As soon as I opened wordpress to post Liam Neeson: The Musical, our furnace made a terrible shrieking sound. An additional dose of oil seems to have placated it (for now) but it’s 12 degrees and I’m a little nervous.

This wouldn’t be the first time Liam Neeson has menaced our furnace on a cold night in February. See also: Wrath of the Titans (Or, this movie sucks so much it will break your furnace).

I’ve been trying to update my theme and redesign the site, but it hasn’t been going terribly well. If my blog breaks over the next few days, I plan to blame Neeson. Or call him to rescue me. One of those.

The National Archives’ Special Media Archives Services Division has a blog called Media Matters that is full of amazing gems, like this: The Curious Case of Curious Alice.

The post is about a deliriously insane 12 minute movie the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) made in 1971 to convince children not to do drugs.

In the conclusion to the film, Alice suffers from nothing but a slight case of pensiveness as a result of her drug-induced adventures in Wonderland. She reaches for her book and then looks into the distance as if contemplating the cause of her bad trip. The film goes to black, so that the final message of Curious Alice seems to be that reading books can lead to scary or confusing situations. That’s assuming a kid takes away anything from the film other than “neat cartoon—when’s recess?”

The commentary at Media Matters is as fascinating and funny as Curious Alice’s animation. It includes details about how “…the National Coordinating Council on Drug Education (NCCDE) criticized Curious Alice for being confusing and potentially counterproductive to drug abuse education” in 1972.

Good stuff, you should go check it out. Or, if you’re incredibly lazy, you can just watch the movie on the National Archives Youtube Channel:

…and I nearly snorted coffee out my nose because I laughed so hard.

Luckily, if the Pope snorts coffee out his nose, he’s got a guy to clean it up.

Yeah, I know, this was a brilliant publicity stunt to get people like me who think Noah looks terrible to blog about it anyway. Listen up Crowe, I’m counting on that flick being at least half as bad as it appears it’s going to be because BloodRayne can always use a few more late-night channel z lineup partners.

update at the bottom of the post, edits made at 1:53 p.m.

Somehow, through some wrinkle in the space-time continuum, many of my friends have tween or teenagers. Most of them being at least middle class, they play musical instruments.

Some have formed or joined bands.

In addition to learning all the stuff that goes along with being a band, some of them are learning the sad, sexist, body-shaming gender politics of rock and roll.

A friend shared some screenshots of her young teenaged daughter’s facebook wall (with daughter’s permission).

I was saddened by what I saw, but I was also amazed and impressed by what I read. I asked if any of them wanted to write a guest post, but I didn’t get any takers. I did get permission to blog about what happened, as long as I hid all identities and didn’t quote anyone directly.

“Lucy” is lanky – she’s pretty tall and her mom says she averages a size 2. She’s kindof sortof maybe dating this boy. They know each other from school and extracurricular music activities. In the Fall he joined a rock band with some friends.

One of the mean kids posted this image on Lucy’s facebook wall, along with a note that she’d better do a New Year’s cleanse if she didn’t want him to dump her for a thin(ner) girl.


It’s an image makes the rounds a lot and I know very few female musicians (or women, in general) who think it’s cute, although when male musicians are called out on it they invariably fall back on the the “I know one chick who thinks it’s GREAT, so you all should” cliche.

That’s a post for another day…

I had no idea it was showing up on on twitter or fb as a tool of teenage repression. Lucy’s mom indicated that this wasn’t the first time Lucy had seen the image, it was merely the first time she’d been it’s target.

I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be hurt by this kind of public ridicule and body-shaming. What impressed me was the way Lucy’s friends stepped up and critiqued the hell out of the image and the message, instead of engaging in a flame war with the mean girls, who are apparently experts at wielding “thinspirational” images as weapons.

The primary issues that they called out the image for were:

Depicting males as musicians and girls as groupies.

They discussed at length how the boys in their music classes at school are encouraged to be in bands, but if they express interest they’re discouraged, even by some women they meet in bands who encourage them to be musicians but express ambivalent opinions about band participation.

Depicting male musicians as automatically have a higher status that doesn’t rely on physical appearance, while female musicians are held to different standards.

Lucy decided not to join a band because she hates the way famous female performers (and her female musician friends) are held to such ridiculous physical standards while males are given much more leeway about their appearance. Lucy’s best friend talked about how she sings and plays a number of instruments, but has been told more than once by boys that she should take up the the drums because that would hide her “fat ass.” She’s an extremely slim young woman who is active in several sports.


Fat-shaming the girl on the left.

They called this out, but it didn’t really need any explanation.

Slut-shaming the girl on the right.

They felt sorry for the girl on the right, who they read as seeking an identity based on associations not actual social connections. They also felt sorry for the boy in the picture, because they thought he was dumb to dump the girl who liked him for who he was just to go out with a girl who it’s implied only likes him for the status he confers on her.

I’m impressed that teenagers could offer such sophisticated readings of this image and it’s message(s) in the face of such ugly bullying, but I’m depressed that they need to do so.

I struggled for weeks over whether to include any size information about the girls being bullied. Ultimately, I left “Lucy’s” size to indicate that this kind of body-shaming happens no matter what size the girl is and whether or not she’s happy with her size. I changed the information about her friend to be more vague because her exact height and size were irrelevant to the story. If it matters to you, you’re missing the point altogether.

Original image source: unknown. I’m not linking it to the page it came from in the incident I describe in this post because I want to keep the identifying details to a minimum. I left the original file name, “no fat chicks” because I think it tells it’s own piece of the story.

I’ve been ignoring the links to the devil baby video on facebook because, up until a few minutes ago, I thought it was a promotional stunt for an energy drink. Apparently, based on how hard Husband is laughing at me, this is not the case. I think babies are demonic and I watch horror movies, so, um, maybe the marketing team was a little too oblique in their approach.

I suppose they’ve succeeded on some level, in that I’m sharing it. So, um, there you go. I guess.

That sounds like the title of the worst children’s book ever written.

I’ve been mostly off the grid for the last few weeks, so I was surprised to see links to a 3 year old post about Jenny McCarthy at something called The Sports Pig’s Blog were sprouting on facebook like mushrooms. “Jenny McCarthy: My bad, turns out my kid doesn’t have autism.”

McCarthy’s latest tweet told a different story:

@jennymccarthy via twitlonger:
Stories circulating online, claiming that I said my son Evan may not have autism after all, are blatantly inaccurate and completely ridiculous. Evan was diagnosed with autism by the Autism Evaluation Clinic at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Hospital and was confirmed by the State of California (through their Regional Center). The implication that I have changed my position, that my child was not initially diagnosed with autism (and instead may suffer from Landau-Kleffner Syndrome), is both irresponsible and inaccurate. These stories cite a “new” Time Magazine interview with me, which was actually published in 2010, that never contained any such statements by me. Continued misrepresentations, such as these, only serve to open wounds of the many families who are courageously dealing with this disorder. Please know that I am taking every legal measure necessary to set this straight.


Here’s what the Sports Pig’s blog post states:

Now in a stunning article in Time magazine, it’s revealed that McCarthy’s son NEVER had autism in the first place. It turns out the boy had been misdiagnosed and really has a rare neurological disorder. Fortunately, the child is getting better and no longer displays any signs of autism. However, McCarthy has not apologized for her misdirected zealotry against having children vaccinated. Even if she did, APOLOGY NOT ACCEPTED.

Except that’s not what the Time article said.

Here’s an archived version of the original Time article: The Autism Debate: Who’s Afraid of Jenny McCarthy? by Karl Taro Greenfeld, published Thursday, February 25, 2010. The section in question is from the 2nd page:

She believes she did fix her boy. A psychological evaluation from UCLA’s neuropsychiatric hospital, dated May 10, 2005, was “conclusive for a diagnosis of Autistic Disorder,” and yet here, running toward us on a warm California afternoon, is Evan, shouting out, “Are you here to play with me? When are we going to play?” McCarthy’s boy is a vivacious, articulate and communicative child who seems to have beaten the condition. He is an inspiration, the fact of him as incontrovertible as any study done in any laboratory in the world.

Or is this the truth? There are dark murmurings from scientists and doctors asking, Was her son ever really autistic? Evan’s symptoms — heavy seizures, followed by marked improvement once the seizures were brought under control — are similar to those of Landau-Kleffner syndrome, a rare childhood neurological disorder that can also result in speech impairment and possible long-term neurological damage. Or, as other pediatricians have suggested, perhaps the miracle I have beheld is the quotidian miracle of childhood development: a delayed 2-year-old catching up by the time he is 7, a commonplace, routine occurrence, nothing more surprising than a short boy growing tall. It is enraging to the mother to hear that nothing was wrong with her boy — she held him during his seizures, saw his eyes roll up after he received his vaccines — and how can you say that she doesn’t know what she knows?

That’s not a scientific diagnosis. It’s conjecture by a journalist who repeats “dark murmurings” by unnamed scientists and doctors to identify a potential neurological disorder that this child could have.

I can’t imagine how painful this is for parents of autistic children who’ve suffered abused, guilt or fear as a direct result of McCarthy’s behavior. I certainly get why all parents would be incensed by the idea that McCarthy’s child was never autistic, why all people should be incensed by her actions.

I don’t know whether McCarthy’s child is autistic or not. No matter what, I feel for the poor child. What I’ve been perplexed about is why this story was suddenly mutating and rising from the dead.

I found this informative blog post by Jen Gunter: Jenny McCarthy is still anti-vaccine despite what you may have learned today on Reddit.

Ah, Reddit.

Today I learned: Jenny McCarthy’s son doesn’t even have autism. 1511 comments and it appears no one read the original Time article. I don’t honestly know, I skimmed the top comments and read the original poster’s ongoing defense of her link, but I didn’t invest a lot of time in the venture. (Yet).

It’s fascinating and bizarre how quickly this link to a dead sports blog has spread.

I blogged this because I’m interested in science communication and media literacy and I wanted to capture the evolution of this strange story before links started vanishing.

If you see this story mutating and/or being reported (on a media site, not someplace like your aunt diane’s facebook page), would you take a moment to leave me a note and link in my comments? Thanks!

In the meantime, if you want to read more about why McCarthy’s anti-vaccine crusade matters, here are a few links for your edification:

The New Yorker: “Jenny McCarthy’s Dangerous Views”

Slate, Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy Blog: “Vaccinating Against McCarthyism”>

Time Magazine: “Viruses Don’t Care About Your View: Why ABC Shouldn’t Have Hired Jenny McCarthy

The Jenny McCarthy Anti-Vaccine Body Count

The drafts keep piling up, as every post I’ve written lately has tried to turn itself into a manifesto and I keep running out of time, patience, and/or energy.

To tide you over, I’ll actually finish the post about Downton Abbey.

I don’t get it. I absolutely do not get the appeal of this show. I’ve tried to get it. I’ve tried so hard I’ve seen the 1st season twice and I’m almost done with the 2nd season. I don’t fucking get it…BUT I CAN’T STOP WATCHING IT.

Perhaps the Dowager Countess really is a witch.

That would explain a lot of things.

I wasn’t sure where to take that joke, but then this Diagon Abbey twitter account came along and gave me the perfect thing to insert into this section. I guess that’s something watching Downton has going for it – if you haven’t watched it, the jokes won’t land and you’ll just be wasting your time reading those tweets.

Because if you get the jokes you aren’t wasting your time reading those tweets? Sure. That’s it.

Not to spoil it for you, but here’s the plot of pretty much every episode:
Someone: “The times are changing.”
Someone else: “Indeed they are, indeed they are.”
Someone: “Winter is coming.”

No, wait, that’s the plot of almost every episode of Game of Thrones.

Let’s try again.

Someone: “There was the incident with the gentleman from Turkey….”
Someone else: “Did he take my dragons? Do you know where my dragons are?”

That may not be right, either.

To be honest, I haven’t started watching season 3 yet, but my Tivo, Overlord II has been sucking them up for me. I already know what happens, because of course the show airs in the UK before it airs here and so there aren’t many surprises left by the time I get around to seeing it.

Why is a show about nobility and their servants so wildly popular in the United States? And why can’t I stop watching? Why? Why? Why?

As soon as we catch up on Homeland, Husband can start watching Downton. Yes. Yes he can. Maybe he can explain why I can’t stop watching while we wait for the next season of Homeland.

I guess an advantage to watching is that Sesame Street’s Upside Downton Abbey is much funnier if you know what they’re spoofing:

Why is a show that only began in 2010 a “Masterpiece Classic” on PBS?

Futilely pondering Downton‘s popularity is still less disturbing to think about than the fact that the U.S. Government is going to try to solve the Guam snake problem by airdropping dead poison-laced mice.

I can’t even begin to think about the intended consequences of dropping poisoned food into a rainforest.

It’s not often you run across a blog post that includes references to Archaeologist Randall Mcguire AND unicorns. (Bonus: it’s well worth the read).

If you’ve got that nasty cold that’s going around, you’re excused if you saw the news stories from North Korea trumpeting the discovery of a unicorn lair and vowed to lay off the Nyquil. It wasn’t the drugs talking, the North Korean government really put out a news release trumpeting their discovery of a unicorn lair. Since this is the kind of internet treasure that’s prone to vanishing without a trace, I’m going to post the entire press release:

Lair of King Tongmyong’s Unicorn Reconfirmed in DPRK

Pyongyang, November 29 (KCNA) — Archaeologists of the History Institute of the DPRK Academy of Social Sciences have recently reconfirmed a lair of the unicorn rode by King Tongmyong, founder of the Koguryo Kingdom (B.C. 277-A.D. 668).

The lair is located 200 meters from the Yongmyong Temple in Moran Hill in Pyongyang City. A rectangular rock carved with words “Unicorn Lair” stands in front of the lair. The carved words are believed to date back to the period of Koryo Kingdom (918-1392).

Jo Hui Sung, director of the Institute, told KCNA:
“Korea’s history books deal with the unicorn, considered to be ridden by King Tongmyong, and its lair.

The Sogyong (Pyongyang) chapter of the old book ‘Koryo History’ (geographical book), said: Ulmil Pavilion is on the top of Mt. Kumsu, with Yongmyong Temple, one of Pyongyang’s eight scenic spots, beneath it. The temple served as a relief palace for King Tongmyong, in which there is the lair of his unicorn.
The old book ‘Sinjungdonggukyojisungnam’ (Revised Handbook of Korean Geography) complied in the 16th century wrote that there is a lair west of Pubyok Pavilion in Mt. Kumsu.

The discovery of the unicorn lair, associated with legend about King Tongmyong, proves that Pyongyang was a capital city of Ancient Korea as well as Koguryo Kingdom.”

Maclean’s had some fun with announcement:

To give North Korea a little credit, the news agency just says that they have reconfirmed the lair of the unicorn, and not the unicorn itself. Finding a unicorn would just be crazy, but finding its living quarters helps prove that North Korea’s version of history is factual.

Or maybe something got lost in translation.

But back to the (more) serious piece I mentioned at the start of this post…on his blog, Digs and Docs, Archaeologist John Roby posted this piece on the subject: “The North Korean ‘unicorn lair discovery’ actually says a lot about real-life, non-unicorn archaeology.”

One thing I stress to my students is to evaluate the analogies we use to classify different kinds of objects and sites. In other words, what leads us to refer to something as a ritual object vs. an ordinary tool, why do we say a particular building is a temple rather than a house, and so on. Or in this case, what makes a unicorn lair a unicorn lair? Fortunately for the North Korean archaeologists, they also found a stone with the inscription “Unicorn Lair” right outside. If only everything in this field were that simple.

But all snark aside, this story illustrates a very important point about archaeology, one that I think is crucial for anyone who wants to understand how this field works and why we study the times and sites we do.

Briefly: Archaeology is a social practice, not a quest for The Objective Truth.

Roby then expands on this point for a few more paragraphs and supplies links to more reading, if you’re so inclined.