ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Daily Archive: 30/11/2014



November 2014



Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars


Last year I reviewed a book about a forensic anthropologist, where I mentioned I do work related to death. It is one part of what I do, and (at least for now) has never actually involved me providing after-death care, or even arranging for it. It’s a possibility, though. And it is a field that I find unendingly interesting.

I can’t remember who recommended this book to me, but I’d like to say thank you. Its premise is one young woman’s experience working in a crematory. Most of the book – I’d say maybe 70% – involves stories from her time there, seamlessly woven with interesting notes about how different cultures have handled death of the millennia. She does a really fantastic job at this, especially since this is her first book. The book takes a bit of a shift towards the dark about three-quarters of the way through (I know, how much darker can it get? It’s a book about death! But it does), but it finishes up nicely.

Ms. Doughty’s book points out all of the ways that we have turned death into something to be hidden and feared. This is a relatively new construction – at least the hidden part. Many cultures have feared death forever, and some have just seen it as a way of life. Ms. Doughty, while a part of the death care industry, learns through her experiences that she wants to provide a different way of understanding and recognizing death. I’ve not yet read any of her blog posts ( but I plan to, because I find her perspective interesting.

I bought this book at 1 P.M. today; I’m writing the review just before 6 P.M. I literally only put the book down to use the bathroom and to fold some laundry. That’s it. And at 240 pages, it’s not a short book. But it’s an interesting one, and one that I think has value not just for those who find the death care industry interesting, but for those who think that maybe there’s something missing from how we handle death in the U.S.



November 2014



Bad Feminist

Written by , Posted in Feminism, Reviews

Four Stars


I’ve heard many people reference this collection of essays, to the point where I sought out the author’s twitter feed so I could get a feel myself about what her writing was about. After having enjoyed her (often random) tweets for a while now, I finally picked up her book. Well, I downloaded it. And now I’m mostly just mad that it took me this long. I really should have just read it the second I heard about it.

Ms. Gay writes about many different cultural topics throughout this book, each fitting loosely into the categories of gender and sexuality; race and entertainment; politics, gender, and race; and ‘me’ (the author). I appreciate the fact that I don’t agree with everything she says in every essay – that’s kind of the point. Not that the author expects us to disagree with her, but that she owns the fact that she is a complex and complicated person, with many different opinions that don’t always neatly line up. She listens to problematic music, she reads Vogue unironically, and she (gasp!) shaves her legs. She’s a bad feminist.

But she’s not. She’s a fantastic feminist, because she approaches things with a critical eye. It is, in fact, possible to like things that are not good. Her essay on the song “Blurred Lines” is a great example of this: the lyrics are horrifying and basically an ode to justifying rape, bat damn if the song isn’t catchy. She is also able to provide a different perspective than so much of what we see in mainstream feminism. Ms. Gay brings the perspective of not a white, straight woman but of a Haitian American queer woman. That doesn’t mean she speaks for all black women, or all bisexual women, but it does mean that her commentary comes from a place that doesn’t get nearly enough coverage in most of the media out there.

For some reason I had some trouble with a few of the earlier essays. Part of that may have just been the mood I was in. But for me the last 200 pages of the 300+ page book flew by, and I was sad it was over. However, thanks to the interwebs, I can still read her writing, as she is the editor of The Butter, a subsection of The Toast.



November 2014



What I’m Reading – November 30, 2014

Written by , Posted in What I'm Reading

Police Killings

– “A Salt Lake Tribune review of nearly 300 homicides, using media reports, state crime statistics, medical-examiner records and court records, shows that use of force by police is the second-most common circumstance under which Utahns kill each other, surpassed only by intimate partner violence.” Killings by Utah police outpacing gang, drug, child-abuse homicides (via @sltrib)

– “[S]omeone called 911 describing “a guy with a gun pointing it at people,” but the caller twice suggested the gun was “probably fake” and that the individual was “probably a juvenile,” but it’s unclear if this information was relayed to police.” Cleveland Police Shoot And Kill 12-Year-Old Carrying A Fake Gun (via @ThinkProgress)

– “The family is outspoken in their belief that their son’s death was avoidable, had the police officers acted appropriately.”Officers Who Shot 12-Year-Old Holding Toy Gun Refused To Give Him First Aid (via @ThinkProgress)

– “Weekley says that another SWAT member had thrown a flash-bang grenade, which temporarily blinded him. That’s when he fired the shot that killed Aiyana who was asleep on the couch in the front room of the house.” Charges Dropped For Cop Who Fatally Shot Sleeping 7-Year-Old Girl (h/t @SueyPark)


– “Privilege is like oxygen: You don’t realize it’s there until it’s gone. As white folks, we can’t know what it’s like to go through life without racial privilege because we literally haven’t.” What white people need to know, and do, after Ferguson (h/t @AngryBlackLady)

– “Where he sees “opportunity” many St. Louisans see stone-cold murder. Everything about the announcement—the timing, the condescending tone, the weeks of militarized vehicles patrolling the roads—seemed designed to inflame and incite the region.”Ferguson’s Trial (via @SarahKendzior)

– “McCulloch essentially acknowledged that his team was serving as Wilson’s defense lawyers, noting that prosecutors “challenged” and “confronted” witnesses by pointing out previous statements and evidence that discredited their accounts.” Bob McCulloch’s pathetic prosecution of Darren Wilson (h/t @Milbank)


– “A woman makes it impossible for men not see a truth that usually remains invisible to them: that men make our streets into threatening spaces. And in response, men threaten to kill her.” The masculine mistake (h/t @femfreq)

Prejudice and Humor

– “Reciting prejudiced comments (jokey or not) worsens one’s own attitude towards the group disparaged. Exposure to disparagement humor on the other hand doesn’t seem to affect the prejudices people hold; instead, it seems to affect how/whether people will act on their prejudices.” Sticks and Stones and Jokes (h/t @schemaly)

Reproductive Health

– “There is no universal connotation of the word “natural,” other than that it’s supposed to be wholesome and good. It’s like labeling a food as “natural” as opposed to, say, organic: Organic means food that is grown without pesticides, while “natural” means whatever the hell the manufacturer wants it to mean. And in the same vein, conflating “natural” birth with vaginal birth implies that other ways of being born are “unnatural”—in other words, inferior.” A Baby Coming Out of a Vagina Is a Vaginal Birth: There’s No Such Thing as ‘Natural’ (via @rhrealitycheck)

And Finally, Jay Smooth continues to bring the awesome: