Friday, December 18, 2009

Your Friday Awesome: Ladies Who Rock

Can I just say how awesome it is that Kristin Stewart's next role will be one in which she plays someone full of agency? I can? Good. It's awesome.

I am not so excited by the fact that she looks just like, well, Kristin Stewart - with a shag. Though Dakota Fanning looks awesome.

Oh, and speaking of ladies who rock:

I especially like the puppy and the leaf fight.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Whedon's Feminist Cred? Intact.

I've already admitted that I love Joss Whedon. And, while I've watched every episode of "Dollhouse" it didn't really sit too well with me in the Whedon cannon. Some fans, however, think that when it comes to Whedon and feminism we have nothing to worry about.

I think they might be right.

My latest post over at Mother Jones highlights the site Not a Doll that is using "Dollhouse" to bring awareness to the main plot point of the show: human trafficking.

Liking Whedon's shows and being a Whedonite are two very different things - I haven't read the Buffy comics and don't own a Browncoat. But, if Whedonites can get a giant studio to make a high budget movie out of a show that didn't even get a full season, they might just be able to create quite a bit of real life change.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nothing Says Happy Holidays Like Domestic Violence

I am really bad about sending holiday cards, but this year I figured I try and send them to a few people that I don't see on a regular basis and who regularly send me cards, cause I'm all adult and responsible now.

I am crafty and my husband is an artist so I don't like buying cards, but really, you can only make so many things in a year. I am also particular about messaging, and it is surprisingly hard to find a secular, non-sappy, attractive card free from bad puns. Unfortunately, this year did not offer many alternatives. It did however offer what could be the most offensive holiday card in the history of Hallmark:

If you can't see what is going on in the picture that I made my husband take while I held them up righteously indignant in the middle of the CVS aisle, it is an image of two gingerbread women (we assume they are women, since traditionally in illustration only women have eyelashes...). One is missing the lower portion of her body with the caption "First he dunked me in milk, then he bit off my legs."


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Things I Read This Week

Police at the G20 meeting assaulted female protesters.

Amy Dickinson still doesn't get it, so Amanda and Melissa try to explain it one more time.

Justice Sotomayor is bad ass.

So is Patrick Stewart.

Oh, and Rolling Stone wants you know that Taylor Lautner is a total dude-bro.

Friday, December 11, 2009

More Friday Awesome - Kids are Awesome!

This kid is not only an awesome ukulele player, he makes the song sound way better than the original by that dude who sings songs with the girl that says she is inspired by sunshine (no, really).

And, then there is this kid:

So awesome, that I can't help but laugh for ten full minutes every time I see it.

via BoingBoing and Teppei.

Your Friday Awesome: Breast Cancer Awareness

This is how you use pink to generate awareness about breast cancer. No October-specific bedazzled products dipped in peto-bismol that give 1% of proceeds to research. Instead, the entire team of people that care for patients, including janitors, cafeteria workers and admins. Awesome.

via Feministing.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Let's Mail R. Kelly Condoms...Lots of Them

R. Kelly seems to have misunderstood all of the parodies of "Trapped in the Closet."

Note to R. Kelly: Parody is different than imitation and is not a form of flattery. Either that, or he his some kind of crazy smart business man that has decided that creating songs that seem like parodies of bad R&B, will make him the king of R&B. That is really the only reason I can think of someone making this:

To quote:
Girl you make me wanna get you pregnant,
That’s what I told her,
Girl you make me wanna get you pregnant,
Lay your body down and get you pregnant,
Like you are,
Knock you up, pregnant,
Oh and this lovely sentiment:
Shes more than a mistress enough to handle my business,
Now put that girl in my kitchen,
On top of that lyrical genius, the music is genuinely awful and contrived, which is another reason why I hope this is self-parody. Otherwise, he is (along with Tyrese) singing the praises of unprotected sex, deadbeat fatherhood, and an extreme insecurity in his own masculinity which requires a legacy of genetic proof. For the future of R&B I hope that is not the case.

Which is why I give you as a unicorn chaser the best in R&B and general awesomeness:

Whew! That's better. Thanks, Mary.

Via my husband, via Buddyhead.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Quote of the Day - The Boss

The Boss officially joined Sean Penn in the ranks of commie, homo-loving son of a guns with this statement on his site:
Like many of you who live in New Jersey, I've been following the progress of the marriage-equality legislation currently being considered in Trenton. I've long believed in and have always spoken out for the rights of same sex couples and fully agree with Governor Corzine when he writes that, "The marriage-equality issue should be recognized for what it truly is -- a civil rights issue that must be approved to assure that every citizen is treated equally under the law." I couldn't agree more with that statement and urge those who support equal treatment for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to let their voices be heard now.

The Right has been co-opting "Born in the USA" for years, twisting the meaning of the song for their purposes (I do not think it means what you think it means), so in honor of Bruce and standing up for equality:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Modern Day Mad Men Channel Pete Campell

So, Method (that designy home care line that smells of cucumber and first gained market share at Target) made a really really dumb ad:

Melissa McEwen of Shakesville (and the rest of the angry feminist blogosphere) pointed out that the ad was very unfunny and supported the culture of sexual exploitation and assault of women.

Method responded saying "we're sorry you're so sensitive, but oh well it's funny! Exploitation is bad...but, funny!" (I paraphrase).

Madison Avenue then found out that one of their own was being criticized by those angry overly-sensitive feminists and freaked out. Not once, but twice.

What did we learn from this little exercise? A few things:
1. It's not just PETA that thinks the protection of the environment should leave women to be (ahem) washed down the drain.

2. The big wigs in advertising have not progressed much past 1963 in their understanding of gender.

3. Perhaps the reason they refuse to move on is because it makes their job easy. Its much easier to remain within the status quo (even if exploitative and supportive of a violent culture) than to actually be creative.
Of course, we can always assume that Method didn't actually see how offensive the ad was to begin with, since you know, they work in an industry where this (WTF Michael Bay directed! No, seriously.) crap is the norm:

But, you know what? There is a pesky little thing called learning and until they figure out what they did was dumb, sorry Method, but I'll get my biodegradable cucumber scented fix somewhere else.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Your Friday Awesome

Sure, this has been all over the interwebs, but can you really ever get tired of it?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Child Labor - Then and Now

Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living.

The magazine I blog for, Mother Jones, is named after Mary Harris Jones who spent her life working to gain basic labor rights for everyone, including children.

Sociological Images featured some really haunting images of child laborers in the United States during early industrialization. They feature the factory labor we are familiar with:

They also show other forms of work outside of the home, like the romanticized "newsie" and field laborers. One image in particular resonated with me:

The child is working with what look like clams, but it reminded me of images like this:

From the site, "A child collects recyclable materials from garbage in order to earn his living on 14-11-08 here in Guwahati."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Austin Chronicles: The Game

The Austin Chronicles are an ongoing series about a California gal (me) who decided that Texas during the Bush Administration would be the best place to get a graduate degree in Women's Studies. I learned much more living in Texas than I did in school.

When last we left our intrepid bowtied Californian in Texas I had successfully negotiated geeks, robots and Texas-specific beer - I had quite a a lot more to learn...

I had barely worked up a tolerance for Lone Star before the phone rang again.

"Hi, can you work The Game on Saturday?"

"Sure! What game?"

"THEE Game."

"Um, yeah, what game would that be?"

"The FOOTBALL Game."

"Oh,, which football game?"

"The U.T. FOOTBALL Game."

"Ohhhhhhhhhhh....that game."

Here's the deal. I know jack-squat about football. Sure, I grew up in a small town in California where the only thing to do on Friday nights was go to the high school football game. After five years of attending, I finally asked my friend why the referees kept throwing their hankies on the ground. I was informed that they were not hankies, they were penalty flags. My bad.

But, my apathy for learning how many "downs" need to be completed and why they are being attempted in the first place and why a touchdown isn't enough and why you have to install giant tuning forks in the end of the field so the little guy can get one more point, isn't just because I think it is boring. I don't just not like football, I am opposed to it on principle.

In fact, I'm kind of against most organized sports - not the sports themselves because teamwork and exercise is good and all that - but the extent to which they are an obsession, a marketable, profit-driven, exploitative obsession. Lots of organized sports often require people to push their bodies beyond the limit, resulting in "career-ending" injuries at 17, but the whole point of football is to throw your body weight against other people that are doing the same thing - that is just not a good idea.

And how can we talk about "career ending injuries" when the majority of people playing won't be able to make a career out of it? And don't get me started on the billions of dollars that are pumped into everything from Pop Warner to the NFL. Oh sure, football generates income, but it also diverts it and a whole crap load of energy. Just imagine if we had "boosters" for the science-fair, drama department and Model UN. Or if all of that scholarship and sponsorship money went to preschools and preparing kids for college or apprenticeships to actually learn things that will allow them to have a successful career for more than a decade or two? A career that won't lead to early onset senility. Oh, and it remains one of the few sports where girls aren't allowed - unless they fight really hard to be able to kick the ball between the tuning forks. I'll stop there for now...

But, in Texas, saying you hate football is like attending a PETA convention and saying you enjoy clubbing baby seals on the weekend. At first, people think they might have heard you wrong. Then, they move past the sheer confusion to raging anger and some finally arrive at mournful pity over your inability to function with the moral parameters of society (though they might be totally cool with it if you do it naked...and have boobs). So when I arrived in Austin, it was a little like arriving on Mars, and not just because folks talked a little funny. Thanks to football, the color was a bit similar, too.

I was the editor of the art and literary magazine in high school (we could have really used a booster club). I was very familiar with burnt ochre and burnt umber, but burnt orange? In Austin, it's not just burnt orange t-shirts and giant foam fingers and bumper stickers. Its burnt orange clothing, burnt orange furniture, burnt orange cars and burnt orange street signs.

And lets clear the air - the outrageous use of burnt orange and longhorn profiles is not about school spirit. They are not worn and emblazoned on everything that holds still for .25 seconds because people are proud of academic achievement, or the choir, or even the tennis team. They are celebrating football, plain and simple.

So, if you are going to ask if I want to work "the game," sorry, but you are going to have to be more specific.

But, once I figured out just exactly what game I would be working, I donned my bow tie, found my way to the appropriate gate, waited with my fellow caterers in ill-fitting tuxedo shirts, and tried not to sweat. Once again, it looked like I was the only newbie. All of the guys still had their shirts unbuttoned, or draped over the arm and stood fanning themselves in undershirts. All the girls were still hastily putting their hair up. Once again, everyone was friendly and confused as to why I had moved to Texas (Answer: because 75 and sunny can get so booooring...).

Finally, a woman in a better fitting tuxedo shirt and vest came out to look us over. I couldn't tell if she was taller than me or if it was her hair (how much Aqua Net does it take to keep up a Texas bouffant in 98 degree weather?). After sizing up the group, I was told I would be going to the VIP section where I would be a cocktail waitress. After a brief moment of panic that I had signed myself up for some Division I version of the thinly-veiled-porno craigslist ads and would be "working the Champagne Room" I realized instead that I was about to be introduced to not just college football, but TEXAS LONGHORNS FOOTBALL - Hook'em Horns!

She ushered me and a few others who had been deemed VIP section worthy, into an elevator marked VIP ONLY.

"If we catch you watching The Game you're fired."

"Okay, but can I watch the marching band at half-time?"

The elevator doors opened to a giant room with windows running the length of it with a sweeping view of the field. She walked to one of the three bars in the room and started digging behind it:

"Here is your tray, your change apron - tips will be pooled - now 'git to it."

Um...okay. That probably would have been a good time to let someone know that I'd never had experience as a cocktail waitress. That, in fact, those beers I handed out at the conference center were the first I had slung. I did not. Beyond my lack of career experience, my drinking repertoire consisted of any red wine that cost under $6, California micro-brews (and the newly discovered Lone Star and Shiner Bock) and mixed drinks that fit the [blank] and [blank] model (gin and tonic, cranberry and vodka, rum and coke - well liquor only).

Without any customers, I wasn't sure what we were supposed to "git to" so I stuck by one of the guys that I had chatted with outside. Evidently that was the right move since he handed me limes and a knife. I decided then was the time to fess up:

"This is my first time doing this."

"Working The Game?"

"Yeah...and also cocktail waiting."

"Ha! Its okay, its super easy. Just take drink orders - they are free, by the way, since these f*ckers give a bunch of money, so your apron is just for tips - and come to me to fill them."

At that point a streak of blonde and a whiff of Aqua Net rushed past and whispered "Doors open!" I handed my bartender buddy his limes (which he proceeded to re-cut correctly), took a deep breath, channeled my highish-end retail customer service identity, and a twang of what I thought was Texan hospitality, straightened my bow tie, and walked up to a friendly looking couple in their 70's.

"Hi! What can I get for you folks?"

"Oh hi, honey. We'll have two cooooba leeeeebras."

And he handed me a twenty. "Sure thing!"

In any other situation, I would have been strategizing about how I could educate him that "honey" was not good manners, but condescension, but I had bigger problems - like what the hell was a cooooba leeeeebra?

I dodged groups of twos and threes in burnt orange greeting each other with "Hook 'em!" on my way back to the safety of the bar:

"They want two cooooba leeeeebras. What the hell are those!?!"

The bartender smiled and narrated as he poured: Ice, rum, coke, and a slice of the just-cut limes.

"It's just a rum and coke!?"

"With a lime."

"Oh, okay, thanks. Um, they handed me a twenty."

"That's your tip."

"But they are free, and I haven't given them anything yet."

"It's so you keep coming to them. Don't worry there will be more at the end."

Evidently the tipping was going to be much better than the ones and nones I got at the convention center. But I had more important things to do - like try and find the right friendly looking couple in their 70's in burnt orange, when the room had filled to the brim with other friendly-looking couples in their 50's, 60's and 70's in burnt orange.

But, I found them, delivered their drinks and continued to make a bunch of other rich, football-loving Texans happy throughout the game. I tried not to stare at the whole new inventory of burnt orange accessories, though I'm pretty sure I spotted a silk scarf covered in longhorn profiles with "Hermes" in the corner.

Luckily, Cuba Libres seemed to be the drink of choice - second only to diet Cuba Libres. With the exception, of course, of the one cranberry and vodka ordered by the granddaughter of one of the friendly folks - which, I promptly spilled down the back of her white denim jacket.

Thanks to true Texan hospitality (assisted by a half-dozen Cuba Libres) she and her grandparents were nice about it, blamed the guy behind them for bumping into me, and worried that I would get fired. Surprisingly, it turned out she had nothing to worry about.

The Longhorns ended up losing the game really, really badly (blasphemy!) so folks started to clear out early and we were already gathering all the discarded limes and cocktail napkins before the teams left the field. At one point, I smelled the distinct smell of Aqua Net next to me.

"You did a good job today."

"Thanks, when I spilled that drink?"

"Well, that always happens. Too bad we can't hire folks full time."

Evidently, when the Longhorns lost the bar was lowered.

-Photo by Alycat.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Quote of the Day - Jos on Adam Lambert and the Patriarchy

"Hey male gaze, your arousal is showing."

Read more about Jos' take on Adam Lambert's performance and subsequent ousting from Good Morning America, on Feministing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oh, America

FYI: "Fairness" and "straight-talk" are not policies. But, oh yeah...taxes are so annoying with all those roads, schools, and medicare that they create...

Thanks, Republican Party for giving us the gun-totting, wolf killing, Alaskan version of a sparkly vampire celebrity created through Orwellian double-speak. But, I guess it doesn't really matter since if the Red Dawn Russian/Arab terrorist a-bomb doesn't get us before 2012 those feminists and immigrants will...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Your Friday Awesome

We interrupt this almost total lack of posting this week (thanks to a pinched shoulder nerve - yay! I'm old...) to bring you another announcement about my awesome circle of friends and family. Cause you know what? They deserve it, dammit.

My ridiculously talented husband has his first gallery show this weekend. It's a benefit for Robogames. While we aren't quite that kind of soldering-geeky, he does paint awesome robots and make fantastic robot costumes, so if you are in the Bay Area come check it out. There is ample parking, its public transit accessible thanks to the new 3rd Street rail, and will have beer:

He's not the only one that makes stuff though. My friend Renee just opened up a new Etsy store, Brisk. She's selling fingerless gloves and will be selling the patterns to make them soon. Oh, and she has totally awesome models...

This circle of folks is also smart and witty, so be sure to check out my friend Nnekay and her musings about libraries and Bay Area living, and my friend Starr C., who is my role model for parenting and general awesomeness at Suburbtopia.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Duh, Tires are Only for Dudes

Thanks, Bridgestone for adding your self to list of things I'm not going to buy. Though I'm sure you don't really care since I'm a nag, and never a driver:

Things I Read This Week

Latoya reminds us what is important to focus on when it comes to the Stupak amendment.

Jenn has a smart analysis and awesomely titled post on Stupak.

Is Megan Fox just a really smart business woman exploiting the exploiters? Sady and Amanda discuss.

Facebook needs to enforce gender binaries so it knows what to sell you.

Friday, November 13, 2009

MY Friday Awesome

I got scooped by Sarah Haskins. Why is that awesome? Because it is further proof that we need to be best friends:

To be clear. It is not the "rape allegory" and fact that Broadview security is capitalizing on the very real threat that women face, it's this:

Sarah Haskins is awesome.
I wrote a post on Broadview's commercials on Wednesday that I needed to spellcheck before posting.
Which means, I think like Sarah Haskins.
Therefore, I must also be awesome.

And again, we should be besties.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

This is What a Feminist Family Looks Like

This was originally going to be a post about ridiculous, sensationalist art projects, be they a hoax web page or an actual rape tunnel (Yeah...wait a minute I'll get to that).

Instead, this is a post how awesome my family is...and how their awesomeness energizes me and gives me hope for the future.

This afternoon my brother-in-law post a link to this on my Facebook profile:

Please describe the project.

In the 4D Gallery main room, I’ve constructed a 22 ft tunnel out of plywood that leads into the project room. There is no way in or out of the project room except for this tunnel. As you travel through the tunnel, it gets smaller and smaller, making it so that you have to crawl and put yourself in a submissive position in order to reach the tunnel’s destination. At the end of the tunnel the subject will find me waiting in the project room and I’ll try to the best of my ability to overpower and rape the person who crawls through.

Why rape?

Because as an artistic gesture, it’s one of the most impactful I can think of...In 2007 at the Seward Projects Space in Columbus, I had my first breakthrough with an installation that was to be the prototype for this current one. It was called THE PUNCH-YOU-IN-THE-FACE TUNNEL. It was the same set-up as THE RAPE TUNNEL except at the end of the tunnel I’d punch the subject in the face instead of raping him or her. The impetus was completely reactionary to the current state of art, and motivated by pure frustration...

Rape seemed like the next logical step. brother-in-law's reaction? "Seriously? This guy should be [insert method of death here]! How do people become so twisted?" Good question, bro.

But putting aside the "art" for a moment...most people would never expect this little digital exchange between my brother-in-law and I to take place. My brother is a practicing Mormon (like many other religions, not really known for its feminist principles) and me, well, I'm a raging feminist with a Master's degree in Women's and Gender Studies with a blog that I use to critique systems of oppression enforced through everything from policy to pop-culture.

But, my brother is smart, and thinks critically and we respect one another so we can have really critical conversations about politics and religion - all the things you aren't supposed to talk about in polite society. But we do. Not all the time, sometimes we play video games, but this is also the guy that totally got why I bought his three year old a pink soccer ball. And so I am really excited by the fact that I can be one of his outlets for questioning the patriarchy.

But, back to the "art." I saw this on my Facebook page this afternoon while I was in the middle of a project at work (what? I'm actually supposed to be online at work - hi, boss!) and couldn't really formulate a response other than a "WTF!?! This is so gonna be a blog." But on the way home, I started thinking, "The first thing I'm going to do is validate that this crap is actually real." But guess what? I didn't have to. By the time I got home and logged into my email, my mom had emailed me two stories from totally obscure sources that called it out as fake.

The fact that my mom would be enraged by this isn't surprising. This feminist apple didn't fall far from the tree. But it was only in the last six months or so that my mom created a Facebook account and got herself a shiny new Mac and a Gmail address, and today, in sixty seconds flat, she used them all to delve into the interwebs and give her daughter fodder for her blog.

(My husband also called it out as fake in the Facebook thread, noting that it was no less upsetting that it was a hoax, but duh...that is just another example of why I married him.)

So, I'm sure by tomorrow all of the blogs will be going "ZOMG! WTF?! It's a fake and here is a really in-depth analysis of the bullshit that is passed off as 'controversial art'!" I, however, was way more interested in how my family responded to it.

Here is to my awesome social critic brother-in-law and my technologically advanced mom - and all of our virtual and real life feminist conversations. See you at Thanksgiving!

Jesus Doesn't Love Hypocrites

Evidently Catholic churches in Italy have admitted that Holy Water isn't special enough to be swine flu free. Is it possible the sign of the cross doesn't have antibacterial properties because Jesus is unhappy with hypocrites?
"The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said Wednesday that it will be unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn't change a proposed same-sex marriage law."
How charitable of them.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

If only we gave as much thought to veterans during the rest of the year as we do to the pomp and circumstance of the holidays we set aside, we would not have this:
"A research team at Harvard Medical School estimates 2,266 U.S. military veterans under the age of 65 died last year because they lacked health insurance and thus had reduced access to care. That figure is more than 14 times the number of deaths (155) suffered by U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2008, and more than twice as many as have died (911 as of Oct. 31) since the war began in 2001."

Dr. David Himmelstein, the co-author of the analysis and associate professor of medicine at Harvard, commented, “On this Veterans Day we should not only honor the nearly 500 soldiers who have died this year in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also the more than 2,200 veterans who were killed by our broken health insurance system. That’s six preventable deaths a day.

He continued: “These unnecessary deaths will continue under the legislation now before the House and Senate. Those bills would do virtually nothing for the uninsured until 2013, and leave at least 17 million uninsured over the long run. We need a solution that works for all veterans - and for all Americans - single-payer national health insurance.”

While many Americans believe that all veterans can get care from the VA, even combat veterans may not be able to obtain VA care, Woolhandler said. As a rule, VA facilities provide care for any veteran who is disabled by a condition connected to his or her military service and care for specific medical conditions acquired during military service.
Lets do more than yellow ribbons and watered down legislation for all citizens.

Image via the Daily Mail.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy 40th Birthday, Sesame Street

With the recent attempts to create tiers of citizenship and personhood by denying individuals their civil rights and ability to make decisions about their bodies, it is nice to remember one of the reasons why we have a generation that knows that it is wrong and believes that we can change our community for the better:

As Andi says, looking back it might not have been perfect, and has certainly disappointed us as adults, but thank you Sesame Street.

Thanks for teaching us about the alphabet and social responsibility through puppets. Even the ones that terrified me.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Things I Read This Week

Ann at Feministing is justifiably pissed about the House's health care bill, but outlines the good things that are included.

Latoya on how the Cleveland serial killer got away with killing eleven women because the police and community ignored the it.

Gabrielle Union bravely discusses her reaction to the Richmond gang rape.

Meg Stone asks what it would mean if we treated rape as a public health pandemic.

Sociological Images discusses the economics of triathlons, the new and extreme version of cigar rooms and golf games.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A (tiny) Room of One's Own

The New York Times recently did an article on women's residences - buildings reserved for single women that do not allow men beyond designated public areas and which sometimes function as a dorm with a common dining hall, all for under-market value.

While created for some of the wrong reasons, I can certainly see the appeal. They are clean and safe and provide a way to meet people in a giant, unforgiving city. And heck, not having to cook is fantastic.

They remind me a bit of my first apartment in San Francisco. It had been built as a dormitory for the women's teaching college across the street at the turn of the century. The rooms were so tiny I had a twin sized day bed. My kitchen barely qualified as a galley, with an apartment-sized oven and refrigerator. But, the closet was almost as big as the room since it had once housed a Murphy bed, the bathroom had a clawfoot tub, and it had all the period detailing of a perfectly-San Francisco apartment including a lovely sun-filled bay window. Oh, and I could clean the whole thing in 25 minutes flat.

Out of 23 units, twenty of them were inhabited by women from 18 - 25. In the remaining three units, that were somewhat larger as they had been intended to house the dorm "mothers," lived middle-aged to elderly gay men who had lived there forever thanks to rent control. One of them was in his sixties and he spent time in the lobby waiting for his ancient one-eyed Shih Tzu to catch her breath before they went up three flights of stairs.

We chatted often and he once showed me a picture of the building following the 1906 earthquake. It stood solitary on the small hill with a tent city surrounding it for blocks. The building had been built earlier that year and when it didn't collapse everyone realized that it sat on bedrock - and that is a good thing in an earthquake. It is why every apartment I have ever lived in either survived or is next door to a building that survived that earthquake. I explained this to the poor girl who knocked frantically on my door after a minor shake. She had moved from Minnesota about four hours before it started rumbling.

Shortly after the 1906 quake, they moved the San Francisco Mint (as in one of the places that prints money) from the collapsed and fire-ravaged downtown to the block on the other side of the college. While it was strange to look out my bay window and see semi-automatics through the palm trees, it also lent its name to a really fun karaoke bar around the block.

The second male resident was about the same age as the Shih Tzu's dad, and though friendly, drank a little too much. Whenever we heard the cops outside we knew he had been trying to get into the building across the street (the looked only somewhat alike). The third had been a professional ballet dancer. And when the building was broken into it was he that went running down the stairs to chase the offender into the street.

In other words, it was the perfect first San Francisco studio apartment. At the intersection of the edge of the Castro, the start of the Lower Haight, Hayes Valley (before Hayes Valley was Hayes Valley), and the outskirts of the Mission, I could get petty much anywhere in the city by public transit with one transfer at most, which meant I could absorb the city to my 22 year old heart's content.

So I get the appeal of women's residences. Who needs space when you are rarely home? As for the no-male visitors policy, well that does stem from the attempt to protect a lady's virtue and all that nonsense, and it assumes that all the ladies or are of a certain orientation, which if they are not blows the whole theory to pieces. But, you know, I can see why some women might choose it. That can really make things a bit less stressful - you don't have to worry about whether or not you've got dirty laundry and dishes out before asking them up. And besides, as a young single woman I instituted dating safety rules that pretty much created the same situation:
1. Date does not get to know what building I live in until the 3rd date.

2. Date does not get to know what apartment number I live in until the 5th date.

Only two ever made it up, and one of them became my husband, so I guess the nuns and chaperones wouldn't be too upset.

San Francisco Bay Window (not mine) via Apartment Therapy.

Your Friday Awesome: Gabby Sidibe

Precious is one of those movies I really want to see, but am afraid to. It will be amazing, but heart-wrenching and exhausting - because it is only partly fiction. Today the trailer made be cry before 9:00 in the morning, which is why I was really glad Julie Z. gave us this unicorn chaser:

I'm pretty sure that Gabby and Ellen are my two favorite entertainers now. Their joy, wit and humor is awesome.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

Spoiler Alert

All of the hullabaloo about how Where the Wild Things Are is too scary for kids seems to have missed one key factor: it is far more boring than it is scary. During the showing we went to there were about six kids from about ages 6 to 10 sitting near us and by the time it got to the really violent sequences none of the kids were even looking at the screen because they (like me) had lost interest about five minutes after Max reached the island.

I am part of the multiple generations that grew up on the illustrations of Maurice Sendak. Granted we all remember the illustrations more than the story, and they did sort of terrify me, but I was still really excited to see it come to life. My husband and I were lucky enough to get to explore the Where the Wild Things Are exhibit at the Sony Metreon back in 2002. We were the only people there and made quite the rumpus because they really got it right - right down to the shading on the palm trees.

I was particularly excited for the movie because it was costumes and not CGI (at least mostly) - and in that aspect it certainly did not disappoint. But if all a movie has to offer is aesthetics you only really need to watch the trailer, which had all of the most visually appealing snippets, anyway.

As Jezebel noted, the book is short - really short. The part that has etched itself in our cultural memory is the illustrations (what the Metreon exhibit got oh-so right). So, maybe pretty landscapes and neat costumes are all we should expect. Unfortunately, however, I think the movie doesn't just not get the book right, it does it - and it's viewers - a disservice.

The sections that have been deemed too scary for kids are not scary because of the terrible teeth and claws. They are scary because Jonze and Eggers could not decide who the wild things were. Sendak based them on his foreign adult relatives (which is a whole other problem to dissect), but in the movie they are sometimes adults with romantic relationships and sometimes whiny children with hurt feelings.

Sure, part of the process of growing up is realizing that adults usually are whiny children with hurt feelings, but in this case those adults enact an abusive relationship. The wild things' size, knowledge of the island, and interpersonal relationships position them as adults through most of the film (as do their names typical of a generation older than Max), and while Max once or twice growls them into submission, he spends most of the movie watching them physically and emotionally hurt one another with the fear that they will harm him.

Then of course there is the infamous line, "I'll eat you up I love you so." The only emotion we have had up until that point is anger and insecurity, so what has come to be a marker of the movie's "take away" (that we love our children even if we must discipline them? That we love them despite their sometimes justified though inappropriately enacted anger? Your guess is as good as mine) is not actually in the movie. In perhaps the most disturbing and strange and wtf!?! moment in modern cinema, the character (KW) that says it does in fact eat him up in order to protect him.

But, if we decide to go with it as a metaphor based on the movie until that point, then it seems the lesson we are supposed to take away is that maternal figures (who KW is positioned as) will do anything to protect their child from an abusive father figure (Carol). Moreover, that kind of love is smothering since Max can't breathe and is pulled out covered in bile and spit, though the raccoon who is also hanging out there seems to be fine. Told you it was weird.

But again, the most disappointing part was that it was just plain boring. Once you have seen the costumes, learned that war games always end in tears, and watched the wild things whine and lose their tempers and hurt each others feelings in the exact same way five times, your mind wanders: In my husband's case, about the mother's agonizing worry over her child running away (the only part that diverged from the ten sentences of text, and the only part Sendak did not particularly like) and my related concern that Max must have been starving.

Of course Sendak seems to be really happy with the Jonze/Eggers interpretation of his beloved book, so maybe I should just "go to hell" and go see that other childrens book they have taken liberties with. But, I can't remember ever wanting to leave a movie half way through simply because I was bored. Nor have I left a movie disturbed by strange (lack-of) character development (no, more snow and dirt clod fights, but we can still throw rocks at owls?), and upset that I had just wasted all that time sitting there, since even crappy action movies keep your attention. Sadly, the only redeeming factor of the viewing was that we patronized our local historic theater.

Image via JSYK.

Its Official - The First Geek Family


If only his policy was as exciting...

Via White House Photostream.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Your T-eeww-sday Not Awesome

Thanks, Viagra. Thanks for reminding us to celebrate your role in the cultural cannon of making sure that boners still trump birth control.

And, um, eeww...

Sparkly Stalker Vamps Make Even Volvo Shiny

What was that about vampires?

If you've got time to complete twelve tests, or moons (groan), that push your Twilight knowledge - or in my case, Googling ability - to the test, than you too can be surrounded by the stalker-y protectionist steel of Edward Volvo. No, really.

Read all about it over at Mother Jones.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Last Minute Costume Ideas!

As I mentioned before, Amanda at The Sexist has been doing her fair share of pointing out the ridiculousness that has become women's store bought Halloween costumes. She even gave readers a how-to for informing your friend that their costume is racist (we all have one).

Planned Parenthood NYC gave us some pretty awesome ideas that are witty and raise awareness. So I figured I should see what kind of inspired and educational costumes I could come up with.

Granted some of these are pretty specific to Mother Jones, but that just means you should be reading it. :)

Your Friday Awesome

In honor of Halloween...VAMPIRES! Fifty of them. Organized by soul, sparkles and the more traditional characteristics:

My husband is pretty sure I am obsessed with vampires a la Videogum's theory that America loves anything with fangs:
Does it have vampires in it?

This is only partially true, because while I loved Buffy, watch True Blood and have read all the Twilight books (though before the first was a bestseller - thank you, very much), I draw the line at The Vampire Chronicles.

For a while I blamed my like of vampires on reading Interview with the Vampire at fourteen, but my stifled squeal of delight as I scrolled down the chart above was not the appearance of Lestat. Nope. It was Bunnicula.

That's right the celery sucking bunny.

*You can see a larger version in all its gory glory at I09.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Women's Liberation: The History of Birth Control

Newsweek has a pretty good (and sometimes terrifying!) slideshow on the evolution of birth control. It makes me thank science that I hit puberty in the decade that I did.

Below is one of the slides on the Dalkon Shield.

Mother Jones (where I also sometimes blog) exposed the dumping of the product in developing countries in 1979, calling it "The Corporate Crime of the Century."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How to Get Me to Hide You In My Facebook Feed

There are two reasons (so far) I will block people from my Facebook Feed:

1. You post uniformed things about how abortion and gay marriage should be illegal or voted in the "Kill Obama" poll.

2. You participate in crap like this:

According to the application, "Send Big Beautiful Boobs to your friends. It will brighten their day!" No. No, it will not.

Gang Rape on a High School Campus is More than "Unfortunate"

Severe trigger warning.

This past weekend, a 15 year-old high school student was gang raped for two hours outside her homecoming dance while a group of people (students and adults) watched.

This horrific crime occurred just up the freeway from where I live and I have been surprised by the coverage the case has received in the local media. Reporters and police have repeatedly underscored that while the survivor is physically recovering, she has suffered an emotional and psychological assault as well.
"She was raped, beaten, robbed and dehumanized by several suspects who were obviously OK enough with it to behave that way in each other's presence," said Lt. Mark Gagan, a patrol supervisor in the city's Northern Policing District.
While I am sure that this crime is recieving more attention than others because of where it took place, it also seems to resonate with the local police and media because of the underlying fact that people watched a girl getting viciously gang raped and did nothing to stop it, "What makes it even more disturbing is the presence of others. People came by, saw what was happening, and failed to report it." Some reports suggest that the crowd cheered the direct perpetrators on.

This is the result of a rape culture.

But, this incident also points to the many short comings of our schools - places where our children and teenagers should be safe.
The courtyard is pitch-black at night, making it difficult to see into it from 23rd.

"(Lighting) is an ongoing issue for all our sites," school district spokesman Marin Trujillo said. "That particular section does have lighting. Could it be better? That's something we're always reviewing."

The school district plans to install surveillance cameras by January at the campus, a project long in the works. Plans for new fencing have been in the works since March.

"It's unfortunate that we weren't able to have this finalized a little bit sooner," Ramsey said. "But we've been on top of this issue (safety). Our board is working very proactively to make sure we stay on top of the issue."
While we cannot place the blame solely on the school - the people who perpetrated this atrocity are to blame - we can certainly fault the school, the district and the state, for not making the safety of it's students a higher priority.

The budget crisis that California schools are facing is nothing new, and certainly not limited to higher education. But lack of funding and a reluctance to place student safety as a top priority also helped to facilitate this assault and that is not just "unfortunate." A fifteen year-old girl is now the survivor of a vicious gang rape.

However, we must also be clear that lighting and staffing will not solve this problem by themselves - they are not the only ways we can work to keep our communities safe. The disturbing roots of the culture that permits this type of hatred to exist run deep, and often in broad daylight.

Update: Anna N. at Jezebel asks some good questions about the crowd mentality.

Rules for My Unborn Son - How (not) to Teach Masculinity

There is a new book coming out called "Rules for My Unborn Son." It was sent to BoingBoing's Mark Frauenfelder, who responded, "Lamond's rules are good advice for sons, as well as anyone else, really." Hmmm, well yes, advice based on general etiquette is usually good for all people.

The book is based on the blog "1001 Rules for my Unborn Son," and is just one more attempt to shore up the author's own masculinity while making sure his kid also adheres to his version of what it is to be man. Nevermind that his kid might be gay, or trans, or born a girl.

Moreover, this poor kid is going to have to memorize 1,001 rules to be the right kind of man his dad want's him to be?!? I feel sorry for the kid. But, I also feel bad for the guy who wrote this, since he too feels his identity is based on a masculinity that can be broken down into a set of stringent rules - and on his youth and cool factor.

Lets move on to the advice, that Mark characterizes as "specific tips for living a life of kindness, politeness, and preparedness," shall we? Yes there are some nice general tips for, oh...I don't know not being an asshole, like thanking your bus driver. But, then we get into the "men must be strong and fight" ones: "Aim for the nose," "A man's luggage doesn't roll." Oh right, because being a man means unnecessarily lugging a duffel bag, causing your shoulder and back to be sore for the rest of trip and your clothes to be wrinkled, instead of using a convenient roller? Tell that to pilots (who of course are all manly men, unlike the flight attendants who are all ladies or pansies).

But, here is the real winner:
"Remember, the girl you're with is somebody's sister. And she's perfectly capable of kicking your ass."
While it's nice to know he thinks women are as physically capable as the Paul Bunyan/Don Draper prototype he has raised, there is a whole heap of crap wrong with this:
1. The girl you are dating is only of value because she is defined by her relationship to a man (we assume the threat is from her unidentified brother, and not her sister).

2. You will only ever date young women, god forbid she have other relationships, like oh...being someone's mother.

3. The author feels that he has to put in a very specific rule that breaks down to simply "DON'T BE A RAPIST" or any form of abuser, but really, this rule is all about not committing date rape.
I can only hope that when I have a son I will have taught him about respecting all people and provided him with the tools to create his own healthy sexuality, so that I don't have to remind him to not beat or rape his dates - whoever they may be.

Image via 1001 Rules for My Unborn Son blog.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Your Friday Awesome

I Heart Guts, makes biology fun with posters, t-shirts and plushies, but they also use their genius for good, by donating to Medical Students for Choice and the awesomely named group of bike-riding OB/GYN's - Menstrual Cycles.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Although...there should be no asking of anyone's hand since it is a decision made by two equal parties to enter into a partnership, but still a very clear message about the inanity of marriage inequality.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Your Wednesday Awesome

Because the moving testimony of Philip, an 86 year-old veteran, can't wait until Friday:

...The woman at my polling place asked me do I believe in equality for gay and lesbian people. I was pretty surprised to be asked a question like that. It made no sense to me. Finally I asked her: what do you think I fought for in Omaha Beach?

...I have seen with my own eyes the consequences of caste systems and that make some people less than others, or second class. Never again. We must have equal rights for everyone.

Who else needs a tissue?

Halloween Sans Cleavage

The lady blogs have been railing against what seems to be the only option for store-bought women's Halloweeen costumes, "The Sexy [fill-in-the-blank]."

Amanda at The Sexist has kept a running list of all of the truly horrific ones. Forget the old standbys of "Sexy Cop" and "Sexy Pirate," they have been joined by "Sexy Finding Nemo" and "Sexy Clown." (Really? Really.)

When o filthy grandeur! lamented that she and her fiance wanted to go as Batman and Robin, but the only store-bought versions were sexy - and therefore, not practical as crimefighting garb - I couldn't help but share the versions that I made for my husband and I two years ago.

Today she shared them on her blog (note the lack of cleavage and sensible crime-fighting shorts) and I am still really proud of them. Mine was made almost entirely out kids t-shirts, and I made both the shorts and gloves without a pattern (jersey is really handy that way). The only store bought pieces were my husband's mask and gloves since I didn't have time to figure out how to make the bat ears stand up.

I also still can't get over my husband's stoke of genius to make sound effect signs. They made for super cool photos and instant introductions since strangers wanted us to pretend to thwart them.

So, here is to decidedly non-sexy Halloween costumes! Moreover, here is to practical superhero costumes that do not involve short skirts and high heels. Maybe next year we'll have to finally do the gender bending switcheroo (did you know there was actually a girl Robin named Stephanie?) and I'll be Batman, even if that mask is a bit confining.

And by the way, superhero costumes are also practical in other ways: capes keep you warm and utility belts are all kinds of handy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cartoons Get Sexier - Except for Tinkerbell Who is a Lesbian

The sexification of the cartoon characters of my childhood is nothing new. Of course in the world of creepy marketing, by sexification I mean smaller torso's, giant heads, and inappropriate posturing...

First it was My Little Pony - that's right, ponies. Imaginary ponies, made sexier by raising the butt and giving them a come hither look:

Then it was Strawberry Shortcake. Somehow making her skirt longer made her creepy. Oh wait, I know it's that over the shoulder boudoir photo shoot vibe...

And then it was Rainbow Brite and her entourage, who hit puberty and became the primary colored lolitas:

Which is why I was actually excited when I saw the new version of Tinkerbell. Oh sure, she is still super skinny, blonde and suffering from lollipop syndrome, but what was once the most creepily sexual (and mute) cartoon character ever has had a reverse makeover. The only body modification she has undergone is having feet that are a bit larger so that she can walk now and has actually been given an outfit that won't flash her fairy bits.

But, Oh Noes! That means she is a lesbian. Yep, if your kid puts leggings and boots on under that mini dress, she is gonna grow up to like the ladies. But, hey, at least she won't be freezing her faerie ass off.

Tinkerbell image from
Alas! A Blog, My Little Pony images from Celebrate Your Naughtiness (though not when it comes to ponies), Strawberry Shortcake from, Rainbow Brite from Jezebel.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Things I Read This Week

Deeply Problematic hosted the sixth Carnival of Feminists.

The Shriver Report is out and according to Girl with Pen, it is pretty awesome.

A justice of the peace in Louisiana denied an Interracial couple a marriage license "for the children's sake." But, he's not, yeah.

Bitch magazine says what we all secretly hoped. Googling your date isn't creepy, its a safety measure.

Speaking of safety...Double X thinks that getting roofied, being found by a cop on the sidewalk, and ending up in the ER isn't reason enough for your BFF to get out of bed and come help. PSA: if any of my friends end up in the ER I will get out of bed at 4am or any other time to you (or my friends' friends, or their friends). But then again, I wouldn't have left them roofied at the bar to begin with.

On an awesome note: Ruth Frith won the gold and set a world record in the shot put at the World Masters Games - at the age of 100.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Your Friday Awesome

Posting has been light (or rather, nonexistent) this week since I've been in DC for work. Unfortunately I missed the National Equality March by two days. 200,000 people marched on DC alone.

Photo via Yahoo News.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Things I Read About This Week

Melissa McEwan gave us an amazingly thorough and concise explanation of rape culture in Rape Culture 101.

And as if to underscore the existence and of rape culture, a UK cosmetics company is marketing lip gloss that comes with a kit to test your drink for date rape drugs.

And the movie that keeps us talking...Annalee Newitz thinks Jennifer's Body was the victim of crappy marketing, more specifically trying to market a feminist horror movie based on the sexist and exploitative rules that Michael Bay would use.

Moving on to the glass ceiling, Wired told us about thirteen women who passed all tests to become astronauts - doing even better on some than the men who would eventually go to the moon - but were denied the chance to do so becuase they had not flown experimental aircraft (which they could not do because of gendered limitations within the military) and because they would get their period...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Your Friday Awesome

We already new that Sweden was awesome, besides giving their citizens things like healthcare and parental leave, they have given the world Ikea. It turns out their sixth graders are just as with it as their parents.

The sixth graders reported Toys 'R Us to a self-regulatory agency within the International Chamber of Commerce because its 2008 catalog featured “outdated gender roles...boys and girls were shown playing with different types of toys, whereby the boys were portrayed as active and the girls as passive."

These are pages from the current ad for the area where I live:

Yep. Pretty much.

Evidently, the action was the culmination of what can only be assumed to be a pretty awesome lesson plan:
The group’s teacher explained to the local Sm√•landsposten newspaper that filing the complaint was the culmination of more than two years of “long-term work” by the students on gender roles.

Thumbing through the catalogue, 13-year-old Hannes Psajd explained that he and his twin sister had always shared the same toys and that he was concerned about the message sent by the Toys"R"Us publication.

“Small girls in princess stuff…and here are boys dressed as super heroes. It’s obvious that you get affected by this,” he told the newspaper.

“When I see that only girls play with certain things then, as a guy, I don’t want it.”

Classmate Moa Averin emphasized the importance of children being able to be who they want even if “guys want to be princesses sometimes”.
Right you are Moa.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thanks Senator Franken

I'd forgotten that you could actually watch CSPAN and not cringe. Thanks to Senator Franken, I remembered that democracy in action can actually be thrilling (though here is a severe trigger warning, Franken telling the story of what Jaime Leigh Jones survived is horrifying):

From Think Progress:
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) proposed an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that would withhold defense contracts from companies like KBR “if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court.” Speaking on the Senate floor yesterday, Franken said:
The constitution gives everybody the right to due process of law … And today, defense contractors are using fine print in their contracts do deny women like Jamie Leigh Jones their day in court. … The victims of rape and discrimination deserve their day in court [and] Congress plainly has the constitutional power to make that happen.

It passed 68-30.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Austin Chronicles: Robots, Beer and Socio-economics

The Austin Chronicles are an ongoing series about a California gal (me) who decided that Texas during the Bush Administration would be the best place to get a graduate degree in Women's Studies. I learned much more living in Texas than I did in school.

Before I left for Austin, other people were far more concerned about how I would pay my bills than I was. One of my mom's friends was really excited by the prospect of bartending downtown at Coyote Ugly, "Just think of the tips!" My mom suggested that it might actually be something to look into, since it could be considered participatory observation, suggesting that I write my thesis on it. But I did not have to squeeze into leather pants, dance on a bar, and pour tequila down frat boys throats to gain a better understanding of social mores, socio-economics and gendered performance while paying my bills.

I had barely hung up my tuxedo shirt and bow tie, before I got a call for a job with the catering company. It turns out, the company did a lot less catering and a lot more slinging of booze, so the next day I found myself in the center of a convention floor surrounded by kegs at ten o'clock in the morning.

I, and my wares, had been delivered to the exact center of the floor with the help of Angel, a very nice guy with tattoos covering his neck and knuckles, who reassured me that "This is gonna be easy. You've only got two on tap: Lone Star and Shiner Bock." I of course didn't ask him to explain the difference (Shiny what?) since I didn't want to look like a complete idiot. Nor, did I tell him that I had never touched a keg in my life.

I had gone to undergrad at a small liberal arts college where everyone lived on campus and everyone at the party would be fined a thousand bucks and threatened with expulsion if Public Safety found a keg in the room. Upon graduation, I went straight to San Francisco where no one is willing to haul a keg up three flights of stairs. And while I may have lived in the land of micro-brews (my dad even had a brief foray into brewing very dark European-ish beers, first in our garage and then opening up a small pub), once I hit drinking age I was limited to what was carried at the corner liquor store and what the bars in my neighborhood had on tap, which was increasingly being taken over by the hipster co-opted Pabst Blue Ribbon.

My inked guide interrupted my brief panic attack - complete with visions of killing convention attendees with exploding kegs - "Oh, and because of the union contract, I have to tap all the kegs, sorry."

"Oh, hey, no problem," I said as blase as I could possibly muster while silently thanking the beer, union, and minimum wage gods. I then watched as he coaxed a light beer, the likes of which would only be imbibed ironically in my former Mission neighborhood, from the steel drum labeled Lone Star, and a darker one from the other one which was conveniently missing the part of the label with it's name - so for now, it remained "Shiny."

At that point, I heard a string of swear words and laughter behind me. I turned around to face two bleached blondes who, though they were both about 5'4", looked like they could probably take Angel in a fight.

"Hey Angel! Setting up without us?" said one of them in a voice that betrayed the pack of cigarettes she smoked a day. The other one swore at her cellphone, slammed it shut, and started stuffing the tails of her tuxedo shirt into her pants.

"Yeah, Steph here is helping me, but you're gonna be seeing a lot of me since I have to tap all of them."

"No shit! You got hired?"

I would find out later that there was an odd and incestuous relationship (both professionally and otherwise) between the national company that held the contract for all temporary service work (what the uninformed would call catering) at the local convention centers and hotels, and the company that had hired me. I was a contractor for a contractor for a contractor. Angel had been hired by the contractor at the top of the pyramid. I tried not to think about what kind of ding that left in our paychecks. Instead I was relieved that I'd been referred to as a familiar, which meant the two girls who I would have made sure not to make eye contact with in junior high PE, assumed I wasn't the newbie I really was.

Katie and Jamie introduced themselves, Angel hopped in his golf cart to go set up the next beer island somewhere in the vast expanse of the convention hall, and I was left with the girls, who asked if I'd counted the cups yet. I looked at the giant pile of plastic cups under the table, "Um, no? I didn't know we were supposed to...I've never actually done one of these before."

That was it, I had revealed my weakness.

"Oh, really? Angel didn't tell you? We have to count all of the cups before and after so they can make sure we aren't drinking any." I attempted to join the chorus of eye-rolling. I was evidently going to learn a thing or two, besides how to tap a keg, since I had no idea how you would sneak a beer standing under thousand watt fluorescent lights in the middle of a convention floor.

I gathered cups from under the table (I would count A LOT of cups while wearing a tuxedo shirt) relieved that, like Angel, Katie and Jaime's personalities couldn't be judged by their hard exterior, while I frantically searched for a labeled keg of the Shiny Something-or-other. Thankfully, the yellow and brown label was on the first keg I smacked my knee against: SHINER BOCK.

Dear reader, you may already familiar with this Texas staple (and in fact it has by now made it's way to the taps and liquor aisles of San Francisco), or you may be trying to figure out why I was so perplexed by such a simple name, but let me explain to you that I am a visual learner. And, as we have discussed before, not everything in Texas is spelled like it sounds.

I had learned about Lone Star on my first trip to the grocery store. The Official Beer of the Republic of Texas (no, really) was sure to make itself known, if not from end cap displays, it's ubiquitous presence in undergrads' grocery carts. From the price point, I figured it was the state version of Pabst.

But that morning, I had been surrounded by kegs of something that sounded like it was filled with glitter-covered chickens, or maybe a rare kind of black eye that made the victim cluck like one. I wasn't about to say something that to me sounded like clucking. I was relieved to finally discover, not farmyard animals, but a Bavarian brew.

Secure in my knowledge of what I was serving, Jaime, Katie and I made small talk while we counted approximately 789 cups. Topics of conversation included why I would come to Texas from California, of all places, and what a dipshit Jamie's boyfriend was. By that point, early arrivers had begun filing in and I started to pay attention to what kind of convention our beer island was in the middle of.

There was a whirling thingamajig to by left. To my right, was a shiny full-color graph that I'm sure I would have understood better had I taken the second semester of AP Calculus. And straight ahead of me was some sort of interactive video display that had a smattering of skinny guys in jeans, tennis shoes and glasses trying not to topple over an entire row of displays as they jumped up and down and waved their arms.

The spectacled attendees looked a bit like the throngs of 28 year-old coders, programmers and engineers (all the same to everyone, but them) in San Francisco that moaned about taking paycuts the size of a teacher's salary after the tech boom busted, but there was something just a tad different about these folks. It wasn't just that Fluvlogs and Converse had been replaced with Nike's and hard-soled shoes. The bits of conversation that I picked up weren't about cascading style sheets and Google, but things like velocity and joules (things I vaguely remembered from high school physics), and yes, NASA contracts.

I scanned the room for some sort of signage that could put everything into context. Above the heads of the crowd, banners declared this "NI Week:National Instruments Worldwide Graphical System Design Conference and Exhibition." Uh, huh...

That wasn't much help until I remembered the great hulking brick called a T1-81 I had to buy for Alegbra II so that I could figure out cosign without really knowing why I was figuring it out in the first place. But, graphing calculators were made by Texas Instruments. National Instruments made something much cooler: Robots.

Sure, they make other things like kinetic cooling systems (the whirling thingamajig), but they also make honest-to-goodness, oh-my-god-I-loved-Short Circuit-because-the-main-character-was-named-Stephanie, robots. I had come to Texas expecting cowboys, or at least Republicans, and here I was in the middle of nerd-central (I assumed they were not Bush-era Republicans since they believed in the crazy notion of science).

I'm not trying to belittle the people that make robots. We have already established that I am a nerd of a different ilk. Nor were these folks geeks. These were not your everyday geeks of the video game and cosplay, or even coding, variety. These were honest-to-goodness, Stephen-Hawking-would-be-proud, nerds.

And I was one of three girls in the center of it all who was there to serve them beer. Free beer.

I would learn later, that the open bar is the bane of the bartender's existence. When the bar is open, the wallets are closed. No open wallets, no tips. But, it seemed that rule did not apply in the land of robots. As Jaime and Katie poured perfect beers faster than I could say "ROBOTS!," I chatted up the people that will send us to Mars and find viable alternatives to oil, and brought in the tips that we would pool at the end of the day.

Don't get me wrong, there were women nerds holding their own, and showing up the boys on the convention floor, but they weren't up for drinking before noon as much as their male counterparts. And you can forget the belief that nerds don't know how to talk to girls. If we were going to characterize these male nerds as anything, I would actually say they were quite chatty.

Unfortunately, my genuine interest in mechanical ways to perfect brain surgery and the details of NASA contracts started to be misconstrued (probably helped by mass quantities of free beer) and I began to hear this refrain:

"Hey, so do you know of a good place to hang out tonight?"

Translation: Thanks to our casual culture and your public position, I don't have to actually ask you out and be bothered with the fear of rejection to a direct question or stress about figuring out what to do, but really, I am asking you out so that I have a story to blog about.

"Not really, I've been here two weeks."

Translation: Thanks buddy, I thought we were talking about robots. I mean you even kept eye-contact and didn't stare at my boobs. But, I've got a boyfriend, and really, I have no idea where we should "hang out" because I've been in Austin all of two weeks.

I would soon find out that receiving half-assed proposals (and some more direct ones) while wearing an ill-fitting tuxedo shirt were not a side effect of free beer or robots.

To be continued...

PS: (Shameless Spousal Promotion) If you make robots or just think they're cool, check out my husband's project ONE HUNDRED ROBOTS.

Photo from Flickr user littlelostrobot


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