Ladies I Love: Y is for Malala Yousafzai, Education Equality Superhero!

Today’s A to Z Challenge post is an especially meaningful one for me.  My Lady I Love for the letter Y is Malala Yousafzai.  I hope that you have heard of her.  She comes from the Swat Valley, Pakistan, and is 16 years old.  On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, Malala boarded her bus as usual.  A man stepped on board, asked for Malala, and shot at her three times with a Colt 45.  One of those bullets entered the side of her forehead and ended up in her shoulder.  Malala spent a significant amount of time in critical condition, but recovered, and now her voice is louder than ever.

Hero_Malala_QUOTE

Malala-Yousafzai-QuotesWhat the hell happened?  Born into a Sunni Muslim family, Malala was largely educated by her father in her early years, himself an education activist.  The Taliban became active in the Swat Valley, and their presence and power grew stronger there as Malala grew up.  The Taliban destroyed girls’ schools and banned girls from attending school altogether at certain points.  The BBC wanted to cover the growing presence and influence of the Taliban in the area, and looked for someone who would anonymously supply them with information; after searching, Malala’s father volunteered her for the job, to which she agreed.  In early 2009 Malala started secretly providing the BBC with handwritten notes which would then turn into an anonymous blog published on the BBC’s news service.  Inspired by her father’s political activism, Malala became more outspoken in both the national and international news media and asserted the rights of girls to an education; for her efforts, she was awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize in 2011.  Yousafzai was even planning to start the Malala Education Foundation, which would help poorer girls go to school.

But of course, you know what happened next.

Only, the actions of the Taliban had a completely different effect than the one they had planned.  Both Malala and her father are alive today.  On Malala’s 16th birthday, she spoke at the United Nations and called for universal access to education, for everyone.  She stated:

The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born … I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I’m here to speak up for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists. — Malala Yousafzai

Time CoverMalala has been bestowed many many honors, including winning the Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice in 2012, being named one of Time‘s 100 most influential people in the world (Chelsea Clinton wrote the magazine’s article on her in 2013, and she was just included among the list for 2014); and being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in both 2013 and 2014 (the youngest person ever nominated, I believe, to boot).  Additionally, she published her book detailing her experiences and her mission, “I am Malala” in 2013.

One Child Quote

I encourage you to watch the extended version of Malala’s interview with The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, who is fantastically awesome.  Malala comes across as passionate and modest, and I hung on her every word – after all, with an assassination attempt under her belt and a bunch of feathers in her cap, she’s like an education rights superhero!

If you’d like to learn more about Malala and her work for education equality,
please visit The Malala Fund.

Ladies I’ve Barely Heard Of: X is for the eXotic Xochiquetzal!

Today’s A to Z Challenge post is going to be a little different.  I’m making a 24 hour temporary theme change from “Ladies I Love” to “Lady I’ve Barely Heard Of” because let’s face it – X is a freakin’ hard letter to deal with.  And they throw it at us right near the end of the challenge?  That’s pretty effed up, in my opinion.  In fact, my friend Mich over at Sick B*tch (who is also doing the A to Z Challenge and who’s theme is “I am going to complain now”) says that X is a useless letter and I’m beginning to agree with her (in fact, Mich is not even writing posts for Q and X because they are that irrelevant).  Think about it – you can pretty much make up all the X sounds with other letters.  26 is such a dumb number of letters to have in an alphabet anyway, so I’m petitioning to lower the number to a nice 25 (all the letters who will be included, please step forward…hold on there, not so fast, letter X!).  But for the sake of not backing down from a challenge, here is today’s X post anyway.

Xochiquetzal from http://www.gothambynight.com/scion/xochiquetzal.htm

A stylized version of Xochiquetzal from http://www.gothambynight.com/scion/xochiquetzal.htm

I’ll bet you thought I was going to write about Xena, Warrior Princess, right?  HA!  WRONG!!!  I’ve never even seen an episode of Xena, so I’m certainly not going to write about her.  So today’s Lady I Love Lady I’ve Barely Heard of is Xochiquetzal (pronounced “so chee ket zul”).  Her name means “flower precious feathers”, and she is always followed by birds and butterflies (the Aztec version of the birds and the bees, maybe???).  Xochiquetzal, a mythological Aztec goddess, is always depicted by a young, alluring woman richly garbed in flowers.  She represents female beauty, fertility and sexual power, and is a protector of pregnant women, young mothers, and is the patroness of lovers and prostitutes (whew, that’s a lot).  She was also one tough cookie – according to MexicoLore, she seduced a priest and turned him into a scorpion, just to show off her powers.  She was celebrated in festivals every eight years…and hey…she sounds like a Lady that many people have Loved!

Below are a couple of depictions of Xochiquetzal from historic codex, which are drawings done on sheets of animal skins and folded up, accordion-style.  These codices are thought to have been written before the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

Xochiquetzal (left) from the Codex Borgia, seducing a priest (middle).

Xochiquetzal (left) from the Codex Borgia, seducing a priest (middle).

Ladies I Love: W is for the Side-Splitting Women of Saturday Night Live!

I can’t believe that April is coming to an end, and we’re rounding the final corner of the A to Z Challenge.  We’ve still got a few letters to go though, so I thought that for W, I would write about some of my most favorite Ladies I Love, the hilarious Women of Saturday Night Live (SNL)!  As I went through the entire cast history of SNL, I began to get a little overwhelmed at the thought of writing this post.  There have been a lot of female SNL cast members, and I love almost all of them.  So I decided that I would pick my top five (all pictures are from NBC) and go from there…and that was incredibly difficult in itself!

Gilda Radner - Roseanne RoseannadannaAs a member of the original cast, Gilda Radner is first on my list.  She was with SNL from 1975 – 1980, and won an Emmy for her performances in 1977.  Her most iconic characters were Roseanne Roseannadanna (a loudmouthed and crude consumer-affairs reporter) and Baba Wawa (a parody of Barbara Walters), but she also had other amazing characters up her sleeve.  Gilda Radner suffered from bulimia during her stint on the show, and eventually succumbed to ovarian cancer in 1989, with her husband (Gene Wilder) at her side.

Molly Shannon - Mary Katherine GallagherMolly Shannon appeared on SNL from 1995 to 2001.  I LOVE Molly Shannon because she was absolutely fearless when it came to throwing herself into her humor (quite literally).  She had several characters that performed physical comedy, such as Catholic school girl Mary Katherine Gallagher, who would trip over folding chairs during her talent show auditions, and 50-year-0ld Sally O’Malley who wore extremely tight and high-riding red pants and liked to kick, stretch, and kick!

Kristen Wiig - Fake Tanning MomOne of my more recent favorite SNL actors is Kristen Wiig.  She was with the show from 2005 – 2012, and also used physical humor in her sketches, doing a lot of dancing and singing in awkward ways.  My favorite characters of hers were the Target Lady, Dooneese Maharelle (the deformed singer with tiny hands on the Lawrence Welk Show), and Triangle Sally (who, uh, played the triangle).  Kristen Wiig is a very versatile actor and had many other recurring characters on SNL and there were so many to love!  I was sad to see her leave the show, but she’s had a rather successful career in movies since then.

Amy Poehler Rap with Sarah PalinI’ll bet you can guess who my next two favorite SNL actors are…and you’re right!  First is Amy Poehler, who worked on SNL from 2001 through 2008.  She was promoted from “featured player” to full cast member mid-way through her first season, an accomplishment shared by only her and Eddie Murphy!  She had a recurring role as Hillary Clinton, but also did several hysterical impressions of people like Michael Jackson and Kim Jong Il.  She, along with Tina Fey (more in a sec!) made up the first women-only pair to host Weekend Update.  Amy Poehler went on to star in several movies as well as her own show, Parks and Recreation (which I love dearly).  Also close to my heart is her project “Smart Girls at the Party“, which is a social-media based program that aims to encourage girls to be themselves, think for themselves and be confident.  Amy Poehler is not only funny as hell, but she’s a great role model for our girls!

Tina Fey as Sarah PalinFinally, it’s my very favorite SNL actor (just by a hair!), Tina Fey.  Tina Fey was on SNL from 1997 – 2006.  Aside from her doppelganger depiction of Sarah Palin, Tina Fey hosted Weekend Update (first with Jimmy Fallon, and then with Amy Poehler).  And, oh yeah, did I mention that she was the FIRST FEMALE HEAD WRITER AT SNL???  Well, I just did.  Bam.  Tina Fey also went on to make movies and write and star in her own show, 30 Rock (which I also loved very much).  AND, in 2013 and 2014, she and Amy Poehler also co-hosted the 70th and 71st Golden Globe Awards and totally rocked it.  She even wrote her memoirs in a best-selling book called Bossy Pants, and jeez – is there anything this woman can’t do???

We Killed by Yael KohenCan you believe that people have said that women aren’t funny?  Yes, and these people are even other comedians who have even worked with funny women (btw, I’m giving John Belushi, Jerry Lewis and Chevy Chase the stink-eye right now).  I know a lot of people who would disagree with these opinions…and in fact, there’s a GREAT podcast about the subject on Stuff Mom Never Told You that you can listen to here.  And, you can read the book “We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy” by Yael Kohen.  I’m sad that there are too many fantastically funny women who have performed on SNL to write about, but this post has already gone too long.  If you’ve made it to the end, congratulations and thank you!  To make it worth your while, share with me your favorite funny women – who makes you laugh your head off, from SNL or elsewhere?

Ladies I Love: V-Day is for Villainesses (who Almost got Away With It)!

I’ve been looking forward to this A to Z Challenge post for a while now, because let’s face it – being good can be soooooo boring!  Therefore, I declare that V-Day (today) is to be dedicated to a prestigious group of Ladies I Love, my favorite Disney Villainesses – muah ha ha haaaaaaa!!!

These are not ALL of the Disney villains, you might notice…I run with the classics.  These are my favorites – the most cunning, devious, manipulative and deceitful of the ones we love to hate.   Well, I don’t really love to hate them…I just love them!!!  Disney princesses can be so boring and predictable…always doing the right thing, beautiful, innocent, in need of rescue, blah blah blah.  Well, these ladies don’t need any of it, and they don’t care what other people think of them (well, ok, the Wicked Queen from Snow White wants to be the most beautiful one of them all, but whatever).  They are all unique in their abilities to seek out and craft an evil plan, and dang, they usually almost get away with it!  Here are my favorite villainesses (in order from just favorite to most favorite), and the reasons why I love them so:

  • The Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland):  She’s got style and is a wee bit off her rocker.  I admire her propensity for dishing out death sentences with every other breath, but she’s honestly not THAT smart and can’t really formulate a long-term plan for eliminating potential threats to her queendom (a.k.a., Alice).
  • The Evil Stepmother and Stepsisters (Cinderella):  Oooohhhh…to treat a poor wretched orphan in such a horrific manner…these ladies must have lumps of coal where their hearts used to be!  The stepmother is cunning and cruel, and the stepsisters are mean, but in the end their obvious greed brings their quest for personal gain to a halt.  If they could’ve just been a little more subtle about things…ah, well.  Better luck next time!
  • The Wicked Queen (Snow White):  Beautiful AND clever, the Wicked Queen almost succeeded in killing off Snow White.  Shape-shifting is an amazing power to have, but her plan just needed a little more follow-through.  She let those dwarfs get in the way…and then that meddling prince shows up!  Argh!  You’d think an evil plan would hatch (and grow to maturity) much more easily!
  • Madame Medusa (The Rescuers):  This dame has it all – a decrepit river boat in a swamp, two pet alligators (although they look more like crocodiles), and the confidence to never wear a bra.  She even has a sniveling little sidekick of a man who submits to her every whim, including sending a little girl into a tidal cave to look for a jewel hidden by pirates long ago!  And if it wasn’t for two mice named Bernard and Bianca, her plan might have succeeded.  Curses!
  • Malifecent (Sleeping Beauty):  Ok, AWESOME HEADWEAR AND THE ABILITY TO TURN INTO A BLACK RAGING DRAGON???  Do I need to go into any further detail about why this is one of the best villains EVER???  No?  Good.
  • Cruella Deville (101 Dalmations):  Ah, my favorite villainess at last.  Her obvious disdain for live dogs indicates that clearly this woman is a cat-person, which I can completely relate to.  And her fashion sense?  TOP-NOTCH.  I totally want to start smoking just so that I can wear elbow-length gloves and use one of those long cigarette holders!  Her only mistake was relying on a pair of bumbling henchmen to do a job that she should’ve done herself, but I guess stylish ladies like Cruella can’t be bothered to get their own be-gloved hands dirty.  Oh, the humanity!!!
All images from Disney.

HowToBeAVillainIt goes without saying that these villainesses, while amazing in their unique approaches to evil plans, could use a little help.  In my own research in becoming an evil genius I stumbled upon a book they might be able to use:  How to Be a Villain: Evil Laughs, Secret Lairs, Master Plans, and More!!! by Neil Zawacki and James Dignan.  It’s a bit basic, but they could probably use a little brushing up on the fundamentals.

What about you?  Who is your favorite villain, and why?

Ladies I Love: U is for Lieutenant Uhura, a True Star!

a_burning_trekkie__silver_by_schematization-d4rydciCan you guess what the most challenging letter for me in the A to Z Challenge has been?  Not X, not Q, not V, not even Z…but U.  However, when I thought about all the Ladies I Love and Lieutenant Uhura crossed my mind, I knew she was just the right woman for this tough letter!  That is because Lieutenant Uhura of Star Trek, played by Nichelle Nichols, was one tough lady!

Lieutenant Uhura served as a communications officer under Captain Kirk on the USS Enterprise during the original Star Trek series, which ran from 1966 – 1969.  Uhura moved up the Starfleet ranks throughout the movie franchise, making the rank of commander in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  Nichelle Nichols portrayed Uhura throughout the series, as well as in all the Star Trek movies except for the last two, in which Zoë Saldana played a younger Uhura.  Uhura never took a back seat in the adventures of the Enterprise, and was often a key character in story lines, very much an equal among her Star Trek peers.

Uhura_and_Kirk_kissOne of the most remarkable things about Uhura’s character was that she was one of the FIRST African American women on TV to play a role that didn’t have anything to do with being a servant.  This was a ground-breaking character, and having an African American woman in a position of equality definitely stirred the pot on occasion.  For example, in the episode “Plato’s Stepchildren”, Uhura famously kissed Captain Kirk (ok, it was a forced kiss because she was under the influence of alien telekinesis…but still…) in a scene that is largely cited as one of the first inter-racial kisses aired on US television.

Apparently, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a fan of the show, and even let his children watch it, in part because of Nichelle Nichols’ portrayal of Uhura’s character.  Nichelle actually wanted to quit the show after the first year to pursue a career on broadway, but was told by Dr. King that she “could not give up because she was playing a vital role model for black children and young women across the country, as well as for other children who would see blacks appearing as equals.”  It’s a good thing she didn’t quit, because she DID inspire many to achieve success, including former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison, who said she was encouraged by Nichelle’s Uhura character.

MLK convo

Yes, Uhura was one smokin’ hot lady.  But she was also a star.  In Swahili, her character’s first name, Nyota, means “star”, and Uhuru means “freedom”.  With a name like that, how could Uhura achieve anything but success?  Set your phasers to “stunning”!

Ladies I Love: T is for Ever-So-Talented Tribal Fusion Bellydancers

Bellydance used to be a big part of my life, and for today’s T-related A to Z Challenge post, I am going to talk about a couple of Ladies I Love, my favorite Tribal Fusion Bellydancers.  Just before I moved to Portland, I started taking beginning bellydance classes in San Diego, so when I moved to the Pacific Northwest, I had a good foundation to explore the many types of bellydance that are out there.  I’m certainly no expert on various bellydance styles and I haven’t danced in a few years now, but I’d like to give you a taste of some of the bellydance styles you may encounter.  You might have seen solo bellydancers perform when you go out to eat Moroccan food; those are typically Egyption cabaret style dancers – lots of colors, scarves, jingly shiny accessories, and they often perform to more traditional middle-eastern music (see the photo below, left).  American Tribal Style (ATS), another another form, borrows traditional bellydance moves and is typified by multiple dancers performing the same movements at the same time.  While there is some improvisation in the choreography, complex movements are signaled by a leader to other dancers in the troupe with subtle movements so that all the dancers know what step is coming up.  ATS dancers borrow a lot of their dress and makeup styles from Eastern Europe (think gypsy!) and Africa to create a unique and recognizable look (below, right).

But let’s get back to tribal fusion bellydance!  I first saw this style at an Offbeat Bellydance show at the Blue Monk, in Portland, Oregon.  A dancer named Endymienne took the stage and I had never seen anyone dance like her before – I was absolutely transfixed!  In fact, here’s a picture from her performance that night, way back in 2010:

14 - Endi

All bellydance is about muscle control and isolated movements of the ribcage, hips, stomach, arms and head (among other parts), but tribal fusion includes so much more.  It’s an off-shoot of ATS, but has elements of cabaret, hip-hop, popping, flamenco, burlesque and breakdance.  Movements can be slow and controlled, or fast and percussive.  The style is a beautiful combination of tribal, old 1920’s and 30’s flapper and burlesque, vintage circus, and modern elements (lots of tattoos and piercings, too).  To me, it’s utterly mesmerizing!  Here are a few more photos to help you picture what I’m talking about:

The two women pictured above are probably the most well-known tribal fusion bellydancers in the U.S., and for good reason.  First, there’s Rachel Brice (the two pictures to the left, above), based out of Portland (here’s her wiki page, too).  She has her own studio called Datura, and teaches classes and workshops there.  She has performed and toured both nationally and internationally since 2002 and has a lot of accomplishments to show for it!  Here’s a fun performance she did a few years ago at a Le Serpent Rouge show at the Tractor Tavern up in Seattle (I like it because a bit of her personality comes through in interacting with the rather adoring audience):

Next, there’s Zoe Jakes (two pictures to the right, above), who is part of a musical group called Beats Antique, which formed in San Francisco in 2007.  She and Rachel Brice often perform together, and Zoe Jakes is a guest instructor at Datura, along with having several instructional DVDs of her own.  She has been bellydancing since 2000, and like Rachel Brice, has a ton of accomplishments under her belt.  Instead of a performance video, here’s one of my favorite videos from Beats Antique (called “Revival”, released back in 2011), which will give you a taste of their music (which seems to be a favorite among tribal fusion dancers…I don’t even know how to describe it!), as well as a peek of Zoe Jakes who performs in it about halfway in.

I could go on and on about these ladies and there are a ton of videos of their performances on youtube, so if you’re interested in viewing more, they’re easy to find.  Was it what you were expecting from bellydancers?  Let me know what you think!

Ladies I Love: S is for the Amazing SCALD EAGLE, My Roller Derby Super Crush!

Scald Eagle by Your Sunday BestI am Super Stoked to write today’s “S” post for the A to Z Challenge!  Today’s Lady I Love is the magical Scald Eagle, or Hillary Buscovick, as the non-roller derby world knows her.  But for those of us who play roller derby, Scald Eagle is probably at the top of most of our derby crush lists!  Scald Eagle plays for the Rose City Rollers, a league out of Portland, Oregon.  There are four “regular” teams in the league, and she plays on Guns N’ Rollers.  In addition to that, she’s on the Rose City Rollers’ all-star travel team, Wheels of Justice.  AND, in addition to THAT, she’s on freakin’ TEAM USA, a collection of 32 of the best derby players from across the United States.  So Scald Eagle is definitely the cream of the crop, y’all!  Team USA will compete with other derby teams from all over the world this December in Dallas for the Blood and Thunder Roller Derby World Cup…an event NOT to be missed by anyone remotely interested in derby!

Click to enlarge!

Click to enlarge!

But let’s get back to Scald Eagle.  Below is a short video taken from Team USA’s Stars vs. Stripes Exhibition Bout just this past February.  Now, if you don’t know anything about how modern roller derby is played, I’m going to give you the very basics; otherwise, the video might look like chaos.  But there’s a surprising amount of skill and strategy involved in derby, which I hope will become clear in a minute.  First, a bout (or game) is divided into two periods, each made up of several jams that can go on for a maximum of two minutes.  There are two teams, and each team has five players.  Each team has one jammer, and the rest of the players are blockers.  The jammers are the only ones who score points, and they do this by passing members of the opposite team (so if the jammer passes all members of the opposite team, that’s five points).  The 8 blockers make up the pack, which has to stay together on the track.  Members of the pack are trying to block the opposite team’s jammer from getting through the pack and scoring points, while at the same time, moving the other team’s blockers out of the way so that their own jammer can get through and score points.  So you can see where this can get complicated!!!

Scald Eagle by John Wijsman

So in this exhibition video, you’ll see Scald Eagle do her magic; she’s number 50, and is wearing a white jersey and white helmet with a star on the side.  The star on her helmet means that she’s her team’s jammer.  Watch as she easily passes through the other team’s blockers, almost as if she’s invisible to them!  And remember, this is not easy.  This is Team USA here, and still, Scald Eagle flies through like it’s nothing!  Check it out:

I also found this older interview (from 2011, I think) of Hillary talking about what it’s like to play derby.  She seems down-to-earth, goofy and modest.  And she was just this way when she guest-coached my league, the Storm City Roller Girls, a few months ago!  I remember her saying something to me, but honestly, I don’t know what it was because I think I was just completely star-struck (and I know I wasn’t the only one).  She was an amazing coach, but the thing I remember the most from her was that she seemed so nice and authentic…I can’t imagine her playing dirty or being anything other than upstanding…she seems to have a lot of integrity!  It’s no wonder she’s a hero in the derby world!

Ladies I Love: R is for Rachel Carson – Scientist, Conservationist and Writer

USFWS Employee PhotoToday’s A to Z Challenge post is brought to you by the letter R.  R stands for Rachel Carson, one of the Ladies I Love in the field of science.  If you don’t know who Rachel Carson was, as a female biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I am very proud to be able to tell you a little bit about her.

Rachel Carson lived between 1907 and 1964.  She was fascinated by nature during her younger years, and went on to obtain her master’s degree in zoology from Johns Hopkins University in 1932.  Soon after, she got a job with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries (which would later become the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) where she was one of only TWO professional women working for the organization and earned under $40 PER WEEK when she started.  She did a lot of writing for radio broadcasting at that time, primarily focusing on the ocean in an effort to inform the public about the treasures that marine systems contain and the services that they provide.  She moved up in the Bureau/Service and wrote several books about oceans, which hit the top of best seller lists everywhere.

Click to enlarge!

Click to enlarge!

It was in the mid-1940’s when she learned about DDT.  I won’t go into a lot of detail here, but throughout the next couple of decades, Rachel Carson did a lot of research regarding the effects of DDT on the environment, specifically about bioaccumulation in the food web. In 1962, Rachel Carson published her book “Silent Spring”, which detailed the harmful effects of pesticides and predicted that if our irresponsible use of them continued, we would start killing off species, let alone jeopardize human health.  For example, one of the effects of DDT and bioaccumulation resulted in the inability of some bird species (primarily predatory birds) to successfully reproduce because DDT weakened egg shells, resulting in eggs being crushed in the nest.  Several species (e.g., peregrine falcon, pelican) were put on the Endangered Species list because of this!

Part of a 1947 ad in Time Magazine.

Part of a 1947 ad in Time Magazine.

There was, however, a lot of money in the pesticide industry and tremendously fierce opposition to her work, which publicized the negative effects of DDT on animals and the environment.  If you simply google DDT and look through the videos that come up, you can find old footage of people being happily sprayed by CLOUDS of DDT!  Rachel Carson actually received death threats and harassment because of her work and the questions it raised about the pesticide industry.  In fact, Rachel Carson’s research and work gave rise to the modern grassroots environmental movement that has inspired generations to protect the world around us, AND resulted in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.  After her death (due to illnesses contracted during her treatment for breast cancer), President Carter awarded Rachel Carson the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously for her landmark work, and in 1969, the Coastal Main National Wildlife Refuge was changed to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

Rachel Carson by Alfred Eisenstaedt, Time & Life Pictures, Getty Images

What an amazing woman and inspiration to younger generations of scientists!  Few scientists can claim the magnitude of influence that she had in any field, and in particular, conservation of our natural resources.  Take a look at this short video about Rachel Carson and her life’s work; there is a ton of information online as well, if you are interested in learning more (just follow any of the links I’ve provided above to start).

Additionally, just this past March (Women’s History Month), the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Dan Ashe, honored Rachel Carson with this video.

Ladies I Love: Q is for the Mad Queens of Wonderland

Red Queen - Header

Welcome to another Ladies I Love edition of the A to Z Challenge!  Today’s letter is Q, for QUEEN.  Specifically, I’ll be introducing you to four queens from Lewis Carroll‘s books “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass“.  I’m a huge fan of these two books and have several editions of them at home – I even memorized “The Jabberwocky” in seventh grade and can still recite it!  And did you ever notice that Wonderland and Looking-Glass Land are actually Queendoms?  It’s the queens who rule these lands, and even though the kings are there, they’re pretty wimpy and submissive to the queens, who are able to rule with gusto.  If you are interested in Alice’s Wonderland adventures, there’s a great wiki that you should visit – you can find it here.  But let’s get on with the business at hand!

Queen of Hearts

The Queen of Hearts playing croquet

First, there’s only one queen in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and I’ll bet you can guess who that is – that’s right, the Queen of Hearts!  But don’t get confused – she is also sometimes mistakenly referred to as “The Red Queen”, whom I will introduce in a moment.  The Queen of Hearts is actually one of a pack of cards who enjoys playing croquet (using hedgehogs for balls and flamingos for mallets), and of course, handing out death sentences like they are going out of style by yelling “off with her head!” should anyone look crosswise at her.  Fortunately, the king is there to discreetly pardon most of the convicted, but if it’s all the same, I wouldn’t want to get on the Queen of Heart’s bad side!

After Alice leaves Wonderland, she enters Looking-Glass Land and there encounters two more queens of a different sort as they are chess pieces and not anything like the sociopathic Queen of Hearts.  First she meets the White Queen, directly upon entering Looking-Glass Land, but the queen doesn’t really interact with her until further in the game of chess that Alice finds herself playing.  She takes her place in the game as a white pawn and has to get to the 9th square to become a queen herself.  When she gets to the fifth square, she meets the White Queen again, who then gives Alice some great advice:

When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” — The White Queen, Through the Looking-Glass

The White Queen is a bit mysterious, and fades in and out of the story, transforming into a knitting sheep and into one of Alice’s white cats.  The Red Queen, on the other hand, is a bit more proactive with Alice in getting her to the 9th square.  The Red Queen is my favorite of the queens we find in Alice’s story.  While bossy, the Red Queen can get things done.  She urges Alice to move quickly and save time where possible.  She states:

Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” — The Red Queen, Through the Looking Glass

Red Queen - Running

The Red Queen drags Alice across the chess board (illustration by John Tenniel).

I can so relate to this statement – sometimes life feels like this, right?  In fact, there’s something called The Red Queen Hypothesis in the field of biology that describes how evolution works:  “For an evolutionary system, continuing development is needed just in order to maintain its fitness relative to the systems it is co-evolving with” — Leigh Van Valen (1973).  This means that evolution is just a big game of “Keeping Up with the Jones'” – if you have a competitor or a predator, as a species, you need to evolve to find ways of surviving the challenges of the competitor or predator.  However, those competitors and predators must also evolve too, to keep up with you!  But I digress…

In the end, Alice does get to the 9th square to become a queen in her own right.  The White Queen meanders off and disappears, but the Red Queen continues to cause trouble for Alice, who decides to shake some sense into the Red Queen.  The Red Queen then transforms into Alice’s black kitten and Alice wakes from her dream…having defeated the Red Queen (and King) and won her game of chess.

Three Queens

The three queens of Looking-Glass Land: the White Queen, Alice, and the Red Queen (Illustration by John Tenniel).

To be honest, the Queens are not my favorite characters in Alice’s adventures – I rather enjoy the Cheshire Cat (no surprise there, right?) and the Mad Hatter.  But they are both male, and well, I needed to write about Ladies for this Challenge.  But the queens are no less fascinating than any of other Lewis Carroll’s inventions!  Who is your favorite character in these stories, or do you have another fairy tale that you connect with?

Ladies I Love: P is for the Power Puff Girls (Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice, plus Whoopass!)

Powerpuff Girls Header

Are you ready to meet today’s Ladies I Love in the A to Z Challenge?  If so, P is for the POWERPUFF GIRLS, who consist of Blossom (“the leader”, in pink), Bubbles (“the joy and the laughter”, in blue), and my favorite, Buttercup (“the toughest fighter”, in green).   The girls were created by their scientist “father”, Professor Utonium, who combined sugar, spice and everything nice…plus an accidental little something extra to give them their super powers.  The original cartoon, created by Craig McCracken in 1992, was called “Whoopass Stew!” but was renamed by the time it made its official debut on the Cartoon Network in 1998.  By then, the “little something extra” had been changed from a can of whoopass to “Chemical X”, which gave the Powerpuff Girls superhero powers such as flight, super strength, x-ray and heat vision, and super speed.  But the thing I love about the cartoon is that, even though these girls can do all these incredible things, they still have to face issues that siblings and youngsters go through: rivalries, hygiene issues, the use of security blankets, wetting the bed, and going to school.  Not to mention, fighting all the criminals and villains who want to take over Townsville, where the Powerpuff Girls and Professor Utonium live (and unfortunately, destroying much of Townsville in the process)!

Buttercup-powerpuff-girls-24270377-391-429My favorite character is definitely Buttercup, because she just wants to throw-down and fight the bad guys.  She doesn’t do a whole lot of planning ahead, she’s more of an action type of girl!  She’s strong-willed, adventurous, and isn’t afraid to get dirty and play rough.  She takes no prisoners!  I like her so much that I dressed up for her in a parade that our roller derby league participated in – the theme of the parade was “Super Heroes”, and I chose to be Buttercup.  She’s a superhero, right???  And the villains are kind of THE BEST EVER for an animated series.  Take this quiz to find out which villain you are (I came out as Mojo Jojo)!

Powerpuff Girls 2013The last episode of the Powerpuff Girls aired in 2005, but the Powerpuff Girls also starred in a feature-length animated film, a 10-year anniversary special in 2008, and a 2014 special (made without McCracken’s involvement).  For the 2014 special, the Powerpuff Girls received a CGI makeover (which I personally don’t like nearly as much as the more colorful, rounded version of the girls).  But the Powerpuff Girls had a very successful run, being nominated for and winning several awards in the process.

If you’re not familiar with the Powerpuff Girls, I know you are curious to get a little taste.  Here are two clips for you:  first, the theme that shows at the beginning of each episode:

And second, a clip from one of my favorite episodes, “Take a Bath, Buttercup!” where Buttercup refuses to wash her stinky self!

Who is your favorite Powerpuff Girl or villain?  Or, if you have another favorite cartoon altogether, what is it?  I’d love to know who you cheer for in the fight of good vs. evil (and which side you’re on)!