Archive for November, 2011

November 30, 2011

Zombies Anonymous – A Movie, and a Metaphor – For Being Perceived Different Even Though You Feel Like the Same Person [cinefantastiqueonline.com]

This is a fascinating movie that explores what its like to be normal (alive) one moment and then suddenly rejected by society the next (undead).  The movie makes a slight change in zombie lore by giving the undead their conscience and souls, thus the dilemma of feeling like the same person, while everyone else treats you different. – Helen

By Randall Larson

51W6msPiGEL. SL210  Zombies Anonymous   Horror Film ReviewA thoroughly entertaining, likable, and satisfying zombie thriller, despite its obvious low budget.

Unlike other half-baked attempts at low-budget horror-making, Marc Fratto’s movie has a great plot, convincing performances, effective camerawork, and a well played-out storyline. In Fratto’s take on theNIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD zombie concept, the newly dead becomes zombies and crave human flesh, but the story is set in a world where living and dead co-exist, and marketing campaigns are geared toward the undead (“Look Alive” face creams, to cover up that dead skin look!). Zombies are just as cognizant and sentient as they were when alive – which affords many (perhaps too many) clear references to racism and prejudice as the story plays out.

Gina Ramsden is just wonderful as Angela, a young lady shot by her jealous and rage-intensive boyfriend (convincingly played with full-on gangsta attitude by Joshua Nelson), who thereafter confronts a zombie support group (funny!), a small army of alive-supremacists who want to kill off all the zombies (headed by Christina McNamee who chews up the scenery – just a bit too much, actually – with a rapacious vigor as their Commandant), and a group of religious evangelicals seeking to show the way, the truth, and the light of zombie-ism as the next step in human evolution (headed by the mesmerizing Mary Jo Verruto as hippy-dippy Mother Solstice, leader of the cult) – with all of them coming together in a final massive confrontation in an old multi-story house.

Ramsden makes the character – and therefore the story and her situation – perfectly real, and her response to her zombiehood, as she is shunned by co-workers, family, friends, and adjusts to this new ostracism, is sensitive and compelling. Kevin T. Collins is also excellent as a rebellious zombie who shrugs off the support group to embrace his “inner zombie” and join the cult.

The movie is fun, it’s compelling, and it’s very well done despite the obvious limitations of its budget. The make-up effects are convincing and effective, for the most part (especially James E. Smith as the former detective with the mutilated zombie face).

Fratto and his team have put together a first-rate film and taken the zombie movie into a fascinating new direction. Unfortunately,the DVD version cuts out about 14 minutes. While the film can use the trims and is still a bit overlong at 104 minutes (especially in its final third), the deletions eliminate some major plot points, creating some confusion in the climax, especially as regards the Commandant, who suddenly shows up, with short hair, shot, and in her underwear to confront the zombie cult.

ZA: ZOMBIES ANONYMOUS (2006, aka LAST RITES FOR THE DEAD). Written and directed by Marc Fratto. Cast: Gina Ramsden, Joshua Nelson, Christa McNamee, Gaetano Iacono, Kevin T. Collins.

http://cinefantastiqueonline.com/2009/03/zombies-anonymous-horror-film-review/

November 30, 2011

Abstinence-only education does not lead to abstinent behavior, UGA researchers find [eurekalert.org]

States that prescribe abstinence-only sex education programs in public schools have significantly higher teenage pregnancy and birth rates than states with more comprehensive sex education programs, researchers from the University of Georgia have determined.

The researchers looked at teen pregnancy and birth data from 48 U.S. states to evaluate the effectiveness of those states’ approaches to sex education, as prescribed by local laws and policies.

“Our analysis adds to the overwhelming evidence indicating that abstinence-only education does not reduce teen pregnancy rates,” said Kathrin Stanger-Hall, assistant professor of plant biology and biological sciences in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Hall is first author on the resulting paper, which has been published online in the journal PLoS ONE.

The study is the first large-scale evidence that the type of sex education provided in public schools has a significant effect on teen pregnancy rates, Hall said.

“This clearly shows that prescribed abstinence-only education in public schools does not lead to abstinent behavior,” said David Hall, second author and assistant professor of genetics in the Franklin College. “It may even contribute to the high teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. compared to other industrialized countries.”

Along with teen pregnancy rates and sex education methods, Hall and Stanger-Hall looked at the influence of socioeconomic status, education level, access to Medicaid waivers and ethnicity of each state’s teen population.

Even when accounting for these factors, which could potentially impact teen pregnancy rates, the significant relationship between sex education methods and teen pregnancy remained: the more strongly abstinence education is emphasized in state laws and policies, the higher the average teenage pregnancy and birth rates.

“Because correlation does not imply causation, our analysis cannot demonstrate that emphasizing abstinence causes increased teen pregnancy. However, if abstinence education reduced teen pregnancy as proponents claim, the correlation would be in the opposite direction,” said Stanger-Hall.

The paper indicates that states with the lowest teen pregnancy rates were those that prescribed comprehensive sex and/or HIV education, covering abstinence alongside proper contraception and condom use. States whose laws stressed the teaching of abstinence until marriage were significantly less successful in preventing teen pregnancies.

These results come at an important time for legislators. A new evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative was signed into federal law in December 2009 and awarded $114 million for implementation. However, federal abstinence-only funding was renewed for 2010 and beyond by including $250 million of mandatory abstinence-only funding as part of an amendment to the Senate Finance Committee’s health-reform legislation.

With two types of federal funding programs available, legislators of individual states now have the opportunity to decide which type of sex education — and which funding option — to choose for their state and possibly reconsider their state’s sex education policies for public schools, while pursuing the ultimate goal of reducing teen pregnancy rates.

Stanger-Hall and Hall conducted this large-scale analysis to provide scientific evidence to inform this decision.

“Advocates for continued abstinence-only education need to ask themselves: If teens don’t learn about human reproduction, including safe sexual health practices to prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, as well as how to plan their reproductive adult life in school, then when should they learn it and from whom?” said Stanger-Hall.

Contact: Kathrin Stanger-Hall
lamyrids@gmail.com
706-542-1689
University of Georgia

###

The full article is available online at http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0024658;jsessionid=7E5D4CFA54B7D9BD98BC2432D43AD046.

November 30, 2011

Many HIV Positive Americans Are Unaware [medicalnewstoday.com]

One in every five HIV positive Amercans is not aware he/she is infected, and only 49% of those who know they are infected receive ongoing medical care and treatment, says a new Vital Signs report issued by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). There are nearly 1.2 million Americans who live with HIV, of whom approximately just 28% have a viral load of below 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood (a low viral load).

HIV infected patients with a low viral load have their infection under control – at a level that allows them to stay healthy, and also minimizes their risk of passing it on to other people.

77% of HIV positive Americans who are receiving “ongoing” antiretroviral treatment and care have suppressed levels of HIV. Proper and effective HIV therapy and care improves the patient’s health, and prevents the spread of infection.

The NIH (National Institutes of Health) carried out a study recently on heterosexual couples which demonstrated that ongoing antiretroviral therapy, combined with safety behaviors, can reduce the risk of HIV spreading by about 96%.

CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., said:

“While we have known that viral suppression can be achieved with proper HIV treatment and care, today’s new Vital Signs data highlight the challenges our country faces in keeping HIV-positive Americans in the care they need to control the virus.

By improving testing, linkage to care and treatment services, we can help people living with HIV feel better and live longer, and can reduce the spread of HIV dramatically. This is not just an individual responsibility, but a responsibility for families, partners, communities and health care providers.”

The authors explain that MSM (men who have sex with men) tend to have the lowest awareness of their HIV status, and are the least likely to receive counseling on infection prevention. A recent report showed that 39% of MSM are aware of their HIV status and receive prevention counseling compared to 50% of heterosexual males and females.

The researchers stress that every stage of the treatment and care of HIV in America needs to be improved. More Americans need to be tested, linked to care, given ongoing care, provided with prevention counseling , and treated successfully if viral suppression is to be achieved.

Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said:

“Closing the gaps in testing, access to care and treatment will all be essential to slowing the U.S. HIV epidemic. HIV testing is the most important first step toward breaking the cycle of transmission. Combined with effective prevention services, linkage to care and ongoing effective treatment, testing provides a gateway to the most effective prevention tools at our disposal.”

Read the rest of the article at:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/238399.php

 

November 29, 2011

Men Don’t Actually Think About Sex All Day Long [io9.com]

by Robert T. Gonzalez / io9.com

Guess what, everyone — it turns out men aren’t as horny as unsubstantiated statistics say they are! According to a forthcoming paper in the Journal of Sex Research, your typical college-aged guy thinks about sex an average of 18 times a day — that’s less than twice the frequency of the average college-aged woman, and nowhere near the once-every-seven-seconds “statistic” that we’re all so familiar with.

Psychologist Terri Fisher, who led the study, describes her team’s testing methods, and its interesting results:

By means of a golf tally counter, 283 college students kept track of their [so-called "need-based"] thoughts pertaining to food, sleep, or sex for one week. Males reported significantly more need-based cognitions overall, but there was no significant interaction between sex of participant and type of cognition recorded. Therefore, although these young men did think more about sex than did young women, they also thought more about food and sleep.

Fisher claims her study suggests that men may be a little more in touch with their “physical state” throughout the day. Of course, potential explanations for this observation abound. Maybe, posits Fisher, men are just more comfortable racking up their clicker numbers:

“People who always give socially desirable responses to questions are perhaps holding back and trying to manage the impression they make on others,” Fisher explains. “In this case, we’re seeing that women who are more concerned with the impression they’re making tend to report fewer sexual thoughts, and that’s because thinking about sexuality is not consistent with typical expectations for women.”

Supporting Fisher’s hypothesis is a finding from the study which demonstrates that the best indicator for how often a person thinks about sex is not their gender, but their score on a sexual opinion survey designed to measure their “emotional orientation toward sexuality,” as gauged by a so-called “erotophilia” score:

“If you had to know one thing about a person to best predict how often they would be thinking about sex,” explained Fisher, “you’d be better off knowing their emotional orientation toward sexuality, as opposed to knowing whether they were male or female.”

“Frequency of thinking about sex is related to variables beyond one’s biological sex.”

[Via The Journal of Sex Research]

http://io9.com/5863449/shocking-news-men-dont-actually-think-about-sex-all-day-long

November 29, 2011

6 People Who Gained Amazing Skills from Brain Injuries Read more: 6 People Who Gained Amazing Skills from Brain Injuries [cracked.com]

by Eddie Rodriguez / Cracked.com 

In real life, people don’t suffer freaky events like getting struck by lightning or getting part of their brain removed and then suddenly find themselves with new superpowers, like heat vision or flight. However, people do apparently suffer freaky events and then gain the ability to do art.

It’s a poorly understood phenomenon, but according to the experts who’ve studied them, these people aren’t just messing with us.

#6. Man Has Mystery Illness, Gains Super Memory and Painting Powers

Quick: Picture in your mind what your neighborhood looked like when you were 4 years old. Even better, try to draw a picture of it, in fine detail. Hell, most of us couldn’t do the latter with a room we saw five minutes ago. To unlock that ability, apparently all we need is a severe, life-threatening fever to jar it loose.

When 30-something Italian immigrant Franco Magnani arrived in San Francisco in the 1960s, he came down with just such a fever — to the point that he sometimes became delirious and had seizures. In the aftermath, Magnani started having insanely vivid dreams/memories about his childhood hometown of Pontito, Italy. The man hadn’t visited the place in more than 30 years, but his dreams were intense and filled with detail, as if his seizures had somehow surfaced a bunch of old image files off his brain’s hard drive, perfectly intact.

Magnani became so engulfed by the memories that he started to draw and eventually paint them. If the below paintings look like random pictures of streets and alleys you could see on anybody’s wall, you have to see them next to a photo of the real scene to understand why they’re remarkable. The photo is on the left. The painting on the right was painted from a three-decade-old memory from early childhood:

Via Francomagnani.com

Can we call “Photoshop” on a painting?

Again, Magnani did not have that photo to work from — that was taken later, probably by somebody trying to find out if he was full of shit. And keep in mind, painting at all was totally out of character for him, given that he had been a cook in Italy and a woodworker when he came to San Francisco. Yet even though he’d never so much as held a brush in his life, he was suddenly overcome with an urge to paint these scenes, with as much detail as his memory provided him. Yes, there are variations in the pics — for instance when he paints the view from his old bedroom window, he’s remembering it being zoomed out a bit:

Via Exploratorium.edu
Photo, again on the left.

What you’re seeing is the product of what had become an obsession. According to one of his friends, Magnani was known to leave his favorite bar mid-drink if he got a memory that he wanted to paint. Later, when word of Magnani’s story got out, doctors said that what he had was probably “temporal lobe epilepsy,” which is known to sometimes create an obsessive personality in sufferers.

Via Francomagnani.com
Photo on left.

When Magnani’s work was eventually shown in art galleries, it was put up next to photo comparisons of Pontito taken from the same angles as his paintings. You can see the result for yourself.

Via Francomagnani.com

And to think, all he had to do was have himself a fever and a couple of seizures. We’re betting any aspiring artist will take that deal over three years of putting up with stuck-up assholes at art schools.

Read more: 6 People Who Gained Amazing Skills from Brain Injuries | Cracked.com http://www.cracked.com/article_19504_6-people-who-gained-amazing-skills-from-brain-injuries.html#ixzz1f7lIVi6r

November 28, 2011

Mysterious Phenomena Called “Feelings” Make Women Better at Investing [jezebel.com]

by Erin Gloria Ryan / jezebel.com

Research suggests that the global financial system would be in better shape if Wall Street’s risk taking big swinging dicks were replaced with financially prudent big swinging vaginas; women, it seems, are better equipped to handle investment decisions without making a big mess of things. And the reason women make better investors than men? Their lady emotions. Quick, someone install 500 officially licensedTwilight fainting couches on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange!

ABC News reports that neuroscientist Richard Peterson has spent years challenging the idea that all emotion should be removed from investing. Reacting too emotionally while investing is bad; it’s hard to buy stocks when you’re crying/laughing maniacally into your piles of money all the time and it’s hard to make a profit when every hint of bad news has you on the phone with your broker screaming “SELL!” Similarly, managing investments without emotion is a bad call (plus, it’s nearly impossible unless you’re some sort of Dick Cheneyesque robot) because the market moves so quickly that by the time the cold, hard numbers line up with an initial gut feeling, it may be too late to get in on the ground floor. In spite of this reality, people still attempt to invest as though they don’t have any feelings about what happens to all that coin they’re kicking around, and that’s where a lot of trouble starts.

When investors think they’re making money decisions with the steadfast, logical manparts of their brains, they’re actually repressing emotions and harming their overall return, argues Peterson, and because his research found that women tend to be more in touch with their emotions, they’re better equipped to identify when they’re experiencing what’s called “a feeling” and circumventing what it’s telling them to do. So, if a woman’s ladybrain told her to invest in something with a terrible business model called Kittens, Incorporated, a female investor would be more likely to understand that her desire to own stock in the company was based on the fact that kittens are adorable and that she’s ignoring the company’s less than stellar P/E ratio. A male investor would be more likely to defend his decision to invest in the company by saying he’s impressed by CEO Business Cat’s financial acumen when, in reality, he, too, thinks kittens are the world’s most adorable growth industry.

Peterson also found that men are also more likely to manage their portfolios pridefully, selling a profitable stock more quickly to access both tangible proof that their buy was totally fucking all star and the ensuing high fives from their trader type coworkers. Women, on the other hand, will hold bullish stocks longer before selling and thus realize bigger gains. Ladies will unload their bad stocks more quickly and men tend to hang on, hoping their bad investment will turn around and prove them right. To sell is to admit defeat, and no Leader of Men wants to admit a mistake.

The belief that women or men are naturally wired to think a certain way is up for debate; a depressing number of people still think that women are “naturally” all sorts of dumb stuff because of the direct telephone line between a woman’s ovaries and her smaller, pinker brain. But whatever the cause of women’s tendency to take fewer risks and work with rather than against their emotions, Peterson thinks that women would be better off holding more of the purse strings in the future. If only they could be trusted to not spend it all on shoes.

Why Women Make Better Investors [ABC]

http://jezebel.com/5863019/mysterious-phenomena-called-feelings-make-ladies-better-at-investing

November 28, 2011

We Dream in Order to Ease Our Painful Memories [io9.com]

by Alasdair Wilkins / IO9.com

Sleeping isn’t just about refreshing us for the day ahead. It also has a more long-term impact on our health. The deep REM sleep associated with dreams actually shuts off our brain’s stress chemistry and soothes our most painful memories.

That’s the finding of researchers at UC Berkeley, who found a number of dramatic stress-related transformations take place in our brain when we enter REM sleep. Dreaming effectively functions as a way for the brain to process painful memories and systematically take the edge off them. While it obviously can’t erase our traumas, it appears that such deep sleep does have some serious anti-stress benefits.

Researcher Matthew Walker explains:

“The dream stage of sleep, based on its unique neurochemical composition, provides us with a form of overnight therapy, a soothing balm that removes the sharp edges from the prior day’s emotional experiences.”

However, it appears that sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder no longer fully benefit from this process. This may be because the psychological scars are so deep and can be so easily triggered by everyday events – say, a loud noise like a car backfiring – that the entire experience remains too visceral to be stripped away during REM sleep.

This research is some of our first clear insight into the emotional effects of REM sleep, which is a deep state of slumber in which we spend about a fifth of our time asleep. Indeed, any additional insight into why we sleep is good news – as much as we can identify all the bad things that happen to you if you don’t sleep enough, it’s surprisingly difficult to come up with a clear reason what purposes sleep serves.

Lead author Els van der Helm comments:

“During REM sleep, memories are being reactivated, put in perspective and connected and integrated, but in a state where stress neurochemicals are beneficially suppressed.”

And Matthew Walker adds:

“We know that during REM sleep there is a sharp decrease in levels of norepinephrine, a brain chemical associated with stress. By reprocessing previous emotional experiences in this neuro-chemically safe environment of low norepinephrine during REM sleep, we wake up the next day, and those experiences have been softened in their emotional strength. We feel better about them, we feel we can cope. This study can help explain the mysteries of why these medications help some PTSD patients and their symptoms as well as their sleep. It may also unlock new treatment avenues regarding sleep and mental illness.”

http://io9.com/5862783/we-dream-in-order-to-ease-our-painful-memories

November 27, 2011

Why Marriage is a Declining Option for Modern Women [guardian.co.uk]

By Kate Bolick /Guardian News

In 2001, when I was 28, I broke up with my boyfriend. Allan and I had been together for three years, and there was no good reason to end things. He was (and remains) an exceptional person, intelligent, good-looking, loyal, kind. My friends, many of whom were married or in marriage-track  relationships, were bewildered. I was bewildered. To account for my behaviour, all I had were two intangible yet undeniable convictions: something was missing; I wasn’t ready to settle down.

The period that followed was awful. I barely ate for sobbing all the time. (A friend who suffered my company a lot that summer sent me a birthday text this past July: “A decade ago you and I were reuniting, and you were crying a lot.”) I missed Allan desperately – his calm, sure voice; the sweetly fastidious way he folded his shirts. On good days, I felt secure that I’d done the right thing. Learning to be alone would make me a better person, and eventually a better partner. On bad days, I feared I would be alone forever. Had I made the biggest mistake of my life?

Ten years later, I occasionally ask myself the same question. Today I am 39, with too many ex-boyfriends to count and, I am told, two grim-seeming options to face down: either stay single or settle for a “good enough” mate. At this point, certainly, falling in love and getting married may be less a matter of choice than a stroke of wild great luck. A decade ago, luck didn’t even cross my mind. I’d been in love before, and I’d be in love again. This wasn’t hubris so much as naivety; I’d had serious, long-term boyfriends since my freshman year of high school, and simply couldn’t envision my life any differently.

Well, there was a lot I didn’t know 10 years ago. The decision to end a stable relationship for abstract rather than concrete reasons (“something was missing”), I see now, is in keeping with a post-Boomer ideology that values emotional fulfilment above all else. And the elevation of independence over coupling (“I wasn’t ready to settle down”) is a second-wave feminist idea I’d acquired from my mother, who had embraced it, in part, I suspect, to correct her own choices.

I was her first and only recruit, marching off to third grade in tiny green or blue T-shirts declaring: “A Woman Without A Man Is Like A Fish Without A Bicycle”, or: “A Woman’s Place Is In The House – And The Senate”. Once, in high school, driving home from a family vacation, my mother turned to my boyfriend and me cuddling in the backseat and said, “Isn’t it time you two started seeing other people?” She adored Brian – he was invited on family vacations! But my future was to be one of limitless possibilities, where getting married was something I’d do when I was ready, to a man who was in every way my equal, and she didn’t want me to get tied down just yet.

This unfettered future was the promise of my time and place. I spent many a golden afternoon at my small New England liberal-arts college debating with friends the merits of leg-shaving and whether or not we’d take our husband’s surname. (Even then, our concerns struck me as retro; hadn’t the women’s libbers tackled all this stuff already?) We took for granted that we’d spend our 20s finding ourselves, whatever that meant, and save marriage for after we’d finished graduate school and launched our careers, which of course would happen at the magical age of 30.

That we would marry, and that there would always be men we wanted to marry, we took on faith. How could we not? One of the many ways in which our lives differed from our mothers’ was in the variety of our interactions with the opposite sex. Men were our classmates and colleagues, our bosses and professors, as well as, in time, our students and employees and subordinates – an entire universe of prospective friends, boyfriends, friends with benefits, and even ex-boyfriends-turned-friends. In this brave new world, boundaries were fluid, and roles constantly changing.

In 1969, when my 25-year-old mother, a college-educated high-school teacher, married a handsome lawyer-to-be, most women her age were doing more or less the same thing. By the time she was in her mid-30s, she was raising two small children and struggling to find a satisfying career. What she’d envisioned for me was a future in which I made my own choices. I don’t think either of us could have predicted what happens when you multiply that sense of agency by an entire generation.

But what transpired next lay well beyond the powers of everybody’s imagination: as women have climbed ever higher, men have been falling behind. We’ve arrived at the top of the staircase, finally ready to start our lives, only to discover a cavernous room at the tail end of a party, most of the men gone already, some having never shown up – and those who remain are leering by the cheese table, or are, you know, the ones you don’t want to go out with.

In the 1990s, Stephanie Coontz, a social historian at Evergreen State College in Washington, noticed an uptick in questions from reporters and audiences asking if the institution of marriage was falling apart. She didn’t think it was, and was struck by how everyone believed in some mythical Golden Age of Marriage and saw mounting divorce rates as evidence of the dissolution of this halcyon past. She decided to write a book discrediting the notion and proving that the ways in which we think about and construct the legal union between a man and a woman have always been in flux.

What Coontz found was even more interesting than she’d originally expected. In her fascinating Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage, she surveys 5,000 years of human habits, from our days as hunters and gatherers up until the present, showing our social arrangements to be more complex and varied than could ever seem possible. She’d long known that the Leave It To Beaver-style family model popular in the 1950s and 60s had been a flash in the pan, and like a lot of historians, she couldn’t understand how people had become so attached to an idea that had developed so late and been so short-lived.

For thousands of years, marriage had been a primarily economic and political contract between two people, negotiated and policed by their families, church and community. It took more than one person to make a farm or business thrive, and so a potential mate’s skills, resources, thrift and industriousness were valued as highly as personality and attractiveness. This held true for all classes. In the American colonies, wealthy merchants entrusted business matters to their landlocked wives while off at sea, just as sailors, vulnerable to the unpredictability of seasonal employment, relied on their wives’ steady income as domestics in elite households. Two-income families were the norm.

Not until the 18th century did labour begin to be divided along a sharp line: wage-earning for the men and unpaid maintenance of household and children for the women. Coontz notes that as recently as the late 17th century, women’s contributions to the family economy were openly recognised, and advice books urged husbands and wives to share domestic tasks. But as labour became separated, so did our spheres of experience – the marketplace versus the home – one founded on reason and action, the other on compassion and comfort. Not until the postwar gains of the 1950s, however, were a majority of American families able to actually afford living off a single breadwinner.

All of this was intriguing, for sure – but even more surprising to Coontz was the realisation that those alarmed reporters and audiences might be on to something. Coontz still didn’t think that marriage was falling apart, but she came to see that it was undergoing a transformation far more radical than anyone could have predicted, and that our current attitudes and arrangements are without precedent. “Today we are experiencing a historical revolution every bit as wrenching, far-reaching, and irreversible as the Industrial Revolution,” she wrote.

Last summer I called Coontz to talk to her about this revolution. “We are without a doubt in the midst of an extraordinary sea change,” she told me. “The transformation is momentous – immensely liberating and immensely scary. When it comes to what people actually want and expect from marriage and relationships, and how they organise their sexual and romantic lives, all the old ways have broken down.”

Click here to read the rest of the article:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/nov/27/kate-bolick-women-marriage-relationships

November 25, 2011

Thursday Lite: Discover Helen’s Blog

November 24, 2011

Being Transparent [huffingtonpost.com]

by Gretchen Peters / Singer, Songwriter

My least favorite word when people ask me about my son is “become,” as in, “When did he decide he wanted to become a man?” When do we decide to become the gender we are? Does it happen at toddlerhood, at school age, at puberty? My son has always been male. The only difference between him and me and probably you is that his body betrayed him, once at birth and again, traumatically, at puberty. Being the parent of a transgender child has led me to some interesting analogies. Being trans is a state which most of us cisgender folks can’t quite wrap our heads around, at least initially. But this question ofbecoming vs. being reminded me a lot of something that’s bothered me about the music business (I’m a singer-songwriter) for years: people used to ask me the same question after I’d had success as a songwriter and was making my first album as a recording artist. “When did you decide to become an artist?” I felt a similar sense of indignation. I’ve always been an artist. You just didn’t know it.

Learning that my child was transgender was like turning a key and feeling all the tumblers fall into place. Everything made sense: his firm conviction at 3 that he was a boy, his refusal to wear dresses, his persistent dis-ease throughout childhood, his reaction to puberty (horror), and, most alarmingly, his bouts during his teens with suicidal feelings. He knew who and what he was — he always had. When he finally told me, I knew in my bones that it was true. I’d even had inklings before he summoned the remarkable courage to come out. None of that makes the emotions any less raw upon learning that the child you raised as a girl for 26 years is, in fact, a boy. This is the child to whom I gave a girl’s name, imbued with my own girlish hopes, nurtured the mother-daughter bond that I had with my own mother — a bond based, it seemed to me, on our common gender. What was my relationship with this person if he is my son? How do I learn how to have a son? I’d thought of myself as the mother of a daughter for a quarter of a century.

As a songwriter, singer and musician, I explore the emotional terrain of everyday life on a regular basis. I am interested in shining a light into some dark corners, even compelled to do it, to take the secrets that we all keep and bring them into the light, give them a name, treat them with compassion and humility, but, above all, to tell the truth. Art has the power to transport us into other people’s lives, and thus, ultimately, into our own hearts. The act of empathizing with another, no matter how different, breaks down the walls built by secret-keeping and fear, and forever binds us together in our humanity. So naturally, I turned to music to help me process this sea-change in my life and my son’s.

I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I thought about my struggle to own my identity as an artist in the world. I thought about my son’s struggle to stand up and be seen for who he is. So many people prefer you to assume a role that makes them comfortable. But life is not about making other people comfortable. This idea seeped into the songs that were coming out of me — the old adage, “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” I wanted to say what seemed unsayable. That life is tough, heartbreaking, unfair — and short. And that there is unspeakable beauty to be found. My son unknowingly gave me a tremendous gift last year when he bravely shared his truth with me. He gave me the courage to share mine.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gretchen-peters/being-transparent_b_1100823.html?ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false#undefined

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