Archive for the 'Media' Category


More better feminism

Give us a twirl.


Clearly you have issues.



wonder what this is about

Wrong ad

vs. this


Better feminism.

That’s all.


today’s pinterest

Ok, first, can I just tell you how HONORED I am to be a member of this exclusive club. (gush)

And secondly, so sorry I haven’t had time to visit in a while.

Seriously? Who has the time?

This is kind of “cool.”

Now we’re talkin’.


Nobody NEEDS a hammock bed.
This is just the sort of thing that makes me feel more than a little shallow.
I’m going to copy down that recipe for Asian noodles and then I’m leaving. So there.


do you hear what I hear?

Paul Ryan, in last night’s vice-presidential debate, framed his anti-abortion argument thusly: “According to my religious beliefs, I believe that. . .”

Well, it doesn’t really matter what he says next.

I was actually thinking the other day about how we all kind of impose our own filters on what we hear and read. It used to be that you subscribed to one or two newspapers or news magazines, and you probably would have read at least a little bit into articles on many topics, including some written by people who had a different opinion or belief system than you did.

Now we unfriend people on facebook if their pages become too political or too personal or if they disagree with us on our walls, and we read numerous blogs written by people who think like us. And I’ve been wondering if any of us really listen to people who have different opinions, and also if any of us can even frame an argument in a way that is convincing, articulate, and not defensive.

My argument against Ryan’s is this: It doesn’t matter what your religious beliefs are. 1. You’re running for office in a country that was presumably founded on a basic principle of religion and government functioning completely independently from each other. 2. Your religious beliefs are not necessarily mine, which means you don’t get to impose the conclusions you come to based on them onto me or anyone else.

I was nauseated by his smirking facial expressions, much as I was by Romney’s last week. A friend of mine commented on facebook that she thought that Joe Biden was condescending. So, at the risk of sounding like Carrie Bradshaw, I can’t help but wonder — do we only see and hear what we want to see and hear?




each of these things is just like the other. . .

When perusing these photos of the casts from some of the most popular and well-rated television shows, which of the following becomes clear:

a)  Everybody on television either dresses really well, or wear scrubs

b)  Everybody on television is way prettier than you and has much whiter teeth

c)  Despite demographics claiming there are roughly the same number as women as men in the world, women actually only make up 14-28% of the population


supermodels and actresses, sometimes without makeup

I stumbled across this article recently because a friend had posted it on her facebook page.

(As an aside, I feel it necessary to point out that I, being of an older, more paranoid generation, went to the website myself, so that facebook wouldn’t feel compelled to tell the world that I had read the article. But that’s a topic for another day.)

Jennifer Lawrence without makeup

If you enter Jennifer Lawrence’s name into the Bing search engine,

(As an aside, I feel it necessary to point out that I, being of an older, more paranoid generation, no longer use Google, since Google seems to think it is perfectly acceptable not only to track my use of the internet, including the words I might write in an email message, but to use this use and these words to target advertising to me, AND remove my ability to stop it.)

you get page after page of beautiful images.

As you should; she’s a beautiful girl.

But if you enter “Jennifer Lawrence without makeup” you get page after page of snarky people, oh so happy to give her a hard time because she actually looks like a person.

Including this:

Now isn’t that charming.

(And clearly a man, although I didn’t dignify it by clicking on it, and I ask you not to either. Hence the lack of a link. If you can’t resist, well, you have your own conscience to face.)

Today someone had put this article, from “Yahoo! News” (now there’s an oxymoron if there ever was one): Supermodels without Photoshop.

(As an aside, I feel it necessary to point out that I, oh, never mind. . .)

This seemed related to the post that was percolating in my mind, so I went there to see more. Most of the pictures were of perfectly beautiful girls looking perfectly beautiful but without makeup. There was one picture of a trio of supermodels waiting for the Glamour photographer to snap his shot.

The one on the left is obviously anorexic, the one in the middle is a “plus-size” model, which probably just means that she can buy clothes off the rack, and her suit bottom seems to be a size too small, but she seems to have a perfectly beautiful, normal, womanly shape. The one on the right seems to have left her hips at home, but I’m sure once the photographer starts clicking she can jut one off to the side to make herself appear to have at least one.

Oh, look, she can. Good for her.

Aside: I’m always curious about this, as the majority of models have quite voluptuous breasts [without our knowing whether they are “real” or not] and no hips to speak of. Yet they always stand in hip-jutting poses, demonstrating clearly that having hips is desirable. Is the non-existent-yet-jutting hip somehow neater or sexier than the actual hip? Is there, for example, something wrong with her?

or do you remember when Kate Winslet was in Titanic, and people said she was “fat”?

Anyway, the “author” of the “article” poses this difficult and thought-provoking question:

Ya’ think?


ah, Rush, you pompous ignorant windbag

Read this

and watch this:

Rachel Maddow Show on Rush Limbaugh

Rush appears in all his overweight ignorant glory around 7:40.

How can a 60-year old man in the 21st century be so woefully misinformed about the female body? And how can he twist the truth so dramatically and get away with it (and this isn’t by any means the first time)? The thing I don’t get is how we knew he was an idiot 20 years ago and his listeners and advertisers are just now figuring it out?

Or, as Rachel points out, it doesn’t matter. He’s saying what he says to provoke, to be famous, to get people to talk about him.

But he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, it’s quite clear he doesn’t have any women working for him (or maybe someone might have informed him of how the Pill actually works), and there are plenty of people listening to him who agree with his ignorant vitriolic bullshit.

Maybe, instead of talking about Rush, we should be talking about why 50% of the population is represented by 19% of our government, and how we (women) got this far in a country where we are still so little understood and so poorly represented. As Rachel points out near the end of the video clip, Romney doesn’t seem to understand how contraception works a whole lot better than Rush. And as she also pointed out, it’s bad enough to be a jerk, but it’s even worse, especially when you’re trying to generate national discourse on important societal topics, to be stupid.


A not-so-soupy Sunday

I know I “promised” at some point to post a soup recipe every Sunday, but we didn’t make soup today.

I did make some kick-ass oatmeal bread recipe yesterday, though. I’ll put the recipe at the end.

Just some observations for now.

1. Veterinarians should seriously reconsider using anesthesia for any surgical procedures involving dogs. I’m thinking peanut butter in a Kong is sufficient.

2. Apparently, the line between political candidates and organizations known as “PACs” is getting blurry, casting doubt on whether it is actually possible that the one hand does not know what the other hand is doing.

Um, duh?

3. Many of the leaders in our government seem to think that the U.S. offers some kind of moral compass; an ideal for the rest of the world to strive for.

This, in retaliation for American soldiers openly burning copies of the Koran. (If, as they say, they contained “messages,” couldn’t they have been burned maybe a little more discretely? How would Americans react to Islamists burning Bibles? Sheesh — a little respect wouldn’t hurt anybody.)

This, depicting American soldiers urinating on slain foes.

Or how about this, where our rights of due process etc., etc., seem only to apply to American citizens.

Wouldn’t our arguments about human rights have a little more validity if we applied them to, well, humanity?

4. Mod*el:  perfect example: an excellent example that deserves to be imitated

At the risk of repeating myself.

Um, no.

The last thing I want my daughter to be “modeling” herself after. How about, instead,

5. Started using the “Fitness Tracker” app on Friday. Decided that it was appropriate for me to compare how much I’m actually eating to how much I think I’m eating. It’s been very revealing. You do “earn” calories by exercising, so that’s a good motivation, but most of the calorie information comes from prepared foods and we prepare most of our food ourselves, so that’s a bit of a bother.

Have also discovered that higher-than-expected percentage of my daily caloric intake is in the form of alcohol. That sounds bad. Mostly wine with dinner, but I do enjoy a little tippet of cognac (for medicinal purposes) as well, especially on these cold February nights. Am thinking I can balance it out by walking further or doing more vigorous yoga. Not sure what it says about me that I need to think twice about whether I want cheese on my chili or that 2nd glass of wine. . .

Anyway, according to the tracker, if every day is like yesterday I will have lost 8 lbs in 5 weeks. We’ll see.


Oatmeal Bread (Husband claims this is the best bread he has ever eaten. He might just be being nice, but still.)

Prepare 1.5 c. of steel cut oats (dry) for breakfast, following instructions on the can.

Leave 2 c. of prepared oats in a separate bowl. Eat the rest (giving the lion’s share to Husband, who likes porridge a heck of a lot more than you do), sprinkled with dried cranberries and with maple syrup and soymilk.

Soften 1 pkg. of yeast in 1/3 c. warm water.

When the 2 c. of remaining oatmeal has cooled, with the flat paddle on the mixer and the mixer running, add 3 T. canola oil, 1/2 c. brown sugar, 2 tsp. salt, and the yeast/water mixture.

Beat well.

Add 2 c. whole wheat flour; keep beating until the dough begins to get very stringy/stretchy.

Switch to the dough hook; add another 2 c. of unbleached flour.

Allow the dough to knead until completely smooth — 5-7 minutes.

Add another scant 1/2 c. of unbleached flour and let knead just until flour completely incorporated.

Allow to raise in a buttered bowl, punching down twice.

Divide and place in 2 buttered 8″ bread pans.

Allow to raise again (this is a good time to take a nap, or a “nap,” whichever you prefer).

Bake for 35 minutes at 350˚, 325˚ if using a convection oven.

Cool out of pans on a wire rack. If you can’t wait and must slice it while hot, turn it on its side first.

Really, really good.



Please overlook the apparent inappropriateness of the opening shot on the video, and watch it. It’s not what it looks like, even though the fact that it looks like it does is kind of the point.



I don’t like this image. Looks like the police officer has a gun in the guy’s mouth. Is this on purpose? Driving home some subliminal message?

Maybe it’s just me.


almost a whole day. . .

Had taken a vow of electronic silence, but a couple things have come up today that I just can’t resist posting about.

First: Truth In Labeling










Good to know.

This made me curious, so I looked a little further:










Sheesh. Are we really this stupid?


In an “are we really this stupid”-related story, I ran across this article in last Sunday’s New York Times, about a woman and what she wore day by day as she went through her week. Apparently she’s quite wealthy, and philanthropic, and stylish, so, as my husband posits, we’re supposed to care.

Is this, really, “All the News That’s Fit to Print”? Or maybe, just a little more.


We decided that this was a good day to take Dexter for a walk. He does pretty well with his leash when we take him out to go “potty,” and we took him for a short walk yesterday, and after a little resistance he had trotted along quite happily. Not so today. By the time we realized that he really was quite overwhelmed and was not going to take a step of his own free will he had damaged the bottom of 3 of his 4 little paws, and is limping around all gingerly and pathetic. I feel absolutely terrible, but I’m also a little irritated, because his feet seem to feel fine enough when he wants to sniff the wheelbarrow, chew branches, and chase his purple monkey around the kitchen, but are apparently too sore for him to bear the leaves and stones when we take him out to pee. Does it say something about me that I’m always quite convinced that I’m being manipulated by a 10-week old puppy who looks like a cross between an Ewok and a baby polar bear? (Cynical, party of one.)

Anyway, the guilt is almost more than I can bear. I’m a terrible person.

But I still don’t care what Muffie wore, or to wear she wore it.






Today’s Quiz: November 7, 2011

Which of the below are we expected to give a flying f@#$ about?

Michael Jackson’s doctor found guilty
Tintin movie to make North American debut in Quebec
Vanessa Redgrave to have Academy tribute
Bieber to take paternity test
Paul Haggis to chair Canadian Film Centre programs
Lady Gaga tops MTV Europe awards
China artist Ai Weiwei receives $800K in donations*
Canadian pays $31K for John Lennon tooth
Lohan checks in and out of LA jail

What a surreal world we live in, don’t you think?

(My various influences were stifled here:

What a surreal world we live in, don’t’ya’know?

What a surreal world we live in, eh?

What a surreal world we live in, what?

Bonus points if you can assign appropriate locations for each of the above.)

Wow, it’s been a long week and it’s only Monday.

Not a good sign.

*Not to influence anyone, but I vote for Weiwei. Anybody know where I can send a fiver?



In my continued quest for logic in advertising, I present:

Am I missing something? What’s unexpected about this? A dark-haired, blue-eyed, attractive man in a suit jacket in front of a darkened city skyline advertising men’s cologne. Are they being subtle/subtly clever, and whatever we imagine this is supposed to be what’s unexpected?

I don’t think so. I think that’s giving them too much credit.

And then there’s this one:

As you can see, the ad is touting their “quality” service, of such high quality that it will surpass even your highest expectations; I imagine this service comes at a price. I can’t help but wonder how much extra it costs for a seat inside the plane.

In my quest for that one, I found this one:

for all you "I like Asian women" out there*

*Look how hard the poor girl has to work to stick out her “hip.”

I actually was a little disturbed the other day, as I was reading the front page section of last Sunday’s New York Times. On one side of the crease: Egypt’s Military Leader Testifies at Mubarak Trial, Bahrain Vote Erupts in Violence, Libyan Fighters Renew Attack on Qaddafi’s Hometown — facing page, find your magic in an extensive selection of Bella Bleu by Effy diamond and sapphire rings; next page: Monitoring Rights in Chechen Region, a Month at a Time — on same and facing page, Circa will take your unwanted diamonds off your hands and Macy’s will help you find your magic, yet again, this time through their Top Ten Origins skin-care products.

I can’t help but wonder if maybe we’re all just a little bit more than spoiled.

On the way to a rehearsal the other night, Only Daughter in the back seat as there would be no one at home with her, NPR is reporting on the new Kindle Fire® and we’re passing a homeless man with his walker and scraggly beard and cardboard sign. Only Daughter commented on how sad this juxtaposition made her feel, and wanted me to go back that way and give him the rest of her tuna salad and crackers but I would be late, and on the way home more than an hour later, so I didn’t.

I think I should have. I wish I would have. I wish I would have handed them over when we went by the first time, even if the green light at that ramp is only 10 seconds long and the drivers of the 25 cars in line behind me would have been ticked off and honking.


In a not-really-related story, Second Son has come back for his first weekend home since college started with “only” 2 loads of laundry (he’s learned, now that he’s paying for it himself, that he can actually wear something more than once) and the news that a) he’s perfectly fine using the community bathrooms (he’s a bit of a germaphobe/borderline OCD hand-washer) and b) he’s a rabid sports fan; but just for his college team. Husband: “The indoctrination starts early.” Something extra for all those tuition and room-and-board dollars.


my day

1. What’s up with needing an invitation to Pinterest? Do they actually do some kind of research or something to make sure you’re not some kind of a rabble rouser or derelict? And how can they tell from my email address? I can just hear the conversation: “She uses comcast; probably a Communist.” Or are they going to evaluate my time-management skills to determine if I can enjoy the site without it destroying my ability to meet the obligations of my employment?

You’ll be relieved to know I’ve been accepted, although it calls to mind Mark Twain’s comment about being reluctant to be a member of a club which would have him as a member.

And this must be done on purpose, right? They aren’t actually that stupid?

Oh, just found out that I can’t join Pinterest without linking it to my facebook account. The Plot Thickens.

And no, thanks. Big Brother watches me enough, thank you. (And just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean the world ISN’T out to get you.)

2. Drove an hour to pick up my mom at a meeting place after her last radiation treatment for a brain tumor. Was an hour early because Flaky Me transposed the hour of departure into the hour of arrival. Killed time at a book store that had more gifts than books, but I guess we all do what we have to to survive.

I did seriously consider buying a book of “Good Karma/Bad Karma” checks, but decided that, as entertaining as they were, I probably would never have the nerve to actually use one, although I would have liked to have had something to use on the the gum-chewing, rap-listening teeny-bopper ditz-brain who cut me off (from behind, which is difficult to do) at my last exit. A club might have come in hand. Apparently HER right blinker means she is going into the right lane, but MY right blinker doesn’t. Maybe I should award her a good karma check for her brazen tenacity in getting to that red light one car before me.

Anyway, I bought two promising novels off the remaindered table, for $5.99 apiece. It’s the end of the world as we know it; the fall of the Roman Empire. Combine that with the prospect of Rick Perry as president and I need to either kill myself or move to Canada.

He needs one of those Tshirts

Mom reports that doctor is encouraging re: her desire to donate her body to science, as her prognosis has exceeded the usual prognosis for this type of cancer by about 4 years. Her response is that prayer has made all the difference. Does that mean that the people who died within the first year of their diagnosis weren’t prayed for? Or God didn’t love them? Or the people didn’t pray hard enough? Or God had “some other message,” which, in His infinite wisdom Has Not Yet Been Revealed?

I was a good daughter, and only mentioned the possibility that other people may have been prayed for, too, and then changed the subject to, well, something, I don’t remember. Now I know that her faith gives her a lot of comfort and hope etc., etc., but I just can’t reconcile the whole idea of God healing some people because of prayer and not others. It just doesn’t seem fair to me, and if there is a God, it seems like he ought to be, at the very least, fair.

I then drove 2 hours to meet a friend of hers, who was picking her up to deliver her home. I felt like it was a relay, and she was the baton.

All went well, and only a little behind schedule, and then

3. Waiting for Only Daughter’s choir to finish rehearsing, and this huge storm blows in. Hail, and gale-force winds, and heavy rain and all of the kids are Ooooohing and Aaaaahing and the director is pointing out that there’s no lightning (flash, boom) and no tornado sirens ( Severe Thunderstorm Warning) etc. etc. to try to calm everyone down. Six minutes later it’s over.

I get home, and the power’s off.

4. Ate antelope stew from the slow cooker (I know, right?) and then washed the dishes with water from the dehumidifier. Prairie women got nothin’ on me.

5. Listening to NPR on the way home from O.D.’s choir. How cynical are we, that we report, with great aplomb, that the United States Government has seen fit to fund its activities for the next four days.


The power’s off until just now — 10 p.m.; 3 hours later.

This is typical for our neighborhood.

Only Daughter wonders if maybe we should move.

Now I need to go down and see if I can light the pilot on the water heater without setting my hair on fire. Like I did last time. And no, I wasn’t drunk at the time. They’re long, wussy, matches.


sex as the draw

So, I’m on the Weather Channel website, tracking the big storms moving through the midwest while we sit under threatening skies, and my step daughter drives through another cell of storms north of Chicago.

On the right of the page I notice this woman:

with the advertising tag “How to Sleep Through The Night.”

Naturally, I’m curious about what a woman with ginormous breasts has to tell me about this, as, I imagine, any normal person would be.

Here’s the article.

No sign of HER anywhere.

I feel cheated, and ashamed.

In retaliation I’m going to show THEM and not read the article.

So there.




Anthony Weiner, and what’s THAT got to do with anything?

Anthony Weiner is seeking counseling. Anthony Weiner is probably going to take a leave of absence. Anthony Weiner’s wife is standing behind him, (or isn’t she?). Anthony Weiner is losing weight, overemotional when talking to friends on the phone, distraught. (NYTimes, “Pelosi Calls on Weiner to Resign”)

This all makes perfect sense to me.

This, however, does not:

“His scandal erupted at a particularly bad time for the party, as Democrats had briefly regained momentum after a surprise victory in an upstate New York election, and put Republicans on the defensive over a proposal to revamp Medicare.”

I apologize if this is a stupid question, but what do Anthony Weiner’s sexual proclivities have to do with the Democratic party and their momentum towards revamping Medicare?

Maybe if the media didn’t act like we were complete idiots unable to differentiate between these two vastly different topics we wouldn’t all act like complete idiots unable to differentiate between these two vastly different topics.

Maybe it’s just me.


everybody’s watching!

A friend of mine on facebook posts this conversation in her status update:

Husband: Turns out Prince who-gives-a-turd is marrying Lady Mc-worthless-pants. I just couldn’t be happier. I hope the news doesn’t talk about anything else ever.

Wife: Hey, get out of the shower! You’re missing pictures of the bride!

I have a good laugh, “borrow” it to put in my status update (with credit given where credit is due, of course), and then, even though I am pretty sure I feel more like husband than wife, proceed to look for a picture of Kate Middleton, who is reputedly quite beautiful.

When I google “royal wedding,” the first listing is E! so I figure, what’s to lose?

This is what I get.

And that’s what I get. Now there are at least 3 minutes of my life I can’t get back. Are there actually that many people out there who care about this drivel? Although I guess I can make it through my day much more effectively and productively now that I know that Blake Lively (whoeverthehellsheis) has dyed her hair red.

Oh, and Lindsay Lohan has admitted, to Jay Leno of all people, that she has finally learned to love herself. Now if she could just stop taking herself out at night and giving herself too much to drink, we’d all be better off, although I guess we would have less to read about.


our short attention spans

Remember this story: young, beautiful ballerina, student at Syracuse college, murdered during Thanksgiving break, supposedly by her estranged on-again-off-again boyfriend?

If you google her name, you get page after page of newspaper postings from late November.

But what’s happened since? Does anybody know? Does anybody care?

Is our attention span really this short?

I’m just as bad — I was just popping through various months on my blog to read old posts, just curious as to whether there were things I had forgotten about, and THIS WAS ACTUALLY ONE OF THEM.

I’m ashamed of myself.

I can’t help but wonder if the world as a whole paid significant and lasting attention to such atrocities whether there might be fewer of them.

Do we really see each other? Are we looking out for each other? Are we so afraid of violating someone’s privacy or of getting ourselves into “trouble” that we don’t reach out when people need us? Are we so hungry for the latest “dish” that we can’t be bothered to maintain attention, concern, empathy?



The Year in Pictures

New York Times has a provocative “year in pictures” series. Click here if you’d like to see it.

I didn’t do an official count, or anything, but it seems to be made of 3 categories:

1.  Horrible things mankind does to each other and the planet.

2.  Natural disasters and the havoc they wreak.

3.  Sporting events.

Unfortunately, it is only pictures from category 3, Sporting events, and those of the rescued Chilean miners and of Aung San Suu Kyi finally, and probably temporarily, released from house arrest, that seem to reflect anything positive.

I wonder if we could come up with a year in pictures of more uplifting things. Second son vacuuming the basement (as we speak), for example, or my daughter’s beautiful face.

Would anyone want to see that, do you suppose?


now isn’t that ironic?

The “confidential” report of Julian Assange’s alleged sexual assault of two Swedish woman has been leaked to the press.

I find this to be very amusing.

Maybe it’s just me.

Also ironic is the fact that I couldn’t get the very funny ad at the beginning of this video to play again so my husband could see it.


Elizabeth Edwards (1949-2010)

“We feel a lot of affection for public people and project our fantasies of something like perfection on them. . .and it turns out they’re not only imperfect, they can be deeply disappointing.”


I mean, it’s not like this surprises me or anything, but seriously? It’s no wonder we have such a hard time dealing with all of our political and civic problems; we’re still waiting for someone Perfect to come along and fix everything!

Elizabeth Edwards was a smart, capable, strong woman who loved her children and her family, someone who apparently thought it was more important to stay married to a man she obviously cared about, and to stay focused on the objectives upon which their lives and their marriage was built, than to avoid “betraying her following.”

What following is that, that she would have so woefully betrayed? The one who idealized her? Who thought it was appropriate to advise her to “focus on her children” or for her and John to “take care of each other”? How condescending! How about those who found her to be “domineering, aggressive and opinionated,” but still worthy of their admiration? Do any of these feel they are worthy of her consideration?

How dare these people, who know virtually nothing of this woman, her personal pains and joys and triumphs, the intricacies and cohesion of her marriage, feel they have a right to judge or criticize? Even the tone of the article, written in apparent tribute, condescends, with its referrals to her substantial hips and frumpiness, to this “hearty woman of substance.”


Can this article not be written without buying in/selling out to the culture of lookism and female-body-criticism-masked-as-praise we are so saddled with everywhere we look? Does the size of her hips have anything to do with the contribution she may have tried to make to better this country? Are we supposed to imagine John to be that much more noble because he stood by her, despite her frumpiness and the fact that she had the nerve to get cancer, twice?

“We all have very firm opinions about marriage. . .What it consists of, how far it stretches, what kind of deal it entails, and a woman whose husband humiliates her publicly just invites us to dilate on the subject, for our own sakes.”. (Stacy Schiff)

John didn’t humiliate Elizabeth publicly. John betrayed her, yes. But he didn’t broadcast it around the world — others did that. Why do the American people of the 21st century take it so personally when a public figure has an affair? What can we POSSIBLY know of their lives, their marriage, their choices, their struggles? What can it possibly have to do with us?

Jan Hoffman, the writer of the article, redeems him/her self a bit with the final paragraph, although the gist of it comes from Elizabeth herself:

“With her messy, tarnished life, Mrs. Edwards could never become the idealized role model that supporters from so many corners needed her to be. But did that mean she failed them?. . . Fallible, three-dimensional. On the day before she died, she wrote on Facebook: ‘There are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human.'”


today’s headlines

World |  U.S. |  Politics |  Business |  Technology |  Sports |  Arts |  New York/Region |  Science |  Editorials |  Op-Ed |  On This Day


Judge Voids Key Element of Obama Health Care Law
A provision requiring most Americans to obtain health insurance starting in 2014, which has survived two prior court challenges, was found unconstitutional.

Lying Ahead for the Health Law, Years of Constitutional Wrangling
Just One Ruling, but an Outsize One
Law Will Proceed, Administration Says

Document Reader: The Judge’s Ruling
Room for Debate: A Fatal Blow to Obama’s Law?

Strong American Voice in Diplomacy and Crisis
Mr. Holbrooke made a career that started with Vietnam, had a highlight with Bosnia and ended in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Slide Show: A Career in Diplomacy
Times Topics: Richard C. Holbrooke
Killings of Afghan Relief Workers Stir Strategy Debate
Aid groups wonder if the American military strategy in Afghanistan is putting their workers at risk.

• Home Page »
“Even as the government cedes control over large parts of the economy, its graft-ridden approach to privatization could leave long-lasting scars that hold India back from reaching its potential.”
ESWAR S. PRASAD, a professor of trade policy at Cornell University and an adviser to India’s Finance Ministry.

Stage scenes: Lily Rabe
Jennifer Jason Leigh enters “House of Blue Leaves”
Holiday gift guide: Theater books


INTERACTIVE FEATURE: The Growing Legal and Political Opposition
On Dec. 13, 2010, a federal judge in Richmond., Va., ruled that a key provision in the Obama health care law, which requires that most Americans obtain health insurance, is unconstitutional.


The Human Incubator
The success of “kangaroo care” for premature infants has shown that simple solutions are sometimes best.


Police Say Early Detonation of Bomb Averted Disaster in Sweden
The attack could have been devastating, said Swedish police, who also confirmed the bomber’s identity.

The Lede: Audio of Threat Sent Before Bombing
Swedish Bombing Suspect’s Drift to Extremism
Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly was described as a friendly man who sought an audience for extremist views.

Telecom Scandal Plunges India Into Political Crisis
Allegations of bribery, abuse of power and privatization of public wealth have sent the Congress Party into a tailspin.

• More World News »

From the Delta to Winter’s Deep Blues
A graduate student and her sister are bracing for the onslaught of cold that will keep Creede, Colo., in a long embrace.

Court Chooses Guardians for Orphaned Arguments
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About This E-Mail

I’m looking for something to write about, and it’s all bad news; well, except for the discovery of a better way to care for preemies, the Giants (!), and Paul McCartney’s pride. I guess I should also take comfort in the finding that “imagining” myself eating M&Ms, or cheese, makes it less likely that I will gorge on M&Ms, or cheese. Oh, and Epic Mickey (I’m not making this up) is apparently “more fun to play.” More fun to play than ???




the same thing, over and over and over again

from “The Lacuna,” by Barbara Kingsolver

The, I assume, fictional, lead character is a young man, Harrison Shepherd, half Mexican, half Caucasian, who worked in the household of the artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo when Trotsky lived with them, in hiding from Stalin. Harrison writes, in 1946, from South Carolina, to Diego, reporting on the nature of politics in the U.S.:

“So that is the report you asked for, not entirely good. Our newsmen mostly reviled the ‘worker’s rebellion.’ Politics here now resemble a pillow fight. Lacking the unifying slogan (Win the War), our opposing parties sling absurd pronouncements back and forth, which everyone pretends carry real weight. How the feathers fly. The newsmen leap on anything, though it’s all on the order of, ‘Four out of five shoppers know this is the better dill pickle,’ assertions that can’t be proven but sway opinion. ‘Dance for the crowd’ is the new order, with newsmen leading the politicians like bears on the leash. Real convictions would be a hindrance. The radio is at the root of the evil, their rule is: No silence, ever. When anything happens, the commentator has to speak without a moment’s pause for gathering wisdom. Falsehood and inanity are preferable to silence. You can’t imagine the effect of this. The talkers are rising above the thinkers.”

Hmmm. . .sounds familiar. . .


politics and the “media”

I am still kind of in shock that the Supreme Court has ruled that companies can give money freely to political candidates in the name of free speech. At least now I know that I am not the only one who thinks that the money polluting our political system is the biggest obstacle to true democracy. And any illusion of Fox News being “fair and balanced” has to be put to rest — unless they want to hire 4 of the top 5 Democratic candidates and give them equal air time. What are the chances of that do you suppose?  We’re being bought and sold, lied to and manipulated, all in the name of capitalism and (irony alert) free speech. That is, if you call millions of dollars in ads, salaries, consulting fees and donations “free.”

What are we going to do about it?

Op-Ed Columnist

Paul Krugman

Fear and Favor

A note to Tea Party activists: This is not the movie you think it is. You probably imagine that you’re starring in “The Birth of a Nation,” but you’re actually just extras in a remake of “Citizen Kane.”


Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

True, there have been some changes in the plot. In the original, Kane tried to buy high political office for himself. In the new version, he just puts politicians on his payroll.

I mean that literally. As Politico recently pointed out, every major contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination who isn’t currently holding office and isn’t named Mitt Romney is now a paid contributor to Fox News. Now, media moguls have often promoted the careers and campaigns of politicians they believe will serve their interests. But directly cutting checks to political favorites takes it to a whole new level of blatancy.

Arguably, this shouldn’t be surprising. Modern American conservatism is, in large part, a movement shaped by billionaires and their bank accounts, and assured paychecks for the ideologically loyal are an important part of the system. Scientists willing to deny the existence of man-made climate change, economists willing to declare that tax cuts for the rich are essential to growth, strategic thinkers willing to provide rationales for wars of choice, lawyers willing to provide defenses of torture, all can count on support from a network of organizations that may seem independent on the surface but are largely financed by a handful of ultrawealthy families.

And these organizations have long provided havens for conservative political figures not currently in office. Thus when Senator Rick Santorum was defeated in 2006, he got a new job as head of the America’s Enemies program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a think tank that has received funding from the usual sources: the Koch brothers, the Coors family, and so on.

Now Mr. Santorum is one of those paid Fox contributors contemplating a presidential run. What’s the difference?

Well, for one thing, Fox News seems to have decided that it no longer needs to maintain even the pretense of being nonpartisan.

Nobody who was paying attention has ever doubted that Fox is, in reality, a part of the Republican political machine; but the network — with its Orwellian slogan, “fair and balanced” — has always denied the obvious. Officially, it still does. But by hiring those G.O.P. candidates, while at the same time making million-dollar contributions to the Republican Governors Association and the rabidly anti-Obama United States Chamber of Commerce, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, which owns Fox, is signaling that it no longer feels the need to make any effort to keep up appearances.

Something else has changed, too: increasingly, Fox News has gone from merely supporting Republican candidates to anointing them. Christine O’Donnell, the upset winner of the G.O.P. Senate primary in Delaware, is often described as the Tea Party candidate, but given the publicity the network gave her, she could equally well be described as the Fox News candidate. Anyway, there’s not much difference: the Tea Party movement owes much of its rise to enthusiastic Fox coverage.

As the Republican political analyst David Frum put it, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox” — literally, in the case of all those non-Mitt-Romney presidential hopefuls. It was days later, by the way, that Mr. Frum was fired by the American Enterprise Institute. Conservatives criticize Fox at their peril.

So the Ministry of Propaganda has, in effect, seized control of the Politburo. What are the implications?

Perhaps the most important thing to realize is that when billionaires put their might behind “grass roots” right-wing action, it’s not just about ideology: it’s also about business. What the Koch brothers have bought with their huge political outlays is, above all, freedom to pollute. What Mr. Murdoch is acquiring with his expanded political role is the kind of influence that lets his media empire make its own rules.

Thus in Britain, a reporter at one of Mr. Murdoch’s papers, News of the World, was caught hacking into the voice mail of prominent citizens, including members of the royal family. But Scotland Yard showed little interest in getting to the bottom of the story. Now the editor who ran the paper when the hacking was taking place is chief of communications for the Conservative government — and that government is talking about slashing the budget of the BBC, which competes with the News Corporation.

So think of those paychecks to Sarah Palin and others as smart investments. After all, if you’re a media mogul, it’s always good to have friends in high places. And the most reliable friends are the ones who know they owe it all to you.


Out with the old, in with the new

Kate Gosselin has a new body.

I suppose we should be happy for her, but I can’t help but wonder what she did with the old one? Is it in a dumpster somewhere? I guess at least there’s the “fact” that she got it through jogging instead of through those gol-darn cosmetic surgery procedures everybody keeps talking about.  Not sure why we care though, but apparently we do.

In the process of looking for the cover, I discovered this challenging question: Who wears the look better?

I would venture to say neither, and that dress needs to be taken off of the racks immediately. Not sure “none of the above” was one of the options though. I like how they’ve spliced these two pictures together to give us the illusion that they’re holding hands and smiling about this sartorial nightmare — haven’t we all been in high school and been mortified when someone else shows up wearing the exact same thing? Even worse if what we’re wearing is hideous. Remember the old adage: two wrongs don’t make a right, but three lefts do.


Who Cares II?

Ran across this link while reading this article. Followed that up by going to their home page and wondered why anyone cares.

Little help?


To Cheat or Not to Cheat, or is it Even Cheating? Ethics in the 21st century

I’ve been mentally toying with this topic for a couple of weeks now, where to begin, what “tone” to take; it now seems to be rising to the fore with this latest op-ed/Room for Debate piece in the New York Times.

I wrote a couple of months ago about the “children” of today (meaning teens and college students) and their propensity for stealing “downloading” their media from the internet, including their college textbooks, movies, and music. This saddens, frustrates, disappoints, and worries me. Jason Robert Brown, a popular and illustrious composer, posted this debate he had with a teenager regarding the impropriety of her offering his music for “trade” on the internet. It is a frustrating conversation, which he handles with grace, dignity and respect. I’m not hopeful that this particular argument was won, but I do hope that the attention this discussion has gotten will at least get these kids thinking, and maybe help prompt interested techies out there to work vigorously to create a solution. The alternative is that we end up in a cultural dark age because no one can afford to produce anything stealable “downloadable.” The problem is that it is now culturally acceptable to cheat, to steal, to justify it and believe wholeheartedly that there’s nothing wrong with it — nothing physical has changed hands, no one was “hurt,” “I” only wanted to “borrow” it or “use” it or “trade” it, and it is, ultimately, all about “me.” (Isn’t it?)

My husband and I both teach at the college level. It has recently been brought to his attention that there is a website called “Course Hero” which is touted as the “Number 1 Study Resource for College and High School Students.” Sounds great, doesn’t it? And haven’t we all been grateful for the ease with which information can be found via this wonderful tool known as the internet. Just the other day I was able to track down the exact procedure used in 2005 to remedy a pesky problem with the emissions system of my now very old and much driven minivan.  The problem is that this website is not a “study resource,” it’s a ginormous electronic arm with the answers written on it. Apparently one of the requirements for “tutors” to upload their homework answers and test answers and completed papers is that they provide a copy of the assignment without the answers filled in, so that cheaters students can test their own knowledge by completely ignoring reviewing the questions before stealing checking their answers against the completed work. Right. I can’t even comprehend why someone who has done this work themselves would want to give it away. Do they value their own efforts that little? Is that part of the problem? Is peer pressure so great that friend A can’t say to friend B, when asked for the answers to yesterday’s homework assignment, “Ummm, no, dude, but duh, do it yourself”?

One of the arguments put forward by the contributors to the NY Times piece is that students cheat when they feel that the teacher has set up a system (i.e. curving the grade) where they are being unfairly compared with their colleagues, or when the teacher isn’t adequately doing their job. This sounds, to me, an awful lot like it was written by someone who did some cheating of their own and wants to justify it by blaming someone else. Wow, that sounds familiar. Perhaps the real cause of this problem stems from the fact that the “children” of today, hell, even some of the adults, think everything that happens is someone else’s fault.  I don’t care WHAT the situation is, CHEATING IS WRONG. Your work should be exactly that, YOURs. Why is that concept so hard to understand, much less sympathize with? Besides, if that were the case, why are they not ALL doing it?

Another contributor points out that technology has also made it easier to catch cheaters. (It’s also made it a lot easier for them to text in class, play internet poker, or look up the answer to a question I pose in class on Wikipedia rather than trying to make sense of their own inadequate notes.) While I have routinely caught students plagiarizing their papers for the music appreciation course I teach — easy enough to type in particularly and unusually articulate sentences and then be lead immediately to the performing group’s website — how does one catch a student cheating on a test or exam? Right answers are right, often singularly so, and presumably we have talked about this material in class with the expectation, optimistic as it may be, that the students will study and learn it. And while we can all point out that “cheaters never prosper,” the problem is, sometimes, they do. Unless they are so foolish as to routinely perform abysmally and then suddenly ace an exam, it might not even occur to the teacher to call the student in to have an impromptu discussion about the topic to see if they actually know what they are talking about. There are also incidences where the student has been called in for exactly that, senses impending danger, and refuses to answer any questions at all.

I see two more key contributors to this epidemic: 1. The focus of acquiring an “education” has become more and more about getting The Grade (has anyone heard of Grade Inflation?) and then The Job than it is about advancing The Mind (Seen on a billboard for an area university: X State College in 2 words: You’re Hired), and 2. students have gained too much power.


A barely-earned C changed to a B+ after pressure from a student’s parent; despite FERPA laws which prevent US from talking to a parent, apparently parents can talk to provosts.

A student sends an email at 11:30 p.m. in a panic that I’ve included material on the review sheet that I said wouldn’t be on tomorrow’s exam. Not only am I expected to reply, sympathetically, but am subject to the student’s observation, ~ 7 emails into the discussion, that she “doesn’t like my attitude” when I point out that some things are just worth knowing, and ask her why her discovering something at the last minute on a review sheet that has been available for 3 weeks is suddenly my problem. If I don’t reply, helpfully and promptly, the student can indicate on her faculty-evaluation form that her professor is ˚unsympathetic to a student’s difficulties and/or ˚unavailable for help outside of class. These evaluations are given tremendous weight by those in administration, who see students as customers, tuition dollars as profit, and instructors, especially those of the adjunct persuasion, as dispensable if not downright disposable. There are also plenty of stories about perfectly qualified, articulate, and dedicated tenured professors forced out of positions because of the nature of their student-generated faculty evaluation forms.

What’s wrong with this picture?

So many things. . .

The first, and most obvious problem, is that we seem to be forgetting what the word STUDENT means — one who, through force of diligence and discipline, applies him or herself to a topic in order to learn something. Students who cheat cheat themselves out of this very thing. I would ask, if they’re only paying money to get the grade, and not really concerned about whether they actually learn something, why do they even bother? And something every administrator and teacher and parent and student should know and/or remember is this: part of what this student needs to learn is how to get along in the world as an ethical, diligent, responsible person, one who acts, in all events and circumstances, with integrity. I’ll even go out on a limb and propose that this might even be the most important thing.

The second most pressing problem comes from the idea that the STUDENT is qualified to evaluate the TEACHER. This premise is ludicrous, but routinely sanctioned through the actions of the administration. There are a great number of things I hope to impart to my students beyond the immediate topic at hand. I don’t even necessarily want to tell them what that is. Sometimes I pose a problem without giving any hints about the solution because the best way for them to learn what I’m trying to teach involves their wrestling with that very thing. (˚Professor does not provide guidance in problem solving. or ˚Professor does not explain topics sufficient for understanding. or ˚Expectations for the course exceeded that which was reasonable.) If I provide the powerpoint outline and the notes and the listening guide and the answers to the questions not only have they not invested anything of their own — time, attention, thought; the act of organizing their notes, constructing outlines, researching and pondering and solving problems themselves, the means by which they will develop complex understanding, has been taken from them.

Instead, I have been compelled to add to my syllabus, under the heading “Student Outcomes” goals such as that they will develop independence, self-sufficiency, and responsibility through RECORDING THEIR ASSIGNMENTS AND QUIZ TOPICS themselves. Apparently this is unusual, unexpected, and interpreted by students as evidence of my lack of concern for their success. I announce it in class, I write it on the board, but I don’t hand out little slips of paper (as they do in elementary school) nor do I post it on Blackboard (makes it too easy not to come to class; my philosophy: if you want to know what’s going on today, and what’s going to go on tomorrow, show up).

There are cultures where “cheating” is not a word or concept that’s discussed, not because it doesn’t happen, but because it is the norm — where plagiarizing is seen as paying the original author tribute, where The Grade is The Most Important Thing No Matter How It’s Attained. Unfortunately, I think that the path we are headed down is even more insidious, because it seems to involve all areas of our children’s lives: from how they get into college to what they do once they’re there, from how they access culture to how they’ll behave on the job. Junior wants to win the Pinewood Derby or the essay contest so dad makes the little car or writes the paper; what has Junior actually learned from this endeavour? All you have to do is look at the financial services industries, shortcuts taken by oil executives, the desire of every overpaid businessman to avoid taxes and incorporate their business on a “favorable” island — something for nothing, with the highest possible benefit to “me.”

The New American Way? At what cost? We should all shudder to think.


The Freeloaders

This article in the Atlantic describes today’s reality: the tendency of this generation to get as much of their media — music, movies, games, books — for free.

I ask my students, and my children, to pay for that which they use. They scoff, and consider me old-fashioned. But what will become of all of us when the people making the music, and the movies, and the games, and writing the books, can no longer make a living at it?

“Sharing” should not equal stealing. Buy your own stuff.

Hmmm. . .I just downloaded a picture, as I always do, from Google images to headline my blog post. It is my understanding that if I post the link to the source, it’s okay. Any input?


Howard Zinn on World Issues and Elections

In our election-obsessed culture, everything else going on in the world–war, hunger, official brutality, sickness, the violence of everyday life for huge numbers of people–is swept out of the way while the media covers every volley of the candidates. Thus, the superficial crowds out the meaningful, and this is very useful for those who do not want citizens to look beyond the surface of the system. Hidden by the contest of the candidates are real issues of race, class, war, and peace, which the public is not supposed to think about.

from “Tennis on the Titanic”

Agree? or disagree?




What is up with the two bathtubs?


Who cares?

It’s all of us.

Why does this matter? Lisa Marie’s fat, Shiloh’s hair is short, Angelina’s pregnant again, Jon and Kate are fighting as they divorce (you’re kidding! how odd!), Jennifer has lost out on yet another relationship (and I’m not talking about the one with Brad that never seems to end), and we can all have our bikini bodies by June.

Blah blah blah.

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