Sunday, December 30, 2007

Fobletter '07: The Crappy Version

Our friends Theric and Lady Steed make quite the production of their yearly Last Day of the First Month of the New Year letter, both in the writing and in the publication, and the result is always impressive. So much so, in fact, that a couple years ago all the stuff that didn't make it into the final cut made for a handful of entertaining "deleted scenes" blog posts. Consider this post my attempt to follow in Theric's tradition, except for the minor detail that Theric's excrement is better than my gold. And this is not my gold. Really, I'm just putting up this first draft of our Christmas letter instead of the real thing because Theric told me it kills the joy of getting the paper copy to have the same thing available online. So this is my overwrought, undone way of saying Happy Holidays to you, dear blog readers. Thanks to FoxyJ's honest criticism, the final version is much, much shorter and really entirely different. If you feel you've been unfairly excluded from the paper mailing list, let me know and I'll be happy to add you.

(An alternate, crappier version of the photo we used in the real letter.)

Dear Fobby Fans,

It has come to the attention of the editors of FOB: Family of Ben that some of you may not be following the monthly adventures of your favorite heroes: Mr. Fob, FoxyJ, S-Boogie, and Little Dude. In order to help you catch up, we’re providing the following synopses of the last twelve issues of FOB:

FOB #63 (Jan 07). The Fobs team up with veteran heroes Grandma and Grandpa to fight crime in Seattle. Meanwhile, FoxyJ fights a personal battle against the evil Dr. Hemorrhoid and wins, but only after a visit to the emergency room.

FOB #64 (Feb 07). Little Dude acquires a new superpower: standing up. He practices this new ability nonstop, particularly in the wee hours of the night while banging his crib against the wall.

FOB #65 (Mar 07). In a crossover with Team Thteed #78, the Fobs visit friends in Berkeley, where they find a new weakness at Crepes-A-Go-Go. The epic storyline then crosses over into Ohana Utah #69 when the Fobs go to Utah Valley in search of the extended Family of Ben.

FOB #66 (Apr 07). In “Job Search Part 1,” Foxy sets out on a quest to find a long lost ally, Employment Woman. Mr. Fob takes his turn in the ER when he is attacked by someone who appears to be the nefarious villain Heart Attack. As it turns out, it is only the not-quite-so-nefarious villain Stress-Induced Panic Attack.

FOB #67 (May 07). “Job Search” continues while Foxy defends another ally, Thesis Lad, against the evil Thesis Committee. Little Dude celebrates the first anniversary of his First Appearance (as seen previously in FOB #55).

FOB #68 (Jun 07). Foxy takes a brief break from the search for Employment Woman to make another trip, along with S-Boogie and Little Dude, to Utah. In his civilian identity, Mr. Fob starts the Avocado for President campaign.

FOB #69 (Jul 07). Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

FOB #70 (Aug 07). In “Fobbing Around the World Part 1,” the Fobs take the Fobmobile to Utah, where Foxy receives her master’s degree in superheroism, then they board the Fobjet to fly to Hawaii.

FOB #71 (Sep 07). “Fobbing Around the World” and “Job Search” both conclude this issue. The Fobs return to the Fobcave with sand in their tights after witnessing the beach wedding of Mr. Fob’s brother in Oregon. Foxy finally finds Employment Woman teaching Spanish classes at a technical college outside of Seattle, and a new adventure begins as S-Boogie enters Professor ABC’s Training Academy for Young Superheroes.

FOB #72 (Oct 07). S-Boogie learns the hard way that superheroing is a dangerous job when she ends up in the emergency room with a split chin. She wows the doctors and nurses with her bravery and charisma.

FOB #73 (Nov 07). In an issue guest-starring Foxy’s sister, Skywoman, Foxy shows off her culinary superpowers with the most amazing Thanksgiving meal ever. Unfortunately, the next day she is caught off guard by the villainous Stairman, who puts her in the emergency room yet again, this time with a sprained ankle.

FOB #74 (Dec 07). Because they haven’t put enough miles on the Fobmobile this year, the Fobs travel again to Utah and then to Las Vegas. At the time of this writing, this issue is still in production, so the surprise ending has not yet been revealed. Will the Fobs make it safely home? Read to find out.

Conclusion blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Love,

The Fobs

My 2007 Report Card

I'll just come out and say it: 2007 was a shitty year. It's rare for me to admit such a thing, even to myself, because I tend to believe in the adage "All's well that ends well," and I tend to assume even in the midst of whatever's happening that it will eventually end well. But when I step back and objectively think about everything I've been through this year--emotionally, physically, and fiscally--and then add on top of that all the crap I've made my loved ones endure, I have to admit that as years go this one kind of sucked.

That said, this year really does look like it's going to end well. I'm at a happy place right now, at peace with myself as a husband, a father, a student, a writer, and a human being. Despite many setbacks throughout the year and the most recent news that FoxyJ will have to find a new job this quarter because her classes have been canceled, I think our family is doing well too. Foxy is a confident woman, I suspect even more aware now than she was a couple years ago of what she is capable of. S-Boogie loves preschool and seems to make friends everywhere she goes (and at the moment she wants me to write SUIIEL, which is apparently pronounced "cage-on"). Little Dude is bursting with cheer most of the time and communicates quite well with his two dozen signs and half-a-dozen words.

And through it all, I feel like I've done pretty well on the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year. Which is why it's surprising to look objectively and see that I haven't. Here's the breakdown:

1. Cut down to 15% body fat. This is the one I'm most surprised by. I've worked out pretty consistently through the year and probably lost about ten pounds. I feel healthier and in better shape than I was a year ago. Nevertheless, the body fat scale I borrowed in January told me I was at 22%, and the body fat scale I bought with the gift card my dad sent last week has been telling me pretty consistently that I'm still at 22%. It may just be the difference in scales, so I'm going to go with my gut instinct and believe that I've made progress here, even if not all the way to 15%. I think I'll make this a goal again in 2008, except this time I'll have a better plan as to how I'm going to get there, taking into account not only exercise but also eating habits. And now that I own a scale I can better keep track of my progress.

2. Make five writing submissions, or one successful submission, whichever comes first. I haven't quite met this one, unless you count the fact that two of my pieces will be appearing in the forthcoming Fob Bible as a "successful submission." As excited as I am about this anthology of Fob literature, self-publication isn't quite what I had in mind. I did, just this very afternoon, finally submit my paper on lesbianism and homosexuality in the Library of Congress Subject Headings and Classification systems to a journal, as well as a query for my current novel to an agent. Cross your fingers for me!

3. Read at least twelve leisure books. Pshaw. I totally kicked this goal's butt. I think it's safe to say that I'm finally at a place where, despite all the reading I have to do for school, I've made enough of a habit of reading for fun that I don't need to make it a goal anymore. I've read two books just in the last three days.

4. Read the New Testament. Meh. Making the transition from reluctant Mormon to confused Christian to comfortable agnostic this year has sort of killed this goal. I read some at the beginning of the year with Foxy, then a bit more when I was attending the United Church of Christ, but then I lost interest. I have been reading a lot of Bible stories and poems written by my fellow fobs, though. I'm sure that counts for something.

So I guess that all adds up to about a C-. I'll do better next year. And of course there's still tomorrow left for 2007.

2008 goals to come.

Her Ex is Having Sex With Rex

I first learned of Jennifer Lee's memoir My Ex is Having Sex With Rex in a review on C.L. Hanson's blog. It sounded like an interesting book so I put it on my wishlist, but never got around to buying it until my brother got it for me this Christmas. It's a quick and entertaining read and provides an enlightening look at a mixed-orientation marriage and its aftermath from the perspective of a woman whose husband has left her for a man.

(As a side note, I always find it interesting when people talk about how the woman's perspective is generally ignored in the discussion of gay men marrying women, because the extent of what I've come across on the topic are books like this and Carol Lynn Pearson's Good-Bye, I Love You and Amity Buxton's The Other Side of the Closet, which are all about women who are divorced from gay men. Since the rise of the blogosphere I've seen a lot of married and divorced gay men blogging and a few lesbians here and there, but what I've seen very little of is straight women who are currently married to gay men, a lack I'm hoping to remedy a bit with the series of interviews I'm doing on Northern Lights.)

I admit to having a hard time, when reading this book and Pearson's, of taking these accounts of another person's experience as just that--another person's experience. It's too easy for me to read about Lee and her ex-husband and say, "Oh, that's just like FoxyJ and me" or "That's nothing like our relationship." It's too easy to look at others' experiences and see them as omens of things to come, to see the pain these women have felt as pain I will inevitably cause the woman I love.

At the same time, I'm bothered by statements Lee makes like "Bottom line: There's no hope of having a committed, connected, love-at-the-very-core-of-your-being marriage between a straight woman and a gay man." Really? Really? Have you based that statement on researched scientific data? I will never argue with Lee or anyone else who has come to that conclusion about her own marriage. I would not even argue with anyone who came to that conclusion about a potential marriage she chose not to enter upon learning her fiance was gay. But I have a hard time accepting such blanket statements made regarding all straight-gay marriages. This is not a matter of me defending my personal experience; I would have and did say the same thing when Foxy and I were separated with the intention of divorcing.

That said, I enjoyed My Ex is Having Sex With Rex. It's the honest story of a woman who was thrown unknowingly into a really crappy situation and is now in the midst of making the best of it. Quite admirably, she's concerned not only with making the best of it for herself but also for her children, her ex-husband, and everyone else involved. Even her conclusions about the impossibility of mixed-orientation marriages seem to be coming from her charitable attempt to view the end of her marriage and the pain it's caused her not as the result of her ex-husband's decision to leave but as an inevitable result of their situation. Ultimately Lee comes to a conclusion similar to one I came to this summer: it's not about whether she's happier now as a single woman than she was married to a gay man; she had a happy life as a married woman and she's made a happy life for herself now. In both situations there have been pain and joy. Lee's story is one of recognizing the past and possible futures for what they are and living in the present.

As for how it all applies to FoxyJ and me, well, that's for us to decide.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Moral of the Story

(But I'll spare you the week-long story.)

Windows Vista will not connect your laptop to the Internet unless you have some kind of Norton anti-virus software installed. You don't even have to have an active subscription--you just have to have it installed or you will get nothing but that cursed Local Access Only message until you do. McAfee doesn't work; it must be Norton. There is no way around this. Not even plugging directly into the router or DSL modem with an ethernet cable will work.

This is assuming, of course, that the moral of my story can be generalized to all Vista-running laptop owners in the world. I assume that's a safe assumption.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

My Favorite Lines From S-Boogie's New Books

From Snow by Uri Shulevitz, wherein a little boy hopes a few snowflakes are a sign of more to come:
"No snow," said radio.
"No snow," said television.
But snowflakes don't listen to radio,
snowflakes don't watch television.
All snowflakes know is snow, snow, snow.
From Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann & Elizabeth Kann, wherein a little girl eats too many pink cupcakes and wakes up pink, much to her parents' concern:
My hair was the color of raspberry sorbet. I cried because I was so beautiful. I even had PINK tears. I put on my pink fairy princess dress and twirled in front of the mirror, while Mommy speed-dialed the pediatrician.
I love love love the image of a four-year-old girl crying because she's so beautiful. If you don't read picture books, you really should.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Bounty

I will not lie to you; I love getting presents. I enjoy giving presents too, but mostly because I project how much I enjoy receiving them onto other people and so experience the joy of getting vicariously. When I was a kid I would take a picture each year of me with all the presents I'd gotten. I'll spare you the photo because we left our camera cord in Utah, but I'll make up for it with a thousand words listing my loot, all under the guise of public gratitude:
  • Thanks to my sisters, who got me and FoxyJ a gift certificate to a Peruvian restaurant in Orem and provided babysitting so we could enjoy the meal. You can never go wrong with food or free babysitting.
  • Thanks to my mom, who got me a Hawaiian Christmas CD by the Brothers Cazimero. It's quickly become a comfort CD, taking me back to the years when we'd listen to my mom's Cazimero Christmas tape over and over and over.
  • Thanks to my dad, who got us a very generous Wal-Mart gift card. We'll be braving the after-Christmas crowd tomorrow to use it. We still don't know what we'll get, but that's half the fun of a gift card--deciding what to spend it on.
  • Thanks to my brother (I think, but I realized tonight after throwing all the packing slips away that I'm not entirely sure all three boxes were from him, or any of them for that matter), who got me a CD and several books from my wishlist. He also got me The Simpsons Movie, which was not on my wishlist, so I can't imagine how he guessed I'd want it--perhaps the fact that I own the first ten seasons on DVD tipped him off.
  • Thanks to S-Boogie, who got me a Superman action figure. FoxyJ says she took S-Boogie to the action figure aisle and it was S-Boogie who found and chose which one to get. And this was before I decided to get a Superman figure for her. As it turns out, the Justice League Unlimited Superman figure S-Boogie chose is much more durable than the DC Direct collectible figure I chose, whose hands have both broken off already.
  • Thanks to FoxyJ, who got me an alarm clock (because she has appropriated my old one for herself) and an iTunes gift card, which I've used to buy The Essential Michael Jackson. It's a great collection of all his hits from the Jackson 5 days through Invincible. The only song I think I'll have to buy individually is "Scream," which I've always liked despite the disturbing image of Janet Jackson peeing in a urinal in the music video.
  • Thanks to everyone who got S-Boogie and Little Dude presents. It's been just as fun to see them enjoy new toys and clothes as it is for me to get presents myself.
I've realized this year that there are people who like to be surprised with gifts they didn't know they wanted and people who know what they want, and for the most part I am in the latter category. Not that I don't enjoy getting unexpected gifts; I absolutely love that FoxyJ thought to take S-Boogie down the action figure aisle to find a present for me, and that S-Boogie chose Superman. Seriously, do I not have the coolest wife and daughter in the world? But it is always very exciting for me to get books and CDs and DVDs from my wishlist, and equally exciting to receive gift cards. I spent an hour or two this afternoon deciding what to get with the iTunes card and hardly noticed the time pass because I was having so much fun. This likely says unflattering things about my personality, but oh well. I'm happy.

Merry Christmas to all! What was your favorite present this year?

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Few of My Favorite Things (Besides Avocado)

  • Cheese balls
  • Storms
  • Chocolate fudge brownie ice cream
  • Cheese Whiz
  • Dharma & Greg
  • Peanut butter
  • String cheese
  • Wyclef Jean's new album
  • Satay
  • Cheesecake
  • The smell of my children
  • Fudge
  • Pepper jack cheese
  • Brown paper packages tied up with strings
  • Food
  • Cheese

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Weekly Confession: Unholier Than Thou

Forgive me, Blogger, for I have sinned. As with many of my sins, this one boils down to pride, and also as with many of my sins, I've only come to recognize this in myself because it bothers me so much in others.

There are a few blogs in Outer Blogness (the ex-Mormon blogosphere) that I follow regularly and a few I check in on now and then. The ones I enjoy more and thus follow regularly don't identify themselves so much by their ex-Mormonness and lack the bitter and condescending tone that so many ex-Mormon bloggers take toward Mormondom. I don't tend to think of myself as ex-Mormon so much as a guy who used to be Mormon, and I tend to gravitate toward people of like minds. In even the least bitter and condescending of these blogs, though--including my own, I'm realizing--the occasional post sneaks in wherein the author sets up the brainwashed, backwards-thinking Mormon straw man in order to make him or herself look oh-so-enlightened in comparison. "Thank Humanism I don't buy into those ridiculous beliefs anymore."

Everyone, of course, is going to find his or her own convictions and value system to be the best, the most logical, but I think there's a problem when we (I) become so convinced by our (my) own way of thinking that we (I) discard other ways of thinking as nonsense. If Mormonism or Buddhism or Catholicism were nonsense, then you would not find as many intelligent people believing them as you do. Rather than dismissing belief systems that don't make sense to us, we'd do better to try to understand why people adhere to them. You'd think those of us who used to be believers ourselves would have an easier time of understanding those who still are, but I think the reality is just the opposite--we see our own path leading away from belief as a logical progression, and thus can't help seeing believers as being somewhere behind us on that path. The problem is that we're (a) projecting our own life's experience onto another person it may not apply to and (b) assuming we're at some kind of destination point where we can objectively look back and see the world through an unfiltered lens.

If this sounds more like the same soapbox I'm always on than some new revelation, that's because it is. For all my talk about respecting people who are different from me, it's all too often little more than lip service. As one example, in a post a few weeks ago I made a passing comment about how bigotry is the reason same-sex marriage has been made illegal in so many states, as if that were an accepted fact. Now, I do believe that in most cases people are opposed to same-sex marriage because of ignorant bigotry, but the way I phrased it didn't acknowledge the many people who base their opposition to same-sex marriage in reasons that--though I disagree with them--are not bigotry. It's easier for me to point a finger at the bigoted straw man than to acknowledge the complexity of the real world, and doing so served my rhetorical purpose at the time, but it's not fair to the people who are opposed to same-sex marriage but aren't bigots, which I imagine describes some of the people who read this blog. I apologize for being so condescending.

I don't mean to blow my sin out of proportion. Despite my shortcomings, I believe that I, just like my ex-Mormon, Mormon, and completely-unrelated-t0-Mormondom co-bloggers, am making a sincere effort. But I also think it's valuable for us to recognize where our efforts fall short, in order to do better.

As penitence I will do my best to treat everyone and their beliefs with respect, and to recognize and apologize for any lapses that I'll surely make. I'd invite you to point out instances where I don't show enough respect for others' beliefs, but only if you promise to do so very gently and kindly; Blogger knows I don't handle criticism well.

I am sorry for this and many other sins of my past and present life.

Friday, December 14, 2007


I am thankful for professors who allow me to email final research papers to them so I can start my vacation as soon as classes are done, but I am not so thankful for the papers themselves. Spending the first week of vacation doing homework while everyone else has fun kind of sucks. But I'm done with the quarter now, and for those of you keeping track, I only have two more quarters to be done with, ever until the end of time.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Problem With Losing Weight

When I was first married, my wedding band was a bit loose. I probably should have done something about it, but that would have required more effort than just wearing a loose ring, so I didn't. This turned out to be a good thing, because then I got fat. I completely forgot, in fact, that the ring had ever been loose.

In the past several weeks--likely because it's been cold--the ring has been slipping off all the time. I haven't lost it (permanently) yet, but it's only a matter of time.

Perhaps I need to get fat again. It's a good thing I've spent most of this past week snacking on holiday treats.


Do you suppose people refer to "Hillary" while in the same breath referring to "Obama," "Giuliani," and "Romney" because she's a woman or simply to distinguish her from another well-known "Clinton"? Granted, I've seen a lot of references to "Mitt," but usually in a derogative sense, and I've seen very few references to "Barack" or "Rudy." What do you think?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Weekly Confession: Indoctrination

Forgive me, Blogger, for I have sinned. I am indoctrinating my children in the ways of my religion.

It all started, I suppose, when S-Boogie was a baby and I got in the habit of putting on Justice League DVDs while trying to get her to go back to sleep in the middle of the night. That planted the seed. Then when she was two, I dressed her for Halloween as Supergirl. This past year I've brainwashed her with the full canon of our scriptures, starting with the complete series of Justice League and Justice League Unlimited DVDs, then on to Teen Titans and Batman and most recently Superfriends. I have put the icing on the cake of indoctrination, as it were, by buying her her very own idol as a Christmas present:I justify this blatant projection of my own values onto my daughter by reminding myself that just last week, while watching Superfriends, she said of her own free will, "Superman's my favorite." (I later asked, to clarify, whether she liked Superman or Supergirl better; she replied that she liked them both the same. I debated with myself as to whether Supergirl would provide a strong female role model or simply yet another example of a teenaged girl dressing like a skank in order to impress men. Ultimately the comic book shop decided for me by having only Superman figures.)

Obviously her statement of preference is more proof that the brainwashing has already happened than justification for further acts of brainwashing. (Though, truth be told, I like Batman better myself.)

I'll be honest; I have no intention of stopping this rampant brainwashing of the innocents. I will likely continue to watch superhero cartoons with them, buy them superhero toys now and then, and encourage them to read superhero comics when they're older. I will, however, encourage them to explore other faiths as well. And most importantly, as they grow up I will support them in whatever choices they make, even if they decide they like Marvel Comics superheroes better than DC Comics superheroes or (Krypton forbid!) that they don't like superheroes at all.

So I guess I'm not all that sorry for this sin, Blogger. But at least I admit it is one.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Problem With Taking Classes Outside of My Program

My European studies professor's comment on my introduction to a paper on public library service for immigrants in Denmark, Sweden, and Spain:

"But why should we care about library services for immigrants? What can libraries do for them?"


"What can't they do?"

It seems I need to be more explicit about the assumptions of my profession.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Warm Fuzzies* and Cold Pricklies

Tonight S-Boogie showed me a pink ball of fur she'd found in the toy box. She explained that it was a warm fuzzy, and that she'd gotten it from school. I vaguely remember hearing something about discussions they'd had at her school about warm fuzzies, and their archnemeses, cold pricklies, but I'd forgotten that she'd actually brought a warm fuzzy home.

On an intellectual level, I understand that there are many serious problems in the world that will not be solved with warm fuzzies. Sometimes cold pricklies are called for. On an emotional level, though, I can't handle the prickliness. Contention makes me feel sick to my stomach and it makes me intensely uncomfortable to see anger in others or in myself. Nevertheless, a passion for principles and causes that tend to be controversial together with an ego that demands to be seen as right get me into confrontations increasingly. The problem is that I am simply not equipped to handle negative emotions. I don't know what to do with them.

Several unrelated events of the past month, most of which I've already talked about here, have left me feeling vulnerable and irrationally scared. I got up from the computer earlier this evening and felt momentarily terrified at the realization that the blinds were open. I quickly closed all the blinds in the apartment. (Perhaps I was worried a bicycle would come flying through?) My compulsion to check my email as frequently as possible now butts heads with a constant fear of getting another comment in some blog comment war I've been part of. I could simply unsubscribe from the comment feeds so they don't show up in my email, but then I wouldn't know what people are saying and I fear the uncertainty would be worse.

The worst part, at least in so far as one specific incident is concerned, is the implication that the verbal attacks against me and my family are my own damn fault for putting aspects of our private life out where people can see and therefore debate. This stings particularly in the context of the several warnings I received two years ago, that I would regret making myself and my family so vulnerable. When considering the possible ramifications of putting ourselves in the married gay Mormon spotlight, FoxyJ and I took these warnings into account, but decided that the potential for good outweighed the potential for bad. I will also be the first to admit that my motivations for publishing essays and appearing in news media and blogging were not purely altruistic; as I've admitted before, I like attention. But I am self-aware enough and self-repressing enough to not allow myself to do something if I know my only reasons are ego-driven. I allowed myself to speak publicly and FoxyJ supported me in this, despite the fact that she does not share in my need for public approval, because we wanted to open up the discussion. I have seen evidence to suggest this has indeed been the result--not just the people who have contacted us to thank us or the people who say nice things about us, because as wonderful as that is a bunch of folks agreeing with me and telling me how wonderful I am isn't discussion. It's warm fuzzies. As much as it hurts me emotionally, on an intellectual level I am happy to see that people are saying my arguments are crap and that gay men who marry women are misogynists and that no ethical gay man would even think about subjecting a woman to such a life of misery and hey why isn't anyone talking about gay women? I'm happy to see this because that means people are talking. This was not the case five years ago. I certainly don't take full responsibility for the fact that mixed-orientation marriages and all the complicated issues they involve are being discussed more now than they ever were before, but I do think I've had a part in that, at least in the Mormon sphere.

So yeah, it hurts, but for the moment I'm going to fight the impulse to run away and hide from the internet, because I believe there's value--for myself and for others--in continuing to engage in discussions about marriage, sexuality, religion, parenting, politics, and above all, avocado. I will, however, keep away from the living room window.

Thanks to everyone who's left me warm fuzzies over the last month, either publicly on this and other blogs or privately via email.

*Which I accidentally mispelled at first as warm fuxxies, which is an entirely different way of making someone feel loved.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Why I [heart] Dora

I was first exposed to Dora the Explorer when my niece was about three and in love with her. FoxyJ and I were new parents at the time and therefore even more self-righteous about parenting than we are now, so of course it appalled us that parents would ever let their children lay an eye on a television screen. Add to that the fact that Dora talks loudly in a sort of annoying voice and the plot of each episode is about as formulaic as you can get, and you get a rather disgusted Mr. Fob.

Fast-forward a couple years and now you have a Mr. Fob and FoxyJ who, through the course of parenting a real life child, have been forced to lower our standards a bit (but don't worry; we still sneer appropriately at those parents whose standards are even lower). We've learned that it is good for the sanity of the parents for the child to absorb the soporific radiation of the television god for an hour or two a day, and it so happens that S-Boogie's drug of choice is Dora the Explorer. And you know what? It's precisely that formulaic plot and loud, annoying voice that make the show appeal to kids her age. Duh, they're kids. I would feel worse about so willfully not recognizing this earlier if not for the fact that, if I'm to believe the end credits on each episode, it took about thirty people with PhDs to figure it out.

Apart from the fact that Dora does an excellent job of exposing children to Hispanic culture and the Spanish language in a very natural way, I love her because she is a strong, relatively gender-neutral female character. There's an interesting conversation happening on a blog I read about gender in children's toys. It seems most toys marketed to boys are relatively gender-neutral, made in simple primary colors with few frills, while toys marketed to girls are all pink and sparkly. The message most girl toys seem to send is that you can aspire to be either a princess, waiting for your Prince Charming to come rescue you, or a teenage sexbot.

Dora, on the other hand, is a little girl who has adventures exploring the world, presumably inspired by her mother, an archaeologist. Even the episode "Dora's Fairytale Adventure," which is an obvious sellout to the Disney princess phenomenon, has Dora complete certain tasks in order to become a princess, which she does in order to save her friend Boots the Monkey. In this loose retelling of Sleeping Beauty, the male monkey is the passive "damsel in distress" and the girl is the active "knight in shining armor."

Telling of Dora's success in avoiding gender stereotypes is the fact that boys like her as much as girls do. Now, the existence of the spinoff show about Dora's cousin, Diego, says that marketers did see the need to create a boy character to appeal to boys, but within my social circle at least I know of several little boys who are as obsessed with Dora as S-Boogie is.

And the little boys who think Dora is a "girl show" obviously have parents who are not as stellar in teaching egalitarianism as FoxyJ and I are. Thank goodness for parents like us.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

With Apologies to Undergraduates

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I wish I knew what all the options on the scale are, and where they lie. Is College better or worse than Genius? This is important, folks. I need to know whether I should improve my vocabulary or dumb myself down.

Weekly Confession #4: An Inconvenient Truth

Forgive me, Blogger, for I have sinned. I have made the Earth unlivable for my children and my children's children. I contribute to global warming with the electricity I use, the car I drive, the furnace I run constantly to keep my poorly-insulated apartment from dropping below freezing temperatures. (I've also contributed to global warming by adding to the Earth's massive overpopulation with my own offspring, but I can't in good conscience apologize for that.)

FoxyJ and I watched An Inconvenient Truth last night. If you haven't, you really should. It's a well-made documentary with some amazing visuals that will hopefully give all of us the slap in the face we need to wake up and actually do something about this problem. Just the statistics shown, comparing the astronomical jumps in atmospheric carbon dioxide, human population, and average temperatures of the past fifty years to the relative stability of the preceding hundreds of thousands of years is enough to make me realize how much bigger the problem is than I thought. If nothing else, it's convinced me of an argument I've heard many times before--that all the talk of gay marriage and abortion in presidential elections is stupid, because (a) presidents have little to do with those issues and (b) as important as those issues are, it won't matter if we don't have a planet to debate them on.

As my penance, then, I'm going to vote for elected officials who recognize the threat of global warming and intend to do something about it. I'm going to be as efficient as I can with the energy I use--something helped by the fact that energy-saving light bulbs were on sale for supercheap this week at Bartell, so I replaced all the energy-wasting bulbs in our apartment (with the added advantage of brightening up the place and presumably lowering our electric bill). If at all possible, the next car I buy will be a hybrid (Foxy is not quite so convinced on this one, purely for financial reasons; even I'm not idealistic enough to believe we could afford a fuel cell vehicle in the next year or two, so I consider the hybrid a compromise). I'll think twice before adding another child to the Earth's population (but I don't make any promises, since this is another one Foxy has a pretty significant say in, though I think we're agreed in that we won't be reproducing again in the next couple years). And I'll blog about An Inconvenient Truth and encourage people to watch it (hey! I can check that one off the list now).

I am sorry for this and many other sins of my past and present life.