Thursday, October 30, 2008

Damn DUMB! Let's Do Something About It

As if there isn't enough stupidity floating around these days (McCain on Barack's "terrorist" ties yesterday?), I was flipping through the September Better Homes and Gardens my mom checked out from the library this afternoon, and came across a DuPont Countertops ad with this picture--

and this caption, with several countertop options pictured under it--

Who Says You Can't Lust After Colors?

I'm not even gonna pretend like the advertising industry is a bastion of diversity, but when diversity is represented, and that diversity is appropriated to sell consumer goods, it defies the point of a representative market, and becomes just plain offensive.  
In this ad, a woman of color looks seductively at the camera, with about three inches of the ad actually showing the countertop.  The language of the blurb below uses words like, "touch you," "move you," "focus on more exciting things," and "be seduced."  Words like these used in conjunction with this image portrays this woman's ethnicity as sexy-- and that is the selling point.  When ads exoticize women of color for marketing, they play into the stereotype of these women being sex objects, of being wild and uninhibited, ideas that come from outdated colonial, imperial, and master/slave mindsets where non-white people are seen as an "other," and women in these situations are especially targeted be seen as lesser than to be seen as lesser than.  
If this ad bothers you as much as it does me, write, call, or email DuPont at:

Wilimington, DE, 
Ph: 302-774-1000

You can also visit DuPont's page at CoOp America's Responsible Shopper website, and read about other unhealthy ways DuPont is affecting us and our planet, and some ways you can take action on your anger.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Question: Why is Sherman Alexie Such a Genius In My Heart For Always?

1.  The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven
2.  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
3.  "The Business of Fancy Dancing"

When I was in high school, I wrote quotes from The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven on my bedroom mirror with lip liner I bought from the 99 Cent Store.  If I could serve fresh tomatoes to any ten authors in a library, he'd be at the top of the list.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Political Two Cents

This election has really made me think about the media, and the way that political campaigns on all levels-- from local board members to the presidential candidates-- have utilized TV, the internet, print, all of that to shape their campaigns, and how different things would be if campaigns created the media, versus the media creating the campaign, and how if often seems as if the media treats the campaigns as something that doesn't affect them on the personal level, but as some great sweeps event that has lasted for a year and a half.  Maybe I'm campaign-fatigued, not voting for either candidate running from the major parties, and so I am sick of not hearing any other party voices in the major media outlets-- except to poke fun at their futility.  I thought with the impact that third parties have had on recent elections (for better or worse), and the campaign of Ron Paul, I would hear some of these voices outside of my favorite independent media sources.
Anyway.  I heard something on the mid-day news today that made me very upset, and is a great example of the way the media interprets the presidential campaign.  Barack Obama's grandmother is very ill, and he has stopped campaigning to fly to her home in Hawaii to support her.  Now, if the news had reported only this, I would have had no issue, as so many aspects of politicians' lives have become fodder for the media.  However, when this action began to be analyzed for the effect it would have on his campaign, I got mad.  Republicans argued when news of Bristol Palin's pregnancy was released, and the media began to analyze its effect on the McCain/Palin campaign, that this was a family issue, and it should have no bearing on the campaign.  However, Palin has created her political persona around the issue of family politics, and this was a real-life example of the effects of her platform.  This is not true of the illness of Obama's grandmother, and while the media is gleefully reporting that Obama's willingness to support his grandmother will boost him further along in the polls, I am sure that Obama could give a rip about any of it and the way it will effect his campaign as this woman, who in all accounts seems quite remarkable, means the world to him and his family.  Like any person who is ill or in a personal crisis-- red or blue-- deserves only our thoughts and well-wishes for a speedy return to health and NOT to be treated as a campaign stump.  

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Current Obbession: "The Wolves Chronicles"

We all have our little things we like to do if we feel cruddy or just need a day off-- I really like to go to the library and check out a huge stack of "kid's" novels and snuggle up to read them. Plus, not like time off ever needs a justification, but I can always call this "research" for my future career of children's librarian extrordinaire.
This summer I went through a huge list of books that kind of point to the turning point in books targeted at kids-- though I have a lot of opinions about the genre in general. Anyway, I'll save that for my master's thesis.
Starting with the more well known books that were scattered about from the forties and fifties like the ubiquitous Catcher in the Rye and John Knowles' A Separate Peace to books from the sixties onwards that chronicled the shift in young readers and their sensibilities like Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack, The Chocolate War, and Maniac Magee, Stargirl, and anything by E.L. Konigsburg (whose books I love to an almost addictive point), I've been looking at stories that have a hard steel thread running though them. But now the weather is turning, it's almost Halloween, and I've been steering more towards children's novels that have a more classical structure of good vs. evil, orphaned kids, mysterious doors that lead to more mysterious mansion secrets. Think Secret Garden type stuff.
These led me to "The Wolves Chronicles," by Joan Aiken. I found them by accident at the local library-- I saw the title Black Hearts in Battersea (cuz you can't ignore a title like that), and pulled it off the shelf. The version I found had the front cover illustrated by Edward Gorey, whose work points towards the atmosphere I want to dive into this time of year. I read the first one, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, in a couple of hours-- these books are divine. They are dark and slightly gothic, set in Wuthering Heights-type rambling moors, and cobblestoned, sooty city streets, with relief in a picturesque English countryside where nobody pronounces their " 'atches." They chronicle the adventures of several British children attempting to overcome evil-- usually in the form of tyrannical adults, orphanhood, and poverty, and remind me of several other books I have read recently that I wouldn't be surprised if the authors took some inspiration from.
These all have steampunkish elements to them, where precocious children don't take no smack from dictator-ish adults, using a lot of trains and boats to do it, like some more recent books: The Mysterious Benedict Society series, by Trenton Lee Stewart, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which is written to read like a silent movie, and Here be Monsters (which is called Volume I of the Ratbridge Chronicles and was published in 2005, so I've been checking bookstore and library shelves forever waiting for the next one).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Product Review: Clairol's Nice n' Easy Perfect 10

I love dying my hair-- I like makeup, and I like clothes, but I love dying my hair!  My mom let me dye my hair for the first time when I was 16, and I dyed it a bright strawberry blonde, and it was rockin'.  I never once saw my natural color again, until very recently-- more on that later.  I've done it myself all but twice-- once for what I thought was very Andy Warhol-esque chunky platinum skunk-stripes on dark chocolate, but in retrospect, really just looked kind of like a lot of girls' hair in SoCal, and once, to have my hair effasoled.  Only once has it gone wrong, and that was when I thought buying hair color from the 99 cent store was a good idea.  It had probably expired or something, because my hair ended up a brassy orange.  I called my grandma, who dyes her hair more than I do, and she said just dye over it, because my hair was young and healthy and would be fine.  Here's the color I ended up with after the overdye (I think I'm 17 in this picture, and I know I'm definitely pasty baby-butt white):

The thing with dying your hair, though, is getting it back to its natural color ever again, which, when I started dying, was dark, ashy blonde.  Once I moved to San Francisco, I just kept getting progressively darker, and darker, until I went jet black.  My hair was halfway down my back, and there was no way in hell I could dye over that.  That's when I had my hair effasoled-- chemically stripped--  and it didn't really work.  We got it to a very dark brown, so I just had red chunks put in it and to hell with it.  To finally get rid of all that black, I cut my hair off very short, and to my surprise, my hair had, in the seven years I had been dying it, actually got to that darker brown shade with hints of red I had always wanted!  But of course, this newfound joy in my natural color only lasted about a year-- mainly because I lived in my car and had no sink to stick my head under.  I went a little lighter for summer, and as the weather cools down, I decided to dye my hair a darker brown, and to use the new Clairol Nice n' Easy Perfect 10 I had read so much about.  I love the natural looking colors they offered-- working in classrooms, they want your hair to not look like a circus act. I figured it must be less chemically harmful to my hair and the environment, too, since it sits on your head for less time, and supposedly has no harsh chemical scent-- which I equated to "no harsh chemicals."
Hooey.  This product, with its "lovely scent," was more fumey than any hair color I have ever used-- and it did stink like hair color, but with a strong perfume scent over it.  Disclaimer-- I did have a terrible chest cold when I dyed (hee, hee), so maybe this irritated my little inflamed lung nodules more than it might have usually, but I had to open the windows and get the fan going cuz this stuff stank.  During the dye (that giddy dazed look comes from the fumes):

The product also came with a comb attachment for more even application, but I had a really hard time dragging that thing through my thick-o hair.  I eventually just squeezed it through the comb and into my hands and worked it in like shampoo.
It was nice to only have to worry about not rubbing the color off on furniture for ten minutes, though I was reading, and got caught up in the book and left it on for 15.  Glad to report no big chunks fell out once I did wash it out.  Rinsing it all out was no issue, though it doesn't lather like my old favorite does, and I kept rubbing at my head hoping for some bubbles.  The conditioner that comes with the dye, however, is to die for (oh, the puns-- they just keep coming!).  It made my head smell like swanky salon, and even my thick mess was glossy and shiny like your hair never is unless you have it styled.  The result (I wish I had a wind machine):

I think I basically dyed my hair back to its normal color.
I checked out Skin Deep, a great resource if you ever wonder just how damaging to you and the planet your choice of beauty products is.  Perfect 10 has not been added yet, but most of Clairol's hair coloring products have earned a 7 or 8 on a scale of one to ten, one being like chemically untreated water, ten being like Calvin Klein's Eternity for Men Eau de Toilette (no, really-- this fragrance has a 10 on their scale for containing neurotoxins and causing biochemical or cellular level changes).  My conclusion is that in order to be effective in ten minutes, they gotta make that chemical stuff strong.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Why You Gotta Be Hatin'?

Moths get a bad rap. 

Maybe not so much a bad rap as ignored when compared to their lepidoptera kin, the butterfly. Butterflies are everywhere, commercially, and are pretty much seen universally as signs of peace and sunshine, except in Japan, where I've been told moths and butterflies are a common fear, like snakes and spiders in the United States.  Random trivia: fear of moths is known as "Mottephobia."  As a knitter, I know one of the cases against them; they chew holes in lovely wooly bits.  More random trivia-- when moths chow down on your beloved wool knits, they aren't actually hankerin' after the fiber, so don't get jealous-- you can have the wool!  It's the lanolin and your body oils they love to chow down on.
If asked to name some famous moths-- if you can name one at all-- you might come up with Mothra, who certainly isn't a shining example of why we should love moths as much as their flitty (maybe even flaky?), daytime counterparts.

There are a few major differences between butterflies and moths:

1.  Moths rest with their wings out to the sides, while butterflies generally rest with their wings straight up.
2.  Most moths are out and about at dusk and dawn (crepuscular), and at night (nocturnal), while butterflies are diurnal (active during the day).
3.  Moths tend to have thicker and furrier bodies and antennae, while butterflies have thinner, scaled bodies with finer antennae.
4.  This does not hold true for all moths, but I think it is why they are less popular (think of an eighties' high school-- popular kids wear colors like pastel pink and yellow and blue; Ducky wears grey plaid.  But, here's my point.  Who is ultimately more cool?). Moth wings tend to be black, brown, grey, rust, and white, while butterflies are famous for their varied wing hues, for camouflage purposes.  The rosy maple moth and the luna moth are great examples of moths that screw that noise.

If you want a close-up observation of some of these traits yourself, here's a recipe for moth goop to paint on a tree (or a removable sheet you can pin up and take down later, if you have bears or raccoons in your area!) before the nights get too cold.  This goop attracts moths by nature of the sugar, both processed and from the fermented fruit.

One brown banana in its peel, left to sit in the sun for a day
1/4 cup Maple Syrup or Honey (Maple Syrup works best, in my experience)
1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar

Peel the banana and mash it all up in cup until it's of a pasty consistency, then with a paintbrush, paint it very, very thinly on the tree or sheet (if it's too thick the moths will get stuck in it and not be able to fly away).  If you have a light source (spotlight, floodlight, porch light), this is even more effective! Expect the moths to start arriving around late dusk.

For those of you who still think moths are a bit icky, here's a trick: bats, who are natural predators of moths, emit SONOR to help them locate their tasty treat.  While we humans can't hear the sound of SONOR, moths can-- and to them, it sounds like keys jingling on a key ring!  Shake your keys around when you get home and moths are flocking around your porch light-- the sound should scare them off right quick.