Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hijab, makeup, and the acceptability of women's faces

I have strong religious, political, and health objections to makeup and hair dye.  To a lesser extent jewelry.  I also object to the dying of cloth, but I use dyed cloth, because undyed cloth shows so many stains, which I feel guilty about.

Religious: I feel the face is a person's identity.  If I paint it or dye my hair, I am telling God he/she/it does not know what he/she/it is doing. 

Political: The idea that there is something wrong with a woman's face is expressed in the excessive expense & time that we as a society expect women to put into their appearances.  We let women have less money, yet we expect them to waste it on all sorts of items for personal experience, while men, who are allowed more money, are not expected to spend so much this way.  

In Muslim countries, women are expected to cover themselves in black.  In some sense, this could be liberating, but I gather those women spend just as much time and money on their appearances as westerners, but they only show that product to their families.  Instead, the idea of covering the face is just a different form.  The woman's normal, God-given face is not considered publicly acceptable.

I find both of these forms to be oppressive of women.

Health: more and more of the contents of hygiene and cosmetic products are being called into question as carcinogens.  My skin is also extremely sensitive and reactive to any kinds of products.  I can't put sunblock on my face, for instance, because even the non-comedogenic (sp?) products cause me to break out.

A lot of people have said my skin looks great.  I believe this is due to 2 factors 1) I always wear a hat in the sun in the summer; and 2) I have never worn makeup, which I think damages skin.

Friday, February 22, 2013

California v. Spanish clementines

I did it again.  I do it every year.  I made the mistake of buying California clementines.

The Spanish ones are so great, at least when in season in January and February.  They're so sweet and juicy!  The peel easily.  They don't have seeds.  I love them.  My son loves them.  

Then, sometimes, I can't find the Spanish ones.  Like this week I bought some from California.  I passed over the box that said it was tangerines from Florida.  I already knew those weren't going to be good.  Somehow I thought the California ones would be better.


First, I notice some kind of orange dye on the inside of the peels.  Yuck.  Do they think I'm not going to see this? Do they think I'm an idiot?  The Spanish ones don't have orange dye.  The inside of the peels is a natural, white color.

Also they are very shiny.  The package clearly states that they are covered with wax.  Ick.  

I usually eat just a smidgeon of the peel, because I believe it probably has important nutrients in it.  I don't eat the whole peel, because it gives me too much gas, but just a smidgeon.  Of course, if the peel is covered with wax, I'm going to skip this aspect.

Then the taste: also yuck.  It becomes apparent why these suckers were dyed.  They were picked and shipped when green.  They don't have that nice, sweet ripened on the tree flavor.  

It's true some of the Spanish ones did go rotten before I finished them -- but that was because they were picked ripe & were natural fruit.  It was worth it, because they're so good.

The California ones are likely not going to go rotten as quickly.  That's because they're not good.  The micro-organisms notice that and pass on them.

Hey, California, get your act together!  I'm an American.  I would buy American if the product is good.  I'm not going to buy American if the product is lousy.



Looking at the packaging again, I see that the California product, though it says "Darling" just like the clementines, and is in a package that looks similar to the clementines, actually also says "mandarin" on it -- so they are mandarin oranges that are packaged to look like clementines.  This is clearly deceptive packaging, which makes the substandard product on the inside all the more insidious.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Musings on vaccines and autism

(originally written in January of 2009)

My son, David, was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at age 5. David was born at home. He got no vaccines until 6 weeks of age. Nevertheless, he exhibited autistic features from birth. He arched away from me when he cried -- from birth. He cried to be put down, within a few days of birth. He preferred to be carried facing outward, rather than tummy to tummy, within a few weeks of birth and before he received *any* vaccinations.

Later on he developed other symptoms, but none that I could trace to vaccinations.

After David was diagnosed, I was able to observe autistic features in other family members. My father-in-law was obsessed with trains. My mother-in-law preferred to talk to strangers rather than family members. Both were clutterers, apparently having an attachment to objects. My father did not like to be touched and had very flat affect. My mother had extreme depression and anxiety and did not seem to have close friends. My brother was nicknamed "no talk" in college because he was so reserved. I think my ex and I have autistic features also.

My second son was later diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome as well -- though not in response to any sudden change in behavior after a vaccination, but instead after years of not being successful in socializing.

Anyway, I feel persuaded that autistic features are inherited in my family.

I have a friend who has a profoundly autistic son. He believes that his son's autism was caused by vaccines; however, I have doubts. I notice that my friend himself exhibits autistic features: poor prosody, flat affect, inability to co-regulate by walking side-by-side on the street, obsessions, peculiar sense of humor. I suspect that my friend does not want to deal with thinking about his own autistic features and would prefer to think he is normal. This contributes to his belief that autism is caused by vaccines.

I was intrigued by the story of the little girl in Texas who developed autistic symptoms after receiving FIVE shots in one day. This makes me think that shots, which are painful and frightening for children, may provoke autistic withdrawal in an individual who is predisposed to such withdrawal, i.e. who is already autistic. I suspect that such individuals might well have withdrawn later anyway, but certainly the stressful and inhuman practice of giving a small child five shots in one day would have a tendency to cause a person predisposed to such withdrawal to withdraw in a more dramatic and marked way.

I have one friend who was profoundly autistic as a child, but who has come out of it. She could not speak intelligibly until she was 11 and could not reliably produce full sentences until high school. She could not speak fluently, i.e. without rehearsal, until age 48.

She told me an interesting story of her own autistic withdrawal, which she could remember quite distinctly. She was riding a bus at age 3 and overheard two men talking about their "dresses." She was quite frustrated by this, because she knew that men did not wear dresses. She made a decision, which she still remembers, not to listen to people, because they did not make sense. Only as an adult did she realize that the men must have been talking about their "addresses."

Clearly, the decision not to listen would also preclude speech -- but, equally clearly, only a person with a predisposition toward autism could make such a decision. A neurotypical person, with a stronger desire to associate with others, would make a more concerted effort to figure out the puzzle of why men were talking about their dresses, when she had never seen a man wear a dress.

This event of hearing this puzzling conversation was obviously a much less stressful event than getting five shots in one day. A person who was probably going to withdraw anyway, would, it seems to me, be more likely to do so after getting five shots in plain view of -- and possibly held by -- her primary caregiver who she was trusting to protect her. Such an event might persuade a child with autistic features to make a decision not to communicate further with the caregiver who betrayed her. The child might have made this decision for idiosyncratic reasons later anyway.

This girl might have been exhibiting autistic features before, but that might not have been apparent to her parents. My mother-in-law, seeing my son arch away from me when he cried, as a newborn, told me he must be angry at me. I was not persuaded of this at all. I knew that newborn babies only have conscious control over their mouths. It did not seem to me that my son was angry. It seems to me even less that way now. It seems to me that arching away from Mom when crying is for a newborn only a symptom of neurological dysfunction.

The child does not know that this behavior is going to result in him being put down. The child does not know that being put down is going to result in him being deprived of neurological stimulation, i.e. stimulation from being carried and cuddled, that is necessary to development, health, and even life. The child does not even know he is crying until several months of age.

My pediatrician never screened for such behavior in newborns. When I called my mother and asked her if it were normal for a newborn to cry to be put down -- i.e. to stop crying and be happy as soon as put down -- she thought it was normal. She was wrong, of course. Neurotypical babies do not normally prefer to be put down. Neurotypical babies normally prefer to be held.

If a child's pediatrician does not warn the parent that the newborn is exhibiting autistic features, it may seem sudden if the child withdraws after a shot, even though the child might have been buildling toward an autistic withdrawal for some time.

What would seem most helpful to me here would be to give much earlier screenings for autistic features and to recommend that babies with autistic features possibly be on a different type of vaccination schedule -- possibly later, so that they might have this negative experience when they were older and better able to cope with it.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Movie review: Lincoln

I was not overly impressed with this movie.

First, the lead, Daniel Day Lewis, just did not capture my attention.  I thought he lacked charisma.  I was very conscious of the makeup.  Lincoln, for whatever reason, was a very wrinkly man. The actor chosen to play him was not.  The result was a heavy makeup job that made his face rigid and impeded his credibility.  I wanted to be riveted by this character, but I just wasn't.

I was intrigued with the way they portrayed Lincoln as being slightly round shouldered and walking with an awkward, halting gait.  I had not thought of him that way before, but it makes sense with him being so tall and thin.  He might have had mild Marfan syndrome.

Second, about the lighting:  it seemed to me as if the whole thing were done to imitate the sepia colored photographs of the day.  Everything was pale and dingy.  I see no reason to suppose that colors were any less vivid back then than they are now.

There were performances that I especially enjoyed, those of Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field.  I've always liked both of those performers and I thought they did well in this show.   

Also I thought Gloria Reuben was good.

The first black soldier who spoke to Lincoln was good, too, but I can't figure out who played them.

Otherwise, I thought the performances adequate, but undistinguished.

Another thing that bothered me was that, despite this movie being about the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery, and therefore about freeing black people, the movie was mostly focused on white people -- and mostly male white people.   I suppose that this was accurate, in terms of how these people saw themselves and their lives, but still it does not seem right. 

I looked around the theater carefully.  This was February 9, so the movie had already been playing for a long time.  As a result, the theater was not full at all: probably not more than 30 people there -- but, of those there, only one was not white that I could see.   This was consistent with the casting.  Obviously it was a movie by and for white people.  The audience reflected that.

It seems to be quite common in movies that there are many meaty male roles, but women are limited.  Here Sally Fields had a meaty role, but most of the characters were white men.

I do feel somewhat better educated about the events of the time, which I suppose is a good thing.

Still, on balance, I found the thing not so hot.