Friday, March 30, 2007

The truth about fat and blogs

Every Spring my local women's club---social, yes, but also charitable and very down-to-earth by which I mean "shares appreciation for wine and dancing on tables"---has a fashion show. The local chi-chi boutique chips in and outfits models who parade about one of our tonier member's magazine-worthy home, around a pool or lakeside. The models are us.

Yes, that's what I said. Every year I model in a little fashion show.

You get to go to this chi-chi boutique where you select clothes that look good on you with a personal fashion expert advising. Like "What Not to Wear," only slightly nicer.

Yes, only slightly. And no free money. Just a 20% off coupon. 20% off still doesn't buy me a t-shirt on clearance, by the way.

But oh I love those clothes.

My appointment with the professional is on Monday. The assistant called yesterday to get some information about me.

Here's what you should know about me: if I was a gorgeous black woman, Tyra Banks and I could be sisters.

Okay so really, all we share right now is height and weight. Since I weaned Persistence, I have no more boob, but I also lost 35 pounds. I have pale freckled skin, faded denim blue eyes, and brownish-reddish hair. So I look nothing like Tyra, but hey, a girl can dream.

Still, the point is: Tyra Banks is so not fat.

(However, she has crappy taste in show ideas.)

Plus, I'm older than her, don't have professionals at my fingertips for my optimum health (no dietitians, no personal trainers, no spas, etc.), and have more kids than she does.

This matters. Trust me. A lot.

So I'm chatting with the assistant on the phone. She's collecting information to start thinking in advance of clothes for the show.

"You guys have this adorable little two-layer asymetrical black skirt with embroidered butterflies," I said, "I definitely want that skirt."

"Okay," she says, "What size are you?"

I freeze.

Here's the part where I want to yell, well it's X but I'M NOT FAT!

What? WTF? Why freeze? Why choke back such a defensive reply? What's wrong with that number? Nothing. Nada. Tyra Banks wears it!

I'll tell you what's wrong with it: it's considered the upper end of normal. That's what. This means everyone thinks somebody wearing that size is FAT.

And whats wrong with being fat? Nothing. Except, for some reason, boutique shop girls act like anything above a 2 is some sort of second-class slob citizen.

So I want to start justifying. I want to tell her my defense: I'm tall, I'm older, I have had two kids, but I just lost a lot of weight and I look pretty good, despite my dress size.

Instead I said mildly, "Well it depends on how the designer runs. If it's average, I can fit in an X, if it's small, then a Z, or maybe a Y."

"A Z?!?!?!" the girl, who sounds about 22 and pre-partum, shrieks, "OMG, well, we only carry about TWO THINGS in a Z!!! I don't know...maybe we won't have anything to fit you...I mean, in THAT size...if you really need something THAT LARGE..." She pauses. Long, pregnant pause. I assume she's waiting for me to say, "You're right, I'm a fatty mcfat, I should quit."

But I don't. I've been in that shop, trying things on. There should be plenty to fit me. There always is. But this is reason #2 why I tend to shop at Target.

"Like I said," I told her, offended, "It depends on how your sizes run."

She said a couple more things and I heard it in her voice: we're going to have to fit a fatty mcfat; I don't know why all these suburban moms let themselves go this way.

My friend---who is a marathon runner and two full dress sizes smaller than me---got the same treatment last year. She was so furious. She should be. The girl looks fabulous. She is firm, fit, healthy and gorgeous. She just donated over a foot of hair to Locks of Love. Now she has a short and sassy hair-do. Everyone should look so gorgeous.

I get the same treatment every year from the rapid-turnover assistant of the month. Then I walk in and get the sigh of relief, "Oh you're not as bad as I feared!" And that was 30+ pounds ago.

So I ask: WTF is wrong here?

So what if I was larger? Eh? I'm not worthy of being considered beautiful? Of being decked out?

Every year I try to recruit women of all ages and shapes and sizes. They usually demur, "Oh I'm too old...too fat..."

Hello, what you look like is NORMAL.

So every year it's the same batch of us: the about 5% of us in the group somehow able to have self-confidence that we look good as we are.

And, that momentary lapse aside, I do have self-confidence.

I know I look fine. Since I've lost the weight, people comment regularly about how good I look. Every day I sashay myself (silently, still, two years later) past that mom, the super-dee-duper skinny one at school who asked me one day after we'd just met, "Did you get fat after you moved here? Everyone gets fat after they move here." Lady, I was two months post-partum. Bu that shouldn't even matter.

Despite all this, I got all self-conscious. I pestered my best friend and husband for reassurance, "Do I look healthy to you? I mean, I look fine, right?"

What am I...twelve?

I let some 22 year old kid get to me...I let some bizarre obsession with anorexic looking women get to me. OMG. I got BARBIED!

What a mindfuck those arbitrary numbers can be.

I sucked it up tonight. I mowed the lawn. I vacuumed the house. I carried two kids hanging off my arms (free weights = 65 pounds unevenly distributed) up the stairs, twice. I didn't even breathe hard or break a sweat. I stared into the mirror, looking at myself from all angles.

I saw a women, late 30s, looking a little wrinkly and bruised-y under the eyes from piss poor sleep this week, wrinkle and gray free, hips a little wider and abdomen still a little loose from two pregancies...but all in all? Looking pretty good for the age and stage of life.

I decided I can't wait to cruise in to that shop Monday morning. I can't wait for that girl to eat her words. She's going to see I am one tall drink of water, and have earned that size, which suits me in a healthy and fine way.

And someday, chickie will be twenty years older and seriously choking on the whole X is fat idea.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Weighing in and BlogHer supports Andy Carvin's new holiday

Slowly but surely wins the race, right? I hope the rest of Lotta's Future MILF's are doing well.

Yesterday I posted about bullying. (By the way, comments remain open. So feel free to write out your thoughts if you want.)

Lisa Stone wrote today in support of PBS Teachers learning now's Andy Carvin who declared today Stop Cyberbullying Day. (Thanks for the heads-up on that, Elisa.)

Also, today, Amy Goodman interviewed Professor Philip Zimbardo, an expert on bullying and victimization (to say the least) and author of a new book, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.

It's interesting how things flow together, or how you see/find/hear things when you are aware of them

My post yesterday wasn't a coincidence. It had been on my mind for about two weeks, and then a variety of different events motivated me to finally post my thoughts. It's been fascinating to hear thoughts and opinions, heartbreaking and troubling to read others' stories, and intriguing to learn about people's theories about bullying.

I think bullying grows up with us. I think it grows beyond inappropriate comments. I think it can become instituitionalized and oppressive. What is racism? What is bigotry? What is discrimination? What is neglect?

When you think of the mean bully of yesterday's school playground...cast your mind to now, and forward, and think of the groups of people currently oppressed within systemized bullying.

Children lack the vocabulary and means to rationalize bullying...the victim is the reason, "She's different, he's different."

Adults have the vocabulary and means to rationalize bullying...but at the end of the day, the victim is still the reason. We can call them a danger, we can explain they ask for it, we can even say they deserve it and bring it upon themselves. Or, worst of all, we can put something (such as a corporate bottom line or a selfish agenda) above humane treatment.

If we let it, bullying grows up. I don't think we can eradicate it. But hopefully leaders---be they elected, or unofficial, in a large position, or just the go-to guy/gal---learn to lead without trampling. And also, even more hopefully, with the newer mentality I see with today's kids, parents, and teachers, we can create a culture of intolerance for bullying, and help people feel more empowered to stand up to it or more peaceful about ignoring it.

Part of this might be through better understanding of it: what situations breed it, what feeds us, the risk within us all. And through that, better understanding of each human being in all of the many positions within and around bullying.

It was a coincidence--in a way---that today Amy Goodman presented Understanding How Good People Turn Evil: Renowned Psychologist Philip Zimbardo On his Landmark Stanford Prison Experiment, Abu Ghraib and More. This was The Study of bullying. I've read and heard about this study many times. Still, it was intriguing to listen to Professor Zimbardo talk today about how and why he decided to cut the study short, and how he too became complicit in the events that unfolded during the study. He had to process why he was willing to sit and obseve as the study became out of control and harmful to participants. What snapped him out of it? His girlfriend came by to visit, saw what was happening, and burst into tears. She called him the equivalent of a monster to merely sit by and told him he was the cause of the harm these boys were suffering. She said she could not be in a relationship with someone who put science over humanity. And she left. He said it was the slap in the face he needed, and he immediately ended the study.

Thirty-five years later, the participants and society are still processing the effects of what we all discovered in six days in 1971. This is because we are still learning, still haven't learned.

But I do see progress. What happened at Abu Ghraib, for example, wasn't tolerated. It happened, yes, but wasn't tolerated.

Many say---with some validity---that political correctness has gone too far. However, it has also created acceptance, consideration, and moreover, a (hopefully) growing culture of intolerance for difference-based cruelty.

It's said that you can only feel like a victim if you let yourself. Perhaps I still have learning to do, but at this point in my life, I think that once again puts the responsibility too squarely on the victim's shoulders.

Other people elicit feeling in you. I feel, therefore I am. But, also: I think, therefore I am.

The choice I have is what I think of it and what I do. React is spontaneous, act can be very conscious. If I shut off my feelings, I run the risk, I think, of putting a lid on a valuable jar that ought to stay open. Rather than stop feeling, instead I allow it and process from it.

I don't think there is solely one response to bullies. I think there are many types, in many situations. And I think we need to use discretion about how we respond (if we respond) rather than always use the same, canned retort. I also think we need to consider each bully individually, rather than bucketing them into a category, such as "All bullies are attention-seekers who are insecure and evil." Doing this is the flip side of the bully coin, and dehumanizes through oversimplying another person into a single act or trait.

Look at the bully: who is this person, what do I know about this person, why would this person do this---can I tell?

And from there...I think we can each intelligently, with compassion for ourselves and the other person or people, determine what to do.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sticks and stones may break bones but words can wound the spirit

Growing up I hated that thing we were supposed to say to bullies, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." No wonder they laughed in my face. They used words because they knew the pain they inflicted. Plus, that saying loses a lot of impact when said in a quivery voice through trembling lips, followed up with a fast getaway.

Like most of us, there was a point in my life when I endured a lot of mean words: childhood.

You know the stereotypes of kids in classes: the paste eater, the clown, the prissy one, and the Special Kid. That last one was me. And I don't mean special in a good way.

Picture a very slight child, thin dark hair cut like a bowl, polyester hanging from her shoulders...and on her feet? Very large, bulky, stiff saddle shoes. More than a decade past when saddle shoes were cool. These were Special Shoes and they aggravated my sense of self-awareness into a case of severe shyness.

In those days, flat feet were diagnosed as a Serious Problem that had to be Medically Corrected. The orthopedist the pediatrician sent my mother to prescribed the absolute worst possible solution: special shoes I had to wear all the time.

Expensive and special-order, these shoes were stiff as a board and horribly uncomfortable. Plus, the shoes---so tight as to be akin to Chinese feet binding---severely limited my foot's mobility and I could barely walk, much less run.

Those shoes did an unspeakable amount of damage to my feet, but more than that, they damaged my self-esteem. No, that's not fair, the shoes made me vulnerable to kids who were cruel about differences. Either way, esteem damage is a lot harder to fix than the physical damage to my feet (and I say that after spending multiple years on crutches, physical therapy, and a couple of surgeries).

I should have just worn a white shirt with a red target on it every day.

I had to stand to the side of every recess and gym class. You could tell the gym teacher thought it was ridiculous. A few times she forced me to participate, doing some of the runs and so forth. I'd stumble around, trying to get traction, tripping over my feet and shoes, eventually sprawling in a heap basically where I started. The kids would laugh and laugh and call me names. The teacher would feel bad, put me back in my corner, and move along. She'd eventually forget or her good intentions would overwhelm her, and she'd force me to be a part of the activity again.

Like dodgeball.

"Come on Julie," she'd say, "You can play dodgeball. Not too much running in that!"

And the kids would laugh and laugh until she hushed them.

I'd slink into the circle, my stomach churning itself into nausea. How I wanted to be a real part of that circle---instead, I knew I was the main target.

I remember the kids shouting, "Pelt Lucy Van Pelt! Pelt Lucy Van Pelt!" as they hurled the ball as hard as they could at me. (The Lucy was a reference to Peanuts, very popular at the time, and the saddle shoes Lucy wore, which looked just like my own Special Shoes). And the originator of the name was revered for his cleverness, loved for how he made everyone feel amused, and most of all, appreciated for how he made each joiner a part of something (even if it was a gang), and thankful for not being the target themselves. Cruelty made him king. What a reinforcer.

Looking back, I see the irony, the ridiculousness of calling the victim by a bully's name.

It wasn't hip to be square during the age of aquarius (The Fifth Dimension version from Hair, that is).

My sole consolation in all of this was my mother's promise, "Kids are just learning. They grow out of this. Someday, you'll all be older and this kind of behavior will be far, far behind you."

What really happened was that practice made perfect. Some cruel kids grew up and got better at cruelty. Some victims grew up and learned how to dish it out themselves.

The professional level of cruelty---verbal bullying---is teasing. With this, people endeavor to pass off verbal injury by saying, "JUST KIDDING, what, you don't have a sense of humor?"

I do have a sense of humor, and a rather overdeveloped sense of the ridiculous. Still, I've never found personal insults funny, which is exactly why I am clearly so torn in the post below (about American Idol) and why, upfront, I beg God not to strike me down in a well-deserved bolt of lightning.

Not everyone shares my squeamishness about "roasting" or "teasing," especially when it comes to people who put themselves out there. "Out there" apparently means you (a) deserve critique and (b) are asking for it. (Which distinctly reminds me of another flawed argument in another situation...)

After a couple of bloggers recently shared their opinion and personal experiences with online comments that they felt crossed a boundary for them, I began thinking about the potential for the Internet to be far worse than any gym or playground for personal attacks and teasing.

It's not a newsflash to anyone that the Internet offers a veil of anonymity that often emboldens people into cruelty they'd never dip to in their corporeal life. Even considering my past experience with mocking, taunting, fun-making (what a misnomer) and so forth, I still think there was a limit. Outside of rare circumstances, as adults we are generally fairly mild---even in disagreement---when looking into the face of another person. On the Internet, though, our personal connection is limited: that flick of the eye, duck of the head, indrawn breath...the signal that tells us we've gone too far and that invokes a wash of guilt, the thing I believe motivates us to moral behavior (per comments in the vanity post). Typing into a computer makes it easier to forget that at the other end of the words is an actual thinking, feeling person.

Writing can often be so very definite. We can't sense the vulnerability behind a stated opinion when it is only in black and white on a page. We don't know how certain, comfortable, confident, invested or vulnerable the words are in the mind, heart and soul of the writer.

Because we intend to be perceived as having made our weaknesses into strengths, how we detail an event might seem to be a shrug of sort, "Eh, I'm over it," instead of the deep burn of hurt that lingers a bit in our depths.

To this day I can't stand saddle-shoes. My kids are always allowed to select their own shoes, and wearing them is completely optional if that's at all feasible.

What's more...I suspect that childhood experience is why, to this day, I hate running, and say very self-mockingly/slightly aggressively, "I only run if someone's chasing me." Ha. Ha. Ha. I think I pretended so hard and so well for so long that not being able to run or do athletics didn't bother me that eventually, it came to be a truth in my mind.

That experience shaped me. It's probably a factor in why I came to think of myself as a smart kid who was motivated in schoolwork. It's probably a huge factor in why I came to be such a voracious reader. I think I would have always liked reading, but to this depth, to this degree? Would it be the major hobby and interest that it is today...had it had more competition from other activities?

These things, they're like pebbles in a pond. I think they shape us more than we give credit.

After all, we're to have a stiff upper lip. These things aren't supposed to get to us, get inside us. We should be stronger than that.

I admit it: these things did get inside me. Like tumors. Some stayed small, some grew, some were benign, others malignant.

They affect how I open up, how I share, what I share...and how available I make myself. Just when I start to think, "Hmm I took word verification off, maybe the registered user thing should go too...???" I see anonymous hard at work at a blog I like, throwing down out of line personal attacks as if...well, as if it is okay to do simply because (s)he didn't like what that blogger wrote.

When I see that happen, I pause and ponder all the advice I've ever received about how to deal with personal attacks and bullies.

Those "wise words of advice" typically suggested ignoring the bully, letting it roll off your back by pushing your tormentor down a level: (s)he's insecure, has a sad life, is a sad little person, is a coward, etc.

This never resonated with the child me. First, it seemed like responding in kind (even if only in my own head). Second, it might just be surface, but many of the cruelest children seemed to be just fine, appeared to have it all including popularity and appeal so great that they had teachers and kids alike eating out of their hands.

It doesn't resonate with the adult me, either. Every person with some form of "dark and twisty" internal landscape doesn't become a bully. Neither does every person with power. There must be another element.

I think sometimes when people are cruel they are simply giddy or giddy with power. Other times I think they get caught up in the game, slip into a form of narcissism where they peer into their own perceived cleverness and fall in love. In any case, when done as a group, each participant is only emboldened by the false courage of gang mentality and the false sense of anonymity. The latter is something the Internet offers in spades, at a level nothing in real life can provide.

And doesn't that open a can of worms. Fits right in with the recent picnic of bloggy navel-gazing about how the blogosphere will develop and evolve.

The blog is possibly my adult version of Special Shoes. At least, though, I'm in good company with plenty of other people who are Special (and I mean that in a good way this time).

I accept that sometimes, people won't like what I have to say (which isn't the same thing as disagreeing) and moreover, won't like that I said it at all. It may cause them to draw conclusions about me as a person.

I'm 100% in favor of having a sense of humor about one's self, not taking things too, too seriously. This is a lesson hard-learned for an introspective person like me.

I'm 100% in favor of discussion. I think dialoguing can be a great way to become more aware, more sensitive, more knowledgeable about different issues and perspectives. It's important to share and review different points of view about an issue.

And I 100% say it needs to stop there...that is the point of self-regulation in the case of debate or disagreement: stick to the topic. There are unique cases when who the person is holds relevance, but I don't think blogging is one. We don't have enough evidence, insight, or perspective, in my opinion to deconstruct a person based solely on the self-censored words we read.

What do you think? What is your theory about childhood bullying? About adulthood bullying? About online bullying...???

What do you tell yourself about bullying, if you encounter it? And what do you (what will you) tell your child, when he or she encounters it?

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

It's the visual equivalent of a roadkill squirrel

Updated: Momish, just for you:

I'm telling you, it not only looked like a dead squirrel on his head, but he sounded a bit like the visual equivalent of roadkill.
God Bless Him.
And God Forgive Me.

One of the more entertaining or bizarre moments on the show; I haven't decided.

To speak, or not to speak: therein lies the dilemma

Oy oy oy. I faced this same ethical dilemma last year when I felt very compelled to write about Kevin Covais.

It's Sanjaya, on American Idol. I have something to say about him, about the show.

Before leaping into the pool of cess, I have a caveat:

I like to think of myself not per se as nice, but as kind: kind, courteous and respectful.

Sanjay is a kid, a real kid with feelings. He's a person who deserves common courtesy, not unconstructive criticism.

I think that's the really, really bad downside to reality TV: it fosters a common perception that we all get to be critics.

Put something up in front of me, it's mine to critique and I have the right to tell you---or better yet, vote and affect the outcome---of whether you are worthy.

What a false sense of power and importance; yet, how very seductive.

I admit it. I watch American Idol. I watched Grease: You're the one that I want.

I feel my inner critic shining during each and every episode. I cover my eyes, I cover my ears, I jiggle in my chair, I clap at the end, and most of all: I have a very definite opinion about whether that person was up to (my) par (which is pretty picky). My husband and I trade quirky and witty comments in a strange sort of bonding ritual. We're invested.

It's better than a martini as a destressor. Plus, you get the bonus of feeling so dirty afterwards.

And that's how I feel right now, after watching American Idol. Dirty. Dirty and mean. Because the line between constructive criticism and unconstructive criticism is a little murky sometimes...isn't it necessary sometimes to be cruel to be kind?

But if I am just talking about someone...isn't that just plain old mocking?

So be it, I will be...I will be forthcoming in my mocking and unconstructive gossip.

I think Sanjaya's performances have been dreadful. I question why it is that people continue to vote for him. Really, why? Whatever is your justification? He might have talent, he probably does...but it's certainly not evident in his performances, which have devolved into being more about his fashionista side (so to speak).

The hair tonight? And the singing? Oh. Oh. It was like the visual equivalent of a roadkill squirrel. I kept peeking and then quickly looking away. My ears wished they could do the same.

So that's what I really question: the sincerity in the motive for voting to keep him on the show.

But it gets even more sinister than that...

I have completely fallen into believing my husband's theory that the show is rigged. I have it on good authority that the auditions are rigged. So, eh, carrying that over into the show is just one small step, yes?

His theory is that they are ensuring that the middle of the pack get cut first, thereby leaving the two extremes: the two most likely groups to generate talk, publicity and interest.

Look at me! I'm falling into their nefarious plan!

On the chopping block tonight: Chris Sligh and Haley Scarnato---clear out one more joe or jane from the middle rather than chopping out, mercifully, one who deserves it.

But I do have good things to say too

Blake didn't wow me tonight, but is it just me, or is he so very cool?

Melinda, however, did.

And ummm...Paula, such a pretty girl.

On that note...

I was a little surprised to see Blake singing his song so sincerely. Is it just me? I think I might be the only person in the world who took Love Song by The Cure to be a little ironic. Honestly, I didn't take it at all seriously. It sort of reeked of "guy in the doghouse for serious wrong begging with words desiged to melt the heart of a woman who ought to know better."

Or am I just projecting?

Speaking of projecting and Kevin Covais...

Grease. Really? REALLY? Max Crumm is America's idea of superhot, supercool stud Danny Zuko?

I think this might be evidence of my old fogey status: I feel no stud vibe. Or urge to call Ticketmaster. Sorry Jim, David and Kathleen. Oh, and in the words of the fabulous Gwen Stefani when asked about Sanjaya on AI: Yaaaaaa uhhh good luck. (insert lip quirk, eyebrow raise and slight eye roll here).

Max is a very talented young man. He should be cast as a lead, you know, maybe as Harold Hill in the Music Man. But...Danny Zuko?

Am I alone here?

I have to hope this is just an age gap thing, and people really liked him best for this part. That the modern Danny Zuko is a skater/slacker and that's who is most believable as the king of a '50s high school to today's audience.

Still, it begs the that age group who is the majority of Broadway show ticket buyers?

Have they missed the demographic between reality TV show watching American public and expensive live show ticket buying public?

That's it...I promise. For now...

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

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Monday, March 26, 2007

When the blogosphere turns exclusionary and elitist, will you have a place?

There has been much talk, recently, about the privilege bloggers must have to write blogs. This predicates the assumption that writing and access to time to write and time to post, as well as access to computers is a privilege.

I want to turn this concept on its ear for a minute (or thirty) because in all sincerity, from any particular point of view, almost anything can be viewed as a privilege, and since there is almost always someone one step (or more) up and one step (or more) down.

Note: If I was really cool, rather than lazy and pressed for time, I'd offer linky love to all those privilege thinkers such as Gwen, Mad Hatter and Her Bad Mother but first, I think anyone who reads me probably reads them first and second, they are all over there in my blogroll (pause, glance to right) and third, see first comma delineated phrase. Please, all of you who have written and/or commented on privilege, consider yourself loved.

I consider myself on the one hand privileged, and on the other hand not privileged. We live penny to penny, on a slight and tight budget. This is because we live on a single salary in a double-income world, and that single salary is Of The Arts God Help Us. We all know how desperately monetarily undervalued any artistic skill is.

Whenever we feel stressed or strained the first idea on the table is always send me back to a Real Job at an Office. At these times, I always make a loud sucking noise to indicate my soul once more being vacuumed from my body by The Man and The Machine. See, the idea isn't to send me back to the creative world.

No, the idea is for me to re-enter the tech world---pretty much my only option here. Hardware and software background with writing and communication skills. Whenever the job thing comes up (which it often does, and not of my volition) someone is always at the ready to remind me of How Much Money They Offer.

The price of a soul is not mean, it seems.

Setting aside how this is a problematic solution and merely indicative of a degree of desperation that tends to over-ride our lives due to the aforementioned slight tight budget, I'd like to re-visit the idea of the undervalued arts.

Long ago, the arts were for the masses. Theater, art, was grass roots. And frequently, it came to you. During that dark yet intriguing time in humanity when people were regularly burned alive and all forms of anything pleasurable or fun was banned (must rid the world of the Roman/heathen/pagan/non-Catholic influence, after all), entertainment thrived anyway. The main entertainment---when the priest allowed it---were liturgical dramas and some morality plays (the only things considered "safe" for us poor, ignorant, easily-led-into-sin saps). Due to a lack of reading and writing skill, most stories were told through songs, rhymes, allegories, and so forth. Theater troupes of actors and performers, troubadors, jugglers, minstrels, musicians, mimes, and more traveled from town to town and put on shows in public, hoping for a donation of food, clothing or money. But there was no admittance fee, usually. Not at this level.

The performances took place in Inn yards, town squares, churches, open fields, anywhere people had free and easy access. Performers wanted, naturally, the maximum exposure.

Theater and performing arts were of the people, by the people and for the people.

Despite feudalism.

Then...we hit the Renaissance. And suddenly the nobility took notice of the entertainment industry. With an influx of money (and attention) from the wealthy and privileged, performances moved off the streets and into pay-to-enter theaters.

They also changed from representing the cultural life and times of the everyman to the iconic and laconic lives of the privileged---after all, people want to see what interests them, and the aristocracy were not interested in the plight of the downtrodden. Further, the classical religious message transitioned to the classical Greek and Roman message due to the epic battle between Catholics and Protestants.

The structure of plays became more fixed and complex, and the staging became more ornate. To finance and support fixed troupes stationed in a stable theater, performances became worth a price.

And slowly but surely, theater became a symbol of wealth and privilege, not only through its patrons, but also through its writers, directors, and performers, who gave up the loose, personal, unique oral tradition. They had to have the ability to read (scripts), write (scripts), be educated enough to understand content (in order to appropriately perform it and understand the often real characters depicted), and be able to use appropriate accents for their audience.

The theater people were usually not of the privileged class nor were they---outside the theater---welcomed by it but they had to have enough privileged class skills to offer what their audience wanted.

And today, both the arts and performing arts---while nominally available to all through museums and discount performances---are still for the privileged, in general.

I can't afford to go to the big city theaters except maybe once a year, on special occasions. The local theater is fun about as often; despite its lower cost, it is still cost prohibitive for us. Apply the same to area museums ($25 per ticket for one popular one, plus $15 for parking), ballet companies, and symphonies.

Sometimes we are creative and do something such as volunteer as employees in exchange for tickets, however, that hasn't happened since we had children.

Even movies are too expensive these days.

And so, instead, we watch TV for entertainment. And wait until movies go on the $1.99 special on DirectTV.

At least we still have affordable access to words and concepts through the world of books (at the library), public radio, television, and...the Internet.

I used to be a regular Salon reader. When it became subscription based, I mourned, but moved on. I value the writing there, but not enough to pay for it. I can find similar levels of articles and free-thinking elsewhere that is still free. I might sometimes have to click past an ad here or there, or subscribe so my name and information act as my admittance fee (those being a commodity these days), but I'm generally willing to do that in exchange. I don't even keep stamps on hand much now since email is basically immediate and free.

I realize this is the very problematic mentality that leaves most writers such as me plying my craft for no financial compensation. However, if there is a penny to be pinched, I have to do it. Each time I opt for a purchase, I have to do so consciously. We have no frivolous money, not really.

Fortunately the Internet---and the wealth of infotainment, entertainment, and information it offers---is still basically affordable even for people like me. It's frequently considered necessary as an expense, so that even a few families I know on public assistance set aside the $12 a month for it. If that is still out of reach, although it is less than ideal, schools and libraries offer free access.

I don't really believe that access to the Internet is, today, the socioeconomic issue it once was. A NATION ONLINE: How Americans Are Expanding Their Use of the Internet, Washington, D.C. (February 2002) seems to indicate I'm not completely in error about this. In short, this report claims that computer ownership and Internet use are rapidly becoming more equally distributed across households in the United States.

Outside of some online publications and eZines, once you do have access to the Internet, almost everything you find there---much of which is, in my opinion, priceless---is free.

Such as blogs.

When Mad Hatter wrote:

I'll say it right out: I reject the career model of mommy blogging. It's not that I don't think our work is worth something. I do. It's just that the discourse of parenting, of the minutiae of day-to-day life is not valued by society as a whole. The only people who would want to pay for what we have to say are, well, us--the very people who deserve recompense for our work. It's a catch 22.


Think about the A-listers...I think of them in terms of reality TV. These lucky few are our Idols. They rose to the top of an extremely talented pool through charm, charisma, popularity and corporate mechinations. I have watched a lot of Idol shows in my day. I know how they work. As a model for ratings, advertising and popular entertainment, they are a phenomenon. As a model for the arts, they suck. As a model for innovation, they suck. As a model for building meaningful, long-term careers they really suck. Not only that but they promote a cult of celebrity that all of us in the West would be better off without.

I agreed. Lengthily. Completely. Especially about innovation.

Once you are writing commercially---especially for a topical publication---you are writing within a prefabricated structure designed to draw the most interest and largest number of people through a particular hook.

The wonderful thing about the Internet as it is now is that it is egalitarian. There is no screening process for who gets to start and write in a blog. In fact, you can start a blog at no cost. On the whole, the competition evolves naturally through reader interest rather than through a rigid, artificially constructed system of pitting writers against one another to win one top spot. Currently, if you have the dream and the desire, the reality of blogging is immediately accessible for you, and you are immediately accessible to any who are interested in what you have to say. Of course, because it's not a job (usually) there is no pay.

But don't we, as Mad allows, deserve compensation for this that we do? And isn't that expectation emboldened when we see bloggers such as Dooce allegedly live fatly off the bloggy land? Why shouldn't that be my largesse, too?

It depends upon how you define compensation. As Mad elaborated in her comments:

Are you willing to pay to read what I write? Am I willing to pay to read what you write? The answer is "no" but only if you look at this equation in terms of monetary funds. We "pay" each other by giving back to this affiliative, collective system: by writing, by reading, by commenting and by linking. The way that the parenting blogosphere currently works is sort of like a sophisticated system of barter and exchange.

Absolutely. By giving back to the affiliative, collective system what we've created and are maintaining through our unpaid blogging is a major source of innovative entertainment---and community---in the yard at the public inn.

You don't have to be any particular type of person, wearing any particular kind of outfit, driving any sort of car, or accessing any type of major socioeconomic privilege.

Although the majority of my blogroll links are middle-class level white people in North America who are mainly women, this is simply representative of my own self-obsession. Do not mistake this group simply as the privileged elite. The wealth in that list is in unquantfiable elements such as talent and experiential diversity. I typically have no idea as to the socioeconomic situation of any of the bloggers I like.

What I do know is that they are free.

Were we all to aim towards receiving monetary compensation at a professional or even minimum-wage level, were we to solidify into a quorum, creating minimum standards...building a theater (an online ezine available through subscription) and pandering for wealthy supportive patrons (marketing organizations and profit business) then eventually much of the innovation---the everyman experience---would melt away into the most marketable points of view about a single angle of a focused niche topic, as is already happening with so many of the targeted parenting blogger polished pulication sites. The motivation has altered from sharing to profiting. Those for profit sites tend to gather the like, the likeminded, and those most likely to generate traffic. The contributors are intended to keep representing that same voice, that same point of view. Eventually, it's like being hit with the same marketing message over and over, such as, "Have a coke and a smile."

It cements us into groups, divvies us up into categories, panders to a hierarchy and competition.

But more than that, it truly stifles innovation. Regardless of intention on the part of the contributors, it sets up an ideal, a model, that we ought to follow. After a time, it becomes the online equivalent of the rack magazine: full of canned points, attention-grabbing and promising headlines, loaded with how-tos for the way you ought to be. In short, it steers us into how we should think and be rather than stimulating unique discussion and reflecting evolving thought.

I don't deny that there are pros to counter my cons. There is benefit to communing with similarly-minded.

My concern emanates from my belief that similarly-minded communing so frequently evolves into Us. And Us is clearly not Them. (Consider the recent "hip" versus "unhip" parent battle.)

When formally collected, the free and innovative can quickly become exclusionary and elitist. Those within, have. Those without, have not. Have so easily morphs into Are. Are. Are not.

Right now, I don't consider that I blog for free. Not by a long-shot. I pay in time, thought, and lost sleep. I am paid in thought, mind-expansion, and entertainment. I appreciate the the lack of scripted lines recited over and over in the same way time and again. I like sitting on the edge of the trough, keeping out of the drizzle by a slight overhang of the roof of the public inn. I like never knowing exactly what today's minstrel, troubador, juggler, or actor will put before my mind.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Three Political Points, One Unbearably Funny Link, and a LOL Bonus

Point 1. I find it richly ironic, or maybe oxymoronic, that after so ably defending the invasion of the unfettered and non-oversighted Homeland Security into American citizens' private business without notification, cause or warrant with this:

"If you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to hide, so you don't need to worry about anyone poking around in your bidness."

Bush claims executive privilege to protect his own "bidness" which is under legitimate legal, with cause, scrutiny.

Glenn Greenwald explains it much more eloquently than I can in his Salon article, "The president's oh-so-noble reliance on "executive privilege"

You can also go to the White House Web site and read transcripts of all press conferences, briefings, and gaggles. I find reading it better in many ways.

Point 2. This sort of thing is exactly why I am acting like a Patriot these days:

From the War Room by Tim Grieve

Bush: Gonzales has my support

George W. Bush has just spoken on the prosecutor purge. Short version: He's "confident" that Alberto Gonzales acted "appropriately," even if Congress received "incomplete and at times confusing" information about the firing of U.S. attorneys.


When a reporter noted that Gonzales doesn't have much support left on Capitol Hill, Bush said: "Yeah? He's got support from me."


Disregarding the commanders on the ground: That would be wrong, right?

George W. Bush blasted back at House Democrats today by saying that the Iraq war withdrawal plan they passed today amounted to "an act of political theater" in which they "voted to substitute their judgment for that of our military commanders on the ground in Iraq." It was a nice line and all, but perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea if the reporters who go about quoting it tonight mention that the president had to oust his own "military commanders on the ground in Iraq" in order to find some who agreed with his plan to send more troops there.

What happened to his grand plan to get along with Democrats?

Et tu Brute?

Point 3. I'm thinking that while the NY Times has long been the Big Dog, every man's hip paper no matter that he lived in Idaho [cue theme from Chariots of Fire] it's losing its place...perhaps it got too caught up, looked over its shoulder one too many times, I don't know. It's not like a dark horse or anything, but lately The Washington Post seems to be leading the pack. I haven't decided whether I think this is a good thing. However, I'm not too thrilled with the Times just now, especially after I learned about this.

Maybe I'm just too frequently too disgusted with journalism.

And on the lighter side...

Point 4.
This is almost unbearably hilarious, probably because I can so identify with it, on both sides. LOL

Bonus: Just to show how very perverted my sense of humor is, I could NOT stop laughing when I saw this commercial on TV:

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Quorum

After being confronted with written evidence, Julie admits that she is a total attention whore.

In some things, in some ways, sometimes I look outward for validation of my worth and existence. I admit it. It's my weak spot, my vanity spot.

If you say I am clever, comment on a post, offer me an award, mention me on your blog, reply to a comment I left on your blog, or in any way flatter me as a writer...I am hopelessly, slavishly devoted to you. I will probably even add you to my blogroll just so everyone can see the list of all the cool kids who actually like me.

The girl, she knows she is vain in this regard, but after much vanity discussion and navel-gazing, she has decided to love herself anyway, as she is (ironically) and will keep searching for (1) internal validation and (2) her first person.

Until I reach a better point of self-actualization, though, may I just say that this week you people have been better than prozac and chocolate (together, with a side of white chocolate martini) for week one of PMDD?

Despite my potential arrogance in believing that (a) I have something worth saying that is also (b) worth hearing and (c) often a Deep Thought, but not in a Jack Handy funny sort of way, it gives me pleasure---yes, real actual happy feeling inside---to see that the words I write generate the intended effect, usually. I like to know that you agree, disagree, laughed, thought about it, learned something new. It's not a pride thing as in, "Lookee what *I* did!" It's actually an "Oh cool, I just love it when someone gives me the gift of stimulating thought, intriguing POV, personal experience I can relate to, and so forth. I'm glad I'm giving back a little of what I take out." When I hand out experience, thoughts, ideas, etc. I really do it with no strings attached. It's an unconditional gift, one I am paying forward because I find it out there, so often, for myself.

Let's begin with the Thinking Blogger award/meme.

Many thanks to the awesome Christina of A Mommy Story and the fabulous Peg of Peggy As She Is for giving me this nod.

I do want to provide something worthwhile through this blog. I probably am a little narcissistic a la Her Bad Mother's discussion because I must think I have something to tell you guys since I do all this writing. But I intend no condesecnsion a la NotSoSage's discussion.

I also admit it's sort of a roundtable discussion (that's why the comments are so valuable to me, especially long and/or opinionated ones) with a side of quest for self-actualization.

I process out loud in my corporeal life too.

And I listen a lot, and consider even more. That's why I like bloggers such as Kim, Gwen, and Lotta so much. They think about things, too, and approach the topics with reflection, opinion, and even better, humor.

More than that, though, is the flurry of warm fuzzies I feel to have bloggers I really like, respect and admire say, hey, you did good. Thanks Peg and Christina.

For the record, the award is now available in platinum, too. Just sayin' and you know, mentioning how a girl can never have too much bling, especially when it's free and fat-free and a bag of chips too. (Kidding!)

Also, for the record, if I linked to you above and mentioned you by name (yes, YOU! I did after all say your name and link you!) consider yourself thinking blogger award meme-tagged!

The love, however, did not stop with awards.

It did, however, stop with the scale. Frozen again. I am not surprised. I am simply relieved and grateful that after this week---all things and a slice of cheesecake considered---I have not gained.

But let's get back to the love.

My Favorite Mary---who so patiently explains really obvious things like "mic change" to me---tagged me for a cool wikipedia meme.

This hit my "geek me baby one more time" category very happily, a category I worried about recently, since I don't think I've had a good geek-out in a while (or much, which is really out of character).

Here's the meme:

1. Go to Wikipedia and type in your Birthday Month and day only.
2. List 3 Events that occurred that day.
3. List 2 important Birth days.
4. List 1 Death.
5. List a Holiday or Observance. (if any)
6. Tag 5 other bloggers.

Here's my answers:

3 events that occurred on my birthday:

1481 - Francis I of Navarre is proclaimed king. I chose this out of a lengthy list because it's an event and period of time I find fascinating. I've always been a history buff, but I gained an even deeper interest through the fabulous books of Sharon Kay Penman, one of the best writers around and a kind person too. Her books are among my absolute all time favorites.

1883 - American Old West: Self-described "Black Bart the poet" gets away with his last stagecoach robbery, but leaves an incriminating clue that eventually leads to his capture. I chose this because my goodness, what an interesting story! And crime! And evidence! It's like what CSI wishes it was.

1986 - Iran-Contra Affair: The Lebanese magazine Ash-Shiraa reports that the United States has been selling weapons to Iran in secret in order to secure the release of seven American hostages held by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon. I chose this because it was an event that really shaped my political life, and has haunted our society in many ways since, including through and beyond 1992 - U.S. presidential election: Democratic challenger Bill Clinton defeats incumbent Republican George H.W. Bush and independent candidate Ross Perot. I worked for one of these candidates as a writer, but I won't say which. I will say, though, that not all people are created equally. Some people are Big, really Big in some air-sucking sort of way, so that when you are in their presence, despite any sort of down-to-earth congeniality, you feel more than a little awed. And out of breath.

List 2 important Birthdays:

1895 - Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna of Russia (d. 1918). I chose this because the story and all that occurred fascinates me. It's tragic and riveting, not in a rubbernecker way but in a sociological and anthropological with emotions attached way.

1909 - James Reston, American journalist (d. 1995). I chose this because this man is an excellent example of the power words can have, and how sometimes, the pen is mightier than the sword---as imperfect as both might be at times.

I didn't do anything more recent because after about 1952, it's mostly all models, actors, and some singers---most of whom I don't know.

List 1 Death:

What's it mean when I know (and admire) more of the people who died on my birthday than those who were born on it? I'm having trouble choosing one. Matisse? Annie Oakley? Olympe de Gouges? I think I'll go with

361 - Constantius II, Roman Emperor (b. 317). I chose this one because this man---out of his many atrocities and interesting acts---could potentially be held accountable as the largest agent for the onset of the persecution of Jews. His laws disadvantaged Jews in so many ways and arguably were the tinder that lit the fire of the still ongoing persecution and massacres. I find it intriguing that one man's bigotry and agenda that resulted in a couple of laws could be so upheld for so long in a cultural, if not always legal, way. But that's another long, long, blog post some day far, far in the future.

List a Holiday or Observance:

Independence Day in Panama (1903, from Colombia), Dominica (1978, from Britain) and Federated States of Micronesia (1986, from United States). I chose this because I'm not a big fan of empires and colonialism.

Did I tag you for a thinking award? Are you on my blogroll (yes, that list of blogs over there to your right)? Consider yourself wikipedia tagged too!

P.S. Do have a peek over at the Blogroll. I added some people the other day and finally, finally organized it, alphabetically (I hope).

Happy weekend!

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Gardasil edges out Viagra in intimacy enhancement market

In an unprecedented move, Gardasil has edged out Viagra in the intimacy enhancement market.

"We're stymied," said Edgar Appleton, market analyst, "We can't explain this phenomenon at all. Viagra has long been king of sex pills."

Surveys of the public found that Viagra was the best known drug in any category and received the most free press via jokes and references in television, radio, and movies. 100% of those surveyed were able to describe the pill (shape and color) although only .0005% admitted to taking it.

Viagra grew to be the touchstone of impotence medications in 1999. Despite not reaching its full anticipated sales performance potential, it remained the market leader ahead of competitors such as Cialis and Levitra.

"We're shocked," said an unnamed Pfizer spokesperson, "Sure, Viagra has competition, things that potentially drive down sales such as drugs that shall remain nameless, email spam campaigns, wives with headaches, heart disease, doctors worrying about malpractice...but a vaccine? We never saw that coming."

Sales figures released in February revealed a dramatic drop in all intimacy enhancements. Even corner drug dealers reported (anonymously) a drop in ecstasy and ecstasy-like drugs.

"Blow and joe, no problem, but we got a situation with the whole X family. Nobody's buying," said "Little T-man," Salesman of the Year for a foreign cartel, based out of Miami.

Despite falling sales for all drugs in this market, Viagra has been hardest hit.

In March, market analysts reported that the new leader of intimacy enhancers is Gardasil, previously known solely as a vaccine intended to prevent four strains of human papillomavirus (HPV), which have been linked to cervical, anal, and oral cancer.

Dr. Michael Hartman, an urologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, explained how Gardasil became known for intimcy enhancement, "Frequently we find that drugs have multiple purposes, additional benefits. In this case, alert Republicans and Conservative Christians put us on to the secondary benefits of the HPV vaccine: it prompts people to have passionate, unrestrained sex. Like monkeys. It's amazing."

"I prefer Gardasil because it solves the sexual dysfunction problem my patients complain about, and also protects against a sexually transmitted disease. Two birds with one stone. You can't get any better than that," said Dr. Hartman, explaining why he prefers Gardasil to other options.

Merck executives expressed their shock and pleasure at the success of Gardasil, "We knew lining the pockets of Republican politicians would benefit our HPV vaccine campaign but they went above and beyond the call of duty tooting the horn of Gardasil as an intimacy enhancer."

Outspoken conservative right speaker Nan Bolter said, "Gardasil is a SEX vaccine! For SEX! Anyone who takes it is promoting wild, crazy sex! Unmarried sex!" Her statement was well-received, with long applause and loud catcalls.

Texas Council to Conserve and Preserve Traditional Family* (*by which we mean white suburban nuclear protestants) (TCCPTFw*) issued a similar statement.

Virgil Linn, spokesman for TCCPTFw* said, "The medical advancement Gardasil offers for preventing HPV is important, but it's more important to note that it is geared towards a sexually transmitted disease and can prompt recipients of the vaccine to have more sex."

Merck will be celebrating the unexpected and unprecedented success of Gardasil with a party estimated to cost more than $2 million. Their future plans include placing members of their board of directors on the political ballot in twelve states.

"It's much cheaper to run a campaign and put our people in office than to continue 'donating' to other elected officials," said a Merck executive, "Watch your TV for revised Gardasil ads that include background music by Chris Isaac," he added.

He would not confirm nor deny that Merck had approached Bob Dole and Carmen Electra to be co-spokespersons for Gardasil in the new advertising campaign.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

The MUST READ post: Links to HPV-related facts and opinions

Introductory note in which I plead with you to have patience and read this entire long post, and explain why you want to do that:
MEN and WOMEN alike should read this post, not just for their children's sake, but also for their own sake. I thought I'd done a lot of HPV research and learned a lot, but based on information sent to me after my call for links I learned I don't know the half of it, and that it is all vital to know.

It's not just a female problem, it's a male problem too. And it's not just cervical cancer, it's also anal and oral cancer too. And condoms don't protect you. The vaccine isn't the cure-all. And there are things you need to do, and things you need to teach your kids, in order to best protect yourselves.

So read on...

From comments, emails, references, and my own search of the blogosphere I've collected links that I think will benefit you as you research HPV and the HPV vaccines on the market.

The more we know, the better we can live!

But remember...consider the source and come to your own conclusions. Read with questions. This isn't gospel. And please feel free to comment with questions, concerns, or refuting information. I'm not married to any of this...I just want knowledge.

That said...although I have read information at each one of these links, they do represent the author's own opinions and linking them here doesn't mean that (a) I agree or disagree, per se, (b) can personally endorse it, (c) know with certainty that it is right or wrong, and (d) guarantee it in any way.

All I can promise is that it will be interesting and potentially informative. So enjoy!

Note: If I missed any links you sent to me (apologies!), please alert me and I'll correct that. I got a lot of data in a variety of places and tried my best to collect it all. By the same token, if you wish to send me a link to add to this list, please go ahead and send it.

Links to HPV opinions and information:

* One of the first people who contacted me was Lynne Eldridge M.D., co-author, of the book Avoiding Cancer One Day At A Time. Unfortunately I don't have a copy of the book to review, but you can find it at most major bookstores, and the reviews seem impressed. I will link you to her Web site. Note: Dr. Eldridge was recently quoted on ABC News.

She wrote:


I would love to contribute to your much needed blog. As a physician, author, and most of all a mother, I have researched HPV ad nauseum, as well as prayed as a parent!

My brother (an epidemiologist) and I published the book "Avoiding Cancer One Day At A Time" (Beavers Pond Press, Copyright 2007), and put extra emphasis on explaining this emotional and confusing topic.

In the blogs I have read I hear so many people who talk about how they wish they had received the HPV vaccine. For those of you who did not, and developed HPV I want to first make a comment, there is still hope! Solid credible research has demonstrated dietary factors can make a difference. Foods containing lutein/zeaxnthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin A,and lycopene, have all been shown to clear the HPV virus more quickly, giving it less chance to cause the inflammation that causes cancer. For those that find these phytochemical names and vitamins intimidating, visit (My note: That's the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 18
Nutrient Lists
). This site contains information about the phytochemical and vitamin content of many foods, and can help you choose cancer-fighting foods. A few studies have also shown that switching to sanitary napkins instead of tampons may help with the clearance of the virus.

Am I a total advocate of the HPV vaccine? It depends upon the situation. From an epidemiological standpoint, knowing that cervical cancer is the second most common cause of cancer worldwide in women, almost all cases are caused by HPV, and 70 percent of cases could be prevented by vaccination, I am an advocate. If I had a nine year old daughter would I request that she be vaccinated? I would probably request waiting a year until the vaccine had been "tested" on those at greater risk, to see if any thus far unseen side effects surfaced.

The subject of HPV is loaded with misunderstanding and emotions and I am so glad you are addressing this. Some people scoff, knowing that HPV is present in actually the majority of sexually active adults in the U.S. We need to remind people that only certain strains are responsible for the development of cancer: HPV 16 and HPV 18, as well as HPV 31,33,35,39,45,51,52,56,58,59,68,69 and perhaps others.

Most people who are infected with one of these strains NEVER develop cancer. Factors that raise the risk include smoking, having multiple children, or a damaged immune system.

How can we be safe?

-Have regular Pap smears even if you have been vaccinated
-Practice safe sex, use condoms
-Men do not have symptoms except for the rare case of penile or anal cancer. If you are in a new relationship questions you can ask are: has he ever been with a woman that had an abnormal PAP smear, needed a colposcopy, cryosurgery, LEAP procedure, or had cervical cancer?
-Being uncircumcised raises the risk of transmission of HPV, so women involved with uncircumcised men should practice extra prudence

Thanks again Julie!

Lynne Eldridge M.D.
Author, "Avoiding Cancer One Day At A Time"

Somervell County Salon
also contacted me, with a link to a list of posts about HPV. The search result link worked for me so I hope I am able to set it up properly for you. In case the search result link does not work for you, I will also link to the main site. On the left is a search button. If you type in "HPV" and click search, you can find all of the links.

Link to HPV search results

Link to Somervell County Salon (main)

* Reproductive Rights Prof Blog, A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network by Caitlin E. Borgmann, Assistant Professor CUNY School of Law included information from the Washington Post on March 1, 2007. She also includes links to other blog entries on this topic, such as an entry that explains HPV is a male problem too. If you have any interest in female reproductive rights, this is an interesting blog above and beyond HPV issues. For example, yesterday (March 20) I learned that it was back up your birth control day.

* Elaborating on the fact that it's not only women at risk from HPV (did you hear that Bones? Men just might have a dog in this hunt, after all.), I'd like to link you to two general information sheets from the National Cancer Institute (US National Institutes of Health) that explain how HPV can also cause anal and oral cancer:

Being infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV) can affect the risk of developing anal cancer

Oral sex linked to mouth cancer (two sides: one believes this, others are skeptical) reviews a study in 2004 that fpund the same HPV strain found in some cases of cervical cancer was also found in some cases of oral cancer

* For more information about HPV and oral cancer, see The Human Papillomavirus at the Oral Cancer Foundation. This was interesting to read just for knowledge, as well. It also contains important links to six research articles that document the correlation between HPV and oral cancer (including one from The Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2006).

* INTRIGUING Q&A from the Washington Post detailing discussion among regular people and Dr. Richard Schlegel (Chair of Pathology of Georgetown) who has been working on papillomaviruses for approximately 25 years.

* Matthew Wright, based on this Q&A, wrote This Used to Be About Women’s Health for The Texas Observer.

* And She Wrote included an excellent update to the latest Texas HPV-vaccine requirement, "'One Less' State Mandating Gardasil Shot" and also touches on the HPV-vaccine debate, as well as her personal concerns (which I share)

That news story is at Texas Lawmakers Vote on Cancer Vaccine

(This turn of events, as you might guess, made me happy, although it generated two questions:

1. Why does every mention of the HPV-vaccine only mention Gardasil? Is Cervarix not available in the US? {Ahh, quick check seems to indicate that it applied in 2005 in the EU and plans to file in the US in April WONDER Merck is so aggressive, trying to land the market share and cement brand name ownership. No WONDER they'll spend so much. Competition is breathing down their neck. And the generics just took hold of their big moneymakers.)

2. How and why did The Washington Post become the HPV-issue expert, and most often quoted source? Please do not mistake this question for snark. The Washington Post has been one of my favorite sources. Their secret of success is what I'm after.)

* There are a ton of blogs out there that discuss this issue. If you want more or need more, feel free to send me a link (I'll add it in) or do a search for HPV+blogs for more opinions.

* A few more links:

Genital HPV Infection - CDC Fact Sheet

HPV (human papillomavirus) - US Food and Drug Administration

National Cancer Institute's Human Papillomaviruses and Cancer: Questions and Answers

Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation's HPV Vaccine: Implementation and Financing Policy (Fact Sheet)(a PDF, requires PDF viewer) VERY INTERESTING! I say read this one, for sure.

* And of course, if you need, my past blog entries contain more links, opinion, and information:

Call for links

Cure cancer with a single shot?!? 1 in 4 infected?!? ACK ACK ACK! (straight breakdown of facts)

Think it's your body, your choice? Think again...

Texas Gov Rick Perry buckles to Merck; Executive Order Requires Gardasil vaccine for all girls

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Confessing Member of the Mr. Rogers Cult

The greatest man I never actually knew.

I introduced Patience to Mr. Rogers today.

I don't know what took me so long. But it was definitely the right time because after watching one episode, she was hooked.

"More," she demanded.

Mr. Rogers is the iconic cult leader for children like Patience. He's sensitive, quiet, calm, touchy-feely, wise, and perfectly brilliant because good grief charlie brown, he's the exact grown-up Patience would design, right from her very head, if she could.

He's very into make believe. And so is Patience!

He likes to learn how things are made and how things work. And so does Patience!

He's not into busy, loud, crowded, flashing, fast, or crazy. And neither is Patience!

He likes animals. As does Patience!

His house isn't sensorily overwhelming but is full of interesting things. Who wouldn't want the magic picture or trolley through the house? It's the Patience dream house!

As I watched the show I haven't seen in years and years I was suddenly struck by the knowledge that Mr. Rogers is largely responsible for many of my beliefs, morals, attitudes, and well, frankly, much of the way I am today.

As you would expect me to, I carefully analyzed the show as we watched it today and identified key characteristics of the show and Mr. Rogers himself to see how I---the grown-up---measured up. I was pleasantly surprised.

Little editorial aside: I also think Dr. Sears owes some credit or royalty to the Rogers foundation (if there is one).

Here's what I found:

1. Sing a little made up song, often.

Oh yes. I admit it; I do this. Every member of my family---pets included---has a unique theme song. Words and lyrics by moi. I frequently sing. Badly, but uniquely and entertainingly. They'd show me on American Idol auditions, no doubt. I'd be right between Greek Girl and Bad Hair Guy. Luckily, I'd never be foolish enough to believe my singing would impress anyone. That doesn't slow me down one bit, though. I sing about laundry, dishes, children, aggravation, and so forth. I suppose you could call my style traditional bard/folk.

2. Remove your shoes and clothes and get as comfy as possible as soon as you walk through the front door.

Absolutely. Basket for shoes right by the door. Slippers directly next to it.

In fact, don't stop with shoes. Remove anything uncomfortable and binding and revert to PJ state as quickly as possible.

3. Look around and assess the surroundings while talking out loud about what is going to happen next.

I got into this out loud habit for Patience, who transitions very hard. I keep up a running commentary of where we've been, what we did, where we are going, what we are doing, and put it all into a timeframe she understands. It's not that hard; I just do out loud what my brain does anyway.

Hey, who doesn't like an agenda?

4. Quote liberally from the new age-y warm fuzzy book about accepting one another, acknowledging feelings, accepting feelings, and in general, living an "I'm okay, you're okay" life.

You bet.

Until it comes to driving, you know, on the road with other people. In which case, you? The other driver? You are so not okay, and my feelings towards you? Are so not warm and fuzzy.

However, out of the car, with my children, people around me probably gag out loud (but I can't hear what with all my constant talking) to hear me all the time with, "Let's name our feeling, not use mean words. Do you feel disappointed? Yes? I can understand that..."

And you already know my stance about love your sisters in the world and your brothers too.

5. Give positive, but sincere, strokes to others.


Based on my own non-scientific anecdotal study, I say adults get about 1 positive comment for every 10 negative ones. If you are a parent, it changes to 1 positive comment for every 50 negative.

Therefore, I seize every opportunity that occurs to me (abstract survey rough estimate=38.6% of the appropriate and available times) to offer positive feedback to other adults. Silence indicates I can think of nothing nice to say, and is not included in the estimate for missed opportunity.

Abstract survey rough estimate for children=56.2% of the time after averaging number of positive comments and negative comments (which roughly balanced)

In other words, I do my level best to be nice out loud when I can.

6. Indulge in wonderings, ponderings, and make-believe.

Every single morning that I wake up and say, "Today will go smoothly and be a good day!" is indicative of just how much time I spend on make-believe.

Joking aside, I'd guess that I spend a great deal of time on all three of these. Some vignette, in a restaurant for example, will catch my fancy and it will all start with wondering and end with a completely fictionalized account of an event. Or, I'll direct it towards myself and imagine myself as something else, or imagine other people imagining me.

I encourage my children to follow suit in this magical thinking/Walter Mitty style imagining. Patience is very adept.

I don't think the Party Warehouse guy will ever recover from the time when he mistook her for a child wearing a cat costume instead of understanding she was an actual cat in that moment. You do not know the hairy eyeball this child can spear you with.

Like Mr. Rogers, were Patience and I to ever tour a factory where they made umbrellas, we'd both wonder if the workers ever wondered about the people who would carry the umbrellas. (Then the been-around-the-block part of me would snort, "Yeah, like these people care. They are balancing their checkbook mentally, like any responsible grown-up would. Not engaging in flights of fancy about other people under an umbrella." Then the Rogers Devotee part of me would protest, "No, really, someone might, you would! Wouldn't it be nice if it was all true and we really did live in such a content, happy and wondering world? It could be!")

7. Like to live in our neighborhood, where we know the people, their business, vice versa, and spend some quality time shooting the breeze with folks.

That's one of the best aspects of where we live.

8. Use a kind, calm and gentle voice and manner.

You know, I think loud and dramatic people have a place in this world. I really do. And as one of them---maybe even their spokesperson---I think we are occasionally harshly judged. Someone has to live with a fire under her ass in this day and age.

Although Patience and I both fell into a soothed, trance-like state under the quietly nurturing voice of Mr. Rogers...I'm not sure either of us could manage to live it, or with it, for much longer than 25 minutes. I can't tell you how much I admire and enjoy it while it is going on, but let's be honest: we can't all be Mr. Rogers.

9. Talk to animals, puppets, imaginary friends, stuffed animals and, all in all, anthropomorphize inanimate and nonhuman objects.

I think more of me than is necessary still worries just a tad about the feelings of a stuffed animal. And don't even get me started about books. They are our friends. They want us to like them, not tear them.

And this blog? I'm still not convinced that you all are not figments of my imagination (which I've already admitted is quite vivid). Luckily, either way, it's all good. Mr. Rogers said so.

What you really ought to know is that sometimes? When I talk to the animals? They have been known to talk back.

No, I do not need to up my meds.

If you pay close attention animals can really communicate.

And anyway, (a) Shakespeare says to keep an open mind and (b) Mr. Rogers says to keep an open heart.

10. Live a life that is so fabulous that at the end you do not sit and cry to the heavens, as Henri-Frederic Amiel did, "Is all my scribbling collected together- my correspondence, these thousands of pages, my lectures, my articles, my verses, my various memodanda- anything but a collection of dry leaves? To whom and for what have I been of use? And will my name live for even a day after me, and will it have any meaning to anyone? An insignificant, empty life! Vie Nulle!"

I can only hope to be a pale shadow of Mr. Rogers and all the good that he did. I have no doubt that he was not perfect, but he certainly contributed more than we can probably quantify in the way of benefitting children in the world. Just look at me, today, realizing that---all my humor aside---he really did shape how I think of so many things, and I mean that in a really good, and appreciative, way.

How amazing that his show is still on for my daughter.

I hope she gains a little bit of wonderful from it---both directly from the show and indirectly from me, a confessing member of the Mr. Rogers Cult.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

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