27 November 2009

the most amazing muppet video ever.

I almost titled this post, "In which Animal reminds me of my youngest niece." 
The folks at Muppet Studios are amazing- check out their YouTube channel to watch it in glorious HD and you can follow them on Twitter.

25 November 2009


It's time for the annual "I'm thankful for" list. I'm just dashing it out as I have a lot of writing to do this evening, but this really is one of my favorite yearly exercises.

I am thankful for my always supportive family. They keep me going when times are tough. They give me perspective and insight and patience and love.  In this past year in particular, they generously and graciously opened their homes to me when I needed the time and the space to rebuild my tattered sense of self. My family sustains me, and there really aren't words to express how grateful I am for that.  I couldn't do this alone. I can't wait to be with them soon!

I am thankful for opportunities. I'm grateful I'm in my seventh year of college. I'm thankful that I've been able to travel, present at conferences, meet new people, take on exciting projects, and have such a dang cool career path. I forget how awesome it is when I get caught up in the drudgery and the logistics, but I'm glad that I continuously get reminded that I am doing something special.

I am thankful I changed my life. This city, this school, this program, this life, these challenges-- they were all exactly what I needed. I have never worked so hard or put so much of myself into anything, and I'm grateful for what that experience has done to my spirit. I feel fortified. I am glad I didn't take other paths and that so many things in my life didn't happen so that I can be here, now.

I am thankful that I sold my car and became a bike commuter. The 455 miles I've ridden since moving to Philly last August have made my body fit and relieved me of so much stress.  Those miles also allow me to consume lager and fries several times a week without consequences, which I am particularly grateful for.

Which reminds me, I am thankful for my health. In a season of colds and swine flu, I feel phenomenally blessed that I have not been sick once. 

I am thankful for my friends in every time zone. I like knowing that they are out there in the world being good people and making the world a better place. It gives me hope. I am thankful that we have the bonds that we do. 

In the moment- I'm thankful I have a place to be this Thanksgiving. I'm thankful that in the past month I've become apart of a great group of friends who give me endless opportunities to laugh. I'm grateful for the prospect of pear butterscotch pie, a ride in the rain, finally being able to understand how to write about political culture, and getting to tell stories that have never been told this way.  I'm thankful for white Christmas lights and a roommate who, in five seconds, is going to ask me to help him start preparing an amazing meal for tomorrow.  And I'm thankful for all of you who read my blog and make me smile with your comments and encouragement. I have so much to be thankful for!

Happy Thanksgiving! 

13 November 2009

confronting the hard parts.

I like what I do. It's a privilege to tell the stories of others. I've enjoyed meeting the people I study. I love going to conferences, I love going to class, I love the feeling the feeling of opening up a box and not knowing what I'm going to find. The challenges of interpreting the past engage me deeply. I have made a lot of sacrifices because being a historian is so satisfying and rewarding that I want to do it for my whole life, and I want desperately to learn how to do it well.

I love to study New Right conservatives. I admire their passion and temerity. Their rhetoric and writing captivates me. Making sense of a time in which my parents came of age and the moment I was born into has great appeal for me. I have come along way since I started studying these people, and I really, genuinely appreciate what they have to say and how they challenge my worldview.

I say all this because today I had to confront the aspect of my topic I hate the most. It's impossible to write about the New Right without talking about abortion.  For many social conservatives, it's the reason they mobilized, the one thing in the world that they would give anything to change.

I hate reading about it. I hate talking about it. I would do anything to avoid it all together.

The descriptions in pro-life literature, while well-intentioned, are often grizzly and grotesque. They depict excessive and unusual procedures, and overemphasize poorly handled situations.  I concede that it is purposeful and deliberate language. But I think that by and large pro-life accounts are as decadent as the behaviors they are intended to critique.

It has little to do with the fact that I'm pro-choice. I believe that women should have  access to safe medical procedures should they elect to do so. I stand with Linda Gordon in acknowledging that women have made this choice throughout history regardless of its legality, and with Barack Obama who feels that unwanted pregnancies should be prevented through affordable birth control and comprehensive sex education. Like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I believe that it is not a question of either / or. But my politics seldom enter the picture. I am guided by professional ethics and exercise a level of restraint that others have called judicious and even admirable. What I write is not about me. I am not trying to change anybody's mind, nor am I open to my mind being changed.

I just don't like reading about blood and tissue. Needles, suction, disposal, no thank you. I think it's a terrible way to spend the day. It makes me miserable. I don't find it enjoyable to try to understand what's going on in the text; I find it so abhorrent that I struggle to get motivated when I have to address the issue. It's impossible to focus on, requiring breaks, endless coffee, snacks, checking of blogs, email, twitter, and anything that might offer relief from the task.  If someone called and said, "Hey, would you like to come clean my toilet?" I would probably opt for that.  My work ends with descent into exhaustion and then unsatisfying naps. I wind up feeling drained and find it near impossible to shake off the dirty feeling I get from reading this rubbish. To use a turn of phrase from my Mormon days, it offends my spirit.

I love what I do. I love what I study. I wouldn't change my path even if I could. 
But what do we do with the parts of our jobs- our vocations- that we hate? 

11 November 2009

a little wednesday girl power rock for you.

I don't know why, but this song makes me feel like kicking ass and taking names.

I think it's this lyric:
She's an old-time ambassador
Of sweet talking, night walking games
And she's known in the darkest clubs
For pushing ahead of the dames
If she says she can do it
Then she can do it,
she don't make false claims
But she's a Queen,
and such are queens.

Maybe it's too much Gossip Girl, but I'm into the Queen Bitch motif today... Wait, what?

Which reminds me, Gossip Girl is very much into music that involves spelling.

09 November 2009

the bunnies were SAVED.

I know this will shock you, but sometimes my work makes me irritable.  I usually prefer to focus my studies on sensible, logical people like Phyllis Schlafly and William Buckley.  This semester I decided to expand my knowledge of New Right social movements with a project on Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority. In spite of my standard, accepted, baseline level of ivory tower NPR liberalism, I pride myself on my ability to be pretty objective, moderate, and restrained.  

Falwell has turned out to be a real test of my mettle because there are times that I really do think he was CRAZY.  He had twelve different narratives for every event, a staff of really obvious ghostwriters, and sometimes appeared to be a total huckster.  He just isn't as lovable as Phyllis and sometimes I've really resented that.

Until I came across this:

That Jerry! He cared about bunnies so much he included them in his autobiography! When ever I get annoyed with him over the course of writing 15-20 more pages about him, I'm going to look at this photo. The bunnies have such a neutralizing effect. 

P.S. I can't even mention the word "saved" without thinking of this:

08 November 2009

two years of dutch biking.

I'm in a relaxed stupor from listening to Billie Holiday all evening, so it's time to take on projects I've been putting off. So now I can check "bike retrospective" off my list. A burden lifted!

I'm celebrating my two year bike-a-versary with the Old Dutch Treat. I brought it home from Hyland Cyclery on November 3, 2007.  Thinking about that first daunting ride through Sugar House and up up up into the foothills makes me a little verklempt- in fact, just thinking about Utah has that effect on me.

But Utah is another post for another day. I bought my bike after a year of reading Copenhagen Cycle Chic daily in a Seattle skyscraper. When I moved to Utah for graduate school, I found myself on a spread out (and scenic!) campus. But more than anything, I had recently made a quiet exit from Mormonism.  

It was a time of aesthetic overload for me. Tasting coffee for the first time since 1999, beginning a drinking career with a six pack of Blue Moon, and entering a whole new world of empty Sundays, strange dating expectations, and choices I'd never even considered having to make- it was eye opening.  It was overwhelming. So one day I went to a bike shop that deals with Batavus' US distributor (at the time?), Seattle Bike Supply, and I ordered my dream bike. 

It was one of those surreal large impulse purchases that was fantastically intoxicating. It was my mid-life crisis Corvette on a quarter-life scale. Waiting for the bike to arrive nearly killed me.

Not really.  But it changed how I experienced my world once it showed up. I felt like hot shit riding that bike.  With the wind on my face, I had my deepest thoughts.  I started healing from all the hurt feelings and developing a new sense of self.  I even started a blog.

A lot has changed since then.  I never would have thought when I purchased the ODT that it would replace my Honda- or that I would be riding it around Philadelphia, a city I had never been to and never thought of living in. But in spite of the increased purpose and frequency of my rides, the ethos is still the same.  I still feel like hot shit riding that bike.

Here's to many more good years on the Old Dutch Treat.

07 November 2009

philly tweed ride.

I was really there! 

Ok, so I might have been excited about the Philly Tweed Ride since the second I found out about it. But how could I not be? A bunch of finely dressed people riding bikes together? This is what I do. We were blessed with great weather for parading through the city. The part of me that's been reading about fundamentalists all week would like to think that hearts were changed and that many Center City onlookers saw the "style over speed" bicycle light this November afternoon. If anything, a lot of people saw the Old Dutch Treat and had plenty of nice things to say about my beloved beast.

At the Waterworks behind the Art Museum before the ride.

Parade through Rittenhouse Square.

Chilling at the Schuykill River Park.

It was an amazing time. I was the 49th person to sign in, and there were easily at least 20 more people who came after me. We rode through Center City (past tons of shocked Saturday shoppers on Walnut!), walked through Rittenhouse Square, played games at Schuykill River Park, rode past Independence Hall, enjoyed a pleasant regrouping at Elfreth's Alley (Philadelphia's Oldest Street!), and then terminated the ride at the choice bar / eatery The Institute (that extra bowl of chili accidentally sent up to the second floor that I got to eat? AMAZING.). I was fortunate to meet a ton of kind folks that I am proud to share the road with.  It was nice to get together with a bunch of other everyday cyclists for a little fun and to remember why doing what we do is so dang cool.

03 November 2009

grocery getting by bike during a strike.

a nice view from the helm of the Old Dutch Treat

So you may have heard that we're in the midst of a transit strike here in Philadelphia.  On the Granny Bike front, this means that it's business as usual.  Today I determined that I could no longer live off of spaghetti and without coffee, so I took the ODT out for some grocery getting.

Naturally, as I was going to share with you what that looked like, things didn't go as usual. The tote bag that I usually keep with my pannier had gotten put on gloves and rainpants storage duty, and ever eager to eat, I came home with more groceries than usual.

The bike was a little wobbly to get a full shot. Having only one pannier was sort of a problem today. This is why you don't go crazy buying lemon curd and pickles and healthy snacks, people.

Fortunately, I had my super REI bungee with me to help me manage the paper bag presence up front.

In spite of the minor inconveniences, I still enjoyed myself.  It's fall! I can eat whatever I want! I like spending money on food rather than gas! And of course, nothing beats riding an Old Dutch in red tights!

P.S. The Bicycle Coalition has put together a fantastic Bike the Strike blog together! Lots of great Philly bike info and transportation suggestions over there.