9/30/2011 5:26:56 PM
We’re nearing the time of year when many people celebrate Halloween, and when many pagans and Wiccans celebrate Samhain, an ancient ritual with Celtic roots. But it appears that gathering around bonfires, a Samhain celebration staple, can be an act fraught with uncertainty: not because of spells or ghouls or human sacrifices, but because the law might show up.
A wiccan reader from Halifax, Nova Scotia, writes to Witches & Pagans magazine (Summer 2011) about the way it usually plays out:
Every time I attend a Samhain ritual in public, we are all in full swing enjoying the ceremony and then some muggle always calls the fire department. The fires are extinguished and our ceremony is ruined. It never fails. We always have a permit but that does not assure the authorities that we’re not Satan-worshipping idiots.
Aside from the gratuitous slap at Satanists—fellow pariahs should stick up for each other, no?—this Wiccan is on to something: Many law enforcers and emergency responders simply don’t understand religious and spiritual traditions that fall outside the mainstream.
Not all are unenlightened, though. In fact, Witches & Pagans in its last issue reported on David Chadwick, a high priest of a Wiccan church in Jonesboro, Arkansas, who happens to wear a blue uniform in his other gig. He sees his dual role as, um, a blessing and a curse:
Both a law enforcement officer and a visible member of the pagan clergy, David spoke of some of the challenges he faces. “Being in law enforcement has helped in some circles; however, wearing a badge keeps you in the spotlight. Add ‘pagan clergy’ to the mix, and I’m under a microscope.”
David’s profession has enabled him to educate police and pagans on how to get along. He also uses his skill to build effective security teams for events such as Pagan Pride Day, festivals, and special gatherings.
Sounds like just the kind of guy that most pagans and Wiccans would welcome at the bonfire.
Source: Witches & Pagans
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9/29/2011 4:15:53 PM
Tracy Mayor’s essay on current attitudes toward single moms in Brain, Child starts out with a barrage of misconceptions, falsehoods, double standards, and generalizations:
They’re slutty…They’re on welfare…They should work for a living, and, simultaneously, they should stay at home with their kids…They should have worked harder to keep their marriage together…Their kids are troubled, or troublemakers.
Reporting on a Pew Research Center survey from earlier this year where a majority of respondents ranked “single mothers” as bad for society, Mayor chastises the mainstream media for their oversimplified coverage of the topic—headlines such as “Single Mothers 'Bad For Society', Pew Research Center's Latest Poll Finds” (Huffington Post)—and points out the question’s ambiguity, which could lead to different answers depending on how a respondent read it.
The survey asked—quite ambiguously—what respondents thought about “more single women having children without a male partner to help raise them.”
Did the Pew Research Center intend the word “having” to mean “I have children and am currently their sole caretaker, regardless of whether I was partnered in the past”? Or did the center mean “having” in the sense of birthing—meaning women who, through intent or accident, were solo parents from the outset?
Through interviews with single mothers in different situations and a quick history of society’s negative view of single motherhood, Mayor attempts to answer an important question. Given that more and more women, for varying reasons, find themselves raising children alone,
Do seven out of ten of us disapprove of our own sisters, friends, and neighbors, our own selves? Or is there something more subtle going on? There is an almost infinite variety in the ways that women become and conduct themselves as single mothers, but when people are filling out surveys, do they revert to some kind of worst-case view of single moms?
Source: Brain, Child
Image by josette, licensed under Creative Commons.
9/26/2011 4:48:37 PM
“If you bike to work, you’ve probably got pretty nice thighs,” imagines The Atlantic Cities’ Nate Berg. “Your lungs, though, may not be in such great shape.”
Berg is referring to the results of a small-scale study released over the weekend that suggest urban cyclists are at increased risk from air pollution, specifically the black carbon present in automobile emissions. As Environmental News Network warns, “A wide range of health effects are associated with black carbon and include heart attacks and reduced lung function because it lines and constricts the airways.” As usual, just when you thought you had a healthy thing going, the medical research community has to go and suck the air out of it.
summarizes the testing process:
Researchers collected sputum samples from five adults who regularly cycled to work in London and five pedestrians, and analyzed the amount of black carbon found in their airway macrophages. According to a press release, all participants in the study were non-smoking healthy urban commuters aged between 18 and 40 yrs, and the probability that this difference occurred by chance is less than 1 in 100.
So why does it matter? Regular exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle, and one study has found that biking on a more consistent basis can extend your life 3-14 months. It’d be unfortunate if those 14 months were offset by the latent effects of air pollution, or, if without that daily dose of smog, regular cycling could extend one’s life 6-28 months.
Don’t count on amped up regulation, even in the most progressive, bike-friendly cities. (Just think of the heyday that libertarians would have . . .) For now the best advice may be: If you can’t beat the smog, ride around it. “Our data strongly suggest that personal exposure to black carbon should be considered when planning cycling routes,” says study researcher and dedicated cyclist Dr. Chinedu Nwokoro (as quoted in the study’s press release). When commuting, try to take off-street bike paths and low-traffic routes where available—which isn’t a bad idea anyway.
Sources: Environmental News Network, The Atlantic Cities, The Gothamist
Image by m.eckelberg, licensed under Creative Commons.
9/23/2011 3:03:46 PM
“Barbie was hushed contraband—I didn’t say much about it, but she wasn’t welcome in the house,” writes Betsy Ball in WNC Woman. “She had been a topic of serious discussion within the circle of my women friends who also had daughters.” So it goes within many households containing mindful parents and a little girl. Barbie is the ultimate no-no doll, the epitome of the unattainably small-waisted, big-breasted, blonde ideal that is presumably so damaging to little girls’ self-image as they’re moving her from room to room in their Barbie 3-story Dream Townhouse or shooting her down basement stairs in her pink Barbie Corvette. Barbie angst—along with Bratz angst and Monster High angst—elicits well-meaning conversations among likeminded adults about how those dolls will be quietly disappearing if they find their way into the child’s hands from enemy sources.
When her 5-year-old daughter inevitably received a Barbie gift from a relative, Ball wondered, “Should I confiscate The Doll with a discussion on Loving Our Bodies? Pretend that the Malibu gal got mauled by the dog?” In the end, though, Ball magnanimously let Barbie stick around and reminded herself that her own body image will have a far greater effect on her daughter than a doll’s figure:
I tried to remember how many times my daughter had wandered into my room while I was getting dressed, and I started harping on about my jelly thighs or hips the size of Texas. How many times had she heard me complain about the size of my tummy?... To think that a girl’s self-image is going to get twisted by a doll is ridiculous.
It’s true, Barbie is a silently happy doll who never complains about her weight (except for one little slip-up from Slumber Party Barbie in the 1960s), whereas a mom’s fat fits and constant diet talk can lead to the same in her daughter. Dolls and stuffed animals are pretend, and children know it. Moms, sisters, and friends, however, are real-life—and children know that, too. “I’m thinking that I’ll have to look past my own baggage regarding the iconic doll’s ludicrous, lifelong-body-issue-neuroses-inducing physical proportions and let my daughter explore her innocent desire to play with one,” concludes Jenn McKee, another mom wrestling with her daughter’s first request for a Barbie, on her An Adequate Mom Blog: “Mommy’s the one bringing all this paranoia to the situation.”
Sources: WNC Woman, Jenn McKee’s An Adequate Mom Blog
Images by tienvijftien, bugeaters, and Max-B,
licensed under Creative Commons.
9/21/2011 2:08:10 PM
This article originally appeared on EcoSalon.
This year, to mark International Peace Day on September 21st, an innovative project will be distributing 10,000 pairs of crutches in a single day from various locations across the West African country. The event is being called Operation Rise.
Founder Lisa Schultz, who runs an online creative community called TheWhole9.com, was so moved by photos of Sierra Leone’s amputee soccer team she founded The Peace Project, which started as an international art competition about peace. When Lisa arrived in Sierra Leone to create “The Peace Wall,” she noticed many people in need of crutches.
“I was heartbroken to see so many men, women and children that were either crawling around on the ground or almost unable to move because they didn’t have crutches or because what they were using was so makeshift or broken down,” Schultz says.
She decided that something should be done and Operation Rise was born.
“I realized the incredible energetic shift and social and psychological impact getting 10,000 people on their feet on one day would have on the morale of the country. And I knew that to engage people worldwide in caring about a problem caused by a war that ended 10 years ago, we had to do something big that would engage their imagination,” Schultz adds.
She and her team went on to raise roughly $250,000 for Operation Rise from crowd funding, fundraising events, private donors, corporate donors and family foundations.
Sierra Leone’s civil war ended a decade ago and since then the country has been fairly peaceful. It remains, however, very near the bottom of the United Nations’ human development index. Providing decent, accessible and affordable healthcare is one of many challenges for the government. Reliable statistics are difficult to come by, but there are many thousands of people in Sierra Leone crippled by either war wounds or polio.
After meeting the country’s director of UNICEF on a plane, Schultz realized she needed further help from the organization to clear crutches and other mobility aids through customs and Sierra Leone’s Community Association for Psychosocial Services, a group that works with victims of the civil war.
“I know that being able to take care of oneself and one’s family is the first step to sustainable peace and that personal mobility is the first step in that,” she says.
To ensure the project is sustainable Lisa is putting in place repair facilities throughout Sierra Leone to provide a low cost way to manufacture crutch tips prolonging the lives of the crutches and the freedom and accessibility they provide for their owners.
Images: Lisa Schultz images by Stephen D. Lawrence, amputee soccer images by Pep Bonet/NOOR
9/16/2011 3:28:25 PM
When V-Day founder Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues came to town, I was teaching my first college course and had every intention of announcing the groundbreaking activist play to my class, just as I had with poet Amiri Baraka’s upcoming reading and the new art exhibit at the campus museum. But once I stood in front of my students, I couldn’t bring myself to say the word vagina. I couldn’t even write it on the chalkboard. I choked.
That was 12 years ago, and I was 23—the same age at which my grandfather had begun teaching college half a century earlier. His trick to looking older: “I grew a moustache.” Not having that capability, I resigned myself to looking and feeling young. Apparently too young to say shocking words in front of a classroom full of 18-year-olds. When I eventually saw Ensler’s play, it brilliantly dramatized the inability of our culture—and me—to say vagina, and all the whacky euphemisms we use instead, from hoo-ha to punani to (my personal favorite) coochie snorcher.
Naturally, I was able to announce the next performance of The Vagina Monologues to my class.
And today, we can talk about vaginas anywhere, writes Jezebel: “Marketers have taken a cue from Eve Ensler—that was fifteen years ago, by the way—and decided that they can shout ‘vagina’ all they want.” Still, the internet world was set aflutter after presidential candidate Michele Bachmann said the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has “very dangerous consequences” such as causing mental retardation, prompting novelist Ayelet Waldman (of controversial “I love my husband more than my children” fame) to tweet the dangerous consequences of not being vaccinated for HPV—namely that it caused her cancerous cervical lesions. (A bioethicist has since offered $10,000 to the charity of Bachmann’s choice if she can offer up medical record proof of her retardation claim, reports Slate.) It’s easy to turn Bachmann’s eternally nutty gaffes and misinformation into a joke, but as Feministe says: “[S]ometimes [HPV] causes cancer. And that’s no joke. And putting a real face on an incredibly common, sometimes cancer-causing disease is important.”
Our culture has long been comfortable talking openly about men’s genitalia. From Senator Bob Dole’s memorable Viagra commercial to every semi-crude dad on every family sitcom, personal penis references are old hat. Thanks, Ms. Ensler, for opening the door to important public conversations about the vagina.
Source: Jezebel, Slate, Feministe
Image by M. Johannson,
licensed under Creative Commons.
9/14/2011 12:33:06 PM
In these times of severe income disparity and worker insecurity, where those at the top of the richest companies keep making more and more, while every other employee knows that there are people queued up outside ready to take their jobs, it’s nice to hear about companies that look askance on such work environments. With The Sky Factory, a company started by artist and entrepreneur Bill Witherspoon that creates virtual skylights and windows of peaceful settings using backlit images, Witherspoon wanted to create a work environment that might be as beautiful as art, according to a story in Inc. To begin, Witherspoon disregarded notions of hierarchy. Each worker is on the same level—all are owners, none are employees. “In shaping The Sky Factory,” Witherspoon says,
I started with the assumption that people are naturally curious and creative. I wanted to craft an environment in which they would act like entrepreneurs, not like robots. My first decision was to give people the opportunity to purchase discounted ownership, and 100 percent of employees have participated. The responsibility for revenue and profit belongs to everyone.
From there, Witherspoon came up with five guiding principles that allow everyone who works at The Sky Factory to take part in all decisions, work together on everything, and share the rewards. My favorite principle is “Give everyone equal footing: Where there is no authority, there is no fear, and people rise to what is required of them.”
What is your work environment like? Does it resemble the environment at The Sky Factory? Or is it closer to the conditions of the average American job laid out earlier this year in Mother Jones, where we learned that “Americans now put in an average of 122 more hours per year than Brits, and 378 hours (nearly 10 weeks!) more than Germans”? Let us know.
Source: Inc., DailyGood
Image of custom Luminous SkyCeiling at Sutter Imaging Center from The Sky Factory website.
9/2/2011 12:11:42 PM
On September 11, 1973 a coup against the government of Chilean President Salvador Allende began with planes bombing the presidential palace in Santiago. Ariel Dorfman, a Chilean-American writer, was in that city on that fateful Tuesday. “By the end of the day,” Dorfman writes, “Allende was dead and the land where we had sought a peaceful revolution had been turned into a slaughterhouse.”
Twenty-eight years later, on another Tuesday, September 11, another city Dorfman had called home was “attacked from on high.”
In a moving essay at The Nation Dorfman explores the reaction of the countries affected by these two tragic events. Ultimately Chile’s nonviolent response—which echoed “unawares another September 11, back in 1906 in Johannesburg, when Mohandas Gandhi persuaded several thousand of his fellow Indians in the Empire Theatre to vow nonviolent resistance to an unjust and discriminatory pre-apartheid ordinance”—is the response Dorfman praises. As for the response of Dorfman’s other home country, he writes, “If 9/11 can be understood as a test, it seems to me, alas, that the United States failed it.”
UPDATED 9/8/11: Watch Ariel Dorfman discuss his essay on Democracy Now!
Source: The Nation, Democracy Now!
Image by Patricio Mecklenburg, licensed under Creative Commons.
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