Category Archives: Talking points

A better use for breast milk

Rather than focusing on the more, erm, unusual uses for breast milk – ice cream, for example – Nick Kristof of The New York Times has a more direct approach. Breast milk can be used to prevent malnutrition in babies. Astounding.

According to Kristof, studies show that if a baby is fed breast milk exclusively for the first six months of life, the chances of that baby surviving – and thriving – skyrocket. But it’s not so easy convincing mothers in countries with malnutrition problems and high infant mortality rates to breastfeed. Everything from religious beliefs to supposed common sense to, perhaps, stigmas surrounding breast and breastfeeding seem to get in the way of what, on the surface, appears to be a simple and obvious solution. Because, unfortunately, nothing is ever as easy as it sounds. But, perhaps, it could be – if stigma and superstition are superseded by education.

Check it out here: The Breast Milk Cure

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SlutWalks

Today, the Washington Post features a piece on a new, grassroots feminist movement,  SlutWalks. These walks have women taking to the streets, wearing as little or as much clothing as they choose to protest sexual assault. Their message: A woman’s clothing is her choice. It does not entice rapists, nor should it be blamed for such.

The movement so far has been successful in terms of garnering attention and gathering followers. In a world where the debate is on whether or not to make school uniforms baggier in order to deter pedophiles, rather than what measures to take to keep such predators away from schools, well, that’s indicative of a serious problem. And that is what SlutWalks is all about. “She’s asking for it” is antiquated and preposterous. Fashion should be fun, not frightening.

The other debate surrounding SlutWalks is the use of the term ‘slut’. Opponents of the movement – or at least how the movement is categorized – claim that by trying to reclaim the world slut, these women are injuring themselves and their cause. Slut does have a negative stigma, one that is culturally common. But I don’t think they’re actually trying to reclaim slut and turn it into something positive. Rather, I think by using the word slut, SlutWalks is cleverly turning the word on its head. First, it’s a great way to get attention – who would willingly call herself a slut? That incites curiosity. Second, it seems that SlutWalks is using the term as a sort of threat to anyone who would dare to call them such, or to go so far as to attempt some sort of assault. Singling out one woman as a slut is degrading, and renders her powerless. But it’s damn near impossible to call thousands of women sluts and expect the same effect. There is strength in numbers, and when women rally around each other, it is much harder for any of them to feel victimized.

Slut is not going to be the new ‘homegirl’ or ‘wifey’ or any other odd nickname. But used in the context SlutWalks, it shows that sexuality can also be strength. That a woman can wear whatever she wants, just because she wants to. And to those that oppose this – well, they’re just stupid. And they’ll have a hell of a time getting a date.

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Blind date turtle

This should bring the ladies running.

No, this is not a meme or thing like the awkward moose. Though that is funny.

Today, I read a story about Lonesome George, the last known survivor of a giant tortoise species native to Pinta Island, near Ecuador. Though no one knows for sure if Lonesome George is, indeed, as lonely as his name suggests, a global search is underway to find him a mate – or even just a date. The problem lies in finding a female tortoise of the same species. The bigger problem is that Lonesome George seems exceedingly picky. So far, only one of the females (not the same species) picked to fraternize with him has elicited the desired response, but none of the eggs hatched.

So the search continues. Hopefully a female of the same species is found, and hopefully that female will arouse Lonesome George’s interest. And hopefully those eggs will hatch. Lonesome George can’t afford to be picky with his species on the line. Anyone know of a good turtle whisperer? This tortoise needs to understand what’s at stake here.

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Update: Breast milk is back

That’s right, folks. After about two weeks of testing the confiscated samples, the Westminster council has given the (gross sounding) Baby Gaga ice cream the go-ahead to return to the Icecreamists shop. And Icecreamists has a new obstacle to surmount: Lady Gaga is threatening to sue the store for attaching part of her name to the icy concoction. Never mind that babies have been saying “ga ga” for who knows how many years.

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Too much publicity

 

I am sick and tired of Charlie Sheen. First, his show “Two and a Half Men” isn’t funny. Or even good, for that matter. How it managed to stick around all these years is slightly baffling. Second, he has proven himself many times over to be violent, narcissistic, possibly antisemitic and a carrier of foot-in-mouth disease. But he is famous, so his antics/drunken rants/fights with his girlfriends (“goddesses”)/alcohol problem are all fodder for the 24-hour news cycle.

While I understand that celebrity coverage is something of interest to many – even me, though not regarding Sheen – and that it sells papers, the recent constant coverage of Sheen’s increasingly loony activities is doing nothing but encouraging his behavior. Even when the articles are negative. Just look at his newly-acquired Twitter followers. You don’t get 1 million followers in just over a day without a massive media blitz backing you up. I understand how the nonsensical ramblings of this unhinged TV star could be entertaining, in a shaudenfreude type of way. But really, Sheen needs help, not more attention. That just prompts him to keep doing what he’s doing, for, apparently, it works.

Who was it that said all publicity is good publicity? They need to be smacked.

The same thing is happening with the recent coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the rights of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, KS, to picket military funerals. The church protests funerals not because it is anti-war, but because it feels that every military death is part of God’s revenge on America for its acceptance of homosexuality. The Supreme Court ruled that the Westboro Church is protected under the First Amendment’s right to free speech, and is free to continue protesting, as long as the group doesn’t disrupt the funeral.

I don’t disagree with this decision. The Westboro Baptist Church’s message is hateful and despicable, but they have the right to protest peacefully, as does every other American. Our country was built on this right to free speech. There is a saying: “I may not like what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” (Any ideas on where that came from? I’ve always liked it.) In other countries, speech much less vitriolic and hateful would lead to imprisonment or death. Though it would be great to remove the Westboro Church from the streets, doing so would jeopradize everyone’s right to express his/herself.

But that does not mean the Westboro Church has to remain in the news for so long or be the subject of such extensive commentary. Yes, the case is noteworthy because all (or most) of the Supreme Court’s cases are noteworthy. But enough with the coverage, please. More attention just galvanizes the Westboro Church to step up their game. The best plan of attack to get the Church to leave? Ignore them. Without controversy to feed on, the group will disappear.

So, I call for a moratorium on coverage of Charlie Sheen, the Westboro Church and any other person or group acting stupidly. Without attention, they’ll just fade into the background. Starting now – I know that by even writing this piece, I am adding to the coverage and the attention. Sigh. None of us are immune.

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Punctuation vindication

Putting two spaces between sentences leaves a document riddled with holes. Aesthetic speed bumps, if you will. They are distracting to the eye and disrupt the flow of the narrative. Even to people who aren’t grammar nerds like me.

I immediately notice the extra space – it looks vacant, haphazard, like the following sentence broke free of its tether and is swinging madly in the wind. So, I was quite pleased to find that Farhad Manjoo of Slate feels the same way. And has let the world know (with puns and spaceship allusions, which make everything better). I might have done a fist pump or two.

I don’t care what you might have been taught in grade school. It’s once space after a period. Commas go inside quotation marks. A semi colon cannot be used instead of a comma if there seem to be too many commas. And I will continue poking at your paper with my purple pen – since red seems too angry – until you get it right. After which I shall retreat into my dusty, dictionary-filled lair. At least until the next inquiring grammarian comes along.

Check out the explanation for one space here: Space Invaders

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The career slash

Kate Moss is reportedly cutting a CD. Which will, of course, be as wildly successful as everything else she touches, including cut-off jean shorts, wellies, Topshop and that whole date-a-musician grunge glamour thing. So, Kate is now a model/designer/muse/singer – truly an impressive hybrid career moniker.

The new thing to be, at least according to Moss’ example and media outlets such as the New York Times and Vogue, is a hybrid. But not just the tired actress/model/designer combination; that’s old hat. Save, of course, for Moss, who can do anything and still be awesome. Now, the hybrid has to be a combination of intellectual achievement, artistic credibility and flat-out fabulousness that only partially stems from access to an extensive designer wardrobe. Take the examples mentioned in the January issue of Vogue: Model/graduate student who has achieved the impossible by finding time not spent in class, studying or sleeping in which to actually be a model. (Grad school is all-encompassing.) College student/DJ/fashion show front-row fixture.  Actress/photographer/model/face of Chanel.

The New York Times recently ran a piece featuring a 19 year-old (let that sink in) who is equal parts student, author, socialite/debutante, lobbyist, Gossip Girl inspiration and apparent royalty. It’s exhausting just reading about her.

Such features makes me wonder if I’m going about things all wrong. Instead of spending my college years writing papers and singing a cappella, and grad school working constantly and not sleeping enough, maybe I should have been writing my memoir. Or lobbying congress. Or crashing fashion shows. Though to be fair, I went to school in St. Louis – not quite next door to Bryant Park and Lincoln Center.

I am too short to be a model. Too boring to have a memoir (yet). Too unmotivated to lobby congress. And I don’t have an extensive designer wardrobe or family connections to royalty. My slash, if I had one, would be writer/editor/bookworm/geek/shower opera singer. None of which, I might add, would net me a mention in Vogue’s hallowed pages.

But then I wonder. I am a great bookworm/geek, thanks to the time I have spent reading, studying and depriving myself of sleep in pursuit of my degrees. If I was to also be a lobbyist/model/socialite, how good would I be? I’ve tried to be perfect before – my grade and high school years had me running around like my pants were on fire trying to be the best student, the best singer, the best field hockey player, the best at accumulating community service hours, the best insert-something-here. But a lack of time to devote to each pursuit got in the way. And math. I was never tops at math.

I envy these women’s accomplished slash careers and their seeming acquisition of a Harry Potter-esque time turner in order to be able to do it all. It would be nice to be a fixture at the fashion shows, friends with Karl Lagerfeld, known face in congress. But perhaps it’s more satisfying to take the time to fully immerse myself in something I find interesting, rather than just skimming off the top. Now all I need is for Chanel to realize that short, pale Dorothy Parker-aspirants are the next big thing. Friends, ready your slashes – our time will come.

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