Month: August 2013

Dreams So Real

 

I can’t believe I waited so long to listen to the latest Metric album.

“Dreams So Real” is #amazeballs.

 

 

“When I get to the bottom of it I sink
Seems like nothing I said ever meant anything
But a headline over my head
Thought I made a stand
Only made a scene

There’s no feast for the underfed
All the unknown dying or dead
Keep showing up in my dreams
They stand at the end of my bed

Have I ever really helped
anybody but myself?
To believe in the power of songs
To believe in the power of girls
Though the point we’re making is gone
Play it stripped down to my thong

I’ll shut up and carry on
The scream becomes a yawn
I’ll shut up and carry on
The scream becomes a yawn
I’ll shut up and carry on
The scream becomes a yawn
I’ll shut up and carry on
The scream becomes a yawn
I’ll shut up and carry on
The scream becomes a yawn
I’ll shut up and carry on
The scream becomes a yawn…”

A Trip To The Library

I go to the library A LOT.

I may no longer be a student in the academic sense but I will always be a student of life!

(And it’s something fun and *free* to do— it costs $0.00!— my kind of fun)

Here’s the result of this week’s boner for books..

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I just had to snap a photo of this one, because, well… come on, it’s laughable.

After looking at the cover, I always look for the photo & mini bio to check out the author’s credentials…

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Wearing sunnies in your bio book photo = LOSS OF ANY & ALL CREDIBILITY

Needless to say, I did not check out “Don’t Say I Do!”

Clearly, for me, that ship has already sailed, but also, I just can’t put a lot of stock in something so prescriptive.

I mean, I was always against marriage having seen it as a system of privilege, but that didn’t mean I was ever going to tell people they shouldn’t get married!

BOGUS.

On to the next one…

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by Laura Vanderkam. 

Ok, Mz. Vanderkam, my interest is piqued…

Then I saw this one:

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Naturally, I checked this one out, too. Looks interesting, no?

And ironically, I came upon this one next…

*So Yin & Yang!*

No makeup  //  Yes makeup

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by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong & Heather Wood Rudulph

(yes, I checked it out too!)

Then I found the hardcore shit. Oh yeah.

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Have YOU heard of this one? I’m so curious…

 

 

Now this last one was just a perfectly timed find.

The other day my dad and I were talking on the phone, and as per usual our “hello’s” and “how are you’s” quickly turned into a discussion on economics, globalization, and foreign policy. My dad has like a bazillion degrees and one of them is in economics (I think it was the one he obtained while also getting his law degree— seriously, he is cray cray with those degrees…).

I do not have a degree in economics.

As a matter of fact, aside from taking Econ 101 in the Fall of 2006, I know nothing about economics save the oblique references to and about it throughout the course of my feminist education at Berkeley and community college. So I really wanted to find a good book to open myself up to the topic…

BOOM.

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Complete with pictures!

Now: time to read!

And please feel free to leave any other reading suggestions in the comments!

 

Book Review: BODIES by Susie Orbach

Single sentence synopsis: Bodies does for our visual culture (& our bodies), what The Omnivore’s Dilemma did for food.

And, as a matter of fact, just as The Omnivore’s Dilemma explores the disconnect between us and our food, so too does Orbach explore the disconnect between us and our bodies and its consequences.

Susie Orbach is a British psychoanalyst who has done much work for, and within, the feminist and women’s health communities, and this book is a social-psychological look at bodies, underpinned by the very feminist tenet that bodies are socially constructed and discursively materialized.

Ok, that’s a mouthful, I know, but let me explain: That is not to say that feminists are of the opinion that bodies magically materialize out of discourse, or are actually (i.e. literally) constructed limb by limb, organ by organ, out of “society.” This perspective merely holds (though there is nothing “mere” about it) that “a body…is inscribed and formed by the accretion of myriad small specific cultural practices… in certain respects, there has never been an altogether simple, “natural” body. There has only been a body that is shaped by its social and cultural designation.”

Did that help make any more sense to anyone? If not, perhaps this is a better explanation:

The point is that our very hand gestures, symbolic physical gestures, our facial expressions, our gender performativity, what we wear, how we speak , everything about the physical body— all of these material, physical aspects— are shaped by our social surroundings and cultural influences. This is what it means to say that the body is socially constructed and discursively materialized. In Orbach’s words, “Every gesture we make, the very way we move, our grace or lack of it, our physical confidence or unease, reflect both the country and local culture we have grown up in and the particular interpretation of our gestures that our mothers and those close to us have passed on.”

It is in this way that many feminists hold that there is actually no such thing as a “natural,” or “organic” body— because each body is informed, shaped, and defined within its particular social context. I think once you read the following descriptions of this book this may all make more sense… *spoiler alert: I cannot recommend this book enough*

Bodies is broken up into the following chapters:

  • Bodies In Our Time
  • Shaping The Body
  • Speaking Bodies
  • Bodies Real And Not So Real
  • And So To Sex
  • (&) What Are Bodies For?

She begins the first chapter by introducing us to Andrew, a case study of sorts. He wants to “do away” with his legs.

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I found this book in my local library, read this first page of the first chapter, and immediately checked it out and bolted home. It did not disappoint.

This first chapter is an examination of people “in the wrong bodies.” Whether it’s Andrew, who cannot feel whole unless he has rid himself of his legs, or Michaela, a prison inmate who wanted to be/ felt he was a woman. In these cases, “Biology and psychology had not melded as expected,” says Orbach.

She also proceeds to give a really great overview of the rest of the book in showing us why Bodies In Our Time is her starting point:

“Our bodies no longer make things… Our relations to the physical and physical work are shifting… Our bodies are and have become a form of work. The body is turning from being the means of production to the production itself.”

In her words, “an obsessive cultural focus on the body” has resulted in “the search for a body, disguised as preoccupation, health concern or moral endeavour. Almost everyone has  a rhetoric about trying to do right by their body which reveals a concern that the body is not at all right as it is…”

Chapter 2, Shaping The Body, is just as fascinating as the first chapter. It explores the hows and whys of the social physical world affecting an individual’s physicality. It’s about how one’s physical world/ physical upbringing can shape them, not just emotionally, but physically. There are some reeeeeally interesting case studies in this chapter, such as Victor, the boy raised by wild animals in France, found in 1799, as well Gina, a modern-day young girl who was moved from foster home to foster home. And don’t even get me started on her discussion of mirror neurons and how they play into all of this. It is insanely engrossing and does not require you to have a background in science in order to understand it (Lord knows I certainly don’t).

Speaking Bodies (Chapter 3) veers into a discussion of therapy itself, as well as the role the therapist plays. And, once again, there are a couple of very interesting case studies here.

Bodies Real And Not So Real ends up taking on a wealth of topics in addition to what I thought it would be about. Not only does she discuss avatars and computer-based relationships, but also, cosmetic surgery, dieting, pregnancy, the controversial French Artist, Orlan, and more. Did you know that, “Diets, it turns out, promote chaotic eating”? As a matter of fact, according to Orbach’s research, “Diets can cause people to gain weight. They are not a wise response to “overweight,” but are part of the destabilising of the ordinary processes of eating.” Furthermore, “overweight people who exercise have a lower mortality rate than thin people who do not. So [as Orbach postulates] one is led to wonder why thin has erroneously become the gold standard for health.” Another significant fact: “In 1995 the World Health Organisation, under pressure from the International Obesity Task Force, revised the BMI in such a way that 300,000 Americans who had previously thought they were “normal” weight woke up to find themselves reclassified. Brad Pitt and George Bush, for example, were now overweight… and George Clooney and Russell Crowe were obese.” And this is just the tip of the iceberg to this chapter alone. These are mere brushstrokes to the greater work she is painting with this book…

She begins the second to last chapter, And So To Sex, with an anecdote almost as galvanizing as the first story of the book (Andrew’s story), except, of course, this time it involves sex. I can’t help but think that this chapter should be read by every person on this planet that has sex. Maybe even those who don’t. But then again, I also think everyone should read this book. That’s just how much I loved it.

And finally, with What Are Bodies For?, she leaves us with the culmination of this work in its entirety. And it’s really relatable. I suppose that’s why I loved the book so much in the first place, and why I couldn’t help but think upon finishing it, “BY GOD, EVERY HUMAN BEING IN THIS COUNTRY NEEDS TO READ THIS BOOK!” It’s relatable. It’s about all of us. It is pertinent to our very individual and collective existence.

If I haven’t succeeded in making you want to go out and read this 179 page book yet, I don’t know what else to say except that… it’s intriguing, insightful, possibly cathartic, significantly relevant, and ultimately, if you have a body, it’s about you.

Now isn’t that worth reading?

 

A Vindication of the Rights of Pin-Ups

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“America’s Forgotten Pin-Up Girl,” Hilda

 

I am really feeling the sting of woman on woman deprecation today.

And in the name of feminism no less!

First there was the article on how straight feminists hate lesbian feminists, (which, thankfully, was sufficiently rebutted by others’ comments) and then almost immediately after, I came across this post condemning women that are fond of pin-ups and/or like to dress up in the pin-up style. The following words are in response to the currently trending popularity of this pin-up character from the past, “Hilda” (pictured above).

 

Here’s what the post said (taken from this article):

“We currently live in a “pin-up” culture where women are only granted visibility when they display their bodies for public consumption; therefore, most women are groomed and disciplined from young ages to have pin-up ready bodies.

That’s what white-centered postfeminism is all about. A vision of sexual liberation that hinges on the male gaze and male approval. Now we can sit here and have that long, uncritical, derailing conversation about women who “choose” to strip and enjoy being “pin-ups”; but I’m going to spare myself a stroke and move on, because talking about “individual agency” is irrelevant when we’re discussing hegemony.

When women fight to end negative media representations of women in contemporary culture, yet still circulate vintage images of white, female, pin-ups, they’re missing how the culture surrounding vintage pin-up girls largely informs the sexism that we’re trying to fight today.

This is what happens when we only focus on the individual and not the system that conditions the individual.

If we have a superficial surface-level understanding of oppression, then we will have superficial surface-level solutions. It’s that simple. Posting up any sized sexualized woman on your wall, originally created for men, won’t solve the reality that systemically, women are degraded, dehumanized, and are robbed of understanding their sexualities organically. It also teaches men that sexualizing “diverse” or “alternative” bodies is progressive and therefore acceptable.

Additionally, as I reiterate all of the time, the idea of publicly displaying your sexualized body is largely a white enterprise and endeavor. Black women are not granted the same privileges when we showcase our bodies because we’re viewed as public property; evidenced through our high rape rates and low pay-rates in spaces of sex work, etc.”

 

I think it goes without saying that I do not like this attack on pin-up girls/pin-up culture.

More importantly than what I do, or do not like, however, is the fact that saying, “talking about “individual agency” is irrelevant when we’re discussing hegemony,” ignores the very multi-faceted world of pin-up culture as well as the individuals participating within it— which is relevant. (Since when is talking about the parts of a picture irrelevant to the picture as a whole?) While the author’s critique invokes the rhetoric of “hegemony,” he or she is creating a hegemonic feminism of their own, in which all other feminists who like to participate in and enjoy pin-up culture are castigated.

The feminism I learned about was more accepting than this. While I do understand the perspective from which this author is writing (I did study gender politics at Berkeley after all), I choose to not make such sweeping generalizations about people, or groups of people (except Republicans, of course… Just kidding! I actually do really like Meghan McCain, so there). To imply that just because someone likes to wear pretty dresses and curl their hair, they “have a superficial surface-level understanding of oppression” is extremely insulting.

For me, the recognition of various forms of subjugation (via studying feminist theory) has meant the ability to see through such cultural patterns and influences, actively resist them, and perhaps even become self-definitional if such a thing is possible. Just because I indulge in pin-up fashion on occasion does not mean that I don’t know the history behind it, nor does it mean that I don’t understand the gendered, sociopolitical implications of it. And I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only one (okay I know for a fact that I’m not). As a matter of fact, there is a vast array of modern day pin-ups out there that take the original concept of pin-up beauty and culture, and turn it on its head, thereby subverting the entire set of traditional notions behind it— the very sexist “white enterprise” that the above author is citing. Just look at the Suicide Girls (started by a woman and still largely run by women) which, may I remind you, began as a counterculture of “alternative” beauty.

Moreover, my brand of feminism is about choice. Just as I’m not going to castigate any woman, feminist or not, for being a stay at home mom, I’m also not going to do the same to a woman that chooses to delight in her femininity through replicating pin-up looks. Not only does it not, in my opinion, seem in keeping with the basic tenets of feminism (though, yes, I know, there are a myriad of different feminisms) but honestly, it’s also just not polite.

 

 

The Best Bags in the World

Guest Post by my husband, Brian Krank.

He has recently become enamored with the Seattle-based company, Tom Bihn. And for good reason— their bags have become our new best friends for both travel as well as everyday use. Here’s his review of the Synapse 25, which is what he used for our 16 day trip, bouncing around Hawai’i (i.e. he fit everything he needed in this one backpack for 16 days!). Kudos to husband.

 

 

The Best Bags in the World

by Brian Krank

The Aeronaut (left), Synapse 25 (right), and Red Packing Cube which also doubles as a backpack (middle)

The Aeronaut (left), Synapse 25 (right), and Red Packing Cube (middle) which can also double as a backpack

In late 2012 I was looking online for blogs or articles pertaining to traveling light. That’s when I came across this packing list 2012 article and blog on www.tynan.com. I not only have to give him much credit for my own packing list, but also for leading me to www.tombihn.com. Tom Bihn is a company up in Seattle that makes bags. But not just bags— the most thoughtfully designed and highest quality bags out there. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked and I think if you ask my wife she will tell you I have a problem. All of their bags are made here in the U.S. with most of the parts and materials also made in the U.S.

Over the next couple of months I sat at my computer looking at all of the different bags, reading all of the reviews, placing items on my wish list, deleting them, then adding them back in. After all was said and done, I placed my order (well it has now been several orders). What my wife and I ended up with was an Aeronaut bag along with packing cubes and pouches galore (for her) and the Synapse 25 for myself, again with pouches and doodads for organization.

All packed up and off we went. Sixteen days in Hawaii for our honeymoon. This was our first big trip together and I advised that we limit ourselves to one bag each. One thing I love about Tom Bihn: they make their bags to fit carryon size requirements. The Aeronaut is their largest bag yet it still fits easily in the over head bin on just about any plane.

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Brian, who is 6′ 1″, wearing the Synapse 25 at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

So lets get into the bag. I’m going to be reviewing the Synapse 25. This is the big brother to the Synapse 19. This backpack is magical, you can just keep putting things into it and it never seems to fill up. All of the pockets are perfectly planned out and none of them interfere with one another. The bag is super comfortable to wear, and it also has some of the nicest straps I’ve seen on a backpack.

Here is a list of everything I brought to Hawaii:

Tom Bihn Synapse 25

Cache With Rails

MacBook Air

iPad

Tom Bihn Packing Cube

3 boxers

2 wool socks

Swim suit

3 shirts

Nau hoody

Wool shorts

3D Clear Organizer Cube

Dr. Bronner peppermint soap in a go-tube

Sunscreen in a go-tube

Toothpaste

Soap for hand-washing clothes in a go-tube

Toiletry Bag

Toothbrush

Razor

Q-tips

Deodorant

Shoehorn

Comb

Small Clear Organizer Pouch

Emergen-C

Bandaids

Allergy Medicine

Prilosec

Tom Bihn Side Effect

Computer cable

Survival kit

Small pen

Batteries

Small Clear Organizer Pouch

3.5mm audio cable

HDMI cable

Micro to standard usb cable

Igo key juice

Micro usb to 8 pin adapter

SD cards

Usb thumb drive

Audio splitter

Earbuds

Other Loose Items

Earth runners 

Marmot mica shell jacket

Fenix LD22 flash light

Moleskin notebook

Pen & Pencil

Deck of cards

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Everything I packed in my Synapse 25

How I packed for Hawaii:

Synapse main pocket

MacBook Air and iPad in cache

Packing Cube

3D Clear Organizer Cube

Toiletry bag

Earth Runners (sandals)

Left side pocket

Moleskin

Pen

Fenix

Deck of cards

Top middle pocket

Small tin of cigars

Bottom middle pocket 

Pack of tissues

Right side pocket

Marmot jacket

Bottom pocket 

Side Effect with

Clear Organizer Pouch with electronics in Side Effect

What I wore on the plane

t-shirt

White linen button up shirt

Boxers

Wool socks

Watch

Light weight pants

Belt

Nice shoes

Hat

With all of this in the bag it was still only about half to three quarters full. I have to say, using all of the Tom Bihn accessories is awesome because they all work together so well. For example, all throughout the bag there are O-rings. These are attachment points that allow you to hook pouches and key straps (also available through Tom Bihn) to the inside of the bag. Not only does this make organizing a breeze but you also know that anything in the pouch wont get left behind because it’s secured to your bag.

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O-ring in a side pocket

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Close-up of the O-ring in a side pocket

The cache is another great item, providing a really cool way to protect your laptop. It’s made of a padded material that has a large flap on the top, which allows for opening with no velcro noise or zippers to scratch whatever is inside. On the back of the cache there are two rails that can be fastened within the main pocket of the Synapse. When attached, you can slide the cache in and out without having to worry about losing it, along with what’s in it, from your bag. This came in handy while going though airport security because you don’t even need to remove your laptop from the cache— it’s TSA approved.

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The Tom Bihn cache

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The cache inside the Synapse 25

On the front of the Synapse you have five pockets. Two in the center, one on the left, one on the right, and a large horizontal pocket along the bottom of the bag. The top center pocket is designed to hold a water bottle, which is nice because it keeps the bottle centered, upright, and away from your back. The second center pocket is smaller and great for things you need to get to quickly and often. The left and right pockets can hold a lot more than they seem. The left pocket has some organizing space for pens and pencils, and I also kept my flashlight in there. The right has an ultra-suede pouch built in where your phone could live if you wanted. The bottom pocket is just a nice big ole pocket. I was able to fit in a down jacket along with its rain shell, an external hard drive, and a couple of pouches and still have room.

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The Synapse 25 in Steel Dyneema

Tom Bihn uses some of the nicest fabrics for their bags and they have a bunch of really awesome colors. The standard material used for this bag is 1000d Cadura Nylon. I chose the 400d/420d Dyneema rip stop nylon for my bag. This stuff is awesome and a little bit lighter in weight then the 1000d Cadura. Mine has the steel color exterior and wasabi interior. Inside and out all seams are finished. They use YKK Aquaguard zippers on all openings. These zippers are top notch and really heavy duty. There is so much detail and over engineering in this bag.

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Check out these YKK Aquaguard Water-Repellent Zippers

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Here you can see the Wasabi color interior of the Synapse 25 along with the Side Effect, also in Wasabi, and a Padded Pouch with a Key Strap

All in all these bags just work. I now find myself still always on the Tom Bihn site adding things to my wish list, looking at the forums, and waiting for anything new from Tom. While on vacation I ordered a Medium Cafe Bag for my wife. I timed it so that it would arrive right before we got back. She now uses that as her everyday bag and I continue to use my Synapse as my everyday bag. Next on my list is to get a Tri-Star for some longer trips that we have in the works. Based on a lot of the reviews online I’m also going to get a couple of their shop bags. In the forums there is also talk of a bag called the Pilot, which I think will be a big brother to the Co-Pilot. I’m excited to check that out when it gets launched.