Log in

Collie muse

October 2016



RSS Atom
Powered by LiveJournal.com

Previous 10

Oct. 26th, 2016

Collie muse

Wonderful Wednesday

I have had such an excellent day today! Got to sleep a few hours later than usual, then took Goldie to her new agility class. She's doing an amazing job! It's a real pleasure to work with such a happy, eager dog, and I'm overjoyed that she came into my life. Now all I have to do is integrate her training into my daily schedule so she gets to play and train a lot — and I think she'll be awesome! Well, okay — I have to get myself whipped into shape too. I have as much to learn as she, after all, in this sport which is new to the both of us.

After agility class I went to an informal ATS (American Tribal Style) bellydance practice at a friend's house, and that went extremely well too. There were just three of us today, and it was my first time, so I got to ask lots of questions on two steps in particular that I'd been having trouble with. Not being in a paid-for class means that I didn't feel guilty about taking up too much time with my requests. That meant our hostess (who has been dancing for almost two decades now) was able to show me slowly and repeatedly what I should be doing, and where I was going wrong. It was so nice to finally figure out where my feet should be going, then get the steps right, and then feel the flow again as we danced!

Dinner was particularly nice too: orange-cranberry pot roast! Very tasty; one of my "dump meals." A dump meal is basically a crockpot meal placed in a reusable Ziploc plastic bag and frozen, and I can make ten to twelve of them all at once in a few hours on a weekend. The freezer the guys got for me has been a real bonus for this! Once I've made a bunch of the dump meals I'm good for a lot of dinners with very little effort on my part — which is a huge win for me. All I have to do is take a dump meal out and stick it in the fridge to thaw overnight, then empty it the next day into the crockpot. Add in some veggies and/or rolls and dessert at the right time, and presto: instant dinners! Also, pot roasts always come out of the crockpot juicy and delicious, which makes me feel gleefully accomplished. :)

Finally, I had my last dissertation interview tonight — woohooo! I am so happy about this. Not only have I had the privilege of speaking with some truly brilliant and fascinating women, but also the pressure of getting all my interviews done is finally off me! I want my dissertation to be useful to women in general, but I also intend to try my best to make the relevant chapters a hopefully worthwhile and truthful portrait of all the wonderful women who shared with me — I am so grateful to them. Fortunately they've all agreed to review my writings to be sure I'm accurately representing them, as well.

So yeah… today has been awesome! I'm very happy with how things are going right now. Life is good! :)


Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Sep. 12th, 2016

Collie muse

My first rally: recalling Judge Persky

I went to the "Rally to Recall Judge Persky" at the San Jose Hall of Justice on September 2nd. It was the first rally I'd ever been to and, as a friend put it, since it was a rally rather than a protest it was a pretty safe 'first' to try. It was… weirdly fascinating.

Before one of the signs at the Persky recall rally

Before one of the signs at the Persky recall rally

I took Goldie with me. I figured not only would it be good practice for her in maneuvering through crowds, but also she's a really mellow pup… maybe she could help folks stay relaxed a bit. As we left the house I was amused to hear Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyrie" on the radio — it seemed a good omen! We arrived at 11:00 am, an hour after the scheduled start. There were some tall banners set up as a backdrop to the speakers' podium, and a nice, large crowd with many signs. I was pleased and surprised to see how many male speakers there were — I think it's an excellent idea for male allies to start speaking up against rape, since I suspect rapists and rape apologists aren't going to listen to women. There were also many intelligent, articulate, and fascinating women who spoke, including Stanford law professor Michele Landis Dauber, who is leading the recall campaign on Judge Aaron Persky.

Interestingly, though the rally was set to run from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, the speakers were all finished by 11:30 am. Folks wandered around a bit, chatting with each other and getting last-minute interviews. I watched Prof. Dauber make an effort to speak with every person there who wished to speak with her. That impressed me; she seemed to be a genuinely kind and caring person despite starting to droop a bit by the end of all that talking. I went up to her after everyone had had a chance to speak with her and thanked her for making the effort and leading the charge, so to speak. That kind of thing is hard work, and opens you up to all kinds of flack and other abuse. I figured she'd heard enough of that sort of crap, so perhaps a genuine thank you out of appreciation for her effort would help some. She looked first surprised, then pleased at my thanks… so I think it was the right thing to do.

Goldie was a real champ! It was a nice day, but if you weren't in the shade it got quite hot. Initially Goldie wanted to sniff around rather than sit and watch in the shade with me, so she ended up tired and thirsty. Unfortunately I also realized I'd left her little collapsible water bowl at home. Fortunately I'd brought a water bottle for myself, so I just had a long slurp of it and then slowly poured water out into my hand for Goldie to lap up. She seemed relieved at that, and I did it more than once to make sure she stayed comfortable and hydrated. I was also a bit surprised at how many folks came up and asked if they could pet her, and how many were really happy to see her there. I think she really helped a lot — far more than I'd expected. That was nice.

I saw quite a few labeled media crews there — at least BBC, NBC, and CBS off the top of my head. Talking with a woman who identified herself as a freelance Associated Press reporter, I discovered Brock Turner had been released at like 6 or 7 am so as to avoid the crowd. She was grimly pleased to report that there were in fact protesters and press there waiting for him, though. He slunk off quite unlamented, from her words.

Goldie and I both got a few moments in the background on a CNN live report. Notes on how to get interviewed, if there's a next time & I want to try getting interviewed: stand in the front! Look neat and tidy, maybe smile at the interviewer. Have your message ready ahead of time — and practice speaking clearly and confidently! The reporter will ask you questions, and having facts to hand makes you sound much more articulate — which means she'll be more interested in continuing to talk with you. Curiously, a sign does not appear to be a requisite… though I think it helps. If you're carrying one, make sure the writing is clear at about 15 feet, though — and keep the message short and to the point. A graphic or some use of color seems to help too.

Unfortunately there was — of course — a troll there that day… and he was — of course — an older white male. He was astonishingly insistent that the victim, Emily Doe, had to be lying about being unconscious and had somehow persuaded the witnesses to lie for her too… and consequently it was clear that Brock and Persky had done nothing wrong. Sadly — but also predictably — the press lapped it up, which seemed to please the troll. It was tremendously frustrating for the women there, since the troll was very calm and sincere sounding, yet also quite impervious to reason. Guess it was all about him, for him. I was impressed with one woman who stepped forward, identified herself as being from the Palo Alto non-profit Deborah's Palm, and gave a handful of statistics which quite definitively refuted the troll's rape apologetics. I made sure to thank her later for that — having the actual facts to hand is very powerful for women, I think, when men are insisting on the old nonsense like rape not being that under-reported, or demanding proof of everything women tell them. Funnily enough at one point I ended up standing next to the troll… so I said to the reporters, "I don't know why you're encouraging a troll!" He was affronted by that — he wasn't a troll! He was sincere about his convictions! I amusedly noted that most trolls are quite sincere in their mistaken beliefs — at which point he was abruptly not interested in talking to me anymore. Thinking about it later, I find it amusing that he was happy to shrug off protests from the many women attempting to reason with him — but as soon as someone shrugged him off he was unhappy and upset. Poetic justice?

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Aug. 7th, 2016

Collie muse

Ridiculous conversations with housemates

I have tons of things I should be writing and reading and painting and training and cleaning and organizing and researching and blah blah blah… but I'm out of givashits right now. This also means it's sometimes hard to come up with something clever and intelligent-sounding for here. The following will have to do instead — because these are just things that made me laugh, and when my brain is all out of brain juice due to scholastic work, having some brain candy that makes me happy is a good thing! :-)

~ * ~ * ~ * ~* ~ *~

C, staring perplexedly at the floor, "Why is there glitter all over the mat here?"

B: "Because we live in a fabulous house!"

C pausing for a moment, then: "…can't argue with that…"

~ * ~ * ~ * ~* ~ *~

C, driving the car & continuing the on-going conversation: "Oh, I saw a great bumper sticker the other day! It was one of those silly 'God Bless America' stickers with an American flag on it, but it was old so all the red had faded off. All that was left was God, America, and the little blue square with stars in it. It was almost intriguing! Was it supposed to be 'God Stars America' or 'God Square America' or 'God Blue America' — or what?"

L raises an eyebrow: "'God Blew America'? Shouldn't we all be happier if that was the case?"

C: "Argh! Man, the second that came out of my mouth I knew I was in trouble!"

~ * ~ * ~ * ~* ~ *~

B, idly studying a bottle of wood polish: "'If swallowed, call physician immediately.' Well, that's not going to work — I'd have terrible cell reception!"

C: "What do you mean? We have great cell reception!"

B: "Well, think about it. First, before swallowing, it'd have to catch me and hold me down long enough to swallow-"

C: "Argh! I can't believe I fell for that — and encouraged you!"

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.


Jul. 31st, 2016

Collie muse

Goldie does it again! :)

Squeeee time! I'm so proud of my clever girl! :)

Here's a photo of Goldie looking unimpressed at me gleeing so much at her that the cell wasn't steady enough:

Goldie & Agility 1 cert

Goldie & her first Agility cert — one of many, we hope!

…and here's the actual certification scanned in. Amazing what you can do with Photoshop to pretty things up when you want! :)

Agility 1 -- aced! :)

Agility 1 — aced! Onwards to Agility 2! :)

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Jul. 16th, 2016

Collie muse

Goldie! :)

To all my friends with children: I am so very, very sorry! I owe you all an apology… and some explanation. :-D

It is probably no secret to those who know me that I don't care for kids that much. The very young ones are often loud and shrill, and their high-pitched voices frequently hit a note that I find quite painful due to popping an eardrum some time ago while scuba diving. I also happen to agree with the (slightly paraphrased) quote regarding babies being alimentary canals with no sense of responsibility at either end. Consequently I have never been able to fathom parental effusing on the remarkable and unique beauty and/or intelligence of their (very average-looking, to me) offspring — could anything be duller to listen to?

There is also the fact that throughout most of my animal-training and -owning life I have usually ended up with the "difficult" animals — the ones that are fearful, or have learned bad habits, or have been hurt and are now consequently quite untrusting. I don't regret being there for those animals — I'm actually rather proud of being able, in most of the cases, to help them become happier and calmer and better behaved. However, I also got used to needing endless patience with the poor things, and to watch those with friendlier or more confident animals easily navigate tricks and training that would take my particular animal teammate much, much longer…

-until now.


Intermediate Obedience graduation! Isn"t she awesome?! ;)

Intermediate Obedience graduation! Isn't she awesome?! ;)

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Jul. 12th, 2016

Collie muse

The Magicians by Lev Grossman, pt. 2

Okay, finished the book; ready to give a few more thoughts on it. Some notes:

  • Same trigger warnings as before (i.e: rape, able-ism, & thoughtless misogyny) with the addition of violent death and breathtakingly insulting levels of rich white boy privilege — and also…
  • MAJOR spoilers! Though the book (& TV show) has been out for a while, so… cave lector, I suppose?

Anyway! To continue: much as I suspected, in the last 60 or so pages of the book the main character Quentin — I cannot bring myself to call him a hero — does not receive his comeuppance. Unfortunately he also learns nothing at all by the end of the book; his record for horrendous life decisions remains metaphorically untarnished.

For example, I mentioned him cheating on his girlfriend and somehow managing to mentally recast himself as the seduced victim rather than — at the very least — an equal participant. I have two issues with this: first, as depizan (one of the moderators from the excellent Ana Mardoll's Ramblings) discussed with me: due to Quentin being such an unreliable narrator we actually have no way of knowing for sure that this sexual interlude was in fact consensual.

However, despite everyone being so incredibly drunk that one of them (Eliot) was unconscious and the other two (Quentin & Janet) clearly were judgement-impaired, I think we're supposed to believe it was indeed consensual — due to the (perceived) lack of negative reaction from both Eliot and Janet the next day. Indeed, Quentin internally characterizes Janet's reaction the next morning as smugness at having seduced Alice's boyfriend — which is an amazing feat of self-righteousness on his part, but which I guess really shouldn't surprise me considering his consistent narcissism.

Secondly, this self-righteousness of Quentin's reaches an appalling pitch of psychological projection when he discovers the devastated Alice, some time later, spending a night with one of the other students. I personally saw this as a very natural reaction on Alice's part; I could easily see her thinking something like this:

'My first boyfriend ever has cheated on me and I have no one to turn to, to help me through this horrible sense of betrayal and hurt. Was it actually love I felt for him or was I just deluded by sex? Perhaps I should try sex with someone else and see how that feels. If it's wonderful then maybe I'm better off without Quentin, but if not then maybe it is indeed Quentin who I love.'

Quentin, however, manages to recast this experimentation by Alice into a real WTF?! moment — he sees it as personal verification of what a vile, horrible person she truly is. This really boggled me, but… somehow he manages it? He is, in fact, such a disgustingly insecure, pathetic little shit that when Alice tentatively admits to him in the middle of a dangerous situation that (just like him) she's afraid… he sneers at her. Later things start escalating into a truly life-threatening situation — so during a rest-stop he belittles her for being too timid. Her words are prophetic — she tells him she will stop being timid if he will:

"for just one second, look at your life and see how perfect it is. Stop looking for the next secret door that is going to lead you to your real life. Stop waiting. This is it: there's nothing else. It's here, and you'd better decide to enjoy it or you're going to be miserable wherever you go, for the rest of your life, forever."

Cue make-up making-out, followed eventually by a terrible battle where Alice dies to save him and everyone else.

So let's recap: Quentin's courageous girlfriend — that he initially raped, then cheated on, and then villainized to soothe his guilty conscience — doesn't just plead with him to try living a better life; she also uses so much magic in battle to protect him that she dies from it… all so he will have enough time to try to live more. And how does he repay this astonishing act of forgiveness and generosity? Upon recovery from the battle, he goes home and refuses to use magic any more — people would be better off without it! — instead retreating into smug self-righteousness in the well-paid sinecure which is provided for him: a C-level-equivalent job where all he does is play video games all day in his luxuriously appointed New York City business office.

Then, at the very end of the story, old acquaintances from his magical school days appear, telling him they need his help when they return to the alternate realm where Alice died — to become kings and queens there. It takes less than 10 lines of dialogue from them to demolish Quentin's conviction that humans would be better off without magic — so little, in fact, that it's pretty clear his running off and hiding like this is not much more than the petulant snit-fit of a spoiled child upon being forced to understand there actually are life-changing consequences for his (really stupid!) actions.

However, it's also clear he hasn't learned a thing so far — because he insults one of his old friends in order to have the last metaphorical word… and then leaves with them.

That's it for the first book. There are two more, but frankly I can't bring myself to bother wasting any more time with Quentin. In retrospect, he is a singularly unpleasant example of astonishingly egocentric, self-righteous, and extraordinarily privileged "poor little [white] rich boy."

From what I've been told, by the end of the third book Quentin does finally buy a freaking clue and realize he's not the charmed center of the entire multi-verse. However, while that's a relief to hear I still don't have any desire to read the next two books. The author did a good enough job of inverting the Chosen One trope that I ended up revolted by the main character and didn't enjoy the book… and thus have no desire to read any more about this pathetic loser.

That being said… Sabotabby on LiveJournal made a very perceptive comment to me about Quentin: he's a literary character in a fantasy genre — and that's why I find him so jarring. He's far too realistic — all his adolescent angst and petulant whining laid bare to the reader. There's neither courage nor heroism within him, yet his environment is full of magical trials and wondrous quests. To some degree this makes me despise him less… though I still don't want to waste any more time on him.

Funny thought, though: by my reaction to Quentin it's clear I vehemently dislike literary characters in the fantasy genre… but equally I find I dislike the perfect (or close to it) heroic character in the fantasy genre. For example, while I adored the Narnia stories as a child, I often felt more empathy for the younger Pevensies than for Peter. He was such a perfect little prig sometimes! I always felt it very unfair that he got to be the leader when it was clear to me that both his younger siblings and many of the Animals were far more quick-witted, imaginative, strong, brave, and/or experienced than he.

Even worse (to my perspective) are the pulp stories about yet more "The Chosen One" types like John Carter of Mars or Doc Savage. They were always perfect! They always knew just the right thing to do! Talk about script immunity: their freaking environment loved them! Just once I wanted to see the girl not fall instantly in love and betray her entire people for Carter… or for one of Doc Savage's Fabulous Five to correct his instant — and perfect! — translation of the clue given by the ancient hermeneutic scribbles on the  collapsed stone wall of the lost archaeological whatsis. Where's the sense of wonder or excitement when you know the protagonist will never really be challenged or threatened?

Thinking about those reactions made me amusedly realize: I really don't give authors much leeway in this style of categorization! However, I'm not entirely sure I could definitively say what exactly it is that I'm looking for in a protagonist. I clearly don't want the strict literary character type any more than the strict fantasy character type… but some reality might be nice. Having a magical world where things are straightforwardly black and white is dull; I want at least a little well-considered gray, you know? I do realize that's rather frustratingly ambiguous of me, but for right now this is one of those "I'll know it when I see it" sorts of situations. Maybe this is part of why I so love good urban fantasies?


Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Jun. 28th, 2016

Collie muse

The Magicians by Lev Grossman, pt. 1

Trigger warnings for rape, able-ism, & thoughtless misogyny.


My bookclub read this book this last month. It has a nifty (and for nerds, self-aggrandizing) concept: magic is real but secret and only the extraordinarily brilliant can see and perform it. I haven't quite finished it yet, and I may have more to add at that point, but I had a very strong visceral reaction to parts of the book, and I wanted to write them out because I wasn't yet ready to verbalize them last night, when we met to talk about the book.

There wasn't much discussion about the book, oddly enough. The general consensus was that the movie's protagonist was much more likeable than the book's. One of the women pointed out what she referred to as "button words," which are unkind and poorly used words that aggravate you so much they knock you mentally out of the story. Hers was "retarded," and the thoughtless use of it in the book made her angry enough that she just stopped reading rather than finish the story. Another woman mentioned the word "autistic" as hers. I found particularly poignant her disgusted comment, paraphrased from my memory: "He referred to the character as having a focus so intense it was autistic. Right, like no one else ever has had really intense focus!"

Which brings me to my thoughts on some of the things I really, really dislike about this book. For example, the main character spends an unpleasant and apparently pointless amount of time mooning over women's breasts — to the point that someone in bookclub wryly noted that this was clearly normalization of that particular distasteful behavior. When I mentioned how creepily "male gaze-y" it was as well, though, several of the women cheerfully noted that they just "blipped" right past that!

I can understand needing to blip right past crap like that. Actually thinking for any length of time about the book's attempted normalization of such objectifying behavior, and how that actually encourages under-socialized boys and men to engage in it would, I suspect, be psychologically painful and potentially damaging for women readers.

But there's a more important question than why didn't I just blip right past it, and that is: why should we have to "blip" right past it? Why do we have to agree, however temporarily, to view women — ourselves — as objects which can and should be sexualized, in order to read the story? Hell, why is this sort of reprehensible behavior being normalized in the first place? Why are we as readers being pretty much put into the position of having to agree with the (male) author that that's just how it is — boys will be boys!

I emphatically do not agree with that statement. Further, I don't like it being shoved in my face like that… and I really don't like that we as women are pretty much forced to accept our own objectification if we are to read the story.

This asshole of a protagonist later cheats on his girlfriend Alice:

It could have been the sheer domesticity of it… or maybe it was just boredom, that powerful aphrodisiac… but if he was honest with himself Quentin had known for at least twenty minutes, even as they were wrestling Eliot [their drunken friend] down the hall, that he was going to take Janet's dress off as soon as he had half a chance.

…then has the unmitigated gall to blame Janet, the other young woman, mentally casting her as the triumphant conqueror over his (now angrily ex) girlfriend. Right, dude… because she totally forced you to take her dress off.

Can we talk about the rape scene? Earlier in the book, our "hero" and his companions have been shape-shifted into Arctic foxes:

Increasingly, Quentin [the protagonist] noticed one scent more than the others. It was a sharp, acrid, skunky musk… to a fox it was like a drug. He caught flashes of it in the fray every few minutes, and every time he did it grabbed his attention and jerked him around like a fish on a hook. … This time he tackled the source of the smell, buried his snuffling muzzle in her fur, because of course he had known all along, with what was left of his consciousness, that what he was smelling was Alice.


It was totally against the rules, but breaking the rules turned out to be as much fun as obeying them. …he was tussling with Alice. Vulpine hormones and instincts were powering up, taking over, manhandling what was left of his rational human mind.


He locked his teeth in the thick fur of her neck. It didn't seem to hurt her any, or at least not in a way that was easily distinguishable from pleasure. Something crazy and urgent was going on, and there was no way to stop it, or probably there was but why would you? … He caught a glimpse of Alice's wild dark fox's eye rolling with terror and then half shutting with pleasure. … she made little yipping snarls every time he pushed himself deeper inside her. (455)

Later, when they're human again:

Things just got out of control, that's all. It wasn't them, it was their fox bodies. Nobody had to take it too seriously.


Mayakovsky [the professor] sat at the head of the table looking smug. He had known this was going to happen, Quentin thought furiously… Whatever perverted personal satisfaction Mayakovsky got out of what happened, it because obvious over the next week that it was also a practical piece of personnel management…. (456)

This… I just. I can't. If I hadn't known already the author was male, this misogynistic piece of shit scene would have informed me of that fact in no uncertain terms. Hell, where do I even start? How about with:

Oh, but it wasn't really them — they were foxes! He couldn't help himself!

Uh-huh… because none of us have ever heard that "he just couldn't help himself!" justification for rape before, right? Because we all know that men are just animals who can't control themselves at all if there's a woman around. What absolute bullshit.

But in the end she liked it! She wanted it too!

Remember what I said earlier about this scene showing me the author was male? That fantasy of the raped woman ending up loving her rapist is in reality referred to as either Stockholm Syndrome or a possible symptom of domestic violence. It is a sickness, it is pathological — it is emphatically not healthy. It is a twisted piece of psychological projection that rapists and batterers tell themselves to justify their horrific actions: she was asking for it! It wasn't my fault — she wanted it!

Add to that the complete lack of regard in the rape scene for things like, oh, birth control, or any  emotional upset on the part of the raped girl (all she does is later ask the boy if he loves her — what was the author thinking?!), or male conflation of female pain and pleasure, or deliberate male abrogation of self-control in pursuit of sexual pleasure, or the fact that someone who is incapable of giving consent in any meaningful fashion should not be fucked! …but no worries! No, we're all cheerfully assured we shouldn't take this too seriously or anything! It's all those cute little foxie instincts — not our protagonist's fault at all, really! After all, an emotional breakdown or pregnancy resulting from rape — oh, excuse me, "nonconsensual sex" — doesn't fit into the male fantasy of the woman needing to be violently overcome in order to realize she actually really loves her attacker, right?

Yeah, no way that could ever go wrong.

Finally: rape as a "practical piece of personnel management"?! Dude, no. Not just no, but HELL no! This misogynist author can at this point, as far as I'm concerned, go jump in a lake.

Sigh. I'm a completist — I've got only 60 pages to go in a 400 page book. I can do this. I would really like to see the protagonist receive his much-deserved comeuppance… though I'm not holding my breath. I may not like it… but I can do this.

Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

May. 17th, 2016

Collie muse

Intellectual Shamans (part 2)

Now, admittedly I was just taking quick glances at small photos on google, and the author does state up front that these are just the intellectual shamans that she knows of personally. Nevertheless, her selection of ostensible shamans begs several uncomfortable questions. According to this website, in US business schools women are less than a quarter of tenured faculty, and less than a fifth of full professors — and women of color are even more hugely underrepresented. So why aren't there more management/business professors who are women or people of color? Further, Waddock's selection of study participants works out to only one woman for every seven men, rather than the one in four or five that it should be when based on actual statistics — and her ratio for people of color is even worse. True, she points out that those were the only ones she herself knew — but she also notes she didn't personally know all of them. Many of them were introduced to her by others. That being the case, why didn't the author at least try for more diversity, in an attempt to provide a broader and richer selection of intellectual shamanistic thought?

As I continued reading, another uncomfortable thought started to intrude: is this use of the term shaman a form of cultural appropriation? I've been told that using another culture's concepts with respect is often considered acceptable to the originators of that culture… but I honestly don't know if they'd consider this respectful or not. Actual shamans sometimes go through years of training with a mentor shaman, or endure some agonizing or near-death experience, before they refer to themselves as such. Further, there is a strong spiritual or religious aspect to indigenous shamanism. Would they feel this so-called intellectual shamanism truly equivalent to their life-long efforts — for the blood, sweat, and tears shed for their people? In fact, now that I'm thinking about this… is there an element of ivory tower elitism here — as in: is the author (hopefully unconsciously) inferring that true, indigenous shamans are somehow… I don't know, maybe non-intellectual, or overly dependent on emotion, or something? I'd hope not… but again, as a middle-class white woman in my chosen field of study, I try to be extremely leery of even the possibility of cultural appropriation.

There was one last thing that crept up on me as I was reading: the author notes repeatedly the importance of being who and what one is called to be — yet she gives no credence at all to the equal importance (at least in academia, and I presume in business as well) of actually being recognized as outstanding in one's field. In fact, she doesn't seem to even realize that the issue of women — especially women of color — being overlooked for men exists at all. This is a real shame, especially since both academia and business are huge purveyors of inequities to women and people of color. In general men out-earn women, and white people out-earn people of color, while promotions go more often to men than women, and to whites rather than PoC. Ignoring such things does not make them go away — if anything, it makes them worse. For the author to be blissfully oblivious to these glaring inequities in her research does not speak well, to me, of her powers of observation, especially since she herself is a woman in academia — you'd think she'd maybe notice things like that?

I also strongly feel more diversity in her selection of research participants would have added an inspiring depth and richness to her depiction of intellectual shamans. For her to be (apparently?) utterly oblivious to the overwhelming predominance of academic — and consequently also somewhat socially elite — white males in her research not only diminishes the potential value of her work, but also makes me uncomfortably wonder: is she (unconsciously?) suggesting it's mostly only white men who can truly become who they really are? But then she keeps saying we all need to just do it — to have the courage to answer the call and become shamans in service to our world in our own right. So… does her paucity of study participants who are women and/or people of color show her belief that women and people of color just don't have the courage to answer that call, and/or that they simply aren't that good at this sort of thing? Or is this more a case of her not realizing that 'answering the call to become who we really are' only works when one has a job that ensures enough food for the family to eat, and a roof over their heads? Does she not realize how important the opportunity offered by being in the social higher classes is, in order to take fullest advantage of talent and training? Does she not get how much easier privilege makes things… or does she simply just not care?

In conclusion, there were quite a few issues for me regarding the research methodology which ultimately caused me to regard the book with regretful suspicion. Not only am I still extremely uncertain regarding the potential cultural appropriation, but I also don't feel I can really trust the author's discoveries to be truly representative, due to the rather narrow selection of participants. On the other hand, I feel very strong agreement with the author's base premise: in order to offset the incredibly destructive current results of widespread corporate greed, selfishness, and lack of empathy or cooperation, we have a powerful need to bring back both ethics and (perhaps personal) spirituality into our lives and our work. In the end, I loved the concept, but the examples did not really clarify as much as they could have — more research is clearly needed!


Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

May. 16th, 2016

Collie muse

Intellectual Shamans (part 1)

When I read the title — Intellectual Shamans: Management Academics Making A Difference by Sandra Waddock — I really, really wanted to like this book, and to be able to apply it to my dissertation. I strongly believe our educational system — economics and management in particular — need deep, powerful overhauls on their ethical teachings. I feel strongly about this for a variety of reasons, one of which is that studies have shown that economics — one of the foundation courses of management training — is either teaching or self-selecting for students to lose altruism, empathy, and compassion; to behave more selfishly and avoid cooperation; and to expect the worst of others. These are emphatically not the ethics I want to have predominating in corporate America!

Initially it seems this book too is suggesting a sea change in management ethics — through the teachings of what the author refers to as intellectual shamans. I love that phrase! It brings a spiritual element to academia which I feel is sorely lacking. I'm not suggesting that universities, say, require classes in pre-approved versions of christianity before anyone can graduate with any degree, or that there be, for example, a mandatory prayer hour each day. But I do feel the emphasis on only quantitative statistical financial data which is currently in vogue for business classes is causing the students to miss some really important — dare I say spiritual? — intangibles… concepts such as cooperation, fairness, compassion and empathy, and consideration for others. Heck, even some psychology or anthropology might help business students, so that they could learn that humans thrived evolutionarily due to unselfish behavior and concern for others in the group.

But returning to the book: Maddock defines intellectual shamans as "scholars who become fully who they must be, and find and live their purpose, to serve the world through three capacities: healing, connecting, and sense-making, and in the process seek or come to wisdom" (1), and "formally" defines intellectual shamanism as "intellectual work (theory, research, writing, and teaching) that integrates healing, connecting (intermediation or the mediating of boundaries), and sensemaking to serve the greater good" (3). She is quite frank that this is qualitative rather than quantitative teaching and research: "it is the light that shines from them [intellectual shamans] that helps us identify them, even though this is hardly a scientific concept" (5). She also heavily emphasizes the "becoming who one must be" element of her definition of shamanism, adding that in taking this route:

many (perhaps not all) intellectual shamans become wise elders — sages. Wisdom, as I define it, also has a tripartite definition: wisdom is the integration of systems understanding, moral imagination, and aesthetic sensibility in the service of the greater good, which in the case of intellectual shamans is reflected in their healing orientation. (4)

She goes on to explain her choice of phrasing — first why she considers them shamanic and then why intellectual. According to her interpretation of her research on these individuals, they are shamanic because they have:

undertaken the task (some would call it the spiritual task) of finding and living out their core purpose in the world — and in doing that they are trying to help make the world a better place. Their implicit and sometimes explicit message to all of us is to do the same…. in shaping their purposes, they serve the world in some important way. (3)

She further clarifies her beliefs regarding these individuals, and on what she means by their service capacities, by noting that:

[a]s intellectual shamans within a broadly defined management academy, they do this [serve the world] through the tasks of healing something intellectual or idea-based, be it theory, research, or practice; of connecting, which means mediating across boundaries or boundary-spanning; and of sensemaking. But they might be operating in any number of other realms of academia — or simply other realms. (3)

Perhaps most intriguingly, Waddock explicitly notes that this research has helped her — and, she hopes, others as well — understand that:

we all have the capacity to become intellectual — or other types of — shamans, depending on our own gifts, power, and callings. We 'simply' need to have the courage to answer the call to become who we really are, to work in service to something beyond ourselves that tries to make the world or something in it better, and follow that call in our life's work by doing work that matters, makes a difference. (7)

I find this a hopeful beginning and an encouraging message — a sort of shamanic version of Gandhi's "be the change you wish to see in the world," so to speak. I've often felt that education should step up to the plate more as far as working deliberately towards making a better world.

That being said, I found myself feeling oddly, increasingly uncomfortable as I continued reading. Part of this I knew was due to the 28 individuals which the author chose to interview. She emphasized repeatedly how inadequate "standard" markers of a quality reputation — such as, for example, number of citations of one's works, or how many books published and articles written for so-called 'A'-level journals — are for intellectual shamans… yet when introducing each individual she dedicated two or three pages each to effectively reciting their CVs — isn't that the classic marker of quality? — and other notable accomplishments.

More disconcerting was the lack of diversity in her selection of intellectual shamans: out of 28 individuals there are only four women, one of whom is of Indian descent. Googling the others, I think there's also a South African, some Europeans, and several Canadians — two of which were apparently born in India. Past those two, however… they all look very white!


Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

May. 10th, 2016

Collie muse

Hooks, bucks, & holes

We have a covered patio on one side of our house which is accessed by a sliding glass door. I use it most often to let Goldie in and out of the house to the backyard. The patio was used for exercise equipment by the previous owners, and they left a small, simple hook sunk into the ceiling — kind of like this one:

Hanging hook

Hanging hook

In fact, that photo is probably close to life-sized. It's not a terribly big hook or anything — small enough that, say, wasps or something had filled in the hook part with enough material to form some sort of pale gray, blobby thing resting in the arch of the hook. My assumption was that it was some sort of nasty bug, so I was keeping half an eye on it to know whether they were coming back this year or not — we sure don't want a wasp's nest right next to the sliding glass door, after all.

As it turns out, it's not bugs at all — it's a hummingbird! She's nesting quite assiduously, though she really doesn't like it when we use the sliding glass door. She zips off immediately when we come out that way, scolding us with sharp little chk! … chk! cries that sound much louder than her tiny little body looks like it could produce.

We're using the other doors now to access the patio, to give her a bit more privacy… and I confess I am somewhat excitedly wondering if I could sneak a webcam out there too! I would absolutely love to watch baby hummingbirds being hatched and fledged, after all.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Several times recently I've been in a place where I had to listen to the folks around me admiringly discussing rich people. Their eccentricities, the weirdly frivolous ways they spend their money, the issues they ignore in order to have fun, the vast amounts they spend on things that could easily be bought for far less… these seem to excite and fascinate people, such that they listen with rapt attention and seem to find it a wonderful story to hear.

Is it just me that finds stories such as these incredibly sad? All the good these people could do! But instead they're spending their money on personal toys, on antiquated games for which they are nostalgic, on things that entertain only them, on having a fun time… on remaining children, emotionally.

Do they ever read the news? Do they realize they're part of the 1%, or that they're contributing to the financial problems not just of the US, but of the entire world? Do they even care?

Worse: why do ordinary people seem to treat them with near-hero worship? These obscenely wealthy individuals are not worthwhile role models. If anything, they're parasites on society. I wish there were some way to reach such people — to ask them if they would like to do something really amazing, to help people and to make a better world. Or perhaps the issue is that there are too many trying to do that to them — and all with a wildly different idea of what a better world should be.

Nevertheless, as rational people, and at the very least, surely it would behoove us not to idolize the stupidly wealthy? Maybe I'm overreacting… but still, profligate waste makes me feel bad — both for those who could really use that wastage, and for those who're foolishly throwing good things away. I find those folks really sad.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

I'm slowly making progress on my plan to turn my bedroom into a steampunk zeppelin's cabin! I've stained the inside of all the doors and doorframes that face into the bedroom so they look nice and brown. I'm going to put a porthole into the one that leads to the rest of the house. There are two porthole frames — one for each side of the door — and they look rather like this one:

Porthole example

Porthole example

Like the photo, mine need cleaning rather badly! They also have a pretty blue-green hard plastic window, rather than being clear — which is perfect for my needs.

Next, I think, are the long curtains which obscure Engineering — the nook in the room where all the filing cabinets are. They're simple purple IKEA curtains, but I intend to put a fringe on the bottom, and some sort of drape at the top so they look more Victorian.

Having an artsy project like this one is really helpful as a break from dissertation writing. I give myself one day a week to just relax and make things, and that makes a huge difference to my sanity! I'll post photos at some point when I have more to show.


Originally published at Collie's Bestiary. You can comment here or there.

Previous 10