For Your Enjoyment #36


M.G. Lord, a Barbie biographer, once said she was designed “to teach women what—for better or worse — is expected of them in society.” [In 1963], a teen Barbie was sold with a diet book that recommended simply, “Don’t eat.” When a Barbie with pre-programmed phrases uttered, “Math class is tough,” a group called the Barbie Liberation Organization said the doll taught girls that it was more important to be pretty than smart. Mattel argues that the criticism was misplaced — that Barbie was a businesswoman in 1963, an astronaut in 1965 and a surgeon in 1973 when 9% of all doctors were women. Mattel has also long claimed that Barbie has no influence on girls’ body image, pointing to whisper-thin models and even moms as the source of the dissatisfaction that too many young girls feel about their bodies. A handful of studies, however, suggest that Barbie does have at least some influence on what girls see as the ideal body... Therein lies Barbie’s problem. As much as Mattel has tried to market her as a feminist, Barbie’s famous figure has always overshadowed her business outfits. At her core, she’s just a body, not a character, a canvas upon which society can project its anxieties about body image. “Barbie has all this baggage,” says Jess Weiner, a branding expert and consultant. “Her status as an empowered woman has been lost.”

- Barbie gets a much-needed body makeover...but is it too little, too late?

They gathered around a bonfire (there really was a bonfire) and presumably engaged in Robert Bly-style mythopoetic healing, getting back to their manly roots by stroking their rifles, wearing camo undies, and complaining about all the wrongs done to them by women/the federal government/wild birds/whoever. The Bundy militiamen are an extreme example of a type that's become common in America. Like the Tea Partiers, they seem to not only believe that they're the only people in history who've ever paid taxes, but that they're the only people who were ever sad about it. What they call tyranny on the part of the federal government just means putting up with the same irritating bills and regulations and other crap that we all put up with, only the rest of us don't whine about it in the front seats of our cars while posing in front of tripods.

- Matt Taibbi takes aim at the Bundy Bunch

The idea that satire from the left can serve as a bulwark against far-right ideas is provably false. #YallQaeda tweets might be some harmless fun, but liberal laughing along deserves no great celebration on its own merits. [This] reaction is an index of profound structural racism, for which comedy is an insufficient critique. If leader Ammon Bundy and company are a joke, then the joke’s also on us: We’re in such a pitiable state of affairs that laughable loons can express themselves politically with guns waving while unarmed people of color are deemed threats and are summarily executed. What’s even more troubling from a progressive perspective is that many of the tweets concerning the holdup in Oregon include low blows at white trash stereotypes — crackers, jerky, inbreeding, beer. In his critique of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo’s reductive Muhammad caricatures, Tim Parks wrote in The New York Review of Books that “the worst case is when satire reinforces the state of mind it purports to undercut, polarizes prejudices and provokes the very behavior it condemns.” Satire that deploys classism to skewer racists and conservatives is certainly such a worst case. Why not focus on their very real, very frightening beliefs? 

- While Taibbi's article (previous) certainly appears to hold some degree of truth, Al Jazeera counters his snarkiness with a necessary dose of the sobering reality behind the Bundy standoff 

Those looking to the Militia Movement as some kind of bulwark against government tyranny ought to look somewhere else, because if you really want to understand what it’s like to have your land rights violated by a tyrannical government, go talk to a member of a Native American tribe — and count your own privileges

- ... Does the Bundy Bunch even know what their beloved Constitution says? (h/t DM)

If you're looking for evidence of anti-Carolina bias in the Super Bowl, you can't do much better than this: grounds crews mistakenly painted BRONCOS in both end zones of Levi's Stadium. Making things easier on Peyton Manning? Giving Cam Newton an even higher hurdle to clear? Or just a case of bizarre miscommunication?

- Woops.

[Brandon] McManus, the Denver Broncos kicker, was telling the gathered [elementary school] girls and boys to be proud of who they are, and to stand up for themselves and others by reporting mistreatment to parents, teachers and guidance counselors. Don't ever be afraid to speak out, the kicker told them. "You hear horror stories on the news of young kids killing themselves after getting bullied at school," McManus said. "To be able to give someone guidance, someone to talk to, is much bigger to me than kicking a winning field goal. There's always going to be another game, so impacting a kid or a family always gives me my most rewarding smile." 

- Brandon McManus, ladies and gentleman. See also: Anti Bully Squad / Text to Report


That old New Jersey / it fills my memory of all those places that are gone

- My dad posted a link to this video a bit ago on his blog; it's pretty neat for me to be able to see some of the things that my parents saw growing up in Jersey! (video above)

Willie was famous in North West N.J. For me he always represented this Norman Rockwell small town Americana ideal. Sitting there with his American flag being the friendly old guy, waving to everyone who drove past. Sometimes he would walk to the local A&P or to the Cranberry Lake Market and Deli (Krausers at that time) and would greet everyone coming in or out, telling them to have a great day. He spent most of everyday, sitting in front of his house on Rt 206 in Byram/Andover waving to every car that passed. Nothing, not rain nor snow nor heat nor wind, kept him in. Every single there he was there to wave, and everyone honked their horns and waved back as they passed. He is a legend in Sussex County, and a symbolic piece of our childhoods. He passed in 2000 from a heart attack, while waving. To this day his chair is still there on the side of 206, and people still leave flowers.

- After sharing the "Old New Jersey" video (above) with DM, he dug up this wonderful little tribute to Willy Sparinger

Is there any home purchase more confusing and fraught with anxiety than buying a mattress? Study after study points to sleep being vitally important to our health and happiness, and it stands to reason that a mattress is a foundational component of a good night’s rest. And yet to choose the right one, shoppers must navigate a Kafkaesque maze... It would help if mattresses were like couches or dining tables and came in easily distinguishable styles, shapes and colors. But as Brett Swygman, a vice president for sales and development at Simmons, admitted, the products his company and its competitors sell have a baffling visual uniformity. People walk into a store, Mr. Swygman said, “and see a sea of white rectangles.”

- This article pretty much sums up my recent hell of trying to buy a new mattress. 

"If it gets a little boring, if I see people starting to sort of, maybe thinking about leaving, I can sort of tell the audience, I just say, ‘We will build the wall!’ and they go nuts."

- Donald Trump knows he's talking out of his ass

“My question is, what are you going to replace it with?” Valde asked. “Sir, I promise you, I will answer your question. I’m laying out first of all the problems,” Cruz said. He went on to say that the “most pragmatic, the most prudent” thing to do is repeal the law and start over. When that is done, he said that competition in the marketplace should be expanded, people should be able to buy health insurance across state lines and that everyone wants people to have insurance coverage. “Your brother-in-law couldn’t afford it,” Cruz said. “Right. But he could afford it, he finally got it under Obama,” Valde told Cruz. Cruz repeated Valde’s story, that by the time Valde’s brother-in-law went to a doctor, he was already dying. “He would have gotten it earlier, if he could have afforded it earlier, but because of government regulations, he couldn’t,” Cruz said. Valde, a Democrat who said he will caucus for Hillary Clinton, said after the exchange that Cruz hadn’t answered his question. Valde said he knows there have been many problems implementing the law, but he said it allowed his brother-in-law to finally afford health care. “It’s a stump line, we’re gonna repeal Obamacare, every word, and then you get the crowd response,” he said. “I want an America with health care.”

- What exactly IS Ted Cruz's plan for health care "reform", anyways? 

The rover typically collects sand and examines particles on Mars - and once a year it stops to sing 'Happy Birthday' to itself - but the car-sized rover has also dedicated time to snapping pictures. And many of them have been of itself.

- I've said it before, but I'll say it again: I think Curiosity's selfies are the best - and how great is it that it sings "Happy Birthday" to itself ever year?!

Upon waking up, [kayaker Ben Orkin] casually checked his email one last time and received the last note he ever expected to receive. Another team had, quite literally, just broken the record. “The email said, ‘Hey, good luck out there. Our time is around 35 hours. Just thought you should know,’” Orkin said. “I was on my way to the put-in. I was like, ‘Oh, man, I can’t believe I wasn’t the first person to break the Emerald Mile record!’”

- The Emerald Mile's 33-year-old speed record for the Grand Canyon has been broken twice in the last few days; much respect for these guys, but I for one am looking forward to spending more than 35 hours on the river!

How is it possible that National [airport], which sits on the banks of the Potomac practically in the shadow of the Washington Monument, had about half the amount of snow as the other two [airports, Dulles and BWI]? We all know Washington is famous for fudging numbers and subjective math, but even in a town where climate change is a flash point, both sides of the aisle could agree: This sounds fishy. So what went awry? Turns out, the culprit was reportedly the measuring device. As in, it got lost in the snow.

- Just how much snow was dumped on the DC area during last week's Snowzilla? Maybe we'll never know.

The former Deputy Director of the National Security Agency, John C. Inglis, even described the squirrel threat as one of the greatest dangers facing mankind, according to the squirrel-tracking website Cyber Squirrel 1. “I don’t think paralysis [of the electrical grid] is more likely by cyberattack than by natural disaster. And frankly the number-one threat experienced to date by the U.S. electrical grid is squirrels.”

- Cyber Squirrel 1 tells me that the squirrel threat is real

Now that dogs are getting acupuncture, there's a space open for chickens to move up from incubators to actual trainable pets. Thanks to Chicken Camp PDX, a four day class in April, your chicken will cross the road because you told it to. 

- Hurry and sign up for Chicken Camp PDX to reserve your (and your chicken's) spot ASAP!