By the skin of my teeth

Oct. 24th, 2014 12:56 am
[syndicated profile] yarn_harlot_feed

Posted by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

I finished Acer just in time for Rhinebeck.  Not totally in time for the whole thing, but in time for at least Sunday and that seems like it still counts.  I was feeling pretty good about how the whole thing was going, when I realized the night before that I had no buttons for it.  I went through the whole button stash and couldn’t find a single one that was perfect, and I needed five. One quick trip to WEBS later, as we made our way from the Boston Airport to Rhinebeck, and the buttons were in hand.

acerswhole 2014-10-23

I pretty much took leave of my senses and forgot thread though, so when I went to sew them on on Saturday morning (after I set the sleeves in for the second time – the first time they went all Princess Diana puff sleeve on me) I was screwed.  I went to the fair without it. I’d buy thread at the fair, I figured.  Pro-tip. There is no thread at the fair, near as I could figure, I found some at the grocery store (I know!) on the way home that day.

acerbackbetter 2014-10-22

Buttons addressed, Acer made her inaugural run on Sunday, which was totally cold enough to make me wonder why the hell I thought a cabled sweater with lace was a good idea, but it’s not her fault that I was under-dressed.  Other than the freezing cold part, it’s a good sweater, I think.  I’m still on the fence about the colour, but really – how many orange/rust/red/brown sweaters does one woman need?

acerside 2014-10-22

The best part about wearing it on Sunday? I met the designer, while I was wearing it, and I think it was fun for both of us.

acerdesigner 2014-10-23

Acer, designed by Amy Christoffers. Yarn: Debbie Bliss Luxury Tweed Aran in Navy. Time to knit, about three weeks spread over four years.

(PS: Mum, See? I’m totally wearing those boots you gave me, and they are really comfortable. Try to focus on that and overlook the felafel spill on my jeans.)

(PPS: Photos by the clever Caro Sheridan. Except for the selfie of me and Amy.  I did that one.)

[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

Rachel Held Evans stirred things up a bit with a post last week on the akedah, the story of the binding of Isaac told in Genesis 22 and on side 2 of Highway 61 Revisited. “I would fail Abraham’s test (and I bet you would too),” she wrote:

It’s a test I’m certain I would have failed: Get your son. Get a knife. Slit his throat and set him on fire.

I’d like to think that even if those demands thundered from the heavens in a voice that sounded like God’s, I’d have sooner been struck dead than obeyed them.

If this was a “test,” then I think this means Rachel would’ve actually passed it. (And that’s not just my view — there’s a long tradition of interpreting this story this way.) But many Christians disagree, as she notes:

I have often been told by pastors and apologists that my misgivings about these biblical passages represent a weakness of faith, and that my persistent questions about suffering, evil, and violence in God’s name betray a deep distrust in a God who owes me no explanations.

Those same pastors and apologists pounced on this post as an opportunity to repeat all of that yet again — chiming in with another round of threatened banishings, anathemas and “farewells.” Yawn.

Rachel has a good collection of some of the more thoughtful responses to her discussion of this (in)famous Bible story, and so does James McGrath.

For my part, I wouldn’t likely either fail or pass this “test.” I would flee and fail to take it.

Here’s how the story begins in Genesis 22:

After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”

Already I’m in trouble. I’m hearing voices. I’m hearing a voice in my head that’s telling me to kill a child.

The possibility that this is the voice of God testing my faith isn’t even going to be among the first thousand possibilities worth considering. The thousand other possibilities are all Very Bad, of course, but that one’s even worse — including and encompassing all the Very Bad possibilities that go before it.

TriumphInitially, though, I’d do what anyone would likely do if a voice in my head commanded me to kill and burn a child. I’d ignore it, desperately hoping it would go away, fearful of telling anyone that I’d ever even thought of such a thing lest they think — rightly — that I am a monster.

And if it didn’t go away? Well then I’d have myself committed. I’d remove myself from the presence of chlidren, driving to the nearest inpatient facility to inform the nice people in admissions, as calmly as possible, that I believed I was becoming a danger to myself and others. I’m hearing voices. The voices want me to do Bad Things.

No, no, no, the “pastors and apologists” say — that violates the spirit of the story. It’s about obedience, not epistemology. For the sake of the story, you must accept that you receive this command from God as an unambiguous revelation: You know with certainty it is a command from God.

But that just restates the problem, it doesn’t solve it. Obedience is always about epistemology. I cannot respond to this “divine command” as such until I know that it is, in fact, a divine command. It is not humanly possible to engage this story unless the story can explain just what it would mean to be able to know with certainty that this was an unambiguous bit of divine revelation, a clear command clearly from God.

And I cannot imagine any form of direct revelation that could convince me of that. I cannot imagine any way in which I, as a human bound by my finite human reason and my fallible human senses, could ever have access to such inhuman, infallible certainty.

The “voice of God”? Auditory hallucinations. Hearing voices in your head is a textbook symptom of many well-documented forms of mental illness. We’ve already covered what hearing such a voice giving such a command would mean and what it would require me to do.

And, no, it doesn’t make any difference to try to distinguish between a “voice in your head” and a voice outside your head. All voices are in your head — the “real” ones just as much as the delusional ones. That’s what’s so terrifying about actual auditory hallucinations. They do not sound like hallucinations — like something that’s “only in your head.” They sound exactly like any other voice you’ve ever heard.

How about giant flaming letters carved in the sky? No good. Everything we’ve just said about auditory hallucinations is also true for visual ones.

Well, what if other people hear God’s voice as well? What if everyone else hears it?

That’s to be expected, isn’t it? All of this is just confirming the likeliest possibility: I’m a very, very sick man. Paranoid and delusional, and now imagining that everyone else is saying the same horrible thing as the voice in my head.

There simply exists no form this divine revelation could possibly take that would exempt it from the fact that I, as a finite and fallible human, would be required to perceive it. And so it would always be possible that I was perceiving it wrong — that I was misperceiving it.

And one doesn’t want to kill and burn a child based on a misperception.

One doesn’t generally want to kill and burn a child at all — which brings us to the second problem here. It’s not just the form of this divine command that is a problem, it’s also the substance. The repugnant substance of this alleged divine command reinforces all of the formal reasons stated above for doubting it. The substance of the command presents a whole Wesleyan quadrilateral of reasons to conclude that it cannot be divine. Scripture, tradition, reason and experience all scream that it cannot be so.

Imagine again that scenario in which a unanimous horde of witnesses confirms that I have, in fact, been given a divine command that I cannot ignore or deny. Just what would these witnesses attesting to this divine revelation say? “God is speaking to you, Fred. God wants you to kill and burn this child. You need to do what God tells you to do.”

Whatever part of me wanted to cling to my own sanity wouldn’t reasonably conclude that this means God wants me to kill a child. A more reasonable conclusion would be to realize, in horror, that I’d stumbled into some terrifying Wicker Man scenario. These “witnesses” must be speaking of some other God. And the voice I was hearing and the fiery letters in the sky would force me to realize that their God was real.

C.S. Lewis toyed with the idea that something like this might be true. So did H.P. Lovecraft. So did whoever wrote Psalm 82. And now Molech or dread Chthulhu or raging Talos or three-crowned Cyric or whichever child-eating deity it was is after me.

So at that point, I’d be praying like I’d never prayed before, asking God — the God I worship, the God of Abraham, the God of the Gospels and the creeds – to deliver me from this evil lesser god who was attempting to claim me for his own. Monotheism would no longer be an option, but I’d still be monolatrous — faithful only to the God of gods and Lord of lords, the God revealed in Jesus, the God described in 1 John as “God is love” and the God mocked by Jonah for being “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”

Or perhaps there could be a less radical theological explanation. I don’t believe in a “literal” Satan — mainly because I don’t see such a character literally present in the biblical literature — but this overwhelming experience of voices and witnesses and flaming letters would likely cause me to re-evaluate that conclusion. If the voices and signs and wonders and attestations weren’t all just delusion, then here would be apparent evidence of the reality of some supernatural, evil being very much like the Satan figure we find in Dante and Milton and Stephen Vincent Benét and all the other canonical sources of this doctrine.

This is the most reasonable, defensible and biblical second possibility. If the voices and signs and wonders telling me to kill a child are not a form of delusional madness, then this must be Satan speaking to me.

No, no, no, say the pastors and apologists — it’s not Satan, it’s God. This is, they stress, the whole point of the story — that it’s God — and undeniably God — telling me to kill and burn a child.

I’ve got it backwards, they say. The story isn’t about Satan pretending to be God. It’s a story about God pretending to be Satan.

I’m don’t think that helps.

The bottom line here is that for all of these self-proclaimed defenders of God’s sovereignty, this story is not at all about obedience to God. It’s about obedience to them.

Because obedience, remember, is always about epistemology — about the possibility of knowing, with certainty, what it is we are commanded to do, and the possibility of knowing, with certainty, the source of that command.

They like to talk about God’s sovereignty, but the real substance of their claim has to do with their own certainty. Their own ability to access certainty and to proclaim it to and for others. We know what God has commanded, they say. We know. And therefore you must obey [what God has commanded as articulated by] us.

Here’s another bit from Rachel’s original post on the binding of Isaac:

“You have to take your emotions out of it,” a Reformed pastor once told me. “You’re letting the humanism so pervasive in our culture affect your sense of justice.”

“But why would the very God I believe imprinted us all with a conscience — with a deep sense of right and wrong — ask me to deny that conscience by accepting genocide as just?” I asked. “And how could I ever bring myself to worship a God who, if these accounts are true, ordained and derived glory from actions I believe are evil?”

“Stop right there,” the pastor said. “I want you to hear the pride in that statement: ‘how could I ever worship a God who…?’ That is not for you to decide, Rachel. God is God. You worship God because He’s God.”

The unspoken assumption in that “God is God” is that the nature and character of God is self-evident and obvious. The pastor Rachel cites there dismisses her understanding of God as shaped by “emotion” and by “the humanism so pervasive in our culture,” while presuming that his own understanding of God is exempt from all such human factors. How does that work?

He doesn’t say. He can’t say. It’s just like the unambiguous revelation these folks insist as the premise for the story of Highway 61.

But they cannot ever explain what such unambiguous revelation would look like. They cannot ever describe a form that such revelation could take. They cannot ever explain how we humans could ever have access to such a thing, exempt from all that defines the human condition.

They offer no explanation for how they know what they claim to know when they claim to speak as surrogates of the sovereign God. They just assert this certainty — condemning anyone who doubts their claim as a doubter of God.



It’s your turn to walk on water

Oct. 23rd, 2014 07:37 pm
[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

• The one thing that unites every blogger here at Patheos — Christian, atheist, Pagan, Buddhist, mixed-drink martial artist — is our shared frustration with autoplay video ads. That frustration is shared, too, by our hosts here, because their contracts with advertisers make it clear that such ads aren’t supposed to be allowed here.

Anyway, the IT crowd is working on technical fixes to put a stake through the heart of this evil. And also to figure out the app-store glitch that’s hijacking pages when we try to read them on an iPhone. (Hemant has a good summary of some steps you can take if you want to assist Patheos’ tech crew in this righteous battle.)

Soon, I hope, Patheos will be autoplay-video free, after which all the bloggers of the various faith traditions can argue about which of our prayers were responsible for that result (with the atheist bloggers arguing, of course, that it was secular code — not supernatural intervention — that solved the problem). That will be a happy day.

• The Puppy Spring: “What started quite literally as a walk in a park with a dog has exploded into grave sin writ large, moral crisis, or subversive coup attempt depending upon who you ask.”

• Back-to-back in my Feedly reader yesterday: “Pat Robertson: Gay People Are Terrorists,” followed by a post about these “terrorists” in Wyoming:



That’s Marvin Witt and Mike Romero, who’ve been together for 30 years, applying for a marriage license in the Natrona County Courthouse. “These people are terrorists,” Pat Robertson says. “They’re radicals and they’re extremists. … And I think it’s time pastors stand up and fight this monstrous thing.”

OK, then.

Chris Kluwe addresses #GamerGate. He was a pretty good punter but his real gift seems to be the profanity-laced rant — an underappreciated art form.

• Remember back in 2011 when conservative Christians were claiming that dominion theology was a “myth”? People like Joe Carter, writing for First Things, denied its existence or significance, claiming it was just a bogeyman dreamed up by “liberal blogs and websites.”

Well, here’s what that imaginary bogeyman had to say at a recent fundraiser for the right-wing activist group, Alliance Defending Freedom. This is featured speaker David Benham:

What we see now is the struggle for dominion. … God is sovereign over all things. The Bible says in Psalm 24 “the Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,” including government, entertainment, media, education, the legal system, everything. My finances, my sexuality, everything is under God. … Does this agenda, this sexual anarchy agenda, does it want dominion? Take a look. Has it got dominion in government? Has it got dominion in entertainment? Has it got dominion, I mean, you name it, in the marketplace? Yes. Absolutely it does. How does God get dominion back?

The other featured speaker at the event was New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. But sure, let’s just pretend this is just a fringe ideology far from any real influence or power.

Peter Enns really likes the new edition of The Jewish Study Bible, sharing a great example of what it gets right that other study Bibles (and a lot of Bible readers) get wrong. The book of Leviticus says sex is a no-no during a woman’s menstrual cycle, but it says this twice — commanding two very different, irreconcilable punishments. A lot of Christian study Bibles have notes cross-referencing the two passages in a way that seems to try to obscure or fudge the contradiction. The Jewish Study Bible just says, “Thus the law in 18:19 … directly contradicts [the law in 15:19-24].”

One tradition says that a “high view of scripture” compels us to ignore and deny such direct contradictions. Another tradition says that reverence for scripture requires us to recognize contradictions and contend with them. Which seems more respectful of the actual text?

• So last night, shelving cleaning products while bopping to “All the Things She Said,” I realized I hadn’t provided the answer to our little Simple Minds question: their Top 10 hits “Don’t You Forget About Me” and “Alive and Kicking,” plus “All the Things She Said,” “Sanctify Yourself,” and “See the Lights.” (I’m not complaining, mind you. The Muzak loop with the surprising number of Simple Minds songs is much more up my alley than the mellow-oldies one they sometimes play that includes both “Afternoon Delight” and the Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun,” sometimes back-to-back.)

Click here to view the embedded video.


[syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

Posted by Annalee

Content warning: stalking, harassment, threats, violence–GamerGate, basically.

Geek Feminism’s lack of a statement about the GamerGate hate campaign has felt conspicuous to me. We’re a community dedicated to promoting justice and equality within geek communities. Documenting harassment and abuse in geek communities is one of our biggest projects. GamerGate is on our beat.

But while our fabulous team of linkspammers has been on top of the story, we haven’t put up a statement.

I spoke to some of our other bloggers about ways we could respond. The conversation we had was pretty illustrative.

Here are the ideas we had, and why we discarded them:

1: A “Seriously, Fuck GamerGate” Post

Why we didn’t:

“Fuck GamerGate” is a fairly obvious statement from us. It might be satisfying to say, but it adds little to the conversation.

And women who’ve said it before us have been stalked, harassed, doxxed, and threatened–some to the point of fleeing their homes.

2. A statement of support for GamerGate’s victims

Why we didn’t:

Telling folks we support them is nice, but it doesn’t provide the victims of these terror campaigns with the practical support they need to protect themselves. Talking about them has a very high chance of exposing them to even more abusers. When you’re the target of an organized campaign of terror, the last thing you need is more attention.

And women who’ve made statements of support have been stalked, harassed, doxxed, and threatened–some to the point of fleeing their homes.

3. An Ada Lovelace-style celebration of women in gaming, where we encourage folks to blog about games they love by women, and women in gaming who inspire them.

Why we didn’t:

We didn’t want to paint a target on anyone’s back.

Women in gaming who’ve gotten positive attention have been stalked, harassed, doxxed, and threatened–some to the point of fleeing their homes.

4. Present an iron hide and dare them to bring it.

Some of us feel guilty for not telling GamerGaters exactly where they can shove the horseshit they have the temerity to present as discourse.

Why we didn’t:

We want to live in a world where terror campaigns like this are ineffective; where that which does not kill us makes us stronger; where good triumphs over obtuse, selfish, cowardly evil. But wanting to live in that world doesn’t make that world real. In this world, oppression and injustice have built a system whereby that which does not kill us often leaves us personally and professionally damaged.

The fantasy that bravado would win the day is appealing, but daring abusers to come for us won’t do anything constructive. As much as we might want to put ourselves between GamerGate and its victims, we can’t. There are too many of them to successfully draw their fire.

We’d just end up getting stalked, harassed, doxxed, and threatened–possibly to the point of fleeing our homes.

By now, you’ve surely noticed the theme here.

It’s tempting to offer cheap platitudes to the women who’ve been the focus of these abuse campaigns, or those who might become them. To tell them to be brave, to speak their truth, to not let violent assholes scare them.

Platitudes won’t keep the cesspits of the internet from backflowing into their homes and workplaces. Platitudes won’t secure their computers and personal information; protect their families from detailed, sexually-explicit death threats; walk their kids to school; or stay at home to protect their pets while they’re at work. Platitudes won’t explain to their bosses why their companies’ websites are being DDOSed. Platitudes won’t stop bullets.

So before you lament how terrible it is to ‘let them win’ by being silent, please stop and think of a better way to phrase “I want to live in a world where the victims of abuse campaigns have a winning move.” Don’t ask women to sacrifice their names, careers, and safety to the fantasy that life is fair.

Telling women to be brave and speak up is telling them to face a violent horde unarmed. We don’t have an effective defense against these terror campaigns. We desperately need one. We’re going to follow up and see if we can develop any effective strategies.

In the meantime, I’ve already painted the target on my back, so I might as well say it.

Fuck GamerGate.

From the Archives: Halloween

Oct. 23rd, 2014 02:00 pm
[syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

It’s that time of year again!  We are about to embark on seven straight days of Sociological Halloween Images.  As usual, you’re welcome and we’re sorry.

Look, Ashley S. is sad already:

1 (2)

In the meantime, enjoy our collection of Halloween posts from years past or visit our Halloween-themed Pinterest page.

Just For Fun


Halloween, Politics, and Culture

Race and Ethnicity

Sexual Orientation


Gender and Kids

The intersection of Race, Class, and Gender

And, for no conceivable reason…

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at

[syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

Posted by Leigh Honeywell

This is another round of Geek feminism classifieds – now quarterly! If you’re looking to hire women, find some people to participate in your study, find female speakers, or just want some like-minded folk to join your open source project, this is the thread for you!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Geeky subjects only. We take a wide view of geekdom, but if your thing isn’t related to an obviously geeky topic, you’ll probably want to give a bit of background on why the readers of Geek Feminism would be interested.
  2. Explain what your project/event/thing is, or link to a webpage that provides clear, informative information about it. Ideally you’ll also explain why geek women might find it particularly awesome.
  3. Explain what you’re looking for. Even if it’s not a job ad, think of it like one: what is the activity/role in question, and what would it involve? What is the profile of people you’re looking for?
  4. GF has international readership, so please be sure to indicate the location if you’re advertising a job position, conference, or other thing where the location matters. Remember that city acronyms aren’t always known world-wide and lots of cities share names, so be as clear as possible! (That is, don’t say “SF[O]” or “NYC” or “Melb”, say “San Francisco, USA”, “New York City, USA” or “Melbourne, Australia”.) And if you can provide travel/relocation assistance, we’d love to know about it.
  5. Keep it legal. Most jurisdictions do not allow you to (eg.) advertise jobs for only people of a given gender. So don’t do that. If you are advertising for something that falls into this category, think of this as an opportunity to boost the signal to women who might be interested.
  6. If you’re asking for participants in a study, please note Mary’s helpful guide to soliciting research participation on the ‘net, especially the “bare minimum” section.
  7. Provide a way for people to contact you, such as your email address or a link to apply in the case of job advertisements. (The email addresses entered in the comment form here are not public, so readers won’t see them.)
  8. Keep an eye on comments here, in case people ask for clarification or more details. (You can subscribe to comments via email or RSS.)

If you’d like some more background/tips on how to reach out to women for your project/event/whatever, take a look at Recruiting women on the Geek Feminism Wiki.)

Good luck!


Oct. 23rd, 2014 07:41 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

Today is Joe's birthday.He'll be a ripe old 62 years old. I am still 61 and will be a year younger than him for a couple of months. Something that gives me way more pleasure than it should. We are in Edmonton and will be having dinner with family tonight so there will be a small celebration then. I think for today I'll give you five facts about Joe that you may not know:

1) Joe has a great deal of difficulty with the computer, it seems to simply fight him back. He often sits at the computer muttering and making vague threats at Google.

2) It's kindly to say that Joe isn't really aware of pop culture. He likes classical music to the exclusion of all others. He often says that we have to get out of a store because the music is driving him to distraction.

3) Joe really is as nice as he appears to be. Always. Even to other drivers on the road. He's the one who stops to let someone in, the one who waves hesitant jaywalkers by ... the one who drives me to distraction - come on, do you have to be nice to EVERYONE??

4) Mashed potatoes is Joe's comfort food. He loves them. We have (veggie) bangers and mash on a very regular basis - this is one of the meals we have after returning from a trip on the road. Whenever I suggest it he always says, "Really, can we?" As if it's this rare and wondrous occurrence.

5) Joe hates to be centered out in a crowd. He's a behind the scenes guy and he's good at it. He likes the arranging and the planning and the making things ready but he doesn't like the spotlight on him. |But I'm hoping today he doesn't mind that I turned it on him in this blog post.


It's been another wonderful year together, and for you, you get to be with a much younger boyfriend for a couple of months!

We're back… last week.

Oct. 23rd, 2014 12:40 pm
[syndicated profile] forget_what_did_feed

Posted by John Finnemore

So, the fourth series of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme began, er, this time last week. So, what better time for a post about that episode? I can't think of a better time. I don't think there is one. Shut up.

Teaching Aid

This sketch, about someone getting an idea whilst trying not to watch a muted TV in a pub, was an idea I got whilst trying not to watch a muted TV in a pub. True story!


Simon has pointed out that every series there's at least one sketch of he and I trapped somewhere, and getting on each other's nerves (e.g. Snow Leopards, Go East, Train Manager). And when that happens, he generally chooses to be Scottish.


This was originally about Noughts and Crosses. We recorded the Noughts and Crosses version twice for the last series, but both times the audience laughed a bit at the initial reveal, and then politely waited for it to be over So, I rewrote it completely, to be about Snap, and for some reason that worked much better. I think perhaps because the main joke of the Noughts and Crosses one was that two competent players will always draw, which is quite a dry detail to build a sketch around, whilst this one builds to a sort of climax, however meaningless.


Interestingly, I am one of a select band of vocalists whose singing voice is actually improved when I hold my hands tightly over my mouth.

Emmeline and Albert

I just don't understand the obsession with getting the vote out. Motivate people to want to vote, by all means. But don't encourage people to vote when they don't know what they're voting about, just for the sake of it. It's not like recycling. (In Australia, I believe, voting is compulsory. And the Prime Minister is Tony Abbott.)


Apologies if you found this sketch baffling. In the recorded version, there was a speech where we set out the details of Sisyphus' punishment. In the edit, we decided that this was Radio 4, and everyone would know already, so we cut it. Yesterday, I discovered a member of my own family didn't know it, and so had no idea what was going on. Uh-oh...

The BBC iPlayer has rather splendidly extended how long they keep episodes up, so you can still listen to this episode here. And you can hear the next episode this very evening, at 6:30, and here after that.

Girl Warrior Fantasies, c. 1700

Oct. 23rd, 2014 06:55 am
[syndicated profile] wonders_and_marvels_feed

Posted by Holly Tucker

By Christine A. Jones (Regular Contributor)

Anne Bonny

Chic girl pirate Anne Bonny

Fairy tales are how we imagine the unimaginable. Beans can be magic and grow to the heavens. Frightening beasts turn out to be great princes in disguise. And girls are saved from annoying home lives by fairies and talking animals. Crazy things can happen.

Fairy-tale history contains some really juicy stuff, not all of which made it into the Mother Goose canon. For instance, how about a girl who shows up at court dressed as a knight and becomes the queen’s lover? Crazy indeed! Well, during the 1690s three French women authors thought up an ingenious plot for fairy tales where girls did their fighting for themselves. They showed up at court dressed as soldiers and did battle for the king. In each case, in fact, they became the kingdom’s best warriors. They were valiant, but also gentle and kind, and knew how to fold laundry. A rare combination, to be sure. And in the longest and most famous of these stories, by Marie Chatherine d’Aulnoy, the cross-dressed heroine has to fend off the queen’s advances with all her might.

Okay, the girl warrior and the queen never become lovers, but the love triangle among the queen (who loves the knight), the knight (who loves the king), and the king (who loves the knight but cannot figure out why) makes up the entire plot of the story. Historically, there had been woman warriors in France by the seventeenth century, but none of them had had quite this much fun at court. Read d’Aulnoy’s story, “Belle-Belle or the Chevalier Fortunate”, in Jack Zipes, Beauties, Beasts and Enchantments: Classic French Fairy Tales (New York: New American Library, 1989).

Christine A. Jones is co-editing a fairy tale anthology and writing a book on early porcelain experiments in France.  She is Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Utah.


This post first appeared at Wonders & Marvels on 12 December 2009.


If you had to pick one of these …

Oct. 22nd, 2014 11:19 pm
[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

I’m not a designer, but I’m hoping the cover isn’t quite as important for an e-book as it would be for an actual, physical, dead-tree book of the traditional variety, which this won’t be.

Having said that, here are some rough ideas. The first two are pretty clearly playing off the original cover for Left Behind, and I’m not pleased with how either one turned out. The third one seems more in keeping with the working title used here. (It’s also a concession to the idea that, if it’s gonna be ugly, might as well make it simple and ugly.)









So, then, two things:

1. Any preferences among those? Or would the general consensus be, “Ugh, none of them”?

2. This would be a collection of the first couple years’ worth of Left Behind posts, covering the first 200 pages of the first book. (At about 80,000 words, I suspect it’s actually longer than the first 200 pages of that book.) It’s a slightly cleaner, more convenient repackaging of material that all has been and will continue to be available for free in the archives here. Anybody have a good sense of what a proper/right/fair/sensible price would be for something like that?



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Posted by Fred Clark

Greta Christina, “A Woman’s Room Online: Misogyny and the Idea That the Internet Isn’t Real”

It’s absurd to say that the Internet isn’t the real world. The Internet is where hundreds of millions of human beings work, play, organize, fundraise, share ideas, help each other, console each other. It is probably the single most important innovation in how the real human world operates in the last fifty years. …

The Internet is important. The Internet is real. And for millions of women, the Internet is a toxic cesspool. Telling women that if we don’t want to be abused and threatened we should just not go on the Internet is telling us to not participate in the world.

Isabel Wilkerson, “Mike Brown’s shooting and Jim Crow lynchings have too much in common”

The haunting symmetry of a death every three or four days links us to an uglier time that many would prefer not to think about, but which reminds us that the devaluation of black life in America is as old as the nation itself and has yet to be confronted. Beyond the numbers, it is the banality of injustice, the now predictable playing out of 21st Century convention – the swift killing, the shaming of the victim rather than inquiry into the shooter, the kitchen-table protest signs, twitter handles and spontaneous symbols of grievance, whether hoodies or Skittles or hands in the air, the spectacle of death by skin color. All of it connects the numbing evil of a public hanging in 1918 to the numbing evil of a sidewalk killing uploaded on YouTube in the summer of 2014.

The Church for All Sinners and Saints, “I am the church”

Click here to view the embedded video.

Yvette Cantu Schneider, with Evelyn Schlatter, “Redeemed: Former Ex-Gay Activist Renounces the Movement, Talks With Hatewatch”

I think the ex-gay movement will be dead within the next 10 years. As churches become more gay-affirming, parents and church leaders won’t seek parachurch ministries to “fix” in gay Christians what isn’t broken. The fact that the ex-gay movement has been a monumental failure with no real, lasting change in those who have sought to negate same-sex attractions and become heterosexual will become more and more apparent to the average lay Christian. This is especially true in the age of social media, when information spreads like wildfire and can’t easily be suppressed. I’m sure there will be pockets of people here and there who will still try to change someone’s orientation. But the movement as a relevant entity in the push for LGBT rights will be defunct.

Alastair Roberts, “Evangelicalism’s Poor Form”

Whether designed to clarify evangelicalism as an object of study or analysis, or to police its supposed boundaries, definitions of evangelicalism have generally tended to occlude the cultural, institutional, and sociological dimensions of the movement. This is unfortunate, as it is precisely these elements that are most salient in the experience of many within it. Evangelicalism is not typically experienced as a set of abstract and explicit doctrines or beliefs held by individuals, but more as a distinctive cultural environment within which such beliefs are inconsistently and idiosyncratically maintained. The official beliefs of evangelicalism exist alongside a host of other miscellaneous elements and the cross-pollination from the surrounding society, all sustained within local churches and a shifting constellation of denominations, movements, ministries, groups, and agencies.

Much that swims in the weird and wonderful (and sometimes not-so-wonderful) soup of evangelicalism was added quite independent of church leadership. There is a sort of evangelical folk religion, most of which is largely unauthorized by pastors or elders, a folk religion driven and populated by TV preachers, purity culture, uninformed theological speculations in democratic Bible studies, Chick tracts, evangelistic bumper stickers and T-shirts, Thomas Kinkade paintings, VeggieTales, Kirk Cameron movies, Amish romance novels, the Left Behind series, Focus on the Family literature, Christian bloggers, CCM, Christian dating guides, Answers in Genesis books, sappy mass-produced devotional literature, study Bibles for every conceivable niche market, and much else besides. Unsurprisingly, many presume that this all passed quality control and received the imprimatur of Evangelical Central Headquarters.


Wool Days

Oct. 22nd, 2014 06:44 pm
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Posted by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

I’m back from Rhinebeck, and oh, it was lovely. I share this time each year with the same group of great knitters, and it’s such a treat to be together for several days once a year.   Rhinebeck feels like a knitters holiday to me. So many wonderful things, and sweaters and people and… it’s amazing.  I had a lot of words to go with these pictures, but as you can imagine, following the events yesterday and today, most Canadians are glued to the TV right now. Rather than not post at all, I give you pictures. Words tomorrow.  I’ll try and post from the airport on my way to a rather amazingly fabulous event in Edmonton.

goodsheep 2014-10-22

foundpatt 2014-10-22 yarnwindowbest 2014-10-22 rhinebecktree 2014-10-22sheepattacktwo 2014-10-22 foxpaws 2014-10-22 blog 2014-10-22 rhinebecktree2 2014-10-22 glassneedles 2014-10-22

usrhinebeck2014 2014-10-22

PS. Yes.  I finished my sweater. Details tomorrow.)

What’s for Breakfast?

Oct. 22nd, 2014 02:00 pm
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Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

One of my favorite examples of social construction is that we eat hot links for breakfast and pork chops for dinner. Both pig, but morning sausage seems odd in the evening and pork chops for breakfast would be a decidedly deviant sunrise treat.

A pretty set of photos at The New York Times illustrates this social construction of breakfast food by highlighting the first meal of the day for children in seven parts of the world. It would be fun — for those of you teaching classes — to show some of them to students and ask them to guess (1) the meal of the day and (2) the age of the eater.

Chitedza, Malawi: cornmeal porridge with soy and groundnut flour; deep-fried cornmeal fritters with onions, garlic and chiles; boiled sweet potato and pumpkin; juice of dried hibiscus and sugar.


São Paulo, Brazil: ham and cheese, bread with butter, coffee.


Tokyo, Japan: stir-fried green peppers with dried fish, soy sauce, and sesame seeds; raw egg and soy sauce poured over rice; lotus root, burdock root, and carrot sautéed with a rice wine; miso soup; fruit; milk.


Istanbul, Turkey: bread, Nutella, strawberry jam, honey butter; olives; sliced tomato; hard-boiled egg; goat and cow cheeses.


More at The Times.

See also our Social Construction of Flavor Pinterest board. Lots of neat stuff there!

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at

Old and New

Oct. 22nd, 2014 07:57 am
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Posted by Dave Hingsburger

I am writing this from my hotel room in Edmonton. Clearly, then, I managed to get here. But I got here after a really good flight. I need to give a shout out to AIR CANADA and both their ground and on board crews. They were helpful, kind and generous with their time and their expertise. They really made the trip one that is memorable because of the service I got. From my arrival at the airport in Toronto to getting the rental car in Edmonton every single person I met from Air Canada was helpful. It almost felt like someone had done a course on exactly what my needs were and how to most effectively support me. I have found that Air Canada typically offers pretty good service (I won't fly another airline) but yesterdays trip was way more than pretty good.

I want to tell you of an incident though, that was, for me, surprising and funny. We were the last off the plane. I don't like people pushing me uphill and though I can't walk very far, very well, when there is an incline, I try to walk it. So, I did. I got about two thirds of the way when I turned a corner and found a steeper, longer ramp to the top. By then I knew I was over exerting myself and that I simply couldn't do this last bit of the trip without resting.

I asked for and was given my chair and I told them to give me a few minutes and then I'd tackle it again. The woman who had been sent to meet me at the gate to provide help with getting to baggage was talking to another woman behind me. They both were absolutely sure that they, together, could push me up the ramp. I began to protest saying that I don't want my weight or my disability to hurt anyone. They said that they would get speed up and let momentum take me up the ramp.

I put my feet on the footrests, I felt their hands take hold of the handle and then ... they began to run! We hit the incline and flew up it. We were at the top in seconds. They were both laughing and congratulating each other. One of them said that it was good that's she'd got a workout by 'bringing in the hay' the day before.

From there we needed no more assistance because Joe and I could do the rest by ourselves. We thanked them and they grinned and waved us on.

For the whole day, from the arrival at the airport in Toronto to the top of the ramp in Edmonton, I knew that they were providing help for me, juggling things to get it right, but never, not once, did I feel like a bother to them.

Not once.

At one time, years ago, the essence of customer service was that staff made you feel important, it has devolved in recent years to the point that good customer service is that the staff don't make you feel like a bother.

I got old and new yesterday. I felt like I mattered and I didn't feel like a bother.

That's remarkable, for anyone travelling in a wheelchair, that's just plain remarkable.
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Posted by Fred Clark

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 265-274

The final chunk of Chapter 13 will be familiar to anyone who grew up watching the TV shows of Stephen J. Cannell. These pages offer gunfire, explosions, and a mad scramble across the tarmac fleeing Bad Guys with bad aim. It’s almost like an episode of The A-Team, with Buck and Tsion as Face and Hannibal racing to the airport where Ken Ritz waits as Murdock, ready to fly them to safety. (What about Mr. T? you ask. B.A. Baracus is violently afraid to fly, so obviously Ritz/Murdock has already slipped him a tranquilizer and he’s sleeping quietly on board the plane.)

The main difference, though — and here’s a phrase I never expected to write — is that the writing was far, far better on The A-Team. Jerry Jenkins, alas, is no Stephen J. Cannell, and he’s in over his head with this kind of material.

dc1uvBuck Williams and Tsion Ben-Judah are racing across Egypt toward an airport in Arish. You’ll recall that they decided to go to Egypt because Buck had a dream in which he was Joseph having a dream-within-a-dream warning him to take Mary and Jesus and flee into Egypt. But they’re not so much fleeing into Egypt as fleeing through it. Now they’re just a few miles from the airport, but they’re being chased by an Egyptian border guard.

We were assured earlier that this border guard was a lazy rubber-stamping bureaucrat, but it turns out he’s an incredibly determined man — albeit one who doesn’t quite understand his job description as a border guard. After realizing that Buck had snuck into Egypt with a second, undocumented passenger, this man didn’t get on the phone or the radio to put out an APB on Buck and his school bus. Instead, he hopped in a car and headed off after them, despite their having a huge head-start.

But how did the guard know where to look for them? Well, apparently because Buck had told him he was heading to the airport in Arish. Sure, Buck had tricked the guards into believing he was traveling alone, but as far as they know he was otherwise perfectly trustworthy.

The geography here is all a bit wobbly. First the Egyptian border crossing was a half-hour drive west of the border crossing to exit Israel. What was all that space in between? Then there’s the odd question as to where, exactly, the border of Israel would be in the Greater Israel imagined by the Left Behind universe. (In the first book of the series we were told that Israel had vastly expanded its borders — peacefully, thanks to the agricultural prosperity of Dr. Rosenzweig’s miracle formula.) Since we can’t know whether or not Israel expanded westward, we’ll just follow the authors’ lead and pretend like they never said that, imagining this whole chase scenario unfolding with the exact same Egyptian/Israeli border that exists in the real world today. That’s still a problem, though, because Arish is only about 50 miles from where Buck crossed out of Israel, and he’s been driving for more than four hours already.

Oh, and did I mention that Egypt doesn’t exist anymore? The sovereign nation of Egypt, like every nation on the planet except for Israel, has been absorbed into the Antichrist’s Global Community — a borderless one-world government. So the Egyptian border guards and Egyptian soldiers in this chase scene should all be Global Community soldiers. But the only GC soldier we’ve seen in this whole episode was back in Israel — the one place that such soldiers shouldn’t be found.

Also too: The Antichrist’s GC air force just nuked Cairo like, two days ago. Maybe three days ago (the timeline is, as always, a bit fuzzy). So Buck should really be careful about heading west for four hours after leaving Israel because he’s probably getting close to the fallout zone.

Oh, and that sleepy little airstrip in Arish he’s heading for is probably overrun with refugees trying to escape the still-burning capital city of 7 million residents.

Wait, make that more like 3 million residents — since all the children disappeared 18 months ago, remember? I hope you do remember, because there’s no indication that Buck or Tsion or the Egyptian/GC soldiers or the authors or anyone else in this book remembers that even a little bit.

And but so anyway, Buck has a plan. When the border guard catches up, he’ll “holler” to the man that he can’t stop the school bus because he won’t be able to start it again. Then, after the guard agrees to follow him the rest of the way to the airport, they’ll just make a break for it — running onto Ken Ritz’s waiting Lear jet and taking off.

The guard, alas, is uncooperative:

Buck opened his window and hollered, “If I stop, this bus will stall! Follow me to Al Arish!”

“No!” came the reply. “You follow me back to the border!”

“We are much closer to the airport! I don’t think this bus can make it back to the border!”

“Then leave it! You can ride back with me!”

Buck misses this window of opportunity. The school bus really is in dire condition — liable to break down at any moment without delivering Buck and Tsion safely to the airport. The border guard’s car, on the other hand, is running just fine. The guard is also all alone and he’s unarmed. (The Antichrist, remember, instituted a planet-wide universal disarmament policy — no exceptions. The only people with guns in the OWG are his own GC soldiers, and this border guard is not GC.)

Plus, think again about why this border guard has driven four hours to chase down Buck instead of just getting on the radio and alerting the other authorities. Obviously, he doesn’t want those other authorities to know that he screwed up back at the border and let Tsion slip past. So that means he hasn’t told anybody where he’s going or who he’s after.

What all that adds up to is that this, again, is a scene that ought to have ended with the guard in his underwear, tied up with his own belt and sitting by the side of the highway as Buck and Tsion drive off in his spiffy little border-guard-mobile.

But instead Buck just keeps driving, devising a Plan B that involves a big bucket of gasoline and a cigarette lighter. And that, in turn, forces the border guard to do what he hadn’t done earlier: call for back-up. Now they’re setting up roadblocks ahead and massing at the airport to greet Buck and Tsion there if they should make it that far.

That means it’s time for a phone call. This one’s to charter pilot Ken Ritz:

“Ken, have you passed through customs there?”

“Yeah! I’m ready when you are.”

“You ready for some fun?”

“I thought you’d never ask! I haven’t had any real fun for ages.”

“You’re gonna risk your life and break the law,” Buck said.

“Is that all? I’ve been there before.”

This is some passable action-movie banter, with the proper tone mixing bravado and understatement. Buck tells Ritz to have the plane ready to take off as soon as they arrive, but Jenkins appropriately doesn’t have him let on exactly what it is he’s planning to do.

Ritz says he’ll have the engine running, and that taking off should be easy because “I’m the only plane going out of here tonight.” The airport at Arish is, apparently, as serenely unperturbed by the nuclear destruction of Cairo as the airport in Milwaukee was by the nuclear destruction of Chicago. (Thereby demonstrating that consistency is no substitute for continuity.)

The conversation gets interrupted as the border guard starts bumping his “squad car” into the back of the school bus to try to force Buck to pull over. And then:

“Ken, you still there?”

“Yeah, what in the world’s going on?”

“You wouldn’t believe it!”

“You bein’ chased or something?”

“That’s the understatement of the year, Ritz!”

And now the whole action-movie banter thing is ruined. Jenkins loses the proper tone and Buck loses his cool. The tone of action-movie banter should be inversely proportionate to the extremity of the derring-do it accompanies. Buck here exaggerates his situation — describing it as a bigger deal than it actually is. That makes the action of the scene seem less impressive and less dangerous.

Let’s replace Buck’s lines there with some C-grade action-movie banter as it might be delivered by any D-grade Bruce Willis wanna-be:

“What in the world’s going on?”

“Oh, you know, the usual.”

“You bein’ chased or something?”

“Well, just a minor difference of opinion with the Egyptian border patrol …”

That’s never going to win anybody any Oscars, but it works. Understatement makes the danger seem more impressive, whereas Buck’s overstatement makes it seem less so.

There’s a bit more car-chase type business in the final few miles approaching the airport, most of which kind of blurs into a single big muddle, and Tsion Ben-Judah deflates whatever tension there might otherwise be by reminding readers that the outcome of this car chase — like the outcome of all of history — has been preordained by God. “We need to strategize,” Buck tells him:

“Strategy? It is lunacy!”

“And what would you call what else we’ve been through?”

“The lunacy of the Lord! Just tell me what to do, Cameron, and I will do it. Nothing will be able to stop us tonight.”

The Lord, apparently, is feeling particularly loony. And he’s also a bit of a pyromaniac. Because here’s Buck’s divinely inspired plan for getting through the final big roadblock at the airport:

“I need you to pour all those gas containers into the one big water bucket, the one that’s wide open at the top. I’ll have the cigarette lighter hot and ready to go. If we come upon a roadblock I think I can smash through, I’ll just keep going and get as close to the runway as possible. The Lear is going to be off to our right about a hundred yards from the terminal. If the roadblock is not something we can smash through, I’ll try to go around it. If that’s impossible, I’m going to pull the wheel hard to the left and slam on the brakes. That will make the back end swing around into the roadblock and anything loose will slide to the back door. You must put that bucket of gasoline in the aisle about eight feet from the back door, and when I give you the signal, toss that cigarette lighter into it. It needs to be just enough ahead of the collision so it’s burning before we hit. …

“When that back door blows open and that burning gasoline flies out, we have to be hanging on up here with all our might so we don’t get thrown back into it. While they’re concentrating on the fire, we jump out the front and run toward the jet. Got it?”

You know, that old trick. The bit where you slam the brakes and swerve so that the flaming bucket of gasoline goes shooting out the back door of the school bus.

At the end of this long, mostly boilerplate “escape” subplot, it’s refreshing to finally encounter something that wasn’t a cliché I’d seen dozens of times before. This may be a stupid and unworkable stunt, but at least it’s an original stupid and unworkable stunt.

Sure enough, they get to the airport and find “a blockade of a half-dozen vehicles and several armed soldiers. Buck could see he would not be able to blast through it or go around.”

As Buck raced toward the open gate and the huge blockade, the patrol car still following close behind, the cigarette lighter popped out. Buck grabbed it and tossed it back to Tsion. It bounced and rolled under a seat. “Oh no!” Buck shouted. …

Partly the right idea there. It’s always good to introduce a late-developing little obstacle in the execution of the heroes’ plan. That can heighten tension and give that last little oomph to the suspense you’re trying to build.

But what you want from such things is the audience wondering how the heroes will manage to succeed despite this problem. You don’t want them wondering why the heroes were dumb enough to make their plan contingent on a rabbi successfully catching a red-hot cigarette lighter with his bare hands while standing on a moving bus next to a giant bucket of gasoline.

“I have got it!” Tsion said. Buck peeked in the rearview mirror as Tsion climbed out from under a seat, tossed the cigarette lighter into the bucket, and scrambled to the front.

The back of the bus burst into flames. “Hang on!” Buck shouted, pulling hard to the left and slamming on the brakes. The bus whirled so fast it nearly tipped over. The back smashed into the stockade of cars, and the back door burst open, flaming gasoline splashing everywhere.

The lunacy of the Lord!

Our heroes jump out of the front of the bus and, under cover of flame and smoke, make a run for the Lear jet.

Fifty feet from the plane, Buck heard shots and turned to see a half-dozen guards racing toward them, firing high-powered weapons.

Where did they get such weapons after the Antichrist imposed his universal disarmament plan? Apparently, they got them from the same Bad Guy arsenal that all the villains on The A-Team shopped at, because they all miss everything. (Well — almost everything. A bullet grazes Buck’s foot, giving him just exactly the sort of inconsequential injury he needs to accompany the sooty smears on his face that just happen to accentuate his cheek bones.)

They get safely on the plane and it takes off safely:

“Next stop,” Ritz announced, “Palwaukee Airport, State of Illinois, in the U.S. of A.”

Should we even bother mentioning that the U.S. of A. was, like Egypt, abolished 18 months ago?

Novels in Shorthand

Oct. 22nd, 2014 05:01 am
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Posted by Jack El-Hai

By Jack El-Hai (Regular Contributor)

A century ago, hundreds of thousands of people around the world regularly used shorthand. Secretaries, stenographers, court reporters, journalists and others depended on the elaborate shorthand systems that Isaac Pitman and John Robert Gregg developed in the nineteenth century, and countless schools and publishers seized the business opportunity to train them. Talented practitioners could write at speeds up to 280 words per minute.


A page from the Gregg edition of Alice in Wonderland.

Two distinct skills comprised shorthand proficiency. One was the ability to quickly and accurately set down spoken words using the shorthand systems, and the other was mastery of the translation of passages of shorthand into standard written or spoken language. To teach the second skill, publishers produced printed shorthand texts that students could use to practice translation.

These texts grew increasingly complex, and apparently so did their uses. In 1903, the publishers of the Gregg method released the first novel entirely rendered in shorthand — an 87-page edition of Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son by George Horace Lorimer, a longtime editor of The Saturday Evening Post.  Little read today, the novel unfolds in epistolary style, a comfortable format for students used to taking down correspondence. But few students would have required such a long exercise in translation, suggesting that some may have read this novel in shorthand for edification or pleasure (or to show off).

Ten years later, a couple of shorthand short stories, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving and “The Great Stone Face” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, appeared in print. Then, starting around 1918, additional literary editions came out, including shorthand versions of Alice in Wonderland, The Sign of the Four, and such short stories as “The Diamond Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, and “A Descent into the Maelström” by Edgar Allan Poe.

Because Gregg shorthand is a phonetic system in which the strokes represent sounds and don’t correspond with letters or words, consuming a novel from the squiggles and lines on the page must have offered a unique reading experience. The strokes for the word raise, for example, are the same as the strokes for raze.

New technologies of the past 75 years — dictation machines, audio recorders, and personal computers — have decimated the ranks of shorthand users, and the various systems might now qualify as endangered languages. (The Gregg system has not been updated since 1988.) In libraries and digitized collections, however, shorthand novels live on. Even though few people can now read them, these literary translations display a strange and persistent beauty.

Further reading:

Carroll, Lewis. Alice in Wonderland (Gregg shorthand edition). The Gregg Publishing Company, c. 1918.

Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Sign of the Four (Gregg shorthand edition). The Gregg Publishing Company, c. 1918.

Price, Leah. “Diary” [essay on the history of shorthand]. London Review of Books, December 4, 2008.

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Posted by spam-spam


  • On Gamergate: a letter from the editor | Polygon (October 17): “Video games are capital “C” Culture now. There won’t be less attention, only more. There won’t be less scrutiny. There certainly won’t be less diversity, in the fiction of games themselves or in the demographics of their players. What we’re in control of is how we respond to that expansion, as journalists, as developers, as consumers. Step one has to be a complete rejection of the tools of harassment and fear — we can’t even begin to talk about the interesting stuff while people are literally scared for their lives. There can be no dialogue with a leaderless organization that both condemns and condones this behavior, depending on who’s using the hashtag.”
  • Gamergate threats: Why it’s so hard to prosecute the people targeting Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian | Slate (October 17): “The light penalties attached to many of these online crimes also deter officials from taking them seriously, because the punishment doesn’t justify the resources required to investigate and prosecute them”
  • Of Gamers, Gates, and Disco Demolition: The Roots of Reactionary Rage | The Daily Beast (October 16): “Our various “culture wars” tend to boil down to one specific culture war, the one about men wanting to feel like Real Men and lashing out at the women who won’t let them.”
  • Gamergate in Posterity | The Awl (October 15): “Maybe there will be some small measure of accountability in the far future, not just for public figures and writers and activists, but for all the people who could not or would not see their “trolling” for what it really was. Maybe, when their kids ask them what they were like when they were young, they will have no choice but to say: I was a piece of shit. I was part of a movement. I marched, in my sad way, against progress. Don’t take my word for it. You can Google it!”

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Honey, you still fog my glasses

Oct. 21st, 2014 06:59 pm
[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

• “The opposition to it was really either political or ideological. … I don’t think that holds water against real flesh and blood, and real improvements in people’s lives.” That’s Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich talking about Obamacare

• A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds that most Americans think the country is “on the wrong track.” It turns out this has been true of every such poll since January 2004. The Journal’s Elizabeth Williamson says this marks a prolonged period of national gloominess.

But keep in mind, this poll question isn’t solely a measure of the national mood. It’s also asking the public to make a prediction about where things are heading. That prediction may turn out to have been accurate or inaccurate — right or wrong. It’s not an entirely subjective question. Just look back to that January 2004 poll, when a majority of Americans said the country was “on the right track.” Does anyone today think they were right about that?

• Credit where credit is due: Kudos to Focus on the Family for denouncing right-wing “Bible prophecy” loon Rick Wiles for celebrating the Ebola outbreak. Wiles said, “Ebola could solve America’s problems with atheism, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography and abortion.”


• Here are two great examples from yesterday that show why I think Hemant Mehta’s Friendly Atheist is one of the best blogs in all of blogtopia.

First there’s this: “Maryland Delegate Spreads Story of Anti-Christian Discrimination at Sheriff’s Office … Turns Out It’s All Wrong.” He heard the story and then checked it out — calling the sheriff’s office and getting the sheriff himself on the phone to get the actual story. That looks an awful lot like actual journalism.

And then there’s this, which is just terrific: “An Interview With Robert Wilson (a.k.a. rwlawoffice), the Commenter Who Always Seems to Disagree With What I Write.” It’s a neighborly, mutually respectful exchange — the rare achievement of genuine disagreement.

• “I’m gonna tell God how you treat me, I’m gonna tell God how you treat me one of these days.”

Bill Lindsey’s post had me searching for additional versions of that great old song and I came across this one — an adorable a capella rendition by a 9-year-old girl. She’s seated at a desk, apparently reading the words off the computer screen in front of her. Or maybe she’s looking at the latest round of awful stories of online abuse — the terroristic threats against Anita Sarkeesian, the vile cesspool of “GamerGate,” and all the other daily horrors that make life online intolerable for any woman with an opinion and a voice. That’s what I was thinking of, anyway, as I heard her singing, “I’m gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days.”

It’s a beautiful song. I hope it’s true. My eye reaches but little ways, etc.

• “Rental America: Why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa”  The question should actually by why it’s legal or in any way socially tolerable for some evil bastard to charge poor people $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa.

And the answer to that question is partly this: Because we’re a nation of sanctimonious, victim-blaming jerks. We’re addicted to the endorphin rush of moral superiority we get from blaming uppity poor people for wanting furniture that we think someone in their station doesn’t deserve to have. And we’re too busy doing that to bother reining in the loansharks, scammers and predators who gouge the poor with schemes like “rent-to-own.”

• “You might get AIDS in Kenya, the people have AIDS, you got to be careful, the towels can have AIDS.” This man finished second in the Republican Iowa caucus. And now he’s warning us against Africanized AIDS-towels. OK.

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Posted by Fred Clark

One of the main Muzak loops they play at the store (overnight, all night, the music never stops at the Big Box) includes a couple of Indigo Girls songs. “Watershed” is lovely, and so is “Power of Two.” No complaint about either of those, and after hearing them both a couple of times a night for a couple of weeks, I’ve even got the harmony parts down pretty well.

But the Big Box is a hardware store. It’s kind of bewildering that a hardware store would play two Indigo Girls songs every four hours without either of them being this one:

Click here to view the embedded video.

It’s even weirder because every 10 minutes or so, the PA interrupts whatever song is playing for one of the store’s in-house ads. “Let’s get out there and get building,” the ad says, touting a sale on hammers and nails before cutting back to “Power of Two.”

HammerNail(I recently learned that there’s a name for the annoying presumed intimacy of that “let’s” construction. It’s apparently called “forced teaming.” I’ve always just thought of such presumptuous first-person-plural rhetoric in terms of the old Lone Ranger and Tonto joke — “What do you mean ‘we,’ kemosabe?”)

The Muzak channel that plays the Indigos is full of mellow, acoustic folkie pop. A little Norah Jones, some Sarah MacLachlan, Jonatha Brooke, Shawn Colvin and the like. All quite lovely in the right setting, but not exactly the kind of thing to keep one awake and energized at four in the morning.

The ’70s music channel that sometimes plays instead is better for that. Say what you will about disco, but those beats-per-minute do keep your heart-rate up. Plus it can be a fun reminder of some of the great music I don’t always think of as “1970s” stuff — old Bowie or Springsteen or Dolly Parton. But then it also includes some songs that are even more 1970s than I might have thought possible — like “Float On” from The Floaters, a song so utterly whatever it is that I’m a little bit in awe of it.

The other weird Muzak channel is a decent mix of ’80s and ’90s pop. Some oddly wonderful choices in that playlist, but the strangest thing to me is the Simple Minds. There are five Simple Minds songs in that tape loop — five!

These are songs I don’t ever remember hearing on the radio. I think the only reason I know them is because I forgot to send in that Columbia House Record Club card once in college and wound up owing them like $28 for the Live in the City of Light double album.

So in case anyone was wondering what Jim Kerr was up to these days, now you know. He’s working for Muzak, programming the overnight playlists of Big Box hardware chain stores. (Not actually true — according to Wikipedia the former Simple Minds frontman is actually running a hotel in Sicily. No, really.)

Anyway, if you’re awaiting the point to this post, there is none. But there’s a No Prize for anybody in comments who can guess all five Simple Minds songs.

[syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

Posted by Tim Chevalier

With his permission, I’m reposting this blog comment from Marco Rogers, in a reply to an anti-feminist comment on a blog post about women in tech that he wrote 2 1/2 years ago. Although the post is that old, the comment is from a few days ago, because even years later, anti-feminist trolls are stumbling across Marco’s blog post and feeling the need to express their displeasure with it.

I’m reposting Marco’s comment because I think it’s a good example about how to respond to a troll. I would love to see more men let their anti-feminist peers know that uninformed anti-feminist wankery is a waste of time. And I would love to do that more often myself, rather than engaging with it.

Hi [REDACTED]. I thought a long time about whether to let this comment stand or delete it. I do listen to input from different perspectives. I read this entire thing. And I’m sorry to say it was a waste of my time.

I’m afraid this reply won’t be very constructive. I had to chose whether to waste further time dismantling your false logic, and I had to take into account whether it would make any difference to you or anyone reading. I don’t think it will. In my experience, it’s very difficult to educate men who think like you do.

I’ll admit it also annoys me that you would come and write a small novel in my blog comments but not say anything new or original. Men have been making this argument that their long history of sexism is somehow the natural order of things since the beginning of time. It’s not revelatory, it’s not some profound wisdom that people haven’t heard, it’s boring. The feminist/womanist movement grew in direct opposition to all the nonsense you spouted above. There is a ton of literature that debunks and rejects every single point you are poorly trying to make. The least you can do is educate yourself on the system you’re up against, so you can sound more cogent and have an actual chance of convincing anyone.

The question remains of whether I let your comment stay up. I think I will. Not because I feel compelled to represent multiple viewpoints here. This is my blog and I choose what goes here. But I’ll leave it because I’m no longer afraid of letting people read tripe like this. You’re losing. We WILL create a world where the mentality of men like you is a minority and women get to exist as themselves without fear. You can’t stop it. Stay mad bro. Thanks for dropping by.

Lafayette the Centaur

Oct. 21st, 2014 11:00 am
[syndicated profile] wonders_and_marvels_feed

Posted by April Stevens

CentaurBy Laura Auricchio (Guest Contributor)

The Marquis de Lafayette, French hero of the American Revolution, was a man of many names. In 1757, a rural curate honored a host of heavenly saints and earthly ancestors by baptizing him Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette. From the 1770s through the 1830s, grateful Americans came to know him as the Hero of Two Worlds, the Apostle of Liberty, or – in affectionate shorthand – simply The Marquis. During the French Revolution, though, less flattering nicknames accrued to Lafayette. Royalists denounced him as a traitor; radicals termed him a coward; and, in 1791, at least one caricaturist friendly to the monarchy depicted Lafayette as a centaur – a monstrous man-horse hybrid.

On one hand, the caricature mocks Lafayette’s uncommon attachment to his steed. From July 1789 to July 1791, Lafayette cut a conspicuously equestrian figure on the streets of Paris. As Commander of the National Guard, he was so often seen atop a majestic white horse that newspapers and gossip sheets described man and beast as inseparable. According to some reports, the two fused so thoroughly in the popular imagination that at one event in 1790s Lafayette’s admirers nearly smothered both man and mount with warm embraces.

But in eighteenth-century France, where every learned man knew his Greek mythology, picturing Lafayette as a centaur implied something darker. Centaurs were dangerous beings whose base and disorderly natures threatened the very foundations of civilization. So, the caricature implies, was Lafayette, seen here galloping past the severed heads of royalists.

Staunch monarchists held Lafayette responsible for the downfall of Louis XVI, but Lafayette, who wanted to reform, not abolish, the Bourbon throne, considered himself blameless. “The Blameless One” – Le Sans Tort – is the title of the caricature. It is no coincidence that, in French, “Le Sans Tort” sounds precisely like “the centaur.”


MarquisLaura Auricchio is Associate Professor of Art History and Dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies at The New School for Public Engagement. Her newest book The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered offers a visually-informed biography on the Marquis de Lafayette.

W&M is excited to have three (3) copies of Laura Auricchio’s new book The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered for this month’s giveaway! Be sure to enter below by 11:00pm EST on October 31 to qualify (your entry includes a subscription to W&M Monthly).

Please note that, at this time, we can only ship within the US.

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October Book Giveaways


Oct. 21st, 2014 04:42 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

In moments we head to the airport.

In moments I have to put myself and my needs into the hands of others.

And sometime, noon, the day before.

I begin to pray, to hope and to will into being.

A day full of decent people.

I don't ask for kind people.

I don't ask for generous people.

Just decent.

I don't want humiliation.

That's all.


That's all.

(no subject)

Oct. 21st, 2014 12:02 am
[syndicated profile] ursulav_feed
I will be at the Jamboree Road Barnes & Noble in Irvine, CA at 7:00 tonight!

Thursday, I'll be at Bookshop Santa Cruz at 4:30' and Friday at The Reading Bug in San Carlos at 4:00!

Stop by if you're in he area, say hi!
[syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

Posted by Sarah Wanenchak

In truth, I didn’t pay a tremendous amount of attention to iOS8 until a post scrolled by on my Tumblr feed, which disturbed me a good deal: The new iteration of Apple’s OS included “Health”, an app that – among many other things – contains a weight tracker and a calorie counter.

And can’t be deleted.

1 (3) - Copy

Okay, so why is this a big deal? Pretty much all “health” apps include those features. I have one (third-party). A lot of people have one. They can be very useful. Apple sticking non-removable apps into its OS is annoying, but why would it be something worth getting up in arms over? This is where it becomes a bit difficult to explain, and where you’re likely to encounter two kinds of people (somewhat oversimplified, but go with me here). One group will react with mild bafflement. The other will immediately understand what’s at stake.

The Health app is literally dangerous, specifically to people dealing with/in recovery from eating disorders and related obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Obsessive weight tracking and calorie counting are classic symptoms. These disorders literally kill people. A lot of people. Apple’s Health app is an enabler of this behavior, a temptation to fall back into self-destructive habits. The fact that it can’t be deleted makes it worse by orders of magnitude.

So why can’t people just not use it? Why not just hide it? That’s not how obsessive-compulsive behavior works. One of the nastiest things about OCD symptoms – and one of the most difficult to understand for people who haven’t experienced them – is the fact that a brain with this kind of chemical imbalance can and will make you do things you don’t want to do. That’s what “compulsive” means. Things you know you shouldn’t do, that will hurt you. When it’s at its worst it’s almost impossible to fight, and it’s painful and frightening. I don’t deal with disordered eating, but my messed-up neurochemistry has forced me to do things I desperately didn’t want to do, things that damaged me. The very presence of this app on a device is a very real threat (from post linked above):

Whilst of course the app cannot force you to use it, it cannot be deleted, so will be present within your apps and can be a source of feelings of temptation to record numbers and of guilt and judgement for not using the app.

Apple doesn’t hate people with eating disorders. They probably weren’t thinking about people with eating disorders at all. That’s the problem.

Then this weekend another post caught my attention: The Health app doesn’t include the ability to track menstrual cycles, something that’s actually kind of important for the health of people who menstruate. Again: so? Apple thinks a number of other forms of incredibly specific tracking were important enough to include:

In case you’re wondering whether Health is only concerned with a few basics: Apple has predicted the need to input data about blood oxygen saturation, your daily molybdenum or pathogenic acid intake, cycling distance, number of times fallen and your electrodermal activity, but nothing to do with recording information about your menstrual cycle.

Again: Apple almost certainly doesn’t actively hate cisgender women, or anyone else who menstruates. They didn’t consider including a cycle tracker and then went “PFFT SCREW WOMEN.” They probably weren’t thinking about women at all.

During the design phase of this OS, half the world’s population was probably invisible. The specific needs of this half of the population were folded into an unspecified default. Which doesn’t – generally – menstruate.

I should note that – of course – third-party menstrual cycle tracking apps exist. But people have problems with these (problems I share), and it would have been nice if Apple had provided an escape from them:

There are already many apps designed for tracking periods, although many of my survey respondents mentioned that they’re too gendered (there were many complaints about colour schemes, needless ornamentation and twee language), difficult to use, too focused on conceiving, or not taking into account things that the respondents wanted to track.

Both of these problems are part of a larger design issue, and it’s one we’ve talked about before, more than once. The design of things – pretty much all things – reflects assumptions about what kind of people are going to be using the things, and how those people are going to use them. That means that design isn’t neutral. Design is a picture of inequality, of systems of power and domination both subtle and not. Apple didn’t consider what people with eating disorders might be dealing with; that’s ableism. Apple didn’t consider what menstruating women might need to do with a health app; that’s sexism.

The fact that the app cannot be removed is a further problem. For all intents and purposes, updating to a new OS is almost mandatory for users of Apple devices, at least eventually. Apple already has a kind of control over a device that’s a bit worrying, blurring the line between owner and user and threatening to replace one with the other. The Health app is a glimpse of a kind of well-meaning but ultimately harmful paternalist approach to design: We know what you need, what you want; we know what’s best. We don’t need to give you control over this. We know what we’re doing.

This isn’t just about failure of the imagination. This is about social power. And it’s troubling.

Sarah Wanenchak is a PhD student at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her current research focuses on contentious politics and communications technology in a global context, particularly the role of emotion mediated by technology as a mobilizing force. She blogs at Cyborgology, where this post originally appearedand you can follow her at @dynamicsymmetry.

(View original at

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Posted by Tim Chevalier

Simply Secure is a new non-profit that focuses on helping the open source community do a better job at security. Their focus is on adding usable security technology on top of existing, already-widely-adopted platforms and services, and their advisory board includes Wendy Seltzer, Cory Doctorow, and Angela Sasse, among others. (Full disclosure: I went to college with the executive director and founder, Sara “Scout” Sinclair Brody.)

They are hiring for two full-time positions right now: a research director/associate director with some mix of practical experience and formal education in security and UX design (sufficient experience compensates for a lesser degree of formal education), and an operations manager who will write grants and manage finances. Simply Secure strongly encourages applications from populations under-represented in the technology industry. For both positions, experience with and/or enthusiasm for open source is desirable but not required. Simply Secure is located in the US in Philadelphia and is actively recruiting candidates who work remotely.

To apply, visit their jobs page!

[syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

Posted by Fred Clark

In the original Star Trek series, the title sequence included a stirring bit of narration that summarized the premise of the show:

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

That introduction captured the imagination because it was an invitation to a compelling story. At the same time, though, it reminded viewers of an enormous problem with that story. “Space: the final frontier” is really, really big. It’s far too big to get anywhere on a “five-year mission.”

Space is so big that we measure its distances in light years, or how far light can travel in a year. Even if there are strange new worlds out there in space — new life and new civilizations orbiting other stars — they’re too far away for us to reach within five years, even if we could travel at the speed of light (which we can’t). So Star Trek doesn’t work, as a story, unless it includes faster-than-light travel, which is impossible.

USSEnterpriseFor Star Trek, the solution to this story-telling obstacle was “warp speed” — a way of traveling far faster than the speed of light. How does that work? Well, the warp drive warps space and time by mumblemumblemumble dilithium mumblemumble gravimetric field displacement mumblemumblemumble.

There’s a lot of mumbling in there because, of course, a functioning warp drive has not yet been invented. The storytellers didn’t need to actually invent it. They didn’t need to produce blueprints and a schematic for such a hypothetical faster-than-light technology. All they needed to do was to assert its existence, providing just enough scientific-sounding technobabble for viewers to accept its existence as plausible and, therefore, to be willing to suspend disbelief enough to accept the stories they were telling.

The writers for Buffy the Vampire Slayer came to refer to such technobabble as “phlebotinum.” It may be magical or mystical, it may involve theoretical physics (or just something that sounds kind of like theoretical physics). It may involve the wondrous properties of kryptonium or of unobtainium, transdimensional wormholes, reversing the polarity of the neutron flow, an ancient prophecy or a mysterious artifact. The details don’t matter so much. What matters is the assurance that the phlebotinum, somehow, accounts for the unaccountable. Phlebotinum explains the impossible. Or, rather, it offers a deal in which we, the audience, accept the idea that such an explanation exists, in exchange for which we will allow ourselves to enjoy a compelling story without getting tripped up by the impossibilities it otherwise entails.

That can be a good deal for the audience, provided the story is any good. Why should we deprive ourselves of the enjoyment of a good story by allowing ourselves to get distracted by something like the inconvenient impossibility of faster-than-light travel? But, still, we do require that the storytellers give us something. Phlebotinum doesn’t need to be ironclad and fully explained, but the storyteller needs at least to nod in the general direction of the impossibilities involved, to acknowledge the difficulty they present and to reassure us that we needn’t worry about such things because phlebotinum.

This bargain — the exchange of phlebotinum for our willing suspension of disbelief — is conducted between countless storytellers and their audiences in the realm of science fiction, fantasy, horror, comic books, action movies, detective stories, etc.

And this same bargain is made, regularly, between young-Earth creationists and the fans of that genre of speculative fiction. Young-Earth creationism is all about phlebotinum.

Consider, for example, this recent story from Nature: “World’s oldest art found in Indonesian cave.” It’s a pretty cool story:

Artwork in an Indonesian cave has been found to date back at least 40,000 years, making it the oldest sign yet of human creative art — likely pre-dating art from European caves.

Somebody stenciled paintings of their hands on the wall of a cave 40,000 years ago. And those paintings are still there. That’s awesome.

But it’s not so awesome if you’re a fan of young-Earth creationism. The whole premise of the story young-Earth creationists tell one another is that the universe is only about 6,000 years old. A set of 40,000-year-old cave paintings can’t be reconciled with that story. These cave paintings would seem to disprove that story.

So the first thing the young-Earth creationists will say in response to this news is that the scientists dating the age of these cave paintings simply must be wrong. They’re just guessing and their guess is incorrect.

But, alas, the dating of these cave paintings isn’t based on guesswork or theory. It’s based on measurement, using uranium-thorium dating:

Though the paint itself cannot be dated, uranium-thorium dating can estimate the age of the bumpy layers of calcium carbonate (known as “cave popcorn”) that formed on the surface of the paintings. As mineral layers are deposited, they draw in uranium. Because uranium decays into thorium at a known rate, the ratio of uranium to thorium isotopes in a sample indicates how old it is.

The researchers dated 12 stencils of human hands and two images of large animals. Because they sampled the top layer of calcium carbonate, the uranium dating technique gave them a minimum age for each sample.

They found that the oldest stencil was at least 39,900 years old — 2,000 years older than the minimum age of the oldest European hand stencil. An image of a babirusa, or “pig-deer,” resembling an aubergine with stick-like legs jutting from each end, was estimated to be 35,400 years old — around the same age as the earliest large animal pictures in European caves.

Again, pretty cool. Unless you’re a young-Earth creationist, in which case you’ve got a big problem.

That problem threatens the story the young-Earth creationists are enjoying. It threatens the story in precisely the same way that the impossibility of faster-than-light travel threatens the story that Star Trek fans enjoy. And thus young-Earth creationists respond to this problem in exactly the same way: with applied phlebotinum.

Click over to Answers in Genesis and search for articles on radioactive dating methods and you’ll find lots of phlebotinum — lots of articles explaining that such methods are unreliable because mumblemumblemumble gravimetric field displacement mumblemumble reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.

Do any of these articles actually make sense? Do any of them really disprove the reliability of things like uranium-thorium dating?

No, but that’s not the point. They don’t have to prove that such methods are unreliable any more than Gene Roddenberry had to prove that his warp drive was possible. Phlebotinum doesn’t need to be detailed and fully functional — that’s not what it’s for.

The purpose of phlebotinum is simply to allow the story to continue — to prevent it from getting derailed by the inconvenient existence of impossibilities and insurmountable realities. The purpose is to make the bargain with the audience: We, the storytellers, will acknowledge the existence of such impossibilities and, in exchange for this acknowledgement, you the audience will agree to suspend your disbelief so that the story may continue.

That bargain works for Star Trek, and for Buffy, and for Doctor Who and all the rest. It’s a good deal for fans of those stories.

But it’s not a good deal for fans of the story being told by young-Earth creationists because those story-tellers are making a different claim. They’re insisting that their story is true. A true story requires more than just the willing suspension of disbelief. A true story has to be believable. For a true story, phlebotinum won’t cut it.

When J.K. Rowling tells us that Harry Potter’s broomstick can fly because of magic, we’ll accept that bit of phlebotinum and agree to that bargain because she’s telling us a terrific story and we’re happy to go along for the ride. But Ken Ham is actually asking us to get on the broomstick and jump out the window. And before agreeing to do that, he’s going to need to tell us something more than just, “Trust me, it’s magic.”


[syndicated profile] wonders_and_marvels_feed

Posted by Elizabeth Goldsmith

By Elizabeth C. Goldsmith (Regular Contributor)

Lately I’ve been researching old travel narratives from the 17th and 18th centuries, and rereading Robinson Crusoe. Then the other day I was watching The Apartment, Billy Wilder’s wonderful 1960 movie about corporate America. I was struck when Jack Lemmon says to Shirley MacLaine: “I used to live like Robinson Crusoe; I mean, shipwrecked among 8 million people. And then one day I saw a footprint in the sand, and there you were. ”

That got me thinking about that famous footprint-in-the-sand episode, when Crusoe first stumbles upon a sign of human habitation on his island. How many different ways has it been depicted and interpreted over the past 300 years? In the book, and in the illustration to the first editions, Crusoe is shocked, thrown off balance and appalled at the sight:

“I stood as one thunderstruck, or as if I had seen an apparition. … I came home not feeling, as we say, the ground I went on, but terrified to the last degree, looking behind me at every two or three steps …”

Imagining what type of person he might be about to encounter (cannibals?), Crusoe calms himself and tries to stave off nightmares by thinking that the footprint might in fact have been his own. But then, knowing that to be impossible, he decides that any fellow human is bound to at least resemble him in some way. When Friday finally appears in the flesh, Crusoe will quickly make him over into a loyal servant and shadow of himself.


Contemplative Crusoe

Subsequent illustrations of the episode have reflected a change in the way different generations of readers have approached it – Crusoe is no longer depicted as terrified, only curious, sometimes on bended knee like an explorer or tracker, examining the evidence more closely before deciding what to do. And modern editions of the story as presented to young readers seem to emphasize the humanity of the moment. Crusoe is lonely, longing for a friend, and Friday will become one. We no longer see images of the scene where Crusoe places his foot on the neck of the kneeling Friday, signifying the Englishman’s mastery over the black man whose footprint had frightened him.

Shipwrecked in Hawaii?

The script writers for the popular TV series Mad Men might have been playing around with Defoe’s iconic moment in an episode where Don Draper takes a trip to Hawaii. He comes back with an idea for an ad showing footprints in the sand, next to the discarded clothing of a businessman. Are the footprints those of another person? Or has this modern traveler decided to go native? Don’s clients reject the ad idea, saying the image is too ambiguous, and even potentially depressing, suggestive not of the liberation of the castaway, but of a suicide.




Oct. 20th, 2014 07:07 am
[syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

Posted by Dave Hingsburger

I lost it yesterday.

Just lost it.

In order to understand, for those of you who don't use a wheelchair, I need to explain the build up. I had to work Saturday until two and therefore didn't get home until somewhere after three. We got home and left immediately, planning to catch the four o'clock showing of Fury. Never realizing that it would be me who was unleashing fury even before getting to the movie.

The sidewalks were packed and after a block or two we regretted not just taking the subway. I drove steadfastly and carefully. I've never run into anyone, although others have run into me, and I fill my mouth with politeness - excuse me please, thank you very much, could I just get by you there. These are mostly directed at people who are standing in the middle of a sidewalk texting or talking or otherwise 'I-ing' with their phone. It gets tiresome using manners when your whole being wants to shout - get out of the freaking way!!!

I was pretty used up with my store of politeness and patience, therefore, when I got to the lobby of the building which houses the cinema on the fourth floor. We went to the elevators and were the only ones waiting. The building has a remarkable set of escalators giving those without disabilities and without strollers an excellent option. However, there are those, like the twenty-somethings, out together in a group, gathered behind us, who for some reason prefer the elevator.

We were clearly there first.

We were clearly in front.

This means that we were waiting longest.

The door opened to an empty elevator and they swarmed around me piling on the elevator. I was trying to turn around to back on when one of them almost ran into me. I stopped. I was furious. I said, "No, no, please go ahead!" Then I brought my chair to a complete stop. One of them told me to go ahead, I said, knowing that the elevator was full now, "No, you are so damned desperate to get on before the cripple does so get the hell on." They got on.

I turned to see Joe in the elevator holding the door open for me. The others were on, if they packed to each side, I could get on, but they stood there looking at me to solve the problem. Well, I did. "Joe, get off, we'll take the next one unless selfish prats swarm us then too. I guess being first in line means nothing to people who consider themselves above such conventions." Joe got off, the door closed on me saying, "I hope you very important people find someone else to teach your children manners."

We managed to get to the theatre on time. I asked Joe if he was looking forward to seeing Fury, he said, mocking me, "I feel like I already have."
[syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

Posted by spam-spam

Gamergate and online harassment

Other Stuff

  • Ada Lovelace, a Computer Programmer Ahead of Her Time | Mashable (October 15): Read more about the life of the “enchantress of numbers”
  • Ways Men In Tech Are Unintentionally Sexist | this is not a pattern (October 14): “These are little things. Things that many people do without thinking about them and certainly without intending anything by them. Things that individually are meaningless, but in aggregate set the tone of an entire community.”
  • The Malala you won’t hear about | The People’s Record (October 16): “This is the Malala the Western corporate media doesn’t like to quote. This is the Malala whose politics do not fit neatly into the neocolonialist, cookie-cutter frame of presentation. This is the Malala who recognizes that true liberation will take more than just education, that it will take the establishment of not just bourgeois political “democracy,” but ofeconomic democracy, of socialism.”
  • Where’s Thor When You Need Her? Women In Comics Fight An Uphill Battle | NPR (October 10): “On Facebook, women make up just under half of all self-identified comics fans. But even as the female audience grows, female creators for DC and Marvel, colloquially known as “the Big Two,” are still in the minority.”
  • Internal Memo: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sets new diversity plan after ‘humbling’ experience | GeekWire (October 15): “The memo, sent prior to a regular monthly Q&A session with employees, went on to outline a series of steps that Nadella says the company will be taking to improve diversity and inclusion across the company, including the company’s engineering and senior leadership teams.”
  • FiveThirtyEight Turns the Lidless Eye of Data Crunching to Gender Disparity in Superhero Comics Characters | The Mary Sue (October 15): “Hanley has been crunching the numbers on the gender make up of the folks who work on Marvel and DC comics for years, but FiveThirtyEight wanted to take a slightly different tack by looking at the characters who make up those comics in the first place.”
  • Mary Berners-Lee: Ada Lovelace Day Hero | equalitism (October 19): “Tim Berners-Lee’s mom, Mary Lee Woods was a badass mathematician/computer scientist before he was. Both of Tim’s parents worked on a team that developed programs in the School of Computer Science, University of Manchester Mark 1, Ferranti Mark 1 and Mark 1 Star computers.”
  • We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

    You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

    Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

    Sunday favorites

    Oct. 19th, 2014 10:34 am
    [syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

    Posted by Fred Clark

    Isaiah 43:18-19

    Do not remember the former things,
       or consider the things of old. 
    I am about to do a new thing;
       now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
    I will make a way in the wilderness
       and rivers in the desert.


    How I Write History…with Gary Krist

    Oct. 19th, 2014 11:05 am
    [syndicated profile] wonders_and_marvels_feed

    Posted by April Stevens

    An Interview with Gary Krist (Guest Contributor)

    WoKrist Headshotnders and Marvels: You began your career writing novels and short stories. What inspired you to start writing about history in the form of narrative nonfiction?

    Gary Krist: Until I hit forty, I read–and wrote–mostly fiction. But at a certain point, I found I wanted to know more about how the world actually came to be, so I started reading history. And that interest soon bled over into my writing life. I began writing a historical novel, Extravagance, which took place partly in late-17th century London. I made several trips to the UK and discovered that I just loved the whole research process. So, after Extravagance, I decided to take the full leap to narrative history, and that’s where I’ve been for my last three books. I do think that I’ll write another novel at some point, but right now I feel I’ve found my true calling.

    W&M: As an accomplished writer of fiction, how do you incorporate the art of storytelling when writing history?

    Gary Krist: I want my readers to experience history with great immediacy, so I try to alternate background analysis with a series of unfolding foreground episodes that readers can really see and feel, as they would the episodes of a novel. But since I try to hold myself to strict standards of scholarship, I don’t have the freedom to invent dialogue or do extensive imaginary scene-setting. I’ve got to find all of that detail in the historical record. So I’m always on the lookout for things like memoirs, letters, court testimony, and newspaper interviews that can provide the specifics I need. Of course, such sources, like any others, are not necessarily gospel truth, so I have to weigh the reliability of every document. Sometimes I discuss this evaluation process in the endnotes, so readers can see how I make those decisions.

    W&M: Does your writing process differ when writing fiction versus narrative nonfiction? How so?

    gazebo krist

    Gary’s gazebo where he writes year round.

    Gary Krist: I always feel that I’m in the narrative business, whether I’m writing fiction or history. And the basics of creating an effective narrative are the same either way. You want to bring out the individuality and motivations of your characters; you want to ground those characters in a world with a vivid texture of sights, sounds, and atmosphere; and you want the action to unfold in a way that keeps readers engaged. But with narrative history, you have to do all of that with the elements of the actual historical record. It can be a challenge.

    W&M: What advice do you have for writers who want to take a different approach to writing history?

    Gary Krist: Narrative nonfiction history—the kind that aims at a popular audience but maintains high scholarly standards—is still a relatively new genre, so it’s important that writers make clear that they’re not doing New Journalism (with its freely fictionalized elements) or old-style “local-color” history (which dealt in unfootnoted folklore more than verifiable fact). Earning and keeping the trust of your audience is crucial to the success of any piece of narrative nonfiction; readers have to be convinced that what you’ve written is indeed what it purports to be—i.e., NONfiction. That’s why I labor over my endnotes. As a reader, I don’t like sketchy notes that just list a bunch of citations for an entire paragraph, without specifying what fact or quotation came from which source. So as a writer I try to pinpoint exactly where I found a particular detail. I also try to make my notes somewhat conversational, discussing, for instance, the pros and cons of various biographies of a particular figure in the story. “Transparency” is an overused buzzword these days, but I do think it’s something for any writer of nonfiction to strive for.


    Empire of SinGary Krist is the bestselling author of City of Scoundrels and The White Cascade, as well as several works of fiction. His new book, Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans, has just been published.

    W&M is excited to have five (5) copies of Gary Krist’s’s new book Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans for this month’s giveaway! Be sure to enter below by 11:00pm EST on October 31 to qualify (your entry includes a subscription to W&M Monthly).

    Please note that, at this time, we can only ship within the US.

    Monthly Book Giveaways

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    October Book Giveaways

    Spitting on Spite

    Oct. 19th, 2014 07:05 am
    [syndicated profile] rollingaroundinmyhed_feed

    Posted by Dave Hingsburger

    I was reading an article today about sexuality and disability and the feature was about a woman with cerebral palsy. The subtitle of the article said something like (sorry I looked but couldn't find it again) 'She doesn't let cerebral palsy get in the way of living her life.' Now, remember, this from my remembering - I am sure I got some words wrong but what I didn't get wrong was the fact that she not letting her disability get in the way of her living her life.

    This kind of thing annoys the shit out of me because it places 'disability' at the centre of the problem, it states that disability, itself, is the barrier, it telegraphs the message - DISABILITY DOES BAD THINGS TO YOUR LIFE. There is no question that having a disability adds a whole new wrinkle to living one's life but pretty much everyone with a disability learns pretty quickly that disability is the LEAST of the problem.


    There's a very short and not even slightly comprehensive list of what 'gets in the way' of living life fully.

    Sexuality and disability - check the prejudices and the assumptions that people make of us as somewhat slightly less than fully human and only slightly below the 'icky' line of sexual attractiveness.

    Employment and disability - check the attitudinal barriers that are bolstered by the physical barriers, shit if I had to make the work site accessible I'd have to work with 'those people' so I can pretend it's the stairs not the stares that are the problem.

    Access and disability - check the frequency with which people with guide dogs are disallowed in stores and in churches and on transit. As was pointed out recently (Hi Amy) that no one in the Western World is unaware that guide dogs and other accessible devises are allowed in public spaces. Denying them is, then, not an act of ignorance but an act of hatred. Get it right.

    I've even had people say to me that 'in spite of your disability, you've done pretty well,' I wanted to respond, 'And I must say that I think you've done well in spite of being a woman.' I didn't say it, I wouldn't say it because even to make a point I don't think that sexist language should be part of a discourse. Saying 'in spite of being who you are ... ' means 'who you are is a bad thing and you are coping well, poor dear ...'

    If non-disabled people want to write about disability shouldnt' get have at least an inkling that we also may be the audience. That subtitle on that article was written, not for readers with disabilities but for readers without. It was written up to shore the idea that 'hey you don't have to do anything because what she faces she faces because of cerebral palsy none of it could be because you are a hateful ass who refuses to see people with disabilities as fully adult and fully human.'

    This isn't an subtitle that suggests the article is about her at all, it assures non-disabled people that it's safe to read - the disability stands accused so you won't be.



    I didn't read it.

    I couldn't get by the subtitle, it was like the writer placed a staircase in front of the article barring access to those of us who live with disabilities and who think while we read.
    [syndicated profile] slacktivist_feed

    Posted by Fred Clark

    • “When did arrogance cease to be immoral?” Pretty good column from Mallory’s Dad. I would add, too, When did rabid misogyny cease to be immoral? (I’ll see your Mere Christianity quote, Pastor Ortberg, and raise you a Great Divorce reference.)

    You better let somebody love you before it’s too late.

    henleyvshenleyWhatever the legal technicalities, it would have been far more graceful for the former Eagle to accept this ad as an affectionate nod rather than fighting it as a trademark infringement. Henley should’ve taken a cue from Paul Simon, who had the good sense not to sue the Carnegie Deli over its 50 Ways to Love Your Liver sandwich.

    You can file lawsuits like this one, but you keep carryin’ that anger, it’ll eat you up inside.

    Related: Charles Kuffner defends “Desperado” from music snobs (with the help of Johnny Cash). Yeah, the song probably romanticizes the very attitude it attempts to critique, but it’s still a nearly perfectly constructed song. Bracket your preconceptions and just hear it sung by then-9-year-old Sheila Behman for the Langley Schools Music Project.

    Also too: “Everyone is married to Don Henley.” That explains so much.

    • Yes, they are coming for your birth control.

    • I suppose it’s possible that Republican congressional candidate Carl DeMaio’s campaign manager wasn’t really suggesting racial profiling. He just figured — probably correctly — that any young and/or black people showing up at the Republican candidate’s events must be opposition research trackers because DeMaio has nothing to offer that young and/or black voters might be interested in.

    • We control the microphones. And then we tell other people it’s not polite to shout. But sometimes they shout anyway. Terribly uncivil.

    • And speaking of delicious rants, perfectnumber628 has a good one about “The Line” as in, “Stop accusing us of How close can we get to The Line.”

    This isn’t just a thing with white evangelical purity culture when it comes to sex. It’s a thing with white evangelical purity culture when it comes to everything. Cross The Line and you’re in sin. So, to be safe, create a buffer zone to avoid getting too close to The Line. Then, to be a bit safer, create a warning track before the buffer zone. And then a DMZ before the warning track, because you can’t be too safe. Because it’s all about not crossing The Line.

    Stay as far away as you can from The Line, they warn. Just look at Jesus, he’s just as far away from The Line as they are — way, way over there on the other side of it, where he’s hugging that leper and touching that bleeding woman and … nevermind, bad example.

    • Just to prove there’s not ill feelings implied with all the Don Henley business above, here’s a video of Henley performing one of my favorite songs of his:

    Click here to view the embedded video.


    Oct. 18th, 2014 06:51 pm
    [syndicated profile] ursulav_feed
    Just hit the 199th moth species in the garden, with the Root Collar Borer Moth (a minor pest on tuliptrees.)

    C'mon, 200!
    [syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

    Posted by Lisa Wade, PhD

    For those of us in favor of same-sex marriage rights, it’s been an exciting few years. Politicians and legislatures have been increasingly tipping toward marriage equality. Lots of us are commending the powerful and high-profile individuals who have decided to support the cause.

    But, let’s not be too grateful.

    A figure at xkcd puts this in perspective. It traces four pieces of data over time: popular approval and legalization of both interracial marriage and same-sex marriage. It shows that the state-by-state legalization of same-sex marriage is following public opinion, whereas the legalization of interracial marriage led public opinion.


    There’s a reason that we look back at Civil Rights legislation and see leadership. Politicians, litigators, and activists were pushing for rights that the public wasn’t necessarily ready to extend. In comparison, today’s power brokers appear to be following public opinion, changing their mind because the wind is suddenly blowing a new way.

    I’m sure there are politicians out there taking risks at the local level. On the whole, though, this doesn’t look like leadership, it looks like political expedience.

    Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

    (View original at

    A Quest for Flavor

    Oct. 18th, 2014 01:00 pm
    [syndicated profile] wonders_and_marvels_feed

    Posted by Gastropod

    By Gastropod (Regular Contributor)

    In this latest episode of Gastropod, chef and author Dan Barber takes listeners on a journey around the world in search of great flavor and the ecosystems that support it, from Spain to the deep South. You’ll hear how a carefully tended landscape of cork trees makes for delicious ham, and about a squash so cutting edge it doesn’t yet have a name, in this deep dive into the intertwined history and science of soil, cuisine, and flavor.

    Ecosystem Cuisines

    It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time before refrigerators, before long-distance trucks and ships. Most people had to survive on food from their immediate surroundings, no matter how poor the soil or challenging the terrain. They couldn’t import apples from New Zealand and potatoes from Peru, or rely on chemical fertilizer to boost their yields.

    Grains on table Nicola Twilley

    Dan Barber showed us grains from Klaas Martens’ farm in upstate New York. After a visit to Martens’ farm to source local wheat, Barber realized he needed to purchase and serve the other crops that Martens was growing in rotation on his fields in order to support the soil that grew the wheat. Photograph by Nicola Twilley

    From within these constraints, communities around the world developed a way of eating that Dan Barber calls “ecosystem cuisines.” Barber, the James Beard-award-winning chef of Blue Hill restaurant and author of the new book The Third Plate, spoke to Gastropod about his conviction that this historically-inspired style of cuisine can be reinvented, with the help of plant-breeders, his fellow chefs, and the latest in flavor science, in order to create a truly sustainable way to eat for the twenty-first century.

    Ecosystem cuisines, as Barber explains , survived in often harsh landscapes for hundreds or even thousands of years, because the local farmers cultivated a mutually beneficial community of plants and animals that grew well together, supported soil fertility, and could be combined in ways that still taste utterly fantastic today.

    Barber became famous for his farm-to-table cooking—a style of cuisine that prioritizes serving local, seasonal food, and that has become increasingly popular across America as a sustainable, delicious way to eat. But, as he began to understand how ecosystem cuisines incorporated all the ingredients of a healthy landscape, he realized that the typical farm-to-table chef’s approach of only showcasing a region’s very best local products isn’t really sustainable at all.

    Cork harvest montado Nicola Twilley

    Cork harvesting in the montado, the Portuguese equivalent of the Spanish dehesa. In this region of both countries, the cork oak acorns are eaten by foraging pigs, while the bark supplies much of the world’s natural cork for wine bottles. Photograph by Nicola Twilley.

    For example, Barber told us that the world-famous jamon iberico de bellota, Spain’s mouth-watering Iberian ham, simply could not exist if the local community didn’t also value, maintain, and consume the entire ecosystem around it. This landscape, a carefully tended combination of grasslands and widely spaced cork and holm oak trees, is called the dehesa in Spanish. As Barber explained, despite being a remote region with poor soils and a dry climate, the Spanish dehesa supports a thriving mix of pigs, sheep, and cows, olives, mushrooms, wild game and herbs, wheat—and people, whose dinner plates traditionally reflect all of the landscape’s products, rather than just its superstar ham.

    Inspired by the dehesa, Barber has set himself (and anyone who cooks) an inspiring and intimidating goal: to invent thousands of entirely new cuisines for America—cuisines that include all the edible products of a healthy, ecologically balanced local landscape, and are actually more delicious than a cuisine that only relies a region’s most famous foods.

    The Science Behind Great Flavor

    The first chapter of our conversation with Dan Barber explores the particular environmental and cultural circumstances that helped establish these traditional ecosystem cuisines in the past. But Barber is very clear that he’s not advocating some kind of impossible return to a simpler time. Instead, as we go on to discuss in the episode’s second and third chapters, Barber is working with a variety of scientists at the cutting edge of their fields in his quest for truly great flavor.

    Stone Barns greenhouse Nicola Twilley

    Amaranth growing in the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, which supplies much of the food that Dan Barber serves at Blue Hill. Photograph by Nicola Twilley.

    In the book, this involves a visit to a futuristic hydrological engineering project in southern Spain, in which the flow of water through a series of 1920s-era canals has been reversed to revive one of Europe’s largest wetlands, creating a perfect habitat for both migrating birds and farm-raised sea bass that Barber describes as among the most delicious fish he has ever tasted. It also involves a series of failures in an innovative attempt to produce ethical foie gras, a bread raised using phytoplankton rather than yeast, and an impassioned argument for increased government support of agricultural research.

    In this Gastropod episode, however, we focus on the science behind two approaches to creating great flavor: soil health and plant breeding. With Barber as our guide, we tease out the complicated and barely understood relationship between a soil’s mineral content and the nutrient density and flavor of the crops it supports, as well as the emerging science of microbe-root relationships and plant health.

    Barber Wheat

    Barber Wheat in the greenhouse (left) and freshly sowed in the fields at Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture (right). Photograph via Dan Barber.

    Finally, we look at what it takes to breed truly delicious crop varieties. Barber introduces us to new squash developed by Michael Mazourek at Cornell University that has yet to receive a name, but is “so delicious that it blows your mind.” Barber’s latest obsession, however, is a new variety of wheat, specially bred by Steve Jones at the Washington State Research and Extension Center to deliver intense flavor while growing well in the Hudson River valley. It’s called, to his great delight, “Barber wheat.”


    Dan Barber and The Third PlateDan Barber is a guest on the latest episode of Gastropod, a new podcast hosted by award-winning science journalist Cynthia Graber and Edible Geography-author Nicola Twilley. Listen to this episode to learn more surprising stories about the history and science of great flavor, including how the American Civil War can be traced back, in part, to a forgotten soil crisis, as well as the shocking research showing significant declines in the minerals in both American vegetables and soils over the past fifty years.


    Buffy the Linkspam Slayer

    Oct. 17th, 2014 07:16 pm
    [syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed

    Posted by spam-spam

    • Anita Sarkeesian explains why she canceled USU lecture | Salt Lake City Tribune (October 16): “A nationally known feminist media critic said Wednesday that “it would be irresponsible” to give a lecture amidst mass shooting threats at Utah State University, knowing that police would not screen for weapons at the door. In a phone interview from San Francisco, Anita Sarkeesian said she canceled Wednesday’s lecture not because of three death threats — one of which promised “the deadliest school shooting in American history” — but because firearms would be allowed in spite of the threats.”
    • When gun rights trump public safety | Mary Elizabeth Williams (October 15): “It’s one thing to accept and understand that plenty of reasonable and responsible people own guns and that is their constitutional right. It is another to be so outrageously afraid of legitimate and sane restrictions that you have a situation in which it is entirely permissible to carry a loaded weapon into an event that carries a threat that the people attending it will “die screaming.””
    • The Threats Against Anita Sarkeesian Expose The Darkest Aspects of Online Misogyny | Maureen Ryan (October 15): “The question that’s been haunting many observers for weeks is now right out in the open in the wake of the latest threats leveled at Sarkeesian: Is someone going to have to die for things to change?”
    • #Gamergate Trolls Aren’t Ethics Crusaders; They’re a Hate Group | Jezebel (October 13): “I set about locking down accounts, emailing professors, contacting campus safety, and calling family. It was an exhausting process, but I considered it necessary. The attack could get out of hand. I mentioned offhand to my sister, about two hours in, that “it was getting to be my turn anyways,” to nonchalantly minimize my hurt. That was the moment I broke down. I realized just how much I’d internalized the presumed process: if you’re even asking about equality or diversity in games, being shouted down in a traumatizing manner is now a mandatory step that you have to sit back and endure.”
    • Sweatin’ the Small Stuff, of, Beware Your Throwaway Jokes About Middle-Aged Women in Magic | One General to Rule them All (October 14): “I dare Wizards to give us a major female Magic character (read: Planeswalker) in the next couple of sets who doesn’t have a body that wouldn’t look out of place on a runway or the cover of Playboy. Tamiyo, the Moon Sage was a great start, but that was three blocks ago. Hell, at this point, I’ll take more than one female Planeswalker per set.”
    • AdaCamp: Spending Time with Women in Open Source and Technology | Zara Rahman (October 13): “There were some sessions that really opened my eyes to another area of this ‘open’ bubble- for example, talking about women in open source. Most of the women there were coders, who had contributed to open source code projects; and despite my having read accounts of abuse and harassment within the open source community fairly regularly before, the severity of the situations they face, really hit home for me during this session.
    • Ada Lovelace Day: Meet the 6 women who gave you ‘the computer’ | The Register (October 14): “All six are now sadly no longer with us – Bartik was the last to pass away. But their achievements were profound, not just in terms of inadvertently cementing the name “computer”. In the absence of manuals literally working out how to use this giant, the team of six installed computer programs working from sheets of paper, nimbly unplugging and replugging a rat’s nest of cables and resetting switches.”
    • Don’t Be Fooled by Apple and Facebook, Egg Freezing Is Not a Benefit | The Daily Beast (October 15): “Of all the women Snyder surveyed, nearly 90 percent of them said they did not plan on returning to the tech industry in the future. The incompatibility between motherhood and tech, it seems, runs far deeper than the timing of pregnancy alone. And the problem is so severe that the women who leave almost never want to come back. In this context, the decision to cover egg freezing reads as Silicon Valley at its most typical, deploying a hasty technological stopgap for a cultural problem.”
    • Tech’s Meritocracy Problem | Medium (October 10): “Engineers love to be skeptics — it’s time to bring our skepticism to the concept of meritocracy. If we can be skeptical enough about our own ability to detect merit, and balance it with more objective measurement or outright mitigatory adjustments — we’ll come closer to resembling an actual meritocracy.”
    • HERoes: Genevieve Valentine | Comicosity (October 2): “From journalist to award winning novelist, Genevieve Valentine is now channeling her inner crime boss. She is providing a new voice to a suited up Selina Kyle, starting with this month’s issue of Catwoman. She tells Comicosity about switching the role of female characters in comics and the importance of reader perspective while consuming.”
    •  Comic Books are Still Made by Men, For Men, and About Men | FiveThirtyEight (October 13): “But these recent advancements don’t make up for the fact that women have been ignored in comic books for decades. And they still don’t bring women anywhere close to parity: Females make up about one in four comic book characters. Among comic-creators, the numbers are even more discouraging. Tim Hanley, a comics historian and researcher, analyzes who’s behind each month’s batch of releases, counting up writers, artists, editors, pencilers and more. In August, Hanley found that men outnumbered women nine-to-one behind the scenes at both DC and Marvel.”
    • Life, Engineered: How Lynn Conway reinvented her world and ours | University of Michigan (October 8): “Ten years earlier, Conway had been one of the first Americans to undergo a modern gender transition. It had cost her a job and her family. Once she established herself as a woman, she kept the past a secret. Conway stayed behind the scenes as much as she could. As a result, so did many of her achievements.”

    We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

    You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

    Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

    Mapping the New Jim Crow

    Oct. 17th, 2014 06:19 pm
    [syndicated profile] tanehisicoates_feed

    Posted by Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Update: An earlier version of this post included a chart that compared black America's incarceration rate with those of other countries. The chart incorrectly listed black Americans' incarceration rate in 2010 as 4,347 per 100,000 Americans. In fact, that is the rate for black American men. The rate for black American women is 260 per 100,000 Americans, and the rate for black Americans as a whole is 2,207 per 100,000 Americans. The graphic has been updated.

    Theodore Johnson's excellent piece appraising "Black America" as a country gives us some sense of the beast with which Michelle Alexander was grappling. Another factoid to consider while looking at this: "No other country in the world imprisons so many of its racial or ethnic minorities," writes Alexander. "The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid."

    Somehow, looking at Johnson's post, the term "mass incarceration" seems not to capture exactly what this country is doing to its African American population. Does this equal a "new Jim Crow?" The more I think about it, the less important I find the debate to be. Was convict-leasing really "slavery by another name?" I'm not quite convinced. But at the same time the greater point seems to be that America's entire history is marked by the state imposing unfreedom on a large swath of the African American population. Whatever the successes of the past 50 years, there is no evidence that that trend has ended.

    I would be remiss if I did not offer two other entries into the debate. Here is law professor James Forman's critique of The New Jim Crow. Forman mostly agrees with Alexander but offers an argument for jettisoning the "Jim Crow" framing. In support of Alexander, I offer the concluding words from chapter three of Randall Kennedy's Race, Crime and the Law. Kennedy published his book in 1997, but this section—on inmate rights—feels especially relevant to our conversation:

    Some observers will argue that the indifference, if not hostility, shown by governments at every level toward inmates despite the large percentage of whites in the inmate population negates any suggestion that this indifference or hostility is tainted by illicit racial sentiments. That argument, however, should by no means be viewed as decisive.

    First, it may be that the politically influential sectors of the society are unaware that whites constitute a large proportion of inmate populations. It is possible, indeed likely, that the imagery of the Negro as criminal has misled some people into believing that blacks (and other people of color) constitute an even larger percentage of incarcerated populations than is actually the case, thereby misleading these same people into erroneously minimizing the number of whites who face danger and misery in jails and prisons.

    Second, even if voters and their representatives do have an accurate understanding of the racial demographics of inmate populations, that alone does not negate the possibility that racially selective hostility or indifference is at work in affecting public sentiment and thus public policy regarding incarceration. Although whites constitute a large proportion of the prisoner population, white inmates constitute a much smaller percentage of the overall white population than is the case with black inmates. In 1990, for every 100,000 white Americans, 289 were in jail or prison; for every 100,000 black Americans, 1,860 were in jail or prison.

    It is entirely plausible that the white-dominated political institutions of America would not tolerate present conditions in jails and prisons if as large a percentage of the white population were incarcerated as is the reality facing the black population. It is surely possible, to many likely, that if the racial shoe were on the other foot, white-dominated political structures would be more responsive than they are now to the terrors of incarceration. That possibility should make more alarming the fact that the darkening of jail and prison populations during the past twenty years has been attended by a discernible increase and hardening of antagonism toward the incarcerated.

    One indication of this increased public hostility is the return of chain gangs and other policies calculated to increase the immiserization of prison life. It is impossible to say definitively whether attitudes toward the in-carcerated would be different if those who are jailed and imprisoned represented as large a proportion of the white population as the jailed and imprisoned represent of the black population. That this hypothesis is at least plausible is itself a damning statement about the state of American race relations.

    Moreover, apart from the matter of governmental intentions, the plain fact is that deplorable, unlawful conditions in jails and prisons have a distinctively racial appearance because such a relatively large percentage of the black population is, has been, or will be incarcerated. At present, jails and prisons are among the most influential institutions of socialization in African-American communities. The extent to which authorities allow these institutions to remain dangerous, destructive, lawless hells is the extent to which authorities strengthen the belief held by an appreciable number of black Americans that the “white man’s” system of criminal justice remains their enemy.

    I highlighted the sentences about proportionality because they offer some perspective on the "collateral damage" critique. Previously, I asserted that the sheer number of white people damaged by mass incarceration made it hard to view it strictly through the lens of racist control. But looking at those numbers relative to the total population of each group tells a different story.

    I know that a number of you had feelings about the book, on reflection. Feel free to offer them here.

    This article was originally published at

    [syndicated profile] aqueductpress_feed

    Posted by Timmi Duchamp

    The Fall issue of The Cascadia Subduction Zone is out! This is one of our special focus issues, this time on Women and the Gaming World, brought to us by guest editor Diana Sherman. In addition to the special focus, the issue also brings us Marc Laidlaw's "The Legend of Kit Read" for our Grandmother Magma column and "The Old Testacles," a short story by Anna Tambour.

    Here is the table of contents:

     Vol. 4 No. 4 — October 2014

    Special Focus on Women and the Gaming Worldand the Gaming World
    Asking the Right Questions in Games
       by Fred Zeleny

    The Women of Dragon Age
       by Marie Brennan

    The Othering of Women in Gaming
        by L. Wagner

    Grandmother Magma
    The Legend of Kit Reed
       by Marc Laidlaw

    Chicks Dig Gaming, edited by Jennifer Brozek,
    Robert Smith?, and Lars Pearson
       reviewed by Victoria Elisabeth Garcia

    Mass Effect Trilogy, by BioWare
       reviewed by Rachel Blackman

    Long Live the Queen, by Hanako Games
      reviewed by Linsey Duncan

    Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games by Anita Sarkeesian, Feminist Frequency
       reviewed by Arinn Dembo

    The Old Testacles
       by Anna Tambour

    Featured Artist
    Realm Lovejoy
    The digital version of the issue can be purchased for $3, the print version for $5, here

    Every Pigeon Tells a Story

    Oct. 17th, 2014 06:15 pm
    [syndicated profile] wonders_and_marvels_feed

    Posted by Juliet Wagner

    By Juliet Wagner (Regular Contributor)

    3 pigeons-PigeoncamerasBetween 1903 and 1906, Julius Neubronner, a pharmacist in a small town near Frankfurt, would regularly receive prescriptions and deliver small quantities of medication to a nearby sanatorium by carrier pigeon. After a particular pigeon that had been missing for a few weeks returned to him in good health, Neubronner wondered where the truant pigeon had been, and his curiosity inspired him to design a special automatic camera-suit for his birds that took photographs beneath them as they flew.

    A New Flock of Spies?

    Although Neubronner’s original motivation was to spy on his pigeons, it soon became clear to him that the pigeons themselves could be employed as airborne spies, and he was quick to tout the potential military applications of pigeon photography after he patented his device in 1908. His design took advantage of the fairly consistent altitude of pigeon flight to calculate focal length, and different versions of the suit had different camera features. Neubronner also developed a mobile dovecote with an enlarged landing entrance to accommodate the extra bulk of his flying photographers’ gear.

    The poor birds modeling the suits on these photographs were probably stuffed, but Neubronner did successfully demonstrate the camera-suit on live pigeons. He used beautiful images of the German landscape –askance and framed by the tips of the photographer’s wings—to prove it.


    Drone Prototypes

    The Prussian military was negotiating with Neubronner to purchase his camera-suit technology and team of pigeons when the First World War broke out in August 1914. Bowing to national emergency, Neubronner’s pigeons were drafted and reportedly tested with some success by the Prussian army, but were never used widely. The promise of small, reliable, unobtrusive airborne spies was not truly fulfilled until the widespread use of drones by the US military almost a century later.

    No longer an exclusively military technology, drones are becoming common in much less ominous settings. Drone photography is now used for class photo group shots, for example, replacing the old-school photographer on her precarious stepladder, and is also applied to analyze football plays, supervise farmland and to entertain crowds at public events. In a reversal of Neubronner’s innovation, has recently proposed using drones to deliver packages.

    Like the humble pigeon, however, 21st century drones are not without predators. The latest online drone-video craze features impressive drone-eye-view hawk attacks.

    For more on Julius Neubronner:

    Franziska Brons, “Bilder im Fluge: Julius Neubronners Brieftaubenfotografie” Fotogeschichte: Beiträge zur Geshichte un Äesthetik der Fotografie, Jahrgang 26, Heft 100 (2006), pp. 17-36.

    As well as a pharmacist and inventor, Neubronner was an amateur film enthusiast. A short film he made performing magic tricks in 1904 is viewable here (his pigeons feature!).

    Additional images of Neubronner’s pigeons and the views they captured are available here.


    Juliet Wagner is a Research Assistant Professor of History at Vanderbilt University, where she is also an active participant in colloquia in ‘Medicine, Health and Society’ and at the Penn Warren Humanities Center. She is currently completing the final touches on her first book, on film and shell shock during the First World War, which argues that the notion of “suggestion” was central to both trauma and cinema in the early twentieth century.


    [syndicated profile] tanehisicoates_feed

    Posted by Ta-Nehisi Coates

    The Economic Policy Institute has just released a report by Richard Rothstein that gives some sense of how the world of Michael Brown came to be. It turns out that that world was born from the exact same forces that forged cities and suburbs across the country—racist housing policy at the local, state, and national levels. Rothstein's report eschews talk of mindless white flight, and black-hearted individual racists, and puts the onus exactly where it belongs:

    That governmental actions, not mere private prejudice, were responsible for segregating greater St. Louis was once conventional informed opinion. In 1974, a three-judge panel of the federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that “segregated housing in the St. Louis metropolitan area was … in large measure the result of deliberate racial discrimination in the housing market by the real estate industry and by agencies of the federal, state, and local governments.”

    Similar observations accurately describe every other large metropolitan area; in St. Louis, the Department of Justice stipulated to this truth but took no action in response. In 1980, a federal court order included an instruction for the state, county, and city governments to devise plans to integrate schools by integrating housing. Public officials ignored this aspect of the order, devising only a voluntary busing plan to integrate schools, but no programs to combat housing segregation.

    A lot of what's here—redlining, housing covenants, blockbusting, etc.—will be well-known to those with a good handle on 20th-century American history. I focused on this particular era in my case for reparations. But it bears constant repeating: The geography of America would be unrecognizable today without the racist social engineering of the mid-20th century. The policy included—but was not limited to—mortgage loans backed by the Federal Housing Authority and the Veteran's Administration:

    At its peak in 1943 when civilian construction was limited, the FHA financed 80 percent of all private home construction nationwide. During the postwar period, it dropped to one-third. But even when subdivisions were not built with advance FHA commitments, individual homebuyers needed access to FHA or VA insured mortgages, so similar standards for new construction pertained. Subdivisions throughout St. Louis County were developed in this way, with FHA advance commitments for the builders and a resulting whites-only sale policy.

    The FHA’s suburban whites-only policy continued through the postwar housing boom that lasted through the mid-1960s. In 1947, the FHA sanitized its manual, removing literal race references but still demanding “compatibility among neighborhood occupants” for mortgage guarantees. “Neighborhoods constituted of families that are congenial,” the FHA manual explained, “… generally exhibit strong appeal and stability.” This very slightly sanitized language suggested no change in policy, and the FHA continued to finance builders with open policies of racial exclusion for another 15 years.

    In 1959, the United States Commission on Civil Rights concluded that only 2 percent of all FHA-backed loans had gone to blacks. "Most of this housing," concluded the report, "has been in all-Negro developments in the South."

    As it relates to black America, segregation must always be understood, as a system of plunder. Once the big game has been fenced off, then comes the hunt:

    According to a study by the St. Louis nonprofit Better Together, Ferguson receives nearly one-quarter of its revenue from court fees; for some surrounding towns it approaches 50 percent. Municipal reliance on revenue generated from traffic stops adds pressure to make more of them. One town, Sycamore Hills, has stationed a radar-gun-wielding police officer on its 250-foot northbound stretch of Interstate.

    With primarily white police forces that rely disproportionately on traffic citation revenue, blacks are pulled over, cited and arrested in numbers far exceeding their population share, according to a recent report from Missouri’s attorney general. In Ferguson last year, 86 percent of stops, 92 percent of searches and 93 percent of arrests were of black people—despite the fact that police officers were far less likely to find contraband on black drivers (22 percent versus 34 percent of whites). This worsens inequality, as struggling blacks do more to fund local government than relatively affluent whites.

    And this is but one aspect. I strongly suspect that if I talked to some housing attorneys in the region they could tell me a story.

    This article was originally published at

    Four things

    Oct. 17th, 2014 02:09 pm
    [syndicated profile] yarn_harlot_feed

    Posted by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

    Four things that happened this morning.

    1. I stayed up super late, but I got all the sweater pieces finished, and washed, and semi-blocked. By semi-blocked, I mean that I laid it out sort of orderly on the rack of the dryer, and then set it for a while, and went to bed.

    2. I got up super early, so that I could hit the reset on the dryer if it was still too damp for sewing up.  Even though this means that I got way too little sleep, it was a very good call. All pieces are now dry, and in my suitcase.  I’ll sew them up when I land. After I buy buttons.  Ok. I’m a little behind. I still think it’s totally possible though.

    sweaterpieces 2014-10-17

    3. I drank coffee and carefully wound some yarn for the trip, then realized that I’d wound the yarn in the wrong direction (don’t laugh, this yarn totally has a direction) and decided to quickly re-wind it.  I’ve known that my ball-winder was headed for the great big yarn shop in the sky for some time – I can always tell that I’ve worn through another one when they start making breast shaped yarn cones instead of pretty cakes, but this one confirmed it’s impending absolute uselessness by being nearly completely bloody useless this morning. It made a freaky shaped yarn thing, then flung it off the winder, tangling in the tension curl, and tumbling to the floor with the other half of the ball.  (It there collected an unreasonable amount of cat hair, but that’s hardly the ball winders fault.)  It did this as my cab arrived.  I had 30 seconds to curse its vile name, put the tangled snarl into my suitcase for rescue tonight, and quickly grab something already wound.  I guess I’m making socks.

    4. I drank enough coffee (see #1 and 2) that I can sort of feel my hair growing.

    [syndicated profile] sociological_images_feed

    Posted by Gwen Sharp, PhD

    Flashback Friday.

    While preparing a lecture on sex tourism, I ran across this video about men who have sex with female tourists in the Caribbean:

    There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on there, no? I was fascinated by the female hotel owner who talks about the men “preying” on the female tourists, clearly placing the power in the hands the men who, she argues, use the female tourists for money but don’t really care about them. I tried to imagine someone talking similarly about female sex workers “preying” on foreign men’s need for affection and attention.

    This might make for a great discussion about perceptions of sexual agency: how do gendered sexual norms, economic differences, and the different races and nationalities of the individuals involved affect how we think of their interactions and who we see as the victim?

    In her chapter on sex tourism in Race, Ethnicity, and Sexuality), sociologist Joane Nagel discusses the role of racialized sexualities in making some groups attractive tourists looking for an ethnosexual adventure. In the Caribbean, dark-skinned men with dreads are particularly attractive to some female tourists because of stereotypes of Black men as extremely sexual and masculine, which plays into fantasies of being swept away by a strong, skilled lover. At the same time, White Western women may represent the possibility of a better life (through continued gifts of money even after the vacation is over) and sexualized adventures to the men they sleep with while on vacation. Nagel argues that these encounters generally reinforce, rather than challenge, existing racial and gender inequalities, since they play on stereotypes of sexualized Others as animalistic, primitive, and, in the case of men, as super-masculine (and super-endowed).

    Then again, Nagel also questions whether any relationship between tourists and “local” men should count as sex work. The individuals involved don’t necessarily think of their interactions in those terms. And who is to decide if a particular situation is “sex tourism” as opposed to a “real” relationship? How does that assumption invalidate the possibility that Black men and White women might have real, meaningful relationships? Or primarily sexual relationships, but with both partners respecting the other?

    Originally posted in 2009.

    Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

    (View original at


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