Book Review: “Are You My Mother” by Alison Bechdel

Posting my GoodReads review:
Alison Bechdel’s, Are You My Mother, embodies the best of what memoir writing is – reflective, stark, unapologetic. The graphic novel format loans itself to memory, dreams, and literal framing of the past.

This book will be compared to Fun Home, her first memoir. Fun Home was excellent and juxtaposed Bechdel’s coming out process with the realization that her father was a closeted gay man. In “Are You My Mother” Bechdel interleaves Freudian psychoanalysis (with an outstanding discussion of the work by Donald Winnicott,) the plight of the woman artist via exploration of Virginia Woolfe’s work (a Room of One’s Own and To the Lighthouse) with her own struggles with art, serial monogamy, and the relationship she has with her emotionally distant mother.

These two books are starkly different; the teal color of Fun Home and the maroon color of Are You My Mother are a tip off that each work is on a different part of an emotional spectrum. Are You My Mother is more personal, more interior, and has less narrative structure though it follows a loose chronology.

Some reviewers may find this work self-indulgent and an extreme exercise in naval-gazing. I found it to be unflinchingly open without alienating the reader. The artwork is beautiful and the scholarship on Winnicott and Woolfe enjoyable.


Rand, Harris, and Graham – book reviews

Three books recently read:

Anthem by Ayn Rand:  The most succinct rendition of Rand’s philosophy.

Free Will by Sam Harris:  A forty page essay which states that Free Will is an illusion (and has caused a great debate between him and the philosopher (and his friend,) Daniel Dennett.

Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham
My review just posted on GoodReads:

Paul Graham is an early web innovator (creating the first online store company, ViaWeb, which was later sold to Yahoo!) He clearly foresees technology trends (the iPhone and Cloud Computing, for example) and is righteously opinionated – something important for creative, entrepreneurial people as he writes in one of the book’s earliest essays.

PG is a libertarian and sees the world through those lenses (it happens to be a lens I share to some degree, so it was a refreshing read.) If you dislike libertarian thought the book can be a challenge as that flavor permeates nearly every essay.

I am scientist but not a computer programmer (I last programmed in both Basic and IDLE in the 80s.) PG’s explanations of programming languages and the strength of LISP in particular were illuminating and enjoyable. It’s inspired me to take a programming class at a local university this summer.

Love is a Place

I moved in with my SO “officially” this month.

I left the rent check on the kitchen table with a copy of this ee cummings poem:

love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds

 Copyright the estate of ee cummings and all that.



90s Girl Rock or I effing love Kathleen Hanna

a modified version of this post first appeared in my now defunct blog “Inconstant Directive” in 2008.  

Not to be confused with Riot Grrls (all bow before the altar of Kathleen Hanna) I just wanted to share some 90s goodness. Based on these videos, I apparently haven’t changed my wardrobe in 15 years. Ack.

First off, my cousin Polly Jean:
1991/2, PJ Harvey, Dress (from Dry)



Without the Pixies, and Kim Deal, there would have been no Nirvana (or so said Kurt Cobain.) Here’s Kim with her sister Kelly:

1993, The Breeders, Cannonball (from The Last Splash)


Talking about Kurt, here’s his wife. Supposedly he was writing In Utero during this time and hiding in the bathroom to keep Courtney from taking his hooks. Sexist apocrypha?  Maybe…but if you’ve ever played “Smells like Teen Spirit” on the guitar and “Doll Parts” you wonder…hmmm. Of course the same could be said for Foo Fighter’s Everlong. I digress…

1994, Hole, Violet (from Live Through This)


Courtney ripped off Kathleen’s Kinderwhore look. Ms. Love looked so much better before all that plastic surgery. Plastic surgery worse then heroin. Who knew? Someone tell that to Madonna, stat!  Sleater-Kinney was part of the offshoot from RiotGrrl called QueerCore

1996, Sleater-Kinney, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone (from Call the Doctor and part of the All over Me soundtrack)



Yes, I know Kathleen Hanna was in Le Tigre; but that wasn’t a Riot Grrl band like Bikini Kill. Note the presence of JD Sampson who later was part of Peaches’ (an electroclash artist) back up band, the Herms.
1999, Le Tigre, Deceptacon (from Le Tigre)



Okay fine, here’s Kathleen. This post is really about Kathleen Hanna, isn’t it? First, Deceptacon live. Then some real Riot Grrl action:

The Five Remembrances


This week’s meditation is a continuation from last week. Also thinking of the last remembrance in terms of Right Livelihood and Right Speech – how I interact with others at work and how I navigate the inevitable politics, rife at the middle management level.

From the Upajjhatthana Sutta, translated by Thanissaro Bikkhu.
citation: “Upajjhatthana Sutta: Subjects for Contemplation” (AN 5.57), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, 3 July 2010, . Retrieved on 16 April 2012.

“There are these five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained. Which five?

“‘I am subject to aging, have not gone beyond aging.’ This is the first fact that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.

“‘I am subject to illness, have not gone beyond illness.’ …

“‘I am subject to death, have not gone beyond death.’ …

“‘I will grow different, separate from all that is dear and appealing to me.’ …

“‘I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir.’ …

I am created, affected, and defined by my actions. What actions do I choose?