Sunday, August 28, 2005

You Just Can't Reason With Hurricane Season

Auntie Suzanne and Uncle Pookie, not to mention a few million others, are in the projected path of Hurricane Katrina, which some say may be worse than Camille. If anyone happens to come across this and can spare a prayer or ten, we'd appreciate it.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor, pray for us.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A Moment with Chesterton (Who Was Married)

"...the wise old fairy tales never were so silly as to say that the prince and the princess lived peacefully ever afterwards. The fairy tales said that the prince and the princess lived happily ever afterwards: and so they did. They lived happily, although it is very likely that from time to time they threw the furniture at each other." (G. K. Chesterton)

Friday, August 26, 2005

Random Thoughts


How high do gas prices have to get before Americans start to talk about drilling for oil in Alaska? I wonder because I figure it'll have to get to at least three times that amount before we start to talk about nuclear power. Make that ten times.


I read an article the other day about parents who discourage their children from entering the military--which group includes, unfortunately, parents who claim to "support the troops" and to favor the war. Now a lot of this is attributable to people thinking that they and their kind are too good for the military. "It's all right for those working class rednecks, hillbillies, and blacks, but it's not for people like us." Some of it is due to a failing sense of duty among Americans, the entitlement mentality, etc.

But I have to wonder if some of it isn't due to the fact that so many families nowadays have only one child. Many others have only two. I don't mean to suggest that people with large families value the individual children less, only to point out that the already horrifying possibility of losing a child must seem even worse to the person who has no other children. I once heard a priest on television say that parents of one- or two-child families are more likely to resist their sons becoming priests, because they fear having no grandchildren. Mightn't something similar be at work with the military enlistment discouragers?


Artists and others are very quick to talk about the rights of artists, but I never hear anyone talk about the duties of artists. Besides being citizens like everyone else, they have a special role as shapers of culture. Doesn't that entail some sort of responsibility to the culture?


Cloaks are much cooler looking than coats, but coats are more efficient at their job of keeping out the cold than cloaks. Not surprisingly more people nowadays wear coats or jackets than wear cloaks, capes, or ruanas. But why should that be in places where the winters are mild? In the USA's Deep South, where I live, a cloak can provide adequate--and sometimes more than adequate--warmth for our winters, but almost no one wears them. (I wore a ruana all last winter, and plan to have two this winter.) A bonus is that they are easier to make than coats.


Humans in the Mist

The London Zoo has a new exhibit.

Caged and barely clothed, eight men and women monkeyed around
for the crowds Friday in an exhibit labeled "Humans" at the London Zoo....The
exhibit puts the three male and five female "homo sapiens" amid their primate
relatives....the humans were wearing swimsuits beneath their fig

Gosh, I wonder what the point of this exhibit could be.

"Seeing people in a different environment, among other animals
... teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate,"
Wills[a zoo spokesman] said.


"A lot of people think humans are above other
animals," [one of the displays] told The Associated Press. "When
they see humans as animals, here, it kind of reminds us that we're not that

Ah, yes, animals=humans=animals. No difference at all. Except of course that the displayed humans have made and put on clothes, something that has never occurred to any animal in all of time. No animal has ever invented something new to give itself protection against the elements or to protect its modesty--or for that matter had feelings of modesty about displaying its genitals. Could it be that there's something going on inside humans that doesn't go on in animals?

Some people might even point out that the humans writing and reading this news story are engaging in an act that no animal can--the writer taking information from her environment, coming up with words to convey it, translating those words into abstract symbols on a page, and the readers then translating those marks into words which convey the information. (This is not even getting into the invention of paper or vast computer networks to print the marks on, or any editing for aesthetics or logic the writer may have done.) But people who would point out such things are obviously spiritually unevolved dupes of the patriarchy's humanity-uber-alles mentality.

"It turns everything upside down. It makes you think about the
humans in relation to the animals."

It might if I hadn't seen the same thing in a Charles Addams cartoon more than twenty years ago. Besides, if I were to think about how humans stand in relation to animals, that would only be emphasizing the difference between humans and animals (since animals don't think about it) and thus prove my lack of empathy to our oppressed animal brothers.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Lying About Families

Here's a good article on what spurred Daniel Patrick Moynihan's infamous report on the black family back in the '60s and the reaction to it in the decades since:

And lest you think this is only about black families, remember that illegitimacy is rising in other ethnic groups as well; a couple of years ago I read that white illegitimacy has reached the levels of black illegitimacy in the early '60s (something like 24%, I think)--which were rates that greatly worried many black ministers at the time, and which unfortunately soon ballooned.

Don't Act Surprised

How we present ourselves to others has consequences. They're often predictable.

If you wear a tee-shirt with a motto that insults the viewer of the shirt (e.g., "If my dog looked like you, I'd shave his butt and make him walk backward", "You rode the short bus, didn't you?", "Bite Me") and you then approach someone to ask for help, don't act surprised if they are less helpful to you than they are to people in a non-insulting shirt. Even if it's someone who's paid to help you.

If you sport a bumpersticker that says "Bad Cop! No Doughnut!" and a tee-shirt that says "Fuck the Police", don't act surprised when the policeman who pulls you over for speeding is disinclined to let you off with a warning.

If you're a young woman or any girl past puberty and you wear a miniskirt that you have either designed to have or bought because it had attention-grabbing details (in addition to its attention-grabbing shortness, I mean) and men make crude or stupid comments about your skirt in a lame attempt to chat you up, don't act surprised.

If you're a woman and you wear a blouse that clings to the only parts of your breasts that aren't revealed by your plunging neckline, don't act surprised if some men talk to your chest instead of your face.

An Even More Modest Swimsuit

As I mentioned before, I don't have a problem with a basic one-piece swimsuit. I have seen an American suit or two advertised as a modest suit, but I did not like them, so I didn't mention them in my previous post on swimsuits; one of them looked like a knee-length wetsuit with a flowery skirt over it--not a look that would appeal to most American women, I think.

These probably aren't going to either, but I like them better than that American one:

Image hosted by


They're pretty, happy-looking women; apparently no one ever told them you have to wear a string bikini to be attractive.

The LATimes article I took this photo from is worth skimming. It says that, thanks to the new Islamic bourgeoisie in Turkey, there's now designer headscarfs and liquor-free resorts, in addition to the really modest swimsuits. And those swimsuits are apparently more for sex-mixed groups; the article says women sometimes wear revealing suits when they're in women-only groups.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

One Way to Make a Snood (AKA a Hairnet or Caul)

For some reason I'm fascinated by Regina Doman's article on liturgical dressing--all of it, the concept and the particular articles of clothing mentioned. I have no interest in liturgical dressing itself; but I like drapey fabric, simple clothes, and clothing with a somewhat medieval look, and I am interested in pattern-free clothing. I haven't made the "Mary Dress" or the "Mary Jumper", because on this particular idea I need to see a photo before I make up my mind to commit my fabric; I'm intrigued by, but not sure of, the "wings". (Eh, maybe I'll just try it anyway one day I'm bored.)

Doman did inspire me to make a snood, though. I didn't think I could because I don't crochet or knit and Doman said she could no longer find the cotton mesh she used to sew hers. Then I happened to be in Wal-Mart when the clerk was bringing out some new $1.00/yd fabric. Most of the $1 fabric is ugly, but sometimes there's something nice. This day the clerk was bringing out a weird, stretchable black net material. It's not the cotton mesh Doman mentioned, as it must be synthetic to have so much stretch, but it looked like a snood to me. I bought 1/2 yard, carried it home, let it age for a couple of weeks :-), and then when it had matured I made a snood. I've worn it several times and found it surprisingly comfortable; I also found it can look cute with some clothes but didn't look right when I put it on with jeans and a tee-shirt (then again, that day I was just trying to hide my dirty hair.)

I also found you don't really need stretchy mesh. I have thick, bra-length hair, and my hair fits into my snood without any noticeable stretching. I'm sure a non-stretch mesh would work fine. I've seen some thrift store shirts made of a cotton mesh that I think could be cut up and used as a snood; next time I see one in a good color, I'm going to try it.

How I made my snood:

I cut an 18" square of mesh, folded it into quarters, then eighths, and cut a curve on it to get a rough circle. (This was after some tedious and wholly unnecessary thought about figuring circumferences and radiuses.) I cut a narrow strip of thin black fabric--about 1/4" wide--and sewed that around the edges of the net, using my widest stitch length. (Ribbon would probably work instead of the fabric.) Then I pulled the threads until it was gathered to about my head measurement (as measured from the top of the head to the bottom, where the head meets the neck). I covered the edges of the resulting "pouch" with a length of 1/2" wide doublefold bias tape (cut to my head measurement plus about an inch), using a lot of pins to secure it before sewing. Then I just sewed it down, taking care to tuck in the ends of the bias tape when I had completed the circle.

Actually, I had meant to add 1/4" wide elastic to the band, but by the time I got to the end, the thought of threading a piece of elastic through a bias tube filled with net sewn to fabric no longer appealed to me, and I said, "**** it, I'll just hold the thing up with hair pins." I've since found a photo of Regina Doman online, and I notice her snood is held on with hairpins too. I plan to try this again sometime with elastic.

For the Thrifty: Fabric Yields from Sheets

Sheets at garage sales, thrift stores, or salvage stores can be a good source of cheap fabric, useful for everything from quilt backing (scrap quilts you plan to use, anyway, maybe not art quilts) and curtains to clothing. A young man I once met kept a photo of his cute and very nicely-dressed little girl on his desk. After bragging on the daughter, he said that his mother made the dress in the photo, as well as a lot of other clothes the girl wore. "She buys floral sheets on sale and makes these dresses, and they look like Laura Ashley dresses you'd pay a lot of money for in a store." He was right, it did look like a Laura Ashley dress. A lot of it probably depended on his mother's sewing skill, but it shows you can get good results from sheets.

I haven't done this much though. Mainly because I'm picky and seldom find ones I like, but there have also been times I wondered if a particular thrift store sheet was a good buy or not. To make that determination easier, I've figured out approximate yardages for the most common sheet sizes.

To do this I looked up a chart of average sheet sizes. Any particular manufacter may use slightly different measurements, so you have to check the tag to be sure of the measurements you're getting, but as secondhand sheets may have faded or absent tags, I thought figuring the averages would give me a helpful rule of thumb to go by on price, as well as letting me know whether a particular sheet has enough yardage for what I want.

Note: The chart I used said that its measurements for fitted sheets included top surface only, so I'm not including sides in my estimates. I haven't tried it, but I'm guessing that if you snip off the elastic and press the sides flat, you may add 6" around the edges. Depending on what you're using it for, you may lose some fabric around the edges of flat sheets, because of the hems; OTOH, if they're secondhand, the flat sheets are apt to be in better shape.


Fitted--just over 2 yds of 39" wide fabric.

Flat--2&2/3 yds of 66" wide fabric.


Fitted--just over 2 yds of 54" wide fabric.

Flat--2&2/3 yds of 81" wide fabric.


Fitted--almost 2&1/4 yds of 60" wide fabric.

Flat--2 & 5/6 yds (i.e. just over 2&3/4) of 90" fabric. If you were to cut the fabric up the middle, you'd have two 2&5/6 yd lengths of 45" wide fabric, for a total of 5& 2/3 yds of 45" fabric.


Fitted--almost 2&1/4 yds of 76"-78" wide fabric.

Flat--2&5/6 yds (i.e. just over 2&3/4) of 108" wide fabric. Cut up the middle, that yields two 2&5/6 yd lengths of 54" wide fabric, for a total of 5&2/3 yds of 54" fabric. OR you could turn the sheet side ways and have 3 yds of 102" wide fabric; cut that up the middle and you have two 3 yd lengths of 51" wide fabric, for a total of 6 yds.

The rule of thumb: Any sheet twin-size or larger is going to give you at least two yards of fabric (although on the twin fitted it will be a narrower width than most contemporary patterns call for in their pattern layouts), so take the price of the sheet, halve it, and ask yourself if you'd pay that much per yard for that fabric. If it's close, remember that you're actually paying a bit less per yard, especially on a queen or king flat sheet.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Chesterton As You've Never Seen Him Before

An artist named Ben Hatke has illustrated "Song of the Strange Ascetic", a Chesterton poem about how if he were a heathen, he'd have fun with it, not like the gloomy-faced heathens of his day, who "do not have the faith,/And will not have the fun". Look and be charmed:

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Things I'm Sick Of -- A Mean-spirited List

People who hate Wal-Mart and won't shut up about it, yet who continue to shop at other big chain stores. I don't care where other people shop, but I get tired of hearing about it from self-righteous snobs (yes, I'm generalizing). It wouldn't be so annoying if more of the complainers shopped only at small businesses or secondhand stores. If Chain X is the source of all evil, how can Chains Y & Z--not to mention A-W--who do the same sorts of things, not also be evil and worthy of ire?

Low-rise pants. They look okay on some super-thin girls, but they flatter no one. Most girls look very bad in them. Women of, as they say, a certain age shouldn't go there at all. (Especially when they're pairing their low-rise pants with a cropped top that shows off their wrinkly, stretch-marked, fortyplus-year old bellies and bellybutton ring or tattoos.) I'm not so lookist to care if people look good or not, but most of these sad people are obviously trying to look good and failing really badly.

Visible bra straps. When I was a girl, only the trashiest of the trashy went out with visible bra straps, and even then it was usually the result of extreme carelessness. Now some girls do it deliberately. It still looks trashy.

Flip-flops. They're great for the beach or for public showers, and they are economical (at least they used to be); but if you're a middle-class girl in one of the most prosperous countries ever to exist and you are wearing a nice dress, buy some shoes or a pair of decent-looking sandals. Hot gluing an artificial flower or some sequins to your flip-flops do not make them formal wear. No, not even semi-formal.

The use of the word "pimp" to mean anything other than a procurer, a pander, a low-life trafficker in human flesh, an exploiter (usually of women.)

The use of the word "ride" to refer to automobiles. I first heard this word in the early '90s. It sounded stupid then and it still sounds stupid.

I, Auntie Suzanne, Recommend This Series

I recently watched I, Claudius. It's thirteen episodes (about 12 hours total) of political intrigue, treachery, corruption, and vice. I once found myself wondering if this is the period that historians with a secret penchant for soap operas study. It's very entertaining. Among its features is the delightful Brian Blessed in an unexpected role as Augustus. Watch and enjoy and try not to draw parallels between Rome and contemporary Western society--the comparisons have been made before and you'll only worry yourself.

According to the Netflix reviews (Uncle Pookie and I may not have TV, but we keep our Netflix queue humming), this BBC series has been called the best thing ever made for TV--or something like that, and I'm not sure who is supposed to have said that; but whether it's the best or not, it is certainly well worth watching. Although not for the little kiddies; I don't automatically object to little kiddies seeing naked breasts, but there's some serious decadence in this that I, for one, would not want to have to explain to a child. For teens or adults who don't want to see that kind of thing depicted, there's an abridged audiobook version, read by Derek Jacobi (who plays Claudius in the TV series), that is both considerably cleaned up and entertaining to listen to.

FWIW, I found the most striking character in both the audiobook and the TV series to be Livia. Florence King once said that there's nothing wrong with "women's studies" that studying the right women won't set straight. If even half of what I, Claudius says about Livia is true, then Livia is one of those women Miss King was talking about.

Some Sewing Links

How to Make Yourself a Dressform
(I recommend the brown paper tape version; it is easy and really cheap, and it has history behind it--the technique goes back to at least the 1930s.)

Online directions for making an A-line Skirt without a pattern

Covering Our Hair
Links to directions for making headcoverings. (Some are knitted or crocheted, instead of sewn.)

Dawn's Costume Guide
(mostly SCA, but there's a section on Biblical-era costumes, such as children might wear at church plays) Tells how to draw out patterns based on your own measurements; some of the patterns could be adapted slightly to make contemporary garments.

The Tangled Web
Another SCA or RenFaire site. Directions include how to make a chemise (which could be adapted to make a peasant blouse or a nightgown), a gathered skirt, a gored skirt, and bloomers.

Reconstructing History
The Beginners section has free instructions for making several period garments for the upper body. Use your own measurements to make your pattern pieces, then use one of the fabric-saving, probable period layouts to cut your pieces. (Outside the beginner's section, there's a lot of interesting historical information, plus a few how-tos; read to learn what your northern European or Japanese ancestors were wore.)

Lots-o-Links Page
The above three SCA links are links I am familiar with. Here's a big collection of links to pages with SCA clothing information--at least some have construction how-tos.

Bills itself as "the most complete online stitch reference". Has illustrations and videos to help you learn crochet, knitting, embroidery, tatting, etc. (Okay, so knitting and crochet aren't sewing, but embroidery sorta-kinda is and the videos are a cool resource.) can be annoying, but their Sewing section has a Free Projects subcategory

SewNews Magazine
has an online library of articles covering multiple sewing-related areas.

Threads magazine (the source of the dressform how-to above) has a collection of articles online.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Shotguns and Parenting

If more fathers were like the father and brother in the beginning of the Dukes of Hazzard movie (don't look at me like that, my seeing it was something in the nature of Klingon opera*; Uncle Pookie has fond memories of Daisy Duke for some reason), maybe there would be fewer unwed pregnancies. Most young men would think twice about taking liberties if the likely consequence were a butt full of lead. On the other hand, it would also make the daughters of those fathers more desirable: something you have to work to get is usually seen as more valuable than what is free for the taking, and forbidden fruit is perenially attractive. On the third hand, it might be good for the gene pool, as only the most determined young men would break through.

As for the movie itself, it's about as good as the show--i.e. silly and about as substantial as cotton candy, but not the worst thing you've ever seen, either. Uncle Pookie found the new Daisy too skinny, though.

*Entertainment you partake of only because you are a member of a couple. From a Star Trek Deep Space Nine line about how, when you're part of a couple, you like jazz and your partner likes Klingon opera, so you compromise--you listen to Klingon opera.

Today's Chesterton Quote

There's not enough Chesterton around here, so I've dug into my collection of quotes and come up with this:

Carlyle said that men were mostly fools. Christianity, with a surer and
more reverent realism, says that they are all fools. This doctrine is sometimes
called the doctrine of original sin. It may also be described as the doctrine of
the equality of men.

(G. K. Chesterton, Heretics)

Bad Ideas Never Die

A while back I mentioned a news article about some neo-Nazis who'd emigrated to Israel. While their choice of a new country continues to flabbergast me, apparently their originating in the former Soviet Union shouldn't surprise anyone:

"Nearly half of the world's skinheads -- about 50,000 of them
-- live in Russia, according to a January report by the Moscow Bureau for Human
Rights. In St. Petersburg, where a brutal, 872-day blockade by Nazi troops
killed 1.7 million people during World War II, there may be as many as 5,000
skinheads, the report said; an estimated 10,000 skinheads live in Moscow, up
from a dozen a decade ago.
In 2004, neo-Nazis killed 44 people across Russia
-- more than double the previous year, Amnesty International


I saw some American fans of Hitler once on TV--you know, the kind who teach their toddlers to give the "Heil" sign to photos of their glorious Fuehrer and so on--and, as they seemed to be pleased with their status as Americans, I kept asking, "Don't they know we fought Hitler?" It's possible they didn't; they were very insistent that Jesus wasn't a Jew, so I'm not sure their historical knowledge was up to much. But you would think a sense of the Nazis having been enemies would be everywhere in Russia, which was hit much harder by WWII than the US--and hit at home, not just abroad.

But I guess knowing your grandparents and great-grandparents fought Nazis is not enough to dampen the appeal fascism has for many people. And with their society ravaged by decades of communism, the appeal may be even higher. The Soviet Union collapsed, people in the former Soviet-controlled countries are uppity, and the economy is bad; anything that boosts a person's national pride and makes him feel a sense of belonging must look pretty good. If that person has been deprived of religious civilizing influences and if the prevailing zeitgeist has made life cheap, he may be even more likely to fall prey to this despicable ideology, even more likely to find himself thinking it's okay to join up with some other people to beat up Jews, dark-skinned people, or non-Germans/Russians/whatever.

Catholics should pray for a resurgence of Christianity in Russia. Much as I believe or hope fundamental human decency can prevail over neo-Naziism, it would be better to have religion backing that decency up.

Friday, August 19, 2005

For Catholics

If you're a mal-practicing Catholic like me, you can use all the help you can get. I meant to post this two days ago, but it's still not too late to get in on this:

A partial indulgence is available to all the other faithful,
wherever they may be during World Youth Day, if, with a contrite heart, they
pray fervently that Christian youth
* be strengthened in the
profession of the Faith;
* be confirmed in love and reverence toward
their parents; and
* form a firm resolution to follow "the holy norms
of the Gospel and Mother Church" in living out their present or future
life, or whatever vocation they are called to by God.

(Taken from

A Note About Comments

I will remove all spam posted in the comments. Also, should the issue come up, I will very likely remove any comment I deem grossly inappropriate. I've a pretty broad view of what's appropriate; people who act like they were brought up well aren't likely to post anything I'd remove.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

More on the Humpty Dumpty Question

A few entries back, I posted Uncle Pookie's question about Humpty Dumpty. Well, I then happened to be rereading the Alice books (which, incidentally, I did not enjoy as much as when I was a child, although the songs are still great fun) and noticed that even back then Humpty Dumpty was already being depicted as an egg. Hmm. Why? Wikipedia offers four suggestions. One was that the nursery rhyme was originally a riddle, the answer to which was that HD was an egg. There were also two military explanations and a political explanation; I'd suggested to Uncle Pookie that the rhyme might refer to a political downfall, but I'm not so sure I buy the Wiki explanation of its referring to Richard III--for one thing, by the time he fell off his horse in Bosworth field, it was pretty much over for him and I don't think any of his men or horses were trying to put him together again.

Hurricanes and Poets, Or This Date in History

Thirty-six years ago today Hurricane Camille hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast. This was a particularly nasty hurricane. I used to hear about it growing up, although my family lived nowhere near the coast. Not that that mattered, as Camille caused damage clear up to Tennessee. An interesting afternote is that in the late '90s when another hurricane (Georges?) was supposed to hit the same area, people left the coast in droves. No nonsense about "riding it out" or not wanting to evacuate. They just left. A friend said she heard a national news reporter express surprise at how quickly and orderly everyone had complied with the suggestion they move inland. "Hah, those people still remember Camille." They knew--from experience--you just can't reason with hurricane season.

Today is also the 75th anniversary of Ted Hughes' birth. I have read almost nothing by him this past five years, but he used to mean a great deal to me and I was saddened by his death in '98. When I do read more of him in the future, I am curious how my Catholicism will affect my reading of him; I was a pagan when I used to read him, and that inevitably affected my taste for a poet who equated the poet's role with that of a shaman and who had a taste for astrology, magick, and myths. There's nothing wrong with the mythic imagination, but as occultism is forbidden to me now I've adopted the Christianity that doesn't come off looking so good in his poems, reading his work may feel different to me. But there's always his great love of nature running through his work, so I'm sure I'll still find pleasure there.

Okay, Now for a REAL Travesty

I've been listening to Bat Out of Hell lately while sewing. I think I've come to prefer it over Bat Out of Hell 2; I definitely appreciate it a lot more than I used to. But it reminds me of something I've long thought a travesty: That 70s Show has never once mentioned Bat Out of Hell! Admittedly I haven't had TV in over a year, so I missed all of last season, and I missed some episodes even before, but I didn't miss many. And I never heard one reference to BOOH or Meat Loaf. The show covered 1977 and 1978, when BOOH was released and got popular.

And it was really popular. Until about 1995, it was the bestselling debut album ever. It continues to sell, I've read, several million copies a year and is one of the best selling albums ever. Even in the rural town I lived in in the 70s--a town of about 500 people in an area that is usually a couple of years behind the times in fashions & fads--my teenaged cousin had a copy in her room.

This wouldn't seem like such a big deal if BOOH references wouldn't have fit in so well on the show. It's not hard to imagine a couple of Paradise By the Dashboard Light* jokes, and Hyde would surely have liked BOOH; moreover, the title track would have worked well in that episode where Hyde met the female biker who loved him and left him (or laid him and left him). But I guess the show is actually more about today than it is about the '70s, so no luck.

*If you've never heard it, Paradise By the Dashboard Light, in addition to being funny and provoking nostalgia in adults who weren't so chaste in their youth as they should have been, serves as a morality tale about the dangers of giving your word impulsively and/or of doing your thinking with your erectile tissue.

Brainwashing 101

If you want a peek at what's going on at the other end of the educational spectrum, there's a film at you may want to watch. It runs about forty-five minutes, is free, and can be watched on RealPlayer, QuickTime, or WindowsMedia. No short film can give more than the smallest taste of this large a subject, but if you haven't heard much about the curtailing of freedoms on college campuses in the US, it might be worth your time to watch it. Or listen while you do something else.

Sadly, nothing in the film surprised me. I have read about many similar cases over the past 5-10 years.

Building a Better (?) World Through School Supplies

In Sam's Club yesterday, I saw a large Crayola multipack that advertised itself as being good for teachers and day care owners. The pack contained numerous small boxes of crayons, in three categories: Classic Crayons (of course), Construction Paper Crayons (sure, why not), and Multicultural Crayons (WHAT?! Did I just read that?) No, I am not making this up. Multicultural Crayons. The box claimed they would be good for "teaching diversity".

That last bit gave me a clue what the "multicultural" boxes might contain--I didn't know before; I thought maybe it was crayons named after different cultures or geographical areas--but one box had had its plastic wrap torn off, so I opened it up to check. The "multicultural" boxes contained what were apparently intended to be various skin tones, although as I remarked to Uncle Pookie at the time, "That [the waxy white crayon] isn't a a flesh tone anywhere in the world, outside of certain films set in a largely mythical Transylvania."

Now, this is pretty silly. Look what it says about the mindset of whoever at Crayola came up with that idea: people with different skin colors are so different from one another that they automatically form a whole different culture. Skin color is really, really important in determining who you are, I guess.

Crayola claims these crayons are good for "teaching diversity", but to them diversity apparently just means having different flesh tones. You don't have to tell children that people come in multiple skin colors. You do have to teach small children how to blow their noses, but unless you're living in a small, racially homogenous, and completely isolated community with no television or photos from the outside world, you don't have to tell children that people come in different skin colors. They notice this on their own. And they don't need a special box of "multicultural" crayons to depict these skin colors in their drawings, either. All of those colors are available in any mid-size or large box of crayons.

And why teach "diversity"--which, remember, just means different skin color, not different languages, traditions, religions, clothing, or cultural taboos--anyway? Children already know different skin colors exist. Do they know how to read? Or recognize shapes or add and subtract?


(Note: None of the above should be interpreted as an attack on Crayola. They didn't invent this kind of silliness, even if some "ideas" or marketing person there has bought into it. As far as I know Crayola still makes a fine crayon.)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Animal Story and The Way We Talk

I saw a news story yesterday about a couple of teenagers in Canada who gave a dead cat an emergency C-section. I like animal stories, and I am glad not all of the kittens had to die with the mother cat and that a cat who'd lost her kittens was able to adopt new ones. But a point of language struck me.

After discovering that the cat's body was still warm, they
decided to try to save its kittens ...

[She] made an incision into the mother cat's belly and could
see the kittens.
She pulled them out and found that two of four kittens were
still alive...

We--and by "we" I mean everyone, including MSM--have no problem referring to what's in the womb of a pregnant cat as "kittens"--i.e. the usual word for immature cats. Or what's inside the womb of a pregnant dog as "puppies" (the usual word for immature dogs), etc. It is only when referring to what's inside the womb of a human that using the usual word for its offspring--i.e. "baby"--becomes controversial.

Some people not only won't say "baby" but will correct those who do: "It's not a baby, it's a fetus!" (Never mind that "fetus" comes from the Latin for "baby" or "offspring".) And MSM stories that involve pregnant women and what they're carrying sometimes say "baby" and sometimes "fetus" or other; an ongoing news story may see the same being go from being referred to as "fetus" to "baby"--for example, things along the line of "Fetus Missing" to "Baby Found" this past winter when that pregnant woman was murdered and her, um, "product of conception" stolen. And it's not always clear why MSM choose to use one word over the other. Maybe wanted uterine passengers are "babies" and uterine passengers that are not wanted by the mother--or that the speaker/writer think the woman shouldn't have--are "fetuses"? Of course the MSM has to be careful how it talks about things to avoid offending readers/viewers, but I think sometimes they're playing the same game the non-media people are: change what you call it and you'll change what it is.

And none of this is to suggest that "fetus", "embryo", etc. are incorrect, only to point out that it's a bit odd for no one to mind our saying "kitten" in a place where our saying "baby" would have people yelling at us.

You know, maybe the "it's not a baby, it's a fetus" people are a bit like those people who get very angry when human evolution is mentioned, but who don't bat an eye when, say, badger evolution is mentioned or when their doctors talks to them about bacteria and viruses adapting to our medical treatments or when pesticide companies talk about insects evolving to endure our current pesticides.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Random Thoughts

As a pagan, I believed that the universe and all within it, living or non-living, was intricately and beautifully connected in the vast web of life and that everything within that web had its purpose. As a Catholic, I believe that God created the whole world, that everything in it is intricately and beautifully inter-connected, and that everything and everyone in it has a God-given purpose or purposes. None of this has helped me to figure out the purpose of the flea or to reconcile myself to its existence.


With all the American litigiousness and nannystate-ism, how long will it be before sales clerks are carding children who want to buy candy?


Why are middle-of-the-night self-revelations never anything good? Why when we're lying there, staring into the darkness, and suddenly have a flash of insight, is it never anything like "You know, I'm really charming when I try!" or "More of my actions have been motivated by genuinely unselfish good will than I ever realized before."


A society in which a large number of people have started to use the word "pimp" to refer to good things is a society in trouble.


We never hear about senile dementia in animals, but surely it must exist. They can get other problems associated with human old age--arthritis, cancer, etc.--so why not senility. My old cat has certainly become peculiar enough this past year.


Winston Churchill--Gryffindor or Slytherin? I'm thinking Gryffindor.


In spite of the people who, when they're defending their multiple piercings and tattoos, say you can't tell anything about a person by how he looks, appearances do tell us some things. I was behind a van recently that had a bumpersticker that said "You can't be both Catholic and pro-abortion" and whose vanity license plate said EWTN. Based on appearances, I think there's just the teensiest chance that van's owners were Catholic.


Given all those cause-related colored ribbons and rubber bracelets out there, you'd think someone would market a set of one or the other in the liturgical colors. It would be educational for the wearer, who'd have to keep an eye on the calendar to know which color to wear each day, and educational for any viewer who were to ask what that ribbon/bracelet stands for. It would be a much smaller version of what Regina Doman was talking about.


I keep hearing girls refer to dresses with plunging halter-top fronts and backs cut so low they're below the bra-strap line, fitted waists, and gathered skirts as "fifties housewife dresses". I don't know where these girls were brought up, but where I come from, I don't think there were many '50s housewives wearing dresses cut so low they couldn't wear a bra. I never saw Lucy and Ethel wearing one of those either.


People who are heavily into bdsm, etc. deride people who aren't into those things as liking "plain vanilla" sex, with the implication that vanilla people are boring and somehow less sexy. But really, who's less sexually sensitive--the people who greatly enjoy vanilla sex (maybe with the occasional bit of chocolate sauce) and are fully satisfied by that, or the people who must have an array of exotic supplemental objects and/or alternative practices to get off?


Random thought from Uncle Pookie: "How do you know Humpty Dumpty was an egg?" He's right. When we do what good literary students do and go back to the text, we see there's no mention whatever of Humpty being an egg.

A Modest Swimsuit

I have no problem with a basic swimsuit--you know, the kind you see on competitive swimmers or in Azumanga Daioh's swim classes--myself, but for modesty or other reasons some women prefer not to show their bottoms. The swimdress is a good option for those women, as well as being an attractive choice for women who don't have the same concerns. I've liked those flirty little skirted swimdresses ever since I was a kid and I think it's unfortunate they aren't more readily available; they're tasteful, feminine, and more flattering to the average female form than most of the suits out there.

I recently found a tutorial on how to make a swimdress. This swimdress is different from the suits with the little skirt, and is more of a sheath-like dress, worn over a pair of bottoms. It's just as nice, though. The gist of the instructions: Buy a tankini swimsuit plus a duplicate suit in a larger size, cut off the larger tank below the breast and sew the resulting tube of fabric to the other tank.

McCall's #4848 has a swimdress pattern, but it has spaghetti straps and looks no better than the two tankini reconstruction job. And I think you'd have to be either good at sewing knits or very optimistic in your chances of having beginner's luck to attempt a swimsuit from scratch. I'm neither.

100% Catholic, Albeit Not the Best Example

You scored as Roman Catholic. You are Roman Catholic. Church tradition and ecclesial authority are hugely important, and the most important part of worship for you is mass. As the Mother of God, Mary is important in your theology, and as the communion of saints includes the living and the dead, you can also ask the saints to intercede for you.

Roman Catholic


Neo orthodox


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Classical Liberal






Modern Liberal


Reformed Evangelical




What's your theological worldview?
created with

Sunday, August 07, 2005

In Praise of a Skirt

Like most American women my age, I grew up in pants and shorts. In the early '70s my mother sometimes dressed me in short dresses (fortunately none quite so short as the early Cindy Brady-type dresses, like these), but by the time I got to first grade she had me living in pants. From then until adolescence, the only time I wore skirts or dresses was when I went to church; Baptists frowned upon females wearing pants. And although in adolescence, when I began to be able to choose some of my own clothes, I began to occasionally wear skirts by choice, the association had already been made: dresses and skirts were for "dressing up" and they were uncomfortable. (I also associated church with "ugly dresses", but that's another story.)

That association changed this summer. Earlier this summer I made myself a jeans-to-skirt skirt. I've never liked denim skirts, but I do like thriftiness, and I had a pair of too loose jeans with some puppy-toenail snags on them that I didn't think the thrift store would want. So I set to, to make a skirt, using the usual two triangle insertion method. The method is shown on innumerable websites, but I like the tutorial best; you can ignore the information about including a slit, because why would you be making a skirt so tight you can't walk without a slit? (Another method, using four triangles, is shown at SavvySeams.) I had only one pair of jeans, so unlike the skirt on, my skirt ended up coming only just below the knee (it's kneelength when I sit), which is a really short skirt for me. (I tend to wear mid-calf or ankle-length skirts because I look best in mid-calf length hemlines and because I've always thought short skirts were a little too frivolous for someone of my oh-so-serious beatnik-ish, hippie-ish aesthethics.) I also left a fringe on the bottom, rather than hemming it, because the fabric spoke to me and asked to be left that way; I've never liked fringe before, hippie-ish aesthetics notwithstanding. So now I have a fringed denim skirt.

And guess what? It's super-comfortable. I've worn it more this summer than any other item of clothing I own. I wear it around the house to work in or waste time in, but it's not too sloppy or immodest to wear out grocery shopping or thrifting. It's cooler than shorts--all that upward draft. (A long crinkle cotton skirt or dress can be even cooler, but they're not exactly work clothes.) So who knew skirts could be comfortable and could be work clothes, as well as "dress up" clothes? Every generation of women before mine, as well as a great many women my age or younger. I guess I'm just slow. Add this to last year's revelation about aprons. (I discovered, after another thrifty recycle, that if you wear an apron, you don't have to look like a street urchin in the kitchen.) Funny how I'm just now learning things my grandmothers knew all their lives.

I've since made two more pants-to-skirt recons: a black denim skirt (neatly hemmed) out of a pair of damaged men's jeans and a long, hippie-ish skirt out of my favorite (but frayed at the inner thigh) pants and some sunflower fabric. My first one is my favorite though.

Note: A skirt-from-jeans is not only a good way to recycle pants you don't like anymore or that have a small tear or other damage, it's also a good project for a woman who's losing weight and doesn't want to invest a lot in new clothes while she's losing; the jeans that have become uncomfortably loose quickly become a skirt with a comfortable amount of ease.