Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Artsy Outings

This past Saturday I got to go to the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Los Angeles to see the exhibit, Wack! Art and The Feminist Revolution with my friend, T3. It was at the Geffen Conemporary gallery, which is right next to Little Tokyo. I had never been to either place so it was quite an adventure! It was so cool to have a great friend to go with too.

Now, my art expertise begins and ends with Art History 102, a class I took last semester to fullfill a fine arts requirement. We covered the proto-Renaissance through about 1915. We didn't really get much further than "Suprematist Painting" and a little Picasso. So, modern art is still something of a mystery to me. Nevertheless, I was really excited to see this exhibit. Another big plus was that all of the artists featured are women! What a contrast to my searches through Art History to find one or two female artists!

This is how they introduce the pieces at the website:

"During the late 1960s and early ’70s, feminism fundamentally changed
contemporary art practice, critiquing its assumptions and radically altering its
structures and methodologies. WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution is
predicated on the notion that gender was and remains fundamental to the
organization of culture, and that a contemporary understanding of the feminist
in art must necessarily look to the late 1960s and ‘70s. While the American
feminist art movement coalesced in the late 1960s in the United States and is
embedded within the exhibition, this international survey of 120 artists,
activists, filmmakers, writers, teachers, and thinkers necessarily moves beyond
the now-canonical list of American feminist artists to include women of other
geographies, formal approaches, socio-political alliances, and critical and
theoretical positions. This exhibition argues for simultaneous feminisms
internationally that together and retrospectively can be viewed as the most
influential movement in postwar contemporary art."

One of the things I was excited about was that they included artists from all over the world. Feminism is more than a middle-class white woman's movement. I think it is just as important (if not more so) that women from other classes and cultures be able to identify and benefit from what feminism can achieve. By including these works in the exhibit, I think the museum is helping to bridge that gap that is sometimes felt between the perceived face of feminism and the reality of what all women experience.

We were surprised at the size of the exhibition. T3 and I were there for a few hours and I don't think we saw the whole thing! There were a lot of pieces that I really liked. Mary Beth Edelson's collages were interesting. She took famous paintings, like The Last Supper and replaced the heads of the men with cutouts of important women artists. They also had some of Judy Baca's mural art work. There was a piece called "Uprising of the Mujeres" that I thought was just breathtaking. This large, colorful piece depicts "an indigenous woman at the forefront of political struggle against the prioritization of military spending, the formation of a police state at the expense of social welfare and the exploitation of workers to further capitalism." Pretty heady stuff. She had another piece there that showed a Rosie the Riveter type woman being sucked into a television by a 1950s-esque happy house wife and her vacuum cleaner. I wish I knew what it was called, but it sure gave me pause. I think my favorite painting though, was by Sylvia Plimack Mangold. It simply shows an empty mirror in a room with a wood floor. You realize as you're looking at it that the artist should be reflected in the mirror, but she's not there... perhaps because women have been invisible in the art world.

A lot of the pieces were film or video works. We saw some short animated pieces that dealt with art history as a male dominated institution, a mesmerising video of a woman almost violently brushing her hair and one of Yoko Ono where she sat looking stone faced as a man literally cut off her dress piece by piece with a pair of scissors. I had read that a lot of feminist artists rejected painting and other typical (and mostly male dominated) mediums for uncharted territory, like video and certain sculpture work.

There was so much to see, I couldn't begin to tell you about all of it. You can see and read a lot more at the MOCA website which I linked to above. I didn't post any pictures because I'm not sure what the rules are for posting original copyrighted art on blogs. My guess is that it's not allowed without express permission from the artist. You can get an idea of what they have at the museum's site and if you live near Los Angeles, you should definitely check it out. The show runs until July 16th

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

These are a few of my favorite things...

I was looking through some of my previous posts the other day, and I realized that I seem to focus on negative stuff a lot. Not that there's anything wrong with that! I think it's important for people to keep and eye on government policies and big business nonsense, so we can recognize when situations are just totally out of whack. Still, it's not all doom and gloom. Lots of folks are fighting the good fight out there or just being their own cool little selves.

So I thought I'd make short-ish list of some of some of my favorite things - people, publications, commercials and other what-not that put a smile on my face. This is by no means a complete list and please feel free to add an item or two of your own in the "comments" section.

Some of my favorite things are:
(hey, if it's good enough for Oprah...)

Red Fraggle - this independent, mouthy little muppet just makes me giggle every time I watch one of my Fraggle Rock DVDs. (Yes, I have Fraggle Rock DVDs)

Bitch Magazine - Always great, insightful, writing with amazing, influential and smart articles. I will consider myself an accomplished writer when I get an article published in this magazine.

Post Secret - This is an ongoing art project where anonymous people send in post cards with a secret written on it. They can decorate the post card any way they want. Every Sunday new secrets go up on the blog and there are a few books out now as well. Something about reading the post cards every week makes me feel a little less alone in the world.

This commercial - for the HPV vaccine, Guardasil. I don't usually like the pharmaceutical industry, but their choice of young women in this 60 second spot is fantastic. Girls come in all shapes and sizes and with all kinds of interests (skateboarding, dancing, soccer) and they all deserve to be protected from STDs and cervical cancer. Oh, not to mention that Kaki King has little part in it. She's one of the most amazing guitarists around these days. Check her out, too. :)

Now i have to put Kaki King on my list! Go to her website (linked above) and scroll about half way over to the frame that has the word "ears" highlighted. Click on "video" then "Playing With Pink Noise."

Yep, new favorite gurl musician.

The L Word - kind of a guilty pleasure since the writing ain't all that (lately) and I have no idea what they were thinking when they plotted out the third season. Why was Alice crazy all of a sudden and what the eff is goin' on with Tina!? Still, I can't seem to turn an episode off until the credits roll. Check out season 1 on DVD if you're so inclined.

Good Magazine - "For people who give a damn." Right on. Check out this new magazine if you have a minute. I love their optimistic outlook - real people actually can make a difference. The website has a blog, links to some of the articles and a "project" section where they ask readers to submit different art projects every few months.

Fables by Bill Willingham - a rare graphic novel series that is not only clever and well written, but has some kick ass female characters. You've never seen Snow White like this before.

Lush - Not only are they totally free of animal testing, not only are their products divine and effective, but going there for me usually involves a day out with my best girls. How can you possibly beat that?

Feministing.com - this is where I go for my daily dose of feminism. Always something going on there! What I really get a kick out of is the fact that actual discussions go on in the comments section. This gives me hope for the future.

I could go on like this all afternoon, so I'm gonna stop it here.

What are some of your favorite things?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Say It Isn't So

It has been one hell of a week, friends! I am very excited to report that I am writing this post from my very own, brand new laptop computer. Hooray! This is soooo cool. :)

Another very cool event this week was finding the latest copy of Bitch magazine waiting for me in my teeny tiny mailbox. (Why do they insist on stuffing all the junk mail in there with my real mail? Gah!) There was an article in the "Love It/Shove It" section that really got me thinking. It's titled "My Little Calliponian" and was penned by Jesse Rutherford. In this article she compared the original My Pretty Pony released in 1981 by a Hasbro subsidiary, to the subsequent My Little Pony that most women now nearing their thirties probably remember.

These were the little plastic horses with long brushable hair that came in all kinds of different colors. Each one had a little symbol on it's rear end that sort of went with it's whimsical name. There were unicorn ponies, Pegasus ponies, sea horse ponies (for bath time!) and little baby ponies, to name a very few. Being a horse crazy little girl, I had a whole herd of these plastic equine facsimiles. I used to spend hours playing with them. One year I received the My Little Pony stable for my birthday and I don't think I came out of my room for a week. There were pony clothes, shoes, and every accessory under the sun. I hate to think about how much money my parents must have spent on them. I loved all of my ponies and I still have many of them packed away in a box with other childhood treasures.

So imagine my horror when I read Jesse Rutherford's article about my beloved pastel ponies. She had some very astute observations about the drastic change the ponies underwent at the hands of Hasbro executives. According to her the original My Pretty Pony was:

"Brown with flat set feet, straight legs and a lowered chin concealing a switch that made her wink, flick her tail, and twitch her ears."

She continues: "In 1982 the toy now called My Little Pony, was released in a rainbow of pastel colors with longer tail, more brushable manes, and names like Cotton Candy, Minty, Butterscotch and Blossom. Though their feet remained flat, the front legs had been shortened, pushing the callipygian pony's rump up higher than it's chest - a display of sexual availability known in studies of animal mating behaviour as mammalian lardosis, and more commonly called, "asking for it.' "

Oh god, say it isn't so. There's more though.

"This toy...was positively child like with it's small nose and large eyes, which are traits of infancy in humans and other animals. My Little Pony featured... bigger pupils than the original My Pretty Pony. Bedroom eyes are not just an armchair sociologist's observation: Barbara and Allan Pease explain in their book The Definitive Book of Body Language that bedroom eyes are another sign of sexual availability."

Here are some my own ponies from back in the day (ie. circa 1985).

After reading this, I went home and dug out that old box of treasures. Now, I also have to admit that I received a brand new My Little Pony for Christmas this year. I had seen them around and thought it was so cool that my old toys were out again. My mom spent yet more money on plastic ponies for me this year. Bless her.

Another of my old ponies
After I found (read: took out of the box and played with for half an hour) my old ponies I immediately saw other differences in the design. The ponies I have from my youth do indeed have the slightly raised back end and the large eyes and pupils described in the article. However, compared to the newest pony, they look downright chubby. The latest model is a little smaller, much slimmer and has longer legs in proportion to her body. At least my old pastel ponies had a bit of healthy pony chub. This pony has been on a diet!

I also noticed that her eyes are even bigger and the shape of her head has changed again. The old ponies had a sloping forehead and more horse-like nose and cheeks. The new ponies have a scooped forehead and an even more childlike face.

I thought it was sad that not only is this new pony more sexualized, she's downright slim and petite. There's a lot of talk these days about the pressures to be slim, celebrity diets and eating disorders. I'm not saying that toy ponies are responsible for any of it, but I do think it shows our culture's obsession with the impossible thin ideal when we even alter girl's toys to fit into the thin mold. I mean, have you ever seen a real live, skinny pony? I've seen one in my life, and that poor animal...well, that animal was very sick.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Blog Against Sexism

I just found out that March 8th is Blog Against Sexism Day. Damn, I almost missed the memo! It's also International Women's Day. So there's a lot to celebrate, I guess.

This works out great though 'cause there is a series of commercials I keep seeing that are driving me berserk. They're the ads for Sunsilk hair products that use the tag line "Get Hair-apy!" The first ad that I just found annoying was the blond girl who "stuffs" her hair. Stupid and poorly written, but it's just a commercial.

Then they started in with these blonds vs. brunettes commercials.

Ah, yes. Nothing like a cat fight to sell your product, right? Not only are we supposed to be obsessed with our looks because, you know, that's all we as women have to offer, we're also evil catty little things. Ugh. At the website, you can join either the blond or brunette team by clicking on the icon that says "Grab your weapons, girls. The color showdown in ON!" Once you're there, you have to choose between the Blond or Brunette "VIP lounge". There are nifty little polls with questions like "How many dates have you gone on in the last month?" and "How many people have you hooked up with at one time?" I kid you not.

The really fun thing about this, is that Sunsilk is part of the Unilever Company. Unilever is the company that also owns and manages Dove. So, while they use happy-touchy-feely-everyone-is-beautiful marketing on one product, they turn around and use girls-are-shallow-and-will-claw-each-other's-eyes-out-over-hair-color humor on another. Just another reason I'm glad to be a red head, I guess. (sigh)

Madison Ave. has done a fantastic job over the years making women the prime consumers in our society. Even back in the "happy homemaker" 1950s we were the ones getting all the pitches for high end items like the fabulous new washer and dryer and the vacuum cleaner that will make house work a breeze! In the 70s and 80s it became more about their commercialized idea of empowerment. They took the reality of the women's movement and repackaged it into expensive skin creams and Virginia Slims cigarettes. Now, they've co-opted "Girl Power" and turned it into anything pink and sparkly with a bit of an edge to it. Is it any wonder more and more of us are opting into the DIY (Do It Yourself) movement? It may take a while to design and sew my own clothes or make my own soap, but at least I'm sidestepping these creeps who think blond jokes are a reasonable way to sell shampoo.

So, since it is International Women's Day and since I'm Blogging Against Sexism, I'm putting a call out to all my sisters. Let's turn off the damn TV when these stupid catty stereotypes come at us. Let's remember that we're all in this thing together. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the media bullshit, just remember that you can turn it off. You can go outside and enjoy a walk. You can read a book. You can volunteer as a mentor to a girl who doesn't have the life experience yet to sift through all this nonsense. You can simply choose not to buy the lie.

Or you could not buy the shampoo. Whatever.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Gratuitous Puppy Stealing

You probably already know this, but most of what we see on the local evening news isn't really news. The stories about celebrities, or studies that show that "milk can make you lose weight." are heavily influenced by commercial concerns and sensationalism. I usually find no more than one or two actual news items on my local evening news. Sad, but true.

So, last night this story came on the local ABC 7 news that got me so angry I was talking back to the TV. This morning, I saw the same story on Good Morning America so it has now garnered national attention. It was so stupid and just plain infuriating that I have to tell you about it. 'Cause it's my blog and I can do that.

The story was this:

A family in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles put an ad in the paper (I'm not sure which paper) for Yorkshire Terrier puppies. They were asking $2,500 per puppy. (!) They had recently installed a home security system with surveillance cameras. A couple of young men answered the ad and arranged to come to the home and look at the puppies. When they got there, they held up the family at gunpoint and stole the puppies as well as the family pet, a three year old Yorkshire Terrier named Tan-ja. The whole thing was caught on the new security cameras.

You can read the original story at the ABC 7 Los Angeles website.

This makes a fantastic television news story! You've got violence, cute puppies, sad people to interview and a color video of these guys chasing the puppies around the living room. Could a news producer ask for anything more? I think not.

Now, let me just say right here, that nobody deserves to be threatened like this. It's a terrible thing that happened and it's a blessing that nobody was shot or otherwise harmed. It's also pretty disturbing to watch the theives stuff those poor little puppies into the big black trash bag they brought. I sincerely hope those little dogs are OK and are found soon.

What really got my blood boiling is that in every instance I've seen or read about this story, they keep saying that the dogs were valued at $2,500 each. That may be the amount these people were asking for their dogs, but I highly doubt they are really worth so much. Here's why.

No real breeder would ever sell a dog like this. These people are what we call back yard breeders. Any reputable breeder would have had potential homes lined up for their puppies before they ever bred their dog. They would have information on the health of both parents, a fairly long and detailed history of the health of the puppies' ancestors (or "line"). They would never sell their dogs to someone who simply answered an ad in the paper. Reputable breeders usually do home checks on potential owners and reserve the right to refuse sale of the animals if they feel the situation is not acceptable. They also usually agree to take the animal back in a certain period of time if there should be an unforeseen, genetic health problem. Finally, they often insist that the dog be given back to them if at any point in it's life the owner is no longer able to take care of the animal. Reputable breeders don't want to see their animals end up in a shelter or worse.

Back yard breeders are a problem for so many reasons. The most evident and infuriating reason for me is that they are adding to the pet overpopulation problem we have in this country. Thousands of animals are killed in our animal shelters every week. Every time someone buys an animal from some bozo who's trying to make a buck off of their cute family pet, they are condemning another shelter pet to death. Backyard breeders steal homes from dogs in animal shelters. They also tend to disappear when your $2,500 puppy starts to show signs of poor breeding such as chronic seizures, breathing problems and heart conditions. I'm not even going to start in about puppy mills and pet store animals on this post. I just don't have the stomach for it today.

If you're thinking of adding a pet to your life, please always consider your local animal shelter or rescue organizations first. Most animal shelters provide an initial vet check as part of their adoption process. Many rescues do a home visit. If you are really interested in a particular breed, consider adopting from a breed specific rescue. (ie. Greyhound rescue, Dalmation rescue etc.) When I adopted my cat, Nicodemus, from the shelter, I had thirty days to take him for a free vet visit and I did have the option of bringing him back to the shelter should he have had a medical condition that I couldn't handle. The idea of returning him after I fell in love with him at first sight is pretty abhorrent to me, but it's something to consider. And, of course, when you adopt from the shelter or rescue you're saving a life.

If you are dead set on buying a dog, you want to make sure that you are dealing with a reputable breeder with a stable history. The best place to start is with your local breed club. These are people who know a lot about the breed and have dealt with breeders for their show dogs. Dog shows are great places to hang out and chat with owners and possible breeders. Always do your research and make sure the breed is one that you really can live with. You may think Chesapeake Bay Retreivers are gorgeous, but do you have the space, time and energy that the breed requires? These are all things you can find out with a little research and time. A great resource to start with is the American Kennel Club.

I really do hope the Lee family gets their dogs back unharmed. Once they have their puppies safely at home again, I further hope that they get them all vet checked, spayed and neutered...including their "beloved pet", Tan-ja that they seem to be using as a "cash cow".