Saturday, May 31, 2014

Singalong! Together Again by Janet Jackson

This song is pure high school dance for me.  My distinct memory of it was it coming on at a dance (I'm going to guess grade 9).  I made fun of the dance moves and the lyrics about a desperate girl wanting to get back together with her man.  Then my friend informed me that it's about her friend who died and and felt like a big ol' jerk.  It's a great song though!


TOGETHER AGAIN
by Janet Jackson

There are times
When I look above
And beyond
There are times when I feel your love
Around me baby
I'll never forget my baby
(I'll never forget you)

There are times when I look above and beyond
There are times when I feel your love around me baby
I'll never forget my baby

When I feel that I don't belong
Draw my strength
From the words when you said
Hey it's about you baby
Look deeper inside you baby

[BRIDGE]
Dream about us together again
What I want us together again baby
I know we'll be together again cuz

[CHORUS:]
Everywhere I go
Every smile I see
I know you are there
Smilin back at me
Dancin in moonlight
I know you are free
Cuz I can see your star
Shinin down on me

(together again, ooh)
Good times we'll share again
(together again, ooh)
Makes me wanna dance
(together again, ooh)
Say it loud and proud
(together again, ooh)
All my love's for you

Always been a true angel to me
Now above
I can't wait for you to wrap your wings around me baby
Oooh wrap them around me baby

Sometimes hear you whisperin
No more pain
No worries will you ever see now baby
I'm so happy for my baby

[BRIDGE]

[CHORUS]

(together again, ooh)
Good times we'll share again
(together again, ooh)
Ooh it makes me wanna dance
(together again, ooh)
Say it loud and proud
(together again, ooh)
All my love's for you

There are times when I look above and beyond
There are times when I feel you smile upon me baby
I'll never forget my baby

What I'd give just to hold you close
As on earth
In heaven we will be together baby
Together again my baby

[CHORUS (2x)]

Friday, May 30, 2014

Learning! Dads Who Do Chores Make Ambitious Daughters

This is a nice one to share in the wake of #YesAllWomen: a recent study shows that the daughters of men who do chores around the house are more likely to aspire to "nontraditional" work.


Turns out that kids -- gasp! -- kids don't just blindly listen to what their parents are saying.  They watch what their parents are doing as well.  Parents may say all the right things about gender equality, but if they display more traditional gender roles, their kids are going to pick up on it.  Especially the daughters.

Girls whose dads don't help out around the house reported aspirations to female-typical occupations like stay-at-home-mom, nurse, or teacher.  Girls whose dads do help out around the house are more likely to report aspirations to work in business and leadership.

Now, I want to be careful here not to fall into the "being a successful feminist means being a business mogul" trap.  Of course the occupations of nursing, teaching, or staying at home for the kids are important and valuable contributions.  HOWEVER, I think we all want any human child's career aspirations to be motivated by a perception that all options are open to them, not influenced by the implicit demonstration of traditional roles.

So, dads, listen up.  You want your daughters to actually think they can be whatever they want?  Pitch in around the house.  What you do tells them a lot more than what you say.

Source.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Inspiration! Sugru's Fixer's Manifesto

I love fixing things and it makes me sad how many people will throw something out that is entirely fixable.  Here is a manifesto to inspire us all to this regard, via Sugru.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Singalong! I've Got Your Fire by Jenn Grant

Jenn Grant!  I just discovered her recently and I have a major crush.  Something in her voice - it's so grounded yet light with a bit of a growly twinge from time to time.  I dig her and so should you.  This is the first song of hers that I heard and it is haunting.


I'VE GOT YOUR FIRE
Jenn Grant

Beautiful lady, she had her baby
She walked ten miles.
Through the snow with the wind blowing cold
she said, gotta get away for a while
through the summer til’ the end of October
Heaven knows how she tried
Oh Angel, she cried Gabriel, can you keep me in line?
Oh, hear em sing.

I’ve got your fire, I’ve got your fire
I’ve got you fired up.

Ooh love, Take what your heart can take
Ooh love, take what your heart can’t take

ooh ooh

Oh Sadie, she had her mind made up fast.
Singing Let it Be, she took her chance at another pass
Running through the streets, she was the wild beauty queen
Oh Angel, she cried Gabriel, can you keep me in line?
Oh hear em sing

I’ve got your fire, I’ve got your fire,
I’ve got you fired up.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Learning! The History of the English Language in 10 Minutes

The title says it all.  This is a lovely little animated video giving the history of the English language in 10 minutes.  Cute and informative.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Inspiration! Belief is More Powerful than Proof


As anyone who's tried to convince someone out of their beliefs using proofs knows.  Let's remember this when we are confronted with proofs that counter our beliefs or when we are trying to convince someone of something.  Maybe we should just let them believe.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Singalong! I'm Only Happy When it Rains by Garbage

More on the alt-punkish girl music from my early days: Garbage.  Shirley Manson was so cool.  I loved her red hair (always wanted to be a red head) and style.  She seemed to straddle sleek feminine style with up-yours attitude that seemed so incredible to me.  I do not have an up-yours attitude and don't really know how to get one.


I'M ONLY HAPPY WHEN IT RAINS
by Garbage

I'm only happy when it rains
I'm only happy when it's complicated
And though I know you can't appreciate it
I'm only happy when it rains

You know I love it when the news is bad
And why it feels so good to feel so sad
I'm only happy when it rains

Pour your misery down, pour your misery down on me
Pour your misery down, pour your misery down on me

I'm only happy when it rains
I feel good when things are going wrong
I only listen to the sad, sad songs
I'm only happy when it rains

I only smile in the dark
My only comfort is the night gone black
I didn't accidentally tell you that
I'm only happy when it rains

You'll get the message by the time I'm through
When I complain about me and you
I'm only happy when it rains

Pour your misery down (Pour your misery down)
Pour your misery down on me (Pour your misery down)
Pour your misery down (Pour your misery down)
Pour your misery down on me (Pour your misery down)
Pour your misery down (Pour your misery down)
Pour your misery down on me (Pour your misery down)
Pour your misery down

You can keep me company
As long as you don't care

I'm only happy when it rains
You wanna hear about my new obsession?
I'm riding high upon a deep depression
I'm only happy when it rains (Pour some misery down on me)

I'm only happy when it rains (Pour some misery down on me)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Learning! 34 American Lady Scientists Who Changed the World

Our good friends, the list-makers at Buzzfeed, made a great list of 34 American Lady Scientists Who Changed the World. A nice reminder, in a field that's very man-heavy, that the ladies were out there as early as can be making discoveries too. And back when it was wholly unladylike to do so.

Mary Agnes Chase - photo found on Buzzfeed

There are plenty to check out - look at them all on the Buzzfeed post.

I like Mary Agnes Chase the best because people were like, "We won't fund your research! You're a woman! That is terrible!" and she was like, "Fine, I'll fund my own." (Of course, I assume she was of some form of independent means to be able to do this, but maybe she held a car wash.)

Also cool: Roger Arliner Young was the first African American woman to receive a doctorate in zoology.  Botanist Matilda Moldenhauer Brooks discovered the antidote for carbon monoxide poisoning.  Florence Barbara Seibert discovered the skin test for TB.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

the problem with oleanna

This month I've been helping a friend out with publicity for a production of Oleanna.  I realize that writing a post about the show is automatically suspect, since it's still running and I'm helping promote it, but truth be told, this play makes me think about a lot of things and I just want to get them out.  I won't pretend that I wouldn't love it if you went to see it, but heck, that's not what this post is about, so let's just move on.

Oh, also, there are probably some spoilers in this post, so if you care about keeping the plot of a play that was written over twenty years ago a secret, don't read on.

Oleanna is, for me, a very problematic play.  Well-written, for sure.  Full of Mamet's penchant for controversy, you bet.  Controversy isn't problematic, but the fact that this play is billed (and intended to be) "the ultimate he-said/she-said."  It's meant to be, I imagine, something like Shanley's Doubt, where - when played "right" - the audience walks out not knowing who was right or wrong.

In some ways, Oleanna play achieves that.  Everyone leaves this play arguing.  There is, however, one, major problem: no matter how much John (the professor) is a sleaze, a dirt bag, a total pompous jerk, or anything else unlikeable, Carol takes it too far.  Carol is clearly making an example out of John, and that is problematic because nobody likes watching someone be made an example of.  We like to see mean and privileged people knocked down from their pedestals, sure, but we don't like seeing them stomped to a pulp while down there.  Then we start to feel sorry for them.

The problem is in the structure of the play.  In scene one we see John dominating Carol and, potentially, being sexually inappropriate.  Scene two shows Carol in power and John begging for help, and then physically restraining Carol at the end of it.  Scene three, John is ruined and Carol continues in her mission to destroy him.  Here is where the who's right/who's wrong battle gets lost.  Yes, John may have been wrong before, but now Carol is taking it a step too far and her perspective is washed away as too extreme.  It's been too long since we saw John being terrible - this is now the second scene running where he is knocked down and she has lost sympathy.

The infuriating aspect to all this is that Carol makes so many good points.  John represents everything that is wrong with benign patriarchy.  He thinks he is helping.  He does, to a degree, care.  But ultimately he wants power and he hurts those who get in his way.  His violent turn in the end also show how this patriarchy, that can seem so innocuous, lives on the same spectrum as violence and rape, and it really takes a tiny nudge to knock it over that edge.

To those who argue that he was provoked and we would all act out violently provoked, I say - true.  Sort of.  When he physically restrains her, that's an example of using force out of desperation.  If, at the end of the play, he hit her, restrained her, or did another small acts of violence, then I would say that yes, it was an act of violence out of desperation because he was provoked.  That's not all he does, though.  He hits her, knocks her down, and chokes her while yelling "you deserve to be raped!"  This is different, and speaks to the violence on the flip side of patriarchal culture.

Yet this argument is almost completely lost, because of how Mamet structured the play and how he wrote Carol.

This is, of course, a problem in a lot of Mamet plays.  Mamet's women are, overall, problematic.  They are usually sneaky, conniving, and out to ruin someone's life over an arbitrary grudge or to make a point.

I think this all gets summed up very well by my first reaction to reading Oleanna.  I was a young theatre student, and it was the first Mamet play I had ever read or encountered.  I found it in a used book store and thought "oh, I still haven't read any Mamet, I should do that", and bought it.  After I got to the end of the play, I have a distinct memory of closing the book and one sentence running through my head: "I guess David Mamet doesn't like women very much."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Inspiration! Portraits of Famous Artists and Their Quirks by James Gulliver Hancock

This is awesome.  Artist James Gulliver Hancock is publishing an amazing-looking art book called Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers: Portraits of 50 Famous Folks and All Their Weird Stuff. It features his fun and quirky drawings of famous artists (and, allegedly, writers, thinkers, and dreamers) complete with a bunch of quirky facts about them. My favourite is this one of Salvador Dali:

Salvador Dali portrait by James Gulliver Hancock

"I don't tale drugs. I am drugs." HA!  Aren't we all?

Somehow seeing all the random little doodads that went into all these amazing artists' lives makes me feel better about all the random doodads in my life. And it's nice to see that Salvador Dali had to do some commercial art work once and a while too.

Found on Hyperallergic.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Cute! Drawer Cat

What else is there to do with a day but curl up among your owner's zebra print booty shorts?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

What's the deal with unhappy girl shows?

I'm currently watching Frances Ha.  It is making me think of Girls and realize why I stopped wanting to watch it.  What is with this new wave of shows about self-absorbed young women who have nothing going on in their lives and expect everyone around them to make it better and who make bad decisions?

I guess this has been a trope of "cool" youth-type shows forever, except now it's people who are supposed to be adults and they never learn anything.  Maybe I'm just over the whole existential-sadness thing and so I don't find it deep or compelling?

Okay, non-rant over.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Singalong! Celebrity Skin by Hole

I've been getting into some girly alt-punk-type music lately.  Maybe I should call it punk lite?  Like Kate Nash's Death Proof album.  (Can anyone listen to her cover of All Day and All of the Night without getting all hot and bothered?)  Anyways, it's getting me back in touch with the alt side of my teenage years, which is bringing me back to Hole.  I actually saw Courtney Love when she toured to Vancouver last summer.  She seemed like she could care less about what she was doing at first, blindly playing through her hits, until about halfway through when she suddenly came to life, writhing against the walls of the stage, smoking, drinking, and cursing out an audience member for taking a rose that she meant to give to someone else.  Oh, Courtney.  I thought you were some kind of feminist icon back in the day - which I suppose you were...


CELEBRITY SKIN
Hole

Oh, make me over
I'm all I wanna be
A walking study
In demonology

Hey, so glad you could make it
Yeah, now you've really made it
Hey, so glad you could make it now

Oh, look at my face
My name is might have been
My name is never was
My name's forgotten

Hey, so glad you could make it
Yeah, now you've really made it
Hey, there's only us left now

When I wake up in my makeup
It's too early for that dress
Wilted and faded somewhere in Hollywood
I'm glad I came here with your pound of flesh
No second billing 'cause you're a star now
Oh, Cinderella, they aren't sluts like you
Beautiful garbage, beautiful dresses
Can you stand up or will you just fall down?

You better watch out
Oh, what you wish for
It better be worth it
So much to die for

Hey, so glad you could make it
Yeah, now you've really made it
Hey, there's only us left now

When I wake up in my makeup
Have you ever felt so used up as this?
It's all so sugarless, hooker/waitress
Model/actress, oh, just go nameless!
Honeysuckle, she's full of poison
She obliterated everything she kissed
Now she's fading somewhere in Hollywood
I'm glad I came here with your pound of flesh

You want a part of me?
Well, I'm not selling cheap
No, I'm not selling cheap

Friday, May 9, 2014

Learning! Who Kills Most?

Quick!  Without looking at the image below (don't do it!) guess what creature you think kills the most humans per year?  Sharks?  Humans?  Scary spiders?  Aliens?  NOPE.  Mosquitos.  Stupid, little, annoying mosquitos and all the diseases they spread.


It's true!  Funnily enough, I came across this graphic about a week after listening to a Radiolab podcast called Kill 'Em All! about how terrible and death-causing mosquitos are.  Then I saw this graphic on It's Okay to be Smart and he also references the Radiolab podcast, making me feel smart for listening to something that a smart person listens to.

Also, I learned some things about mosquitos:

Throughout all of history they have killed the most humans ever.  In fact, about half of the people who have died EVER died because of a mosquito bite-related illness, and most of the people they kill are children.

There is a mosquito factory in Brazil where they are making dude mosquitos that have a tiny genetic component that will cause their babies to die, wiping out entire generations of mosquitos AND putting an end to the mutant mosquitos quickly so the mutation doesn't spread out of control.  As much as I'm against messing with nature, this actually seems like a pretty clever way to do it.  They released these killer mosquitos in regions that have lots of malaria-type deaths and the number of deaths dropped dramatically in one year!

Speaking of messing with nature, generally I think it's a bad idea to, say, genetically engineer mosquitos that will cause their babies to all die.  Everything is connected.  Ecosystems are complicated.  Mother Nature is a complex lady who will bite us if we mess with her.  However, as far as we know, mosquitos are useless on the earth.  They don't pollinate, they don't seem to be necessary for keeping other populations in check, and the populations that feed on them also feed on other bountiful creatures.  There is most likely something we're missing, but right now it looks like maybe we could just kill them all.  Weird.

Listen to Kill 'Em All! here:

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Things I Take Too Seriously: Political Correctness, the Implicit Bias Edition



There are some things I take a bit too seriously.  Of course, if you ask me, I'm actually taking it all just the right amount of seriously.  Unfortunately, a lot of other people don't see life the exact same way I do, so I sometimes suddenly realize that I'm on a horse and it's pretty high and everyone else is rolling their eyes as I have gotten halfway through a rant.

The issue that gets me generally boils down to other people wanting there to be less political correctness in the world, and me thinking that it's necessary.

Defining the term: when I say "political correctness" I don't mean pretending that ethnicity or cultural differences don't exist.  I don't mean pretending it's not Christmas if you celebrate Christmas or that we're all the same.

I mean things like not getting defensive if someone else celebrates a different holiday, holding back the sexist/racist jokes, trying to refrain from making heteronormative statements, and saying things like "he or she" when the gender isn't specific, or "parent or guardian" instead of just "parent" so that kids who don't have parents feel included.

Basically, I mean being considerate of other human beings and the ways we can unintentionally hurt them or hold them back.
 

Of course, it can sometimes be annoying to try to keep up with the PC rules.  They seem to change all the time and things that we all thought were perfectly fine are suddenly taboo.  Yes, it sucks to suddenly realizing that a joke or comment I enjoyed making is actually hurting someone, but it should suck more to realize that I've been unintentionally hurting someone than to have to find a new joke or catch phrase.  It's only annoying because we are not the ones being hurt and because we are not used to being restricted.  In other words, because we are privileged.

The truth is that 98% of people I have heard complain about political correctness are white.  All are able-bodies.  Most are male, straight, and middle class.  In other words, people at the front of the privilege wagon.  Honestly, all I hear when I hear someone complain about political correctness is whiny privilege.  I hear Michael Scott, crying out in despair when he is told in the Sexual Harassment Day episode of The Office that he "can't say ANYTHING?!?"

It's funny because it's true.

Now, I'm not saying that an able-bodied, straight, white man doesn't know what it feels like to be picked on or oppressed (or that people who fall outside that category aren't sometimes annoyed with political correctness).  We all have our wounds and we all have our stories.  But if you grew up in a place where you are the majority culture, where the dominant stories told everywhere around you are your own and you had the means and support to pursue a life you wanted, where, in a large, societal sense, you are not the "other", then I'm afraid you don't get it.

Here's where people point out places they've worked where they were a minority or the fact that they travelled or have multi-ethnic friends who agree with them or live in a neighbourhood where it's "all Asian" or whatever. There is a big difference between temporarily experiencing alienation in one given context and living your entire life as an outsider to the dominant culture you live in.  Being a member of the dominant culture of Canada myself, I know that when I have felt oppressed or held back or like a minority, I still live with the comfort and knowledge that this is not my ongoing experience of life.  My privilege lies in the fact that I have a huge societal cushion supporting me in a larger sense, regardless of what my temporary experience is.

If you think that political correctness goes "too far", then I challenge you to look at it a little deeper.  What are you really losing here?  Are your rights being infringed upon?  Really?  Or are you actually just annoyed at having some power or privilege or blissful ignorance that you're accustom to being taken away?  Is your anger actually because you aren't used to experiencing restrictions that other people experience on a daily basis?  Like when a baby gets half their candy taken away because they had all the candy and there are other babies who should have candy too, for pete's sake.

It's important to realize what we haven't experienced, or what other people are not able to experience, because we were given all the candy when we were born.  When we realize that there is something we can do to give some candy back, we should do it and just shut up about it.

Honestly, I think it's okay to feel annoyed about political correctness as a privileged person.  Anyone will tell you that having something taken away that they are used to having is annoying and that's a legitimate reaction.  What is not okay is to polish that annoyance into righteous indignation or to fight to cling to every little bonus life has given us.

Sciencey Explanation: Implicit Bias

I hear a lot of people say that everyone's equal now so we should just all get over it.  (Again, the "a lot of people" I hear say thee things are white, middle class, able-bodied people.) That's easy to say if you live in a place like Canada where there are laws on the books that declare everyone equal and everyone claims to be free of racism, sexism, ageism, and other -isms that hurt people, AND if you are a person who isn't on the other side of any of those -isms.  Because there is this nasty little thing called the implicit bias.
Definition: implicit bias occurs when someone consciously rejects a discrimination, stereotypes, or other racist/sexist/ageist/etc-ist behaviour, but holds unconscious negative associations with other groups.
We all have implicit bias, and we don't realize it - that is, after all, how it works, it's unconscious.  Pair that with the fact that we live in a world where social structures were put into place while groups of people were being actively and legally oppressed, and we need to take some intentional steps to see where we're hurting and holding people back in the world without realizing it.  This is where political correctness steps in.

I read a great article recently called "Oops! Your Implicit Bias is Showing."  It discusses a study where the same research memo was evaluated by law firm partners, some told that the writer was white, some that he was black.  The piece had many different errors intentionally sprinkled throughout.  The summary is that when people thought the writer was white, he had potential and just needed to fix a few things up.  When they thought he was black, he was "average at best" and seemed uneducated.  They even found more spelling errors with the black writer than the white writer.

I will bet you that none of the partners evaluating this document thought of themselves as racist.  Because they aren't - at least not intentionally.  They do, however, have an implicit bias.  One you and I both have as well, I'd bet.

There is a lot more research and evidence on this topic, showing how many unconscious biases we hold.  In fact, there is an "Implicit Associations Test" that you can take right now that will reveal your implicit biases.  Most people fail.

The point isn't to just sing a few bars of "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" from Avenue Q and get over it.  While it is good to recognize that we've all got some racism in us, it is also important to take active steps to get rid of it - which is the cue for political correctness to enter the scene.  By watching what ideas we are really supporting in the little things we say and do, in the labels we give people and the jokes we make, we can actually make a difference.  Instead of being annoying, could this not be empowering?

At the end of the day, yes, you get to say whatever you want.  In Canada, you will be stopped from spreading hate or fear and that's about it.  Go ahead and make a comment implying that everyone is straight (heteronormativity), complain about bad Asian drivers (racism), talk about what you want to "do to" that girl with the hot ass (sexism/rape culture), say whatever you want.  You are allowed, because there are no laws against being a jackass.  But if I'm around, you can bet I'm going to call you out on it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Inspiration! Don't be so committed to your version of reality


I love this quote.  So much.   A reminder of how small we really are, the fact that we don't know even a little bit of everything that is going on in the world, and that there are as many different perspectives as there are humans.  Plus, adding in a "bigger than human" element, it's a reminder that there is a greater perspective than all of ours, so maybe we could relax a bit.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cute! Menno Kitty

Over Easter I was going through my various paska recipes (paska, for the uninformed, is Mennonite Easter Bread). I walked out of the room and came back to find dear Gertie lying on top of The Mennonite Treasury Cookbook. She knows where to find the good stuff.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

singalong! black hole sun by soundgarden

I kind of hated this song when it first came out.  I thought the video was creepy and I felt uncomfortable with the notion of a "black hole sun" - it seemed vaguely evil to me, and evil things scared me.  Now I quite enjoy it, although I never knew the words until I looked them up for this post.  They seem kind of wannabe-riddled-with-angst-deep, but maybe I'm not giving them enough credit.  Still, it's fun to over-emotionally sing along to the chorus, don't you think?  Feel the pain that makes the sun into a big black hole.


BLACK HOLE SUN
by Soundgarden

In my eyes
Indisposed
In disguise
As no one knows
Hides the face
Lies the snake
The sun
In my disgrace
Boiling heat
Summer stench
'Neath the black
The sky looks dead
Call my name
Through the cream
And I'll hear you
Scream again

Black hole sun
Won't you come
And wash away the rain
Black hole sun
Won't you come
Won't you come

Stuttering
Cold and damp
Steal the warm wind
Tired friend
Times are gone
For honest men
And sometimes
Far too long
For snakes
In my shoes
A walking sleep
And my youth
I pray to keep
Heaven send
Hell away
No one sings
Like you
Anymore

Hang my head
Drown my fear
Till you all just
Disappear

Friday, May 2, 2014

learning! 6 complicated concepts explained with kitchen items


Just like we teach kids math with slices of pizza, we teach ourselves string theory with spaghetti, financial derivatives with peanut butter, and the big bang with muffins.  And by "we", of course, I mean the wonderful minds of Mental Floss.  I love it!

This is especially great because some of these are concepts that I kind of think I understand or have heard of, but haven't put the name together with the actual idea before, or just don't feel confident enough in my knowledge of it to join a conversation.  Not saying I'm a pro now (although I could very well be), but my mind's hand feels like it's grasping things it wasn't before.

Read up!  Learn how ketchup relates to existentialism.  Do it here!