Aunt Lydia’s Baby Gender Prediction Method

I found the following gem in the 1977 J. Gruber’s Hagers-Town, Town and Country Almanack, along with the usually almanac-ery, household tips, and a few grand ads (that I’ll be showing off later). It’s a prediction method for pregnant women to discover the gender of their baby.

In case the name Aunt Lydia sounds familiar, this is not the Aunt Lydia from The Handmaid’s Tale who was responsible for teaching the enslaved women called “handmaids.” (The movie adaptation is where I first fell in love with Natasha Richardson, may she rest in peace.) This Aunt Lydia was Miss Lydia Cline, “a retired practical nurse who lived in and around Hagerstown,” whose method of prediction was heralded to have “an accuracy of over 80%!”

Even though Aunt Lydia had passed away in 1973, the almanac’s 1977 proclamation was to ensure readers that they could still accurately predict the gender of unborn children — under the following conditions:

Here’s an example of just how Aunt Lydia’s formula works. Say, for instance, your last child was born in 1973 on the first day of January; the birth sign under which the child was born would be Sagittarius, the Archer. As the sign did not change but remained the same for the following day, the 2nd, that year, there would be no change in the sex of your next child. If, however, the child had been born January second, it would still have been born under the sign of Sagittarius, but because the following day, the 3rd, the sign changed to Capricorn, the Goat, there would be a change in the sex of the next child.

(One assumes you’ll need the astrological information as provided in past issues of this almanc; for those of child bearing years, who want more recent issues, check the official Hagerstown Town and Country Almanack website. The article also notes that the simple formula does not work with a first child, nor for induced or Caesarian delivered births.)

If only author Margaret Atwood had known of this Aunt Lydia and her prophetic equation… With such knowledge, the gender of babies could have been more than divined, but planned.

It may not have prevented Gilead from increasing the number of gender-crimes (for that’s how, you’ll remember, women were forced into becoming handmaids) or otherwise improved the lot of women, but it would have raised other interesting avenues of thought.

However, Hagerstown’s Aunt Lydia and her formula were incorrect regarding my second child. Not sure if that signals failure on the part of Aunt Lydia, a missing part of the prediction formula retained to secrecy, or if, per the usual, I am just relegated to the position of minority.

Dear Chad, Alltel Customer Service Sucks

A few months ago we switched to Alltel. I love my LG Touch phone, but the other day I had a problem with text messages (a long story) and needed to call for help. You’d think this would be simple, but it wasn’t.

First I had to get another phone so that I could poke, prod, etc. my LG Touch per their directions; then I had to find the number to call. Going to Alltel.com was discovering the first FAIL:

They require you to enter your zip code to get the “offers” in your area before accessing anything on their site.

Since I’m already a customer — a customer with a problem, no less — this is an unwarranted frustration. To help you, here are Alltel’s numbers:

Personal: 1-800-alltel1 (1-800-255-8351)
Business: 1-888-4AT-BIZZ (1-888-428-2499)

Once I call, go through all the prompts — including entering the digits of my Alltel cell phone — eventually reaching the place where I get the prompt to speak to a person. “Hip-Hip-Hooray!” right?

Wrong.

Once you press (or say) that magic number, Alltel forces you to agree to one of those satisfaction surveys. “Press 1 if you’d like us to call you back in an hour or, if you’ve called after 9 PM, call you back after 9 AM tomorrow, on the number you are calling from; or press 2 if you’d like us to call you back in an hour or, if you’ve called after 9 PM, call you back after 9 AM tomorrow, on your Alltel phone.”

Wait a freakin’ minute.

I have to agree to a “How satisfied are you?” survey before I even get any help?!

WTF!

My already frustrated brain was certain that my transfer to a person had been lost and that the system had bumped me ahead to the post-call recording.

I mean, why would they hold a customer hostage like that?

But I angrily spit-out the vocal response and was finally patched-through to a human, a human who — yes, you guessed it! — made me give my Alltel number out again before she could/would help me.

I get that we live in an age where everything has to be as automated as possible because even outsourced jobs cost more than robotic voices and technologic routing. I get that data is at a premium in your competitive business. I get a lot of things about business — your business, and business in general.

But really, Alltel, do you have to hide your contact information?

Do you have to add more layers of insulting behavior to the process, holding human interaction (the very essence of the wireless business) hostage to the tune of promises a frustrated customer must keep?

All of this is like layer after layer of frustrated-icing on a bullshit cupcake.

Here’s a business tip you obviously don’t know, Alltel: It is cheaper to retain a customer than to go out and get a new one.

You don’t retain customers by keeping contact with you at bay, especially when they are already frustrated and calling customer service. So take that advice and stick it in your circle.

English Droll Doesn’t Play Well In Print, Or Peoria

In the January 2010 issue of Elle magazine, in the Elle Man interview series, Hugh Grant is interviewed by Holly Millea. In it, among other things (like his art collection) he dishes on his female costars:

Elle: Let’s run through some of your costars. Three adjectives, please. Andie?

HG: Southern belle. Charming. Gorgeous. Emma Thompson: Clever, funny, mad as a chair. Renee Zellweger: Delightful. Also far from sane. Very good kisser. Sandra Bullock: A genius. A German. Too many dogs. Julianna Moore: Brilliant actress. Loathes me. Rachel Weisz: Clever. Beautiful. Despises me. Drew Barrymore: Made her cry. Stunning film-star face. Hates me.

Some places have already blogged and reported on this celebrity dish, but I think they miss the humor. True ‘English droll’ doesn’t play well in print, or Peoria, but do people really think Hugh Grant would backhandedly snark on costars that way?

(Click scans to read.)

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Cowgirl Bandits My A**

A quick tip of my hat to Eliza at Bust Magazine‘s blog for pointing out what a hideous idea it is to make a a new younger version of the film classic Thelma and Louise. The train wreck, set to star Leighton Meester and Amber Heard, is titled Cowgirl Bandits — a title which certainly seems to sum up the producer’s ignorance of just what is truly at the core of this film.

Adding to the inappropriateness Eliza expressed, it is, in my estimation, not simply a bad idea due to the celebs involved (for I don’t view either as an actress anywhere near the likes of either Susan Sarandon or Geena Davis), nor is it a lament that classics ought to be left the hell alone (Did we learn nothing from the remake of The Women?!); no, the horror of this cinemacide goes far deeper.

What is sexy about this film (and I mean that in both the physical arousal definition of the word “sexy” and the intellectual turn-on implications of the colloquial usage) is the very thing they are undoing by attempting a “younger” version. A younger version of the film requires the characters be too young to believably have the character of the film characters.

At 20-ish, you don’t have years, decades, of boredom and abuse in a marriage — and if you even have to ask how a relationship can be both boring and abusive, then you are the “too young” I speak of — so how can you be courageous enough to walk out of it, Thelma? Courage, after all, is measured by the ability to confront a situation aware of the risks, pain, intimidation.  (And how young would Brad Pitt’s character have to be– 12?! Or in this hip young version, would she hook-up with an old dude, of say 40? A Brad Pitt role reprisal?)

At 20-ish, you don’t have years of hiding out, sheltering yourself as you live in the quiet silence of a pretense that keeps you at arm’s length from any respite, a deer perpetually in the headlights, exhausted from swallowing the injustice as you remain on guard for the next attack. So how then, can you react as you do, Louise? Without your years of suffering, how can there be a sympathetic policeman?

thelma-and-louiseWith this pitiful remake, there’s no significant backstory for these characters because — and I know this will offend you young pups — because 20-somethings haven’t lived long enough to have such a history, a history that they have both taken part in the creation of and struggled with for years.

Thelma & Louise wasn’t about some willy-nilly drive into the vague liberation of third-wave feminism partying and screwing the way to a poetic fireball of justice; it wasn’t a movie about women willing to die in the name of feminism. Thelma & Louise was far more complicated — sad and infuriating — because Thelma & Louise were fully developed characters with backstories. And they had to be older to do that.

Fabric Swatch Friday: The BIG Burlap Retro Decor Board Project Edition

You’re going to need more than a swatch to make these retro “free form” (from a pattern) decor boards — but the good news is that you can use cheap ol’ burlap, as instructed, or any fabric you like (Maybe even old sheets?) The June, 1957, issue of Popular Mechanics describes the DIY project thus:

In addition to being conversation pieces in themselves, decor boards are the answer to the problem of displaying small pictures, curios and other knick knacks in a room of modern furnishings. Besides adding a sharp contrasting background, these “bulletin boards” save the wall from numerous nail holes as they hang like pictures.

Materials needed:
Insulation board
Plywood
Nails
Fabric of your choice
Screw eyes
Small rubber tacks

And the patterns for “free form” shapes as shown (click to enbiggin’).

decor-boards-free-form

So Many Books, So Little Time

so-many-books-cover“So many books, so little time,” is the common lament of book readers and compulsive book buyers like myself who snap up paperbacks like this discarded library copy for 50 cents. That saying could have been the title of Gabriel Zaid’s book — but then, Zaid’s book covers more than just book readers, so he made the recognizable allusion & added a bit more to the title.

So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance by Gabriel Zaid (translated by Natasha Wimmer), covers the entire family of bookish folk: readers, buyers, collectors, writers, publishers, marketers, & retailers. The distinction of each may not seem like much to you; but having tried my hat at all of the above, I, and Zaid, can tell you there are some large differences (and when the book marketer & retailers, especially, are ignorant, they are very unsuccessful).

Zaid manages to pile on an enormous amount of facts (book publishing has been enriched by the very innovations that seem to threaten it), observations (many authors don’t write for their readers, but to pad their resumes) and philosophies (book are conversations; readers participate in the conversations and, in some cases, arrange the conversations) into a slim, 144 page, book.

But what’s truly amazing is that Wimmer’s translation manages to retain (or perhaps create? I’ve no way of assessing the original Spanish) a concise elegance that is fascinating & impressive.

Especially evident (as well as powerfully provocative) in chapter six, when the author lays out, step by step, how “learning to read is the integration of units of ever-more-complex meaning.” Ab-so-feakin’-lute-ly mind blowing to consider — while you are literally doing it!

Just how my copy of this book was deemed an unnecessary conversation by a library (the Lake Agassiz Regional Library, Moorhead, MN — not my Fargo Public Library!) seems more than ironic, but sad. Because I haven’t hugged a book to my chest like this in a long long time.

A true feast for bibliophiles craving both the intellectual & the literary, I could quote nearly endlessly from So Many Books — or at least 144 mass market pages worth. *wink* But out of respect for the author & translator, I’ll limit myself. These are my favorite passages — the juiciest ones that really make me think about myself — which come from the second chapter, titled An Embarrassment of Books:

Those who aspire to the status of cultured individuals visit bookstores with trepidation, overwhelmed by the immensity of all they have not read. They buy something that they’ve been told is good, make an unsuccessful attempt to read it, and when they have accumulated half a dozen unread books, feel so bad that they are afraid to buy more.

In contrast, the truly cultured are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure of their desire for more.

“Every private library is a reading plan,” Spanish philosopher Jose Gaos once wrote. So accurate is this observation that in order for it also to be ironic the reader must acknowledge a kind of general unspoken assumption: a book not read is a project uncompleted. Having unread books on display is like writing checks when you have no money in the bank — a way of deceiving your guests.

If that doesn’t make you smile — or at least grudgingly nod to yourself — then you book collectors will hate this next one:

A terrible solution is to keep books until you’ve accumulated a library of thousands of volumes, all the while telling yourself that you know you don’t have the time to read them but that you’ll be able to leave them to your children. This is an excuse that grows weaker and weaker as science makes even greater strides. Almost all books are obsolete from the moment they’re written, if not before. And marketing strategies engineer the planned obsolescence even of classic authors (with new and better critical editions) to eliminate the ruinous transmission of tastes from one generation to the next, which once upon a time.

The creation of an obsolete library for one’s children may only be justified in the way that the preservation of ruins is justified: in the name of archaeology.

Perhaps it at this point (page 16) that those who checked out So Many Books angrily stopped reading, returned the book to the library, and continued Zaid’s conversation in the most unflattering of ways, bad-mouthing the book into that useless space-taking-with-no-check-outs status that forced the librarian to discard it.

But me? I saw myself in those passages — and I loved it. Sure, it’s like those extra pounds I’ve got; not so pretty too look at for some, but baby, that’s all me! Before I can decide what — if anything — I should do about it, I have to first be aware of it. So Zaid held up a mirror and now I get to think about it… Why do I do that? (I buy it cheap, so that it’s at my fingertips — and there’s that osmosis thing.) Is he right? (I most vehemently do not agree all books become obsolete — some conversations ought never die & the past should be included in those conversations.) And then I get to converse with others about it. Awesome!

In case those passages really hurt your feeling (or before you rush off and buy yourself a copy of So Many Books), I’ll leave you with the following passage from the end of chapter one, To the Unrepentant Reader, which may put you & I & Zaid & all readers each in a better light:

The uniqueness of each reader, reflected in the particular nature of his personal library (his intellectual genome), flourishes in diversity. And the conversation continues, between the excesses of graphomania and the excesses of commerce, between the sprawl of chaos and the concentration of the market.

Fishy French Tampax

I found this French ad for Tampax via Tom Murphy at The Ephemera Network. Tom doubts this ad campaign could be run here in America — for quite obvious reasons.

french-fish-tampax-ad

The French translates to “I am like a fish in water.” Not that that clears anything up.

Because no matter what language or the word for “fish,” any society with a female population is aware of that fishy smell — though less realize it’s likely due to Bacterial Vaginosis; they just mock it and women in general with tacky references to hyper-sexuality. So I’m really surprised that this ad could run anywhere.

Not just because of it’s potentially suggestive humor, but because why would a company, especially a feminine hygiene product, want to link itself to such an offensive thing? Especially as some experts believe that tampons can change the normal balance of vaginal bacteria; don’t think that’s how you want your target audience to think of you, Tampax.

Your Momma Wears Capri Pants

I was reminded the other day (details to follow) of Christopher Titus & his stand-up bit where he hates on Capri pants, saying that they are butt-widening, leg-stumpifying, pasty-white-cankle-showcasing monstrosities that are neither pants nor shorts. Who can argue? Few can face the bottom (or leg) line of Capri pants.

audrey-hepburn-1953-mark-shaw-photographer

But the point of Capri pants is not to make you hate yourself for not being able to mold yourself into the (physical) ideal of Hepburn (Audrey, not Kate; Kate eschewed skirts and wore tailored “men’s” pants and was far more shocking than fashion-trend-setting Audrey) — Capri pants were supposed to be liberating.

Frankly, the discernible characteristics between Capri pants and peddle pushers (and, sometimes, leggings & stirrup pants — hello, 1980’s!) are few and fuzzy. I’m not just talking about fabric pilling on the knit versions either. Strictly speaking, Carpi pants are supposed to be a tad shorter and looser than peddle pushers, but for the sake of this post I won’t split hairs, except to give credit where credit is due — and the credit for peddle pushers goes to designer Lynn Eccleston in the 1940’s. Eccleston experimented with shortening the legs of women’s slacks and the sporty look caught on with active women who, like those who abandoned their corsets in at the end of the 1800’s, wanted more ease in riding bicycles — thus the term “pedal pushers.”

audrey-hepburn-in-dress-on-bike

audrey-hepburn-pedal-pushing-reporting-for-makeup-during-filming-of-sabrina

Some credit Mary Tyler Moore for making the pedal pusher and other pants fashionable; others prefer to cite Audrey Hepburn. Technically speaking, Audrey sported pants in the 50’s while Mary’s Laura Petrie didn’t hit small screens until the 60’s.

marytylermoorepetriepants

But for our purposes of discussion today, it’s tomato tomato — not tomato tomatoe — because both babes had figures to carry off the slim look.

And this, my friends, is the reason for the, “Yer momma wears Capri pants” slur.

Most women wearing pedal pushers have stopped pushing pedals. If they continued the liberating exercise of exercising, they wouldn’t end up being the (wide) butts of Titus’ jokes. Even the middle-age spread would limit itself to some thickening of the torso, rather than the pear and apple shaped figures most now have. (And even liberal use of sunscreen wouldn’t keep us pasty-cankle bound.)

But, by & large, we’ve stopped pushing pedals; now we’re just large. And so maybe we should stop wearing peddle pushers and Capri pants. No, not even with the “over-sized” tees, sweaters, and tunics we think hide all the problem areas. (Notice where Mary Tyler Moore’s sweater sits; she doesn’t need to hide hips, belly or behind.)

mary-tyler-moore-wearing-pants

I don’t wear Capri pants or pedal pushers, but I know why other women do. Like Titus said, they are neither shorts nor pants, so they seem to provide the middle of the road not-too-formal, not-too-casual fashion needs for summer. And if we had more choices, like we did in the 70’s and 80’s for light-weight colored denim and cotton pants, maybe we’d feel less pressed to push ourselves into unflattering butt-widening, cankle-baring pants. (Back then you could find warm-weather friendly pants in shades of watermelon, sunny yellow, every shade of Caribbean azuree inspired blue… Far more then today’s white & navy.)

OK, and some women wear these shorter length pants to show off their shoes. (And yes, Titus is right, this does include cork wedges.)

But mostly Capri pants are worn for physical comfort; not to be posing like the pedal pushers we aren’t.

What started me thinking about all this was spotting a young man at an outdoor event last week. In a display of teenage fashion defiance, he was wearing all black — from head-to-toe in the sweltering high temperatures. Following the solid, if somewhat wash-faded, black line of t-shirt to canvas belt to jeans, I was jerked to a stop at the wide folded denim cuffs at his calf where a 4-6 inch wide white swatch of pasty mid-west skin glowed glared behind its decorative tufts of hair. From there, more black: black socks over the edge of comically huge black combat boots. Seriously, clown shoes are smaller.

Between the heat, the black clothing, & the weight of those shoes, he half-crawled to his seat where he tried to make it look like he was nonchalantly sprawling himself instead of, as he was, stumbling towards & falling to a seated rescue.

The only thing that kept me from bringing him some water to revive him was the knowing look his white Capri pants wearing, non-heatstroke affected mother and I shared. (And then I had to turn away and make a non-related animated conversation with hubby so that I could release my held laughter.)

My point is, if you missed it and insist that I have one, is this: He was a poser, hiding behind his costume.

If over-weight women are to be mocked for exposing their least flattering sides (physical attributes and the attitudes which created them), then I feel the need to point out the ridiculousness of faux poser cool melting in the sun.

So the next time you want to mock someone’s momma for wearing Capri pants, be sure you & yours are not equally guilty of some fashion posing; I assure you, your sacrifice of comfort (and health) is no more flattering and it is equally noticeable.

And while we’re talking about such things, let me say, “Get on your bike and ride it!” Whatever you’re wearing, you’ll look & feel better for it.

audrey-hepburn-in-capri-pants-on-bike

Some Lessons In The Soiling Of Old Glory

the-soiling-of-old-glory-the-story-of-a-photograph-that-shocked-america-by-louis-p-masurAt Collectors’ Quest I just reviewed Louis P. Masur’s The Soiling of Old Glory: The Story of a Photograph That Shocked Americaa book I can’t recommend highly enough.

While the book is based on a very famous photograph, the Pulitzer Prize–winning photograph by Stanley Forman, taken on April 5, 1976 at a Boston rally against forced school busing, I’d never heard of or seen the photo before.

I don’t know why.

I was 12 years old at that time and I remember vividly Watergate, Viet Nam, etc.; so I obviously absorbed news. And I’ve always been interested in, sensitive to, and emotional regarding matters of race — something I’ve since put down not only to a combination of being human, being female (and so recognizing oppression), and “white guilt,” but as spiritual residue from being born on June 21, 1964, the date of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were murdered (something I never knew until I was about 25 and rented Mississippi Burning). Plus, I’ve been a very avid student of history. So just how the incident & photograph escaped my knowledge is a mystery to me…

But once I found Masur’s book, my ignorance left.

And not just my ignorance regarding this (and other) incidents of relatively recent racism in this country (and in “the liberal north” yet!), but about photography, art, symbolism… And this country’s flag.

I had no idea that someone from my home-state of Wisconsin was so influential in the creation of National Flag Day, or that the Milwaukee Daughters of the American Revolution played a role in early anti flag desecration legislation. In fact, I had no idea that there was such concern over flag desecration as early as the late 1800’s. But what really rocked my cynical world was the reasoning behind it. Masur wrote (pages 98-99):

Even as the flag came to be venerated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it became subject to another kind of treatment: desecration. Of course, it makes perfect sense that the two might emerge side by side, an object worshipped and reviled, an icon and a target. Reports and pamphlets in support of legislation against federal flag desecration began to appear, primarily in response not to overt acts of destruction but to the commercial use of the image of the flag. Arguing that “old glory is too sacred a symbol to be misused by any party, creed, or faction,” one writer included a list of objects on which “old glory… is treated with grave disrespect or used for mercenary purposes.” The items ranged from pocket handkerchiefs and doormats to lemon wrappers and whiskey bottles. In 1890, the House Judiciary Committee recommended passage of a law that made it a misdemeanor to “use the national flag, either by printing, painting, or affixing said flag, or otherwise attaching to the same any advertisement for public display, or private gain.”

What strikes me so odd — not that it should, I suppose — is that folks were so upset by the commercialization of the U.S. flag.

What on earth would they think of today’s patriotism? Of our current state of ridicule of anyone not wearing or displaying, on person or product, an American flag?

That sound you hear is the thud of fainting conservatives from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Or maybe it is the screams of horror from the same.

Once I wrapped my mind around such societal flip-flop, I then was left to revisit my own memories of the flag. A flag I’d seen on so many things… And that was before 9/11.

Heck, walk down any major isle at oh-holy-Wal*Mart this week, and try not to find something with the U.S. flag printed on it — tank tops with the flag & little white puppies, disposable plates with flags on them, socks with flags & fireworks, seat cushions… Endless. And all made to be profited from.

Was the Bicentennial responsible for this?

Back then (and I don’t mean just 1976, but the years surrounding it too) we had our school pictures taken with flag backgrounds, ate off flag forks, plastered cafeterias with flag-printed crepe paper & balloons, even applied flag printed toilet paper to clean our dirty butts. It was as bad as Masur notes, and, as he quotes, by then at least one member of the Sons of the American Revolution was OK with such kitsch: “I see no harm in these Bicentennial products. There is no harm in making a buck.”

But while the Bicentennial was the height of flag kitsch, I had some memories of flag use and “abuse” before then…

Again from Masur (page 107):

The meaning of America and the meaning of the flag went together. As the counterculture of the late 1950s and the 1960s came into prominence, attempts to redefine America often meant desacralizing the flag by wearing it. The cultural rebellion of the 1960s necessarily implicated the flag. [Allen] Ginsberg came to sport a top hat with the American flag motif. In discussing Ken Kesey, the Merry Pranksters, and the drug culture of the 1960s, Ginsberg argued that “they didn’t reject the American flag but instead washed it and took it back from the neoconservatives and right wingers and war hawks who were wrapping themselves in the flag, so Kesey painted the flag on his sneakers and had a little flag in his teeth filling.”

This was as I recalled from my television set. The protest film footage, the body paint on Goldie Hawn & Judy Carne on Laugh-In (and if the girls hadn’t actually worn flags painted on their bodies, well, I said it was as I recalled it…) It may not all have been as commercial as the Bicentennial kitsch was; but it was there, making it’s own statement, whether you dug it or not.

In the end, I agree with Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson who, ruling on West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette in 1943, said:

To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds. We can have intellectual individualism and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes. When they are so harmless to others or to the state as those we deal with here, the price is not too great. But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.”

I don’t for a moment consider the use of the flag as a weapon to be anything other than criminal; that’s not my intent in any way. While the photo and exploration of the cult of flag connect in Masur’s book (they have to; the flag as symbol must be discussed), that’s not his point either. But what you have to see is a time, not long ago, when many felt the flag, like the country, didn’t represent them any more.

Here Masur repeats a quote Kenneth Clark published in Dark Ghetto:

The flag here in America is for the white man. The blue is for justice; the fifty white stars you see in the blue are for the fifty white states; and the white you see in it is the White House. It represents white folks. The red in it is the white man’s blood — he doesn’t even respect your blood, that’s why he will lynch you, hang you, barbecue you, and fry you.

There are many times I feel that way. Not just in theory. Not just as continuing amateur historian. But as a woman living her life here as a second class citizen. Without equal pay. Without the same recourse & credibility when she stands to seek justice. Without recognized rights to her own body. And with far greater (& societal accepted) risk of violence & sexual assault.

Why isn’t my gender’s blood part of the red on the flag?

I feel a reclamation-of-the-flag art project coming on.

Happy Fourth of July.

Now It’s Really The Last Laugh

As usual, a tiny snippet in a vintage magazine drives me to obsessive research…

This time it’s a few lines on page 47 of Quick (November 21, 1949 — which had that feature on Esther Williams). The few lines, titled Last Laugh, are about the widowed singer, Mrs. Reseda Corrigan, who after having fallen prey to infamous bigamist Sigmund Engel, announced her plans for both a vaudeville act “showing how Engel made love to her” and her engagement to “booking agent and bandsman,” Al Turk.

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Apparently it is worth noting that Mrs. Corrigan was not only a window, mother of three, and a singer, but a redhead — and her fashions were greatly detailed in the press reports of the court trials. I love how women’s fashions pertain to courtroom drama. Not.

Sigmund Z. Engel, was a real charmer. He’s credited with saying, “The age of a woman doesn’t mean a thing. The best tunes are played on the oldest fiddles.” And he apparently offered the press advice upon entering prison:

1. Always look for the widows. Less complications.
2. Establish your own background as one of wealth and culture.
3. Make friends with the entire family.
4. Send a woman frequent bouquets. Roses, never orchids.
5. Don’t ask for money. Make her suggest lending it to you.
6. Be attentive at all times.
7. Be gentle and ardent.
8. Always be a perfect gentleman. Subordinate sex.

Engel also wrote a book, titled Lover of 1001 Women — a copy of which currently eludes me. But I have heart. I always have heart when it comes to collecting; but love can be far trickier… As Mrs. Corrigan herself warned in the St. Petersburg Times, June 23, 1949, “When a man uses excellent English, whispers ‘I love you’ while at the same time kissing your ear, beware.”

bigamist-sigmund-engel-awaiting-trial-in-cook-county-jail-life-mag-photo-by-francis-miller

It’s important to note that Mrs. Corrigan was not just bigamist-bitter, nor even money-taking-bigamis-bitter, but royally-pissed-bitter. This because during Engel & Corrigan’s engagement Engel went missing for a week. Then he suddenly called and asked Corrigan to take the first train out of Chicago and meet him in New York’s Grand Central Station. Corrigan complied. Not only was Engel a no-show, but, because Engel was supposedly wealthy, she arrived without any money of her own and was forced to live in Grand Central Station for eight days — sleeping in the washrooms and on public benches.

That would leave a bitter aftertaste all its own, yes? This is when she filed charges in Chicago, resulting in Engle’s photograph being published & the ensuing suits.

So we can understand Corrigan’s boasting in the press about her show and upcoming nuptials.

But Corrigan wasn’t to have the last laugh as far as I can see.

In the St. Petersburg Times, November 20, 1949, the following bad news:

Mrs. Reseda Corrigan’s “kissless romance” with band leader Al Turn is one the rocks — right where the vocalist was left by Sigmund (Sad Sam) Engel when he dashed off with her $8,700.

Soon after Engel’s conviction in Chicago, Mrs. Corrigan, 39, disclosed plans to marry Turk. But Turk said yesterday the whole thing was washed up. He explained: “She does a fair job of singing but she needs a log of training.”

Mrs. Corrigan was caught off base by Turk’s announcement but fired back: “I have more finesse than he has. He has no gallantry about him. Why, he didn’t even kiss me.”

Neither did Engel, she insisted, because “I’m a singer and I don’t want to be going around with germs in my throat.”

I’ve got a little something in my throat… I think it’s bile.

If anyone knows anything more about Reseda Corrigan, I’d love to hear about it — especially if you have a photo!

A Rose Made From Any Used Stocking Still Smells As Sweaty

At my other blog hubby & I do a quasi-regular feature called “Craft-Scan Fridays”, so I was digging ’round in my old crafting magazines. This lead to a vast number of possible posts — and, being too eager to wait & schedule them all out for weeks & weeks, I thought I’d share one here.

This gem on how to make nylon corsages from old nylon stockings, pantyhose & other hosiery comes from The Workbasket magazine (the June 1952 issue).

make-nylon-corsages-1952

nylon-corsages-last

It fascinates me for several reasons.

One, the long history of recycling ladies’ hosiery. You may recall such things from war efforts, but this was also a huge arts & crafts fad in the 70’s. The notion of recycling appeals; but the irony of using fabric that’s been on your feet, possibly next to your sweaty crotch, to make flowers is inescapable.

Two, check out the nice ad placement for All-Fabric Tintex (which, by the way, is still around). The vintage ad even promotes sending in for “a free illustrated Tintex flower leaflet” — which sounds just like The Workbasket article itself. The vintage nylon corsage article might as well be an advertorial.

The Smartest Woman On The Bailout

My dad sent me this:

smartest-woman-on-the-bailout“BAIL EM OUT!!!!????

Hell, back in 1990, the Government seized the Mustang Ranch brothel in Nevada for tax evasion and, as required by law, tried to run it. They failed and it closed. Now we are trusting the economy of our country and our banking system to the same nit-wits who couldn’t make money running a whore house and selling whiskey!”

I knew it was going to be pretty funny when it was an email forward thingy from my dad.

To my knowledge, my dad’s only forwarded 3 other email jokes in the entire history of his internet use (those were also funny — and dripping with “I hate George W. Bush” juice), so he doesn’t exactly stuff my email with unwanted junk.

Republicans Suffer From Dementia & Can’t Understand Satire

In celebration of what is looking more & more like (knock wood) Al Franken’s seat filling the Senate seat and the recent publication of Ohio State University’s study on satire (The Irony of Satire: Political Ideology and the Motivation to See What You Want to See in The Colbert Report, April edition of the International Journal of Press/Politics), I’m reposting something I wrote 11 months ago… Because, as you’ll see, it’s more ironic to reread this than to rewrite it.

First republicans were actually using comedian Steven Colbert’s satirical works to push their agendas, and now ABC reports that the Minnesota Republican Party’s released a letter, signed by a whopping six GOP women, attacking comedian Al Franken who was then running for United States Senate in Minnesota:

Eight years ago, Franken penned a column for Playboy called “Porn-O-Rama!” in which the former Saturday Night Live comedian wrote about visiting a made-up sex institute where he takes part in sexual acts with humans and machines.

“While you may attempt to defend your writing as satire, we hardly find anything defensible about your finding humor in your desire to have sex with women or robots that look like women simply to give yourself a good time,” the Minnesota GOP women wrote in the letter. “This column is at its worst, an extreme example of the kind of disrespect for the role of women in society that all of us have fought our entire lives. At best, it is the disrespectful writings of a nearly 50-year-old man who seems to think that women’s bodies are the domain of a man who just wants to have a good time.”

“Denounce this article and apologize immediately,” read the letter.

Sheesh. And they say feminists have no sense of humor…

Perhaps too many republicans suffer from frontotemporal dementia and therefore cannot process sarcasm. (It’s funny because it’s true.)

Meanwhile, for those suffering from a poor sense of humor, an dementia-induced inability to recognize sarcasm, or a fundamental ignorance of humor ~ including satire ~ and its historical use as social protest, the Franken camp’s response (via ABC) should help clarify things a bit:

The Franken campaign said the Playboy column was written as a satire.

“Al had a long career as a satirist,” said Jess McIntosh of the Franken campaign. “But he understands the difference between what you say as a satirist and what you do as a senator. And as a senator, Norm Coleman has disrespected the people of Minnesota by putting the Exxons and Halliburtons ahead of working families. And there’s nothing funny about that.”

You don’t have to be an Al Franken fan (though I am) to love the “he understands the difference between what you say as a satirist and what you do as a senator”.

sarcasmbrainMaybe a little remedial reading, via the links here, would help those six GOP ladies… Or lobotomies. Hey, Dr. Katherine P. Rankin, do they do parahippocampal gyrus lobotomies for the sarcasm impaired?

Related: In the New York Times article on sarcasm, Dr. Rankin is quoted as saying, “I bet Jon Stewart has a huge right frontal lobe; that’s where the sense of humor is detected on M.R.I.”

And now you know how to spot all the smart funny people (who are happy to see you). Bet there are few bulging lobes in today’s republican party.

Then again, they are rarely happy to see me.

What Better Way Than Humor, Indeed

NOW, the National Organization for Women, is celebrating Equal Pay Day, Tuesday April 28, with a cartoon caption contest:

We need to increase recognition that the wage gap is a problem for women and families, and what better way than humor? Enter NOW’s Equal Pay Cartoon Contest and help us spread the word about pay equity.

It sounds like a good idea to raise awareness about the wage gap for women — and to put to rest the horrid myth that feminists have no sense of humor. Two birds with one stone, right?

But then the cartoon we’re supposed to caption is this one:

now-equal-pay-cartoon-caption-contest

What on earth is funny about that? It’s not even especially charming or quirky.

Thanks, NOW, for helping to perpetuate the myth that we feminists have no sense of humor, even when we run humor caption contests.

I Am *Not* My Demographic (Not That You’d Know What To Do With It)

I was watching last Sunday’s Celebrity Apprentice and aside from the actual show happenings — which very much depend upon what I have to say today, though — little foam-flecks appeared at the side of my mouth. And I got that gleam in my eye that made hubby brace himself for the rant to follow. Why? Because the stupid executives from all® laundry detergent/Sun Products Corporation were idiots. Or maybe they were edited to sound like idiots. I can’t say for sure…

But when asked what their demographic was, they said “women over the age of 25.”

That’s not a demographic, people. That’s not even an answer to a math question on averages — mean, median or mode. That’s a swath so wide any marketing instructor worth her salt will smack you with your rolled-up assignment. And I think executives must be at least that high(ly educated) to get on any corporate ride.

When further pressed by the group of celebrities (who I swear had popping eyeballs to match my own frustrated amazement), the executives would only elaborate that the “viral” video used to “promote & brand the product” should appeal to their consumer, said “women 25 years old and older,” who “had children” but were “not (necessarily, I guess?) mothers” or married. So, if I’m to be kind, they maybe were saying that these women had children but don’t identify as “mothers” or don’t wish to be typecast as “mothers only”? Hell, I don’t know.

Still, what a weak bag of crap to hand teams assigned to a promotional project.

No wonder both teams failed in the executive’s eyes.

I seriously thought Melissa’s team, Athena, did a great spot — up until the midgets little people were swearing and the one walked off, anyway.

Anyway, the all® executives instructed teams to create a viral video for (an ill-defined segment of) women.

“Viral videos for women” is a stupid point all by itself.

Speaking not only with my vagina (my over 25 year old vagina, which has delivered children that I raise and so I do identify, in part, as a mom), but as a marketer, I can tell you the activity of “viral videos” is a male hobby. Women may enjoy a really good video, but we don’t have the time — and we don’t care enough to make the time to search for, watch, and relentlessly pass along at even the adorable talking cat video.

(Just one of the dozens my husband has shown me this week; which is like 10% of what he and his bother send back & forth, and maybe 1% of the volume of what either of them watches in any given week.)

How many videos do you watch and send in a week — and how does that compare to the number of videos your menfolk watch & pass? If I ask you to watch the all® laundry detergent videos “officially” made by Joan & Melissa Rivers to promote all® small & mighty® — will you? Are you going to pass any on? (If there weren’t any charity donations involved, would you?)

For the most part, we women “talk” & “shop” on the internet, and videos (along with the creation of LOLcats and other Photoshop “events”) are pull-my-finger, channel surfing time wasters that we don’t participate in.

What a surprise; women & men doing what they do in the real world, on the internet. Huh. Who knew?

I did.

And as if all of this weren’t insane enough… Then the all® execs who say that the promotional pieces are supposed to appeal to women (25 and over, with children) — and Trump who agrees with them, ushering in the dual firing action — add yet another tier on this wedding cake of idiocy. They have a man (a childless gay man) rate & assign a viral weight to the videos. Yeah, Perez Hilton knows his viruses virals, but he said he had no idea if the videos would appeal to women &/or the supposed demographic. *

WTF?

But before I get lost into any more details of Celebrity Apprentice, let me say that in general I don’t think anyone marketing understands what the hell they are doing.

Take TV — especially the dreaded Friday night slots of death. Now we hear that The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Dollhouse may both have or are about to get the ax. We all know Friday night television viewing has a lower viewing audience; only the uncool, exhausted, broke, and likely parenting and so we have no social lives of our own among us (myself included) are home to watch. (And we admit it.) We all know this — there’s a frickin’ Wiki page about it for Christ’s sake. So stop expecting “must see TV” numbers on a Friday night, will ya, stooopid tv execs?

Now if you can’t understand what a grade schooler knows, please, audition for Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader and leave the biz.

At least leave the biz.

But you don’t. And because you can’t understand this simple fact of American life and how it affects your livelihood, it’s no wonder you’ve managed to kill off the longest-running scripted program in broadcasting history.

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you don’t understand me.

I’m 44 year old woman, but I am a HUGE fan of Chelsea Lately and I get my news from The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. Did you know that? No, of course not. You think I’m a 24 to possibly 34 year old woman, probably a hipster; but you’re wrong. And it will only get worse as I’m (too) quickly entering the über-ignored yet fastest-growing segment of the American market.

Now what.

I don’t have — never have had — a Nielsen box (excluding that one time two times in college with one Ms S. Nielson — but we did watch some TV together…), so maybe you need to readjust your box assignments. If you did you’d see that my info wouldn’t be some anomaly but that your demographic numbers skew much higher/older than you thought, more accurately reflecting the reality of American’s viewing habits.

But you’d still ignore us. I don’t know why you do; but you do.

* By the way, I find it really odd that he made no effort to even pretend to know what women like — shouldn’t he know his own readership? There’s lots of women at his site. And I assume they, as well as Perez, wash their clothes.