Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Money Talks

Beginning on September 17, 2011, hundreds of protesters set up camp on Wall Street, hoping their presence would influence dramatic change in the capitalist system. Blaming Wall Street for loss of pensions, the recession, and an all-over health resulting health disparity, these protests have led to numerous protests nationwide, including metaphoric sympathy tents set up on the lawn of Hampshire College in Amherst, MA.

Comparing these demonstrations to those countering the draft for the Vietnam War, organizer Kevin Zeesee said, ""Just like the Vietnam war draft made the war more personal, economic insecurity is making the economic policies of this country more personal." In his mind, this means that actions need to be taken - people need to take to the streets and make their disapproval known. On Wall Street this has led to the creation of a small tent city, sit-ins, music, marches, and other forms of peaceful civil disobedience. The peaceful (though resolute) protesters have promised to stay camped out through winter, but complain about the heavy-handed police influence instituted to keep the protesters in check.
After somewhat unfair rumors spread about the violent nature of the protesters, National Public Radio's news quiz show, Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me! on Saturday, October 2 reported that the number one injury amongst the protesters was blisters from too much bongo playing. 

Regardless, none of the rumors or the discomforts of camping out in the cold, damp weather the Northeast has been experiencing has deterred individuals and groups from joining. Today, the nation's largest union of nurses, National Nurses United, along with Health Care-Now, will be joining the one volunteer medic as they attempt to defend "human needs over corporate greed."

Protests of this nature are one of the fundamentals of democracy (the right to peaceful assembly), and a key tool in keeping actual democracy - much of which was surrendered with an oddly unflinching willingness during the Bush II Administration - in check. Of the people, for the people, right? It is a little backwards that assembly requires government approval, but we can just count that as another hoop to jump through in our pseudo-democratic state. 

Since the Reagan era, the United States has been growing increasingly more fascist, though still cleverly masked in "free" elections and "public" interest. Most citizens of the free world don't want to admit that their country is headed down a fascist path, so, if you doubt that the U.S.A. is, please take a minute to complete the "Is Your Country Headed Toward Fascism?" checklist, based of Naomi Wolf's Fascism in Ten Steps. If you already believe that we are headed down a fascist path, you may skip ahead.

Is Your Country Headed Toward Fascism?

1. Does your country have a terrifying internal or external enemy? Yes. Al-Quida; Osama bin Laden; Saddam Hussein.

2. Does your country have a gulag (a prison outside the rule of law)? Yes. Guatanamo Bay; Abu Graihb; great potential for others scattered throughout the middle east.


3. Does your country have a thug caste (a group of people above the law hired to terrorize citizens)? Yes. Florida voting in 2000 where hundreds of African American ballots were thrown out; the department of Homeland Security who opened fire on unarmed civilians in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.


4. Does your country have an international surveillance system? Yes. The Patriot Act, which permits the government to wiretap citizens' phones, read their emails, and follow international financial transactions.

5. Does your country harass citizens' groups? Yes. It can be trivial: a church in Pasadena, whose minister preached that Jesus was in favor of peace found itself being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, while churches that got Republicans out to vote, which is equally illegal under US tax law, have been left alone. Or more serious: the American Civil Liberties Union reports that thousands of ordinary American anti-war, environmental and other groups have been infiltrated by agents: a secret Pentagon database includes more than four dozen peaceful anti-war meetings, rallies or marches by American citizens in its category of 1,500 "suspicious incidents." Or even more serious: Counterintelligence Field Activity (Cifa) agency of the Department of Defense has been gathering information about domestic organizations engaged in peaceful political activities: Cifa is supposed to track "potential terrorist threats" as it watches ordinary US citizen activists. A little-noticed new law has redefined activism such as animal rights protests as "terrorism." So the definition of "terrorist" slowly expands to include the opposition.

6. Does your country engage in arbitrary detention and release? Yes. Ordinary citizens who do things as mundane as forgetting their wallet in a public place can now be detained on terrorist charges. People who have been to opposition marches may be barred from flying on airplanes. And if you get on the list of "internal terrorists," it's hard to get off. Take Brandon Mayfield, a US citizen and lawyer in Oregon, who was mistakenly identified as a possible terrorist. His house was secretly broken into and his computer seized. Though he is innocent of the accusation against him, he is still on the list.

7. Does your country target key individuals? Yes. Bush supporters in state legislatures in several states put pressure on regents at state universities to penalise or fire academics who have been critical of the administration. As for civil servants, the Bush administration has derailed the career of one military lawyer who spoke up for fair trials for detainees, while an administration official publicly intimidated the law firms that represent detainees pro bono by threatening to call for their major corporate clients to boycott them. Elsewhere, a CIA contract worker who said in a closed blog that "waterboarding is torture" was stripped of the security clearance she needed in order to do her job.

8. Does your country control the press? Yes. Take one look at Fox News and you'll understand. Additionally, the Committee to Protect Journalists says arrests of US journalists are at an all-time high: Josh Wolf (no relation), a blogger in San Francisco, has been put in jail for a year for refusing to turn over video of an anti-war demonstration; Homeland Security brought a criminal complaint against reporter Greg Palast, claiming he threatened "critical infrastructure" when he and a TV producer were filming victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Palast had written a bestseller critical of the Bush administration. You won't have a shutdown of news in modern America - it is not possible. But you can have, as Frank Rich and Sidney Blumenthal have pointed out, a steady stream of lies polluting the news well. What you already have is a White House directing a stream of false information that is so relentless that it is increasingly hard to sort out truth from untruth. In a fascist system, it's not the lies that count but the muddying. When citizens can't tell real news from fake, they give up their demands for accountability bit by bit.

9. Does dissent equal treason in your country? Yes. Most Americans do not realize that since September 2005 - when Congress wrongly, foolishly, passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 - the president has the power to call any US citizen an "enemy combatant." He has the power to define what "enemy combatant" means. The president can also delegate to anyone he chooses in the executive branch the right to define "enemy combatant" any way he or she wants and then seize Americans accordingly. In every closing society, at a certain point there are some high-profile arrests - usually of opposition leaders, clergy and journalists. Then everything goes quiet. After those arrests, there are still newspapers, courts, TV and radio, and the facades of a civil society. There just isn't real dissent. There just isn't freedom. If you look at history, just before those arrests is where we are now.

10. Does your country suspend the rule of law? Yes.
The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 gave the president new powers over the national guard. This means that in a national emergency - which the president now has enhanced powers to declare - he can send Michigan's militia to enforce a state of emergency that he has declared in Oregon, over the objections of the state's governor and its citizens. Even as Americans were focused on Britney Spears's meltdown and the question of who fathered Anna Nicole's baby, the New York Times editorialised about this shift: "A disturbing recent phenomenon in Washington is that laws that strike to the heart of American democracy have been passed in the dead of night ... Beyond actual insurrection, the president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or any 'other condition'."

With facts like these looming loudly over our heads - whether or not we ignore them is personal choice - it's a wonder that more protests like Wall Street one aren't rearing their heads in flagrant disapproval of democracy gone horribly, horribly wrong. Concerned citizens can rest assured, however, that solidarity protests against Wall Street have been cropping up in other major U.S. cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, and Detroit. The protesters call themselves 99%, referencing the 99% of Americans who are not in the top 1% of the nation's wealth bracket, which currently controls almost 35% of the nation's private wealth, to the bottom 80% (salaried workers) roughly 15% control. Unfortunately, tax collection doesn't even come close to making up for this disparity, with the top 1% paying roughly 38% of their income to federal taxes, where the bottom 50% pays nearly 98% of their federal taxes.

Recently, Wall Street protesters have abandoned their bongos in favor of donning zombie make-up in a scene straight out of The Crazies; zombie consumers with money in their mouths and products in their eyes make their slow zombie march towards the nearest mall, the consumer security blanket.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Rest of Your Life

A flower scribbled in a childish manner that made you feel simple - like plain vanilla ice cream on a hot summer's day - drawn on a poster that hangs on your wall reminding you that "today is the first day of the rest of your life." Stifled in this office whose windows don't open, staring at this information box, and gazing longingly outside at the pouring rain, I have to say, today was not a great start to the rest of my life.

Today I had lunch with a friend; we discussed the economy and jobs and unfair interweavings of the capitalist system and other heavy topics with general malaise while she ate macaroni and cheese and I, with great effort, dug my spoon into some frozen yogurt.

She countered the depressing discussion with the last ditch trick employed by all people who suddenly stop trying, "It could be worse."

It could be worse. Famine, rape, war, poverty, Hannah Montana - yeah, it could be worse. So, what do you do with that information?

You eat it, is what.

I'm talking, you sauté it with some extra-virgin olive oil, add some sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and peppers, top that sucker with cheese and put it in your belly. Of all things sacred to humans, eating is perhaps the most frequent and diverse. It therefore only makes sense to digest the negativity as you would any meal, and dispose of it likewise.

It's fall again, which means that our breakfasts are rushed, our lunches are either solitary or overcrowded, and our dinners have evolved into a discussion of hectic schedules and things to do. That forgiven and laid back atmosphere surrounding food so prevalent in the summer has given way to another school year, another winter just over the horizon, another year of reality setting back in. It's also the time of year when we, among the industriousness and fleeting sunlight, are ever-encouraged to pile our plates with love.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. A pale purple poster with a scribbled white flower that reminds us of spring, even though the leaves are falling, the sky is darkening, and the ground is soaked with a chilly rain. It may make you feel simpler and bring you back to a time when that extra scoop of vanilla ice cream felt like heaven on your tongue as the sun poured onto your back. But today - TODAY - is the first day of the rest of your life.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

21-Foot Crocodile Captured Alive in the Phillipines - Hunt Continues for Bigger One

In a tale straight out of a child's worst nightmare (or a badly envisioned horror film), residents of the Bunawan Township, Philippines staked out a 21-foot crocodile and, with the help of experts, captured it alive.

Although the mammoth crocodile, Lolong, is being blamed for only one death, the residents of the Bunawan Township are all too familiar with crocodile-related injuries and death to let even one death slide. However, when wildlife official Ron Sumilier forced the crocodile to vomit, it didn't produce any traces of human parts. This coupled with visual reports he and other villagers have relayed leads Sumilier to believe that there is another larger crocodile still lingering in the waters near the village.

At 21-feet, Lolong trumps the current Guinness World Record for largest saltwater crocodile (just shy of 18 feet). Scientists assume that saltwater crocodiles have the ability to grow up to 23-feet in the right conditions, and a croc of those proportions is what Sumilier is anticipating finding.

"The villagers were saying 10 percent of their fear was gone because of the first capture," Sumilier said. "But there is still the other 90 percent to take care of." Sumilier and his well-trained village hunters certainly have their work cut out for them.

As for the captured crocodile, Bunawan Mayor, Edwin Cox Elorde, says he plans to make it the "biggest star" in a future ecotourism park he hopes to construct to educate people about the vital role these nightmarish reptiles play in the local ecosystem.

The waters of the Philippines are a safe-haven for crocs, with a 1 million pesos price for killing one. Roughly 1,000 saltwater crocs inhabit the waters and 250 of the world's most endangered freshwater crocs, crocdylus mindorensis, live only in the Philippines.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Unusual Yet Beautiful Engagement Rings

As some of you may know, despite my lack of fiancé I have already begun planning my ideal wedding - you now, like a totally heteronormative woman. I've got my colors picked out, dress styles I like, and venue. Because I look at bridal sites online once in a while ads for engagement rings tend to pop up as advertising on my Facebook, and I'm constantly astonished by the price tag on what, in my opinion, are some fugly-ass rings. So, here is a blog dedicated to engagement rings that may not carry the title "engagement ring," but that I think are beautiful and won't set your significant other back six or more paychecks.

 "Petite Elegance." Cost: $300 (Macy's) This sterling silver with sapphire center and 1 carat diamond accents is the "layman's" answer to royal Kate Middleton's engagement ring, once belonging to her late mother-in-law, Princess Diana. Perfect for simply elegant brides-to-be.

Pros: Small, yet packing in the jewels.

Cons: Sterling silver may lose its luster over time.
 "Poised in Purple." Cost $300 (Macy's) This sterling silver ring features graduated baguette-cut amethyst stones accented by 3 carats of diamonds. A modern look with a Roman-esque feel, perfect for brides-to-be who like to kick things up a notch.

Pros: Unique design, loaded with diamonds.



Cons: Sterling silver may lose its luster over time.
"Victoria Townsend Princess Ring" Cost: $150.00 (Macy's) This bright 3 carat blue sapphire is surrounded by a halo of sparkling white topaz set on an 18 carat gold band. Perfect for the bride-to-be who still thinks that gold is the color of love.

Pros: Unique design, 18 carat gold band

Cons: No diamonds and, in my opinion, gold isn't as pretty as silver or white gold

 "Marquis Sapphire" Cost: $300 (Macy's) This is my ideal engagement ring, so I'm a bit biased. This ring features a marquis-cut 1.5 carat sapphire surrounded by glittering diamond accents. The design is a mixture of modern and classic. Perfect for brides-to-be who share my impeccable taste.

Pros: It's friggin gorgeous; beautiful design

Cons: Sterling silver may lose its luster over time.
"Dashing Round Cut" Cost: $400 (Macy's) This ring features a desirable and unique design that seems to blend together a sort of timeless love. 5/8 carat of round cut sapphires are matched by 1/7 carat of round cut diamonds that swirl along this sterling silver band. Perfect for the classically romantic bride-to-be.

Pros: Uniquely symbolic design of everlasting love.



Cons: Sterling silver may lose its luster over time.


 "Eternity" Cost: SALE $72.79, normally $181.99 (JC Penney's) This simple engagement band features 1/2 carat diamonds in simulated princess cut set on sterling silver. This is perfect for the bride-to-be who doesn't want anything too fancy or flowery.

Pros: Simple, wearable design

Cons: Sterling silver may lose its luster over time; may be much too simple

"As Dazzling As Your Love" Cost: SALE $99.99, normally $339.99 (JC Penney's) This classically beautiful ring sparkles and shines with near-perfect luster. Featuring 2 3/4 carat diamonds on sterling silver, this ring is perfect for classic and modern brides-to-be.

Pros: Classically elegant; deceptively simple

Cons: Sterling silver may lose its luster over time

 "Sophisticated Aura" Cost: SALE $99.99, normally $302.99 (JC Penney's) This is my third favorite ring on this list for its wintery yet incredibly loving appearance. This 3 3/4 carat diamond is reminiscent of icicles, but will keep your finger and heart warm during winter.

Pros: Absolutely beautiful; ideal for almost any bride-to-be

Cons: Sterling silver may lose its luster over time

 "Accentuated Brilliance" Cost: SALE $99.99, normally $272.99 (JC Penney's) This beautiful ring features three rows of band-set stones that accentuate the center stone and equal 2.35 carats in diamonds. Perfect for the elegant bride.

Pros: Deceptively simple; elegant design; lots of diamonds for your buck

Cons: Sterling silver may lose its luster over time.



 "Endless Grace" Cost: $300 (Macy's) This beautiful blend of onyx and 1/10 carat of diamonds swirls around the ring finger like endless grace, like your bride-to-be. The round cut diamonds create visual interest next to the onyx.

Pros: Visually stunning; unusual color pallet. 

Cons: Sterling silver may lose its luster over time.
"Victorian Elegance" Cost: $350 (Macy's) This ring blends 14 carat gold, sterling silver, and 1/10 carat of diamonds into a piece of Victorian-inspired wearable art. Perfect for the modern bride with vintage-inspired tastes.

Pros: Unique design; wearable art

Cons: Sterling silver may lose its luster over time.

"Treasured Heart" Cost: $350 (Macy's) This ring brings together literal romanticism and a modern twist. Round cut black and white diamonds meet in three overlapping hearts on a sterling silver setting. Perfect for the hopelessly romantic bride to be.

Pros: Literal love design

Cons: Sterling silver may lose its luster over time; literal love design; may be better suited as a Valentine's Day present or promise ring


"Art Deco" Cost: $500 (Macy's) This incredibly unique ring offers 1/5 carat of diamonds set in 14 carat white gold, and is perfect for the bride-to-be with refined yet adventurous tastes.

Pros: Beautifully unique design; white gold (come on!)

Cons: This ring isn't for everyone.
 "The Forever Knot" Cost: $450 (Macy's) This Everlon diamond ring set in detailed sterling silver is a beautiful symbol of undying love. Perfect for the bride-to-be with romantic and simply elegant tastes, this mixture of sterling silver and diamonds is sure to please.

Pros: Symbol of undying love

Cons: Sterling silver may lose its luster over time. This ring isn't for everyone.
"Swirling Ribbons" Cost: $550 (Macy's) This unique sterling silver ring set about with 1/3 carat of diamonds is a decorative one for the bride-to-be elegant yet flowery tastes. The deceptively simple diamonds blend beautifully into the spirals of this ring.

Pros: Unique and elegant design

Cons: Sterling silver may lose its luster over time.
 "Simple Glamor" Cost: $500 (Macy's) This Arabella ring is my second favorite ring on this list. It is simple, yet timelessly elegant with 2 3/8 carat diamonds set on white gold. This ring is the perfect fit for almost any bride-to-be.

Pros: Appropriate for nearly all brides; white gold (come on!)

Cons: Very simple
"Hint of Sparkle" Cost: $500 (Macy's) This Arabella ring is a classic taste on a classic cut. 2 3/4 carat diamonds sparkle along the 14 carat white gold band and blend into an exquisite round cute Swarovski zirconia center. Perfect for the very traditional bride-to-be.

Pros: Classic cut; white gold (come on!)

Cons: Very, very simple.



 "Oohs and Aahs" Cost: SALE $109.19, normally $272.99 (JC Penney's) This ring ties for second place on my list of absolutely stunning engagement rings. Delightfully simple, yet packed full of power, this princess-cut diamond packs 1 1/2 carats on a sterling silver band.

Pros: Beautiful; elegant

Cons: Sterling silver may lose its luster over time
"Refined Elegance" Cost: SALE $129.99, normally $339.99 (JC Penney's) This princess-cut ring features a refined yet sensible blend of classic elegance and wearability. Featuring 1 3/4 carat diamonds on a sterling silver band, this ring is perfect for the bride-to-be with refined but not flashy tastes.

Pros: Refined elegance; classic cut

Cons: Sterling silver may lose its luster over time; moderately masculine look

"Say Yes!" Cost: SALE $149.99, normally $393.99 Dozens of radiant stones surround the center of this gorgeous circular bridal ring. Its classic and timeless look will be cherished by your bride-to-be for years to come.

Pros: Classic elegance; bang for your buck

Cons: Sterling silver may lose its luster over time.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Calling All Awesome Women

Dear Awesome Women,

I am a 24-year old working woman who is trying to break into the writing field. Inspired by a blog post a mother wrote about her 5-year old's personal sense of "awesome," I have decided to write a book entitled "The Doctrine of Awesome" about why women lose that amazing childhood sense of being smart, beautiful, and powerful and how they can reclaim it. I would like to include testimonies from women and girls ages 5-500 about who they are, why they're awesome, how they may have lost their awesome, and how they're getting it back. Eventually I would like this book to be a series of testimonies, personal narratives/poems, and photographs awesome women being awesome.

I want to hear from all of you because every woman is beautiful and, at their core, awesome. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

Much love,

Hillary

DISCLAIMER: I am not a company or a machine. I promise I will not use any information given unless personally given written permission by use to use your material.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hugs Galore

I was thinking about writing a blog about 9/11 + 10 (or 9/21) but instead I'm just going to post pictures of animals hugging.












Thursday, September 8, 2011

Antiquity: The Pharoah, the Sandal, and the Wars Men Wage

Dear Friends,


Below is the start of the antiquity bit from "A Mile in his Shoes." Currently a broad overview, I'm searching for suggestions on how to incorporate tidbits of historical factoids and clever ways to SHOW that shoes are, in fact, a symbol of power without saying it as such. Anything helps!

Much love,

Hillary


The triad of antiquity’s remarkable civilizations – the Greeks, the Romans, and the Egyptians – all had social hierarchies based on the rule of one, though Greece and Rome did respectively boast democracies and republics, however corrupt. There were inherent classes in these hierarchies, which determined where one might live, what work one might do, and the luxuries one might be able to afford.  Our tale begins in the 700s A.D., specifically 735 A.D., the start of the Roman Empire.

At the start of their empires, Greeks and Romans had in place sumptuary laws, which dictated a kind of dress code. For instance, Grecian women were only allowed to wear three garments at one time, so often women would go barefoot. These laws also arranged by income how much a family could spend on clothing. The Romans passed laws (stated in the Lex Fannia, 161 BC) restricting the amount of color any particular class could wear: peasants – one color; officers – two; commanders – three; members of the royal/ruling household – up to seven, including the color purple, reserved specifically for royalty, and scarlet, available only to royalty and high noblemen. Some three hundred years later, under Emperor Lucius Claudius Domitius Aurelianus (270 – 275 AD), the colors red, white, yellow, and green were reserved exclusively for women (J.A. Brundage, Sumptuary laws and prostitution in late Medieval Italy, 1987). It is not a surprise then that, in all three of these cultures, shoes played a large role as a visual status clue for passersby. The higher ups – the Emperor and the Pharaoh, the senators and the Parliament – all had on their feet significantly better shoes than their lower class “inferiors.”

In Egypt, where the climate and land didn’t always dictate a need for shoes (sandals), any footwear was a symbol of class or of military membership, although what today we would describe as “middle class” Egyptians also had access to sandals for special occasions (funerals, weddings, etc.) or for times when their feet were likely to get hurt (long migration, travel to foreign land, etc.).

The poorest Egyptians, however, did not have access to sandals at all. Regardless of whether or not they could have potentially afforded a pair, they could not purchase shoes. It is very likely, though, that the poorest citizens could not have afforded sandals, which were often soled with leather and intricately stitched. Made in a way similar to the construction of baskets, Egyptians sandals were often built up with thread and material, creating a sort-of cradle for its wearer’s feet.

Since most citizens, including the wealthiest, opted to go barefoot most of the time, that left room for shoe makers to create elaborate and showy sandals for the pharaohs. King Tutankhamen, for instance, had 93 pieces of footwear, mostly made from wood. Several pairs had depictions of King Tut’s enemies on the soles, and another pair boasted fastening buttons. During the transition of Ramses III to Ramses IV, Egypt’s citizens were instructed, “Be ye attached to his sandals, kiss the earth in his presence, bow down to him, follow him at all times, adore him, praise him, magnify his beauty” (J.H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, p. 245). To our modern day standards, this Old Navy flip-flop predecessor may not carry any desirability, but to the ancient Egyptians, sandals held a special importance and meaning that not only symbolized power, but also equated shoe-wearers with beauty and mystique.

Ancient Greek sandals differed from their Egyptian contemporaries in design. Grecian sandals normally had one or two bands across the front of the foot, a thong between the big and second toes, and interwoven straps that ascended slightly above the ankle (modern equivalent: gladiator sandals), although the wealthy could have different designs made for or accessories attached to their sandals. Those with money could afford to have their sandals dyed in almost any color; could pay someone to create elaborate designs with the best-available material (leather); and wealthy women could have such precious items as pearls or gold. Ancient Greek women also made the platform sandal (corthornus) fashionable. Traditionally the wealthiest women had many pairs of shoes, which her slaves would carry around in her sandalthique, a carpetbag specifically for shoes.

Also different between the Egyptians and the Greeks was the fact that all socioeconomic classes had access to shoes, affordable material varied greatly between the plebeians and the noblemen. Commoners and slaves generally wore wooden shoes, although some might have been able to afford felt or linen. Countrymen and priests’ shoes were often made from felt or linen as well.

Greeks who could afford to or needed to stand on ceremony (such as priests, dramatists, and senators) additionally had the option of wearing shoes besides sandals. Actors wore shoes called sykhos; nymphidiai were wedding shoes for females; shepherds wore karbatine, the influences of which were still popular amongst German peasants in the sixteenth century; Greek gods were often depicted wearing endromis (fur-lined boots) also popular amongst soldiers. Still, most Greeks in day-to-day lives opted for sandals, functional in the Mediterranean climate and with the option to dress up if one had the means.

Compared to the Greeks and Egyptians, Romans had a relatively large selection of shoe choices. But unlike with the Greeks, the poor often went barefoot. Geographically speaking the Roman Empire covered a very large area, and its climate was more diverse than that of the Grecian or Egyptian empires, with territory stretching from modern-day Spain to Armenia, and covering sparse deserts in modern-day Turkey as well as the snow-covered mountains in Gaul, modern-day France and Switzerland. Scholars have taken great strides to study and understand this powerful ancient culture, and have learned that Romans were particular about appearances. From roads to aqueducts to shoes, the Romans had an intricate social system and seemed to prescribe to the adage, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

Romans were especially careful to assign appropriate footwear to their soldiers who consistently fought other empires and tribes to advance Roman rule. Roman legionary soldiers and auxiliaries wore carligae, Roman marching boots, which are related to sandals but offer considerably more support and protection. Constructed from three layers of leather, which covered the toes and laced up the center of the foot on the ankle, carnigae also provided iron hobnails nailed into the soles for added traction, reinforcement, and armament. Unlike modern military boots, carnigae designers specifically left the boot open so as to lessen the possibility of painful blisters as well as foot fungi and diseases such as trench foot.

Romans did not place much value on assigning specific shoe types for the sexes, other than the fact that oftentimes women’s’ shoes were made of a finer, softer leather. Rather, Romans assigned very specific class and status roles for their shoes. For instance, a shoe worn by an older, wealthier man would not be worn by anyone outside his class or even by a younger man in his same class bracket. Slaves weren’t allowed to wear shoes at all, and the poorest of Roman society oftentimes couldn’t afford shoes, although by law they could wear them. Criminals, on the other hand, were outfitted in heavy wooden shoes that made escape harder. Rome’s wealthiest and most important had a plethora of shoes to choose from and equally as many rules to follow regarding wearing them. It was considered bad manners for the wealthy to not wear shoes (except at certain events wherein slaves would go through an elaborate ritual of washing their masters’ feet) and not all shoes were appropriate for all occasions. For instance, true Roman sandals – rather scantily bound – were more of an inside shoe than an outside shoe, and very often slaves would carry sandals around for their masters so that they might be appropriately dressed in any situation. Heavier duty sandals (boots, in Roman terms) were appropriate for outside wear.

Following that logical, in typical Roman fashion, the more distinguished the wearer the more distinguished the dress. This meant that the wealthy and even some middle class Romans could afford sandals with intricate designs, dyed fabric, or ornamentation, while the poor were stuck donning decidedly unmarked shoes. This was also true of Roman dress, and was simply one way in which Rome worked tirelessly to visualize social class, or to be more accurate, exemplify status.  

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ob La Di, Ob La Da

Dear friends,

Please forgive the lack of regular postings for the past couple of weeks; my life has been in a state of upheaval, to put it lightly. To keep you abreast of what's been going on, I'll give you the down and dirty.

First off, Nathan and I broke up, which was apparently a more significant blow to me than to him, and is, in fact, the second time I was prepared to commit to something bigger than a relationship where we live apart and see each other a few times a week, but the dude was not wanting to be in a relationship. At least with the one before Nate he seemed genuinely sad and didn't come off as arrogant or speak to me like a child.

DISCLAIMER: The second part is the story as I remember it. I have been wrong before, but I have some reasons (unposted) as to thinking that I'm more right than wrong in this situation.

Second off, I have been battling some rather unusual apartment circumstances. On August 20 (or very close to that date), I received an offer from close family friend, Sarah Brown, to move into her beautiful apartment in Greenfield. Despite my lack of lease, the mouse "pandemic," the communal bathroom, and the lack of sun that comes from living in a basement, I was somewhat hesitant to take it, because I genuinely like(d) my Montague landlords. But ultimately the deal was too good to pass up, so I informed my landlord, Tim, that I would be moving out in mid-September.

"The end of September?" he had requested, hoping for some time to find a tenant, and I obliged. Besides which, it seemed that I would then have a nice, leisurely move.

After showing the apartment a handful of times, including to two people who just randomly showed up without calling, Tim rented the apartment to a young woman who was going to start GCC in the fall. Tim approached me and asked when the earliest I could leave was. I explained to him that the current tenant in my new apartment would not be out until the 10th or 11th of September, and that I could very likely be out the following weekend. Sure, it would mean a birthday move, but it would also mean not living in a basement.

Because New Girl wanted to be into the apartment as close as possible to GCC's starting, Tim informed me a few days later (August 27th or so) that she would be living in the upstairs guest room. That meant that we would be sharing a bathroom, which I was not thrilled about, but what the hey. And, in my opinion, my obliging nature went well beyond the necessary because, even as I said the following, I felt my hands move to cover my mouth and stop the words from pouring out, "If she needs to," I said, "she can store some of her boxes downstairs while I'm moving out."

Anyway, it gets to be Tuesday, August 30. I go to see Nate. We break up. I go home, devastated. I start out to work the next morning, more devastated. Stay until about 11:00 a.m., and then take the rest of the day off because I'm such a hot mess. I call my father and his girlfriend, Stephanie, and they invite me over, but I stop at home first to get my trusty teddy bear, Zephyr. On my way out the driveway, tears staining my face, Tim stops me and blurts out a stream of conscious blurb consisting of the following: "You need to get your cats out ASAP. I'll pay for them to go to a boarding house or whatever." Aside: I have a 15-year old cat with renal kidney malfunction and two other cats who will most certainly NOT live in a boarding shelter. "Carlos is pissed about the third cat. New Girl is allergic to cats. We're getting a cleaning lady into clean. New Girl is moving in ASAP. YOU can feel free to stay in the upstairs bedroom."

WHAT?!?!

Of course, I'm a big fucking mess, so I just start crying, and Tim rubs my back, which just makes me tense up and want to lunge at his jugular.

So I drive to my father's where I learn that the current tenant of my new apartment has conveniently decided not to move out. With the support of the Greenfield Housing Authority, his lack of rent payment for four months doesn't seem to be a big issue, but Sarah and her property manager, Dave, are working to get him evicted. Unfortunately, that takes at least two months. They're also not above bribing him.

Dave the Property Guy is generous enough to offer out an apartment he has, but he wants first and last in a place I may stay in only for two weeks. Plus it's tiny, not the apartment I wanted, I know I'm whining, but dammit, seriously, what the fuck?

My aunt Anne generously offered me up a room in her house, though I feel I've infiltrated perhaps slightly too much. However, the rent is good, and I'm completely able to do chores and maybe tie up some loose ends that she hasn't been able to get to.

Over labor day weekend, and on the Wednesday and Thursday I took off from work for devastational reasons, I moved, resulting in the heaviest things having to be moved last and in Monday's downpour. After deciding what I can live with out for two weeks, two months, however long, I moved the rest of my stuff in a storage facility and my uncle's basement, where very fittingly I found a dead mouse.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Clover Patch: Chapter 3


That afternoon Auntie Mia was in excellent spirits, even for her. She had brought with her an old, beat-up looking ukulele that she had bought from an old mole last week.

Proudly, she held it up for Herbert and Matthew to see. “I’ve been practicing,” she announced, plucking on the strings and beginning a less-than-tuneful song. Matthew covered his ears and Herbert winced as Auntie Mia warbled along:

            Grandma got run over by a Reindeer
            Walking home from our house Christmas Eve.
            You can say there’s no such thing as Santa,
            But as for me and Grandpa, we believe.

“What’s a reindeer?” Herbert whispered to Matthew.

Matthew took his fingers out of his ears. “What?”

“What’s a reindeer?”

Matthew shook his head and put his fingers back in his ears. “I don’t know. Whatever it is, it can’t be good.”

She'd been drinkin' too much egg nog,
And we'd begged her not to go.
But she'd forgot her medication,
And she staggered out the door into the snow
.

Auntie Mia belted out in a voice so atrocious that only the very strongest of stomachs could stand to listen to it for long. 

“Auntie Mia,” called Herbert, but she was singly too loudly to hear him. “Auntie Mia!” Herbert yelled.

She jumped a little bit to hear Herbert yell, but turned to him and said in a voice as sweet as sugar, “Yes?”

“Do you think maybe we could do something else?”

Auntie Mia straightened out her dress and chewed on her bottom link as if she were taking very seriously his suggestion. “What did you have in mind?”

Until Mother returned home, Herbert, Matthew, and Auntie Mia played a dice game that Matthew won twice, a card game that Herbert won once and Auntie Mia won twice, and then hula-hooped.

Mother laughed as she entered the house. What a sight the three of them were! Shaking their hips back and forth, back and forth. They were having such a good time, they didn’t even hear her enter. “Hello!” she called out, putting a heavy paper bag down on the counter.

Herbert immediately dropped his hula-hoop and ran to her. “Mother!” he exclaimed, grabbing at her leg. “I had the best day at school!”

Mother leaned down and picked up Herbert. “Well, I can’t wait to hear about it at dinner. First, will you help me put these groceries away?”

Herbert and Matthew dug through the paper bag and put away different items that Mother had picked up that day while she and Auntie Mia talked quietly a few feet away.

“Lima beans,” said Matthew, making a face and holding out the bag of beans at arm’s length.

“Strawberries!” said Herbert.

“I’ll take those instead.” Matthew turned to where Mother and Auntie Mia were speaking. “Mother, is this the big errand you had to run?”

Mother glanced at Auntie Mia. “Part of it,” she said.

“What was the other part?” asked Herbert.

Mother sighed. “Oh, you know, lots of boring grown up stuff.”

“Like what?” Matthew pressed.

Mother sighed again and a look of worry crossed Auntie Mia’s face.

“Mother,” asked Herbert, “where’s the basket you left with this morning?”

“I had to drop some goodies off with an older lady who lives on the outskirts of town. I must have left it there.” She hastily finished putting the groceries away with her sons. “Now, really, I’d much rather hear about your day and, if you give me just a minute, I’ll have dinner heated up for you.”

“What is it?”

“It’s macaroni and cheese.”

“When did you have time to make that?” asked Matthew.

“I didn’t. The lady I brought the goodies to had made too much, so she sent me home with some. I figured you two wouldn’t complain.”

“No way!” exclaimed Herbert.  “Are there peas in it?” Mother nodded. “Onions?” Mother nodded again. “Alright!” Without even being asked, Herbert grabbed out dishes to set the table.

“Auntie Mia, will you stay for dinner?” Mother asked.

But Auntie Mia shook her head. “No, thank you, Bea. It’s getting dark and I’d best be headed home.”

Mother nodded as if she understood, though neither Herbert nor Matthew noticed. “Yes, you’d probably best. Come say goodbye to Auntie Mia.” Herbert and Matthew ran over to Auntie Mia to give her hugs and thank her for a fun afternoon. Mother walked her to the door while Herbert finished setting the table and Matthew stole small bites of macaroni and cheese.

“Be well,” said Auntie Mia, grabbing Mother’s hand.

“Be safe,” said Mother back, and watched as Auntie Mia walked into the almost-darkness, then bolted the door shut.

When the small family sat down to dinner, Mother seemed distracted as Herbert told her all about his class, what he’d done that day, his tablemates, Ron and Emma, and especially about his new friend, Lily. Herbert chattered on about all that he was going to learn this year and about how wonderful Mr. Honeywise was and about how fun Lily was and about how he couldn’t wait to go to school tomorrow, and Mother smiled, but barely responded.

“That’s nice,” she said, once in a while. Also, “I’m glad for you.”

At first Herbert didn’t notice as he was so wrapped up in the excitement of his day, but he began to wonder why Mother wasn’t more excited, why Mother wasn’t asking questions, why Mother hadn’t suggested that he bring Lily over to the house sometime. So, he asked, “Mother, can I invite Lily over afterschool?”

“Tomorrow?” asked Mother.

Herbert shrugged. “Or the next day.”

Mother nodded slowly. “Tomorrow is good.”

Herbert beamed from ear to ear. “I can’t wait to invite her! You’re going to like her a lot!”

Mother smiled. “I’m sure I will.”

That night, both Herbert and Matthew fell asleep quickly, and Mother sat up in her rocking chair, trying to read, but her mind was elsewhere.

It had been a long journey through the forest today and she was tired, but she couldn’t sleep. The conversation she’d had with the old lady kept playing in her head.

Hazel was a very old mouse with wrinkles around her eyes and her mouth, and a dark, wooden cane she used to help her walk. Hazel had lost her husband and two sons in the first war and seemed to know everything there was to know about any unrest in the forest.

“Is it true?” Mother had asked Hazel. They were sitting in old chairs that had lost most of their stuffing, drinking some tea and eating shortbread that Mother had made.

Hazel shrugged. “True or false is often an incorrect assessment.”

“What have you heard?”

Hazel looked around the room, checking to see that no one could see her and then leaned in closer to Mother. “Beatrice,” she said in a hushed tone, “I have heard so many things that I could fill pages and pages with nonsensical stories about deceit, war, famine, and any other horrible thing you can imagine. If you’re asking me if I believe any of the rumors, that’s a different question.”

Mother sighed. Hazel was always like this: rarely clear and often puzzling. “What rumors do you believe?”

Maintaining her hushed tone, Hazel told Mother, “I’m fairly certain that there are rats advancing on the borders.” Mother sucked her breath in. “They’re not in yet, but rumors say our guards have spotted a handful scouting out the area.”

“Do you think they’re dangerous?” Mother asked, already knowing the answer to her question but hoping for a different one.

“All rats are dangerous,” hissed Hazel. “They’re treacherous vermin and not to be trusted.”

Now, the small fired warmed Mother’s hands and face and, although her mind was quite troubled, her body felt comfortable. She put her book down, closed her eyes, and drifted into a fitful sleep.

Helsinki Ferry Crashes Due to Captain Stuck in Bathroom

A Helsinki Ferry carrying 54 passengers crashed into a rock on the afternoon of Friday, August 19.  A crew member managed to slow the ship down, preventing any serious injuries.

The ferry's captain, it is reported, became stuck in the bathroom when the door's locked jammed. Although he yelled for help, he was not heard until too late.

"He was stuck in the toilet. As soon as the staff member got the door open, it was too late," said Jan Sundell, head of investigation.

Some passengers received a few scrapes and bruises and some dinnerware was broken during the impact, but there were no major incidents to report.

KY Jury Rules in Favor of Doctor in Penis Amputation Lawsuit

Deborah and Phillip Seaton
Kentucky doctor John Patterson received a quick jury ruling in his favor on Wednesday in a case as to whether or not he made an appropriate call amputating a potentially deadly cancerous part of patient Phillip Seaton's, 64, penis during a surgery expected to uncover a fungal infection in 2007.

While the Shelby County jury ruled 10-2 in agreement that Seaton had not authorized proper consent, that same jury ruled unanimously against a claim that Patterson had failed to exercise proper care.

While looking for the fungal infection, Patterson said he found the area underneath the foreskin to have the appearance of rotten cauliflower.

“What I saw was not a penis," Patterson testified. "What I saw was cancer.”

Patterson removed less than an inch during the surgery. After further tests, a different doctor later took the rest of Seaton's penis.

Seaton's lawyer, Kevin George, said that his client plans to appeal this ruling, and that "unless the patient's health is in immediate danger, unless he's in danger of dying immediately on the table" Patterson should have awakened Seaton to request his consent to remove the cancerous part of his penis. Medical experts testifying on both sides of the case were inconclusive in determining if Patterson was in the right or in the wrong. Experts arguing against Patterson stated that Seaton was not in any immediate danger and thus should have been consulted beforehand; experts arguing for Patterson disagreed, saying that removing the cancer (proven after, in fact, be malignant) might have saved Seaton's life.

Seaton, who has limited reading abilities, signed a consent form for the surgery, which Patterson's lawyer said his client the latitude to deal with unforeseen circumstances during the surgery.


“He was mutilated,” attorney Kevin George said during closing arguments that took about as long as the jury deliberations. “His manhood was taken.” Seaton and his wife of thirty-five years, Deborah, sued for $16 million in damages for “loss of service, love, and affection.”

Rogue Panda Rampage Strikes Northern AZ?

"Panda-monium" struck northern Arizona drivers Monday as a driver alert message board warned motorists of "Rogue Panda on Rampage."

Law enforcement officials assure the public that this is not a case of a rogue panda, but rather a rogue hacker. Officials assume that the hacker installed the message sometime late Sunday night, and concede that the hacker must have been terribly intelligent to know how to break in and change the message.

Says Arizona Department of Public Transportation spokeswoman, Mackenzie Kirby, of the hacking, "It's not easy."

Kirby says she has been sent several photoshopped images via email of pandas tooled up for trouble.
In one picture, a panda is holding a machete. In another, it is toting a rifle.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

NY State to Wed Long-Alleged Lovers Bert and Ernie?

After the ratification of gay marriage in NY, many gay rights advocates are pushing for NY to make honest Muppets out of Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie.

Forever-roommates who don't date girls, like to take bubble baths, and quarrel like married couples, Bert and Ernie's sexual orientation has long been up for debate, because foam puppets deserve happiness, too. This, according to comedienne Paula Poundstone, should not be as disturbing as the inter-species relationship between Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. Advocates of Bert and Ernie's relationship cite the year-long story line of human members of Sesame Street, Luis and Maria, falling in love, getting married, and having a child (1998-1999). Opponents argue this: "Sexuality and love has already been introduced into Sesame Street, and it is implied that it's okay for children to understand these concepts as long as it doesn't involve homosexual love. It's perfectly fine to talk about straight love, but not gay."

Other opponents of the alleged puppet love state this it's not discussion of the social issues they're against: it's the idea that we have to assign sexuality to puppets. In response to this, many argue that Kermit and Miss Piggy's relationship has been affirmed and out in the open.

Sesame Street gently denies allegations of any homosexual relationship between Bert and Ernie, and claim that they were created to "demonstrate to children that despite their differences, they can be good friends." The combination of Bert's unibrow and Type A personality and Ernie's rooun stomach and much more lackadaisical attitude make them the Odd Couple of the puppet world. But is friendship really where Bert and Ernie's relationship ends?

Bert and Ernie's affinity for each other is salient and uncontested, but advocates want more. They want equal rights for the allegedly not-just-bffls, and have gone so far as to create a petition encouraging NY state to wed the pair. According to its creators, Lair Scott, Shane Cowart, Alex Maggs, and Mark Szabo, the petition, which received over 7,000 signatures, “would show children and their parents that not only is it acceptable but also teach children that homophobia is wrong, bullying is wrong and that Sesame Street should recognize that there are LGBT relationships, families, and include them in their show.”