MONDAY MIX – 2/11/18

A few years ago, I attended a conference presentation during which audience members were asked to construct a metaphor to represent our experiences as students.  No one had ever asked me to do this, so I was intrigued, but pretty stumped.  Then I remembered my old boom box, with its radio and dual cassette deck–I always kept a blank tape handy, ready to press “record” whenever something caught my ear.  I realized that I did the same in the classroom, gathering bits and pieces from various sources, often without an idea of how–or even if!–those pieces would fit together. That was the joy of making and sharing mix tapes; when crafted thoughtfully, they were greater than the sum of their parts.  

In that same spirit, I share a weekly “mix” of articles, recipes, book recommendations, and ideas in the hopes that something I share might fit into your own personal, ever-evolving collage. 

Have something you think I might be interested in?  I’d love to hear about it.  Share it here.

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So…there was no Monday Mix last Monday – I got sick and the week got away from me.  But I’m back, with a couple of things to share:

 

-I’ll start with the most serious – this New York Times Magazine piece about the impact of online porn on teenage sex and desire.  The mom of a former student recommended the piece to me using the phrase “required reading for all parents,” and I have to agree.

 

-If you, like me and Jill, spent last night watching Mirai Nagasu landing that triple axel and swooning over Adam Rippon’s gorgeous long program and sitting in stunned disbelief over the perfection that is Virtue & Moir, then you might enjoy listening to this Radiolab episode about Surya Bonaly:

“Surya Bonaly was not your typical figure skater.  She was black. She was athletic. And she didn’t seem to care about artistry.  Her performances – punctuated by triple-triple jumps and other power moves – thrilled audiences around the world.  Yet, commentators claimed she couldn’t skate, and judges never gave her the high marks she felt she deserved.  But Surya didn’t accept that criticism.  Unlike her competitors – ice princesses who hid behind demure smiles – Surya made her feelings known.  And, at her final Olympic performance, she attempted one jump that flew in the face of the establishment, and marked her for life as a rebel.”

 

-Also topical, this fascinating interview with the head of Black Panther‘s hair department about the various styles and processes employed by the film, which celebrates, among other things, black hair in its natural state.  The article also comes, helpfully, with a list of recommended products.  (Have already ordered the scalp soothing serum for Shiv!)

 

-Last but not least, I made these pancakes on Friday night (breakfast for dinner to go along with the Olympic Opening Ceremonies), and was reminded that I have not yet recommended them to all of you.  They are light, fluffy, and very simple to make – no separating eggs, no fuss – just make sure you have some plain yogurt & apple cider vinegar on hand.

MONDAY MIX – 1/29/18

A few years ago, I attended a conference presentation during which audience members were asked to construct a metaphor to represent our experiences as students.  No one had ever asked me to do this, so I was intrigued, but pretty stumped.  Then I remembered my old boom box, with its radio and dual cassette deck–I always kept a blank tape handy, ready to press “record” whenever something caught my ear.  I realized that I did the same in the classroom, gathering bits and pieces from various sources, often without an idea of how–or even if!–those pieces would fit together. That was the joy of making and sharing mix tapes; when crafted thoughtfully, they were greater than the sum of their parts.  

In that same spirit, I share a weekly “mix” of articles, recipes, book recommendations, and ideas in the hopes that something I share might fit into your own personal, ever-evolving collage. 

Have something you think I might be interested in?  I’d love to hear about it.  Share it here.

**

-Here’s your reminder that reporters are heroes and that local newspapers are important; this New York Times piece details the painstaking investigative work that Indianapolis Star reporters did, ultimately leading to the arrest and now conviction of Larry Nassar.

 

-I made this bread on Sunday and it is really freaking delicious.  In general, I have great success with recipes that Tim (of Lottie & Doof fame) recommends, and this was no exception; not at all difficult to put together, super gratifying to pull out of the oven.  You’ll probably need to go to the store for bread flour, heavy cream, & nonfat dry milk powder, but I can promise you it’s worth it.  Most decadent Monday morning toast ever.

 

-My wife, Jill, is offering an online course on Eastern Religions!  Content will include Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Confucianism, Taoism & Shinto, so if you’ve been intrigued by these religions in the past or have always wanted to know more about them, I highly recommend this class.  Obviously I’m biased, but Jill has a reputation as a teacher for bringing complex ideas to life and making them relatable for her students.  She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Religion and over twenty years of experience teaching on these topics; registration is open through Wednesday, January 31st, so sign up now!

 

MONDAY MIX – 1/22/18

A few years ago, I attended a conference presentation during which audience members were asked to construct a metaphor to represent our experiences as students.  No one had ever asked me to do this, so I was intrigued, but pretty stumped.  Then I remembered my old boom box, with its radio and dual cassette deck–I always kept a blank tape handy, ready to press “record” whenever something caught my ear.  I realized that I did the same in the classroom, gathering bits and pieces from various sources, often without an idea of how–or even if!–those pieces would fit together. That was the joy of making and sharing mix tapes; when crafted thoughtfully, they were greater than the sum of their parts.  

In that same spirit, I share a weekly “mix” of articles, recipes, book recommendations, and ideas in the hopes that something I share might fit into your own personal, ever-evolving collage. 

Have something you think I might be interested in?  I’d love to hear about it.  Share it here.

**

-I love everything about this: Jennifer Mendelsohn is a freelance journalist who uses historical documents point out the hypocrisy of public figures who display anti-immigrant sentiment.  She is also the creator of the hashtag #resistancegenealogy and MY NEW HERO.  Read this wonderful interview with her (and h/t to my friend Valerie for passing it along!)

“People in genealogical glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, and we’re all in genealogical glass houses metaphorically speaking.”

 

-Related: Grace Chin is an artist who makes beautiful things out of paper and once sent me a complimentary piece of her work to hang in my classroom.  She’s also a self-described intersectional feminist and has some real smart things to say in this piece, “Do Artists and Designers Have an Obligation To Be Political?”

“In our capitalist, consumer-driven economy, the prospect of saying something divisive is daunting to artists whose livelihoods depend on a loyal following. We’ve been fooled into thinking that artists are beholden to their audiences, but the opposite should be true. Art is disruption. Art is seeing opportunities to intervene in the surrounding world and daring to imagine it differently, rather than accepting it as it is. Good art pushes the boundaries of public opinion, leading it to greater knowledge and greater empathy. Artists have that power; we should own it.”

 

-If you know me, you know that I believe in poems; this is a particularly beautiful one, and thanks to the American Academy of Poets, you can listen to it being read aloud by the author, which is one of the best things in the world.

MONDAY MIX – 1/15/18

A few years ago, I attended a conference presentation during which audience members were asked to construct a metaphor to represent our experiences as students.  No one had ever asked me to do this, so I was intrigued, but pretty stumped.  Then I remembered my old boom box, with its radio and dual cassette deck–I always kept a blank tape handy, ready to press “record” whenever something caught my ear.  I realized that I did the same in the classroom, gathering bits and pieces from various sources, often without an idea of how–or even if!–those pieces would fit together. That was the joy of making and sharing mix tapes; when crafted thoughtfully, they were greater than the sum of their parts.  

In that same spirit, I share a weekly “mix” of articles, recipes, book recommendations, and ideas in the hopes that something I share might fit into your own personal, ever-evolving collage. 

Have something you think I might be interested in?  I’d love to hear about it.  Share it here.

**

-If you’re in the Houston area, please join me tonight for the 8th (!) annual Valentines for Veterans at Saint Arnold Brewing Company.  This event grew out of a little gathering between friends and has become a warm and wonderful community event that raises money for Expedition Balance, a local organization that does really important and thoughtful work supporting veterans as they transition back into civilian life.

If you’re not in the Houston area or can’t attend tonight, but know someone who is a veteran – please submit their mailing address via our website!  We mail handmade valentines and notes of gratitude out to any and every veteran whose address we receive.

 

-I am very, very proud to be a part of the soon-to-be-published anthology, Modern Loss.   The book contains first-person narratives from over forty contributors, sharing about the various textures and nuances that make up the strange terrain of grief.  This is EXACTLY the kind of book I went looking for after my dad died, but nothing like it existed – which is why I plan to buy a bunch of copies and keep them on hand for when life, invariably, throws someone I love a curveball.  Won’t you preorder a copy?

 

-I wrote a non-Monday-Mix blog post last week, about magic and women and how narratives are constructed.  Hoping to continue with additional posts about  books and teaching and the reading experience.  This one’s called “Rebel Girls Are Magic.”

 

-Last, but most important – if you have never read Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” today is the day.  If you’ve read it but it’s been a while, today is the day.  Read it aloud with a family member or friend.  Marvel at how it sounds so timely, even though it was written nearly fifty-five years ago.  Resist the urge to think of this man as universally beloved, speaking what everyone can agree on was the truth; remember that he was a radical who was viewed unfavorably by the majority of Americans in the years leading up to his death.

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

REBEL GIRLS ARE MAGIC

Like many kids, for Christmas, Shiv got a copy of Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, a wonderful volume filled with the true stories of women from all periods of history, all parts of the world, and all spheres of influences: athletes, politicians, scientists, artists.  Each one-page story is told in “Once upon a time” style and accompanied by a vibrant, full-page illustration.  Shiv loves the book, and so do his moms.

A few things have struck me as we’ve worked our way through the stories: one, that I am learning so much.  Where have these stories been my whole life?  Why have I never even heard of the vast majority of these women before?  We know the answer to those questions; those in power craft the narratives, and powerful women threaten the patriarchy.  (Side note: same as it ever was.)  Still, the experience is visceral: the pride and awe I feel when reading about these badass women, the frustration that follows my surprise when I realize that I’m still carrying around an outdated narrative about women in general, that my dominant culture has successfully fed me the notion that women of intelligence, ambition, and valor–especially women of color–have, historically, been the very rare exception.

This notion of exceptionalism is revealed by the number of times that the narratives in Rebel Girls include lines like this one, about Jingu, a second-century Japanese empress: “Jingu was thought to have all kinds of magical powers.”  Or this one, about Lozen, an Apache warrior who lived in the late 19th century: “People believed she had supernatural powers.”

The message is clear–the only way these women could have been so impressive or done such incredible things is that they had the powers of magic at their disposal.  It’s the only possible explanation.

As we all know, this witchcraft narrative has been used to all kinds of nefarious ends by patriarchal systems threatened by powerful women; the body count is higher than we’ll likely ever know.  But even on a less physically violent level, to create a supernatural explanation for the achievements of women is to minimize the very real and difficult mental and physical work that women do.

The work of women has been and continues to be demeaned by our society’s gender pay gap, our shameful lack of parental leave (even when taken by men, this work is considered “female” or “feminine,”), and the disrespect for vocations and crafts typically taken up by women.  I can’t help but think about how many people I know, both men and women, all of whom would call themselves “feminists,” but who continue to perpetuate the narrative of magical women in all kinds of little ways: I don’t know how she does it all!  I swear she’s not human!

Except that every woman who is managing to juggle a million things and do it with some integrity IS human.  And the only way she’s managing to do it is through systems she’s created for herself, many of which she’s probably learned from other women, that allow her to navigate institutions that are in no way set up to support her, and may very well be actively thwarting her.  Is this a form of magic?  You bet.  But it’s the kind of magic generated by hard-won knowledge, sweat, rage, and sheer force of will.

In addition to erasing everything that goes into women’s work, the idea that women have some kind of supernatural or mystical “edge” creates an automatic excuse for men to be held to a different standard.  If women are able to do all that they do through the use of some magical powers, then we can’t possibly expect men to parent equally or build safe workspaces or take the thoughts and feelings of others into consideration.  So then when they do manage to do one of these things (because they are perfectly capable of so doing), they get–and some of them expect–a freaking gold star for the very work that, for women, goes unacknowledged every damn day.

Which brings me to my last point.  I completely understand why this book was advertised as a book that “every girl needs” – I get the importance of representation, I am a queer brown kid.  But I also know that it’s equally important (maybe more so?) that boys read this book, too.  Otherwise they’ll grow up with the same outdated ideas about female achievement and ability that I did.

So thank you, Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, for teaching me about my own biases and pushing me to give the women in my life (myself included) more credit.