the season finale ended with Mike & Teresa still together. Don't know name of the attractive actress playing Teresa, unfortunately, but she showed an admirable willingness to be filmed in a teddy.

I've got mixed feelings about the bulimia they've given the character, though it has brought about at least one believable dramatic moment. In the penultimate episode, she shows Mike a photo of herself at a pre-binge-&-puke weight – and though we're not allowed to see this pic, it's clear that she's substantially larger than her current mid-sized self. Siletti, after looking at the photo, makes a comment that perhaps her bulimia isn't such a bad thing, after all. As he delivers this pronouncement, you can just see the disappointment wash across Teresa's face.

This being a Denis Leary co-creation, it was probably inevitable that the final episode would include a parallel subplot where our group of sturdy FDNYers have to cart a bedridden super-sized fat woman out of her apartment (at one point I was reminded of the 70's paramedic comedy, Mother, Jugs and Speed) – with predictable fat jokes about both the dead woman and Teresa a-flyin'. Points to scripters Leary and Peter Tolan for later including a moment when Mike rails against Tommy and the rest of the firehouse for making fun of his plus-sized girlfriend, though. And Teresa's blunt descriptions of the long-term effects of her eating disorder were also welcome. Looks like we'll have to wait 'til next season to see if the probie actually rouses enough to say, "I've been thinkin' about this bulimia bizness. . ."

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Cut 'N' Run

So now we're being told that obesity surgery may be a cure for diabetes. I'm naturally skeptical about these kinds of medical pronouncements, particularly when they revolve around a hot-button topic like weight loss surgery. With stories like this, I can't help wondering whether the primary motivation behind its dissemination rests more in making a controversial procedure more palatable to insurance companies and patients than it does in making an objective health pronouncement. But, then, I'm a cynical asshole.

(Besides, this study of studies doesn't appear to address what seems to be a fairly obvious question: is it surgery which has had an impact on patient diabetes or the substantive change in diet that WL surgery forces on patients who've undergone it?)

Reading the news story, though, does bring up a question that is frequently put to FAs; namely, "How can you, in all conscience, be attracted to someone whose size makes them unhealthy?" Put aside the dynamics of attraction – which, after all, refuse to follow the dictates of convention wisdom – and you still have what could be an ethical dilemma if you automatically accept the premise that Fat=Unhealthy. If you truly love someone, after all, shouldn't you want what's "best" for 'em in all things?

For many FAs, the current first line of response is that proclaimed by Paul Campos in his book, The Obesity Myth: that the present focus in the medical community on Body Mass Index over healthy eating habits and exercise profoundly misses the point. It's not fatness per se that the fitness-conscious adult needs to concentrate on, but rather healthier lifestyle habits. It's thus possible to be attracted to a fat partner, want to live with that person, and still lovingly encourage 'em to adopt healthy habits.

But what if the conventional wisdom is right? What if fatness is, to quote the hyperbolic language of the scaremongers, a "ticking timebomb"? Things grow markedly murkier when you venture down that path, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit that are times, still, when I can mentally hear Conventional Wisdom shouting, "You're not doing your wife any favors by saying that you like her as she is!" Never mind that she is an adult woman who has come to terms with her size – or that the both of us have instituted both more physical active lifestyles and thoughtful eating practices over the years. The fact is: We All Know Fatness Is Bad, Mmm'kay? And just in case we, you know, forget or something, we have the ever diligent medical press to remind us. . .

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Thinkin' Big

Big Girls, Big Stuff Tours is a site that manages to push two of my personal buttons: cute big women and absurdly oversized roadside attractions (like muffler men and giant coffee pots). As conceived by Catherine Nordling, a super-sized Midwestern beauty who presently has the distinction of the being the last cover girl to appear in the print mag version of Dimensions, the site and tours originated in Minnesota but have since expanded to include submissions from across the United States, as well as the United Kingdom and Canada. Lots of cool jpgs. of plus-sized lady tourists and outlandish roadside stuff, but many of the photos are in long shot, so you often get a better pic of the Big Stuff than you do the Big Babes. Still, you just know that Zippy the Pinhead (he who converses with Muffler Men daily) would love to go on a Big Girl, Big Stuff tour. And who can blame him?

Smart Wimmen, Old Game Shows

Caught the second half of a rerun of Win Ben Stein's Money last night on the Game Show Network – and was please to see a very full-figured hour-glass shaped brunette (whose name I spacily did not write down) tie ol' Ben in the final challenge. Good game shows can be a rich source for viewing brainy BBWs (I'm told that Kathy Najimy was once a contestant on Jeopardy), and I seem to remember more than one of 'em appearing on Money when it first ran on Comedy Central. Something new to set the VCR timer for. . .

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Two Little Terms

Two terms that are gonna show up frequently on this blog are fat admirer (or FA) and BBW. The second set of letters stands for Big Beautiful Woman and was first coined by editor Carole Shaw for her plus-sized fashion mag of the same name. Though the magazine has had a rocky publication history (it's currently on its second hiatus, though its site is still up), the phrase has endured in the size acceptance community as the politic way to describe fat ladies. Occasionally, some smartass will make the inevitable point: "Are you saying that all fat women are automatically beautiful?" Shaw, who'd first come up with the term to sell a fashion mag (with its possibility of personal transformation) would've probably said yes – or at least that every fat woman had the potential to be beautiful. To many in the size acceptance community, the term is also meant as a corrective to mainstream western culture's use of fatandugly as a single word.

As a male FA, I'm also thankful for the way that "BBW" gives me the chance to be complimentary without being second-guessed. After years of being told how unattractive they are, many fat women are understandably dubious when receiving compliments. Having an established phrase makes it a little bit easier to both send and accept one.

"FA" was (I think) first established by Bill Fabrey, one of the founders of the size acceptance civil rights group NAAFA (National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance). When Fabrey was first looking around for a way to describe his own personal preferences, the only comparable term, "chubby chaser," was within the gay community. Whether Bill felt the phrase too limiting (many FAs, after all, are attracted to women who go beyond "chubby") – or he wanted to avoid the association with gay culture (in its early years, NAAFA stayed strictly hetero, though the organization has since opened up its membership) – Fabrey invented a term that was also consistent with NAAFA's desire to de-stigmatize the word "fat." There are those who feel the word "admirer" is a tad off-the-mark (you might get somewhere telling a loved one that you "admire" them, but you ain't gonna get too far!), but, to date, no one's come up with an acceptable substitute. Personally, I think chubby chaser has a nice ring to it, but I grew up reading Marvel Comics – and I love alliteration. . .


Before I go too far with this, I need to recognize Bill Sherman's Pop Culture Gadabout blog, which provided the spark for this journal you're reading. Soon as I figure out how to put a blogroll on this template, it's the first 'un to go up. . .

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Who Am Us, Anyway?

Welcome to Barbers Blog, the site for random thoughts from Wilson Barbers, a who-the-hell-is-he? author of dubious fat fiction and size acceptance focused pop criticism. I've been a regular scribe for the print mag Dimensions ("Where Big Is Beautiful") and its on-line counterpart, Dimensions On-Line, where I've also been the site's librarian and editor of its story pages. For a decade or so, I also was a free-lancer for such sterling publications as BUF and Juggs, for which I wrote a host of inappropriate fantasies, many of which can now be found on a Dimensions' page entitled Fat Magic. I also have a Geocities website which I sporadically update, devoted primarily to fat collectibles like comic postcards and sideshow lady photos as well as the art of fat admiring cartoonist Ned Sonntag. It's entitled Wilson Barbers' Haus O' Fun. Obviously, I spend too much time on the Internet. . .

Be that as it may, here's another damn writer's blog: with Yours Truly wasting hours he should be spending on something payable, holding forth on whatever strikes my fancy and is size related, occasionally commenting on work or bloggers I particularly enjoy, periodically ranting on the hassles of editing amateur fiction, harmlessly lusting from afar after some smart BBW who I've seen on the web. Pretty dubious stuff, I know. But waddya expect from a guy who's written for Juggs, ferchristsake?