greensword: (there's no crying in baseball!)
The two great goals of my childhood were to play for the New York Yankees, and the become President of the United States. I have yet to accomplish either of these things, but it occurred to me today to wonder - which will happen first? A woman in major league baseball, or a woman in the White House?

What do you think, and why?
greensword: (<3)
What is it about a romantic relationship that makes it different from other kinds of relationships such as friendships and family relationships? Is it something more than sexual intimacy? Why are romantic relationships so commonly exclusive? Is there something about romantic relationships that leans inherently toward exclusivity, or is it just a common cultural preference?
greensword: (hello)
I used to be more coherent with this sort of post, but damn. Just - damn. I am so fucking sick of Obama.

Edited to say:

Okay, let me try for some coherence.

We are a nation of human beings - people with the capacity for good things and bad things both - a nation of doctors, teachers, loving parents, artists and truth-seekers - a nation of thieves, demagogues, hypocrites, rapists and murderers.

All of politics - all of life - is a battle against those bad things. I don't believe there's a way to set up government to take over that battle for us. I don't believe there's a set of easy rules to live by - although some rules (thou shalt not kill, do unto others as...) are better than others.

Life is a struggle, a long upward climb against badness in ourselves and in others. I do my best in my own small little sphere because to do more would drain the joy out of my life and my own happiness is something that I at least have control over, something I can protect and nourish. I have a hard time believing that the sacrifices I could make would take us very many steps in the climb.

When the most powerful person on the face of the earth - when a man who I do believe has some compassion, some understanding of the depths of suffering in the world, some willingness to think outside the box - when he says, "No, that's too much to ask", "No, that's too big a change", "no, that's too high, too steep, too far" - when he chooses practicality over principle, money over fairness, rape and torture over justice and mercy, then I want to stop doing even the small things I do, I want to give up, lay down, enjoy my life as best I can and try to stop my ears against the cries of others.

What did he mean, yes we can?

Yes, we can give up?
greensword: (gimme some of that honey baby)
A few weeks ago [livejournal.com profile] aliterati and our friend Dan and I had a conversation about the love stories we obsessed over growing up and how they effect our taste in partners, our dreams of what relationships should be, and the way we go about our romantic business. Since today is Valentine's Day, I thought I'd talk about the romantic daydreams of my childhood - those bits of feeling gleaned from books and t.v. shows, before we started figuring things out on our own.

Like many little girls, my favorite book when I was young was Little Women*. I read it cover to cover, over and over, and identified with Jo and hated Amy and loved Laurie. I didn't understand why Jo turned Laurie down in favor of the older, less pretty, less fun-loving Professor Behr. I had a crush on my own dark-haired, mischievous best friend and desperately wished he'd stop in the middle of one of our adventures in the woods and declare his undying love for me.

However, as much as I liked Laurie, he was not my romantic idol. After all, he didn't end up being good enough for Jo, and had to settle for annoying Amy. (My best friend didn't end up being good enough for me either - something I didn't understand even when I realized he would only be friends with me when no one else was around. I thought that meant I wasn't good enough for him.)

No, I met my great storybook love when my mother, seeing my fondness for Little Women, got me Anne of Green Gables. Now Anne Shirley, like Jo March, is a great character for girls to identify with: clever, independent, endlessly creative, passionate. But it wasn't Anne that I read the Green Gables books over and over for - it was Gilbert Blythe.

Gilbert Blythe was, at age ten, the embodiment of everything I wanted. Keenly intelligent, he is Anne's only intellectual rival (how I wished I had a handsome, flirtatious intellectual rival at that age!) and though he loves to tease her he stops when he hits on something she is sensitive about (the exact opposite of what all the boys I knew would do). It takes Anne years to realize she loves Gilbert back, but when she does, he is there waiting for her.

The third and final romantic book I loved was The Witch of Blackbird Pond. This is a little less famous than the other two, so I'll sketch out the plot - Kit, the orphaned child of Caribbean slaveholders, flees to Puritan New England to be with her mother's family, rather than marry the middle-aged friend of her father. On the journey, she meets Nat, the captain's son, who earns her displeasure by pointing out the flaws in her privileged, frivolous worldview. When she gets to her aunt's town, she tries to adapt herself to her new surroundings, but quickly becomes frustrated, and often escapes to be with Hannah, the witch of Blackbird Pond. It turns out that Nat is a friend of Hannah's as well. When the town turns against Hannah, Nat and Kit help her escape and, by the end of the story, fall in love and live happily ever after.

Why I love these books:
~ In all three books, the hero falls in love with the heroine first, usually for her independence, intelligence and bravery. The heroine takes her time to come to terms with her feelings.
~ However, they do not become doormats - they can clearly see the heroine's flaws and will point them out to her. When the heroine sees a real flaw in them (arrogance, rudeness, lack of compassion, lack of direction) they do their best to change themselves.
~ Except for Laurie (who is my least favorite of the three), they have a strong sense of self and a person they want to become regardless of what happens with the heroine. Gilbert wants to become a doctor, Nat wants to captain his own ship and try to win American independence and abolish the slave trade.
~ They all really like to tease each other.

These are actually rather common themes but they still ring true to me. I like intelligent, good-natured guys with enough self confidence to call me on whatever bullshit I put out there. I find stupidity, lack of direction, meanness, and an uncritical view of me to be huge turnoffs. And someone who likes to be teased and can make me laugh is just icing on the cake.

What about you? What were your favorite childhood romances, and can you see their influence in your life now?



* Actually it was Lord of the Rings, but there was no real romance in that. I didn't understand Eowyn until I was older and Arwen and Aragorn's star-crossed whatever still doesn't feel like romance to me. Little Women was my second favorite book.
greensword: (this bunny is checking livejournal)
I've had a couple of really good discussions recently about what it means to be a Jew, and how as an American diaspora Jew one is supposed to relate to Israel.

Judaism is a quirky sort of religion, in that it doesn't really require belief, per se. Nor does it require a specific set of practices. I don't believe in God, or that any of the stories of the Torah really happened. I don't keep kosher or go to temple. I don't know Hebrew or Yiddish. And yet, I'm Jewish.

Even if I converted to another religion. I would still be Jewish. And even if I never told my children I was Jewish, they would still be Jewish.

It's such a tenuous connection in some ways. What does it mean to be Jewish, if it is such an unchangeable state of being? I didn't ask for it. I can't help it. Why should I feel any responsibility for or special compassion for my fellow Jews? But I do.

I don't think any one arbitrary group of people are better human beings than another. But the tenets that a group lives by, and their shared history, can shape their behavior. And that's why I've never really rebelled against this arbitrary thing I am, this random label that's applied to me. Because so far as I can see, being Jewish is a good thing.

Like I said, there's nothing you have to do to be a Jew. But there are things we have tended to do.

Jews don't proselytize. We don't try to convert you. I mean, not only do we not hang you upside down and slowly drown you in buckets of water until you believe what we believe - we don't even try to pressure you at cocktail parties.

Jews understand suffering. Of course we understand it - we have lived it. And I don't even mean the Holocaust. I mean 2,250 years of suffering. From that comes - at least, I hope - a natural sympathy for the discriminated against, the oppressed. On passover, we dip our fingers into our wine and take out ten drops, one for each of the ten plagues visited upon the Egyptians. We lessen our joy out of respect for those who have suffered - even when those who suffer are the very people who enslaved us. Because we understand that all suffering is wrong. Not just because it was done to us, to Jews. It is wrong, period.

I won't pretend to be an expert. Or to speak for other's conceptions of Judaism. But this is my understanding. These are the thoughts that have made me comfortable and happy in identifying as a Jew.

And so the actions of Israel recently have been... almost disconcerting. Because this is not what Jews do. We don't use our superior power to harm others at little risk to ourselves, because their lives are more expendable than ours.

Maybe this is because in two thousand years we have never had a land of our own to defend. Maybe this is because we have never had the power to harm others. Maybe all we were waiting for is the opportunity. But that's a depressing thought.
greensword: (i fight the world!)
I think there is an art to amusing yourself when you're alone, or when the power goes out, or when you lose internet access. I remember a period of months - or was it even years - when I was growing up, before we had a computer in the house, but after Nickelodeon's prime years were past and I wasn't really watching t.v. I read every book in the house, from my sister's awful fantasy collection (Robert Jordan, people) to my father's collection on suicide prevention. I read every book at least three times. But sometimes I just ran out of books.

I remember spending hours in the forest behind my house, making up stories in my head as I followed the muddy paths to the lake. I remember bringing all my dolls and stuffed animals down to the basement, where I ran an orphanage. Or on nice days, I would lie on the hill in my backyard looking up at the sky and make up lives for myself, because when all you can see are clouds and all you can feel are damp blades of grass, you can be anyone and anywhere. (Well, anywhere that there's clouds and grass, that is.)

I think there is something to be said for days that stretch out endlessly, that you don't know how to fill. Sometimes I hate that my first impulse, when bored, is to go online. I can always fill my time now, but with what?

What about you? Do you wish you spent less time online, or do you wish you had more time? Are you too busy, or are you restless? If you were granted an extra day, every week, what would you fill it with?
greensword: (Default)
Is Barack Obama really supposed to be the best we can do?
greensword: (Default)
So, before you read the rest of this entry, I want you to do something. I want you to think of your five favorite movies - or your one favorite, or your ten favorite. Have a definitive list in your head. Okay?

There's this thing called the Bechdel Test, which comes from Alison Bechdel's comic Dykes to Watch Out For. The test consists of three deceptively simple steps... to pass, the film must have:

1) At least two named female characters, who
2) talk to each other about
3) something other than a man.

This test is astonishingly hard to pass.

Here are my favorite movies:

Star Wars
There are two named female characters, Princess Leia and Beru Lars. I think this is it for the entire series, though I may be forgetting someone. Leia and Beru never meet, let alone talk. So, fail.

The Lion In Winter
There are two named females here, again - Eleanor and Alais, and they do talk to each other. Mostly they talk about Henry (although, to be fair, everyone in this movie mostly talks about Henry) but I am remembering that one scene where Eleanor is reminiscing about raising Alais, so this one passes.

Contact
Despite having a kick-ass female lead in Ellie Arroway, I'm struggling to remember whether this movie has another named female. The book version would pass with flying colors - Ellie has various scientific, political and religious conversations with, among others, the female President of the United States and her good friend, a female scientist. But who is there in the movie? IMDB tells me there's a character named Rachel Constantine, and since pretty much everyone in the movie talks with Ellie, I'm willing to bet she does, too. And since Ellie almost never talks about men, I'm willing to bet it's not about a man. So! I give this movie a pass, even if I can't remember the specific scene.

All The President's Men
Yeah, not a chance. Fail.

The Philadelphia Story
There are several named females, and although they do primarily spend their time talking about men, it is a romantic comedy, and anyway I think there must be a conversation between Tracy and her mother, or Tracy and Liz, that doesn't revolve around a man. So, another pass, but a tentative one.

So... 3/5?

Notably, all five of these movies would pass the reverse - they all contain scenes, most of them many, with two men discussing something other than a woman. They pass the reverse easily, whereas I have to struggle to come up with scenes that allow them to pass the actual Bechdel test.

Also interesting, two of the three films that do pass the test are older films - The Lion In Winter is from 1968, and the Philadelphia Story from 1940.

What are your favorite films? Do they pass the test? I'd be really interested to see.
greensword: (Default)
I remember once having a conversation with my parents (who, to give you some background, met at a home for the developmentally disabled) where I called something retarded.

Mom: You shouldn't use that word. Do you know what it means?
Twelve Year Old Shauna: Um... no.
Dad: It means someone who has a problem when they're developing. It's not something they can help. Using it to mean something bad hurts their feelings as well as those that care about them.
TYO Shauna: Oh. Sorry. I mean, that's moronic.
Mom: Actually, moron is an older word that means the same thing.
TYO Shauna: That's stupid?
Dad: Same.
TYO Shauna: Idiotic?
Dad: It's kind of a recurring problem.
TYO Shauna: But how do I say I think something is retarded? I NEED TO SAY SOMETHING IS RETARDED.
Mom: Try unintelligent? Or obtuse?
TYO Shauna: This is why I have no friends.

The range of perjoratives for the developmentally disabled and mentally ill is only the tip of the iceberg. There's physical ableism ("Don't be lame!" "Why are you so blind?") not to mention your average, everyday homophobia ("That's so gay!"), sexism ("Don't be a pussy."), racism ("What a gyp!" among many others), the list goes on and on.

To be clear here, I'm not talking about words which are specifically used to target certain groups. I'm talking about words which have become separated from their original meaning and now are often used without one even realizing one's causing offense - but which can still be quite painful to hear, if you know the origin of the word.

What are some negative words you can use gleefully and guilt-free? What are words you wince when you here, but no one seems to even notice what they're saying?
greensword: (Default)
I believe that the universe is rational. I mean that it operates by certain principles that we can, one day, understand.

This really is a belief, though. A form of faith. We won't know until we know, unless, of course, we never know.

Still, I believe that the physicists and mathematicians are going to end up satisfied. Eventually.

I'm not so sure about those who study the human mind. At least, those who study the human mind and expect it to be rational.

Our minds have evolved over half a billion years to do so many things. See, hear, smell, taste, feel, move. Find food, avoid predators, attract mates. Create tools, navigate dominance hierarchies, deceive prey, store spoilable food, predict the movement of the sun and the moon and the stars and the birds, entertain and scare others with stories, settle conflicts with strangers, exchange things of value, etc., etc., I could go on and on.

I'm not sure that our brains, in the end, really make sense. I'm not sure that you're going to be able to take certain functions - our moral sense, what we think is valuable, what we think is beautiful, how we look at the world, how we know things - and come up with a rational answer in line with what philosophy would tell us. I think you might end up with something more messy than that.

Now, I don't know jack about philosophy, so it may be that the discipline contains ways to deal with messiness and irrationality and inherent contradictions. But I definitely don't think you can come into this with the assumption that our minds - and, by extension, human behavior - actually "make sense". That because A should cause B, A will cause B. That this will happen every time. That our predictions about A and B will ever be 100% right.

I think those that want psychology and neuroscience to satisfy a set of set of philosophical principles before they start investigating might be shooting themselves in the foot.

Which, if you think about it, is a pretty irrational behavior itself. Ow!
greensword: (Default)
Number of times I've heard Freud referenced by artists, literary critics, sociologists, political scientists, gender studies majors, schoolteachers and people at parties and dinners: 6 bajillion.

Number of times I've heard Freud referenced by psychologists, neuroscientists, clinicians, researchers, or psych/neuro professors: 0.

I've been in this field for five years. I was raised by a clinician. I think if there was a resurgence in taking Freud seriously, I would know.

FOR THE LOVE OF OEDIPUS, PEOPLE. GET OVER FREUD.

Psychology already has.
greensword: (braaaains?)
Do you believe in any sort of universal "right and wrong"?

FYI

Apr. 1st, 2008 12:14 am
greensword: (apathy kills)
I have a headache from trying to decipher 18th and 19th century political philosophy writing. And I still don't understand property.

I would welcome anyone who could articulate their personal theory of property, and answer the following questions:

1. How does property arise? Is it possible for people to live without having some idea of property?
2. Does a man have the right to kill another man to defend his property?
3. In the midst of a famine, there are three men, and one meal. Who gets the meal? What further details could help you make a decision, and why?

Yeah!

Mar. 21st, 2008 08:10 pm
greensword: (Default)
So, what the hell is up with property, anyway?
greensword: (Default)
All right, kids. Let's have at it.

Are there fundamental flaws in the way our government works (our meaning U.S., but also can be stretched to similar gov'ts) and if so, what are they and should they be fixed? Can they be fixed? Could a new form of government ever replace it? What would be the best form of "government"?

And, lastly - death... or cake?
greensword: (Default)
what are some examples of "the means justifying the ends", that is, examples of times when the actions taken were not morally, ideologically or practically consistent with the ends that a person or group was aiming for?

please provide as many examples as you can think of. i'm trying to figure something out.

also - do you think the means can ever justify the ends? why or why not?
greensword: (a fish needs a man)
Why yes, I did get back from work just now. I love when I call people on the east coast after an evening scan, because to them, I'm not leaving work at the impressive but still somewhat reasonable 8 p.m. - oh, no. I'm leaving at the absolutely inhumane 11 p.m. and they're going to call up my supervisors and give them a piece of their minds, so there!

Anyway.

If there is one thing I dislike about this extended primary it's the absolute bollocks that is race and gender analysis. Absolutely nobody can seem to get it right. You have Clinton and her surrogates making racist smears, Obama and his surrogates making sexist jokes and insinuating that if Bill hadn't fallen in love with Hillary, she'd still be barefoot in a kitchen somewhere, and now you have airheaded pundits talking about the race card and the gender card as if race and gender were mere demographic quirks and not the basis for real discrimination in our society. One thing that really gets me is how many white feminists have come out and said, pretty much, "Women are SO much more oppressed than minorities, and if you disagree, you're a BAD FEMINIST." Thank you, Geraldine Ferraro, Gloria Steinem. I always wanted fewer feminist heroes, so thanks for taking yourselves off my list.

UGH.
greensword: (apathy kills)
Well, fuck. Clinton's won Ohio, apparently, and it looks like she may win Texas.

It's not that I dislike Clinton. I think a lot of the criticisms leveled at her can be pretty fairly leveled at Obama (and vice-versa - I don't think she's really any more experienced than he is, just like I don't think he's more likely to bring transformative change). My support for Obama pretty much boils down to his being slightly more nuanced and less belligerent on foreign policy, and a little better on telecomm policy, domestically. I also think that a win for him would help down-ticket races and swing a little power to the Dean camp in the fight for the soul of the Democratic party.

But I still like Clinton. I have reservations about her, and I like Obama a little more, but I still like Clinton. Go ahead, tell me I'm thinking with my vag, but I've got a soft spot for her.

But if she succeeds now it will be after weeks of going pretty harshly negative and the last thing this race needs is more negativity. I don't mind it continuing, per se - I think a drawn-out battle has been great for focusing attention on the democrats and increasing turnout -but the less decisive the eventual victor is, the less likely the loser's supporters will be to fall into line behind the other. Not to mention I have serious qualms with how she went negative - it can be described as disengenuous at best, racist at worst.

I would just like to get this over with. I would just like to move on from criticizing each other to criticizing McCain. I mean, there'll be months and months and months of that, but for now, I'm sick of the ads, the nauseating politically commentary (I'm pretty sure I read the World's Most Misogynistic Editorial in the Post earlier this week) and the back-biting.
greensword: (apathy kills)
If you had to choose between having a democratically elected government and having the bill of rights, which would you choose?

*

I just suddenly understood why my ancestors rioted in Hell's Kitchen and joined the confederacy (some of them) rather than fight for the union. I probably should have gotten it this past summer when I visited Ireland and heard about their six billion rebellions, but. What can I say, I'm slow.

The need to intervene when human rights abuses are taking place is entirely distinct from the need to fight to keep a part of your country from seceding, which is not a need at all, so much as a deadly affectation. It just got all mixed up in the Civil War.

I also hate the very idea of sovereignty.

*

I'm turning into such an anarchist.
greensword: (Default)
I've been reading a lot about Jean-Jacques Rousseau lately, although of course I haven't had enough time to read everything of his or think about it in too much depth. One thing that really intrigues me is his novel Emile, which imagines the "perfect" education for a child by following his life in narrative. There's a full copy of it online here if you're interested. It's, like, 500 pages though, be forewarned.

It's just such an interesting idea and I wonder what it would look like if someone did that today. For all I rail against the modern education system I'm not sure what my concept of the perfect education would be. Perhaps it's impossible to do a modern-day Emile. Perhaps we have too much appreciation for the vastly different needs of different people. Perhaps you'd have to write about a thousand Emiles.

I also have been reading Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society, where he suggests abolishing the school and making discrimination based on level of schooling as illegal as discriminating based on sex or race. He supports a focus on skills as opposed to broad certifications, which I like, but at the same time, I think this approach might make interdisciplinary and critical thinking harder... but how much harder can critical thinking be than in a totalizing institution?

Anyway, what do you think? What would an "ideal" education look like? What things are most important in education?
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