Tuesday, May 31, 2011

13th Century Wave of Feminism: Nicolaa De La Haye


Nicolaa just makes me want to cuddle up with a castle.

Or go "Hey girl, Haaaye!!!"

She was basically your average Medieval badass born around 1150AD.  A descendent of a lord in Lincolnshire, Nicola eventually inherited the role of "Constable of Lincoln Castle" (just think CEO of your own real estate that included battle axes).  

One day the French came to invade (as they often did during the Middle Ages) and that day turned into a month-long siege.  


You'd think that'd be the end of Nicolaa and her haye.  But, no.


Nicolaa held out.


 She went on to direct the defense against her attackers and eventually beat them out.


With the defeat of the French (which would later be known as The Second Battle for Lincoln, as part of The First Baron's War*) she basically stopped England from being invaded again.  Ironically, her descendants were the invaders from the first invasion (aka the Normans) but we won't go there today.

*Side note:  this is also the War that lead to the signing of the Magna Carta.  Magna Carta = the founding document and basis for all human rights equality in the Western world.  Just kind of important.

Anyway, Nicolaa didn't stop after saving the country.  During the battle, a knight by the name of William Marshal came to help defend her castle against the French.  But, as a reward for his chivalry he went back to London to try and "legally" take her rights to the castle away.  Far from a wallflower, Nicolaa follows after Marshal to London, approaches the courts and re-secures the castle under her name.

Bam.

So, why did I get only Joan of Arc when I could have had not-crazy, job-security-savvy woman? 
I know this is an old complaint.  But, seriously women existed as long as men have--women who were just as smart or just as capable--and yes, just as naive and asinine--as the men around them.  So where are they to be found in the history books?  Where are the stories that allow women to be finally more than just an exception to the rule?  


Yes, we all know the names of those exceptional exceptions to the rule because they were incredible.  But, I want more than just that because exceptions leave you with a huge gap of knowledge of how they got there and also what made them so exceptional in the first place.  Nicolaa was exceptional yes, but she was also down to earth and still worked in a system that was fully endorsed and run by the men in power around her.  

When learning about the Middle Ages in school all I remember is that guys got to hear about the politicians, scientists and inventors that defined relationships between the universe and life.  Meanwhile, girls got to learn about a schizophrenic fundamentalist nutso who got burned at the stake.

It's just that, in between Hatshepsut and Hilary Clinton, you know there have been millions of women that have lived.  It's still sobering to think we've got a small handful of names remembered.

-Beryl

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

These Kids Are Alright



So you see where this is going, right?

Right?

I Bait My Friends With My Little Ponies To Help Me Make Fun of Homophobia

If you are just now catching up, I had an impromptu contest over the weekend.  My Facebook page ad section keeps sending me "hints" about things I should do as a lesbian.  Which is somewhat perplexing because a) I didn't realize I had an automatic To Do list by being gay and b) I thought we were past the "in order to be a happy gay you have to only do gay things with only gay people" part in gaining acceptance in America.

I mean, I get that it might be nice to be able to assume everyone around me was gay as opposed to straight for once, (I am an emphatic fan of everyoneisgay.com) but that's not the reality of this world--it's not even a discussion topic for most of the world.  So when it comes to America, land of the experimental sociology, I'd rather not self-segregate/avoid the real world.  I know, I know, this isn't really homophobic, but "Lesbian Vacations" reeks of the bigger issue that I apparently should feel somewhat uncertain about being openly who I am when on vacation.  That's lame.  But, I have hope.

I was talking on the phone the other day to my friend Kacy (who by the way wishes to remain anonymous so just pretend you didn't read her name) who summed up the trajectory of acceptance in this country:

"You know for real change it takes one generation to act like the new thing doesn't bother them or freak them out so that the NEXT generation really isn't bothered by it or freaked out.  Like integrated marriage; our parents' generation was probably really sensitive and aware of an integrated couple but our generation is like 'Whatever' about it.  We just have to pretend we're cool with it and our kids won't give a crap."

Got it, Kacy.  By these calculations, we've got at least another generation or five before these kids are alright with the gay.

That, or another my little pony contest.

Why A Contest?  Why Now?

Uh...why are you questioning the possibility of getting a MY LITTLE PONY?

The Results Are In!

In this particular contest I was looking for the best witty responses to the question posted (links to other witty things, while wonderful, were not valid entries).  Contestants were given until midnight of the night  in question and I in turn spent a chunk of today in a toy store.

Oh you thought I was joking when I said I had Rainbow My Little Ponies to give out.
You were wrong.
And yes, that's Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel" holding up 1st Place.
1st Place goes to Heather, for her fantastic allusion to Chevy Chase movies in the 1980s and Margaret Cho in one fell swoop.

2nd Place goes to Viqui, for encouraging my fantasy that straight women I have crushes on go on vacation specifically to become lesbian.

3rd Place goes to Adrian, for making me laugh and not understand fully why simultaneously.

Lastly, we have THREE honorary mentions for this week's contest:

Best Pun - Dani, for the coinage of "Bi Little Ponies," she will receive this little Ostracized Gay Penguin, who is just aching to be hugged: 

I wanted to get a punny object in return of her efforts.
 But, it turns out word games are in the lame side of any given toy store.
Best Imagery - Seth, for his use of describing all vacations entailing, "lots of driving, then lots of drinking, ending up sunburned with the realization that there was someplace better you could have gone," will receive this My Little Mule:


And finally, for her COURAGEOUS attempts at finding the answer to an infinitely answerable question (and her incredible attempt to reach infinity with her numerous responses) we have Elana, for her Dastardly Obvious answer:


Elana shall receive one Captain Obvious Eyepatch:



Curious what some of the responses were?  
















Ah, brilliant.

-Beryl

p.s. Reminder to all 
finalists:  You have until this Friday evening to contact me and claim your prize.  I'm serious.  I've got these suckers and they need your lovin' arms.



p.p.s. Yes, I purposefully blocked out all last names and profile pictures because HEY I don't know who's lurking out there and to be honest, I would rather be extra cautious in this here wide world of the internets. And I just realized mine is totally uncensored.  Ah, life.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Back To The Future: Genealogical Studies Part II

Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox, 1985 
(I like to think they're looking at me about to be born the following year.)

It's a somewhat existential journey, genealogy.  Then again, that could be said for any historical research. But, there is a huge emotional factor to family research:  My grandparents were so happy that someone was finally seriously sitting down and asking them questions, the answers of which they had been sitting on for years.

So, the other day I was hanging out with my grandma.  Ah, grandma.  She manages to say the darndest things about gender and sexuality.  Like when she ran into the groundskeeper who was uprooting a giant vine creeping over a building my Grandma liked.  She wanted to thank the groundskeeper for the work that was being done and the conversation unfolded like this:

"What's your name?" says my Grandma.

"Bridget," responds the groundskeeper, back turned, pulling off giant plant.

"But, that's a girl's name!" says my Grandma.

"Yes.  I'm a woman," says Bridget.

"But you're so strong!" says my Grandma.

When she told me this story I offered that I introduce her to some of my female rugby player friends sometime.  I don't think she caught on to the hint with that one, but ANYWAY, back to the topic at hand.

You Know How White People Always Say "I'm from everywhere!" To Try To Cover Up Their Sense Of Lacking Ethnic-Cultural Identity?  

Yea.  I was one of those kids at school who wanted to feel cool.  So I said I was French, German, English, Scottish, Irish and Dutch.  Just for the heck of it.  Ironically, it turns out my descendants really are from France, Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland and Dutchland.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a recovering Anglophile.  I think what began this sordid love affair with British culture was the fact that I had been told since I was little I had a British Grandma and that the English were better at handling things like universal healthcare, minimum wage and women's rights.  Go figure.

Yet, here was a new battle to face:  With this genealogical project it became clear that I'd have to face that fact that I'm not just one thing--and also that there's a chance I could be more Swiss or German or French than the one English line I already knew about.

In order to answer this unknown, I had to lay out all the main players in my genealogical story.

Pictures Help Explain Everything

What you see below is a screen shot of my direct relatives (i.e., only the children I'm directly related to and their respective parents) going back four generations:


After doing some more research, I can now sum up what this means, geographically:

Swiss 2, French-Canadian 1, Irish 2, Dutch 1, German 1, English 4
English FTW
And just for the heck of it, that means I'm descended from these religions:

Protestants 6, Catholics 2, Atheists FTW

I can't help it, but when I look at this I have the urge to write in after Anglicans: descended from Catholics but then Henry VIII was like YO' POPE, I WANT TO BE ABLE TO DIVORCE DEES BIZNATCHES, etc., etc.  But, that's me giving into my history-geek.  I also have the urge to put up the part of Africa my particular human gene pool is descended from but I think that's going too far.

Ok, so I didn't think that was going too far but I couldn't find the National Geographic blood sample results that my dad had done for my sister and I, so I'm just going to move on.


Back To The Future...Again

Coming back into the year of 2011 I'm trying to judge exactly where I'm at and also where the world is at.  Back when my ancestors hit the USA they were just a few of the Swiss, German, Scottish and Irish immigrant families that were coming over in waves due to their homelands treating them like crap.  But, in coming here they were treated like crap by the Been-Here-Three-Generations-More-Than-You White People.

Today, when I think of immigrant families who are coming to the USA in waves (and being treated like crap for it again) I think of Mexicans or Guatemalans.  What trips me out is that I immediately think to myself, how many kids are going to be saying three generations from now in their blog?  "I'm descended from these peeps who were treated like crap" ?

And BAM.  History.  You're in it.  You're in their history right now.

I gotta ask, what's it like being in the past?

-Beryl

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Bowerbird

This week, in my latest bout of obsession over documentaries, I began watching almost every David Attenborough clip I could find on youtube over the last 24 hours.  That's right.  I've moved on from North Korea to something less depressing and more ridiculous:  nature.

If you hadn't noticed, the blog tends to be a bit obsessed with my dog.  In reality though I'm the farthest from obsessed.  I mean, I get to see her everyday, so she's not exactly an anomaly in my life.  However, more than one fan of this blog has informed me that they get anxious and/or confused if Woo doesn't make it into the weekly posts.  So, I try to abide by that rule.

This week, however, one animal is taking over in Woo's rightful place as No. 1 Cutie.

The Bird's The Word

So there's this bird.  It's called the Bowerbird because the male builds its own personal bower, or a small dwelling, out of sticks.  To make it more endearing, this bird will spend at least a year building up this little hobbit-hole-come-to-life and then decorate the thing to attract a mate.

I found out about this bird via my David Attenborough cycle over the weekend.  If you google bowerbird and Attenborough you can easily find the "BBC Life" video clip I will from now on be referring to.

I Need Healthier Hobbies

I think I've been going through a sappy phase.  Or possibly I'm just ridiculously sentimental and don't want to admit it.  Anyway, while watching this video over and over (because that's what you do when you find a video of a bird that decorates) my sound-design-brain started firing off ideas.

Or rather, I had this brilliant idea to make another funny animal video take-off, using Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" for the mating scene between the birds, or possibly Celine Dion's "All By Myself" for the bird with its less-than-savory choice of decor gets ditched.  But, these ideas weren't original whatsoever--if you're going to re-use something, it has to at least work in its own unique way.

That's the Bower of Love

Anyway, I got into a funk that my "amazing" idea to anthropomorphize another nature video online from the BBC with funny pop music wasn't as good as I had intended it to be.  But, still stuck on this bird, I kept checking in with the video now and again throughout the day.  It was about 3pm yesterday afternoon that I was listening to my itunes and then out of nowhere, this particular song came up.

And it worked, in its own unique way.


Also, I officially dedicate this random video compilation to Maia and Ashley-bird.


-Beryl

p.s.  If for some reason the video gets blocked due to copyright issues and you lurkers are curious what it was that was so beautiful to hear/see, let me know, and I'll put up a version not shared through Youtube.

Also, I have no other excuse for my somewhat-sentimental moments BUT TO MAKE UP FOR IT I GIVE YOU

WOO UPDATE:

We be jus chillin'

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Masses v. The Individual

I have a couple friends (re: insane people) who are going to Law School and as such, I get to learn tidbits of the Law through them.  For example, did you know you could get SUED for practically anything that involves you causing physical harm, even on accident?  Aka, if I was a five year old boy and I shoved my grandma, yea, she could take me to court.



My newly acquired weak understanding of our law system comes on the heels of another Supreme Court ruling that basically says the individual buyer of a product could theoretically be giving up their rights to bring a class action lawsuit against the big ol' corporation and any breaks in its contracts it decides to make.

Basically, grandma can sue a little boy, but you can't sue your cell phone company even after they charge you excess amounts of money they had explicitly said they wouldn't.

It seems America has a culture that the bigger peeps, the ones in charge, the ones that should know better due to their experience and advantage in experience, can and will take advantage of you, the idiot grandchild.  We're breeding a culture of distrust and ignorance.  The individual is getting lost and not receiving a very much needed learning curve.

So, that's what I wanted to talk about this week.

The Masses (of people) v. The Individual (person)

A lot has happened that has caused me to see these two extremes routinely.  Notice it's all about people this week.  No Narwhals, I'm sorry to say.

Basically, there's been some big world-wide events in the past few days.  I'm sure you know what I'm talking about, but for those of you who are reading this in the future and it's actually 2042 and you've downloaded a random chip of the internet you bought for $0.02 at a hover-car-Garage Sale (because in my mind old websites will be marketable in the future like vintage clothing and you will be able to download them directly into your head, Matrix-style), here's a recap:



The amount of hype this wedding got was akin to an action film explosion ending.

In fact...

No.  I was going to do a giant action film poster with Kate and William walking out of an exploding Buckingham Palace, ideally with the words LOVE HARD in bold red and black Helvetica Italic font flying off the top right corner. But, then I realized that I really should be doing more important things with my time, like getting a real job.  I will say this though, there were plans to put shades placed on Wills' face and possibly rocket-shooting the Queen overhead like The Rocketeer.

Moving on.

This is what I woke up to on my NY Times homepage today:


It's a strange day/week in a lot of ways.

Why Does Everyone Get Into A Tizzy Over Everyone Getting Into a Tizzy?

There's just something about a human being that is so classically sociable.  If there is something going on, we not only have to have a Big Opinion about it, but we have to share our Big Opinion, usually employing an unnecessary amount of exclamation points.  It's kind of like if a monkey were given a bigger brain and an ability to formulate words and type them.

Oh, wait...

Anyway, I noticed that the masses were in two extremes on both subjects this week: either you love it or you hate it and there's no in between.  But, that isn't really realistic for everyone.

I didn't exactly obsess over the Royal Wedding--as in, I didn't wear a British flag wrapped around my waste and cheer out in the streets on the day of--but I certainly didn't hate on it, either.  I watched that wedding like nobody's business because those hats were more entertaining than an entire season of Jersey Shore.

But, I am way less inclined to be "entertained" in any way shape or form about Osama Bin Laden's reported death.

If anything, I am in shock.  In a weird way I am angered he managed to escape in death; I would have preferred his capture and trial in the locations of all his attacks, force him to face the muslim world that does not agree with his preachings and have his legacy brought down a notch or two.  He fought and died on his turf, on more or less his terms, meanwhile the people around the world who have suffered because of him have been burdened with years of pain and healing against their will.

In this sense, I think that his being shot is a bitter reward.  To make matters worse, it is not clear how much passion his followers will have for continuing his murderous campaign.

What is clear though, at least from the pictures of people dancing and cheering like they had just watched a football game, that US citizens are still hungry for retribution, which is a heavy reminder of how slow the process of healing really is.

You're Making It My Business 

So this week I've learned something.  I think that the individual human gets easily bothered or rubbed the wrong way when a bunch of other humans are loud about what they're doing, whatever the case may be.  No, I'm not saying William and Katherine were loud in their vows--I'm saying the thousands screaming outside Buckingham Palace were loud.  

It's kind of like how I didn't dislike Katy Perry's song "I Kissed A Girl" but I disliked the millions of straight people who adored that song and sang it, regardless of the fact that hey, it's a song that objectifies my sexuality and turns it into a joke.  Btws, to those particular straight women:  You know what it feels like to be made to think your sexuality is insignificant, right?  SO WHY DO IT TO ME?

I think I should end this blog soon before it turns into a rant.

But, how to do it?

Ah.

I couldn't resist.


-Beryl

WOO UPDATE:

Just because I wasn't obsessing over the wedding doesn't mean there wasn't a big Will and Kate fan in the house on April 29th.

If you looked "enthusiasm" up in the dictionary I'm pretty convinced this would be the image for it.