Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy (sniffle) Holidays

Ugh, I'm sick.

I'm like lost-my-voice, feel-like-I'm-moving-in-slow-motion sick. This is not at all good.

I have one more final exam tonight in Art History. Then I have to finish my wrapping and last minute mailing of gifts and whatnot. After that, I will pack up everything I need to survive the weekend at my parent's house. This entails not only pajamas worthy of being worn on Christmas morning (a girl cannot be photographed opening gifts in just any ole thing) but a fair amount of groceries. Oh, and my cat.

I'm bringing egg replacer for baking, various tofus, silk soy nog (YUM!) and fixen's for a vegan main dish for Christmas dinner. I will not be eating any of the roast beef that is being planned. (ahem)

Then there is the issue with my poor kitty-boo. Nicodemus, the six toed wonder, will be coming along with me for the holiday weekend since I just moved and have no one to check in on him while I'm gone. I fully expect to spend the hour or so driving to my parent's house with a yowling box o' kitteh. I hope he forgives me fore this.

Even though there are quite a number of obstacles between myself and the festivities ahead, I still can't help being excited. I love Christmas time. I love getting to be with my family and spend time with my mom. I love getting to see friends and eating too much with them at Christmas parties. I just love the whole thing.
So, I hope all you wonderful bloggers have a great holiday season. You guys write some of the coolest stuff. Even though I have not been commenting much, I have been swinging by to read a bit before studying or wrapping etc. I can't wait to see what some of you are cooking for the holiday dinner.
Have a beautiful holiday!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Is this "Devil Food" in your kitchen?

This has already popped up on Feministing and Good Magazine today, but I just could not resist. Apparently, the truth is out. The fundies have finally discovered the feminist's and vegetarian's master plan. Yep, we're trying to turn them all gay through tofu.

It's true I tell you! Read on...

According to Jim Rutz at WorldNetDaily,
"There's a slow poison out there that's severely
damaging our children and threatening to tear apart our culture. The ironic part
is, it's a "health food," one of our most popular. The dangerous food I'm
speaking of is soy. Soybean products are feminizing, and they're all over the
place. You can hardly escape them anymore. "

Ahhhhh! Help, I can't escape the raging soybeans taking over my society. Eeeeek! (runs down hallway, waving arms madly)

"Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the
penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That's why most of the medical (not
socio-spiritual) blame for today's rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise
in soy formula and other soy products...

Doctors used to hope soy would reduce hot flashes, prevent cancer and heart
disease, and save millions in the Third World from starvation. That was before
they knew much about long-term soy use. Now we know it's a classic example of a
cure that's worse than the disease. For example, if your baby gets colic from
cow's milk, do you switch him to soy milk? Don't even think about it. His
phytoestrogen level will jump to 20 times normal. If he is a she, brace yourself
for watching her reach menarche as young as seven, robbing her of years of
childhood. If he is a boy, it's far worse: He may not reach puberty till much
later than normal."

The completely fabricated pseudo science he uses in this piece of shit is truly astounding.

And hey, why would it be "far worse" for a boy to reach puberty a little late? There seems to be no mention of concerns about RBgh and other hormones in cow's milk that may be linked to early onset of a girl's period. Maybe all those girls were just secretly drinking soy milk while their parents weren't looking. It's so feminizing y'know? I bet they were trying to get bigger breasts so they could attract a really manly, red-meat-eatin' kind of guy whowould get them all barefoot and pregnant. Yeah, but then they were brain-washed by the vegetarians and became propaganda hawkers for the new Soy Gay Empire that is, at this very moment, working to undermine our president and the American way of life through hormone injections and demand for equal marriage rights. Uh-huh. I bet so.

Beware the soy!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

More Fun With Advertising

I finally got the rough draft of my research paper back from my Mass Comm professor last night. Hooray! Now I can spruce it up a bit and get me an "A".

We had to choose a topic having to do with the media and write a five page paper discussing it with findings from research done in books, journals, interviews and the like. I chose to write my paper on the effects of advertising on body image. Not terribly original, but it's something I'm interested in and I thought it would be fairly easy to come up with five pages. I now have a twelve page paper that covers body image issues as well as gender roles for both men and women. (sigh) I can never do anything the easy way.

While I was researching ad images I came across some very cool pieces. Rather than share with you the worst of the worst (and there are some doosies) I wanted to show you some ads that I thought were constructive.

The first one is an ad campaign that was run in Portugal. You have to look at it for a second, but the hands that are silencing the women belong to men. They also had one of a young boy with a man's hand over his mouth and one of an elderly man with a younger mans large hand. So they were targeting child abuse, elder abuse and violence against women. Nice.

This one is from India. It's an ad campaign created by a group called The Sisterhood Collective to address the problem of dowry in arranged marriages there. Apparently, women are often beaten, abused and murdered due to issues with the dowry. Yeah, "accidental kitchen deaths" my ass.

"What began as gifts of land to a woman as her inheritance in an essentially agricultural economy today has degenerated into gifts of gold, clothes, consumer dur-ables, and large sums of cash, which has sometimes entailed the impoverishment and heavy indebtedness of poor families. The dowry is often used by the receiving family for business purposes, family members' education, or the dowry to be given for the husband's sisters. The transaction of dowry often does not end with the actual wedding ceremony, as the family is expected to continue to give gifts. It was only in the middle of the 1970s that the women's movement and other human rights groups exposed the perniciousness of the system in India, when it was realized that there were an increased number of "accidental kitchen deaths" of young married women. The first reports to the police were often registered as suicides or accidents. The available statistics of dowry death are chilling and disturbing. "

This one reads; "Violence against women. Do nothing and you might as well lend a hand."

I thought the collage approach was very effective on this one. All the hands reaching out at the viewer make the image even more confrontational and intimidating. You get a real visceral reaction from this piece.

Here is yet another line of Dove ads. I've talked about my concerns with Dove and Unilever before but I do like these ads. I especially like the "Grey or Gorgeous?" one and the "wrinkled or Wonderful?" one. I think the older women look amazing.

And finally, here is a rare underwear ad that does not feature a leggy model with fake boobs.

'nuff said. :)

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Animal Rights vs. Entertainment

We are blessed to live in a world with so much beautiful and diverse wildlife. If you really think about the amazing array of creatures we share the planet with, it's astounding. There's itty bitty insects you can hardly see and blue whales that are larger than most NYC apartments. We've got flying critters, swimming critters, creepy-crawly name it. The problem is, that most people would never get to see these animals if it weren't for things like zoos and wild animal parks. This is a problem for me.

On one hand, there is the whole conservation issue. There are some species who now only exist in zoos. Many of the world's leading zoos, like the ones in San Diego and Washington D.C. have extensive breeding programs to try and save these animals from extinction. I would say most of the folks who work directly with the wildlife in their care do their best to provide them with a safe, engaging living environment and try to keep them stimulated and happy. I try to think of the animals in zoos as ambassadors for their kind. After all, would people really care that much about preserving habitats of animals they had never seen? When you think of saving wild tigers in Asia, you can't help but recall the captive ones you've seen at the zoo. At least no body's hunting them for their pretty skin, right?

I get all that. And I still get so sad and angry when I see them there. The elephants just kill me. When I see them standing in some dusty enclosure, swaying back and forth, I can't help but think that they aren't very happy. I used to go to a little zoo on Staten Island in NY and they had a leopard in an indoor enclosure. That poor cat paced back and forth along the glass all day long. It was heartbreaking to see. I wonder if given the chance, he would rather live free and risk getting killed by some poacher.

There was a news story this morning about one of my absolute favorite animals that just got me so mad. I practice a religion that uses animal spirit guides called totems. My animal totem is the orca Whale. To me, the orca is a symbol embodying strength, intelligence, courage, compassion, freedom and a certain playful, dark sense of humor. Yes, they are ruthless hunters and nobody likes to see that Animal Planet footage of them "playing" with their food before they eat it. Still, there is just something about them that gives me the chills.

Seeing them in those tanks at Sea World makes me cry. They are supposed to have miles and miles of ocean to roam with their clan. They are not fish to be put in a tank and made to literally jump through hoops for our entertainment. It's not right no matter how much I try to think about conservation and breeding programs and nice trainers.

An orca named Kasatka who lives at Sea World in San Diego grabbed her trainer, Ken Peters, by the foot yesterday and dragged him to the bottom of the tank during a show. I bet that was a shock to the parents and kiddies in the audience. The trainer is in "good" condition at the hospital and the big brains at Sea World are trying to figure out why she "acted out."

Hmmm...I can't imagine why a two ton mammal with feelings and thoughts of her own might act out while being forced to perform for frozen fish day after day. Gosh, what could possibly be wrong with her? Doesn't she like her cage?

The Associated press printed this today:

Kasatka and Peters were involved in a scrape in 1999, when the whale tried to bite the trainer during a show, Scarpuzzi said. Peters hopped out of the tank and was not injured. The whale also tried to bite a different trainer in 1993, Scarpuzzi said.
Peters has 16 years of experience as a trainer, including 12 years in Shamu Stadium.
Scapuzzi pointed out that the animals perform as many as eight times a day, 365 days a year, "so this, even though it can be expected because they are killer whales, it is definitely abnormal."

Two things - first, she has tried to bite this guy before. Hello!? Perhaps she's not too crazy about working with this trainer. What if he pisses her off enough for her to really injure or kill him? You know what would happen to her then, right? Second, they perform EIGHT times a DAY, 365 days a year. WTF!? I hope he means that they rotate the whales who are performing everyday. So, there are eight shows a day, but maybe each whale only goes out three or four times a day and has days off. I'm no trained marine biologist, but otherwise, that sounds a bit excessive to me. They go on to say:

"In the wild they're not dangerous to humans and there's no incidences of them attacking humans unprovoked," Balcomb said. But in captivity, "they're dangerous because they're big and sometimes they're not happy with their situation."

If there are no incidences of them attacking humans unprovoked, then I would conclude that all the attacks at Sea World are therefore provoked. I think the phrase "not happy with their situation" is a gross understatement. How about " they are bored and depressed. The ones captured in the wild are devastatingly homesick?" I'm glad we are acknowledging that these incredible animals might be less than thrilled to be living out the lives of performing monkeys, but let's call a spade a spade.

Look, I really hope the trainer is OK and recovers fully. It's not good for people to get hurt any more than animals. Still, I wish they'd just close the damn parks down, keep the whales they have in the biggest enclosures possible, try to rehabilitate the ones they can for release, and never, ever capture or breed another one again.

I'd rather get to see one orca whale in my entire life here,

than see a hundred of them every day, like this:

Friday, November 17, 2006

You Gotta Have Friends

Hello Blogosphere,

Sorry I've been away for a while. It's been a hell of a week. I am happy to report that I have survived mid-term exams and got As on my tests. I have also managed to write a rough draft of my research paper on the effects of advertising on body image. Hooray! I have another Intermediate Algebra exam on Mon. though, so we're not out of the woods yet, campers. Ah, I love school.

I don't have any huge topic to discuss, no news story to disseminate or videos to share.

I just wanted to talk about friends.

I am lucky enough to have a great little circle of friends that I know I can turn to when things get tough. I have two girl friends (no not that kind of girl friend) that I've know since junior high. There are a couple of buddies I've know since high school. There is the incredible woman I met on 9/11 that is one of my dearest friends. Talk about having some history. I can't hide much from these people and I'm glad.

I feel like I am so blessed to have these people in my life. They are my other family. I worry that I take them for granted, though. It's so easy to get used to someone always being there. It happens in every relationship, romantic or otherwise. You just get accustomed to folks being around and we maybe forget to say thank you.

So...thank you.

I've also "met" some of you other bloggers through e-mails etc. and may I say, you are very cool folk. I wish I could get us all together for brunch or something. As soon as I work out the bugs on my transporter device, I'm havin' y'all over. Tofu scramble and Morningstar Farms sausage patties for all!

That's all I really wanted to say. I hope everyone has a great weekend. Remember to give your friends a hug or send them a card or something. Everyone loves getting cards.

Oh, and here is a gratuitous cute and cuddly pic of a big dog and little kittens.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I am grinning from ear to ear this morning. This is the best day politically speaking in a very very long time. We did it, folks. We took back the House of Representatives. We are two incredibly close elections away from taking back the Senate. And the best thing about all of this is Nancy Pelosi, the first ever female speaker of the house. This is a big deal. This is wonderful.

This is a little scary.

I mean, the democrats have a lot of promises to keep. They have a lot to prove and only two years to prove it. That's kind of a tall order. Not to mention they still have a conservative, right wing, constitution stomping, pro-life zealot in the White House. Ugh. Stay the course indeed.

Still, I think this might be the beginning of the end of a long nightmare that started in Florida back in 2000. Maybe we're starting to recover from the fear mongering of the post 9/11 agenda and the backlash that rose up after the Clinton administration. Damn people, can't we all just get along?

In other terrific, amazing, wonderful news, the South Dakota abortion ban was voted down yesterday! I 'whoooped' out loud when I heard that last night and then I honestly felt this amazing sense of relief kind of wash over me. I just sat on my couch and pondered the implications of it. This means that they won't be able to push the issue in front of our new, highly conservative Supreme Court any time in the very near future. The nine highest judges will be hearing another case, I believe this week, about abortion rights, but at least they won't have the power to overturn Roe v. Wade anytime soon. That is the kind of scary, Orwellian crap that keeps me up nights. And I can't even get pregnant anymore.

So, to re-cap:

1. Democrats take the House!

2. Nancy Pelosi is our new Speaker!!

3. South Dakota voted down the abortion ban!!!

And now for the not-so-great stuff.

There were two ballot initiatives here in California that got voted down due mostly to the amazing amounts of money that the big tobacco and oil companies were willing to spend to defeat them. Ah, democracy in action. Come to find out that California is the largest domestic market for Phillip Morris. That company spent about $100 million to defeat proposition 86. Prop. 86 would have added another tax to cigarettes and put the money towards health care and other public service programs. Then, Chevron et al. spent another $102 million to defeat prop. 87 which would have taxed oil production in CA and provided incentives for cleaner, alternative fuels. The fact is they could afford more tv and radio commercials. I probably saw five of the negative commercials to every one of the positive ones in the last month. TV ad time is expensive stuff. How can we compete with the vast coffers of Chevron and Phillip Morris?

By being persistent, loud, and relentless, that's how. This was just one setback and it wasn't wasted effort. These issues are out there now and in the public conscience. The cool, progressive people in this state and others just have to keep bringing these ballot initiatives to the voters. Eventually they will get it. I honestly believe that enough concerned people can overthrow the wealthy minority in big business. It just takes a little time and a lot of blood, sweat and tears.

UPDATE - It looks like Democrat, Jon Tester just took Montana. The Senate is now tied!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It's Time!

"It was we the people, not we the white male citizens; but we the whole people who formed the union." - Susan B. Anthony

Click to enlarge

Ok, folks. This is it. It's November the 7th, 2006. You know what this means, don't you?

Of course you do. It means that you have until the polls close this evening to get your tails down to your local polling place and vote. Don't know where your local polling station is? Not sure where to go? These people can tell you.

And ladies especially, you have no excuses here as far as I'm concerned. It wasn't all that long ago that we weren't allowed to vote. Your great grandma would be spinning in her grave if she found out that the rights that she may have marched and picketed for, the rights that some women went to jail for, are not being exercised today. Back in 1920 we managed to get the men to drop the weenie check at the voting booth and let a person with a uterus cast a ballot. Don't throw that away.

Not to mention that female candidates are poised to take over a lot of seats in Congress today. Wouldn't that be a hoot?

Besides, if you don't go vote today, you are not allowed to complain about anything the government does to you for at least the next two years. That's my own personal rule and I will enforce it. (ah-hem)

You might even get a little sticker that says "I Voted" too. Won't that be nice?

Now get out there and tell Congress what you think of them! Oh, and for those of you who think that your one little vote doesn't really matter, I have three words for you....Florida and Ohio.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


One of my favorite classes this semester is Art History 102. It covers the early Renaissance up through the early 1900s. We get to study all the big, important guys like Donatello, DaVinci, Michelanglo, Raphael (and other assorted teenage mutant ninja turtles) as well as some pretty cool architechts like Alberti and Bramonte. One of the things sadly lacking, as I expected, is any discussion of female artists. Not a big surprise, really. During the period we're concentrating on women couldn't go outside without an escort, they couldn't own property in most places and were routinely sold into marriage for a few acres of good grazing land. They certainly could not attend any schools, much less look at the male nude form in order to study classical technique. I always found it interesting that there are hardly any female painters in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but there sure are a lot of pictures of nude women on the walls. Typical.

So I was thrilled that we got to briefly discuss the work of Atemisia Gentileschi in class last week. Because of the restrictions placed on women, what female artists there were at the time mostly painted portraits and landscapes. They certainly weren't getting any of the big commissions from mama church or the local aristocracy. Artemisia was an incredibly talented painter who was the first female artist to paint major religious and historical scenarios.

Sadly, but not unexpectedly, her life was not without troubles. Her father, a successful artist, recognized her precocious genius and sent her to study with an artist named Agosino Tassi. Tassi took advantage of the situation and raped her. There was a long, highly publicized trial that lasted for seven months around the time Artemisia was 18 or so. She was subjected to vaginal examination, torture with thumbscrews and accused publicly of being unchaste. Tassi was eventually sentenced to banishment from Rome, but due to his powerful relationships within the local government, he was back in town within four months.

Some people believe that Artemisia used her art to cathartically and symbolically work through the pain. Just take a look at these for example.

The first painting is called Judith and Maidservant With the Head of Holofernes. It's a rendition of the old testament story from the book of Judith. Judith was a beautiful widow who sneaked into the enemy camp of the invading Babylonian army. She seduced the general, Holofernes, then beheaded him while he slept off the night of drinking and debauchery, thus securing the victory and salvation of her people. Tough gal, huh?
The next one is called Judith Slaying Holofernes, a rather gory depiction of the act itself. The thing I really love about her work, is not the so much the dark subject matter, but the rich colors and her amazing use of shadow and light. Check out the shadow that is cast on Judith's face from her hand blocking the candle light. And, of course, these are depictions of strong, heroic women taking action (however violent). Sure beats another damn reclining nude if you ask me.

Here's another interesting piece:

This is Susanna and the Elders. This painting is a scene from the Old Testament story of Susanna. She was a respectable Jewish married lady. In this painting the corrupt town elders have hidden in her garden while she is having a bath. They tell her that she has to "lay" with them or else they will tell everyone that she was waiting for her lover in the garden. She refuses and they put her on trial for adultery. Finally, a young man named David believes Susanna and questions the elders separately. They can't agree on what kind of tree Susanna was sitting under and are convicted of being dirty old lying attempted rapists and are put to death. (Ok, maybe that's not what the story said exactly...)Look at how Artemisia has portrayed Susanna's reaction to the men's advances. It's quite a different telling than this one by Rembrandt.

Artemisia's Susanna looks truly distraught and scared. Can you imagine the feeling of violation, fear and repulsion that a woman would feel at being interrupted while bathing by a couple of strange old men? She's a respectable, sheltered, married woman being threatened in her home by two powerful men. I think Artemsisa had a better grasp on the reality of those feelings than Rembrandt (and many others) ever portrayed. Usually, when male artists painted this story, it was simply an excuse to paint a coyingly seductive female nude figure.
Here are a few more of my favorite Artemisia Gentileschi paintings.
The Penitent Magdalene
Madonna and Child - look how she has captured the relationship between mother and child. Some historians believe this to be her first painting, completed at the age of 16.

Birth of St. John The Baptist - quite the cozy, domestic scene isn't it? I love how the birth is dominated by (gasp!) women who traditionally controlled birthings. Not sure who the old guy is on the right though.
I've been looking online for a poster of one of her less violent works to hang in my new apartment. Sadly, they are really hard to find. For a long time Artemsisa was all but forgotten. Many of her works were attributed to other artists. Thanks to the work of some very tenacious art historians, her work has finally come to light. I think she is more than worthy of our attention and I hope I can get to see one of these paintings in person some day. That would involve a trip to Europe, though. Hmmm....
If you want to learn more about Artemisia Gentileschi, there is an amazing website HERE.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Movies and Manifestos

I am having way too much fun with this new found ability to post movies.

Below is a clip from MomsRising about their new book (and film) The Motherhood Manifesto. MomsRising is a group that is working to bring awareness to the myriad obstacles faced by families and working moms in this country. They are also involved in supporting legislation that would help to solve some of these problems. Trivial little shit like paid maternity leave, adequate health care for children (and their parents!) and the crazy wage gap between working moms and their male counterparts.

You can check out and support some of their efforts with petitions and alerts on items coming up on state ballots. There's one in San Francisco (not a state, I know) that is trying to get Proposition F passed. Prop F would "provide employer-paid sick days to all workers in San Francisco. Workers could take time off to care for their own health and could also take time to care for sick children, parents and immediate family members. Paid sick days could also be used to go to routine doctors appointments, or to take family members to the doctor."

There is another on-line petition called "Mothers Cease Fire Petition - sign on to ask the media to stop the 'Mommy Wars' and start reporting on real issues." Wouldn't that be refreshing.

Here are a few fun-filled facts from the web site:

  • The U.S. is one of only five countries of 168 studied that doesn't mandate some form of paid maternal leave, putting us on par with Papua New Guinea, Lesotho, and Swaziland. (this one if just embarrassing...and horrifying all at once.)
  • Both parents work in 61% of American families
  • Businesses that implement flex-time policies often benefit with higher employee retention, lower training and recruiting costs, and better employee performance.
  • A study found non-mothers made 90 cents to a man's dollar, moms made 73 cents to the dollar, and single moms made 56 to 66 cents to a man's dollar.
  • There was a twenty-threefold (2,300 %) increase in medical-related bankruptcy filings between 1981 and 2001. (about the time more women were entering the workforce. hmmmmm....)

And finally, here's the movie!

The documentary was released this week. I've only seen the promo clips, but it looks like a good combination of fact and entertainment with a little progressive political activism thrown in. Think The Corporation for families. I'm definitely going to check it out and get back to you on what I think about the movie. (Y'know, in all of my spare time.)

With the fall mid-term elections just weeks away I think this is something to consider when voting for your senator or congress-person. 'Cause you are ALL going to go vote, right? Of course you are.

I mean, the fact is, for a country that talks so much about "family values" we sure don't put our policies where our mouths are. I personally cringe whenever I hear the term anymore. It seems synonymous with Jerry Falwell, pro-life zealots and oppressive government sanctioned wholesomeness. Why can't "family values" actually mean valuing the family in all it's forms? I think it's time for Washington and corporate America to wake up and realize that the working family needs a little help here. They also need to realize that the so-called "American family" has changed. We've got everything from same sex parents to single parents raising kids. Wouldn't it be amazing to live someplace where the corporate sector is encouraged (possibly even required) to work with it's employees on issues such as maternity and (gasp!) paternity leave? What if you could take your kids to work with you and drop them off at the clean, well run, happily-staffed day care center in your office building?

Here's another fun/informative/scary read - The American Family Grows Up. It's from the very first ever issue of Good Magazine. I read the whole thing cover to cover in a weekend and LOVED it.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Dove Movies

I've been trying to post these Dove ads all week with no luck so I hope this works. Technology can be truly baffling sometimes.

I love both of these commercials, yet I am still conflicted. I think it's great that a "beauty" company is putting out this kind of message. The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is certainly a breath of fresh air. My problem is that they are still, of course, selling me their skin care products through these ads. They are a commercial company. That's what they do. I would almost rather they use the skinny, touched-up models to pitch their skin care line because then I could just dismiss it. By using footage of sweet little girls expressing fears of being fat and/or unattractive, I feel like Dove is somewhat using these girls and their insecurities to make a profit.

Advertising sells us more than simply products, though. It sells us values. We see an average of 3000 ads a day. We may not buy the dress or the car, but we all get the message. Advertising tells us what the ideal is in our society. Then it shows us exactly how we fail to meet that ideal. Finally, it offers us the product we need to achieve happiness and fulfillment if only we have the money to spend. Clever and insidious stuff, no? At least the Dove ads are offering us an alternative to the unattainable beauty myth.

Then there is the whole Unilever issue. Unilever is the corporation that owns Dove. Among other things, they still use animal testing in their product development. That guarantees that I won't be running down to my local Walgreens and buying myself a cartload of their soap. However, according the the Unilver web site "non-animal testing is the rule and animal testing is the exception. Unilever does not undertake animal testing or commission others to do such testing on its behalf unless it is necessary to meet its health, safety and environmental obligations or it is demanded by government regulators or other official bodies. " Well, that may be so (I have no way of confirming that statement right now) but the fact is that they still test on little bunny rabbits. Ew.

For the time being, I think I will continue to shop at Lush and other cruelty free shops.

I'll still look forward to the Dove ads though. Whatever their motivation, at least they're getting out a much more positive message than this one.

And for more fun with photo retouching, check out this little website. Yikes!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Hey, Baby! How You Doin'?

Has this ever happened to you?

I was walking down 38th street in midtown Manhattan one afternoon, on my way to a rehearsal. As I'm passing a store front, one of the guys lounging against the building leans over and says "Hey baby, you got great tits."
I try to ignore him and walk on by, but he starts to follow me. He's making comments about my ass, asking me what I'm doing that night etc. I get to the corner of 38th and Broadway and duck into a store until he walks away. I'm scared, angry and late for rehearsal.

Or how about this?

I'm driving home from class last week in Valley Village, CA around 10:00 at night. As I approach a stop light a white car pulls up next to me and honks the horn. I look over and there are two guys in the other car. The driver is making the universal sign for "roll down your window." I just look at them and shake my head. When the light changes I continue driving and he stays right next to me, making nasty gestures and doing something particularly gross with his tongue. I slow down, he slows down. I speed up, he speeds up. I finally lose them at another light when I make a left turn. I'm shaking. I'm pissed off and I just took a turn that brings me nowhere near my house, so I have to drive around the block so I can get going back in the right direction.

This is called street harassment. It's the kind of crap all women risk being exposed to whenever we dare go out someplace without a male escort. It is not acceptable behavior even though our society tends to just laugh it off as "harmless". It is not harmless. It can be scary. It can be infuriating. It can be demoralizing.

Whenever this happens to me, I usually just try not to look at the guy and get past him as quickly as possible. Inevitably I blame myself for provoking the attention. Maybe my make-up was too much or my shirt was too tight. I wish my boobs were smaller or my hips were less curvy. Whatever. Then I get angry because I feel scared and guilty and none of it is my fault. I am not the pervy little half-wit who gets off by harassing random women. Here I am feeling like shit and the guy who should be feeling like shit is probably laughing about it. Other than carrying mace or a firearm, what is a girl to do?

Carry a camera phone.

There are these websites popping up all over the place called "Hollaback..." There's
Hollaback New York, Hollaback Boston, and Hollaback California to name a few. The idea is that whenever you see a guy harassing you or another woman, take the bastard's picture. Then e-mail your story to one of these sites and they will post it along with lover boy's pretty picture for all the world to see. It's a way of standing up for ourselves and telling the world that this kind of behavior may be common place but it is not acceptable. It's amazing how people reconsider their actions when you're capturing them for posterity. Suddenly, a guy grabbing his crotch and making kissy noises at a random girl on the street seems like it might just be a bad idea.

There is also a great sense of community and quite a lot of attitude at these sites. So often, when a woman is harassed on the street, she feels isolated. Very rarely does anyone else notice or help out. It's your problem alone. The Hollaback project makes it clear that it is our problem and we are going to do something about it together.

There's another very interesting site called
Blank Noise, based in India where women are taking a stand against "Eve-teasing". Eve-teasing is a deceptively innocuous term for the street harrasment that goes on in cities there. More and more these incidents are escalating into physical violence and assault on women. The women involved in the Blank Noise Project plan walks after dark, put up posters and paint messages on the side walk to raise awareness about this sort of violence against women. Check out their entry for Friday Sept 29th where they document an evening out on the town.

So, the next time some scummy guy decides to make unsolicited remarks about your anatomy, consider snapping a pic and sharing your experience with the world. Maybe his wife will see him on the internet and give him a little talking to. At the very least you'll feel better for having shared you experience with some sympathetic readers

Note: The photograph at the top of this post is called American Girl in Italy by Ruth Orkin. I see the stupid thing in poster sizes suitable for framing at places like Pier 1 and Cost Plus World Market all the time and it gives me the creeps. That girl looks scared to me. The picture could just as easily be called American Girl Seconds Before a Sexual Assault. Ugh.

Friday, October 06, 2006

1 Math Class + Old Regrets = ?

As most of you know, I'm back in college and working on a degree in journalism. It's been an interesting and sometimes grueling adventure since I'm no longer a teenager and have bills of my own to pay. I've been enjoying the challenge, though and learning a lot about myself. It's amazing what you discover when you challenge yourself just a little. For years, while I was working and pursuing acting, I never had to apply myself to much beyond character studies and audition techniques. In the last year I've written papers on philosophy, sociological patterns at work, comparative essays on Frankenstein and Blade Runner ( that one was a blast) and an anthropological description of an American wedding (someitmes being a bridesmaid is useful). While I don't love missing outings with my friends so I can stay home and "work on a paper", I get a kick out of exercising my mental muscles a bit. It's down right addictive.

This semester I'm taking my first math class since high school. Back in high school I was the kind of student who did very well in anything that involved reading and writing. I had to work a lot harder at math and I actually ended up taking geometry twice because if you get a C they don't send you on to Algebra II. Needless to say I was a little worried that this college level math course might mess up my GPA. I've never had a 4.0 before and I don't intend to lose it now.

So, imagine my surprise when I got back my first test in Intermediate Algebra this week. I got an "A". A great big, fat "A". And I realized that this math thing is not so scary. I've been catching on pretty well in class, but I wasn't sure I really had it down until I got that test back. And I began to wonder where I might be today if I had realized this sooner. Say, back in the 6th grade. If I'm getting "A"s in math now and I got "C"s in math ten years ago, what does that mean? Did my brain suddenly learn how to manipulate algorithms while I was out of school? Am I smarter that I was ten years ago? Or am I just more confident? Maybe the amazingly patient and supportive teacher I have has a little bit to do with it too.

Last night in class our professor handed out the test again, put us in groups and had us work out the problems together. My group consisted of four young women and one guy. All the girls seemed to automatically defer to the guy in our group for help with the answers even though I had gotten a higher score than him on the test. Fine with me, I'm no teacher. But the thing that really irked me was how they all just assumed that they couldn't figure out the problems on their own. They had no confidence in themselves! It was just an automatic response to them. "Oh, well I'm no good at math so I'll ask this guy because guys are better at math than girls."
And these are smart, well spoken girls. Two of them are going into the nursing program and I know there's going to be more math and science for them master before they get out of there.

I was just so saddened to see how they all short changed themselves without even noticing they were doing it. And I was angry with myself for doing the same thing all these years. I used to want to be a marine biologist and study orca whales when I was a kid. By the time I got to high school I had given up on that idea. Too much math and science required for that. I thought I could never get through all the hard science classes to get a degree in marine biology. Now I'll never know.

If you have a little girl, please please encourage her in her math and science classes. It's not just the realm of super smart boys. We need more female doctors and scientists. We need more women getting masters degrees in engineering and computer science.

We need more female marine biologists.

Monday, October 02, 2006

We Came, We Saw, We Walked

This weekend I participated in the 2006 Walk For Farm Animals to benefit Farm Sanctuary. It was so much fun. We had a beautiful day in Santa Monica for the walk, a little cloudy and cool. Just what we needed.

I got to do the walk with a new friend of mine, Robin. She was my sociology proffesor (remember all the "I'm taking this amazing sociology class" posts from a few months ago?) and is one of the coolest people I've met in my college adventure this year. It's actually all her fault I went all out vegan so, a great big 'thank you' to you, Robin!

Also, I wanted to say a huge and heartfelt "thank you" to everyone who donated to the cause and supported me and the critters. You guys are amazing. I was so touched because more than half of the people who donated were folks that I have never actually met in person. This on-line community of concerned bloggers came together and made a difference in the lives of some animals who really need the help. I am honored to "know" you. ;)

I was really impressed when I found out that the woman who organized the event, Valerie Belt, did so as a volunteer. She got the permits from the city, gift cards for the raffle, organized all the walkers etc. ad infinitum, because she cares that much about the plight of these animals. I was quite inspired.

Without further are some promised pics from the day.

Here's our mascot, the little plush pink piggy. Isn't she cute?
This woman spoke for a few minutes before we started the walk. She's done undercover work which has been used to fight for legislation to protect farm animals. Right now, they are working on getting a bill passed in AZ to ban the tiny little pens that they keep pigs in. I am in awe of people like this because I don't know that I could stomach the cruelty long enough to write anything about it.

We're off on our walk! I carried a sign that said "Say No to Foi Gras!"
Some people brought their dogs. I thought this poodle was an adorable participant. Nice shirt, pooch!
This woman was kind enough to let me take a picture of her t-shirt. I thought the message was great. It says "Why love one and eat the other. Make the connection. Go Veg for life." There is a picture of a cat, a dog, a pig and a cow. I found out later that she's also a veterinarian.

Here's a group shot. Some people had gone home already but I think we had about 80 participants. Not bad.

And here's all that was left of our piggy at the end of the day...

All in all, it was a great experience. I found that people's reactions were varied and pretty extreme. We basically just walked through the neighborhood carrying our signs. We got everything from people waving and honking their car horns while giving us the 'thumbs up', to other people shouting "I love beef!" And "Why don't you go eat spinach!" (yeah, real clever.) I thought it was interesting how threatened people seem to get when they feel like their values are being attacked. Nobody was yelling at these folks or getting in their faces, yet they felt compelled to shout some pretty nasty stuff at us. Hmmm...

One little girl came up to us with her mom and wanted to tell one of the ladies that she was also a vegetarian and that she loved animals. We bumped into a woman who was taking her twin girls for a walk in their stroller. She said she was vegan, had remained a vegan through her pregnancy and was raising her girls with a vegan diet as well. We had an interesting talk about some of the resistance and support she got from her doctors and family.

And guess what, I also won a gift card in the raffle! I will be going to dinner (or lunch) at Real Food Daily in Santa Monica one day fairly soon. It's a vegan restaurant down by the third street promenade. I can't wait to see what they have to offer.

But that's another blog...

Monday, September 25, 2006

I Couldn't Make This Sh*t Up

I know the Learning Annex isn't exactly Harvard. Usually, it's a lot of classes like "How To Find The Next Hot Areas to Invest" and "Managing Income Property for Profit". There are always the vegetarian cooking classes (hooray!) and the "How To Start Your Own Business" classes too. I have even thought about taking a class on tarot card reading techniques or voice over pointers. I never thought I could get the tools I need to find and keep my man for only $99.95 though! My God, what a bargain!

What do you get for your money? Well, there are three classes designed to instruct poor, lonely women in the best man-finding methods. According to Maryanne, there are many things you need to know before you "drop your drawers". (yes, that's a direct quote.) First you have to Find The Man. They are so elusive aren't they? I can never find one when I need one either. Apparently this involves "creating a powerful vortex for attracting your ideal partnership. Presto! You're entering into the realm of becoming a divine man magnet." Vortex? I'm already worried. I get motion sick so easily.

Then, you have to "Get The Man." Now, if just the thought of speaking to a guy at the grocery store makes your palms sweat, Maryanne has the solution. "Practice, practice, practice 'til you feel like a pro, getting ready for the real-time interviews with men, men and more men!" I know a date is like an interview, but this sounds so...I don't know...fake. I have visions of women role-playing bumping into guys at the mailbox. First you say "hello" and smile. Be sure to make eye contact etc. Blech.

Now, once you have managed to get the guy interested, you have to trap him into a long term relationship and (hopefully!) marriage. "Now that I've found him, how do I make him stay?" If you have to make him do anything, then perhaps we should take a look at your relationship from the beginning. Oh wait, you attracted this guy using manipulative techniques you learned at a Learning Annex class. I forgot. Carry on.

"What you need to know before you drop your drawers counts here the most! This
is the biggest secret of all, and Maryanne Comatoro has the answer to this
billion dollar question! You want to get married or at least have a commitment?
Of course you do! She will show you how. You'll plan top to bottom, the wedding
of your dreams - a ceremony you'll never forget. This is the fun part, and the
most necessary step of all in creating that lasting commitment you have always
wanted - and Maryanne will even introduce you to your beloved! You'll write your
vows and set a date for your Sacred Commitment Ceremony, It's physics, ladies
-it is simply the law of attraction. She will teach you how creating and
cultivating a sustainable climate for a lasting, fulfilling relationship is as
easy as marrying yourself!"

Well, I don't know about you, but that last part is just confusing. Does she mean that by planning my wedding and setting a date, I will ensure that I will meet the perfect man and get married? Am I supposed to walk down the aisle by myself for fun? How does the guest list work for that kind of thing? Do I only have to order half the food and flowers since there is no groom yet? Do I still get to do a registry? And who exactly is she introducing me to?

This all kind of reminds me of those awful quizzes in Cosmo or the articles that promise to tell you the secrets to getting the guy. It's like a real live interactive glossy women's magazine circa 1955. Who needs Glamor, now you can just go to the Learning Annex! I don't know what bugs me more, the assumption that we all need a man to feel like a complete and whole person or the pseudo new-age jargon used to pitch the class. As if all you need to do to attain the lofty heights of "married gal" is to find your inner self. Ugh.

I didn't need any fancy class to get me a man. I just bumped into him on the street one day. He was good at giving shoulder rubs, playing guitar and I just generally liked the look of him. How have I kept him? Well, I used to keep him chained to the radiator, but now I allow him out on his own as long as he wears his radio collar.
That will be $100, please.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

On This Day In 1973

This is one of those events that make me wish Dr. Scott really had created a time machine out of a Delorean car. (sigh) Oh, to travel back to the Astrodome in '73 and see this event for myself.
On Sept 20th, 1973 Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in a tennis match that came to be known as the quintessential battle of the sexes. I don't know enough about tennis to understand the (what seems to me) rather complicated scoring, but it was a "best three out of five" situation. Billie Jean King slaughtered the guy in the first three sets and it was all over.

The New York Times article from that day is HERE.

I get all proud and teary-eyed just reading about it. I can't imagine how amazing this must have been for women who actually got to watch it on TV or in person. I would have been terrified that she might lose and still excited about what it would mean if she won. Can you imagine what it must have felt like on Sept 21, 1973? Did Billie Jean's accomplishment make other women feel proud that morning and hopeful about our futures? It was such a media circus at the time. Did people understand how important this was, or did it just seem like another publicity stunt?

By 1973 women had been able to make some progress within the feminist movement, but it was all still so new. The Title IX law had just been passed in 1972. Title IX was the law that prohibited sex discrimination in sports for any federally funded programs, mostly public schools. This is the law that allowed girls to get a chance to play basketball, soccer, be on the swim team etc. Other laws had been passed that prohibited sex discrimination in job hiring, sex discrimination while on the job and also against women with pre-school age children. We had accomplished a lot, but there was still so much to do. Hey, we're still working on that whole "equal pay for equal work" thing.

And so was Bille Jean. She started the Women's Tennis Association and the first thing on her list was the gap between what male athletes earned in prize money and what women earned. Here's what Larry Schwartz wrote about it for ESPN.

from Billie Jean
Won For All Women

"In those days, women players received much less money than men earned.
King's voice was heard loudest in the quest for equality. When a new women's
tour was started, with Philip Morris sponsoring a new brand of cigarette, King
was perceived as a "radical" heading a breakaway group. The Virginia Slims Tour
was marketed with the slogan "You've Come a Long Way, Baby."

She convinced her colleagues to form a players' union, and the Women's
Tennis Association was born. King was its first president in 1973. King, who
received $15,000 less than Ilie Nastase did for winning the U.S. Open in 1972,
said if the prize money wasn't equal by the next year, she wouldn't play, and
she didn't think the other women would either. In 1973, the U.S. Open became the
first major tournament to offer equal prize money for men and women."

Even though I was never a big athlete myself, I still get excited about the implications of Title IX and Billie Jean King's winning tennis match. These things happened before I was even born and they made the world a little better for me and my girl friends. It meant that a girl could pursue her talents even if those talents have more to do with hitting a ball than sewing (not that there's anything wrong with sewing!). It meant that a girl could have more choices and experiences in her life than what was traditionally offered. If we could get girls on the basketball team, what else might we accomplish?

So, when Billie Jean King beat the crap out of that loud mouth, blustering, nasty little man, I imagine it felt pretty good. I imagine a lot of women jumped up off their couches and cheered. And for a moment, they got to feel like there was a place for them in this sometimes hostile, usually male-dominated little world. How cool is that?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ahoy, me beauties!

Just a friendly reminder that today is International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Oh yes. It's true.

So....Arrrrr! If yer wantin' to know the history of this day, ye must click

And if yer wantin' to learn some useful pirate-ese, click

And here'e some pictures of me favorite pirates for yer enjoyment, me hearties! Arrrr.

Ahoy, ye crafty wenches*! Now we can KNIT like a pirate too.

* The term "wench" is not considered offensive ONLY on International Talk Like A Pirate Day and on trips to the Renaissance Faire while in costume. (see below)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Fun With iTunes

So, I have this iPod...

It's an older model, but I think it's cool. It holds more music than I could ever listen to. I have discovered pod casts because of this thing too. I'm thinking that I'm going to have to take a cross country trip just so I can listen to all the music and pod casts I now have. (I can play stuff through my speakers in my car.)

This little iPod thingy has introduced me to a whole new world of downloading (legally!) new music that I might not have listened to before. It's terribly addictive. Rather like heroine. Not that I would know or anything, get the idea.

I have learned something about myself that I never thought would have been true of me. I never in a million years would have thought this, but I think it's time to come clean and admit it. Ok. Here goes.

I like country music.

There, I said it. Not ALL country music mind you. I'm still not down with that twangy stand-by-your-man nonsense. But there are a few out and out country artists whose music I have happily purchased. Like a dieter gleefully buying a Three Musketeers bar and hording it away in a dark corner, I have country music files secretly tucked away on my iPod. They're mixed in with the Ani DiFranco, David Bowie and Indigo Girls. It's true.

My two favorites these days are
Gretchen Wilson and Trish Murphy.

Gretchen has two songs on her latest album, All Jacked Up, that I have been known to sing along with, erm..with great gusto while drivin' down the road. The first one, California Girls is one of my favorites. Check out these lyrics,

"Ain't you glad we ain't all California girls
Ain't you glad there's still a few of us left.
That know how to rock your world
Ain't afraid to eat fried chicken and dirty dance to Merle
Ain't you glad we ain't all California girls.

There ain't nothing wrong with plastic surgery
Well Dolly Parton never looked so good to me
Everybody ought to be exactly who they want to be
But that Paris Hilton Gets under my skin
With her big fake smile and and her painted on tan..."

I admit, I have never listened to an entire Merle Haggard record and I would be eatin' fried tofu rather than chicken, but this is the kind of tune that makes me proud to have curves. Especially in this town. Then there's Full Time Job, a relaxing little number about how easy it is to be a mom.

"It's the hardest gig I've known,
I work my fingers to the bone
Yeah, the dishes and the diapers never stop
Lousy pay, there ain't no 401k
I know this may come as a shock.
But this here's a full time job

Well I'm takin' a vacation
I could use a little fun
I'll be sippin' on the silence
And soaking up the sun
I'm leavin' you my apron
You can try it on for size
You said there's nothing to it
So I'm sure you'll be fine."

Trish Murphy is a singer/songwriter from Austin, Texas that I think I found on a compilation list from Lilith Fair. She has this one song called Thelma and Louise that's kind of in the same spirit as the Dixie Chick's song Goodbye, Earle. It's about two girlfriends hittin' the road after their marriages disintegrate into an angry pile of divorce papers and abuse.

"I should have run away I said, but I just didn't care.
You get so used to feelin' fear that you don't know it's there.
You holy rollers don't know jack about domestic strife
Until you seen my daddy lit up, beatin' on his wife.
I clocked him with a skillet, grabbed Momma and the keys
And we floored it on the interstate
Like Thelma and Louise."

You can listen to a 60 second clip of the song HERE

I always like an artist who writes their own music as these two ladies both do. I guess what I really get a kick out of is their outspokenness and spunk. How refreshing to hear a song making fun of the Hollywood ideal of super-thinness or the double standard of mothers working all day for no pay. Trish has this great honesty to her voice. I feel like she's telling me a story that she thinks I really ought to hear.

If this kind of thing keeps going on, I may have to buy a pair of cowboy boots and learn how to line dance.