Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Where are all of the gay princesses?

I have had this article for a while about the fact that Disney movies elevate love to great heights, it can change laws, wake people from sleeping, and stop wars, but it has to be heterosexual love. All of the Disney stories and many other movies show the princess or others falling in love, but it is always in a opposite-sex relationship. The article discusses two different studies that show the power and influence that these repeated images have on children, how they are subtly and sometimes not so subtly taught that only heterosexuals can love. I had forgotten that I had bookmarked this article and when I found it again, yesterday, I started to think about a post about this exact topic. Then I started to think about all of the other issues with the Disney Princesses, they are all white or white looking, they are helpless, they need men to save them, in Snow White's case she did the dishes and cleaned up after seven men while they went to work, the Little Mermaid gave up her life and identity for a man, there are so many issues with the Princesses and then of course how does this affect the children especially the little girls who watch these movies over and over again. It cannot have a positive influence on their self-esteem and their views of love and what is expected of women in our society. But then I started to think, but what are the alternatives? Many of these stories are based upon fairy tales that are 200-300 years old and so as our society has advanced, it may not have gone far, but still there are some changes, our fairy tales have not changed. In fact the only princess I can think of that would be a positive role model for little girls is Princess Fiona from Shrek and really only in the first movie. It seems to be that after the first Shrek movie, Fiona becomes more of a domestic housewife and we lose the asskicking strong female that is presented in the first movie.

This also leaves us with no positive role models of non-heterosexual life and parenting. I really was going to write about how we need more stories about gay families, which may lead to more movies about gay families and this will lead to young children growing up understanding that gay families are like any other family and love their children. This also teaches children that if they grow up to be gay, it is Ok and they can still hope, dream and have a family when they are adults. But I thought I better look for books with gay families before I started to spout off. I knew there were books for gay teenagers, but were there any books that would appeal to the preschool crowd that I work with? Well, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that are many really good books out there that highlight gay families. I even learned that Barnes & Noble online has a whole section that is titled:Children of gay parents->Children's fiction, so you can find books for or about children of gay parents. I also found two other resources about books that highlight gay families or gay individuals here and here. So instead of being annoyed and depressed that there are no really good books out there to teach children about gay families, I found several resources. I know there is so much more that needs to be done so that children can begin to realize that heterosexual love is not the only type of love.

But thinking about these books and the fact that I want to get some of them to add to my children's book collection that I am constantly working on, I began to wonder if I could actually read any of these books in my classroom. If I brought them in, would the parent's freak out? Hell, would the administration freak out? Would I be asked to not read those types of books in school? There are a few teachers who may not agree with me on reading these books, but since they are not my supervisor, I do not worry about them. As much as I like to push my boundaries and even be a bit of a rebel at times, I need my job and if reading books that feature gay families threatens my job, I have to decide whether it is worth it. I am not saying I wouldn't read books with gay families, but I need to find ways of incorporating all types of families in my classroom including gay families.

Friday, June 26, 2009

YouTube Fridays

Because when all else fails and I can't think of anything to post on YouTube Fridays, I can always post Eddie Izzard.

Eddie Izzard, Harry Enfield, Alan Rickman and the legendary Vic Reeves perform the famous 'four yorkshire men' sketch from Monty Python.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

In Memory- Michael Jackson

It is amazing to think that two pop icons have died today, Farrah Fawcet and Michael Jackson. I am too young to remember Fawcett, but I grew up with and on Michael Jackson. I think Thriller was the first cassette (remember those things) that I have had or that I listened to a lot. Although, he had some issues he was an amazing artist and influenced a generation of musicians. I could not get the Thriller video, so I had to use this one which is the Thriller video using Legos.

Reza Aslan and Iran

Iran is in the news constantly these days as we all know and yet I feel like there are gaps in the understanding of Iranian politics and what this revolution really is about. It is no longer about an election it is about much more than that. I have now seen two different interviews with Reza Aslan, a commentator for The Daily Beast, which really helps me to understand what is going on in Iran and some of the realities of the lack of influence the U.S can and does have in Iran. I know several Republicans including McCain have called for more action from President Obama and yet that seems counterproductive in a country and region where there is so much hostility toward us. These interviews are also with two of my favorite interviewers and news people, Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow. I am choosing to show both interviews in case you have not seen one or both of them. Also, I think that each interviews adds to and expands Aslan's thoughts and ideas on Iran.

First, Rachel Maddow's piece about Iran including the interview with Aslan.

Now for the slightly longer interview with Aslan from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Reza Aslan
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Baking with Boxer- white sandwich bread

Todays item is white sandwich bread that I made yesterday. I know what you are thinking, white sandwich bread, like that white bread crap that you can get at the grocery store that has no nutritional value, well yes and no. It is white bread, but there are no preservatives and chemicals and other crap in it. Also, I intend to use a mix of white whole wheat flour and all purpose flour next time, this time I just wanted to make it following the recipe and see how it turned out. I turned out with really good texture and a slight bit of sourness at times. As to the sourness, I think I may have over rose the dough. Those of you who saw my facebook page yesterday saw that the dough was rising incredibly fast, it must really like the heat and humidity, well that might have been the problem. I might have over fermented the yeast and thus had some lactic acid in the dough, but I am not sure. I even try to slow down the second rise since GG and I were going out for a bit to get a new car. (We got the new Honda hybrid, Insight.) Well, even in the fridge it still tripled in volume, now I know and I will be more careful next time. I am not going to give the recipe this time as it is kind of a long recipe and I want to encourage you to buy, get from the library, or steal from a friend a copy of the Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. It is a great book and many of the bread recipes I have started to use are from this book. So, I will just leave you with a picture of the finished product. It may not look pretty, but it is good. Oh and the ridges on the top of the bread are not supposed to be there, I had the oven racks too close together and as the bread rose in the oven while it was cooking it pressed against one of the racks.

Doggy Park etiquette

I have started to take Bodhi to the doggy park almost everyday. It gives him the opportunity to play and run off leash, to burn up some of the energy that puppies (and kids) seem to have in abundance and it allows him to socialize and get used to being around a lot of different dogs that are older and younger than him and bigger and smaller than him. He really loves going to the dog park and gets really excited to go in the car. There are even some regular dogs that we tend to see there more often, there is Odin the younger beagle, Max the older Beagle, and Bailey the fully intact, really pretty grey and white speckled dog (I am not sure what kind of dog he is). He also gets to play with any number of other random dogs that we see there that do not seem to be regulars, but whoever it is Bodhi chases them and they chase him and he loves it. And I love taking him, except... I get frustrated some times with the owners. There are these owners who show up at the dog park and stay for like 15 minutes and then tell their dog, "I hope you got all of your energy out because mommy/daddy needs to do chores around the house." "Or daddy/mommy needs to leave you at home for a long time today so I hope you are done playing for the day." Now I am no dog behaviorist or dog trainer, but letting a dog play for 15 minutes does not seem sufficient to me especially when the dog is still running and chasing other dogs and is not panting or seem to be tired in the least. It seems that 15 minutes is just when the dog is starting to get warmed up. It also seems to always be the owners with the bigger dogs, the Rottweilers, Huskies, or Labs that think 15 minutes is sufficient. Also, cleaning up after your dog is not optional, if they shit you need to clean it up. Now I understand if you are new to the park and do not realize that you may need to supply your own bags. There are supposed to be bags there for doo doo clean-up, but they run out sometimes and so having a back up set of bags with you is a good idea. But especially when there are bags at the doggy park, there is no excuse for why you cannot clean up after you dog. No one wants to step in your dog's shit that you didn't want to clean-up. That is part of going to a dog park, taking responsibility for your dog.

Today, Bodhi and I went to the park, but I didn't want to stay too long, it is really hot here and I did not want Bodhi to over heat. Also, he is afraid of the water fountain and wouldn't drink from it and I forgot to get a bowl to take with us for him to drink out of. (He also does not like hoses or really any water device other than his bowl of water.) So I intended to stay for about 30 minutes. There was no one else there for about 20 minutes and so Bodhi ran and frolicked in the grass and had fun by himself although he definitely prefers there to be other dogs there for him to play with. So then a van pulled up and this guy and his husky came into the park. The man seemed annoyed that there was anyone else at the park and was annoyed at Bodhi for coming over and saying hi to him and his dog. I kept telling Bodhi, "no" as he can be a bit exuberant when he ways hi to people and other dogs. But really he was fun and was just happy that there was another dog to play with. The Husky did not seem too interested in playing, but that didn't stop Bodhi and they kind of played chase for a bit. Then the Husky had to go to the bathroom. The man just ignored this fact. The dog shit in one spot than another and than another, he just kept moving and shitting. Finally, it was time for me and Bodhi to go home and as I went to get Bodhi, I heard the man say, "Finish up it is time to go home." He then took his dog back to the car and left. I was so annoyed, how dare you treat the dog park which is for everyone like your backyard. You bring your dog, he does nothing, but shit and then you leave and not clean it up. what an asshole. So if you take you dog to the doggie park and if you have a dog it is great fun for both human and dog, then please clean up after your dog and realize that 15 minutes may seem sufficient to you, but really your dog may need like 30 to 60 minutes of real playtime to be a calm and happy dog.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Baking with Boxer

I am hoping to make this a regular feature on this blog. I like to bake and I have been doing it a lot more lately, so I figured I would share with y'all the fruits of my labor. Well, at least pictures and recipes and the ideas of the fruits of my labor, to get the actual fruits you have to be here.

This post will be written as I work on this recipe. I am experimenting today as I try to make a bread that is sprinkled with chocolate. I have a chocolate bread recipe and I really like it, but there was this Swiss bakery in NC which made a sweet, white bread that had chocolate in it. It was awesome on its own, but with some peanut butter it was even better. I am attempting to recreate this bread. As I was thinking about this, I remembered a blog post from the now not active blog Harp and Sword. I went there and found the chocolate bread recipe except it was written to be made in a bread machine, I do not have a bread machine, so I am attempting to adjust on the fly and make this recipe.

Ingredients straight from Harp and Sword:
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 3/4 cups bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoon yeast
1/3 cup coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate (about 12 squares of a Trader Joe's Pound Plus® 70% cocoa mass Bittersweet Chocolate) (I could not find this so I got the 72% dark chocolate from Trader Joe's- BR)

How I made the bread:
Mix the sugar, buttermilk and yeast together and let the yeast bloom for at least 10-15 minutes. Place the bread flour and salt in the Kitchen Aid. Turn the mixer on low for approximately 30 seconds to mix up the flour and salt so that the salt does not come in direct contact with the yeast and kill it. Add the eggs, butter and yeast mixture to the flour and salt. Mix on low for a minute or so to get the flour moist, turn the mixer up to #4 and mix for seven minutes. At this point, the dough was still too sticky for me so I added another 1/4 cup of bread flour and let the mixer go for another 2 minutes. Place the dough in a bowl to rise for at least 1.5 hours. Cut up the chocolate into chunks. Knead the chocolate into the bread dough a little bit at a time till all of the chocolate is mixed in with the dough. Let the bread rise again, for another hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees at least 45 minutes before you plan on baking the bread. I did this with my pizza stone in the oven already. I then placed the bread onto a silpat covered jelly roll sheet pan, but you could spray the sheet pan with oil to keep the bread from sticking to the pan. Place the bread into the oven. I also boiled some water and put it into a small cast iron pan and put that into the oven as well right below the sheet pan with the bread. I do this to help add some moisture to the oven and so that the bread will have a nicer crust, or so I have read. Bake for 45 minutes. Let it cool completely on a cooling rack and eat.

Censorship of books in the news again

In an article in the Chicago Tribune, a group of parents are complaining because one of the high schools that is close to where I currently live has the incoming freshman reading "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," by Sherman Alexie. The parents say that this book is too mature for their children. The book apparently has some rough language and their children should not be exposed to that kind of language in school. According to one parent, "I began reading, and I started to cross out sections that I didn't want him to read," she said. "Soon I thought, 'Wait, this is not appropriate; he is not reading this.' " So first you are censoring what you child reads and now you want the schools to censor what our children read. I understand and fully agree with parents reading what their children read, just as watching TV with your children is a great idea. This way you can discuss with your children things that you might feel are questionable or beyond their maturity or comprehension, but deciding your child should not read is not a good way to go, IMHO. This school said they picked this book after much consideration and looking at a list of books that were written for Young Adults. They also did a survey the previous year and discovered that many young men were not reading (I could have told you that without a survey, but still...), so they decided to use a book that had a young man as a protagonist to encourage the boys to read. The parents also saw the language in the book as racist. According to the demographic information I was able to find for this district, the student body is 96% white, I grew up in a similarly monocultural setting and trust me these kinds are already hearing and in some cases using racist language. Maybe they need a book that uses this same type of language where an adult could then address the racist language and discuss it openly with the students.

I have read several Sherman Alexie books and I have enjoyed most of them. He is an interesting writer who grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation and so brings the reservation life and thoughts to his writings. His writing also tends to focus on Spokane or Coeur d'Alene Indians and this book is no exception. I have not read this book, but based upon his other writings, yes, there probably is some rough language. According to one review I read on Amazon, the "f" word is used frequently and masturbation is also discussed in the book. Most high schoolers have heard or use, frequently, words like fuck, motherfucker and fuckwad. They are also aware of masturbation and statistics show that most teenagers are probably masturbating. Is sexuality a sensitive issue in schools? Yes. Does that mean we should exclude books just because it is in the book? NO.I do not know, but I can't help but wonder when one of the major complaints is racist language would the same complaints appear if the protagonist was Caucasian. The other book that comes to mind is Catcher in the Rye, which always seems to be on the banned books lists. But in this community would the same outrage have occurred?

Finally, and my biggest issue with the whole parents who are complaining, is that there is an alternative book that you can have your child read if you are not comfortable with the Alexie book. So, if you do not want your child to read "The Absolutely True... ",then don't. Have them read the other book and go away happy that you shielded your child from a book that may open their eyes and may give you chances to talk with your child. Oh, and the other book is about a group of teens who steal rafting equipment to go rafting down the Grand Canyon. So, now according to your own logic, you're encouraging your child to be a thief.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

YouTube Fridays (late edition)

I was looking through my CDs and I found this old mix of music. Both of these songs are from this mix and they have been in my head for the past week.

Us3- Cantaloop

ManĂ¡- Rayando el Sol

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A quick book review- Fool

I have been a fan of Christopher Moore for a while, his books tend to be quick, easy reads for me. But he is very hit and miss for me. I loved Coyote Blue which is the first book I read by him and Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love story was also quite enjoyable. I absolutely love Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff and his two most recent novels, You Suck: A love story (the sequel to Bloodsucking fiends) and A Dirty Job were also both really good. The rest of his novels were good in most cases, nothing really great, but light and airy and that is nice to read sometimes. So when I heard he was doing a novel based upon the Shakespearean play King Lear, I was intrigued. Well, in this novel, Fool, he did not disappoint. It is loosely based upon King Lear, but Moore acknowledges that he takes from like 12 other works of The Bard and so it does not follow King Lear directly. I also do not know King Lear very well, but I was able to recognize it somewhat and elements of other Shakespearean plays in the book, Fool. I find it at least sort of helpful to be aware of Shakespeare's work if you are going to read Fool, but I am sure that is not totally necessary. The best part, IMHO, is the bawdiness of this book. There is a warning at the beginning of the novel that it is bawdy and it does not disappoint in that area. The whole book is full of double entendres, sexual behavior and other bawdiness. It reminds me a lot of the Renaissance Faire when I used to go when I was in high school. (GG and I went to the Faire last year and it is now not as entertaining or as bawdy as I recall.) There may be times in which the humor is sophomoric and infantile, but when I am laughing within the first few pages, I know I will enjoy the book. It may not follow King Lear accurately, but it is a fun romp nonetheless.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A band that has stood the test of time

As I was doing some errands today, I had a mix of music on my iPod that had a lot of '90s rock and grudge music. I was enjoying the music, but also realizing that much of this music just does not seem to speak to me that way it did when it first came out and I was in high school. And then Nirvana came on and I realized that here is a band that has music that has, possibly, stood the test of time. Maybe it is just nostalgia or maybe because Kurt Cobain died while Nirvana was still so popular and there was no real decline or dragged out process by which the band faded from view, but Nirvana still sounds as good to me now as they did when they were at the height of their popularity. I am not sure I can think of a lot of other bands from that same genre and era that I can still listen to and still think, wow this is as relevant as it was when it originally came out. I am also of the mind that the Nirvana Unplugged album is and will go down as one of the classic albums of the '90s music scene.

Nirvana- All Apologies

Are bank tellers still a necessity?

After I went to the bank today to deposit my paycheck, I started to think about how little I actually go into the bank anymore. I can only think of one time in over a year that I had to actually go into the bank and talk to someone. This thought led me to wondering what bank tellers do anymore. I am not saying that we should fire all bank tellers or that I begrudge anyone a job, but really how many people actually go to the counter at the bank to deposit money or get cash? The one time that I can think of having to go inside the bank, it was because I had my debit card number stolen and I had to go in and get a new card. This was after I had already talked to someone on the phone and so the account was already straitened out. I didn't even talk to a bank teller, I went immediately to another bank representative to handle my account. There are even people whose job it is to point the customer to who they need to talk to, thus eliminating people talking to the teller. There are plenty of people who need to be able to go in and talk to bank employees to secure loans or to add a new account or change their account or even, like I had to do, to get a new bank card if yours has been stolen or lost. But none of these actions require the services of the bank teller. It seems that myself and most people use the ATM or online banking to do most of our business with banks these days. Hell, I signed up for my current bank account online and was mailed the form I had to sign and then mailed it back to them. I never even stepped into a bank to set-up the account or to deposit any money.

This just seems to be a radical change for me and the way in which banking seems to work currently. I can remember, and I am not that old, when I set-up my very first bank account, my father and I had to go into the bank to fill out the paperwork and to deposit money. ATM cards were just becoming something that banks offered and these were used primarily to get money out of an ATM when the bank was not open or you did not want to go into the bank. Now we can and do use debit cards for everything, from getting money from an ATM machine to paying for purchase to depositing checks and cash into your account. I don't even carry cash that much anymore and I know I am not unusual in this fact. Even depositing money into ATMs has changed recently, at the bank I use there are no envelopes or deposit slips. You place the cash or check, depending, into a slot and then the ATM counts the cash or displays the amount that the check is written for. No fuss, no mess and no wasted paper. Are we moving toward a society where banks solely exist virtually either online or at ATM machines? I see a future where there are only a few large national banks, cash is all but extinct and we do all of our banking through machines.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Blogging doesn't pay

I am shamelessly stealing this cartoon from BAC. I saw this cartoon and I instantly liked it. First, as a blogger and one who reads many blogs and knows the hard work that goes into blogging and many people's blogs, mine not so much yet as I am getting restarted, but still... There is so much hard work that bloggers do and yet the rewards are not monetary. I also suspect that there are many people who get into blogging because they think that they can sit in their basement and write their thoughts and the fans, accolades and money will just roll in. It doesn't work that way. Most of us do it because we like to write, we have something to say or just it allows us to get things off of our collective chests without having to nag our significant other with every little thought, or maybe that is just me. Anyway, it just struck me right especially as I am attempting to re-start this blog and really get myself back to blogging regularly. I know there is no money in this for me, hell I don't have that many people that even read this and I lost those that I did when I stopped blogging regularly so I am doing it out of love or the need to hear my own voice.

This cartoon also "triggered" my thoughts on the big progressive feminist blog that seems to be in shambles and is moving slowly to a cult-like existence with a leader at the top, an inner circle of disciples and then the underlings who are supposed to worship at the feet of the master. The whole debacle has been done to death by bloggers who are more intelligent and better writers than I, but in case you have missed it or are interested in what the hell I am talking about or just want to see some great blogs here they are.

First, Konagod with a more serious post and thoughts on the blog who shall not be named (BWSNBN). Then a hilarious satirical look at that same blog. We also have The Apostate who again does a great job of chronicling the decline and after affects of the latest hissy fit. And finally, Litbrit who it was awesome to find again after she had left the BWSNBN, to put the final touch, well at least for this roundup, on the thoughts of some of us about the demise of a once awesome place, hell the BWSNBN is where I met GG and that has turned out wonderfully.

Quote of the Day

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

--Eleanor Roosevelt

Friday, June 12, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The state of this blog

It has been almost a month since I have posted anything to this blog and that was a note saying I would probably not be blogging much if any in May. My blogging has really dropped off and I have on several occasions said I was done blogging. Hell, last night I told GG I was going to shut down the blog. I was doing most of my blogging on Facebook or at least I was writing and posting the videos I would have posted here to Facebook. So that was set, I was shutting down the blog. Then this morning I realized there are things that I can't or won't say on Facebook because there are many of my co-workers on Facebook too. I need to be able to keep that world and this world separate. I had thought that when my summer vacation began on Monday I would get right back into blogging. I would take the time to do it. I sort of had some ideas in my head and yet, Monday came and went and then Tuesday came and went and the Wednesday I decided I wasn't going to post so I was going to shut it down and now here it is Thursday and I have finally decided to blog. I have some posts I want to put up and some thoughts to share. Will this be another short lived return? I hope not, but maybe.

There have been major changes in my life this past year. I have given up most of my material possessions and moved half way across the country to live with someone I had met once prior to her coming to NC to help me pack and move. Do I regret this decision, hell no. But it has changed me in many ways including, but not limited to the fact that now many of the ideas I would have blogged at one point I can discuss with the person who is sitting beside me on the couch as I type this. This is incredibly awesome and does seem to lessen the need for me to blog, but it doesn't lessen the desire that I have for blogging. These changes also include us getting a cat in February and my dog, Logan, the boxer for whom this site was initially inspired, passing away in March. We then got a new boxer-mix, Bodhi, at the end of April. I have also been working for a new school district here in IL and the accompanying drama and stress that comes with working in preschool and in the public school system. I think, finally, this summer I may be able to get back to blogging, really blogging. I look back at my archives and I realize that at one point I was an OK writer and that I was kind of surprised and proud of myself. But since writing does not come naturally to me, I need to be doing it and working on it to refine my thoughts and more importantly my presentation of these thoughts. In other words, i need to be writing more often, daily preferably, to be a better blogger and writer. I realized that I do not comment as much as I used to. It is too easy with Google Reader to read a blog and then not have to comment or it seems like a pain to click the blog post and then have to comment. But I need to be commenting more, there are so many things being said by those of you who blog and I feel like I fail you as an author and me as a blogger by not being involved in the process, by not commenting. So I am rededicating myself to this blog and to blogging in general.