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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Every time I think I'm out...

I really like the first X-Men movie. It had problems (not just Halle Berry and her accent, though...yeah), but it was enjoyable, the relationship between Wolverine and Rogue was compelling, and Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen really classed the joint up. I thought that X2 was better paced, but less emotionally compelling, though still very enjoyable. Best not to speak much of X-Men: The Last Stand, so I'll just point out that, even in that mess, Stewart and McKellen remain great; Jackman has some really good moments (including one in which James Marsden briefly overcomes the Scott Summers effect); and Berry even acts past her accent long enough for a really compelling scene. "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" was disappointing, despite good performances from Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber. Jackman continues to be good enough as Wolverine that I will go to see "The Wolverine" when it comes out. "X-Men: First Class" was two movies: a bad one (starring James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, and Nicholas Hoult) and a good one (starring James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender), so, I haven't been getting my hopes up for "X-Men: Days of Future Past." Oh, I was always planning to go see it -- I knew Bryan Singer was coming back to the franchise, and I knew McAvoy and Fassbender would be there, so I wasn't going to skip it. But I haven't been getting my hopes up. Yeah, I know it's based on a popular storyline from the comics. I (mostly) didn't read the comics, but know about the story from the loose adaptation done for the 90s cartoon, which I did watch, and which I loved. The bits of it that I remember most fondly? The Phoenix Saga, the Nightcrawler episode, and -- you guessed it -- the Days of Future Past arc. And Gambit. I'm still mad about Gambit being wasted in "Wolverine."

Anyway, I've been doing a good job of not getting my hopes up about "Days of Future Past," despite its potential to be good. Then, this morning, Rowles at Pajiba went and got all giddy about the latest casting news, which I was behind on (because I didn't want to get my hopes up), and now I know that it will also involve Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen (new to me), and maybe even Jackman (news). Even this, I might have been able to resist getting excited about, but then I saw the projected release date:

July 18th, 2014.

Happy belated future birthday to me! I mean...surely the magic of my birthday will increase the film's overall fantasticness, right? No, seriously -- the first one was released a couple of days before my birthday and, while it definitely had problems, it was also kind of awesome! Remember how good Wolverine and Rogue's relationship was? Remember the cage fight? Remember...sorry, I got distracted by remembering the cage fight. What was I saying? Oh, yeah -- my point is that it is now impossible for me not to get excited about this movie. (Singer + 2 Professor Xs + 2 Magnetos + Wolverine) x My Birthday = AWESOME. Birthday "X-Men" was great, and maybe birthday "Days of Future Past" will be, too! And, maybe they can even rehabilitate Gambit. I mean, Sabretooth started out as one of the problems in "X-Men," and ended up one of best parts of "Wolverine." If they recast him and...

*Sigh* If I'm lucky, I'll forget this excitement and lower my expectations by the time the movie actually comes out. In the meantime, I obviously need to watch old-school X-Men cartoons while I pack.

eta: Patrick Stewart says, "Slow your roll." Well, not in those words, but...

Monday, November 26, 2012

And now for something completely different

I'm on the lookout for free boxes, so that I can begin the process of packing up my life and moving. Again, already, and not at all the way I'd hoped to -- but I digress.

Just a few minutes ago, Craigslist told me that there were free boxes to be had, right around the corner from where I live. I figured they'd be gone, since the posting was a few hours old, but the address was so close by that I had to go and check. Lo and behold, the boxes were still there! As I began packing them into one of the ginormous bag/backpacks I got from last year's ComiCon (this one), a woman pulled over in the street, right near where I was working. I'd greeted her, on her way out of the apartment building in front of which the boxes had been left, just a minute before. "If you want more boxes," she said, "there are a couple more just ahead with the recycling -- they've got packing paper in them, so they might be harder to carry, but the paper would probably be good to reuse as well. Someone's moving in here, so they've just been left today -- still clean!" I thanked her, and did, in fact, check out the boxes she'd pointed out.

In addition to the small, flattened ones I'd stuffed into my bag, there were two medium sized ones, still in full box form: one had been full of the boxes now on my back, while the other was full of packing paper. As I gauged whether I could carry them both without breaking down the empty one, another woman pulled up, just at the curb. "Did you get all of the boxes?" I told her that I had, but asked when she was moving -- I thought we could split them if she was also going soon. "Not until January," she said, so I kept all but the empty one, and told her that she should take it, especially since she was in a car, and would have a much easier time getting it home. She asked where I lived, and offered carry it to my place, instead. I declined the offer -- it really was just around the corner, and I'd already gotten quite a haul. She thanked me for the box, and was considering the remaining packing materials when I started off for my place.

While the larger box was ungainly, it wasn't at all heavy, so was fine for such a short distance. As I turned down my street, though, I paused to give my arms a quick break, and to readjust it all for the last few yards. As I put everything down, a third woman pulled over and honked her horn, waving as I turned towards her. I smiled, presuming she was there to pick up someone in the building I'd stopped in front of, and had just been giving me a polite wave. As I began gather the things I'd set down for the moment, she came around the back of her car, paused her phone conversation and asked where I was going with the box, and whether I needed a ride. I thanked her, and assured her that I was almost there. As I walked up the steps to my building, I saw her go by, continuing on to wherever she was headed -- she hadn't been going to that building, after all, and had only stopped to offer me a lift.

I rarely miss a chance to complain about how crappy people can be. Since people can be awfully crappy, they give me plenty to complain about. But, sometimes it's nice to point out that the opposite is also true: people can be quite kind. Given how many have been kind to me, I should probably say so more often.

And now I'm off to fill those free boxes with things.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Representation, objectification, and the necessary restatement of the obvious

Still thinking about women, the way that we are represented, and the ways that we (re)present ourselves. This time, it starts with an article on the portrayal of women in the media.

HuffPo Women reported yesterday on a study conducted by USC Annenberg and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which analyzed female characters on prime time and children's TV shows, as well as in films rated G, PG, and PG-13. This study showed that female characters were, across the board, less likely to speak than their male counterparts, less likely to be gainfully employed, and more likely to be shown weary sexy or revealing clothing

In a summary of the study's findings, the researchers reported that they found a lack of aspirational female role models in all three media categories, and cited five main observations: female characters are sidelined, women are stereotyped and sexualized, a clear employment imbalance exists, women on TV come up against a glass ceiling, and there are not enough female characters working in STEM fields.

I'm obviously behind attempts to call attention to the problem, and I think it's great to be able to point to data collected through culturally validated channels in discussing what the problem is, and why it's a problem. But, I also think the problem is really obvious. I really believe that, if you've ever watched a TV show, or gone to a movie, you know this, even if you are unable, or more likely unwilling, to consider what it means. Without lessening the importance of the conversation, I sometimes feel the need, once in a while, to point out that this would all be much easier if people would remove head from ass and pay attention.

Deep breath.

So, when I saw this article last night, and I shared a link to it on FB, the commentary I added was a moment of feeling overwhelmed by the feeling that people are missing (or ignoring) something really, really obvious, and really obviously a problem.  The responses I got reminded me, quite rightfully, that we're not all "feminist media literacy advocates" (I love that phrase, and intend to steal it from you, J.), and that we sometimes need to "prime the arena for intervention" (truth, M., and well put). Another friend spoke to a different aspect of the issue, which is the frustration of seeing women perpetuate their own objectification. This is the thing that got me thinking this morning, because I share that frustration -- put some damn clothes on, half-naked woman on the bus, and stop dressing your prepubescent daughter like a miniature version of a woman I'd want to wrap in a blanket and send home to try again! But also worry about how we respond to that behavior.

My problem is that, while I think the most visceral response is often, "ugh, stop making things worse," I also think that there are reasons that people perpetuate systems that do not benefit them, and that those behaviors are hard to change in ways that makes simple censure feel inadequate. Cultural hegemony -- whether the cultures in question are racial, gender-based, national, etc -- is real and powerful. And, it is persistent. Part of what fuels its persistence is that it is self-replicating: the dominant group does not simply impose its values, it naturalizes those values, so that those on whom they're being imposed come to embrace them, to see them as real. Those who are not of the dominant group are marinated in the values of the dominant group, and eventually internalize them as their own. Society's beauty standards are, I think, an accessible example by now -- things like people of color having internalized pale skin and straight, preferably blond hair as THE way to be beautiful, as opposed to one of many.

Similarly, women in the United States (I speak specifically because it's what I know best) have been steeped in the set of ideas about beauty and sexiness. So, while women may dress or act in a way that furthers their objectification, they don't do so in a vacuum. That is to say that they do not usually start from a neutral point of full understanding of objectification, its causes, and its effects and think, "Yeah -- that sounds great!" The nature of cultural hegemony is that it warps reality, so that we think we're seeing clearly when we're not. We look at ourselves in funhouse mirrors, but think that we're seeing the truth. And change is not, in this case (in any case?), like flipping on a switch, so even if the warp in reality becomes visible to some, that doesn't mean that we will all just stop believing and living that false worldview overnight. You've got to get people to realize they've internalized as natural or ideal something that is not, in fact, natural, probably isn't ideal for all, and may not be ideal for any. You've got to get them to internalize something new, which is difficult. And the new thing you've got to get them to internalize might not be clear yet, and is certainly not as well established as the old ways.

All of which is to say that the idea of objectifying yourself, or otherwise playing into a worldview that lessens you, is a tricky one, which makes the sense of censure that usually attaches to it tricky, as well. Yes, I want women to dress like they respect themselves, and to project what I consider to be a positive image. But, that involves moving beyond giving them the side-eye, and really thinking about how to change what someone has internalized as positive, negative, or neutral. This requires changing how people perceive reality, and what they therefore think is worth projecting. (It also involves shaking up how we all interpret what we see, and convincing more people that they're always interpreting and being interpreted, but those are at least a couple of different blogs.)

So, how do we give more people the tools that would enable them to perpetuate a new and better set of images and behaviors? Well, I suppose that we give people the side-eye and shake our heads, but also try to explain why we're doing so. And, we continue to point out, in various ways, where reality has been warped, hoping to help others see it. We participate in conversations about how to straighten things out, and we take the lead in shaping the reflections and representations younger generations are shaped by.

And, sometimes, we point out how obvious the problems are, and extol the virtues of mass craniorectal extraction.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

And they were both naked, but only the woman was ashamed.

So, now and again (by which I mean all the time), I post something here at the blog to keep myself from posting it on Facebook. The intention is usually to avoid starting a comment war on someone's wall, in a situation where I can tell that actual discussion will be difficult, if not impossible (which is to say, most of the time on Facebook). Today, that situation is the comment section on a link shared by J. The link is to this article, on gender and coverage of the Petraeus affair, and J. quoted the following passage, by way of introduction:

There are questions of real consequence, such as why the F.B.I. got so thoroughly involved in what has been vaguely described as a case of e-mail harassment, whether the bureau waited too long to tell lawmakers and White House officials about the investigation, and how much classified information Broadwell, by dint of her relationship with Petraeus, was privy to. The answers matter. Her 'expressive green eyes' (The Daily Beast) and “tight shirts” and 'form-fitting clothes' (The Washington Post) don’t . . . . [but] it’s the women in these situations who are often subjected to a more vigorous public shaming — and assigned greater responsibility.
I won't go into the details of the thread, because it's not my thread. It suffices to say that someone called into question the importance of the gender conversation, while basically doing exactly the (gender-based) things the article, and J, were critiquing -- that is, focusing almost exclusively on whether Broadwell was dressed properly, and what kind of assumptions we can make about her based on her appearance. So, rather than starting a comment war over on Facebook, I'm going on a rant here at in medias res.

I think you raise good points, [redacted], about how our clothing portrays us to the world. I can't speak for [redacted], but I suspect that you and I, at least, disagree concerning whether or not the specifically gendered ways in which that happens are a) real, b) acceptable, and c) something we should talk about, with an eye to changing it. Regardless of what we do with that set of ideas, I'm not sure why her appearance (or her age, which has also come up a lot) would be relevant to this incident, and I'm certainly not clear on why it would be offered as in any way relevant to Petraeus' professional (not to mention personal) failures, which included making good choices about who to associate with, and how.

And, I think that [redacted] and others (like me) think it's interesting and important to talk about how our gender dynamics (illustrated in things like discussing what men and women should and shouldn't  wear) create and "reinforce ideas of women, men, and power," and exactly because of situations like this.

The article linked is pointing out that the coverage of these events spends an inordinate amount of time paying attention to what Broadwell looks like -- her eyes, her clothes, her body fat (or lack thereof) -- then makes various statements and insinuations about her behavior, her motives, and her character, based largely on those physical attributes. Yet, in most of the coverage, there is no discussion of even the things you mention in your comment -- whether Petraeus is a "horndog" or how he sent her signals, or what sorts of chances were worth it for him to take. If behavior, motives, and character are important, then surely these things that reflect on his are worth discussing, no? The article points out that the coverage has focused on how her clothing plays up her physical assest in a sexualized way. You insist that men and women are equally scrutinized on the basis of what they wear. Where, then, is the discussion of what Petraeus was wearing? We've been told about her short skirts, as if they were snares, set to trap an unsuspecting Petraeus. But, surely, if women's clothing and feminine wiles are important, then men's clothing and masculine wiles are too, right? Was that uniform worn just-so, knowing what a tempting figure a distinguished man of power is to some women? How could he have dressed in such an enticing way, if he wanted to be taken seriously professionally? Such questions only seem more ridiculous than their female-directed parallels, because "masculine wiles" are not a thing, or at least not a thing we've spent centuries blaming things on. The truth is that it's ridiculous in both directions, but is only entrenched in the culture in one.

Speaking of which, if she wore clothing that played up her desirability more than it played up her intelligence (already a problematic statement, because why would those two be at odds, if not for some long-standing societal patterns that it would probably be important to talk about), what of it? Do we really think that "she was tempting" is a line of argument that does Petraeus any favors? In addition to the fact that he's a grown-ass man, shouldn't we reasonably expect the director of the CIA to resist all sorts of temptation, making it moot how appealing her toned arms were? As above, if gender and its shaping of discourse are unimportant, why do we care that she was a temptation to Petraeus, but not whether Petraeus was a temptation to her? Perhaps more importantly, in the wake of this election season, do we really want to trot out the "she was dressed like she wanted it" chestnut so soon?

But I digress.

Much of the coverage is uninterested in whether Petraeus dressed, spoke, or acted in ways that encouraged this relationship, but it is very interested in analyzing Broadwell in terms of her clothing and what some think it tells them about her personality and her intentions, and it focuses on those things to an extent that makes it seem as if her choice of attire somehow outweighed his choice of actions. This is a problem. But, of course, the answer is not to make ridiculous claims about how what Petraeus was wearing determined Broadwell's behavior. And, of course, Broadwell's perceived attractiveness or her choice of clothing should not deflect discussion of Petraeus' agency in both cheating on his wife and, in the process, tanking his professional credibility.

It seems to me that the story should be about whether Petraeus chose to act like someone who valued himself as an individual who makes intelligent choices, and whether he made choices that showed supported or undermined that claim that he was competent and well-suited to carrying out the responsibilities with which he had been entrusted. We should care more that someone whose responsibilities included supervising those who sneak around on behalf of the nation showed himself to be bad at sneaking around than we do about the eye color of the woman he was sneaking around with. We really should focus on the fact that someone whose job title meant he had been trusted to show good judgment about very important things showed himself to be untrustworthy. To derail the conversation, as many have, with claims (whether explicit or implicit) about what Broadwell's clothes and exercise habits are supposed to tell us about her agency, personality, intelligence, judgment, competence, or moral rectitude shifts the conversation from what should be under discussion -- what Petraeus' actions tell us about his agency, personality, intelligence, judgment, competence, or moral rectitude, and specifically because those things were relevant to his job.

PS - In reference to the original article, there is not a single thing in the text that suggests that Eve was "pushy with the apple." Just sayin'.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Please, sir -- could I have some more equality?

On FB, my friend K. linked to an interesting piece called "The Distress of the Privileged." My initial reaction was to roll my eyes at the title, but I read it, knowing that this friend is not usually on the side of the assholes. It turned out to be a thoughtful take on responding to those feeling what the author calls "privileged distress." Muder's piece is an attempt to articulate how one might deal compassionately with those reeling from the loss (or, more often, the questioning) of their privilege, without lessening the importance of the justice due those harmed by the privilege in question. "Confronting this distress is tricky," writes Muder, "because neither acceptance nor rejection is quite right." It is, as I said, a thoughtful piece, perhaps insightful on the mental state of those thrown of balance by the tectonic shifts of the world around them, or the shaking up of the things they thought were solid ground.

It took me a while to figure out what it was about the piece that made me uncomfortable, but I eventually did. It is thoughtful and it is generous: to be honest, I feel like the generosity is at least a little bit misguided.

At the very least, there's a distinction that needs to be made, between those who "uncritically accept" their privileged role, and those who actively work to maintain it. In the former case, I am more than willing to espouse the virtues of dialogue, and the attempt to reason. If someone simply hasn't thought things through in a careful way, I think it is crucial to try to help them do so. Ignorance is not a character flaw. But, if you refuse to think critically, to listen, to engage, then you have actively refused to participate in dialogue, or to reason. Ignorance may not be a character flaw, but I believe that willful ignorance is.

Muder speaks of the danger of an implacable resentment on the part of the dis-privileged, but says nothing of even the possibility of an implacable sense of entitlement on the part of the privileged. He writes that "it never works to ask others for empathy without offering it back to them," but he seems only to be writing that to those he sees as needing to "win over" the privileged. The message seems to be that the dis-privileged must meet the privileged in the proverbial middle, taking care to coax them gently into non-hegemony in a way that makes them comfortable and soothes their wounded psyches. 

Now, one problem here is that meeting in the middle only works if the middle is actually where we should be. Consider the current national discourses on climate change and evolution. If what you're saying is counter-factual, meeting you halfway is a mistake. In terms of privilege, if I say "we need to level the playing field," and you say, "I'm used to being at the top of a mountain -- how about we just make it a smaller mountain," then you're still privileged, and I'm still fighting an uphill battle. That may be an example of compromise, but it's not really justice, which, as Muder points out, is what's at stake.

But, even more than this, I believe that there is a real and significant injustice in expecting people to ask nicely that someone stop hating, oppressing, or otherwise mistreating them.

As someone in the comments pointed out, "allies" (those invited to the Muder's proverbial party, but sympathetic to the concerns of those excluded from it) may be able to ask nicely, to supportively validate the good-personhood of those peers they hope to persuade to more enlightened treatment of their friends outside. But they're able to do that because they're at the party. They stand shoulder to shoulder with the privileged group -- they're not being directly threatened or hurt by the inequality in question. The fact that they're on the same level makes them well-placed to offer a supportive shoulder to those for whom the world seems suddenly incoherent or antagonistic, even as they attempt to persuade them of the error of their ways. But, while those struggling to gain full recognition of their human dignity *may* be generous enough to attempt to rehabilitate those who have denied it, to insist that they must be, or even always *can* be, is to claim yet another unwarranted privilege.

If you refuse to acknowledge an inequality that diminishes my personhood, it is not my job to preserve your positive self-image. If you are working to maintain a status quo that denies my full and foundational human dignity or threatens my well being, I shouldn't be expected to care about winning you over, or to try and lessen your feelings of disorientation when I defend myself. I should only be expected to care that you immediately stop diminishing my personhood, denying my dignity, or threatening my well being, regardless of whether or not you've been won over or convinced of my full humanity. If we're all at the party, and we're standing side by side, perhaps we can have a mutually open-minded and sympathetic conversation. But, if you've got your foot on my neck, you can't reasonably expect me to care if my throwing you off upsets your balance.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Under Construction

A quick heads up: I'll be tinkering with things in the next few days, including importing in some archival material from previous blogs. If you follow me on a feed, things might go a little haywire -- my apologies in advance!

As I prepared to post this, I thought I'd find a stock "under construction" image to add, just for kicks.

This one seemed apt:

While this one seemed oddly ominous:

Then I thought maybe I'd post a hot construction worker, instead. Now, I figured I knew what would come up on a google search for that term -- lots of heavily oiled models, probably some frontal nudity (true, on both counts). But, after the first few greasy photo shoots, and before the first penis, there was a familiar face:

Any guesses? Here's a hint:

Wow, 1994. Can we just take a moment to talk about the fashion and hair in that commercial? I mean, I know some of the women are supposed to look particularly repressed,

But back to Lucky. 18 years later, I recognized this guy's face, and immediately remembered his name. Lucky Vanous. Now, it's a memorable name, in all fairness, but I'm not really sure what made his face stick. He's good-looking, but I'm not sure I'd really pick him out as particularly hot, if I saw him in an ad today. Maybe that's part of it, though. The commercial caused quite a stir, and was notable for its then-surprising reversal of the standard "hot chick's hotness used to sell something" trope, and Vanous was sort of a thing, for a bit -- enough that he was featured in that annual archive of It Boys and Girls: People 's "Most Beautiful People" issue:

The commercial seems pretty tame now, but I feel like it was kind of A Big Deal, 18 years ago (let that sink in), that the blatantly objectified body being used to sell something besides Calvin Klein underwear was male. And were those CK ads (first one in 1982) ahead of their time on that?

I've never been sure whether this was brilliant marketing on Coca Cola's part, or not. Here's what I do know: I do remember it as a Diet Coke commercial, but it never induced me to drink Diet Coke. Even in 1994, when I remember talking about that commercial in the hallways at school, there wasn't guy -- male model or not -- hot enough to get me to drink Diet Coke.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We, the people.

This is Bill O'Reilly, explaining/bemoaning Mitt Romney's defeat:

The problem, according to Bill O'Reilly, is that "demographics are changing -- it's not a traditional America anymore." And what does he mean by "a traditional America"? Well, that's one in which "an establishment candidate" wins easily. Well, "establishment" we know -- it's a group that holds the real power, most often by holding it away from everyone else. The establishment wields the socio-economic and political influence in a society. So, who is this establishment, according to Bill O'Reilly? Well, it's "The White Establishment," which "is a minority now." And who, just to be sure, does Bill O'Reilly think is not a part of "The White Establishment?" No surprise here: "Latinos...Blacks...and women." Thanks for clearing that up, Bill.

O'Reilly mentions that "the voters feel that this economic system is stacked against them," then goes on to demonstrate exactly why "the voters" (by which I presume he means that half of the people who did not vote for "The White Establishment") are justified in that feeling. The fact that Bill O'Reilly can still even hope for victories for a "White establishment" -- a group that, by definition, does not include people of color or people (even White ones) who are not a part of "The Establishment" -- means that there is, by his own admission, an established system, from which many are excluded. What I love about this is that he keeps saying that it's because "people feel like they're entitled to things." This may still count as a dog whistle, but I'd say that it's a shout-out to the continued demonization of the poor, and people of color in general, as grasping, lazy, demanding. O'Reilly says the issue is that "people feel like they're entitled to things," but can't stop himself from saying what's really bothering him: White (rich, straight, male) privilege is no longer absolutely secure, because their Establishment is no longer calling all of the shots.

"People feel like they are entitled to things." Yes, Bill, they do. Those women, those poor, those LGBT, those young, those people of color -- they "feel like they are entitled to things." As my friend A. pointed out, the "things" those people think they're entitled to are basically "dignity, equality under the law, opportunity unhindered by bigotry, and the franchise." We, the people, feel that we are entitled to a full voice, a fair share, and equal opportunities to participate in a thriving life, to establish ourselves as an equal part of our nation. Ours, O'Reilly -- not just The White Establishment's.


eta: the original video eventually disappeared. This video includes the same footage, starting at about 4:00. (

Monday, October 15, 2012

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

As some of you already know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month here in the US. For the past several years, my brother has participated in annual fundraising activities to support research into the causes, treatment, and cure of breast cancer. This year, he's participating in the Komen Race for the Cure, and you can donate in support of his efforts here.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but as many of you know, I have other reasons to be aware of the disease, all year long.

Brother,  Mom, and Me

I don't know how old we all were in that picture, but I know that my mom was 45 when she died of breast cancer. I turned 18 that summer, 4 months after her death. Half a lifetime later, in April of this year, I had my first mammogram, after a doctor thought she'd found something in my right breast. I got lucky -- it was a false alarm, and I celebrated my birthday this year with extra joy.

Tonight, it occurred to me that I've now had more birthdays without my mom than I had with her.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you have reservations about the Komen Foundation, or would just prefer to help fund breast cancer research through another organization, there are plenty of ways to contribute to the cause. Please consider making a gift to the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, or the group of your choice.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Michael Chabon discusses his inspiration for "Telegraph Avenue"

And on that morning of the Simpson verdict, I discovered, to my shame, to my absolute wonder and horror, that in the course of that journey I had, somehow, become a racist. To qualify as a racist you don’t have to go to the extreme of slurring, stereotyping or discriminating against people of another race. All you have to do, as I realized on that autumn morning in 1995, is feel completely disconnected from them.
--Michael Chabon, NY Times, "O.J. Simpson, Racial Utopia and the Moment That Inspired My Novel"
There is something, I think, very compelling about the sentiment above. What I really find interesting about the rest of the article is that he talks about the problem of standing back and observing the other, not connecting as real people, but doesn't seem to realize that he's doing it, right there, in the rest of the piece. The fetishization of the pigment line on his classmate's hand? His sadness over lost "connection," while brushing aside any actual engagement with the reasons for that disconnect? His romanticization of non-existent racial utopia? It's highly problematic and, if not quite racist, then somehow dismissive, patronizing, condescending, glib -- I can't quite put my finger on the term I want here, to describe the way in which the attitude is "off." But it sits wrong with me, somehow, like a wistful paean to his own privileged distance.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sights of British Columbia, part 1

I'll eventually post some actual words about my trip to British Columbia. For now, here's a bit of what I've seen.

Chief Wakas Pole
Pretty flowers
Low tide
An invitation to bust my ass. I declined.

Raccoons, which are even worse than squirrels.

The market 
Ginormous carrots, with a regular one for scale.

A delicious salmon chowder pot pie from A La Mode


This guy
The central library, inspired by the Coliseum

An apologetic bus

A rather jaunty walk sign

Frenchie's House of Poutine.
Not sure why I find this so amusing, but I really do.

This is Sienna, my hosts' dog.
She's very sweet, and does not seem to mind having her picture taken.

Outside, trees, and several different sizes of rocks.
Note the ginormous one peeking out of the clouds in the background. 

More autumn, and an inviting pathway.
Well, not too inviting. There are bears and cougars out there!

Classes start Monday -- more soon! (Unless I get eaten by a bear or a cougar.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Signal boost: Horizons Foundation's annual fundraising gala and celebration

Another cause to consider supporting: Horizons Foundation's annual fundraising gala. Horizons is a philanthropic social justice organization that, for 30 years, has been "meeting the needs, advancing the rights, and celebrating the lives of LGBT people through a diverse range of programs, services, and initiatives." My good friend Darren Isom is on their board, and invited me to last year's gala -- the FB "cover photo" up there was actually taken on the way there. It was a fantastic evening! This year, they'll be honoring Congressman Barney Frank and Kate Kendell (Executive Director of the NCLR) for their leadership in the LGBT movement.

You can make a donation in any amount -- just enter a contribution amount and, under "Number/type of tickets or sponsorship," chose "donation only." A $250 donation will get you into the main gala -- a cocktail reception and silent auction, followed by a dinner and awards presentations, all at the Fairmont Hotel -- as well as the casino party afterwards, which will take place at the Tonga Room. Casino-party-only tickets are available for $75 and, again, a pledge of support in any amount would be welcome.

If you do choose to give, at any level, please be sure to note Darren Isom as the "event captain or sponsor." And, if you know anyone else who might want to support Horizons Foundation in their efforts to strengthen and support LGBT people and communities, please spread the word!

To donate.

For more information on Horizons Foundation.

What's so funny 'bout reason, discernment, and reality?

I am not a conservative. This means that I will disagree with conservatives on many things. Many. But it is possible for me to *respectfully* disagree with someone. If someone speaks in sentences that involve words with actual meanings, and that express thoughtful arguments and conclusions, I might disagree with those thoughts, and find those arguments uncompelling, but that wouldn't mean my interlocutor was speaking gibberish. She could have a critically engaged set of beliefs and opinions, and the fact that they differed from my critically engaged beliefs and opinions would not render them senseless. (Not necessarily, at least.)

The tragedy for the types of conservatives that I can respectfully disagree with -- and who might be able to respectfully disagree with me, in return -- is that America's conservative party has stopped speaking in sentences that involve words with actual meanings, and that express thoughtful arguments and conclusions. The party's public persona is one of assertions that are either willfully ignorant, counter-factual, or totally disconnected from any engagement with reality. Mitt Romney's recently publicized comments grossly misrepresenting 47% of Americans are another reminder that his campaign isn't even trying to offer reasoned (or even reasonable) beliefs or arguments that demonstrate critical engagement with the world as it actually is. They have long since stopped being people I can respectfully disagree with, and I'm confused about how anyone can even (self)respectfully agree with them at this stage. They have become senseless --not shaped by reason, showing poor judgement, lacking in awareness and understanding -- and even other conservatives are having to admit this now.

The tragedy for all of us is that we can't really count on America's voting public to care as much as I do (or even as much as David Brooks seems to) about reason, discernment, or reality. And there's nothing funny about that.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Ayanbadejo and Kluwe vs. Burns

Um, this is fantastic. So, Brendon Ayanbadejo is a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. He has also been an open and vocal supporter of marriage equality for at least a few years now. Here's an opinion piece he wrote for HuffPo back in 2009. It's short -- go read it. That piece means it shouldn't have been surprising to anyone when Ayanbadejo recently raffled two tickets to a Ravens game as part of a marriage equality fundraiser. Well, surprising or not, Emmett C. Burns, Jr, Maryland State Delegate (D), didn't like it. In fact, he disliked it so much that he wrote this letter, asking the owner of the Ravens to censor Ayanbadejo. Here's HuffPo on that, and here is Ayanbadejo's response, as reported by the Baltimore Sun. I especially like this part of it:
“I just thought it was important because it’s an equality issue. I see the big picture,” Ayanbadejo said. “You know, there was a time when women didn’t have rights, black people didn’t have rights, and right now, gay rights is a big issue and it has been for a long time. And so we’re slowly chopping down the barriers to equality. We have some minority rights we have to get straight and some gay rights, then we’ll be on our way -- because ultimately, the goal is to be the best country that we can be and we’re always evolving. You just look back to where we came from, and we’ve come a long way, but we still have a ways to go.”
I also love (LOVE!) the 2 cents Chris Kluwe, Vikings punter, has thrown in, voicing his support for Ayanbadejo, the first amendment, and marriage equality. With jokes. Go read it, but put your late-afternoon coffee/Diet Coke (or happy hour cocktail, for my East Coasters) down before you do.

Did I mention that I love it. Good work, boys. I might actually have to start cheering for you and your teams. You know, when it doesn't conflict with Saints loyalty and fantasy football.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Giving credit where credit is due

My favorite quote about Bill Clinton's speech tonight came from Steve Schmidt, one of MSNBC's Republican commentators, who said:

It was extraordinary. It was a virtuoso political performance -- there's no other politician in America in the last generation that could hold the attention of a crowd, have them yelling and screaming, speaking for 3 quarters of an hour. I mean, I wish to God, as a Republican, we had someone on our side who had the ability to do that. We don't. It would be great if we did. Just a[n] amazing performance.

Loved it that Clinton brought jokes. Loved it even more that he did so while breaking down actual policy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Crunk Feminist Collective on MHP and eloquent rage.

I have to thank a FB friend for posting a link to The Crunk Feminist Collective's insightful short piece on Melissa Harris-Perry losing her cool at Monica Mehta. A video of the moment in question is embedded in that article, and you can find the longer segment at the website for MHP's show.

I was watching that episode, and I was absolutely thrilled when the moment occurred, both because MHP was right, and because Mehta had been saying *horrible* things the entire time, and I had only been able to yell at my TV screen. But, I've avoided looking into coverage of the moment, because I couldn't voluntarily subject myself to the inevitable "Angry (Black) Woman" stereotype reinforcement that I presumed would follow, or having to explain, over and over, why responding to this through the lens of "irrational women" or "overly sensitive Black people and their bad tempers" is both inappropriate and either deeply misguided or intentionally distracting. As The Collective wrote:

One of the ways White supremacy and sexism works is through a putative disavowal of emotion as a legitimate form for expressing thought. Women and Black people are overly emotional, so the conventional wisdom goes. We have been taught to overcompensate for this stereotype by being overly composed, even when anger is warranted. 

I don't think people should be in the habit of shouting each other down on a regular basis -- it's a terrible way to run a discourse. But sometimes you shout because someone has refused to actually participate when you tried to have discourse. Sometimes, you shout because you've been pushed too far to allow propriety to be used in service of misinformation, narrow-minded selfishness, condescension, and a thoroughgoing lack of empathy. Sometimes, asked to hold one more offense, your cup runs over.

So, thanks, A., for posting a link to something I could read without getting enraged. With election season now in full gear, I'll have plenty or reasons to rage, and should probably save what little eloquence I have for that.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Obviously I have strong, mixed emotions about something like this."

Pajiba (via Deadline) reports that Joss Whedon will be back on television "on a network that's not Fox and with a show no one would dare cancel." I think they're letting their enthusiasm get the best of them. I'm excited that it's not Fox -- that much, we agree on. But I have to admit that I'm a little bit McKayla on this one. I have......feelings about it. It's possible that Whedon will write a well-crafted, smart, fun, pilot script about S.H.I.E.L.D.'s attempts to protect the world from various supernatural baddies. It's even possible that that script will retain much of its original character (or even get improved) from script to screen. And maybe ABC will cast the show with people who can act, or who can, at the very least, be compelling in whatever their roles are. IF this pilot actually gets made, AND it gets aired, I will watch it. But, even if the pilot is good, I'll be surprised if it's something I want to continue watching. Maybe this is because I'm not familiar with the S.H.I.E.L.D. comics, but nothing about the movie S.H.I.E.L.D. has ever made me think I wanted it to be the main idea. Avengers? Yes. S.H.I.E.L.D.? Not so much. And what will the show actually be about? I don't mean what will they *do* -- they will protect the world from various supernatural baddies. But, what will be the show actually be about? Is there a story there past what they do? And is there any chance a weekly TV series -- especially one that will be selling itself as an action-hero show -- will be given the time to develop that story in a way that makes it interesting enough for me to watch? Fox or not, they'll still need to generate ratings numbers, and I really get the feeling that the version of a S.H.I.E.L.D. show I'd be most likely to watch and enjoy for more than the first episode is not the version of a S.H.I.E.L.D. show that will have enough of an audience to survive on the budget it will need to do it well. And there's a lot that could go wrong here, from trite, dumbed-down storytelling to bad acting to lack of diversity in the cast to all of the huge gender issues that run rampant in both television and the comics world. And then there's Dollhouse.

All of which is to say that, while I can't wait to see what Whedon et al. try to do with this, I'm not entirely optimistic. As I said when I got news of HBO's American Gods plans, I'm not *completely* sure it'll be a tragic failure, and at least the pilot will be good? It's a big question mark, and I'm not impressed, yet.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Don't Be That Dog

In response to "Feel the Shame," Dave M. writes:
From my perspective, these idiots with dicks are insufferable bores to everyone, not just women. How women respond to that sort of aggressive, bullying behavior is a symptom of male privilege, for sure; our society teaches us that the stakes are much higher, and the punishment much harsher, for women who try to spew bullshit in such a glib manner. But the ignorant man doing the splaining in this scenario treats women the same way they treat beta-males who don’t speak up the same way they treat a dog who happens to wander in front of them while they’re holding forth on the latest series of Doctor Who. They’re not necessarily motivated by sexism, they’re just arrogant and self-absorbed. It’s male privilege and hegemonic oppression that makes some women struggle to tell these mansplainers to STFU.

I feel like we mis-diagnose the problem when we call it “mansplaining,” though it’s a minor point. The solution is the same regardless: what we really need is for non-arrogant men and informed women to call out this behavior when we see it, whether it’s directed at a woman or a man. Women need to be supported in standing up for themselves, and also, not dismissed as crazy or emotional if they tell some arrogant boob to peddle their attention-seeking garbage elsewhere.
Thanks for your comment, Dave M. I find it interesting that you've made a very near response to the comment I address in the post itself. Given the similarity, there will be some overlap in my reply. There are, of course, people -- male and female -- who are just terrible bores, unable or unwilling to read the normal social signs that alert many of us to a conversation partner's lack of interest in our topic of choice. Most of us who are both chatty and able to get excited about hobbies, television, books, music, etc have been that person once or twice. And I'm sure that, now and again, someone more frequently guilty of universally inconsiderate behavior is accused of being inconsiderate in a more specific way. But, fully admitting all of that, it should be clear that that's not what any of the articles linked, or my own post, are talking about. I think it should be clear, but understand why it isn't always, that to insist on changing the subject, dismissing the phenomenon we *are* talking about as a "minor point" (and in a post where you've taken the time to explain to me the rather obvious fact that there are lots of people with poor social skills, no less) is to both replicate and reinforce exactly the behavior being called out. 

But I think there might be more to your reply than a simple dismissal, which is why I take the time to respond. You say in your reply that "it's male privilege and hegemonic oppression that makes some women struggle to tell these mansplainers to STFU." This is to observe, at least on some level, that there are structural forces that affect how women respond to people. I'd say that these forces especially affect how women respond to men, though there's room to argue about that. But, there is something odd in admitting that sexism structures the way women respond, but being unable (I presume it's not just a stubborn unwillingness) to see that sexism also structures what women are responding to -- that is, mens' behavior.
Through work to bring materials from Women’s Studies into the rest of the curriculum, I have often noticed men’s unwillingness to grant that they are over privileged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged. They may say they will work to improve women’s status, in the society, the university, or the curriculum, but they can’t or won’t support the idea of lessening men’s. Denials, which amount to taboos, surround the subject of advantages, which men gain from women’s disadvantages. These denials protect male privilege from being fully acknowledged, lessened or ended.
To redesign social systems we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions. The silences and denials surrounding privilege are the key political tool here. They keep the thinking about equality or equity incomplete, protecting unearned advantage and conferred dominance by making these taboo subjects.
--Peggy McIntosh, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack"
We do need to have non-arrogant men and women band together in shutting down attention-seeking jerks. We also need to have men and women band together in recognizing that there are structural reasons for men to be more likely to behave this way, and to do so more even more frequently in interacting with women than in interacting with men. 

In this case, you seem fully able to articulate what you think is lacking in my position. A response that was designed for dialogue, rather than dismissal, would have considered that, while I might be misdiagnosing a behavior, you might be also be missing something. Maybe women are often trained to put up with bullshit as, while, and because men are often trained to spew it. If that is the case, shifting the conversation to what women should be better at responding to does nothing to address the behavior itself. In Rebeca Solnit's terms, you've admitted that women are, in fact, trained in a certain way, but refuse to admit that there is also, as a corollary, something equally distinct about mens' training -- that the "arrogant boob"-ness is often just as gendered as the lack of confidence in responding to it is.

The point is this: to argue against the experience of the group affected -- insisting that mansplaining is not a thing because there are bores/idiots/assholes of all types -- is dismissive of the experience, and this is never a minor point. It is perfectly legitimate for you to maintain that you have never had the experience, and therefore don't understand what the problem is. But to insist that there is no problem because it has never been a problem for you is, well…problematic. There must be room for the possibility that others have either had an experience that you haven't had, or have been able to see a problem that you have never seen. My blog piece and the articles linked from it are attempting to alert you to the presence of a dynamic that may well be related to the one that is more familiar to you, but cannot be reduced to it in actual experience. I am happy to admit that people of all types might be bad at interacting with others, but the one (generalized social inappropriateness) does not cancel out the other (mansplaining, or the specifically gendered way in which men feel completely comfortable condescending to women). Rather than explaining away the specifically gendered aspects of the issue, be willing to hear that not all problems can productively be reduced down to their most universalizable parts, if only because the "universal"is rarely experienced in the same way for everyone.
More generally, if you truly wish to be an ally, rather than an adversary (and neutrality often means tacitly adversarial) you sometimes have to be wiling to believe that there might be problems where you can't really see them. It can be difficult to explain why someone in a position that shields them from a problematic dynamic can't always see that dynamic, much less understand how it is problematic. Here are a couple of brief pieces that do a much better job than I can of explaining why, and what can be done about it. Peggy McIntosh's "White Privilege: Unpacking the invisible Knapsack," begins with the quote at the start of this post. The entire article is, I think, good to read for anyone who sees herself (or himself) as contributing towards the sort of supportive, non-dismissive community you mention at the end of your comment. "Of Dogs and Lizards: A Parable of Privilege" uses what I find to be a very effective metaphor to illustrate the fact that "just because you personally can't feel that hurt, doesn't mean it's not real." It's a good reminder not to be that dog.
As a minor point, I feel like I should clarify that I only drone on about Doctor Who when someone has expressed an interest. Now, Buffy, on the other hand...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"Feel the Shame"

Every woman knows what I'm talking about. It's the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men's unsupported overconfidence.
--Rebecca Solnit on "The Problem With Men Explaining Things"(@Mother Jones)

Over at FB today, a friend of mine linked to the article excerpted above. With his link, he included a very thoughtful comment about sexism as fundamentally dehumanizing, and "mansplaining" as a manifestation of that, tied to the notion that a good woman is "silent and submissive." (Well said all around, A.) Two interesting things happened in response to the link he'd posted and the comment he'd made. First, women started commenting with tales of having been mainsplained to. It's a familiar experience for many (I'd guess most) of us, so this was not surprising. Second, within the 1st five comments, someone replied with the following:

It's the kind of comment that is intended to put the discussion to bed by explaining that the thing being discussed is unworthy of the attention the discussants are giving it. According to this reply, mansplaining is not worth actually having this discussion about, because there are lots of assholes in the world, male and female. My friend, and another friend of his, had already left responses pointing out how problematic this comment is by the time I got there. It is, as one of them wrote, derailing and dismissive. It also, as the other pointed out, misses the point that "mansplaining" is a very specific type of idiocy. So, here's the 2 cents that I didn't write over there (I tend to be sparing with how much I "argue" on Facebook, since there's so little payoff to it.)

Yes, idiots come in all genders. But, it is far more common for an idiot with a dick to think that he has any right to offer such a truism as an adequate response to anything. The fact that idiots with dicks are given a far larger slice of the authority pie than anyone -- idiot or otherwise -- without a dick is exactly why they feel like they can mansplain away legitimate objections to unfair power dynamics. (See also: Why So Many of Those Feminists Are Angry.)

It was pointed out that the comment smacks of privilege. Must be nice. What privilege I have (and I do have some, as straight, cis-gender, ridiculously well-educated citizen of one of the world's richest countries) is spotty, and always in peril, so it rarely has that sort of free reign. The sort of privilege that allows for this comment is, I would argue, closely tied to the privilege that allowed Todd Akin to utter -- with a straight face -- his asinine and sexist comments on "legitimate rape." President Obama said in response to that particular bit of idiocy that "these comments do underscore...why we shouldn't have a bunch of politicians -- a majority of whom are men -- making health care decisions on behalf of women." But we do. And, as an excellent article co-authored by another friend (well done, A.R.!) points out, those men are not just making health care decisions on behalf of American women.
There's a 38 year-old Congolese woman named Josephine who has probably never heard of U.S. Representative and Senatorial candidate Todd Akin. But, if she had, Josephine would know all too well how wrong Akin was when he said that a woman's body can "shut the whole thing down" and prevent a pregnancy if she experiences a "legitimate rape." When Josephine was 29, she, like many of the estimated 1.8 million other women and girls who were raped during the Congo's series of conflicts, became pregnant. Akin's comments will never affect Josephine, so she has little reason to care. But she cares very much about the U.S. legislative efforts to restrict abortion access, because that decades-long campaign, of which Akin is only an example, has changed her life permanently.
.....Thousands of girls and women raped and impregnated in armed conflict are routinely denied abortions with devastating consequences. Health experts say that about 5 percent of rapes lead to pregnancy, which suggests that the 1.8 million women and girls raped during the Congo's crisis may have led to as many as 90,000 unwanted pregnancies.
Though international humanitarian law provides a right to non-discriminatory medical care for rape victims in conflict, U.S. legislation forbids U.S. foreign assistance funds from being used to provide abortion services or information about abortion. This means that aid groups of the sort that might have helped Josephine are forced to choose between offering even basic information about abortion or accepting U.S. funding, which is often their largest source of funds. In effect, this pressures aid groups to deny a necessary medical service to pregnant women.
--Akila Radhakrishnan & Kristina Kallas, Foreign Policy, Akin-Style: How the U.S. Denies Abortions to Women Raped in War" (It's an informative and well-written piece, and you should check it out.)

I'm sure that A.'s friend had no intention of denying abortion to rape victims in the Congo when he wrote that comment. But every time you dismissively shut down a conversation about sexism, bigotry, the right to personal expression, educational access, autonomy, dignity, the silencing of those less powerful by those with greater resources -- every time you treat those things as unimportant, you allow the mindset in which women are not really deserving of the integrity of their own thoughts and bodies to persist. You contribute to a world in which LGBT teens are bullied. You make it impossible to address the injustice inherent in the fact that in this, one of the richest countries in the world, only a small percentage of the population has full access to those riches. So, this comment -- a perfect storm of cluelessness and hegemonic privilege -- is my internet Moment of the Day. It is a fantastic object lesson in missing the point and unwittingly (I have to presume) taking part in exactly the problematic behavior being discussed, an excellent object lesson in how not to move through the world. If someone says, "Wow -- it's really a problem that an entire class of people has their concerns dismissed and their humanity devalued on a regular basis," you should not respond by dismissing that concern, which devalues their humanity. Unless you mean to be a dick.

Oh, sorry -- an idiot with a dick.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tonight's meditation

Felix culpa

Stay, said the serpent.
Surely he would want you to stay
In the garden
The trees full of familiar fruit

It was easier the first time –
The breeze carried a hint of sweetness
Just out of reach
And I stood on tiptoes

Now, I notice how the trees bend
The sweetness laced with something sinister

I let it fall
And leave the way I came
The serpent at my heel
As I step lightly over the guard where he sleeps
Careful not to touch the sword
Still flaming
Pointing every way and none

Thursday, August 9, 2012

More DIY excitement: kitchen cleanser and lemonade

Thanks to Pinterest, I've been reading a lot about homemade cleaning supplies. Just recently, I ran across this post about "orange vinegar." Two orange peels in a 16 oz mason jar, filled with vinegar and left for two weeks for a pleasant-smelling natural cleaning product. I decided I'd rather lemon-scented. I'd already been using vinegar to clean some things (cleanup around the kitchen, but it also works wonders at getting deodorant stains out of clothes!), but only had a bit left (maybe about 10oz), so I thought I'd pick up a big jug while out buying groceries yesterday. But I didn't make it to Safeway, and neither CVS, now Walgreens, not Trader Joe's carries big jugs of vinegar, so I decided to modify the recipe. I poured my 10oz of vinegar over a small bag's worth of lemon peels, in a smaller mason jar, and filled the rest of the way (not far, really), with water.

I'd actually forgotten that the post suggested 2 weeks steeping. I checked this morning, to see what it smelled like, and it's already got only a slight whiff of vinegar to it -- maybe because it's a bit diluted, and also has more peels in it? I'll leave it a few days, then strain it into a spray bottle.

in other news, I'd picked up some other fruits to use in the "weightorade" (via Dr. Oz) I've been making. It's just green tea with tangerines and mint. It allegedly boosts your metabolism, because green tea and tangerine (from the original recipe) allegedly boost your metabolism. I did a little research, and it seems like tangerine's metabolism-boosting claims are based in vitamin C's metabolism-boosting claims, which are, like most weight-related claims, not really proven. But, I'm in little danger of overdosing on vitamin C, and it seemed like a good excuse to drink more water, and jazz it up, flavor-wise, without jacking up the calorie content so high (I add just a little bit of agave nectar while the tea is hot). So, I figured it can't hurt. Anyway, the original recipe was tangerine, mint, and green tea, but I've been playing around with other fruits that have lots of vitamin C in them. This time, I picked up blackberries and strawberries. Since I was running this lemon-vinegar experiment, I decided to make blackberry lemonade.


Lucky I did this last night. Before bed, I washed my Brita pitcher, and left a new filter soaking in it. This morning, I awoke to find that the water had been shut off in my building (some sort of emergency in another apartment). So, as it turns out, this lemonade is the only thing I have to drink right now that's not alcoholic!

Leland Bobbé's "Half Drag"

I think this was, officially, the most interesting thing I saw on Facebook today: Leland Bobbé's "Half Drag" photographs. On his blog, Bobbé writes of "Half Drag" that his intention is "to capture both the male and the alter-ego female side of these subjects in one image."(L. Bobbé. "Support Half-Drag." Web. 8 August 2012)

Photo by Leland Bobbé (
These are really fascinating to me. In addition to how interesting the comparisons are, I found that I usually couldn't "see" the feminine side properly with the masculine side showing -- I had to cover the right to see how the left really looked. I didn't feel like the opposite was true, though. I wonder why that is.
Photo by Leland Bobbé (

I also found that some of the subjects actually looked *more* masculine on the drag side of the photo. Again, I wonder why that is.

Interesting stuff, and lovely photographs.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

House Proud, plant edition

In other news, I have officially become a Crazy Plant Lady. It's like a Crazy Cat Lady, but with fewer hairballs. How crazy? Well...

Let's start with the jungle corner.

The media collections prefer partial shade
Up top is a plant that's been with me through 3 apartments now (one in Palo Alto, one in San Francisco, and now here in Oakland). It survived San Francisco, and finally started to flourish last year, when it lived at my desk at work.

To the left is the herb garden (sage and oregano).

It's looking sort of skimpy again but for good reason -- things got so fluffy (the oregano, especially) that I harvested and dried some. Tonight's sage-butter popcorn was made with fresh sage  :)

Note the subtle coloring
To the right is one of my newer plants -- a fuchsia bromeliad I got just over a month ago.

In the middle is the peace lily, which has grown like crazy in the last year. I begin to wonder if there are steroids in Oakland's water supply.

Plants in the middle window are hanging from the plant rail I installed, inspired by the pot rail I put up in the kitchen. Snaptoggle Heavy Duty toggle bolts might be my new favorite things.

Below the rail is a gift from my friend K.: purple tomatoes. Not sure how those are going to work indoors, but I've been reading that it's possible, and the apartment gets *a lot* of sun, so we'll see how it goes!

 Also on top of the "bar," alongside the tomatoes, is another new plant. I thought I'd killed it while I was in Louisiana, but it bounced right back. The little pot next to it houses the first clippings from it, which have already rooted in water. 

I almost drowned this one in San Francisco, so its largest stalks are floppy (thus the tomato cage). But it's definitely happy here -- look at all the new shoots!

Hard to get a good shot of the other corner with the lamp right there, but it's mostly succulents over there. The hanging one was a housewarming present (to myself). I actually bought two plants, and this is the one I was really worried about killing at the start. Naturally, it's in fantastic shape, and the other one is dead.

Left, a trailing succulent; right, all the rest.

Nightblooming cereus, from a clipping given to me by Plantmaster J.

Another plant from J. I've recently moved it, because it didn't seem happy in the window.

I haven't been able to figure out what it is, so can't compare it to one I know is healthy. It used to stand up, then it just flopped over one day, but it doesn't seem to be unhappy, and has been growing well.

In the kitchen, that pot rail that I mentioned, home to a couple of spider plants, a tillandsia, and a whole bunch of cast iron.

Green onions in water, another spider plant, and more minis of the red and green leafy one.

The only piece of lucky bamboo that made it to Oakland. And, yes, that is a plastic velociraptor standing guard.

In my room, a spider plant that didn't start flourishing until a few months ago -- look at the baby spider  :)

Meanwhile, outside, there's mint, basil, more green onions (I've never tried replanting them before), another bromeliad, a smaller (but steadily growing) clipping of J.'s Night Blooming Cereus, and a jade plant. They're not in proper formation right now -- I've temporarily moved a few of them into a spot that gets more direct sun, in the hopes of drying them out a bit. I'm much more likely to drown a plant than to let it die of dehydration.