At the museum

March 29, 2007

In our personal museum:

Lily museumr2


Take your shoes off…

March 28, 2007

A blog that often brings a chuckle is Indexed. The blogger, Jessica Nagy, draws graphs, pie charts, and Venn diagrams on index cards that outline some funny or pithy observation. She put up this one yesterday, and I swooned. Hope you enjoy it, too:

On the bus (8)

March 24, 2007


When I got on the bus, I noticed first that the busdriver had a cloth mask over her mouth and nose. I supposed this had to be because she had allergies, she didn’t like the pollution, or for some private concern.  Whatever her reason, the busdriver had a clear barrier between her insides and the world. As each of us got on, mostly ASU students, she said a loud “Good morning!” to each of us. To a one, we each responded in kind.

At the next stop, more students got on–the same litany of “Good morning!” followed by mumbled “Good morning, howsit going?” A boy with uncombed hair, a skateboard, and a Dr. Pepper got on and did not respond to the busdriver’s shouted greeting. She stopped him by saying, “Hey! I said good morning!” He smiled to us on the bus and said an exaggerated “Good morning.”

The busdriver may have put a barrier between her mouth and the air, but she would not allow a barrier between driver and rider. She demanded interaction, however superficial and prosaic. On the way off the bus, we each said “Thank you;” I felt like I had to say it. She responded, “Your welcome!” to each one of us, and to a few she said, “Have a blest day.”


On the way home, the bus was crowded, again with students. One white boy was wearing a baggy basketball uniform and had his earbuds in. Through the whole trip, he rapped loudly and poorly to the hip hop songs playing in his ears. People were rolling their eyes and not making eye contact; I was thinking that he was a dipshit.

Shortly before my stop, he changed his tune and started singing Garth Brooks’s “I Got Friends in Low Places.” Heads snapped around. One girl in the back row started singing it too. A few other joined in. By the end of the song, about half of the bus was singing the song with the boy, who was now grinning.

Whose Last Name?

March 23, 2007

A story came out in USA Today a few days ago about the increasing number of men who take their wife’s last name when they get married. The story is here in its entirety; see excerpts below.

The newlyweds knew it would be surprising, but they never expected it to go quite so badly.

As Donna and Mike entered their wedding reception, an unwitting announcer told the expectant crowd, “Ladies and gentleman, put your hands together for the new Mr. and Mrs. Salinger!”

Some guests clapped, some chuckled at what they presumed was a joke and most looked at one another in confusion. The couple spent the entire reception and some of their honeymoon explaining to people what they had done.

The groom, you see, had started his day as Mike Davis and ended it by doing something precious few of his brothers-in-arms do: He took his wife’s last name instead of her taking his.

“Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought it would have caused as much of a stir as it did,” says Mike Salinger, 27, of Seattle, who was married in November. “We knew people might be surprised, but we figured they’d say ‘Huh’ and get on with it.

“Three months later, I’m still taking (flak) from one of my college roommates.”

“I’m sure somewhere there’s some anthropologist or someone who has looked at this, but I don’t know of any,” says Nancy Lutkehaus, chair of the Gender Studies program at the University of Southern California. “It hasn’t been a large enough social phenomenon that it’s hit the radar as something to be studied.”

That may be coming. The California Legislature is set to consider a bill this month that would allow men to change their surnames upon marriage as seamlessly as women now can. Only seven states now allow a man who wishes to alter his name after his wedding to do so without going through the laborious, frequently expensive legal process set out by the courts for any name change. Women don’t have to do so.

The bill is co-sponsored by the ACLU of California as a follow-up to a federal lawsuit the civil rights group filed in December on behalf of Michael Buday, a Los Angeles man who wants to take on his wife’s surname, Bijon, to show his affinity for his father-in-law. He accuses the state of gender discrimination for forcing him into the more complex process.

“We have the perfect marriage application for the 17th century,” says ACLU attorney Mark Rosenbaum, who is litigating the case. Buday did not respond to requests for an interview. “Every place Michael went, he had the door shut in his face or he was ridiculed.”

I’m glad to hear about this case in California. In 2000 when I married Alex, I took her last name and have never been sorry. We lived in Texas then but didn’t pay a cent to get the name change accomplished despite the fact that Texas (as far as I know) is not one of the seven enlightened states mentioned in the article. But the woman in charge of the social security office in Austin thought our decision was so awesome, she just pushed it through–no charge.

If you read the whole article and the 60+ comments afterwards, you find that many people are mightily challenged by this change in tradition. In my experience, the people who have the hardest time even *understanding* my name change are older, “liberal” women. My family, some of which I feared would not like the idea, has been absolutely supportive. When I called my grandmother after the wedding and the name change to tell her about my decision, she said, “It doesn’t matter what your name is; you are still you.” I wonder if men feel they will not still be themselves in all their masculine gruntiness if they take their wife’s name.

Eastward Ho

March 21, 2007

One more month in the desert of Tempe, Arizona, then we move east to a town in the Midwest near the Mississippi. We are overwhelmed with the move, with the adventure and excitement, with the details, with the unknowns.

(Image is Saint Genevieve, Missouri 2002 from Alec Soth’s collection “Sleeping by the Mississippi.”  Saint Genevieve is not where we are going, but not too far away either.)

Saints, mine and yours

March 21, 2007

Among other stuff, I study Catholic saints. All saints are interesting, but the non-canonized saints of the borderlands are one of my primary foci.

Knowing this, my office-mate and fellow graduate student shared the following with me. It was written by George Orwell.

“The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection, that one is sometimes willing to commit sins for the sake of loyalty, that one does not push asceticism to the point where it makes friendly intercourse impossible, and that one is prepared in the end to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one’s love upon other human individuals. No doubt alcohol, tobacco, and so forth, are things that a saint must avoid, but sainthood is also a thing that human beings must avoid. There is an obvious retort to this, but one should be wary about making it. In this yogi-ridden age, it is too readily assumed that “non-attachment” is not only better than a full acceptance of earthly life, but that the ordinary man only rejects it because it is too difficult: in other words, that the average human being is a failed saint. It is doubtful whether this is true. Many people genuinely do not wish to be saints, and it is probable that some who achieve or aspire to sainthood have never felt much temptation to be human beings. If one could follow it to its psychological roots, one would, I believe, find that the main motive for “non-attachment” is a desire to escape from the pain of living, and above all from love, which, sexual or non-sexual, is hard work. But it is not necessary here to argue whether the other-worldly or the humanistic ideal is “higher”. The point is that they are incompatible. One must choose between God and Man, and all “radicals” and “progressives”, from the mildest Liberal to the most extreme Anarchist, have in effect chosen Man.”

I like what Orwell says about the importance of embracing our own humanity, warts and all, but I am not comfortable with how he characterizes saints as almost inhuman goody-two-shoes. Most of the folk saints I study are deeply flawed individuals who, for some reason or other, have gained popular devotion–perhaps because of their flaws.

What is a “saint” for you? How should a saint behave, and how should he or she be made a saint? What powers does a saint have in your religious practices? (Some of my more Protestant readers may deny that “saints” have any powers. Are you sure? Do you not think that your beloved dead ones have the ear of God? Think it over.) Do you want to be a saint?

(Image of Jesús Malverde, patron “saint” of drug smuggling and other illegal border crossings.)

Wikipedia Birthday Meme

March 19, 2007

Via One Word, this is the first blog meme I’ve ever participated in.

1. Go to wikipedia and type in your birthday, month and day only. (April 15)

2. List events that occurred on that day that interest you.

  • 1865 – Abraham Lincoln dies after being shot the previous evening by John Wilkes Booth.
  • 1912 – The British passenger liner RMS Titanic sinks after hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic, causing the deaths of over 1,500 people.
  • 1920 – Anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti murder two security guards while robbing a shoe store.
  • 1947 – Jackie Robinson debuts for the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team, breaking that sport’s color line.
  • 1955 – The first McDonald’s restaurant opens in Des Plaines, Illinois.

3. List a few birthdays.

  • 1452 – Leonardo da Vinci
  • 1843 – Henry James
  • 1858 – Émile Durkheim (a forebear in the field of Religious Studies!)
  • 1912 – Kim Il-sung
  • 1951 – Heloise, Hints from

4. List a death.

  • Other than the aforementioned Lincoln: 2001 – Joey Ramone

5. List a holiday or observance. (if any)

  • The feast day of Blessed Waltman of Antwerp–a big shindig every year!

6. Tag some other bloggers.

  • BesoMami
  • Outside of the Box
  • Blog Itch
  • Anyone else who cares to participate!