ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Monthly Archive: July 2014

Thursday

31

July 2014

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading: July 31, 2014

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Alaska was gorgeous. Thankfully Seattle arranged for some great weather to ease the transition back.

– Awesome: refusing money with unethical origins: Native Americans Refuse Redsk*ns Foundation Money for Skate Park (h/t @EdgeofSports)

– Issues with private management of children and family services: The Right to Parent, Even If You Are Poor (h/t @prisonculture)

– Detroit water crisis continues: Four things you should know about Detroit’s water crisis (h/t @allisonkilkenny)

– Sigh: Hobby Lobby Allegedly Fired Employee Due to Pregnancy (via @RHRealityCheck)

– Michelle Goldberg continues to disappoint: The New Yorker’s Skewed History of Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism Ignores Actual Trans Women (h/t @melissagira)

– I usually don’t link to Vox, but the war on drugs IS, in fact, racist: The war on marijuana is racist. So is the rest of the war on drugs. (h/t @prisonculture)

– Having an opinion on Israel and Palestine: Empathizing w/ Gaza does NOT make me anti-Semitic, nor pro-Hamas or anti-Israel. It makes me human.

– About the boys killed on the beach: Four Little Boys and the Price of Play in Gaza (via @EdgeofSports)

– What happens when a person expresses support for Palestinians: The risk of opposing Israel in the US (via @ajam)

 

 

– Another perspective on the blockade of Gaza: End the Gaza blockade to achieve peace (h/t @RaniaKhalek)

Sunday

27

July 2014

0

COMMENTS

Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work by Melissa Gira Grant

Written by , Posted in Feminism, Politics, Reviews

Four Stars

“Sex work can indeed be empowering. But that is not the point. Money is the fucking point.”
– Melissa Gira Grant, Playing the Whore

playing the whore

Growing up I had three basic images of sex work (although I didn’t call it that then): the Julia Roberts / Pretty Woman version; the desperate, drug addicted woman; and the ‘sex slave’ in another country who was ‘rescued’ regularly on Dateline and 48 Hours. I didn’t spend time thinking about sex workers, but I did wonder why sex work was illegal in most places.

Recently I’ve become more interested in labor rights; specifically how society views certain types of labor as worthy (of money or legality) and others as deserving of criminalization or at least disdain. I live in Seattle, where the fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour was met with such charming arguments from non-shift workers as ‘what did a McDonald’s worker do to deserve that? I barely make that!’ as though people in the fast food industry aren’t working just as hard as people sitting in air conditioned offices, able to take coffee and bathroom breaks whenever they want.

This interest led me to Ms. Grant’s book. She takes a perspective that is missing in coverage of sex work and workers – one that does not start by asking ‘should people do sex work’ but instead asks what can we do to improve the lives of the people who work in that industry. The book is well-written and educated me on the topic, but when asked to describe it in a few sentences I have a hard time. Each chapter feels like a separate essay in a broader collection, and initially I was not sure of the main purpose of the book, as it covers a broad area. It is not a linear history of sex work, nor is it an argument (primarily) for the decriminalization or legalization of sex work. It is more than that.

Going back through my notes and rereading the portions I highlighted does bring more clarity to me. That is a function not of Ms. Grant’s writing, but of my need to re-read the book to better take in all of the information she shares. Her purpose seems to be to point out all of the ways in which people who seek to help sex workers fail, and in doing so Ms. Grant draws the reader’s attention to the need for the reader to take actions in solidarity with these workers, and support those who can change the conditions of their lives for the better, not pull them out of sex work or make it more dangerous for them to perform the work they do.

Ms. Grant illustrates this in many ways, including critiquing the fight against online posting of sex worker ads and the large anti-sex work organizations that purport to rescue sex workers from horrible conditions. Ms. Grant points out that so many of the ‘rescued’ end up in worse situations, with less agency than they had when doing sex work, and concludes that this stems from the inability of so many to see these women and men as people doing a job and not as one-dimensional ‘whores.’

“The goal, these antiprostitute advocates say, of eradicating men’s desire for paid sex isn’t ‘antisex’ but to restore the personhood of prostitutes, that is, of people who are already people except to those who claim to want to fix them.”

That’s the point, really. Sex workers are people first, people who make their money in the sex work industry. The problems these workers face doesn’t stem from the morality of sex work – they originate with the rest of society, which is invested in making sex work dangerous. The question the reader is left with – that I am left with – is what am I going to do to benefit these workers?

 

 

Saturday

26

July 2014

0

COMMENTS

Whiskey Women by Fred Minnick

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Whiskey Women

I am whiskey drinker. I usually choose Jameson or Bushmills on the rocks, although I’m also a fan of the Four Roses Bourbon out of Lawrenceburg. Until my trip to Edinburgh last year I thought I loathed Scotch whisky; I couldn’t take the peaty, smoky smell. Upon being introduced to the Speyside single malt Scotch whiskies, however, I found another brown liquor to add to the rotation.

Given my love of whiskies, and knowing my feminist views, my husband found the perfect book to surprise me with earlier this month: Whiskey Women. I found it easy to read and full of the type of trivia I enjoy – facts that might come in handy during a pub quiz. But the book contains more than anecdotes that might help me cover my bar tab on a Tuesday night; it tells stories that I had never heard, and would wager most readers have not heard either. Aside from one discussion about Prohibition, everything in this book was new to me, providing a basic overview of a field that is wrongly assumed to be a men-only club.

Mr. Minnick starts this history with a primer on early distilling – think Egypt and the Middle Ages. But he quickly shifts his focus to the 1600s and beyond, usually breaking the stories down by region of the world. He discusses poitín makers in Ireland who cared for the community, widows in Scotland who kept family distilleries running, and U.S. women who subverted the 18th amendment by selling moonshine. Despite my assumption that this book would comprise mostly Irish and Scottish history, a large piece focuses on Prohibition, covering the role of women in its passage and its repeal, as well as the women who worked to survive when their livelihood was made illegal.

I noticed two themes appearing in every chapter through the repeal of prohibition –unsavory law enforcement tactics and clever women. Taxation and implementation played large roles in many of these stories, with revenue police who used reprehensible means to administer their versions of justice. This meant anything from arresting bootleggers to destroying all of the equipment being used in legal operations. I was not surprised to read this; power leads many people to do unsavory things, often under the protection of the law. But women repeatedly found ways to either subvert the law or work within it to continue making liquor available. Their stories are not just interesting; they are stories that anyone who appreciates quality liquor (or the right to access it) should know.

The book wraps up with a brief look at modern women distillers and whisk(e)y fans, including heads of tasting panels and creators of tasting shows that bring distillers and consumers together to provide an opportunity for these buffs to enjoy new and old favorites. This section is thin, squeezing many stories into a tight space. These stories also lack the romance found in earlier sections of the book, such as the Lady of Laphroaig, who kept her distillery running during the war.

It’s great to learn about the women who influenced a field that brings so many people enjoyment; I only have two critiques of the book. The first is that the book focuses on white women; given the pictures Mr. Mennick includes in the book, apparently only white women are ‘whiskey women.’ I do not believe this can be the case, but even if so I think the book would be better for some discussion about why women of color are not well represented in this field.

My second criticism is that while I do not think women should be compared to men, many of the statistics Mr. Mennick includes would be stronger if they were provided in context. Seven women filling a role means one thing if there are seven men doing it, and another thing if there are 700 men doing it – the former might show women were viewed as equals, while the latter might suggest that those seven women were trailblazers. Either way the context would be more interesting for me than the raw numbers.

Wednesday

16

July 2014

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – July 16, 2014

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

I’m taking next week off from the blog, so this will return on July 31. In the meantime, enjoy!

– We got enough shit for creating a new last name – I can only imagine when people start ‘messing with tradition’ when it comes to their children’s names: What Happened When We Gave Our Daughter My Last Name (h/t @andreagrimes)

– Ooof: Israel-Gaza conflict: 80 per cent of Palestinians killed by Israeli strikes are civilians, UN report says (h/t @roqchams)

– I love this article. Stop assuming men are the default – if you need to be the qualifier of ‘female’ or ‘woman’ in front of it, put ‘male’ or ‘man’ in front of descriptions of men doing it: World Cup Soccer Stats Erase The Sport’s Most Dominant Players: Women

– Finally – Courtney Enlow (@courtenlow) has been Liveblogging the 90s by picking choice films and reminding us (or questioning) why we loved them. You can find the archive here, but these are my favorites so far:

— I Know What You Did Last Summer

— The Craft

— Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead

Saturday

12

July 2014

0

COMMENTS

The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Thee Stars

jane austen

So I’ve never read anything written by Jane Austen. I’m not sure how that happened, but it did. I hadn’t even seen one of the many films / series based on her books (other than Clueless) until about two years ago, when I watched the Pride and Prejudice series starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. I still haven’t read any of her work, but I now feel a bit more prepared to do so.

The Jane Austen Handbook is a 200-page book that reads as a guide to living in Regency England. It assumes the reader is actually living in that time period (as opposed to reading about a history of it), and assumed the reader is in the same class as most of the main characters in Ms. Austen’s novels. It’s a clever convention, and for the most part I enjoyed it. I think it does a decent job of explaining the period without judging it, although of course as usual the margins of my version are filled with “ack” and “hell no,” especially when discussing what unmarried women were allowed to do.

This was a pretty quick read, but I’m glad I picked it up for a couple of reasons. First, I do plan to start reading Ms. Austen’s novels when I’m traveling this summer (ah, the beauty of the e-reader – I was able to load all of her works onto it in a matter of seconds), so it’s nice to have a bit of an understanding of the time period in which her works reside. And second, when I do inevitably get confused by a term or something a character did, I can refer back to this book and have a better sense of what I’m reading.

Thursday

10

July 2014

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – July 10, 2014

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

It’s going to be really hot here again this weekend.

– WHY do so many people not understand what feminism is? Seriously. I’m asking. Man Tapped to Draw the New Wonder Woman Doesn’t Want Her to Be Feminist (via @MotherJones)

– Street harassment sucks. Believe it. Women everywhere have their movement limited by the male gaze (via @renireni)

– I hate everything. Citing ‘Hobby Lobby,’ Religious Groups Ask Obama for LGBT Exemptions (h/t @msfoundation)

– This article is a really eloquent look at what we value in people, and why. Ugly Girl (via @shakestweets)

– And while people might mean well, as the post says, don’t do this. Don’t Do This (via @shakestweets)

Wednesday

9

July 2014

0

COMMENTS

The Lady’s Book of Manners

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

ladysbkmanners_xlrg

This book is not widely available online (although apparently you can get it from Amazon for a penny). It’s from a publisher in the UK that specializes in gift books; specifically ‘reprinting’ vintage books as a bit of a novelty. For example, this book claims to have come for a work originally published in London in the 1890s. Given my love of old etiquette books, I can at least vouch for the fact that many items in here are hilariously outdated, so they at least theoretically could have originated in a book from that time period.

I purchased this book when I came across it in a fantastic store filled with all manners of knick knacks, lotions and curios. I find them fascinating, and while the vast majority of the content is classist and sexist, some of it actually is intriguing. Some suggestions are actually not that bad – for example, spend four-five hours in the fresh air each day. Of course this assumes having four-five hours available for such leisure. But still. Can you imagine being able to do that? I have a 30-minute walk each way to work and I feel so lucky that I get than hour to myself, breathing (mostly) fresh air.

The book ranges from the extraordinarily detailed – “When tripping over the pavement, a lady should gracefully raise her dress a little above her ankle. With her right hand she should hold together the folds of her dress and draw them towards the right side.” – to the extremely general – “A lady is a lady at all times.” While some rules are patently outrageous (when referring to ‘servants’ “Never treat them as equals!”), some are quite lovely. For example, “Read such books as will enrich the mind, improve the heart, and add to the happiness and usefulness of your life.” Frankly, I think that’s kind of awesome.

If you happen across this book, and know someone who likes this sort of thing, this one won’t disappoint. But no need to seek it out if it’s not really your style.

Monday

7

July 2014

0

COMMENTS

Alaska By Cruise Ship

Written by , Posted in Adventures, Reviews

Two Stars

ABCS

I’m going on a cruise to Alaska this summer to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday, and I’m pretty excited. I’ve never been north of Vancouver on the West Coast, so I thought I’d pick up a book to learn what I should check out when I’m in the various ports. I’ve been on a cruise before, so I generally know what to expect on that front – I just wanted some information on locations and maybe a little history.

This book is fine. I don’t think a lot of editorial effort went into it – there’s at least one pretty obvious error that shouldn’t have escaped anyone’s eye, really – but there’s a lot of information, and some history. In fact, there was probably more history than your average travel book, so I appreciate that. However, I’m a bit suspect about the accuracy. It’s not just the aforementioned typo; that can happen if you don’t have a great editor, or even if you do, mistakes still get made.

However, it’s not just typos. Because many Alaska cruises start and/or end in Seattle, there’s a nice section on my home city. Even though I live here, I still read that section, and it was full of errors that would have been avoided with some basic fact-checking (i.e. Googling). I know information can become out of date quickly in the travel guide world, but considering this edition of the book came out in March of this year, I expect it to be fairly accurate. Some things I take issue with might just be a matter of interpretation – the author claims the north cruise ship dock is 20 minutes from downtown, which, I guess, if traffic is moving at 5 miles per hour, that MIGHT be the case. But it’s literally four miles from the heart of downtown – I know because I used to go for runs from the middle of downtown up to there and back. But like I said, maybe she just wanted to cover her rear so people allow enough time. Okay.

But Ms. Vipond also talks about buses in the downtown Seattle corridor being free between 6 AM and 7 PM, but they got rid of the ride-free zone in September of 2012 – not exactly close to the deadline for this edition. And the IMAX Dome theatre she mentions closed well before that – I want to say in 2007? Even the name of our football stadium, which changed a couple of years ago (and got a lot of press this last year, what with the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl) is incorrect. She does point out a relatively new attraction – a Ferris wheel on the waterfront – so clearly she did some research. The point of me going into such detail is because knowing all of those errors in just five or six pages makes me really question whether any of the information in the rest of the book can still be considered accurate.

If you happen to be going on a cruise this summer and want some basic background on the ports of call, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with picking up this guide. I just can’t vouch for accuracy.

Friday

4

July 2014

0

COMMENTS

The Internet’s Own Boy – A Review and More

Written by , Posted in Politics, Reviews

The Internet’s Own Boy

The way I spent today is not how I’ve spent past 4th of July holidays, but I think I’m going to aim to do so in the future. Instead of fireworks and barbecues, I would love to take the 4th of July as a day to really examine an issue or two (via film, music, art or books) that our country is getting wrong. Yes, there are some fantastic things about this country, but the more I read and the more I learn, the more I see so many injustices. There are the obvious ongoing ones (colonialism, slavery, racism, misogyny, the carceral state, income inequality), but there are also the ones that I am just not tracking but clearly should be.

This film falls into the latter category. After watching it I’m angry, I’m sad, and I’m inspired as hell but also a little overwhelmed. A lack of knowledge – scientific, historic, and political – motivates the authors of so many bad laws, court decisions, and policies. We only need to look at Monday’s Hobby Lobby ruling, where a company was allowed to argue that because they claim to believe something – even if it is wrong (Plan B is not, in fact, an abortifacient) – they can use that to deny access to healthcare to others. That basic lack of scientific understanding is the foundation of so many horrific policies. If more people in the public (not those in power – they likely know what’s up, but don’t benefit from the facts and so twist or deny them instead) had the opportunity to see how laws are implemented, or studies are conducted, or research is done, they might view things differently, might support different causes, and might not be as content with the status quo.

Aaron Swartz was many things, and this documentary seeks to share who he was with the public while exploring the seemingly abusive prosecution that appears to have ultimately lead to his suicide. Faced with 13 counts of charges stemming from plugging his computer into MIT’s system to download journal articles (possibly with the goal of analyzing them to see if there is a relationship between corporate dollars and how climate change science is researched), he took his own life. I had read about what many view as prosecutorial misconduct in this case – this likely should have been a simple civil matter between Mr. Swartz and MIT, not a literal federal case – but this film certainly helped me understand it better.

The narrative is pretty straightforward. We follow Mr. Swartz from his youth (reading by the age of three) through his 20s, when he was an instrumental part of stopping SOPA, a horribly crafted piece of legislation that you might remember from when many sites – including Wikipedia and Reddit – went dark for a full 24-hours to protest the censorship the bill would perpetuate. Mr. Swartz believed in knowledge and education, and felt strongly that the public should have access to knowledge and public materials. Through interviews with his family members, former colleagues (including Lawrence Lessig), and members of the community fighting for an open internet (e.g. Electronic Frontier Foundation), the film builds a picture of someone who was a rational idealist and a real progressive who saw important wrongs that needed to be fixed.

When I was contemplating law school I assumed I would go into mass media law. I found it fascinating, and since I was attending school during the turn of the century, there was a lot that was not known. Napster was still a thing, and piracy was presented as the beginning of the end for creativity and knowledge. And here is where I am still conflicted. We live in a money-fueled society. In the current system, journal articles and other research and knowledge are often built as a way for the authors to learn but also to survive. For someone to be able to spend months on a research project, they need to be able to have a place to live, food to eat, etc. While many of these articles are funded by research grants and tax dollars from the government, I have a hard time trying to figure out how, in the system we currently have, right now, we can change the motivation while still making the information public.

But thanks to films like this, I’m interested. I want to learn more. I know net neutrality is in trouble, and I want to be involved in ways to ensure that corporations can’t limit my access to certain website. I’m furious that the FBI and others felt that it made sense to prosecute this man literally to death because he downloaded journal articles. I’m also interested in learning more about how to balance creativity and knowledge with surviving in the system we have now while seeking to change the system itself.

I suggest checking the film out, especially if you are someone who wants to see this nation do better and be better. If you’re in Seattle, it’s playing at the Egyptian from the 11th through the 18th. It’s also available nationally via Amazon streaming for about $7 for a three-day rental.

Friday

4

July 2014

0

COMMENTS

Mindfulness

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three stars

mindfulness 1

Many people find themselves with over-scheduled social lives, or work situations filled with a seemingly endless stream of projects, meetings and deadlines. Perhaps these people are facing challenges at home, or school, or with health. The challenges might seem minor to others, or perhaps others observe and wonder how the person is still functioning given everything that’s happening in their lives. We hear it a lot from women who have children and also work outside of the home – there are demands everywhere, and these women can’t seem to get a break.

Without going into too much detail about why I found myself drawn to this book (during yet ANOTHER trip to Powell’s in Portland – that place should just take all of my money now), but I wanted something that would help me to be more present in my life, and kinder to myself. My husband meditates, and it really helps him when he’s feeling a bit off. Given that, this specific book appealed to me in many ways – it wasn’t horribly long (about 250 pages), it had a clear plan (it focuses on an eight-week meditation program), and it even came with a link to audio files to guide the meditations.

I was successful in keeping up with the program for about a week. I did read each chapter, and I really enjoyed the messages within them, but I don’t think this book was what I wanted. I sort of want to meditate, and I mostly enjoyed the meditations in this book, but I found the information within the chapters leading up to the meditations themselves to be much more useful. It was probably not the best book for me given what I was looking for, but I think it was well-written, supported with some research, and not overly flowery. Yes, it the authors discuss self-care, but if you have an aversion to anything that seems new age-y (although meditation is hardly that), you can still read this book and enjoy it. I’m sure I’ll end up referring back to it during challenging days, but it hasn’t turned me into a regular meditator.