Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I liked this categorization of gadgetry in Marc Fisher's Washington Post blog. For example:
Category #2: The Interesting Idea That Bombs This year's entry in this category is Story Blankets. Speaking of absentee parenting, get this idea: Instead of lying down with the little one and falling asleep in their bed, thereby wiping out that tiny window of adult time at the end of the long day, you could tuck a kiddie in under a blanket that also sings a lullaby and tells a story. No, really: This is a big fluffy duvet cover and comforter that has a big brick of a battery in it powering a three-minute-long sound and light show featuring 133 tiny LEDs and a tinkling tune that you activate by pressing a button in the blanket.

Instant intimacy? No, horrifying nightmare. The kids we tested this on were uniformly appalled or freaked. They called the thing creepy, sick and worse. "If the parent wants to abandon the child, fine, but don't stick them in a room with this thing," my son said.


Wednesday, December 6, 2006

A single sheet of paper

Very cool use of sheets of paper -- incredibly precise and strangely compelling.

Today's funniest typos

I'm grading papers on sexuality education, and students make all kinds of spelling and typographical errors, some of which end up being kind of funny (emphasis added):

"Likewise my children will be in an environment that promotes abstinence, as well as other important life lesions."

"When I see that she starting [sic] to grow boobs I will buy her a brawl . . ."

Tuesday, December 5, 2006


I have discovered the danger of rugelach. Why did no one tell me? It's ok, though . . . they're all gone now.

Let us never speak of this again.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ironing and folding, ironing and folding . . . repeat and fade

During August, in my (foolish?) desire to reorganize my fiber studio, I decided I should store my quilting cottons in file boxes. So I pulled all of the quilting cottons out of the big armoire. The fabric had been washed and loosely folded, but not ironed. In a burst of enthusiasm for my new scheme, I thought I should iron the fabric before I folded it into the new configuration and put it in boxes. So, since August, I have spent about one full day each week ironing and folding fabric. Each piece got ironed, folded in half and half again (selvage to selvage), then folded around an acrylic ruler to create a 14" X 12" folded square (more or less). These were placed, end up, in file boxes, by color or theme. Anything smaller than 1/2 a yard was folded around a smaller ruler and put in smaller boxes. Scraps were placed in yet different boxes.

The exciting news is that I'm almost done! I have a few more pieces to iron and fold, and some more scraps and smaller pieces to deal with when I go through the big plastic bins that held scraps before, but I can see the end in sight. I cannot believe that I have ironed every piece of quilting cotton fabric in my stash. This is the accumulation of many years of purchasing fabric, and I ironed it all.

Now I need to tackle the garment fabric. That's a big job, but at least not everything will need to be ironed.

In the continuing saga of my obsessive nature, I also got back to working on the beaded belt I started several years ago. It's black velvet with silver beadwork, and I'm doing all the beading by hand (no appliques). So far, it looks gorgeous, and I can't wait to get the rest of it done. I have been using all kinds of flashy beads and crystals, and it just glows under the light. Pictures to come soon.

Now, back to grading papers, which almost seems restful after all the ironing!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Beaded kitchen

Apparently I'm not the most bead-obsessed person in the world ... Liza Lou spent five years creating an entirely beaded kitchen. You can hear her talk about her story on This American Life (search for the story on "Obsession"), which is also available on iTunes.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Flight or invisibility?

I'm listening to This American Life, and John Hodgman is talking about the following hypothetical choice: If you could have the power of flight or the power of invisibility*, which would you choose? Whichever one you choose, you would be the only person in the world with this superpower. Once you had this power, what would you do with it?

Well, what would YOU choose? And what would you do once granted this power?

*The Power of Flight means that you can fly at speeds up to 1000 miles per hour within the earth's atmosphere. The Power of Invisibility means the power to make yourself transparent at will at any time, including your clothing. However, any objects you pick up can be seen.

Friday, November 3, 2006

What makes you cringe?

I'm listening to an episode of This American Life which is talking about the stories that make us cringe. They are exploring what aspects of a story are critical to the "cringe factor", and it got me wondering. Is cringing the same as embarrassment? They seem related, but perhaps not identical. What are the things that make us cringe?

When you think back on your life, what are the experiences that made/make you cringe?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Textile Art Tutorials

Such cool information about things textile-related -- it makes me want to go work in my studio, even though I'm supposed to be grading and gardening today. {pout}

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Overdoing it again . . .

Too many hours of gardening today . . . hurty hurty! Still not done, either. *Sigh* But it was a lovely day and now we have more flowers in the garden.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Evolution of dance

Ok, I may be the last person to have seen The Evolution of Dance video on YouTube, but if you haven't seen it, you should check it out. I don't know whether to be impressed or appalled, but it certainly made me laugh!

Strange toys . . .

So now we have to feel guilty about throwing away used tissues and hug our tampons? These are the new, avant-garde plush toys, and who knows? Perhaps they'll start a whole new generation of plushies. ***nudge nudge, wink wink***

Too much time on your hands?

Try creating creatures from bed linens and towels! Martha Stewart, eat your heart out.

Monday, October 16, 2006

It was a good day

I kicked off this semester's Psychology Brown Bag series today with a talk entitled Gay, Bi, Lesbian, or Straight? Sexual Orientation is Not Categorical. The brown bag series was my idea, and I organize it each semester. This is our second semester of the series, and they have been really well-received and well-attended. I buy the food (usually way more than we need -- I can't help it!), set up the space, organize the speakers, do the advertising, and so far, I've also been a speaker both semesters. Today's talk went really well -- lots of students and faculty came, and the larger conference room was a good choice, as it was full but not too overcrowded. I kicked off the talk with the data from some of the major sex surveys -- Kinsey, NHSLS, NSFG, etc., along with some cross-cultural and historical data, about the ways in which identity, behavior, desire, fantasy, and love can diverge. Example: A recent study of more than 4000 men in NYC found that 1 in 10 men who identify as straight had sex with a man in the last year. There were loads of questions and comments, and I only wish we could have stayed longer to discuss the issues. I was pleased that there wasn't any hostility, as the topic can evoke prejudice (e.g., many of the flyers were torn down).

And, as always, everyone loved the Seven Layer Cookies I made (nod to my friend B who gave me the recipe in high school -- thanks!). Plenty left over for Q to give them to a colleague -- yippee!

Taught my Human Sexuality class, which went pretty well. This class hasn't been particularly strong in discussion, but we had a vibrant discussion of the pros and cons of circumcision today, as well as the cultural equation of penis size and masculinity (and the role of pornography in perpetuating that myth), which was great.

I came home and visited with Q for a bit -- always wonderful.

Then off to my dance gig. Pretty big crowd there for a Monday night, and they were very receptive and enthusiastic (gosh, there were even a few tips, which is really rare there). I had a lot of fun and I was pleased with my dancing. I even got out a bit early, since the manager let me start 15 minutes early.

Came home and visited more with Q. Yay! Various web browsings later, I am off to bed. Future plans involve getting up early to get into work early to get some grading done before my first class.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Green tomato recipes?

In light of the freeze warnings, I pulled up the tomato plants yesterday. So now I have LOADS of green tomatoes, and no clear idea of what to do with them. I know there are green tomato recipes, like green tomato relish or pickled green tomatoes, or even green tomato pie, but I haven't made them, so I don't know which ones are good. Any suggestions?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Dance class and fingerprinting

Well, I started teaching another session of belly dance classes at the JCC tonight. I generally enjoy teaching there, but I find it hard to get energy with such small classes. I have five students signed up, but only two of them came tonight. They were very nice and seemed to enjoy the class, but it always feels low energy to me with such a small group.

Tonight was another chapter in the endless fingerprint saga, as well.

In order to get hired to teach at the JCC, one must submit fingerprints to have a criminal check performed. Fine. So, initially, they had a security guard who had been a police officer and did the fingerprints. But he worked mornings, and I taught in the evening. So I had to come in during a totally different day to get that done, which meant there was a delay until I could find a free day. Ok, fine, he does my fingerprints, and I figure we're done. Nope -- the ones he did were too blurry. And apparently this is a chronic problem, so they give me the fingerprint card and tell me to get it done at the police station.

But the police stations have limited hours in which they do fingerprinting. So I need to find a day in which I can get to the station during their fingerprinting hours. I finally get to the Rockville station on a Friday to get this done. But you're supposed to call before you go to the station, because they don't guarantee that they will be doing fingerprints during their posted fingerprinting hours. You guessed it -- the station isn't doing them that day. Neither is the other Rockville station, or the Bethesda station, and I don't have time to get to Germantown. *Sigh* So I put this off to some other day in my far-too-tightly-scheduled life. And the next day I'm free, none of the stations near me are doing fingerprinting *again*. And, need I say that I'm not all that motivated to get it done? It's not the most exciting task on my list.

Meanwhile, I've been teaching at the JCC for almost a year, but because of the lack of the criminal check, they start holding my paychecks until the fingerprints come in. Ok, so I finally find a day that the Silver Spring station is actually doing fingerprinting and I have a couple of hours to rush over there in the morning, so I get it done (one of them had to be redone -- apparently, I have a strangely curved thumb). I even manage to find time to drop it off at the JCC later that day, which is truly a miracle.

Hosannah! I am done!

Nope. Apparently, there is some time limit on the fingerprint cards. The head of the dance department told me tonight that since I didn't submit the fingerprint card within the time frame, I may have to do them again. None of this makes sense to either of us -- I mean, my fingerprints haven't changed in the last months, as far as I know, so what is the problem? So she decided to wait and see if they really do pester her for me to do them again (and pay another fee to the police station out of my own pocket, thank you very much), or whether they will just let it slide.

Who knew that fingerprints were such a complicated process?

Hmmm . . .

My favorite line from my classes this week was one I came up with. We were talking about women's and men's attire in my Psychology of Women class, and one of the students talked about how she likes to wear "wifebeater" shirts. I stopped the class and asked them to think about that term, and whether they were comfortable with such a casual use of the term "wifebeater." I asked if they would wear a garment that got called a "child molester" or "pedophile" -- I think I'll wear the green pedophile today.

They cracked up at that, and told me I should consider a career in comedy. But they also admitted it was a good point, and that they'd never thought about it that way before.

I love teaching.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

News from the fiber studio

I've been re-organizing my fiber studio for weeks (months?) now, which, so far, has mostly meant hours and hours and hours of ironing and folding fabric. I've filled 8 file boxes with quilting fabric, and I have about two more boxes worth to iron and fold. Then I have to organize the garment fabric! After that, we are going to put together a new sewing island and paint the room . . . it's a big project.

But while all this re-organization is going on, I can't actually get any sewing done because of the chaos in the studio. It's sort of disheartening, and I miss my actual sewing. So this weekend I decided to do a quick project for ancientsong's birthday. I had read about a technique for making scarves by layering yarns, threads, and other fibers between water soluble stabilizer and then sewing over the stabilizer to hold everything together. After washing out the stabilizer, one is left with a lacy scarf. It seems like the lazy approach to weaving or pinweaving. ;)

So I made a short scarf with some gorgeous blue and turquoise and purple yarns and stitched it with parallel horizontal rows and curving vertical lines. It was a bit more difficult to do than I thought, since the yarns moved more than I expected during the sewing (I think I should use a stickier stabilizer next time), but I think it came out pretty well. Alas, I didn't take pictures before it went to live with ancientsong, but hopefully I'll do another one and take pictures of that. I have all kinds of designs dancing in my head.

The scary part is that this justifies my emerging obsession with yarn, which is almost as expensive a habit as beads. I swear, it would be cheaper to have a drug habit. Oh well, at least my obsession is legal (for now). ;)

Sunday, October 1, 2006

PSA: No shortcuts with paint!

You're repainting a room in an old house. You're in a hurry, no time to do a thorough prep job. You think to yourself, "No big deal, I'll just paint over this old wallpaper", or "I don't know if this is oil-based or latex-based paint on the trim, but I'm sure the latex paint I bought will cover it just fine."

STOP! Don't do it!

You may be saving yourself time at the moment, but later on, someone will pay for this choice. You're handing the job of scraping off the paint-over-wallpaper, latex-over-oil paint to future generations, just because you were too lazy or rushed or ignorant to do the job right the first time.

Don't skimp on the proper preparations. People like me will be cursing you as we peel the paint off in sheets to do the repainting right.

This has been a Public Service Announcement, paid for by the hours of tedious labor I have put in as a result of my overactive conscientiousness.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Pesto Factory is closed for the year . . .

Today's total pesto output: 22 batches of basil pesto
Hours Q and I worked in the pesto factory today: 6+ hours
Total current pesto supplies: Who can tell? We may exceed the recommended residential limit for pesto, but I think the foundation of the house will hold . . . for now. Anyone want to come over for dinner? ;)

Friday, September 22, 2006

People do the darndest things . . .

I hear the most interesting news stories from the NPR show, "Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me" including this story:

Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputies come across a bizarre encounter at La Purisima Mission in Lompoc. Around midnight they found a 69-year-old Huntington beach man naked and covered in oats. Deputies say the man had covered himself in olive oil, rolled around in oats and allowed the horses at the mission to lick him clean. He apparently told deputies this has always been a fantasy of his and drove up from the Los Angeles area to play it out. Alfred Thomas Steven was cited and released for trespassing, animal cruelty and sexually assaulting an animal.

You can see the entire sheriff's report at The Smoking Gun.

I'm trying to figure out what the key element of the man's fantasy was here -- was he mostly into being licked by horses, and the oats were just the vehicle (with olive oil to make them stick properly), or was it the whole experience of being oiled, oated, and horse-licked? Hard to say, really, as the human mind is very inventive.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Paint whimsies

I'm painting various rooms in the house. . .

I just finished painting one of the bathrooms with the colored primer for a paint named "Startling Orange." This is an understatement. This room glows -- and it's in the basement! The paint should be called "Screaming Orange" or "Day-Glo Orange" or "Radioactive Orange" or "For God's Sake, Don't Look Directly At It Orange." It makes the art studio, with it's bright yellow walls, look understated. Of course, that said, I really like this color. But in deference to Q and any guests with adult, sophisticated color tastes, I will be covering it with a somewhat less intense glaze color, named "Citrus Blast." We'll see what it looks like after that.

The kitchen gives us no end of trouble in choosing colors, since any paint color has to coordinate with a beige cabinet finish that we don't like much, pinky-beige floor tiles, and black speckled countertops. So far, we've gone through five different paint colors. The winner seems to be "Soft Pumpkin."

The basement stairway now has beautiful two-toned peach walls/ceiling, an additional light fixture, elegantly finished stairs, and looks infinitely better than it used to. We've named it the "Peach Pit." I can't wait to put up some tiles and pictures to finish the effect.

I love color!

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Hot weather

In cold climes (like upstate NY), the weather report in the winter includes an estimate of the length of time it will take exposed flesh to freeze. Presumably, if this time is short enough, one knows not to take the mittens off for any reason.

We've finally received the heat wave from the Midwest, and I wonder -- should they include an estimate of the length of time it would take for exposed flesh to fry?

It's really my fault for choosing today to attack the weeds in the front garden. Three hours of weeding, even in the late afternoon/early evening, was very warm indeed. Although, frankly, the mosquitoes bothered me much more than the heat.

I'm excited to be back on the internet! My computer developed an allergy to the internet, but Q was finally able to fix it. Yippee! I feel alive again! ;)

Friday, July 7, 2006

Cow poetry

I hadn't heard of this, but it was posted on one of the listservs I'm on. Apparently, a few years ago, a performance art piece was constructed to have cows create poetry.

Banks, a 22-year-old student at Purchase College, painted single words (from "a" to "existential") on the flanks of about 60 cows near his upstate New York home, then let them wander around to see if they could compose poetry. So Holsteins and Jerseys named Elsie and Maggie came up with phrases like "eccentric art," "performance as cow environment" and Banks' own favorite, "organic conceptual art as poetry." One animal seemed especially inspired -- with "away" written on her side, she broke loose from the herd for a while.

There's something about this that struck me as very amusing.

Thursday, July 6, 2006

New garden statuary

While on vacation on the Eastern shore of Maryland, Q & I got new garden statuary, which was delivered yesterday. This statue/birdbath is in our front garden, and holds the remnants of last night's rain. She looks beautiful, peaceful, and sad.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Sparkly sparkly sparkly

I have been working (on and off) for some months now on a beaded necklace for my friend and dance teacher/mentor, Artemis. She is a fiery Turkish-style dancer, and she comes alive in red, so I hunted up all of my red beads, bought more (and more), and hand-beaded a necklace for her. It's finally finished! I can't wait to give it to her when I see her on Friday.

I started with a base of Timtex (stiff stabilizer) and covered it with stretch velvet. Then I sewed on Swarovski crystals in a random pattern and sewed on delicas (tiny beads) around each one. The fringe is silverlined ruby glass beads, Swarovski crystal bicones, and Czech glass butterflies (red with an AB coating), tipped with gold Swarovski crystals. Then I sewed two beaded strands with these same types of beads to link the necklace in the back. Finally, a lining was sewed on the inside, to cover all the stitching.

[Later thought] Oh, and I'd welcome any suggestions for a name/title for this piece -- I'm at a loss at the moment.

[Still later] I've named it "Turkish Fire" -- thanks for all the suggestions!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Help! Flooded basement!

Well, that rain that seemed so cool last night BROKE down our basement door and filled the entire basement with muddy water. It looks like the place was completely tossed. We have to clean everything up and assess the damage (and there looks to be damaged goods).

If anyone has time today to stop by our house and help with the cleanup, we would greatly appreciate it. It's a big messy job, and we could use the help.

Hoping you all weathered the storm better than we did!

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Things that make me happy:

  • Rabbits in the back yard, including a baby bunny!
  • Watching the third season of News Radio -- that show cracks me up. Speaking of funny, the seagulls in Finding Nemo -- Mine, mine, mine -- had me ROtFLMAO.
  • New music set for my restaurant gig -- yay for new sets!
  • Spending oodles of time with my sweetie.
  • Being able to eat fresh vegetables from my garden -- yummy fresh peas and lettuce, and the most delicious strawberries I have ever eaten. And soon there will be tomatoes and zucchini, and blackberries and raspberries -- but I think the birds and rabbits will eat all the blueberries.
  • Pretty painted walls -- the master bathroom is now an intense teal with lavender trim, and the basement bathroom will soon be orange. Other paint colors soon to come: Peach for the basement stairwell and green for the solarium. Whee!
  • Carrot cake muffins -- new recipe, came out well, brought them to Habiba's Ghawazee workshop where the dancers ate them with glee. But there are still some left for me and Q -- yay!

There are many more, but that will do for today. I am listening to the rain, which is very cool, and I should go practice my new set some more. But shhhhh...Q is napping.

Sunday, May 7, 2006

Friday, May 5, 2006

Crammed full of knowledge

What I learned this semester:

  • Having students complete comprehensive self-tests for each chapter of the textbook vastly increases the likelihood of them reading the textbook before class and improves the quality of class discussions.
  • Writing a comprehensive self-test for each chapter is a useful review of the material in the textbook.
  • Writing a comprehensive self-test for every chapter of a textbook takes a LOT of time.
  • Grading self-tests which involve 50-150 questions each week, even with much of the process automated, takes a LOT of time.
  • I don't have a lot of extra time.
  • At this point in my life, I am unable or unwilling to lose significant amounts of sleep on a regular basis.
  • My superpowers do not include the ability to find or create pockets of extra time.

Conclusion: Taking on tasks which require enormous expenditures of time without commensurate reduction in other time commitments, even when the choice serves valuable goals, leaves one very stressed and tired.

But hey, ask me anything about STDs or paraphilias or sexual dysfunction -- really, anything -- and I can probably answer it, as long as it's in this textbook! ;)

Back to work.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Boys will be boys = bad students...apparently

From News of the Weird:

Doug Anglin, 17, filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education against Milton (MA) High School, which he said discriminates against boys by giving better grades to students who "sit down, follow orders, and listen to what (teachers and administrators) say." Anglin told a Boston Globe reporter, "Men naturally rebel against this."

Ummm . . . ok . . . what are schools supposed to do to restore putative gender equity, then? Perhaps boys should get good grades for running around naked in the playground and giving the teachers the finger.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Global sex survey

A global sex survey among adults over 40 finds sexual satisfaction higher in Western countries than in Eastern countries (although the U.S. was not the highest), and that men have higher sexual satisfaction on average than women across all countries. The researchers claim that male-dominated societies have lower levels of subjective sexual satisfaction. See: patriarchy = bad sex!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Pills, politics, and puzzlement

I'm listening to an NPR story on the controversy in Connecticut about a bill requiring hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims. The debate centered, not surprisingly, on the four Catholic hospitals in the state, who did not want to be required to provide EC, as they are morally opposed to it. Their policy is to test female rape victims to see if they are near ovulation, and if they are, to tell them where they can obtain EC.

Wait a minute. If Catholics are morally opposed to the use of emergency contraception and they are trying to be consistent with this moral opposition, why would they tell the women where to go to get emergency contraception? If you're opposed to some action, you don't help people commit that action. It's like saying, "I think armed robbery is wrong, but the liquor store next door has a lot of cash, and here's where you can buy a gun." This is a cop-out. If you believe that EC is morally wrong for all women in all circumstances, then you wouldn't tell rape victims where to get it. If you believe it is an acceptable choice for some women in certain contexts (e.g., rape), then you offer it to women in your hospital and leave it up to their conscience to decide. The current policy is just moral hand-waving -- Oh, we didn't give them the EC, so our conscience is clean.

It reminds me of the inconsistencies in policies which ostensibly claim abortion is murder.

End of the story: The bill wasn't passed . . . lawmakers declined to vote on it.

Edible books

Dr. Bibliovore has found books you really *can* eat!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Choices, choices

Check out the cartoon at Minimum Security : Second from the bottom, about salad dressing. Very on-target!


I love that we have bunnies living in our back yard. Tonight I got to watch one of them hop around, nibble grass, and wash its face with its paws -- so cute! It's like having pets without any of the work or allergies (major allergies for me). I love to sit at my sewing desk and watch the wildlife.

I'm sad that spring break is coming to an end.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Flanagan and the motherhood mystique

After reading this post on Pandagon about Caitlin Flanagan's rhetoric regarding motherhood, I was intrigued enough to go read the article in Elle about Flanagan and some of Flanagan's articles. She talks about how mothers should stay home and care for their children full-time, that children are harmed by their mother's working outside of the home.

In other words, she's completely immersed in the motherhood mystique, which claims that:
  • motherhood is a full-time (and more than full-time) job
  • it is supremely fulfilling to women to be immersed in the task of mothering (indeed this is constructed as the ultimate fulfillment for all women -- a woman who does not want to mother or doesn't enjoy it is seen as psychologically disturbed)
  • the best thing for children is the full-time, intense devotion of their mother (and only their mother)
  • Women are naturally good at caregiving and should be responsible for all nurturance (husband, children, elders, etc.)
  • Mothers have infinite patience and the willingness (nay, eagerness) to engage in self-sacrifice for her children (and other family members) -- she should put her own needs last. Flanagan mentions that when her children were young, "I was a mother virtuously willing to sacrifice her own happiness for the sake of her children," ("How Serfdom Saved the Women's Movement," Atlantic Monthly, p109).

Let's put this in context: This construction of motherhood is a modern, Western construction which emerged out of the industrial revolution, changing family and work patterns, gendered beliefs, and a healthy dose of patriarchy. Prior to the industrial revolution, most women and men were engaged in agricultural labor, and this involved productive labor for both men and women -- women made many of the items for home use (cloth, garments, candles), as well as participating in farming and animal husbandry, in addition to engaging in care of infants. Children were cared for by fathers, mothers, and older siblings (a pattern replicated around the world -- many cultures have an older sibling caring for the younger child). The Industrial Revolution hit, many men became wage slaves, and families became structured around one or more members of the family working for pay in an urban center. In poor families, men, women, and even children were wage laborers (until child labor laws went into effect); in middle-class families, men were wage laborers and women were in charge of domestic labor (housework and child care), for which they were not paid. But how to keep women busy with domestic labor, now that so many of their tasks had been relegated to mass-production in factories? I know! We'll tell them that raising children is a full-time job, which requires the skills of teacher, nurse, psychologist, and nutritionist, and that domestic labor is a labor of love for their families. Cook for your family and show them you love them! Decorate the home to be a haven of rest for your husband. So the domestic and child care tasks that remained were inflated in importance (the development of the cult of domesticity), and the belief that children needed full-time, devoted attention from their mothers was a device to keep women at home (instead of out agitating for the vote).

This construction emerged in the late 1800s and then again in force in the 1950s in the U.S., and Flanagan has got the rhetoric down pat. From her insistence that having a hot meal ready for her husband shows how much she loves him (and her critique of mothers who do not provide hot meals for the family) to her insistence that women are naturally skilled at, and are drawn to, domestic tasks, to her strongly-worded claims about the harms to children which stem from their mothers working outside of the home, she is the mouthpiece for the motherhood mystique and the cult of domesticity.

So why does her argument bother me? For many reasons:
  • Natural and universal? Flanagan relies heavily on the notion that "woman in the home" is a natural and universal role: Women are naturally good a child rearing, naturally want to engage in domestic tasks, and that there is a natural "maternal bond" between mothers and their children. But it is clear that childrearing and domestic tasks are taken on by men and women, boys and girls, in many different arrangements in cultures around the world. Certainly, mothers are often involved in breastfeeding infants, but other types of care vary considerably. It is also clear that women and men vary in their enjoyment of, and desire for, childrearing and domestic labor. Flanagan herself seems to have little affinity for cleaning, cooking, or laundry, and she relates real ambivalence in her experiences of childrearing.
  • Harm to children? The claim that children will be harmed by not receiving the full-time devotion of their mothers has been a cultural trope since the Victorian era, but there is little scientific support for this notion. Infants and children clearly need care, and it helps to have a consistent set of caregivers for infants so that they can develop secure attachment patterns. Beyond that, however, children do as well when they are in high-quality day care as when they are raised by full-time mothers or fathers or some combination of parent and paid caregiver. In fact, children generally do better when in high-quality child care if they come from a home environment which provides less cognitive and linguistic stimulation. Flanagan even admits that children who went to day care seemed to be "a little more on the ball" ("To Hell With All That", New Yorker, 80(18), 2004).
  • What about fathers? It ticks me off to no end that women get castigated for combining paid work with child rearing, when fathers are almost never held to the same standards. Where is the concern for children of working fathers? Where is the criticism of inadequate fathering? It seems that the only thing a father can do to engage similar critique is to stop being the breadwinner and become a "deadbeat dad." We praise men for their contributions toward child rearing, but we rarely hold them accountable for their children's care to the same extent that we do women.
  • She's a hypocrite She says women should be full-time mothers, but she has a writing career. She snubs women who take their children to day care, but she employed a nanny for many years. She exhorts women to cook, clean, and create lovely homes for their families, and she herself does little of this work (she employs cleaning services, etc.). Classic Flanagan from "To Hell With All That" (New Yorker, 80(18), 2004) -- she relates a story of being at a nursery school event:

    It was a dinner dance with an auction, and the signal items up for bid were chairs hand-painted by the members of each class, a project that had been laboriously created and supervised by an exceedingly earnest and energetic athome mother. . . Leaning against a far column watching her, with drinks in their hands and sardonic half-smiles on their faces, were two of my friends: a lawyer and a movie producer. . . We looked at the woman --- think of all she'd sacrificed to stay home with her children, think of the time she'd spent dipping our own children's hands in paint so that they could press their little prints on the miniature Adirondack chairs. "Get a life," one of us said, and we all laughed and drank some more. And then we turned our backs on the auction and talked about work. But I'm craven enough to change colors if the occasion calls for it. "Is that poor child's mother ever at school?" someone hissed when a (perfectly happy) little girl marched off with her nanny one recent afternoon. "I've never seen her," I clucked back, feeling guilty about knifing the absent mother and glad as hell that I hadn't sent my own nanny to pick up the boys that day."

    This is a woman who is opportunistic and hypocritical -- she will say whatever will sell best at the moment. And yet she has the hubris to criticize Laura Schlessinger for being a hypocrite for not living by the standards she advocates("Do As I Say", Atlantic, 293(1))!

    You know what? I've given this woman far too much of my time already. She needs to be ignored, because she has nothing important to say; she contributes nothing to our understanding of women's or men's lives or how to make them better. She needs to stop writing until she can figure out what she really wants to say, other than to claim a superior status to which she has no legitimate right and get paid for the privilege.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Today's fortune

You are imbued with extraordinary vitality.

I also have a bunch of new music to inspire my dancing -- yippee!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Cool website

Check out this website which shows you all the facial muscles and how they relate to facial expressions -- very cool! Very useful for drawing or for the study of emotional expression. Did you know we have an "irony muscle" (the risorius muscle) which pulls the mouth to the side in an ironic smile?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Secrets of happy, enduring relationships

I gave a talk at the college on Monday entitled "Is Love Enough? The Science of Intimate Relationships." It was very well-attended (we had people spilling into the hallway), and we had a great discussion of what factors researchers have found which correlate with relationship satisfaction and longevity in couples. It's a great topic, because there is direct applicability of the findings to improving one's own life. I ended with the question: Why is it that all couples start out enthusiastic and happy, and yet so many relationships end with bitterness and rancor? People rarely walk into their wedding saying, "I really hate my fiance" or "Well, this is ok, but I'm really waiting for my soul mate to come along." And yet 50% of marriages end in divorce (and often not a friendly one). What happens, and how can researchers help couples more effectively create happy relationships?

Please note: I'm not suggesting that relationships should last forever. There are many good reasons to separate from one's partner (abuse, etc.). I have no problems with that. I just hope the research can help people who really want to stay together and make it work be able to find more effective methods of building relationship. But with that said, sometimes the right thing for each individual person is to part ways. One of the weakness of the research on couples often prioritizes the maintenance of the couple over the needs of the individual, which is a limited perspective.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

What will they think of next?

This one is for kiaroskuro and cheqyr. Something to ask for next Valentine's Day...or maybe Halloween?

Check out the chocolate skulls!

Saturday, March 4, 2006

So Tired

I. Am. So. Tired.
Too many hours of coaching and stage managing for the campus performance of The Vagina Monologues. Both shows were great -- the cast and crew did a terrific job and both shows were well-attended and we raised several thousand dollars for organizations working to end violence against women. They also gave me some beautiful roses as a thank-you. But now I'm in post-production ennui (augmented, I'm sure by staying out too late last night chatting with students from the cast). Now I have to get caught up on everything else that didn't get done while I was at rehearsals.

My to-do list includes:
  • Write exams for two different classes by Monday
  • Finish organizing a silent auction to raise money for the Women's Studies Scholarship Fund at the Women's Studies Breakfast on Wednesday -- some very cool items so far, including jewelry, molas, tickets to local events, pillows, scarves, Brazilian crafts, etc.
  • Grade grade grade student papers and journals
  • Write my yearly evaluation packet
  • Dance!
  • Prep for the Zar workshop on Tuesday (I'm TA-ing for Yasmin, need to format the warm-up and make sure the tech is ready)
  • Work on various unfinished projects as time permits (too many to list!)

Gosh, that just makes me feel even more exhausted!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Another Katrina horror story

New Orleans Hospital Staff Discussed Mercy Killings

I don't know if anyone was actually given a lethal injection, but I just found myself thinking about what it would feel like to be in this situation...a health care professional in the middle of a natural disaster, with patients too ill to evacuate safely...what does one do? Do you stay with your patients, facing your own potential injury or death from the hurricane? Do you leave your patients behind, to face the disaster alone? Do you evacuate them, knowing that it will probably kill them? Or do you decide to give them a lethal injection to save them the prospect of dying in the disaster or the evacuation?

Any way you look at it, it's a horrible situation.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Dance musings

I had my every-other-Monday restaurant dance gig tonight, which was fun but exhausting. I find it really hard to shift gears from my day job to dancer so rapidly, and it was an unusually long day at work without any really substantial meals, so I am just feeling "off." However, I did manage to thoroughly embarrass a young girl by getting her up to dance...or rather, I got her up to stand in front of me, completely immobile. I joshed her a bit and moved her hips for her, and then I let her go back to her seat. Her sister, meantime, had pulled her head completely inside her coat (like a turtle) so as to avoid being called to dance. What makes people so intimidated about getting up to dance with the belly dancer? Anyway, everyone seemed to have fun, which is the point. And I like my new music set -- it has a very peppy Hakim song which makes me happy everytime I hear it.

Now I think I need to go to bed, since I am not getting any real work done. After all, tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A rare humorous contribution

I am, again, helping coach the performers for our campus performance of Eve Ensler's play, The Vagina Monologues You should all come see it (Feb. 25 at the Rockville campus of Montgomery College, and Mar. 3 at the Germantown campus of Montgomery College).

Anyway, I was coaching two students who are doing the same monologue -- one at the first show and one at the second show. As one of them left, she said, "goodbye, vagina twin." My instant quip was, "Pussy twin powers, activate! Form of...a vagina! Shape of...another vagina!"

All the students in the room cracked up, and one of them rushed to write it down. I love being able to say outrageous things like that at my job. When I do a brief warm-up for the performers, I usually include a moaning exercise, since it seems to really loosen them up and get them out of there more careful daily selves. And you should hear what comes out of my mouth in my Human Sexuality class!

I love my job.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Dangerous VP on the loose

Vice-President Dick Cheney shot a 78-year-old lawyer on Feb. 11, claiming it to be a hunting accident. James Brady, who was shot during the assassination attempt on Pres. Reagan's life, and his wife, Sarah, responding to the news:

"Now I understand why Dick Cheney keeps asking me to go hunting with him," said Jim Brady. "I had a friend once who accidentally shot pellets into his dog - and I thought he was an idiot." "I've thought Cheney was scary for a long time," Sarah Brady said. "Now I know I was right to be nervous."

Marc Fisher, in his blog on the Washington Post, comments:
Why this story is being played as a brite--that's newspaper lingo for a cute little piece that offers the reader a chuckle--is beyond me. Here's the #2 guy in the nation firing a weapon and hitting a 78-year-old lawyer from Austin, sending him to intensive care. The vice president's office delayed releasing the news for a day (if a vice president shoots somebody deep in the heart of Texas and nobody hears, did it really happen?), the victim was flown to a trauma center and remains in the ICU, and Dick Cheney puts out a statement saying he's glad the guy is doing "fine?" I'm not a doctor, but I've been in enough ICUs to know this: If you're there, you're not "fine." Apparently, the victim will survive and that's good to hear. But isn't it a bit unseemly for the veep to have left town on the afternoon following the quail hunting expedition? If you shot somebody by accident, wouldn't you want to stick around for a couple of days to make certain he was "fine," to express your apology to the family, to offer to help in some way? Even if you are vice president and spend much of your time in secret locations, doesn't basic human decency call for you to cancel your plans and sit tight?

Makes you think...

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Beading meditation

I've rediscovered the fact that I can spend most of a day sewing beads onto fabric and not get bored. It's very soothing and meditative. This is despite the fact that it seems to take forever to cover even an inch of the base fabric...I'm working with Delicas, which are tiny. But the necklace is coming out well, so far -- red and gold, very sparkly! It's a gift for a friend, which makes it even more fun to work on. Plus, I get to watch (or listen to) interesting DVDs while I sew, which is harder when I'm sewing on the machine. And if Q is there, we can snuggle while I bead (as long as I don't accidentally stick him with the needle or sew him into the project!).

I wish I could be beading, instead of writing a worksheet and battling a sinus infection.

Monday, February 6, 2006

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Immersed in pornographic history

I watched the documentary Inside Deep Throat this week, which describes the history of the film Deep Throat, and it was fascinating, on a number of levels. First of all, I've also been reading a book called Grindhouse, which details the history of "adult-only" film in the U.S., and seeing Inside Deep Throat in that context was illuminating, both in terms of its similarities and differences with previous adult-only films. The documentary did an excellent job of framing the film in its cultural context and had very good interview and footage material from the major players in the film's history and relevant academic commentary. Plus, it had extensive, interesting bonus material. The directors clearly got really immersed in the topic and couldn't fit all the great material into the film. I highly recommend the documentary for those interested in the topic. Note: it is rated NC-17, since it includes sexually explicit scenes from the original film.

Some interesting facts:
  • The Miller test for obscenity (as handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court, and still the legal standard today) states that, in order for some material to be obscene, it must (among other things) be without any socially redeeming value. In one of the obscenity cases against Deep Throat, the defense case included a pitch for the film's having value in part through its message that women are entitled to sexual satisfaction, in that the female lead is questing for an orgasmic experience of her own. The prosecution rejoinder was that the film's emphasis on clitoral stimulation for the woman to reach orgasm emphasized the wrong kind of orgasm for women -- that the film encouraged women to believe that it was ok to have an orgasm through clitoral stimulation, and that belief was incorrect, in that women should strive for the vaginal orgasm (as was originally promulgated by Sigmund Freud). This debate was occurring in front of a judge who didn't know what the clitoris was and had to be educated on basic female anatomy. This was in the 1970s. (Dr. Ruth's comment to that in the documentary was that the judge and prosecution should have been in her classes, where she would have taught them the importance of the clitoris in women's orgasm.)
  • The obscenity case against Deep Throat produced the first federal prosecution of an actor (the male actor in the film) on obscenity charges; although he was found guilty, the charge was later overturned on appeal.
  • Deep Throat was produced and distributed through one of the prominent NY organized crime families.
  • Deep Throat was not the first sexually explicit film to be produced or shown in the U.S., nor was it the first to be shown in mainstream theaters -- although the inclusion of X-rated films in mainstream theaters was very new in the U.S. But it was probably the first in the mainstream theaters to be primarily about sex (as opposed to I Am Curious (Yellow), which was really a political polemic which included explicit sexuality), as well as being unapologetic/nonmoralistic in its depiction of erotic and explicit sex, and attempting to be funny. It was probably a combination of factors (including a positive article about "porno chic" in the NYT) which thrust it into the national spotlight (pardon the pun). It was one of the few sexually explicit films which drew a mainstream audience, not just the raincoat brigade. This was additionally fueled by the government's effort to ban it (thanks to Nixon's War on Smut) -- there have been several adult-only films which gained increasing success once there was an effort to censor them. (I'm not sure what that says about human nature.)
  • Although the film grossed huge sums of money and cost very little to produce, very few of those involved made any significant amount of money (apart from the producers).
  • The federal prosecutor for the obscenity case, when interviewed in the film, essentially stated that he thought more obscenity cases should be brought in today's society, and that if we could just get rid of the terrorist distraction, he and his staff would be on the forefront of the war on obscenity.

Interesting stuff. Makes me curious to see the original film!

I was also really struck by pornography's complex messages regarding women's sexuality. At one level, modern pornography holds a liberatory message for women, in that it embraces the notion that women want sex and that it ok for women to enjoy sex (even outside of marriage) and to seek sexual satisfaction. This overturns the Victorian notion of the asexual woman and the double standard which brands any woman who engages in sex with multiple partners or strangers a "slut." At another level, pornography continues to frame women's sexuality in terms of male definitions and fantasies -- in Deep Throat for example, the device of her having a clitoris in her throat creates a context in which fellatio is just as satisfying to her as it is for her male partner, playing into the fantasy that male satisfaction and female satisfaction derive from the same sources. Pornography promotes a number of harmful myths about sexuality; anyone who learns about sex through pornography will have a skewed and inaccurate understanding of female (and male!) sexuality. So at one level, I can see the positive power of demystifying sex through pornography, as well as the usefulness of erotica and pornography for personal sexual exploration and arousal -- it can serve a number of useful purposes. On the other hand, it continues to promote unrealistic and harmful ideas about sexuality, and in a cultural context which provides inconsistent and incomplete sex education, I worry about the role of pornography in people's beliefs and understandings of real sexuality.

What do you think: Pornography good or bad?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Contagious meme

Rule of four, borrowed from kiaroskuro, who borrowed it from markbalahadia

Four jobs you have had in your life
  • Waitress
  • Telemarketer but it was only for a month, I swear!
  • College professor
  • Belly dancer

Four movies you could watch over and over
  • The Princess Bride
  • Blazing Saddles
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the original, with Gene Wilder)
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Four places you've lived
  • Chicago, IL USA
  • Fern Park, FL USA
  • Highland Park, NJ USA
  • Philadelphia, PA USA

Four TV shows you love to watch
  • Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Angel
  • The X-Files
  • Star Trek (in most/all of its incarnations)
  • Various Britcoms (Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Vicar of Dibley, etc.)

Four places you've been on vacation
  • Paris, France
  • San Francisco, CA USA
  • Toronto, Canada
  • Myst & Riven[TM]

Four of your favorite foods
  • CAKE! White cake with white frosting. But good white frosting...buttery, not too fluffy, but not overly sweet, and preferably with some roses or other frosting-based decorations on it. But not too much frosting, either. Just the right amount. They make it perfectly at Prantl's in Pittsburgh, PA, if you're ever there. CAKE! Oooh, and can I have some ice cream in a little dish on the side, to eat right after the cake, or maybe interspersed with bites of cake? And then another helping of both later on?
  • Buttered toast. Not too dark, but definitely toasted, and with margarine or whipped butter (regular butter is too cold and tears the bread). And then another slice, just like it.
  • Diet Coke. Does that count as a food? It has no nutritional value...
  • Pesto or pizza made by Q, or pretty much any meal I get to share with him.

Four places you'd rather be right now
  • In bed, sleeping, with no need for an alarm clock in the morning
  • Snuggling with Q
  • In my textile studio or my dance studio
  • Someplace where my obligations don't exist, and there are extra hours in the day just for me...although maybe I'll share them with friends.

Four sites you visit daily
The Washington Post
Montgomery College