Saturday, May 29, 2010

From Cherie's kitchen: Marie's potato salad

The unofficial start summer is also the start of potato salad season.

Although potato salad can be made all year long, in the Wyatt house it was a treat for summer picnics and weekend cookouts along with corn-on-the-cob and baked beans.

My late mom, Marie, made terrific potato salad. Her recipe is vegetarian, but not vegan, because it contains eggs, mayo, and its own unique ingredient, sour cream.

Eggs and dairy are allowed on a vegetarian diet, although I consume them sparingly.

I have yet to experiment with vegan substitutes for mayo and sour cream. (If you do -- let me know how it turns out.)

So, as a tribute to my Mom, before the month of May passes, and my summertime gift to y'all -- here's Marie's potato salad


8-9 hard-boiled eggs
8-9 medium potatoes, boiled
1 cup celery, chopped fine
1 bunch green onions, white and light green parts, chopped fine
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Teaspoon dry mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare ahead:

Hard boil the eggs and let cool in the fridge.

Wash potatoes thoroughly, poke each one a few times with a fork and boil them with their skins on until soft, but not too soft. Cool them in the fridge.

Wash the celery and green onions, chop them, and set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the mayo, sour cream, sugar and mustard and mix well.

Then ...

Peel the cooled potatoes and dice them into a large salad bowl. Peel cooled eggs, dice and add them alternately with the potatoes. Add salt and pepper along the way if you wish.

Add chopped celery and green onions.

Add the mayo/sour cream dressing and mix well with a rubber spatula.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For presentation, garnish with paprika and fresh marigold flowers if desired.

For food safety, don't leave the salad out for too long. Place the bowl on ice to keep it cool and keep it covered if eating outside.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cherie at The Oakland Press

This summer, I am working an internship at the Oakland Press.

I need to successfully complete a minimum of 150 hours to earn credit for the internship, which also counts for my writing intensive and Capstone requirements for graduation at Oakland University.

Additionally, I have to write a paper about my experience,submit a log, and create a portfolio of my "clips."

Currently, I'm at the paper on Mondays and Fridays.

Here are a few of my published stories, so far:

Novi Antiques Market debuts this weekend -- 20 May 2010
Notre Dame Prep student excels as artist, mentor --18 May 2010
OU professor impressed with Supreme Court pick -- 10 May 2010
Local songwriter will perform during Town Hall lecture -- 10 May 2010

Rolfe family adopts nature center box turtle

The Lloyd Stage Nature Center in Troy is facing closure due to the city's budget cutbacks.

So what will happen to the little "critters" who live in the nature center's main building -- including tiger salamanders, toads, green frogs, and box turtles?

We could assume that they would be transferred to another nature center or zoo -- but I haven't been able to get a firm answer from the Stage's staff.

Chris and I decided to adopt a female box turtle. Our year-long sponsorship will provide for her food and care while she lives at the nature center.

So, if the nature center closes next year, will the Rolfe family be welcoming a new addition to the family? We'll have to wait and see.

But, I'm thinking, why not let a Troy resident take care of the turtle? I know I could give her the quality care and personal attention she deserves. I found lots of care information at a fun website,

As part of our adoption package, we will receive a certificate and a piece of original "art" made by the turtle.

Stacey Yankee, the nature center's manager, explains that the turtle is dipped in blueberry puree, which is nontoxic, and is then placed on paper to "create." (I want to make a video of this process, so stay tuned.)

And -- show support for the nature center by dropping in for a visit! It truly is Troy's best-kept secret that shouldn't be a secret.

Last Words on pro-life

In his final book of thought, "Last Words," the late George Carlin talks about audience response to controversial material. Of course the "A" word came up.

Carlin said, "They may not agree with everything I say, but I rarely get vocal dissent from the audience. The "Abortion" piece in the Next HBO show in 1996, "Back in Town" -- at least during that period of testing and building -- was one of the few. There were often walkouts. Never heckling. People quietly got up, turned around and walked out...

The satirical method was to focus on the meaning of the term "pro-life." What's pro-life about being obsessed with the unborn and then, once it's a child, refusing it health education and welfare? What's pro-life about sending the child off in a uniform at age eighteen to die? Or killing doctors who perform legal abortions? If all life is sacred, why is it an abortion for us but if it's a chicken it's an omelet?'

Consistency matters. If life begins at conception, why isn't there a funeral for a miscarriage? If life begins at fertilization and most fertilized eggs are flushed out of her body once a month, doesn't that make her a mass murderer? Could it be that "pro-life" is actually code for hating women -- the source of life?"

George Carlin's book "Last Words" is available at

Saturday, May 22, 2010

New ovarian cancer screening is on the way.

Chris spotted this important health news in the Detroit Free Press(via the AP.)

This is so important to us because we both have ovarian cancer in our respective family histories. My aunt Ruth succumbed to the disease before age 40. Details of her case are sketchy, because I have some gaps in my family's health history.

Chris' maternal grandmother also died from ovarian cancer. By the time it was discovered, it was too far advanced and she couldn't be saved.

Her scenario is all too common. In fact, 80% of cases are found at the advanced stage. The disease does not present many symptoms in its early stages and can go overlooked, with deadly results.

Now, it's possible that a simple blood test followed by ultrasound exams, as needed, can find ovarian tumors before they cause symptoms and without giving too many false alarms.

A study of 3,000 American is not large enough to justify screening by this method now -- but it does confirm results from a much larger study under way in England.

Important too is that this method can find aggressive, life-threatening tumors without putting many healthy women through unnecessary follow-up tests.

About 21,550 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the United States last year. Of those cases, 14,600 died. That's almost 68%.

The good news is that, if found early, the five-year survival for ovarian cancer is 94%.

We urge you to look into your health history and talk with your gynecologist if you have a close relative -- the number one risk factor -- who contracted ovarian cancer.

Let's get the word out and push for this screening -- it could save lives.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Is Kim Jong-il still crazy?

An official investigation has found that North Korea is to blame for sinking a 1,200 ton South Korean warship back in March, killing 46 sailors.

Earlier this month, North Korea's president, Kim Jong-il, visited China to discuss "denuclearization on the Korean peninsular," according to CNN.

Is Kim Jong-il still as "crazy" as this MAD TV video, starring Bobby Lee?

Watch and decide:

Bobby Lee's Crazy - Funny videos are here

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Politics of the burqa continues in France

from CNN and Newsweek

The French government has moved one step closer to banning the burqa.

A bill has been sent to parliament that includes fines of 150 euros ($190) and/or a "citizenship course" as punishment for wearing a burqa. Forcing a woman to wear a burqa is punishable by a 15,000 euro ($19,000) fine and a year in prison.

The bill is not likely to be voted on before July in the National Assembly -- the lower house of parliament -- before it moves to the Senate in September.

Only about 2,000 women in France wear the burqa, an all-covering dress worn by some Muslim women, not to be confused with the head scarf, or hijab.

The French government calls the burqa, "a new form of enslavement that the republic cannot accept on its soil."

Still, there are the issues of agency and religious freedom.

Mansura Bashir Minhas of Miami, Fla. tells Newsweek, "As a Muslim woman who chooses to cover herself voluntarily, I am extremely fortunate to be living in the United States, where the Constitution guarantees and respects my personal freedom and choice to practice my faith. It is incomprehensible how a ban on the veil can help secure France's secular tradition. It would only fuel resentment and further alienate the Muslim population in Europe."

Filing deadline for empowerment grants is June 1

from the Detroit Free Press

Under a new award program announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, two $500,000 grants have been established to empower women.

The deadline to apply for the Secretary's Innovation Awards for Women's and Girl's Empowerment is June 1.

According to the U.S. Department of State's website:

"The Innovation Award seeks to find and bring to scale the most pioneering approaches to the political, economic and social empowerment of women and girls around the globe.

"The award is part of the State Department’s continuing emphasis on public-private partnerships, and is administered by its Office of Global Women’s Issues. The award, and the office, is founded on the premise that the major economic, security, governance and environmental challenges of our time cannot be solved without the full participation of women at all levels of society. The Rockefeller Foundation, as part of its mission to expand opportunity and promote more equitable growth, seeks to identify innovative approaches that can be scaled to address these challenges."

Rodin told Free Press columnist Carol Cain, "Women still do two-thirds of all the work in the world, but earln only about 5% of the income. They farm 90% of the world's food, yet own only 1% of the world's land. It's critical we do more, and do it with more urgency, to empower women."

Applicants must first submit a concept paper that describes innovations that have proven to have a positive impact on the lives of women and girls politically, socially, or economically. The concept paper should: (1) describe the innovation, (2) how it has been successful, and, (3) how it can be supported and enlarged with additional financial support to empower women and girls in their communities.

All concept papers will be reviewed by State Department staff, and selected applicants will be invited to submit full proposals. The full proposal will include detailed implementation and budget plans.

A jury panel will include Rodin, Cherie Blair, an attorney and wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair; Dr. Paul Farmer, medical anthropologist and United Nations deputy special envoy to Haiti; and Anne Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox among others.

Winners will be announced at the end of the year.

To learn more about submission procedures, click here.

Science news

From New Scientist

Beetles develop "weaponry" through female competition

Female dung beetles have developed larger horns, compared to their male counterparts, due to competition with other females for resources to feed their larval young.

According to Patricia Blackwell, a behavioral ecologist at the Australian National University in Canberra, this is rare.

Females of other species -- like lizards and crabs -- developed "weaponry" to defend against predators.

In a study at the University of Western Australia, Perth, researchers Nicola Watson and Leigh Simmons pitted female beetles against each other in a race for dung. Matched for body size, females with the largest horns managed to collect more dung and better provide for their offspring.

"Dung loses its usability quickly, so they have to seize it fast," says Watson. Females beetles have been found to steal dung and raid other "stashes." The larger horns evolved as a result of this intense female-female rivalry.

Better genes, more sex partners?

Genes related to the immune system may explain why some women have have more sex partners, an Australian study suggests.

The major histocompatibility complex(MHC)is a region of DNA vital to the immune system. The more diverse the genes of MHC, the more effective it is at conferring disease resistance and, in a variety of animals, individuals with diverse MHCs are likely to be chosen as a sexual partner.

Although further research in humans is needed, Hanne Lie of the University of Western Australia,Perth measured the diversity of the MHC in 74 heterosexual female students and asked them about the number of sexual partners they had. After controlling for attitudes towards sex, and age of first intercourse, she found that the greater a woman's MHC diversity, the more sexual partners she had.

However, whether women with diverse MHCs have greater evolutionary success is debatable. One factor could be contraception.

Boguslaw Pawlowski, an anthropologist at the University of Wroclaw in Poland says use of contraception means there may not be a strong correlation between the number of sexual partners and reproductive success.

Fetuses react to transient emotions

While stress or depression during pregnancy can harm a fetus, less is known about fleeting emotions, like happiness or sadness.

During a study at Nagasaki University in Japan, 10 pregnant women were shown a cheery five-minute clip from the movie, "The Sound of Music" while 14 other women watched a tear-jerking five minutes from "The Champ." Each clip was sandwiched between two "neutral" samples so that the researchers could measure changes in fetal movements against a baseline.

Women listened to the films through headphones to ensure that only the effects of their emotions, and not sounds, were being measured. Fetuses can hear by the last trimester.

Researchers counted the number of arm, leg, and whole body movements via ultrasound and found that the fetuses moved their arms significantly more during the "happy" film clips than during a "neutral" clip, and less during the "sad" film clip.

While more research is needed, the results suggest that sadness releases more of the "fight or flight" hormone, which redirects blood away from the uterus.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

You go, girls! Older grads keep green and growing


Hazel Soares, 94
Mills College

Oakland, CA -- Among the students graduating this year is a 94-year-old who also received her diploma from Mills College. It's a liberal arts school in California.

Hazel Soares received a degree in Art History. She is believed to be the world's second oldest person to graduate from college.

"The ones that are 50 or 60 years old, if they wanted to get back to college, take one course at a time and they'll get where they are today," says Soares.

Soares started taking courses in the 1980's and enrolled at Mills in 2007.

Now that she has her degree, she hopes to get a job as a lecturer at a museum.

From and the Detroit Free Press

Nola Ochs, 98
Ft. Hays State University

Nola Ochs was to receive her master’s degree from Ft. Hays State University on Saturday.

The Jetmore, Kan., woman set a short-lived record in 2007, when she graduated from Ft. Hays with a bachelor’s degree. A 96-year-old man in Taiwan broke the record last year.

Undaunted, Ochs hit the books and will now collect a master’s in liberal studies with a history concentration.

Ochs said she intends to apply for a graduate teaching slot in Ft. Hays’ history department for next spring.


Teresa Mahony, 79
University of Rhode Island

A 79-year-old Rhode Island woman says she is only days away from achieving her dream of obtaining a degree from the University of Rhode Island.

Teresa Mahony of Warwick, a mother of 12 and grandmother of 34, said she is scheduled to graduate May 23, only two weeks before her 80th birthday, the Providence Journal reported Monday.

"I really believe that there's a time for everything," Mahony said. "God has his plans, but you've got to make things happen too. You've got to keep your eyes open and watch for opportunities."

Mahoney said she enrolled at the university's Feinstein College of Continuing Education in 2000 with a major in history.

She said her whole family is coming out to see her receive a bachelor's degree.

"All the children (ages 40 to 56) and their children will be there -- we're going to have a blast," she said. "I always wanted to go to college. I knew it would happen sometime."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Poetry Podcast: "Grown Up" by Julie O'Callaghan with bonus poem "Edible Anecdotes #24"

Listen to this month's selection - and bonus poem - here (listen for my cat, Buddy):

About the poet:

Conor Kelly of Poetry Review describes Julie O'Callaghan as:

"The voice of the Midwest on vacation -- crude, colloquial, and demonstrative. It is the brash American salesman promoting freedom."

I like her already -- she sounds a lot like me.

Julie O'Callaghan was born in Chicago in 1954. She returned to her roots and moved to Ireland, where she has lived since 1974.

On her website, she tells an interviewer, "The Irish people are taught to value poetry ... people around you think it cool to be writing. Poetry in Ireland comes from an ancient tradition and it’s part of the culture. You don’t have to apologize for it."

She goes on to share how she began her poetic journey, "I never really actually made a decision to be a writer - it all just happened. One moment which pushed me in that direction was when a high school teacher told us to write a poem for homework ... I went home and wrote a poem in the shape of a tree - the branches were the various lines of the poem. Why I did that I have no idea - maybe it was because I was missing the elm tree that the city of Chicago had chopped down outside our house and it seemed like a good way to bring it back. The next day the teacher held up my poem to the class and told them that it was amazing poem and that I should write more. So I continued with poems in the shapes of cockroaches/pizzas/my hand/the sun/moon and this particular teacher said I should keep writing poetry. But I never wished to be a poet. It really is a mystery to me how that came about."

O'Callaghan also echoes some of the best advice I know -- to write well, you must read good writing. She says:

"It would be impossible, really, to hope to be an artist or a painter or a composer without absorbing what the earlier generations had created - so reading is the most important part of learning how to be a poet. It also teaches you how extremely difficult it is to write a worthwhile poem."

About this poem:

I found this poem in the anthology "I wouldn't thank you for a Valentine: Poems for young feminists." I absolutely love this little volume, edited by British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, I guess that's why I keep using it.

"Grown Up" brought back a memory for me.

In the early years of our marriage, Chris and I lived in Clawson, Mich. We loved the city and the neighborhood and hated to leave, but that's another story.

We were within walking distance of the park. One weekend afternoon, we were flying kites in the an adjacent elementary school yard.

A little boy saw the kites and came running towards us. When he came closer he said, "Oh, these are big kids!" We both laughed.

I still laugh about it and wonder, "Why do we stop playing and what is lost when we do?"

There is a sense of freedom when we play -- we abandon our inner censors and inhibitions. When we abandon play, those inner censors and inhibitions encroach upon our sense of adventure and personal growth. We worry that we are too old, or look too silly.

During an unusually warm spring weekend in Charlevoix, Chris and I walked along the beach of Lake Michigan. On this particular beach there is a swing set, a slide, and a few other playground staples.

There, I did something I hadn't done in years -- I had a good swing. It felt great and made me realize the truth in this statement by George Bernard Shaw:

“We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

Amen -- and enjoy the bonus poem too.

Julie O'Callaghan's poetry collections include:

"Tell Me This is Normal: New and Selected Poems" (2008)
"No Can Do" (2000)
"What's What" (1991)
"Edible Antecdotes" (1983)

These titles are available through Prices range from $14.95 - $25.95

Her work has also appeared in numerous publications and anthologies.

Read more poetry and the rest of her interview at

Pro-choice and pro-abortion are not the same thing

By now all the world knows that President Obama has nominated Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. And, if she's confirmed, she will be the third female justice to sit on the current court.

Just what kind of issues can a new justice expect to face during her life-long appointment?

According to Diane Hartmus, associate professor of political science at Oakland University, abortion is an issue on the horizon for the court.

“This court has not heard this issue,” Hartmus said in an interview with the Oakland Press. She explains that the scene is being set now as the states are placing some very strict regulations and unique restrictions on abortions.

Abortion has been a hot-button issue for decades and casts a specter over women's reproductive rights.

But, here's a new -- or maybe not so new -- thought:

Pro-choice and pro-abortion are not necessarily the same thing.

Think about it.

In her book, "Feminism is for Everybody -- Passionate Politics" feminist writer bell hooks says that while the issue of abortion is still relevant to all women, there are other reproductive rights that are just as vital.

"Responsible birth control liberated many women like myself who were pro-choice, but not necessarily pro-abortion for ourselves from having to personally confront the issue.

"The abortion issue captured the attention of mass media because it really challenged the notion that a woman's reason for existence was to bear children. It called attention to the female body as no other issue could have done. It was a direct challenge to the church. Later, all the other reproductive issues that feminist thinkers called attention to were often ignored by mass media.

"The right of women to choose whether or not to have an abortion is only one aspect of reproductive freedom.

All aspects of reproductive rights affect all women. When emotions run high over the mere mention of abortion, it overshadows the importance of the issue at hand: The government - at any level - does not need to be making laws and restrictions that affect women's bodies. If women relinquish the right to choose, they risk losing other important rights as well.

From a feminist point of view, being pro-choice means supporting the right of women who need abortions to choose whether or not to have them. The right to choose is the issue, not the subjective morality of abortion.

"Anti-choice is essentially anti-feminist," says hooks.

Right-wing, anti-abortion activists further color the issue by calling their movement "pro-life," when life is not the real issue. And while they have the right to express their opinions, they do not have the right to impose their conscience on others.

If the emotions surrounding the connotation of abortion are removed from the equation, it becomes obvious that, whatever our personal beliefs, we can still support reproductive rights which are so essential to our freedom.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

News flashes

Stigma of mental illness is fading

from Yahoo News and HealthDay

May is Mental Health Month and there is positive news about public perception of mental illness.

A new survey finds that more than a third of Americans polled believe that the stigma of mental illness has declined and they attribute the change largely to openness by friends, family members and public figures about their own conditions.

Almost 80 percent of those polled said that such openness on the part of family and friends had had at least a moderate impact on the stigma of mental illness, reports the American Psychiatric Association, which commissioned the April online survey among 2,285 adults aged 18 and older.

Participants pointed to other factors that were influential in the reduction of stigma: an increase in the amount of online information about mental illness (75 percent), accurate portrayals of people with mental illness on TV and in movies (72 percent), public figures and celebrities talking about their mental illness (71 percent), and social networking sites about mental illness (61 percent).

Two thirds of those surveyed said they thought mentally ill people could get better.

Of genetics and breast cancer

from Yahoo News and Reuters

British scientists have found five common genetic factors linked to the risk of developing breast cancer, giving researchers a better understanding of its causes and clues for developing more treatments.

Douglas Easton from Britain's University of Cambridge led the largest genome-wide analysis of breast cancer patients to date, scanning the gene maps of 16,536 patients, and found five new common gene variations.

The findings add to 13 other common genetic variants for breast cancer and will help explain around 8 percent of the risk of getting the disease, Easton and colleagues wrote in a study published in the journal Nature Genetics on Sunday.

A few, high-risk gene variants that occur much more rarely account for another 20 percent of breast cancer risk.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women in rich nations. It kills around half a million people worldwide each year.

Family history is a well-established risk factor. Having a close relative with breast cancer approximately doubles a woman's risk for the disease.

Mary Glasspool approved as first openly gay Episcopal bishop

from National Public Radio

The Episcopal Church has given final approval to the ordination of an openly gay bishop in Los Angeles.

Mary Glasspool is the first openly gay bishop approved since 2003, when the election of a gay man as bishop of New Hampshire caused such an uproar in the global Anglican Communion that the U.S. church imposed a moratorium on such elevations. The ban was lifted last year.

Glasspool is also one of the first two women to be elected as bishops in the 114-year history of the Los Angeles diocese, according to the Los Angeles Times. The other, Diane M. Jardine Bruce, won final approval March 8.

"I'm overjoyed," Glasspool told The Times in a phone interview from Baltimore, where she is canon, or senior assistant, to the bishop of Maryland. "I know there are people who might not be overjoyed by this, and I am committed to reaching out with my own hand and my own heart to people who might not feel the same as I do."

Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno told The Times he, too, is overjoyed, and called the election of the two women "historic."

He said the consenting votes by U.S. bishops and diocesan standing committees demonstrated "that the Episcopal Church, by canon, creates no barrier for ministry on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, among other factors."

New NPR series: "The Hidden World of Girls -- and the Women They Become"

Over the next year, National Public Radio will air a regular series by the Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva -- known as the Kitchen Sisters. The series explores coming of age, secret identities, and rituals of passage from girls and women around the world. The series looks to draw material from listeners.

The "sisters" are using a phone answering system to record submissions in order to capture real voices. To submit a story, call the NPR listener line at 202-408-9576 or send dispatches through Twitter @kitchensisters using the hashtag #hiddenworldofgirls.

The Kitchen Sisters introduce the series here:

Listen to the May 6, 2010 episode here:

Chaz Bono makes sex change official


Following sex reassignment surgery last year, Chaz Bono is legally a man. A Santa Monica judge has granted Bono's request to change his name from Chastity to Chaz and to switch his gender identification to male.

Chaz is the only child of entertainers Sonny and Cher. He was born Chastity Sun Bono and has been a gay and lesbian rights activist for years.

"It's hard for me to articulate how this feels -- when you've lived your whole life in a body and having everybody relate to you as something you don't feel," Bono said. "When that finally gets righted, it's just amazing. I finally get to live my life the way I've always wanted to," said Chaz.

Additional links: Sex reassignment surgery explained, Chaz Bono's website

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Just for fun: What's your favorite Dew?

Mountain Dew has just released three new test flavors. Chris and I sampled the three and have different opinions:

White Out: Think Fresca or Squirt with a "kick."

Typhoon: Think Hawaiian Punch with fizz and caffeine.

Distortion: Think original Gatorade, carbonated.

Chris prefers Typhoon hands down, but I'm partial to White Out.

Consumers can vote for their favorite flavor at Of course there's marketing involved. In order to vote on the site, you'll have to sign up for -- get ready -- the Dewsletter. Of course it's free. There's also an option to vote by text.

So far, it looks like White Out is winning by an avalanche, but voting is open until June 14. The winning flavor becomes a permanent member of the Dew family.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Local musician's lyrics strike a powerful note

This week, I began my journalism internship at The Oakland Press.

My first assignment was to rewrite a press release about the finale of the Oakland Town Hall Lecture Series.

The last lecture of the season takes place Wednesday, May 12 at 10:30 a.m. at The St. George Cultural Center on Woodward in Bloomfield Hills.

But, this is not a typical lecture. It is the life experiences of a local musician, Chuck White, told in original song and music.

I emailed White to talk about his music and performance. He graciously offered to stop by the paper's office for a personal conversation.

In preparation for the article and interview, I studied White's website,

He uses his music to tell stories. He is passionate about honoring the men and women who have lost their lives while serving their country.

Also included in his online song book are compositions written for friends and family. Others are autobiographical. Free downloads of White's songs are available from iTunes.

One that caught my eye -- and ear -- is a song titled "Wanna Work." Even though White wrote this song prior to the current recession, it delivers a powerful visual and vocal depiction of the hardship that has enveloped Michigan. White produced the song into a video that was shot in Detroit:

Tickets for Chuck White's performance are $20.
To purchase in advance call Barbara Richards at 248.625.3117
Tickets will also be available at the door.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

IMHO: If you seek other intelligent life, look around you

The title of this post is a play on words of the state of Michigan's motto, "If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you."

If you didn't know Michigan had a motto, well, now you do.

I think the phrase "look about you" is very important because so often when we seek answers to life's questions or problems we face, they are right there in front of us, but for whatever reason -- perhaps our own pride or ignorance -- we can't see them.

When we feel dissatisfaction with our lives, we need to remind ourselves to look around us and appreciate what we have right here in our own backyards.

Such is the case with the search for intelligent life in outer space. NASA and others have been beaming messages into deep space hoping for a response.

This week, physicist Stephen Hawking cautioned against alien contact. He said humankind might not be ready.

Hawking speculates that advanced life forms would likely be "nomads, looking to conquer and colonize.

This sounds a lot like my favorite summer movie, "Independence Day," starring Will Smith and one of my favorite actors, Bill Pullman, as the president of the United States.

Truly, I have always believed that there is other intelligent life right here on our planet. But perhaps humankind, despite all the technological accomplishments, is still not advanced enough to see it and reach out to it.

An article in USA Today tells how chimpanzees have been observed practicing grief rituals similar to those of humans. These moving moments were caught on tape for the first time at Blair Drumond Safari Park in Scotland.

Researcher James Anderson told the Los Angeles Times, "I'm not saying chimpanzees have a human understanding of death ... but we were immediately struck during the video by the phenomena we observed ... we know chimpanzees are capable of a wide range of emotions very much akin to human emotions."

I was blown away earlier this year by an interview with acoustic biologist Katy Payne. On NPR's "Speaking of Faith" program, Payne said, "My church is outdoors mostly. What's sacred to me is this planet we live on. It’s been here for more than 4 billion years. Life has been on it only for 3 billion years. Life as we know it, you know, for a very short time. It’s the only planet where life has been found. And that, to me, I think, is ultimately, you know, what I consider it sacred."

Payne's book, "Silent Thunder: In the presence of elephants," details the discovery of infrasonic communication between elephants, her experiences with elephants, and the implications of culling on these magnificent, ancient creatures.

She has also studied the complexities of hump back whale communications.

If humankind could get past its constant need to prove its superiority, and dominate species that it views as inferior, new channels of communication would open to impart knowledge of our long-distant past and a view of ourselves through a different lens. Better yet, there's a chance for a future filled with greater advances than we can imagine if we take the time to look and listen.

Am I dreaming? Maybe.

But, why search the cold depths of space for intelligent life -- it's right here with us.

Just look about you.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Women in comics in refrigerators

Two significant things happen during the month of May:

My birthday -- May 18 -- and the return of the Motor City Comic Con -- May 14-16 at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi, Mich.

Comic Con(vention) is an event that self-proclaimed "comic book geeks" live for. It features vendors, contests, artists, and special appearances by stars of classic cult films and television programs.

Among the guests this year are Linda Blair, star of "The Exorcist," and Mark Goddard from TV's " Lost in Space."

My husband, Chris, has been an avid comic collector for much of his life. Although I maintain only a casual interest, I'd never thought about looking at the world of comic books through a feminist lens -- until recently.

In the past, comics have never been considered a "girl thang." Now, according to PREVIEWS -- a comic shop catalog -- "more and more women are venturing into comic shops and being met by strong female characters that transcend stereotypes and gender cages."

PREVIEWS even championed "Women in Comics Week" back in March. In conjunction with the event, PREVIEWS featured an interview with Gail Simone, a comic commentator, writer, and artist who has worked on such titles as "The Simpsons," "Deadpool," "The Atom," "Birds of Prey," and -- since 2007 -- the "Wonder Woman" series.

Simone also has a website -- "Women in Refrigerators" -- that lists the violent demise of female characters in comics. It seems that throughout the medium's history, this has been the norm.

The site's name was taken from a "Green Lantern" comic in which the superhero returns home to find his girlfriend has been killed by one of his archenemies, and her body stuffed into the fridge.

Simone told PREVIEWS, "(the) site was all about examination, not condemnation. It was never meant to insult or accuse the industry, it was simply meant to hold up a mirror."

Of her own work, she says " ... the hope is that the female characters feel, not superior to the male ones, but, equally as compelling, equally as human, that's all."

While doing some research, I found someone who has done some brilliant work on comics and feminism.

Enter David Hopkins, a telecommunications major at Ball State University. As it turns out, he took a women's studies class during the fall 2009 semester and created the blog as his "engagement project." This required him to "actively engage with the Ball State and/or Muncie (Indiana) community through an educational awareness project."

David's blog is a well-researched, clever, and insightful project infused with some interesting comic art.

He named it, "The Amazing Adventures of David & Feminism: A look into how comic books inscribe gender." Take a look.

David -- if you're out there, your blog's the bomb. Make contact, man. I'd love to talk to you.