Goldie! :)

16 Jul 2016 In: Family, Random, Wonderful pets!

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.

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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.

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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!

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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?

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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: Read the rest of this entry »

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.

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Woo! Just finished my first interview for my dissertation research — and it went swimmingly, I think! Feeling much relief here, as well as some amusement at myself for needlessly stressing so much. Hopefully my participant enjoyed herself as well! Now, a couple of notes for future interviews:

  • zoom.us works great! Very clear directions, very easy to connect to for everyone, very simple controls, and it saves beautifully — in both video and audio format, which will make it far easier for me to do a text transcript. I'm sold! I'll be sticking with zoom instead of skype from now on. Thanks, Sam, for the invaluable recommendation!
  • Note to myself: before the interview starts, turn on a light in the room! I didn't realize it was getting dark because I was so focused on my participant… so when I finally looked at my side of the screen again, I realized I was almost completely darked out — almost menacing looking! Totally not the perception I want to give… ;)
  • I should let my participant's words lead the discussion more, I think, rather than worrying so much about the questions. When my participant was most animated and, I think, most enjoying herself was when I let her just tell things in the way and the order she wanted.
  • Sounds silly but of critical importance: use the restroom before the interview starts! Very embarrassing… ;-p
  • Another note to myself: have fun! This doesn't mean I can't be serious or focused as well, of course, but I think when I was enjoying myself was when my participant was having the most fun as well. I'm so very grateful to both her and the lovely person who connected us! Though I can't mention any names for the sake of confidentiality, you know who you are — and you're amazingly good folks!

That's it! The first of, I hope, many fascinating interviews with many wonderful women. To infinity… and beyond! :-D

I'm starting to become somewhat unhappy with a current trend I'm seeing on-line: increasingly indignant or strident calls for women to "step up" and start more enthusiastically participating in STEM (or the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)… purportedly so as to give women more of a voice in society, so as to change it for the better. I have a number of issues with this assertion:

  1. It presents lack of women in STEM as a woman's problem — they need to get off their dead butts and get with it!
  2. It assumes the arts are pretty much valueless to the true running of society; and…
  3. It presents men's desires/fields/whatever as the goal and source of power, which does nothing to alleviate society's misogyny — which means that will doubtless carry over into the STEM jobs just as it has in every other previously male-dominated field.

At some point I may write more about #3, but right now I'm just going to give a perspective on issues #1 (since I personally lived what I'll be relating below) & 2… because I've felt great sympathy and admiration for Ada Lovelace since I first heard about her.

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I've had some fascinating discussions recently with a few friends about things like privilege and trigger warnings and such. I'm writing my thoughts down because not only was it really interesting seeing someone else's perspective on this, but I also want to be sure I've thought this through as best I can… and writing stuff like this down helps me organize my thoughts.

When I stop and think about it, trigger warnings make a lot of sense to me. If something I'm writing or lecturing on could cause a terrible physical and/or emotional reaction in someone else, I'd much rather not do that to them. It seems only basic courtesy to me, like not randomly kicking or spitting on someone else, you know? Yet on-line I've noticed a great many Very Serious Missives by Very Grave Men about how an insistence on trigger warnings is the first step in a slippery slope leading to denial of everyone's basic human right to free speech.

I don't see this, actually. In fact, what I think things like this boil down to — and this is just my musing aloud here — is a conflict of conscience between feeling uncomfortable and guilty… and lashing out at whatever it was that made the person feel that way. In the US, however, it doesn't seem to be acceptable to simply say, "Dude, you're making me feel really bad about this. Can we pause a moment while I process these feelings?" In fact, it doesn't seem to be acceptable to even admit that one has such feelings. From what I can tell, it seems to emotionally translate approximately as "guilty feeling = (possibly non-conscious) admission of culpability," and so the guilty-feeling person quickly lashes out in anger, in an effort to deny both the guilt/bad feelings and the self-perceived culpability. Anger as an emotion does seem to pretty much obliterate most others, after all.

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Up to this point in my life, when I wrote papers for school I could usually hold the whole thing in my head as a sort of conceptual template. I'd write that down, then look up actual quotes I had in mind from specific books, so as to prove my points. This works fine for me as long as my papers — or individual chapters — were no more than, say, 25 to 30 pages. I started to struggle a little with holding the entire framework in my head while writing when I had to do my thesis, and later my comps exams. However,  most of the "standard" chapters — the Introduction, Acknowledgements, Preface, etc. — were written individually for various classes ahead of time. Also the largest chapter in the thesis was not quite 40 pages, and had a very clear-cut point throughout… so despite being almost 70 pages total, I could still manage to hold the entire conceptual thing in my head while writing.

For the comps it was even easier, though oddly enough I've been told by other students (in both Women's Spirituality and in a variety of other fields) that comprehensives were incredibly difficult and wrenching to write. They have all my sympathies! For myself, the comps were only one per semester, and the conceptual points I was supposed to be making felt pretty straightforward to me. Both profs really liked my work too, so I guess I did fine there. :)

Now I'm working on my dissertation, though… and it's supposed to be something like five rather closely related chapters. In those I have to interview some folks, explain and develop several related concepts that must be established first, and try to stay under 200 pages. Eep! Oh, plus I suspect my three-member diss committee's going to be quite a bit more stringent than my thesis committee of two. :)

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Bestiaries depict mythical, moralizing animals, but are also potential allegorical sparks that can bloom into brilliant mental bonfires. My bestiary is this mythologizing animal's fascinated exploration of beauty & meaning in the wonder of existence -- in the hopes of inspiring yet more joyous flares of intellectual passion.

Help yourself & me too!

Buy good used books at Laughing Collie's store on half.com. After purchasing there, ask me here for a free book as well!

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