My Favorite Books: "Anthem"

In the continuing series of Riot.Jane's favorite books . . . In no particular order, this is the fourth:

Anthem by Ayn Rand

First published in 1937, Anthem is a dystopian novella set in an unspecified future Dark Age during which technological advance is strictly controlled (when allowed) and the concept of the individual has disappeared, with even personalized forenames and the word "I" having left the common language. 

A common theme of Rand's prodigious work is a clear opinion of societal values.  She strongly prefers the individualistic (i.e. capitalistic) values of achievement and ambition while just as strongly disdaining the community (i.e. socialistic) values of loyalty and equality. I tend to disagree with her on these priorities because I believe that equality is is morally superior to ambition, and I believe that a strong social fabric enables achievement.  I dislike much of her work because of my disagreement with most of her core philosophy.

In Anthem, though, Rand has wrapped her concepts in a good enough post-apocalyptic story that I can lay aside my disagreement with her foundational concepts and enjoy it.  That's why it's one of my Five Faves.

The book opens with the male protagonist Equality 7-2521 and moves forward into his daily life and that of his co-workers International 4-8818 and Union 5-3992.  The story progresses through the male protagonist hiding from his own society to engage in forbidden intellectual activities, then spotting the female protagonist Liberty 5-3000, and falling in love with her after several meetings.  Eventually the male protagonist escapes his society and, after meeting up with the female protagonist on the outside, they learn the forbidden truth that has been eliminated from their Dark Age society. 

Overall, Anthem a good read for those of us with the tendency towards post-apocalyptic dystopian culture exploration. 


InfoGraphic: Evolution of the Lady Action Hero

Stumbled upon while wandering the wilds of the WWW . . .

Evolution of the Female Action Hero

While I will be forever torn between Ripley and Trinity as my favorite, I'd like to find out about your favorites and discuss who was skipped.


Using Google Suggest as a Cultural Crystal Ball

I sometimes use Google Suggest as entertainment.  This find was not so entertaining.

Since it's not just one single hermit in a cabin in the woods in Wisconsin using Google, more people than I'd like to consider are infected all the way to their bones with negative stereotypes about women.  Even women themselves.

The next time someone tries to posit that "women have it easy nowadays," point them towards this and ask them again how easy it is we have it.


A Letter to an Old Friend

Writing this is difficult for me . . . Please forgive me if my style is not up to its usual standard. I am having difficulty catching hold of the pieces of plastic lawn furniture blowing around within the squall line crossing my mental landscape, the pieces of a mostly-forgotten past that have taken flight during the storm. The storm that was unintentionally birthed by an e-mail from an old friend. 

How, oh how, do I respond? 

The longer I wait, the more severe the storm becomes.  The longer I wait, the higher the bar over which I must jump.  The longer I wait, the better the response much be, as she's wondering WTF.  The longer I wait, the more dishonor I do her, a dishonor she in no way deserves.

How, oh how, can I respond when all I can do is shelter in place?

We spent our high school years in neighboring fishing villages turned white-trash meccas on an oceanic bay in the American South.  Kindred spirits in adolescent angst, we partnered against the world to the best of our immature ability.  We were a duo too intelligent for our own good, far more maladjusted than we could understand, and creatively self-destructive in our desperate search for the cosmopolitan we knew must lay outside our redneck environs. 

So many years later, I now know what fueled our different but compatible brands of insanity, but at the time we propped each other up in sisterly affirmation that everyone else was the problem.  She was the first woman with whom I fell in love, and finding out that I was the same for her would not surprise me.

She went away to college and broke my heart.  My road trips there and hers home only strung out the heartache.  Even though I was in the bridal party, I don't remember if she married before or after graduation.  I just know that the last time I saw her was at my mother's wake 13 years ago.  I knew at the wake that I was leaving my youth behind.  That was another heartbreak - Saying goodbye to my mother and to my dear friend at the same time. 

She has since divorced and "come out", I've been diagnosed with a handful of sleep disorders.  So many things explained, a world of wisdom opened to me.

I tell you these things so that she can see us both in these words. So that there is no possible mistake . . . So that she knows to whom I'm really speaking.

So long ago that I can't remember when, I made contact with a mutual friend of ours.  "What the hell ever happened to you, anyway?" she innocently asked, "We all thought you were going to be the next Great American Writer." 

The plain speech that made me love her so when we were young was now an innocently-shot arrow through my sense of self.  I've not been able to bring myself to speak to her again . . . And this is a large part of why I can't speak to the one I need to now.

There are reasons I haven't achieved the success we thought I would.  I could describe them, but they taste like excuses that my pride forbids me to offer.  I feel like a failure because I didn't turn into the person that I envisioned, and the most difficult part of this is offering that knowledge to a person whose opinion matters, dear God, more than it should all these years later. 

I think her judgment still matters so much because we dreamed those dreams together, because she was so much a part of why I aspired to who I aspired to be.  Failing just myself is bad, but realizing that I haven't lived up to the expectations one who was so much a part of me opens a new dimension of horror and shame.

Her letter recently arrived.  I waited as long as I could, then wrote a few noncommittal words in return.  And then nothing.  For weeks.  She deserves better.

All I can offer is this post in way of explanation, in way of apology.  Forgive me.


My Adoption Experience

Joan M Bunney
Giving up my newborn  baby boy for adoption  in 1967 was the single most impacting event of my life. As unwed mothers in that era, we wore the proverbial scarlet letter on our sleeves. We were marked, judged harshly by everyone -- society, our family, even some of our friends.

For a period of 32 years until my son and I were reunited, every imaginable lesson,  positive and negative,  made me who I am today.  I wrestled with weight gains, depression, and most of all a devastating guilt for what I'd done.

Last year, at 64, I wrote a book to bare my soul and share what I've learned and applied with other women. Shattering the dogma and changing perceptions is my passion.  As women we share a common bond and the time has come for us to step into our magnificence . Life is just beginning at 65. Oh Joy!

~Joan M Bunney
  Sexy in Your 60s

Happiness To Last A Lifetime

Children are naturally happy. We watch their sweet little faces light up with joy, and marvel at their wild energy. We were all once children, romping just like the youngsters we see all around us. Somehow, that joy gets lost as we mature.

Hattie RetroAge
Just like most people, I’ve endured episodes of sadness and depression. There were times that my physical and emotional pain felt unendurable, and I prayed for death. My life seemed doomed… a never-ending spiral descending to the depths of despair.

Radical action was called for. I tried everything … therapists, love affairs, shopping, praying, St. John’s Wort, cappuccino … but the unhappiness never budged. It acted like it had found a rent-controlled apartment, and wasn’t intending to move!

I love joy, excitement, pleasure and set out to find the Fountain of Happiness. Mostly we think of finding the Fountain of Youth, but I’d already drunk gallons from that source, and the youth part was doing just fine. But the joy part was still missing, and though I looked and felt younger than my years, happiness was eluding me. I had to re-awaken my spirit.

Was that even possible?

YES, one’s spirit can be re-awakened. It takes work, dedication and trust.

First, clearly state your desire/need. Write it down and read it aloud several times a day. After all, how can you expect the Universe to help unless you’re clear about what you’re asking for?

Then, hold tight to my Hattietude:


This was my very first affirmation, since restoring my youthful joy, energy and wonder seemed impossible.
Rest and wait for guidance … it WILL SHOW UP and guide you to a new consciousness.

For me, it was a voice from inside my mind that assured me that my quest would be fulfilled. I was told that I would achieve happiness if I mastered self-love, trust, and being grateful for my journey … no matter what.
This was asking for true surrender, and I wasn’t certain that I could become a gracious and grateful woman. For most of my adult life, I had been kvetching and complaining and crying and agonizing. How could I turn that around?

It was time to buckle down and get rid of all ugly behavior. I began to carefully monitor my thoughts and behavior … WITHOUT JUDGEMENT. It became obvious that there were many times that I was nasty, impatient, angry, ungrateful, bratty … all the familiar human traits that sour our Higher Selves. I realized that if this negative and judgmental M.O. persisted, it would backfire and I would remain unhappy. So whenever I allowed myself to be mean, unforgiving, cold, insensitive, I SWITCHED MY BEHAVIOR.

Although I was changing my behavior and thoughts, I was neglecting to LOVE AND RESPECT MYSELF through this process. After all, this Earth journey ain’t a perpetual party. Without being narcissistic or vain, it was essential for me to honor and love myself for being courageous enough to take on this spiritually divine task. I had to stop feeling inadequate and insecure for all my flaws and shortcomings. And you can bet I have many!

I suspect you are plagued with self-doubt and negative feelings about yourself. Most humans are. I’d like you to observe how often you judge yourself harshly. I’m pretty sure the answer will be “often”.

Remind yourself that lack of self-love doesn’t happen naturally. We’ve spent years learning to hate ourselves and others. The media contributes to this, as it bombards us with anorectic models, botoxed faces and fashions whose prices rival monthly rent payments.

So, to feel better, I focused on developing self-love.

Regrettably that didn’t work. I was still unhappy.

The reason?

It wasn’t enough to love myself, I had to learn to love others. I was still being mean to others and judging them harshly. As long as I continued to dislike, hate, criticize, complain, and be jealous of others, my own happiness was imperiled.

As I looked around me, I saw sadness in faces around me. I decided to greet them with a huge smile on my face. If I couldn’t be happy myself, at least I could help make others feel better. I practiced smiling at everyone as I walked down the street. I even stopped cursing cab drivers! (I count that as a major achievement!).

Transforming from being sour and judgmental to being sweet and loving to others was no easy task. I had been accustomed to finding fault with others … and, what’s more … letting them know about it!
Henceforth, whenever I find myself nastily judging people for any number of reasons, I shift and find beauty in each and every one of them.

This is my answer.

Being kind and loving to others has blessed me with the sought-after happiness. With this shift, a smile now graces my face, and I feel at peace for the first time in decades.

And, surprise … as a sweet bonus, my newly smiling face glowed with beauty.

Yours will too!

Being kind, appreciative, grateful and loving is the answer to achieving happiness for a lifetime.

Give it a try, and write me at to let me know what you experienced.

~Hattie RetroAge
  Holistically Hattie

Participating in the American Cult of the Individual

Greetings this lovely October day, Ladies and Gentlemen Jane!

I've found that mentally dissecting (or comparing point-by-point) a contrary argument is a useful tactic in strengthening your own.  At the very least, it's a mental exercise that helps one separate emotional, moral, and logical factions of his own opinion.

In that spirit, I offer a passage from Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk that knocked the air from my chest:

(The setting: The protagonist [nicknamed Pygmy] is a teen-aged exchange student to the US from an unnamed communist country who also happens to be a terrorist on a government-sponsored mission to create havoc in the US. The following is part of a report to his superiors.)
For official record, no yet legal adopted so become full member host family Cedar.  Making all effort resist absorption into American cult of the individual, traditional method entrenched oligarchy so maintain own power: Fracture citizen isolated into different religion, different race, different family. Label as rich culture diversity.  Cleave as unique until each citizen stand alone.  Until each vote invested no value.  Single citizen celebrated as special -- in actual, remaining no power.

Only when wedded to state purpose grants the citizen actual power.  State mission and plan creates helpless individual as noble identity with grand reason for exist.
Because the protagonist is an extremely intelligent person who learned English from a book and is displaying what I've seen in the past as the Asian ESL speaker's inability to properly treat word variations, the above passage might be difficult for a native American English speaker to understand. This "translation" might help (no disrespect the Palahniuk intended!):
For the official record, my legal adoption by my host family has not been completed.  I am therefore not yet a full legal member of the Cedar family. I am making every possible effort to effort resist absorption into the American cult of the individual.  The entrenched oligarchy's traditional method  to maintain power: Fracture the citizenry so that all individual identities are isolated into different religions, different races, different families. The oligarchy then labels and celebrates the result as "rich culture diversity".  In this way, each person is cleaved from the whole as unique until each citizen stands alone, until each vote is divested of any value.  In this culture, every single citizen is celebrated as special -- but in actuality, this specialness contains no power.

Only when wedded to State purpose does the citizen have actual power.  The mission and plan of the State transforms the helpless individual into one with a noble identity and a grand reason for existence.
What strikes me most about Pygmy's scathing  indictment of American culture is its accuracy.  While Pygmy and I heartily disagree about the intentionality of the situation and also about the solution of subsuming oneself to the glory of the State, I cannot deny the veracity of his observation regarding the practical results of the Cult and its effects on the daily lives of all American Janes and Joes. 

I'm sure that the fact that we also somehow celebrate the Cult's other negatives -- our sense of crippling social isolation (reinterpreted as "independence") while trying to "win" at all costs (i.e. Enron, WorldComm, Tycho, et al), our subliminal drive towards similarity (i.e. "keeping up with the Jones'), and our awe-inspiring self-absorption and entitlement in daily life, etc. -- serves to deepen the cultural sinkhole that separating us from one another creates.

I believe that the American Cult of the Individual is the logical marriage and issue of the concepts of American Exceptionalism and liberty, and as such, has been a prime building block of our culture since before our culture was distinctly our own.  We have been members of the Cult always, and the repercussions are not new. 

Theodore Dreiser
Consider these 1932 observations on individualism from Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945), in The Progressive:
That leaves the American citizen [...] with his faith in individualism and what it will do for him --mainly without his rent, his job, a decent suit of clothes, a pair of shoes, or food. His faith in this free-for-all individualism has now led him to the place where his fellow individualists of greater strength, cunning, and greed are in a position to say for how much, or rather, for how little, he shall work, for how long, and whether, he shall be allowed to make any complaint or even seek redress in case he is unhappy or dissatisfied, ill-treated, deprived, or even actually starved. In fact, his faith in this individualism as a solvent for all of his ills has caused him to slumber while his fellow individualists of greater greed and cunning have been seizing his wealth, his church, his press, his courts, his judges, his legislators, his police, and quite all of his originally agreed upon constitutional privileges so that, today, he walks practically in fear of his own shadow.
Also, consider this 1933 analysis of the balance between liberty and cultural health by Bertrand Russell (excepted from Godwin's Law based upon date of writing):
No one has ever succeeded in stating what are the proper limits of individual freedom.  We are all agreed that people must not be free to murder each other, and those who are not destitute have always thought stealing a mistake.  But beyond this point, everything is in doubt. Have we the right to advocate the assassination of Hitler? Most people would say no.  Have we right to speak so ill of Hitler that that an unbalanced person may be led to assassinate him? Hitler would say no, but many people would say yes. Those who say no will find themselves committed to the view that all opposition to government is wicked. Those who say yes will find that in difficult times their principle endangers all government. This raises a problem to which no definite, clear-cut solution is possible.

One of the troubles about the principle of liberty is that its advocates are generally inspired by a revolt against authority.  The authority which has caused their rebellion may have been thoroughly bad, but having once begun to assert themselves, they are likely to go on doing so in many directions in which self-assertion is foolish. [...] Rebellion against authority was necessary while authority was bad and is still necessary in many ways. But one cannot secure wisdom by merely rebelling. [...] Rebellion, therefore, is not likely to be of benefit to mankind when it springs merely from a rebellious mood but only when it is a protest against some definite remediable evil.  Whatever may have been said about the rights of the individual, they are limited always by the welfare of the community. 
Almost one hundred years later, the observations of these contemporary thinkers holds true.  These passages could have been written this year. 

Don't misinterpret - Pygmy is as much an indictment of Communism as of American culture, and my opinions do not mean that I think we should turn Communist. 

What I'm trying to say is that even though there's quite a bit of our culture and our collective self of which we should be proud, there's a darker portion that we should re-examine.  Why we do what we do, why we think what we think, what motivates and demotivates us, analysing the repercussions of all three and considering possible alternatives -- this is what I'm getting at, and what I wonder about.


Today is National Coming Out Day!

study published this year in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry revealed that "12-month suicidal ideation was significantly higher for both GLB [gay, lesbian, bisexual] and unsure youth . . . Twelve-month suicide attempts were significantly elevated for GLB youth."

The Swedish National Institute of Public Health issued a report (that I can't locate) last year upon which English-language Swedish newspaper The Local reported that
Every fourth gay or bisexual woman and every tenth man has attempted suicide . . . Gay and bisexual men are 2.5 times more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to be subjected to threats of violence, while young gay and bisexual women run twice the risk.
A 2008 meta-study published in BMC Psychiatry found a "two fold excess in suicide attempts in lesbian, gay and bisexual people," a 1.5 times higher risk for depression/anxiety disorders (at both the 1-year and lifetime marks) in the same group, and a 1.5 times higher risk for alcohol/drug dependence (at the 1-year mark).  While the overall results were similar in both males and females, the meta-analysis indicated that lesbian and bisexual women were at particularly high risk for both alchohol and drug dependence and that the lifetime risk of suicide was was especially high in gay and bisexual men.

Our young people are pushed to suicide and substance abuse to escape their own adolescent culture.

In response to this situation, a YouTube channel has been created to talk to GLBT and unsure adolescents about the horrors they face every day in an effort to try to keep them from commiting suicide.  Here's a  blurb from Free Speech Radio News on
In response to attacks on gay youth, Seattle-based writer Dan Savage launched a video campaign called, It Gets Better. In the first posting online, he and his husband Terry speak candidly about harassment growing up and the fulfilling life that followed.
"If there are fourteen and fifteen and sixteen year olds, thirteen year olds, twelve year olds out there watching this video, what I’d love you to take from it really is that it gets better, however bad it is now, it gets better, and it can get great, it can get awesome, your life can be amazing, but you have to tough this period out and you have to live your life so that you’re around for it to get amazing and it can and it will."
So far, the channel has received 1.4 million views and people from across the world have uploaded their own videos telling of harassment in high school, the process of coming out, and life as professionals or parents.
One video features two men, JD and Allan, who identify themselves as a 15-year police officer and a staff sergeant in the Marine Corps, who urge youth to accept themselves as they are. Another was made by a 19-year-old Muslim man from Connecticut who describes his painful coming out to his family and his later success in college.
A student named AY from the University of Waterloo uploaded a video. In it she sits next to her straight roommate and says that her feelings of loneliness changed when she got to college.
"I remember when I was in the 10th or 11th grade right after I came out I remember I used to sit and cry all the time because I felt so alone and I was like, I will never find anyone who gets me. I'm black and I'm queer, where the hell am I going to find people like me, just cause the city I lived in. Then I graduated and I cam to a bigger city and I came to a massive university it's the longest running Queer campus organization in all of Canada. And so all those years in high school when I was sitting there and being like, who understands me and why can’t I find them and where are they? They had been there the whole time waiting for me to get through high school and to graduate and to get up the courage to leave that awful phase behind."
This is Dan and Terry's video:

Check the YouTube It Gets Better Project channel for more user-uploaded videos.  Consider downloading the Free Speech Radio News podcast about the channel.

And, for the love of God, if you know a young person who might, might, might be GLBT, show an interest in that kid's life; show her/him love and affection.  Talk to him/her about how no matter how bad things seem, It Gets Better


How to Wash Your Vulva - For Real!

Admin.Jane is the technical brain behind TJP, and as such, she regularly checks our link activity, visitor stats, search terms that bring us visitors, maps of where our visitors come from, etc.  She recently found that someone in the UK found us by searching for "how to wash your vulva".  Unfortunately, Google sent her to my Want a Raise? Wash Your Vulva, Dammit! (Part 1) post.

Hearing this all but broke my heart.  I'm sure that visitor eventually found the needed information, but such a thing is not going to happen again.

Here's what every female (and every male caring for a female) should know about keeping the vulva clean:

Women naturally have a genital smell, just as men do.  The vagina's natural state is to have both good and bad bacteria as well as the fungus typically called yeast.  Fluids are also supposed to exit the vagina through the vulva during both menstruation and non-menstruation. When healthy, the vagina is a self-contained and self-cleaning environment that maintains its own health without much input from its owner. 

The female genital smell is a spectrum, just like all other human smells.  Some will be weaker, and some will be stronger.  While Western corporate culture has entire (shamefully successful) business plans built upon making females ashamed of it, I cannot stress enough that there is nothing abnormal about the female genital smell.   Even if it's strong, it's perfectly healthy if it's not an unpleasant smell.  If you find it unpleasant or are concerned others might, a healthcare practitioner should be consulted in order to verify whether or not an illness is present.  The practitioner will also be able to confirm if the smell is within the normal spectrum. 

NOTE: "Vulva" is the entirety of the external female genitalia.  Everything observable from the outside is referred to sa the vulva.

The only cleaning that healthy female genitalia need is washing once daily.  Open the thumbnail link on the right in a new window for a labelled photograph (NSFW) that will define the terms used below.

To wash properly, use your fingers and soap/shower-gel to gently but thoroughly rub the clitoral hood, labia majora, labia minora, perinium, and anus as well as all of the crevices around and amongst these parts to remove dead skin cells and daily discharge which can harbor bad bacteria and lead to illness. 

Be sure to spread and move the labia majora and labia minora around a bit to ensure that all the surface area is cleaned.  Wash from the base of the vaginal orifice upwards (toward the clitoral hood) and the from the base of the vaginal orifice downwards (across the perinium) and then towards and around the anus.  Be sure to rinse thoroughly and pat completely dry (or use a cool hair dryer). Thoroughly rinsing and rying the vulva completely is very important.

Some women don't handle soap in this sensitive region because soap is, by nature, a bit harsh. The purpose of soap is to break chemical bonds in order to remove non-living stuff from the body.  If you experience discomfort after using soap and are sure that you're rinsing completely, try organic and/or and fragrance/dye-free cleansers.  I am a personal fan of Oil of Olay Beauty Bars and Johnson & Johnson's Baby Wash for sensitive areas of my body, so don't don't think that you have to buy something really expensive if you happen to have super-sensitive vulva.

Exercise, menstruation, summer, and sex might cause the need for more frequent vuvla washings than once each day.  If you feel grubby, by all means wash!  Just don't go overboard on it or you'll be wasting your time and could cause yourself unneeded irritation (remember the "smell" paragraph above).  Irritated vulva is no joke -- Don't do it to yourself unnecessarily!

Note that there has been no mention of soap/cleanser inside the vagina or douching.  This is important!  Both are not only unnecessary, but can and will unbalance that natural female internal genital environment.  This can cause a wide range of painful conditions requiring your doctor's intervention. 


Why Shoot Looters?

Why shoot looters?

After reading an article about the "shoot to kill" order that cops may or may not have gotten in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, I began wondering: Is it necessary to shoot looters?

First, we have to distinguish amongst armed gangs, random people with guns, and looters.

I'm referring to people that, during a disaster, go into stores and take food, water, shoes, TVs (not a good idea), and such.  I'm referring to people that are taking merchandise.

Now, in New Orleans, there is footage of people taking stuff they needed from WalMart, but they weren't violent or armed. The cops in the stores just made sure people don't start fighting and hurting each other. In this clip, the cops were doing just that:

This seems the proper way to handle the situation to me.

How would turning that scene into a killing field help me, or make me safer?

At what point is the "shoot looters on sight" order legitimate? How can someone stealing, DURING A DISASTER, become such a threat to others that they need to die . . . and die right then?

What if someone had taken a loaf of bread . . .  literally. He couldn't get out of the city, found a bakery, and took a loaf of bread. How is that punishable by death?

And just to be snarky, isn't that what insurance is for? Stolen merchandise?

How is stealing water-soaked property worth someone's life?

Now, I'm not talking about people breaking into your house while you're there. I'm talking about people taking things they need to survive from abandoned businesses. How is killing the bread thief protecting me?  Or you?

Hell, how is killing some idiot taking a TV protecting anyone from violence?

The energy that goes into killing looters should be used to load trucks with food and water and hand it out to people in the street. That energy should be used to find people in the street, place them into vehicles, and take them out of the city.

By all means, the police should fight armed people hurting others. But explain how the bread-stealing guy had to die? And, while you're at it, explain how a woman stealing food deserves death at that point.

That is my question.

Explain that one to me.