Saturday, September 29, 2007


I've been abed, nursing a bottle of codeine cough syrup, since Wednesday eve. It's amazing how much snot the human body can produce.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Unrequited Art History Crush

I've seen Sven Haakanson speak at several conferences, in sessions ranging from large to rather intimate. I was watching a documentary about grizzly bears last year sometime and about fell out of my chair when he turned up as one of the interviewees. I think the person I was watching the movie with didn't really know what to think when I said, "Hey! I know that guy! I've seen him at AAM."

Anyway, I have a big art history crush on him, as he is charming and brilliant and passionate and, yes, pretty dang cute.

And now, my unrequited art history crush? He's a MacArthur Genius.

Alutiiq anthropologist honored as a MacArthur 'genius'
Award comes with $500,000 for Haakanson

Sven Haakanson learned of his award in an early-morning call.


(Published: September 25, 2007)

An Alaska Native anthropologist from the Kodiak Island village of Old Harbor has received one of the most prestigious -- and lucrative -- awards for intellectual achievement in America. Sven Haakanson, 41, is among 24 new MacArthur Fellows announced Monday.

A press release from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's Fellows Program called Haakanson "the driving force behind the revitalization of indigenous language, culture and customs in an isolated region of North America." It also mentioned his artistic accomplishments as a mask carver and photographer.

The so-called "Genius Award" comes with a f $500,000 grant that recipients may spend as they see fit. The selection process is famed for its secrecy and candidates usually have no clue that they are under consideration.

Haakanson learned of the award in a crack-of-dawn phone call on Monday of last week/ "They woke me up at 6:30 in the morning," he told the Daily News. "Anybody calling you that early, you think: Is this a joke?"

When he realized the caller was serious, he felt humbled, he said. "To have someone even nominate me is wonderful."

Then the caller informed him that he would receive a half million dollars, no strings attached, over the next five years.

"I was shocked," Haakanson said, still sounding a little breathless.

For 20 years, Haakanson earned money as a commercial fisherman. He is the son of the late Sven Haakanson Sr., the longtime mayor of Old Harbor and a respected elder.

The younger Haakanson said his interest in anthropology began when he attended a youth conference in Denmark in 1988 and heard University of Alaska Fairbanks professor Lydia Black speak about the history of "Aleut people."

"I thought to myself, 'Why am I on the other side of the world learning about my culture when I should be at home doing that?' " After the lecture, he sat and talked with Black for an hour or more.

Inspired by Black, he attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he received a bachelor's in English in 1992. He then went on to graduate studies at Harvard University, where he earned his master's and doctorate in anthropology. He was selected as the executive director of the new Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak in 1999, a year before receiving his doctorate, and had to defer taking the post until he could finish his degree.

Through the museum, Haakanson has spearheaded efforts to acquire and exhibit rare items from Alutiiq history scattered in collections around the world. His recent projects include taking a group of Kodiak elders and artists to France to inspect Alutiiq masks collected in Alaska in the 19th century. As a result of that trip, some of those masks will be displayed in Kodiak, then in Anchorage next year.

He's also in the process of identifying a trove of petroglyphs and other stone carvings near the village of Akhiok, on the south coast of Kodiak. Working with villagers, he said, he has been able to locate 800 such carvings in recent years.

He relishes such fieldwork, he said, but can break away only for about one week each year. Administrative responsibilities keep him near the office in Kodiak, where he lives with his wife, Balika, and daughters, Eilidh and Isabella.

He hopes that the MacArthur money will free him up to get out to historic Alutiiq sites more often, he said. And some will be used to send his mother, Mary, on a pilgrimage to Orthodox churches in Russia.

But the majority will go into savings, Haakanson said, because "I don't have retirement for my job at the museum."

This is the second time an Alaskan has won a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2004, Katherine Gottlieb, president of Southcentral Foundation, received the award for helping to streamline the health care services for Alaska Natives.


Sven Haakanson

Monday, September 24, 2007

secrets and lies

Today I'm thinking about secrets and lies. Honesty is very important to me, one of my bedrock values, and I avoid lying whenever possible. But when I have someone else's secret, I will avoid, evade, dissimulate, and outright lie if I have to in order to keep that person's secret. I don't violate trust like that.

But when I have my own secret, it's different. I don't feel entitled to keep it. I'm really a terrible liar. I get all hinky when I have to dodge questions, when I am not in my usual full-disclosure mode. Even when it's in my best interest - or in someone else's best interest - to keep information to myself, I have a hard time engaging in the verbal dodges necessary to do so.

So my question for myself today is: why do I not think I'm entitled to secrets? Why do I think I need to tell everybody everything they ask?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Where's Waldo?

Actually, this game is called, "Where's Pippin?"

I swear, he can hear the dryer door opening from all the way across the house, and is in amongst the hot, clean, NON-FREAKIN-FURRY laundry within a millisecond of the door opening. Then, of course, he snatches at every article of clothing I withdraw, for I am depleting his cushy bed of hot laundry. By the time he's one year old, I'll have to replace every single garment I own, for everything, EVERYTHING, is covered with tiny kitty-claw picks.*

Pippin recently experienced detesticulation, after he started spraying. That non-fixed-kitty-pee? STINKS. BAD. Fortunately, he's almost completely unfazed by the loss of his balls. However, they also clipped his claws pretty short (at my request), and it's bugging him. He likes to leap at me, claws extended, and hang off my clothing. Or, you know, hang off my bath-towel. Whatever. With short claws, this doesn't work so well. He's bent out of shape that he doesn't have ten little razors at his disposal at all times.

*Do people outside of the South use this term? "That cat will pick your shirt. Watch out for his claws."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Book of Jezebella: The Chapter in which I am a Misanthrope

1. Average is stupid.

2. There are assholes everywhere.

3. Boys are smelly, and you should throw rocks at them.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How to battle diet chatter in the workplace

I work with a few diet-obsessed women. They drive me mad with their thirty-minute conversations about the calorie/fat content of things like coffee creamer. I'd had enough one day, so this conversation ensued:

"You should try the Sex Diet."

Ears perk up. Eyebrows raise. "What's that?"

"It's the diet where you have so much sex you don't give a fuck how fat your ass is."

[cue crickets chirping]

The diet chatter dramatically subsided, at least when I'm around. I highly recommend this tactic.

What's in YOUR closet?

I'm not a confessional-type blogger, but lately things have been movin' and shakin' in Jezebella's head. I've been living in my head for nigh on forty years now, and since I finished every degree I ever intend to have, I've been poking around the "body and soul" category of my existence. I've been stuffing all related issues into a big closet in my mind labeled "ignore! IGNORE!! IGNOOOOOORRRRE!!".

Recently, I opened the door and found a big stinkin' mess. It's gonna take forever to clean this one out.

Here's one of the messes I've located and am trying to figure out how to get rid of:

It has to do with food. It has to do with living in my body. This is going to sound like mother-blaming, when in fact, my mother learned it from her mother, who learned it from her mother. So it's not mother-blaming. It's systemic family crap. And it's my job to fix it for myself, I'm aware of that.

So, two things:

1. As a child, I, like most kids, was absolutely powerless in the household. I ate when I was told to, slept when I was told to, and lived according to my parents' needs and desires. This means that I ate whether or not I was hungry, because It Was Dinner Time. NOW IS WHEN YOU EAT. I was to eat everything put on my plate, regardless of my hunger, or lack thereof. So what is a kid to do? You try to do what you're told. I was a picky eater - still am - and when something revolting was on the plate (boiled okra, anyone?), a battle royale ensued. I spent many evenings at the dinner table in front of some disgusting food as I was not allowed to leave the table until I ate some particular portion of that disgusting food. So food became a means of control, and I was never taught, encouraged, or even ALLOWED to eat according to what *my own body* wanted or needed. I learned to ignore what my body was saying and eat when it was time to eat, and eat as much as I was given. I figured out that this was a systemic family issue when I remembered going to visit my maternal grandmother at age 7 or 8, and re-enacting one of these epic battles-royale over a pile of mealy, disgusting garbanzo beans. [You know, I was never invited back to those grandparents' house again without my parents. Probably to do with my refusal to eat disgusting things on demand.]

This is also an effect of scheduled school lunches and snacks. Children are scheduled according to the convenience of adults.

Result? I am trying to retrain myself to know what my body wants or needs. It's hard, after those early years of training. I spend a lot of time looking thoughtfully at half-empty plates of food, trying to figure out if I'm hungry or not. It should seem obvious, right? But it's not. I'm just now learning what "hungry" and "sated" feel like.

2. The other thing is also a maternal legacy. My mom, a yo-yo dieter, no matter how thin or cute she is, always looks in the mirror and says something like, "Yuck, my stomach is poking out, I'm so fat." She has said it every time she looks in the mirror since I was born, probably. At least since I was little. Kids learn what they hear, right? So recently I saw a picture of myself at age four or five, with a little poochy belly. Not FAT, just a pooch. Normal, right? But not. Because I knew, from pre-school, that my pooch meant that I was disgusting, fat, gross, all of those things my mother called herself in that mirror. I had a clickety-light-bulb moment about this one a few years ago when mom, at 60+, having dieted down to a size 10, looking just as cute as a 60-year-old woman possibly could, looked in her mirror and started in on how disgusting her fat stomach was. She's been pregnant several times, she's 60+ years old, she's cute as hell, and all she sees is that her stomach isn't perfectly flat. Huh. Wonder where I got the idea I was fat?

Because, see, I wasn't a fat kid. Thought I was. Mom always told me to "diet" but she wanted me to avoid getting fat, whereas I assumed I didn't need to be on a diet unless I was already fat. Plus, the mirror litany already had me convinced I was fat. I didn't start gaining weight until I was 17 or 18, and didn't even reach what you might call "fat" status until my early 20s. I had the self-esteem of a fat kid, but I wasn't a fat kid. Just how fucked up is that? I tell you what: it's fucked up.

All those diet tips were never about healthy eating or exercise. They were eat less, eat less, eat less, never "eat healthy." Never "be active." I was in elementary school when the diet chatter started coming at me. I got sent to school with "diet candy" in the third grade.

Result? I've spent the last few years trying to figure out how to have a healthy relationship with food, and rejecting "diet chatter." I refuse to engage in "diet chatter" or call myself "bad" for eating something I "shouldn't." When the women in my office start in on diet chatter, I walk away. It's like nails on a chalkboard. Like learning to listen to hunger, it's a process.

Here's the thing: I know where it comes from, I know what the damage is, but I'm not quite sure how long it's going to take to undo the damage. I'm not sure I know how. But I guess knowing is half the battle. It's a start, anyway.

it's been a rough week

And I have two choices: I can either get all Garfunkelly on the Youtubes, or I can go totally Office Space, because my boss is being a complete ass.

For today, I choose Garfunkellation:

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

From the Book of Jezebella

Jezebella's Crazy Cat Lady Rule is as follows:

If there are more than three furry pets per adult human in a household, that household is a Designated Crazy Cat Lady Zone.

If you're below the limit, you may have another kitten. If above, you may want to seriously reconsider DCCL Zoning. DCCL Zoning often results in everybody in the neighborhood bringing you strays to "find good homes for," and as we all know, the good home we find is usually our own.

I myself, am at maximum feline density prior to rezoning as a DCCL Zone.