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26 Jul 17:41

Wieczorkowski, Woollahra

Fergus Noodle

We should go here

Growing up with an unusual surname means that I am very sensitive to unusual or hard to pronounce names and never make fun of them. Unless of course it is truly comical. I did work with a man whose last name was Horniblow and well even he delighted in saying his last name...But when Freaky Flier suggested a lunch catch up and mentioned that he would be having dinner later that evening in Double Bay I looked up my Rolodex of places to eat (okay it's not a Rolodex but a piece of paper ;)) and my finger rested on Wieczorkowski, a Polish cafe and shop in Woollahra. Even thinking about the hearty Eastern European fare warmed me up.
23 Jul 14:00

Conspicuous Pollution: Rural White Men Rollin’ Coal

by Lisa Wade, PhD
Fergus Noodle

Wouldn't you get in trouble for this? Doesn't it make it very difficult for people to drive behind you?

Conspicuous consumption refers to the practice of ostentatiously displaying of high status objects.  Think very expensive purses and watches.  In the last few decades, as concern for the environment has become increasingly en vogue, it has become a marker of status to care for the earth.  Accordingly, people now engage in conspicuous conservation, the ostentatious display of objects that mark a person as eco-friendly.

Driving a Prius and putting solar panels on visible roof lines, even if they aren’t the sunniest, are two well-documented examples.  Those “litter removal sponsored by” signs on freeways are an example we’ve featured, as are these shoes that make it appear that the wearer helped clean up the oil spill in the gulf, even though they didn’t.

Well, welcome to the opposite: conspicuous pollution.


Elizabeth Kulze, writing at Vocativ, explains:

In small towns across America, manly men are customizing their jacked-up diesel trucks to intentionally emit giant plumes of toxic smoke every time they rev their engines. They call it “rollin’ coal”…

It’s a thing. Google it!


This is not just a handful of guys.  Kulze links to “an entire subculture” on Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram. “It’s just fun,” one coal roller says. “Just driving and blowing smoke and having a good time.”

It isn’t just fun, though. It’s a way for these men — mostly white, working class, rural men — to send an intrusive and nasty message to people they don’t like. According to this video, that includes Prius drivers, cops, women, tailgaters, and people in vulnerable positions. “City boys” and “liberals” are also targeted:

Kulze reports that it costs anywhere between $1,000 and $5,000 to modify a pickup to do this, which is why the phenomenon resonates with conspicuous consumption and conservation.  It’s an expensive and public way to claim an identity that the owner wants to project.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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23 Jul 15:44

Watch: Catcallers try to explain why they harass women

by Maya


After a years of experiencing street harassment–and often confronting her catcallers–a Minneapolis woman named Lindsey came up with Cards Against Harassment–little cards that you can silently hand out to explain to harassers why getting unsolicited attention from random strangers whenever you step outside your house is not actually that fun. 

While clearly not appropriate for every situation, the cards are a cool way of turning the spotlight around on the harassers–and a few of them may even learn something. Lindsey, who explains that she’s ”genuinely interested in what place this is coming from,” has started filming the ensuing conversations. The men have lots of justifications–from the biblical to the sartorial–but there’s one common thread. ”The theme I hear the most often is that they truly, genuinely think it’s a compliment, and they are shocked,” Lindsey tells Buzzfeed. “If that is true, then simply telling people it’s not a compliment may go a long way.”

Check out–and download–the cards and view more videos here.

Two thirds of women in the US have been street harassed
How women in Brazil are fighting back against street harassment
Do you know the laws that cover street harassment in your state?

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

23 Jul 18:55

Chart of the Day: When does a woman owe you sex?

by Maya

Apparently, there’s an emerging trend of dudes tracking when their partners refuse sex and whining about the “excuses” they use. Hoping to nip this one in the bud, Elizabeth Plank and Raquel Reichard put together a helpful chart to help you determine when a woman owes you sex:


While a rampant sense of male entitlement to women’s bodies–which, as Plank explains, underpins so much of rape culture–means this reminder is particularly important for men to hear, it’s worth noting that the rule is gender neutral. Nobody owes anybody sex–which is why it’s so great when freely given.

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

23 Jul 13:14

Brighton the Corner and The Pig and Pastry, Petersham

by Helen (Grab Your Fork)
Fergus Noodle

Oh man the pig and the pastry cakes look so good but those guys are so terrible

There are supermarket crumpets. And then there are homemade crumpets. They're about as different as chalk and cheese. If you've only ever known supermarket crumpets -- soft and flabby in the packet and kinda doughy unless you toast them extra long -- your life is about to change. For good. Because homemade crumpets are a completely different experience. They're fluffy, tall and toothsome, like
24 Jul 18:38

New Favorite Tumblr: Counter-protesting anti-choice protestors

by Maya

Saturday Chores chronicles the adventures of “a pro-choice husband/wife team from Raleigh, N.C.” as they spend Saturday mornings counter-protesting anti-choice clinic protestors–oh, sorry, I mean, “sidewalk counselors“–by holding up funny signs. Like so:


Somehow there’s nothing like a sign about turtles to deflate all that self-righteous anti-abortion doom-and-gloom.

Check out more of my favorite signs after the jump. 


bring back crystal pepsi

(h/t The Hairpin)

20 Jul 17:56

Get Me To The Greek Gyro!

Fergus Noodle

In the 80s this dude we used to know worked at one of these places and he had a shirt that said BIG MEAT on the back and sometimes I just say BIG MEAT to myself

For the last few months he has been telling me about a mini wave of new gyro (prounounced *yee-ros*) places on his drive from work to home. Apparently the queues at each were astounding day in and day out never letting up even late at night. So just yesterday I asked Nick to take Mr NQN and I to all three. And that Dear Reader, is how we ate eight gyros in one day at three of Sydney's newest gyro stores (and why I'm working out furiously today!
15 Jul 16:27

Pappa Rich, Broadway

by Helen (Grab Your Fork)
Deep fried chicken skin? Mention the idea to people and you'll get two distinct reactions: a lightbulb flash of excited glee or a look of confused horror at the very thought. We'd been resisting this plateful of goodness on earlier visits, but on our third lunch at the recently opened Pappa Rich on Broadway we finally caved. Those golden fried curls of chicken skin would be ours at last. It's
13 Jul 11:09

Brighton The Corner, Petersham [23]

by Susan Thye
Fergus Noodle

I think this is the cafe that the dude who lives on my street has opened

I heart crumpets. Their purpose in life is to be fluffy and soak up whatever topping is drizzled on top and generally just make everyone happy. Am I right? So I convinced my brunch buddy that we needed to visit Brighton The Corner (49 Palace St, Petersham) for brekkie for the House Made Crumpets ($14). And they were beeyootiful with caramelised pears, quenelle of Dulwich Hill honey butter and a light dusting of cinnamon. The crumpets are on their all day menu but I hear every now and then they sell out so get there early or be prepared to experience crushing disappointment!

Raff ordered the Braised Brisket ($17) and I immediately had food envy. Luckily we have an unspoken rule of sharing or we would not be friends haha :P

The brisket was tender and rich and the shards of golden potato hash along with the perfectly poached egg lifted me to my happy place. There was some mojo verde on the side to cut through the richness, and onion rings with ethereally light batter crowned the lot. Perfect comfort food for winter!

By the time we’d finished eating it was 12pm which meant the lunch menu had just started and Raff was super keen to try the Pork Belly Sandwich ($11) with fennel and quince paste. While the pork belly was nice and tender, we both wished that there was just a bit of crackle because well, crackle makes us happy.

And because I was still a bit peckish and wanted something savoury to balance out my sugar intake, I ordered the Hot Smoked Salmon ($17). I was envisioning a nice slab of salmon but what came out instead was a salad of pickled radish, fennel, peas, quinoa and topped with a gooey poached egg. The salmon is smoked inhouse and it was super tasty but oh how I wished there was more of it! I normally have issues with pickled things but I was in love with the pickled radishes and searched desperately for each and every piece and the pop of the fresh peas was just so addictive!

Oh and here’s our drinks, a piccolo latte ($3.50) to wake me up and a refreshing Watermelon and Basil house made soda ($4.50).

The service is attentive and friendly without the hipster ‘tude. The kitchen does get a bit smashed when it’s busy but the food is amazing so it was worth the wait.

There’s plenty of street parking and it’s just a 5min walk from the station which is win.

Brighton the Corner on Urbanspoon

01 Jul 23:40


by mugumogu

Because Maru is in the laundry bag,
I pull the drawstring of the bag shut by mischief.

Wow, Maru will be born soon!

Maru:[Hey you!]


05 Jul 14:00

Saturday Stat: Main, Mean, and Median Street

by Jay Livingston, PhD

Mean and median are two measures of “average.”  The mean is the average as we typically think of it: the sum of things divided by the total number of things.  The median, in contrast, is literally the number in the middle if we align all the quantities in order.  People often use median instead of mean because it is insensitive to extreme outliers which may skew the mean in one direction or another.

For a quick illustration of the difference, I often use the example of income. I choose a plausible average (mean) for the classroom population and review the math. “If Bill Gates walks into the room,” I say, “the average income is now in the billions. The median hasn’t moved, but the mean has gone way up.” So has the Gini coefficient.

Here’s a more realistic and global illustration – the net worth of people in the wealthier countries.  The U.S. ranks fourth in mean worth – $301,000 per person…

1 (2) - Copy

…but the median is far lower – $45,000, 19th out of the twenty nations shown.  (The graph is from Credit Suisse via CNN.)

The U.S. is a wealthy nation compared with others, but  “average” Americans, in the way that term is generally understood, are poorer than their counterparts in other countries. 

Jay Livingston is the chair of the Sociology Department at Montclair State University. You can follow him at Montclair SocioBlog or on Twitter.

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14 Jul 15:53

“It took the college just 12 days to investigate the rape report, hold a hearing and clear the football players.”

by Maya

Photo credit: Leslye Davis/The New York Times

The New York Times has another damning in-depth investigation into a college’s handling of a rape complaint. Like their recent report on Florida State University, this report on Hobart and William Smith Colleges tells a familiar tale of student assaulted on campus and then failed by her college. 

It took the college just 12 days to investigate the rape report, hold a hearing and clear the football players. The football team went on to finish undefeated in its conference, while the woman was left, she said, to face the consequences — threats and harassment for accusing members of the most popular sports team on campus.

A New York Times examination of the case, based in part on hundreds of pages of disciplinary proceedings — usually confidential under federal privacy laws — offers a rare look inside one school’s adjudication of a rape complaint amid a roiling national debate over how best to stop sexual assaults on campuses.

Whatever precisely happened that September night, the internal records, along with interviews with students, sexual-assault experts and college officials, depict a school ill prepared to evaluate an allegation so serious that, if proved in a court of law, would be a felony, with a likely prison sentence. As the case illustrates, school disciplinary panels are a world unto themselves, operating in secret with scant accountability and limited protections for the accuser or the accused.

At a time of great emotional turmoil, students who say they were assaulted must make a choice: Seek help from their school, turn to the criminal justice system or simply remain silent. The great majority — including the student in this case — choose their school, because of the expectation of anonymity and the belief that administrators will offer the sort of support that the police will not.

Yet many students come to regret that decision, wishing they had never reported the assault in the first place.

Anna, the freshman who was assaulted, also went through hell after reporting. She said the school hearing “was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through.” But she’s planning to return to Hobart and William Smith in the fall. “Someone needs to help survivors there,” she explains. Read the rest here.

15 Jul 16:15

Quote of the Day: To reach female voters, GOP needs to “bring it down to a woman’s level”

by Maya

pie chartAt a recent panel put on by the Republican Study Committee, the House’s conservative caucus, conservative women discussed how the GOP can improve their messaging to female voters. Here’s the advice North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers offered:

Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level. Many of my male colleagues, when they go to the House floor, you know, they’ve got some pie chart or graph behind them and they’re talking about trillions of dollars and how, you know, the debt is awful and, you know, we all agree with that … we need our male colleagues to understand that if you can bring it down to a woman’s level and what everything that she is balancing in her life — that’s the way to go.

Yep, pie charts are soooo hard.

My own tip to the GOP? Stop talking about how to talk to women. It’s only making things worse.

(h/t Jason)

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

16 Jul 14:00

Overweight Americans Have the Lowest Risk of Premature Death

by Lisa Wade, PhD

Last year the Journal of the American Medical Association released a study aiming to determine the relationship between body mass index and the risk of premature death. Body mass index, or BMI, is the ratio between your height and weight. According to the National Institutes of Health, you are “normal weight” if your ratio is between 18.5-24.9.  Everything over that is “overweight” or “obese” and everything under is “underweight.”

This study was a meta-analysis, which is an analysis of a collection of existing studies that systematically measures the sum of our knowledge.  In this case, the authors analyzed 97 studies that included a combined 2.88 million individuals and over 270,000 deaths.  They found that overweight individuals had a lower risk of premature death than so-called normal weight individuals and there was no relationship between being somewhat obese and the rate of early death. Only among people in the high range of obesity was there a correlation between their weight and a higher risk of premature death.

Here’s what it looked like.

This is two columns of studies plotted according to the hazard ratio they reported for people.  This comparison is between people who are “overweight” (BMI = 25-29.9) and people who are “normal weight” (BMI = 18.5-24.9).  Studies that fall below the line marked 1.0 found a lower rate of premature death and studies above the line found a higher rate.


Just by eyeballing it, you can confirm that there is not a strong correlation between weight and premature death, at least in this population. When the scientists ran statistical analyses, the math showed that there is a statistically significant relationship between being “overweight” and a lower risk of death.

Here’s the same data, but comparing the risk of premature death among people who are “normal weight” (BMI = 18.5-24.9) and people who are somewhat “obese” (BMI = 30-34.9).  Again, eyeballing the results suggest that there’s not much correlation and, in fact, statistical analysis found none.


Finally, here are the results comparing “normal weight” (BMI = 18.5-24.9) and people who are quite “obese” (BMI = 35 or higher). In this case, we do see a relationship between risk of premature death in body weight.


It’s almost funny that the National Institutes of Health use the word normal when talking about BMI. It’s certainly not the norm – the average BMI in the U.S. falls slightly into the “overweight” category (26.6 for adult men and 25.5 for adult women) — and it’s not related to health. It’s clearly simply normative. It’s related to a socially constructed physical ideal that has little relationship to what physicians and public health advocates are supposed to be concerned with.  Normal is judgmental, but if they changed the word to healthy, they have to entirely rejigger their prescriptions.

So, do we even have an obesity epidemic? Perhaps not if we use health as a marker instead of some arbitrary decision to hate fat.  Paul Campos, covering this story for the New York Times, points out:

If the government were to redefine normal weight as one that does not increase the risk of death, then about 130 million of the 165 million American adults currently categorized as overweight and obese would be re-categorized as normal weight instead.

That’s 79%.

It’s worth saying again: if we are measuring by the risk of premature death, then 79% of the people we currently shame for being overweight or obese would be recategorized as perfectly fine. Ideal, even. Pleased to be plump, let’s say, knowing that a body that is a happy balance of soft and strong is the kind of body that will carry them through a lifetime.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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17 Jul 17:30

Chart of the Day: Sexual harassment and assault at scientific field sites

by Maya
Fergus Noodle

My new boss was complaining about how hard it is to be the only man in the room at meetings. Oh boy.


(Chart via Vox)

Though this survey of more than 600 anthropologists, archaeologists, biologists, zoologists, and other scientists wasn’t nationally representative, it suggests that sexual harassment and assault could be one of the reasons contributing to the dearth of women pursing careers in the sciences. 

The report found that 70 percent of women had experienced inappropriate sexual comments while working at field sites–and were 3.5 times more likely to report sexual harassment than men. And over a quarter said they had been victims of sexual assault, compared to 6 percent of men. Men were more likely to be harassed or assaulted by peers, while women were more likely to be a younger trainee, like a student, and more likely to be targeted by a superior–a dynamic that, the researchers note, can be especially psychologically damaging. Only about 20 percent of the respondents knew of any policies in place or mechanism to report their abuse.

“We are the first researchers to characterize the experiences of scientists at field sites, and our findings are troubling,” explained lead researcher Kate Clancy. “If you are on constant high alert because you have been harassed or you are at a site where you know it happens regularly, it drains your cognitive reserves and makes you less effective at your job. No one can work well under those conditions, and we can’t ask trainees to keep doing so. Field sciences are intellectually impoverished when hostile field sites drive out underrepresented scientists.”

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

17 Jul 19:00

“I don’t fucking care if you like it.”

by Maya

Read this cathartic piece by Rebecca Traister – on that Esquire piece on 42-year-old women, on Jada and campus sexual assault, on Hobby Lobby and buffer zones, on jailed Tennessee mothers, and all the many large and small ways our fates “rest in the hands of empowered committees on the general value and status of womanhood in America.”

It begins:

Last week, I got into a fight on Twitter with New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, whose work I respect, and it wasn’t about anything that either of us had written; rather, we were tussling over the merits of a piece written by Tom Junod, for Esquire, about how today’s 42-year-old women are hotter than ever before.

There’s no need to linger over our differences: I thought the article was a piece of sexist tripe, celebrating a handful of Pilates-toned, famous, white-plus-Maya-Rudolph women as having improved on the apparently dismal aesthetics of previous generations; my primary objections to the piece have been ably laid out by other critics. Chait tweeted that he viewed the piece as a “mostly laudable” sign of progress: a critique not of earlier iterations of 42-year-old womanhood, but rather of the old sexist beauty standards that did not celebrate those women; he saw it as an acknowledgment of maturing male attitudes toward women’s value.

The truth is, had Chait been correct about it being a thoughtful piece laying into the entrenched short-sightedness and sexist cruelty of male-controlled media, I might have hated it more. Then I would have felt obligated to feel grateful for it, grateful in the same way I’m supposed to feel grateful toward, say, Marvel Comics for making Thor a woman, or toward Harry Reid for challenging Mitch McConnell on some typically boorish and inane statement how women have achieved workforce equality. In its actual form, I didn’t have to consider thinking Yay, thanks for some crumbs of enlightened thinking, for some slightly nuanced improvements in the daily, punishing business of publicly evaluating and then reevaluating women’s worth.

Instead, I’ve been thinking about an anecdote in Tina Fey’s Bossypants. Amy Poehler, then new to “Saturday Night Live,” was engaging in some loud and unladylike vulgarity in the writers’ room when the show’s then-star Jimmy Fallon jokingly told her to cut it out, saying, “It’s not cute! I don’t like it!” In Fey’s retelling, Poehler “went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him,” forcefully informing him: “I don’t fucking care if you like it.”

Read the rest here.

09 Jul 19:51

“The morning after I was raped, I made my rapist breakfast.”

by Maya

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 3.37.09 PM

Here’s a powerful comic from The Nib on rape, triggers, good stories, and true ones. Read the rest here.

10 Jul 18:00

New documentary explores the legacy of Vietnamese women in the nail industry

by Verónica Bayetti Flores
Nails that have spelled out Nailed It

Photo Credit: Nailed It Doc

This looks so cool: a documentary on the legacy of Vietnamese women workers, as well as Black women’s influence, on the nail salon industry.

I’m really excited about a film exploring the legacy of women of color on the nail industry, especially as it seems white folks have recently Columbused nail art. I’m also really interested in the film’s exploration of health issues for nail salon workers — a huge yet not often discussed issue in immigrant women’s health and worker safety. The filmmakers are trying to raise funds to complete the documentary (yet another cause so much better than potato salad), so hit them up with a donation if you can.

To learn more in the meantime, check out the Healthy Nail & Beauty Salon Alliance.

1bfea3e7449eff65a94e2e55a8b7acda-bpfullVerónica is an immigrant writer, activist, and artist living and loving in NYC.

04 Jul 14:00

Banal Nationalism

by Lisa Wade, PhD

Flashback Friday.  

In his book by the same name, Michael Billig coined the term “banal nationalism” to draw attention to the ways in which nationalism was not only a quality of gun-toting, flag-waving “extremists,” but was quietly and rather invisibly reproduced by all of us in our daily lives.

That we live in a world of nations was not inevitable; that the United States, or Sweden or India, exist was not inevitable.  I was born in Southern California.  If I had been born at another time in history I would have been Mexican or Spanish or something else altogether.  The nation is a social construction.

The nation, then, must be reproduced. We must be reminded, constantly, that we are part of this thing called a “nation.”  Even more, that we belong to it and it belongs to us.  Banal nationalism is how the idea of the nation and our membership in it is reproduced daily.  It occurs not only with celebrations, parades, or patriotic war, but in “mundane,” “routine,” and “unnoticed” ways.

The American flag, for example, casually hanging around in yards and in front of buildings everywhere:


References to the nation on our money:


The way that the news is usually split into us and everyone else:


The naming of clubs and franchises, such as the National Football League, as specific to our country:



The performance of the pledge of allegiance in schools and sports arenas:

Pledge of Allegiance

So, what?  What could possibly be the problem?

Sociologists have critiqued nationalism for being the source of an irrational commitment and loyalty to one’s nation, a commitment that makes one willing to both die and kill.  Billig argues that, while it appears harmless on the surface, “banal nationalism can be mobilized and turned into frenzied nationalism.”  The profound sense of national pride required for war, for example, depends on this sense of nationhood internalized over a lifetime.  So banal nationalism isn’t “nationalism-lite,” it’s the very foundation upon which more dangerous nationalisms are built.

You can download a more polished two-page version of this argument, forthcoming in Contexts magazine, here.  Images found here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at

02 Jul 19:00

Study finds LGBT applicants 23 percent less likely to get a job interview

by Sesali Bowen


A new study, conducted by the Equal Rights Center and Freedom to Work, compared the responses to 100 pairs of fictional applications for jobs with government contractors. Each pair included an “LGBT application” that listed experience at an LGBT organization, and a “non LGBT application” that names similar roles in organizations that are not LGBT-focused. It played out something like this:

“‘Jennifer’ and ‘Michelle’ filled out applications for a job as an administrative assistant at ExxonMobil. The applications show they attended the same high school and college but ‘Jennifer’ had better grades in both schools and a stronger work history. ExxonMobil calls ‘Michelle’ for an interview — twice. She does not respond. They follow up with an email, stating they’ll hold the position for her. She does not respond. They never call ‘Jennifer’ and they hired someone else.”

Using results from all of the pairs, the study concluded that applicants who had roles in LGBT organizations were 23 percent less likely to be called back for an interview, even if they were more qualified for the position. 

The study targeted eight federal contractors including ExxonMobil, whose shareholders have repeatedly voted against a resolution to protect employees from LGBT discrimination. The other contractors were AmerisourceBergen Corp., the Babcock & Wilcox Co., Fluor Corp., General Electric Co., L-3 Communications Holdings Inc., Supreme Group Holding SARL, and URS Corp.

The debate over ENDA has pushed LGBT employment discrimination to the forefront. Americans being asked to think about LGBT rights outside of the parameters of marriage and morality (finally). With that being said, I wonder what is implied by one’s role at an LGBT organization. Beyond the assumption that one actually identifies as LGBT, I wonder if corporations consider working at an LGBT organization to pose a threat because it connotes a heightened sensitivity to LGBT issues, a stronger responsibility to seek fair and just treatment, lesser willingness to look the other way in the event that LGBT discrimination occurs, and access to individuals/groups/organizations that can support them. In other words, are companies more afraid to hire LGBT-identified people or LGBT activists who could possibly blow their spot up with LGBT discrimination cases?

I’d be interested to see some variation of this study that perhaps included cover letters. In this way some fictional applicants may be able to identify themselves as LGBT (and where they fit under the umbrella) without an organizational affiliation. Either way, employment discrimination still represents a real barrier to LGBT communities.

Avatar ImageSesali gets satisfaction knowing that her fellow rebel rousers are still scaring the hell out of oppressors.

21 Jun 17:40

Cruising Down The South Coast of NSW

Fergus Noodle

I wanna eat that bombe alaska pretty bad

While flying is all very grand, there's fun to be had in driving you way to a destination and after last year's road trip across America I think I can take any length of time in a car. One of my favourite destinations is the South Coast of NSW which is easy and suitable for even the road trip novice. One Friday afternoon, Mr NQN and I set off and were joined by Belinda.
29 Jun 18:00

Devon By Night, Surry Hills

Fergus Noodle

i love devon

This story is for those of you out there like me that look forward to your meals and plan them meticulously. Last week, we got to preview a new concept at Devon Cafe in Surry Hills called Devon By Night. The only catch is that these nights don't start until this Thursday the 3rd of July.
28 Jun 15:39

TeaPlus Taiwanese Cuisine and Tea House, Burwood

by Helen (Grab Your Fork)
Fergus Noodle

It'd be good if they had a caffeine free one!

Tea. Whipped cream. And Oreo crumbs. Say whaaat? It’s called plant milk tea and it’s the signature drink at TeaPlus, a Taiwanese teahouse tucked off Burwood Road. The glass beer mug lets you see all the pretty layers: three-quarters milk tea, one-quarter white creamy foam, a layer of Oreo crumb soil, and the teensiest sprig of mint leaves sprouting forth at the top. It's a drink pretty much
25 Jun 20:13

“Affirmative consent” just means mutual desire. And it should definitely be the standard.

by Maya

can we have sex please memeIn response to a proposed California bill that would implement an “affirmative consent” standard on college campuses, there’s been a number of misinformed and often straight-up hysterical reactions from folks who think that requiring people to ensure they have, at every point, “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity” is absurd and/or impossible.

I think it’s fair to question how useful legislation is for creating a culture of affirmative consent–though, for the record, I agree with Amanda Hess, that as long as they include non-verbal cues, affirmative consent laws are a good idea. What’s absolutely clear is that affirmative consent is the necessary standard, socially if not legally, for a healthy sexual culture. And the fact that many people seem to feel like it marks such a radical departure from our current approach to sex reveals the depths of rape culture more than all the stats on sexual assault, in my opinion.

Over at ThinkProgress, Tara Culp-Ressler has a great rundown of on how affirmative consent actually works

Affirmative consent isn’t based on the idea that every sexual encounter is a rigid contract between two parties. No one is suggesting that college students need to run through a checklist before unbuttoning each other’s shirts. Instead, it’s more about broadly reorienting about how we approach sex in the first place.

The current societal script on sex assumes that passivity and silence — essentially, the “lack of a no” — means it’s okay to proceed. That’s on top of the fact that male sexuality has been socially defined as aggressive, something that can result in men feeling entitled to sex, while women have been taught that sex is something that simply happens to them rather than something they’re an active participant in. It’s not hard to imagine how couples end up in ambiguous situations where one partner is not exactly comfortable with going forward, but also not exactly comfortable saying no.

Under an affirmative consent standard, on the other hand, both partners are required to pay more attention to whether they’re feeling enthusiastic about the sexual experience they’re having. There aren’t any assumptions about where the sexual encounter is going or whether both people are already on the same page. At its very basic level, this is the opposite of killing the mood — it’s about making sure the person with whom you’re about to have sex is excited about having sex with you.

Making sure someone else is enthusiastic about what you’re doing with them requires you to consider their wants and needs, think about how to bring them pleasure, and ultimately approach sex like a partnership instead of a means to your own end.

Frankly, sometimes I think we should ditch the term “consent” altogether. It feels like a carryover from the old male-aggressor/female-gatekeeper model of (hetero) sex, and, even with the addition of adjectives like “affirmative” or “enthusiastic,” retains this contractual connotation that, I think, detracts from the shift we’re actually trying to make here. The point is that people shouldn’t be “consenting” to sex as if they’re acquiescing to a request to borrow your damn toothbrush. We are talking about sex, for fuck’s sake. Probably the single most universally beloved activity in the world. Of course “consent” should be affirmative; it should be excited, joyful, ecstatic. In a culture that really, truly recognized women as sexual agents with desire of their own, there’d be no question about that.

Because that’s all we are talking about really: mutual desire. Desire that, if you’re doing it right, should be undeniably clear. And if it isn’t, you shouldn’t be doing it. It’s really pretty simple.

Maya Dusenbery“Can we have sex, please?” is Maya‘s go-to line.

26 Jun 14:00

“Dude, You Need to Get into Nursing”: How Organizations Recruit Men to Nursing

by Marci Cottingham PhD

While there has been significant attention to recruiting women into STEM fields, what about the converse – recruiting men to female-dominated fields?  My recent article in Gender & Society analyzes the recruitment strategies of key health care players, examining themes of masculinity in text, speech, and images.

Some recruitment items, like this early poster from the Virginia Partnership for Nursing, asked viewers “Are you man enough to be a nurse?” Aspects of hegemonic masculinity — characteristics associated with being the culturally defined “ideal man” — are common themes in the poster, including sports, military service, risk-taking, and an emotionally-reserved demeanor:

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Since the “Are You Man Enough?” campaign in the early 2000’s, nurse leaders have tried to make recruitment messages less ostensibly gendered. In discussing the American Assembly for Men in Nursing’s (AAMN) new campaign, Don Anderson notes:

Nursing recruitment efforts needed to evolve from asking men if they were masculine enough to be a nurse to something less gender specific

Despite the effort to “de-genderify” nursing (Anderson’s word), masculinity is still front and center. Though the slogan is different, materials continue to emphasize culturally idealized forms of masculinity. One of the AAMN’s newest posters, “Adrenaline Rush,” avoids the “man enough” rhetoric, but maintains the theme of a stoic, emotionally-detached masculinity through visual cues.  Most of the nurse’s face is covered – limiting emotional expression—while risk-taking is emphasized.

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But not all recruitment materials employ a macho form of masculinity. Johnson & Johnson’s 30-second clip “Name Game” portrays a caring and emotionally competent nurse:

Key health care players, including an international organization (Johnson & Johnson), urban hospital systems, nursing programs, and organizations like the American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) have devoted resources to recruiting men into nursing. Analyzing their recruitment strategies reveals as much about contemporary tensions within masculinity as it does about the profession’s push for gender diversity.

Check out more of the recruitment materials and a more in-depth analysis in the article, “Recruiting Men, Constructing Manhood: How Health Care Organizations Mobilize Masculinities as Nursing Recruitment Strategy.”  For a free copy, contact me at

Marci Cottingham is a postdoctoral fellow in the department of Social Medicine at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. She received her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Akron. Her research spans issues of gender, emotion, health, and healthcare. For more on her work, visit her site.

Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.

(View original at

23 Jun 17:48

Doughbox Diner, Enmore

Fergus Noodle

I've always wanted to know what whether this place is delicious

There is a certain sort of diner that likes to frequent Doughbox Diner, the retro themed establishment. Often paired as a couple, she wears a cardigan, artfully enhanced cat's eye makeup and a 50's Victory hair roll. She's a vintage pin-up. And she's probably biting into an enormous crepe cone.
24 Jun 13:15

The Mormon Church excommunicates woman for calling Mormon Church sexist

by Katie
image via yahoo news

(Image via Yahoo News)

No, this isn’t a headline from The Onion. How does the Mormon Church respond to a woman critical of the Church’s treatment of women? By ex-communicating her. I guess they want to show and not tell.

Kate Kelly has been a Mormon all of her life. She served as a missionary in Spain when she was 21. She was married in the Salt Lake Temple. She has been a proud Mormon and, up until very recently, a regular church-goer. But on Monday, she found out that the Mormon Church, also known as the Church of Latter-Day Saints, ex-communicated her for apostasy, the repeated and public advocacy of positions that oppose church teachings.

The symbolism couldn’t be any better (or worse); Kelly was excommunicated in absentia by an all male panel for questioning the all male nature of the Church’s leadership. Specifically, Kelly advocated for allowing women to be ordained as priests. According to the Mormon Church, only men can become priests because all of Jesus’s apostles were men. That’s men. Not boys. Yet the Mormon Church has no problem ordaining boys as young as 12. Why do they follow Jesus’s example when it comes to gender but not age?

It’s easy for me to ask that question. I have nothing to lose. I’m not Mormon. But questioning the Church proved extremely difficult for Kelly, a human rights lawyer from Virginia who now lives in Utah. Kelly started the organization Ordain Women, which “aspires to create a space for Mormons to articulate issues of gender inequality they may be hesitant to raise alone. As a group we intend to put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood.” She also organized demonstrations at the Church’s conferences at Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

Kelly was warned to take down the website for Ordain Women. But she refused, as she explained in a letter to the church:

I will not take down the website I will not stop speaking out publicly on the issue of gender inequality in the church… I cannot repent of telling the truth, speaking what is in my heart and asking questions that burn in my soul.

image via the atlantic

(Image via the Atlantic)

I’m an atheist but have always admired and respected people who use religion to fight for social justice, ranging from Dorothy Day to Martin Luther King Jr. to Oscar Romero to Desmond Tutu. And, of course, I admire respect and agree with Kelly. But I have to admit that part of me couldn’t help thinking, “Of course the Mormon Church is sexist. It’s also racist. (It used to not let Black men become priests either, until God told the Church president that Black priests were actually fine. And totally coincidentally, that communication took place right after the IRS threatened to revoke the Church’s non-profit status if it continued to discriminate.) All Churches are sexist. In fact all official institutions of organized religion are sexist. Why be naive and try to change it?” Huffpost Live host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani seemed to read my mind when she said to Kelly, “You were born into [The Mormon Church]… But you have the right to leave. So why not just leave it?”

After hearing Kelly’s response, I respected and admired her even more:

If an institution needs to be improved, if there’s ways that it can be more inclusive, I’m just the type of person who likes to invest and dig in and help make that institution a better place, whether that’s the United States of America, where I live, whether that’s my church, that I love. I disagree with the U.S. government on some of their policies but that doesn’t mean that I move to France… And I’m the same way with the church.

Kelly crystallized exactly what I’ve thought and felt but have been unable to express as eloquently so often. On more occasions than I can remember, someone has responded to my critique of some U.S. policy or historical intervention by saying, “If you hate it so much, why don’t you just leave.”

We all have, or should have, the right to leave a church or a country. And there are times when an institution or nation makes people’s lives so unbearable that leaving them behind is the only escape. But others can and choose to fight to make change from within. And Kelly is urging others to do exactly that, despite her ex-communication:

The decision to force me outside my congregation and community is exceptionally painful. Today is a tragic day for my family and me as we process the many ways this will impact us, both in this life and in the eternities. I love the gospel and the courage of its people. Don’t leave. Stay, and make things better.

Sadly, The Mormon Church made it very clear that it remains officially and undeniably  sexist as an official institution.  Luckily, there are countless Mormons who support Kelly and her beliefs, as evidenced by the over 1,000 letters written to her bishop on her behalf, and the over 50 vigils held in 17 countries around the word, and a rich tradition and thriving culture of Mormon Feminism. Hopefully, The Church hierarchy will adapt.

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 11.13.50 PM Katie Halper is a writer, comedian and film-maker.

22 Jun 17:37

Best In Show Cinnamon Buns

Fergus Noodle

potato in dese buns

And somehow, in my fugue state, these became the best ever cinnamon buns. The potato adds such a wonderful texture to the buns giving them a thin delicious crust and a soft, downy inside. The caramel sauce adds a delicious surprise at the bottom of the bun while the top has a drizzle of maple icing and the browned butter adds an other worldly aroma to these buns. So much so that the recently self proclaimed "gluten free" eating Mr NQN asked for two of them. I know they're a bit more trouble than your regular cinnamon bun but I promise that these are worth it if you are a cinnamon bun fan. This is one of those pushy recipes that I urge you to make.
22 Jun 13:33

Rising Sun Workshop, Newtown [26]

by Susan Thye
Fergus Noodle

Those John scrolls are not made in-house! Lies!

Rising Sun Workshop (36 Lennox Street, Newtown) is a communal garage for motorcycle enthusiasts but has recently became known for the ramen bar that is pumping out pretty awesome eats. It’s just around the corner from Mary’s with street parking nearby or if you’re not so lucky, there’s a Wilson car park right next door that looks super dodgy but is $3/hr.

I first read about the ramen over here and here but it wasn’t until I saw on Instagram that if you mention the Rising Sun Workshop’s secret sentence that weekend: “someone throw me a bone here!” that you get an additional topping of roast bone marrow so I made the trek over quick smart! And this, people, is an example of how awesome social media is! Just don’t get me started on people who use ridiculous hashtags. Tch.

We mosey over to an empty table and the ever so cheeky Daniel Cesarano, (ex Single Origin Roasters) comes over to take our drinks order and explain the ramen offerings. I choose Green Tea ($4) and the Green Justice Juice ($4.50) with cucumber, apple, kale, ginger (and I think spinach?) for the boy. I’m not sure why Noods keeps ordering green juices but hey whatever floats his boat. The juice is from Joostice in Newtown, a not for profit juice shop supporting public interest journalism which is pretty tops.

Our first ramen is The Darkness ($20) with a broth made from pork tonkotsu, soy and smoked ham hocks. It is rich but thankfully we’re not left with a heavy oh-god-kill-me feeling. I did feel there was a tad too much soy in the broth but that’s because I have a soy allergy so I’m super hyper sensitive and aware of anything with soy in it. The gooey egg has me in raptures but I’m head over heels in love with the springy noodles with the perfect bite to them.

The Light ($20)- chicken, bonito and 3x salt broth is super comforting. I preferred this over The Darkness because I’m still getting over a cold thanks to my weak immune system and the flavours of the broth felt clean somehow, like it was nourishing my soul with tasty nutrients.

Close up of the roast bone marrow with crispy togarashii panko (chilli pepper and breadcrumbs)! At first I dug out globules of the marrow with the teaspoon, relishing the quivering richness in all its glory but then I mixed the rest in with the ramen which totally amped up all the flavours, bringing up a hit of salt that was missing previously.

Both bowls also had thick slabs of melt in the mouth pork belly, satisfying fat mushrooms, crisp sheets of seaweed and shallots that Chef Nick Smith (ex Single Origin Roasters) placed ever so carefully with each order. It was so calming watching him work!

But ah dessert! How can one resist? The baked goods are made in house and I may have ordered the dessert before the ramen arrived because I was worried they would’ve disappeared by the time we’d finished eating our ramen :P

Whenever I see donuts I have to get them. Donuts are my weakness bro! Especially Lemon Curd Donuts ($5)! The ridiculously fluffy donut has a very generous amount of sweet lemon curd stuffed inside and each bite took my breath away. Seriously guys, you gotta save room for this donut or take some home with you! I say some because one donut is never enough!

And I managed to score the last fat slice of the Dark Chocolate Cake with Salted Buttercream ($6.50) which was all kinds of amazing. The cake itself was super moist (oh man my fave adjective) with such a tender crumb that I would probably have been fine without the icing but hey it’s me and we all know I have the worlds sweetest tooth (or should that be teeth..) so woot look at all dem layers of fluffy icing! Prepare yourself for a mad sugar coma!

Seating. I loved the chillaxed vibe at Rising Sun Workshop but the fun police aka Marrickville Council didn’t extend the lease for their hybrid workshop/cafe so you’ve got until September to try out their ramen and baked goods! Let’s hope the Rising Sun Workshop finds new digs soon so we can get our ramen fix 24/7!

Rising Sun Workshop on Urbanspoon

13 Jun 16:40

In Which This Was Before We Knew We Should Hate Kerouac

by Kara
Fergus Noodle

I keep thinking I should learn to drive this year but really it is too scary

Three Times a Permit


I have two party tricks: the first is that after two glasses of wine I fall asleep in the middle of the floor or on the couch during a conversation. The second is that I admit to not having a driver’s license at the ripe old age of twenty-six.

While the first trick paints me as an endearing lightweight, the second makes me look pathetic, something I did not realize until I became the butt of others’ jokes instead of the punchline in my own. It was winter, the worst in anyone’s memory. I couldn’t imagine executing the tire-squealing left turns that are necessary in Chicago on streets slick with black ice and pockmarked with potholes. By March 5th, winter hadn’t subsided, but I had been twenty-six for a full twenty-four hours. I had already missed a full decade of road trips, so I took two buses and tramped a mile through the snow to the Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles, certain that this meant I wouldn’t live to see twenty-seven.

At the counter in front of me, a Middle Eastern gentleman and his wife smiled at a blonde who looked like she had turned away more hopefuls than the immigration officers at Ellis Island. She thumbed through their three pieces of mail and yawned, “Does your wife speak English?” The gentleman shook his head. I wondered how his wife — a small, veiled woman — planned to take the test since translators, like cell phones, were certainly prohibited, but the blonde handed them a number and they took a seat in the waiting area, where at least half of Chicago’s population sat scratching their chins or swiping screens or screaming at toddlers. A lone teenager, white male, flipped through the driver’s handbook with a nonchalant look. He was wearing board shorts and didn’t seem appropriately nervous at the prospect that he was about to be handed the keys to a compact bomb with great gas mileage.

It has never made sense to me why you’re allowed to learn how to drive before you’re allowed to go to war or to start drinking. There you are, sixteen years old, and you are legally permitted to strap yourself to an explosive from which only your underdeveloped motor skills and questionable common sense can protect you. One wrong turn and it could be the end of you. It occurred to me, as Board Shorts pulled his iPhone out of his pocket and let the driver’s handbook drop to the floor, that youth is the only reason anybody would ever start driving in the first place. You believe yourself to be physically invincible, something that a few fender-benders and later, tequila, take away from you all too quickly. A belief that I’d never had in the first place. I slumped further into my seat and tried to determine which of the desk attendants was least likely to laugh in my face.

“Hi Kara, how can I help you today?” they’d say. “Or should I call you ‘Grandma’?”

I ended up with a young man who, with his long black ponytail and wispy mustache, looked like he was barely legal to drive himself. He smiled — dawn breaking over braced teeth.

“So, Miss VanderBijl,” he said slowly, looking at my forms, “this will be your third time taking the written test?”

“Yes,” I mumbled, ducking my head.

“And you’re sure you don’t have a driver’s license?” He stamped a form. He smelled like the sidewalk just outside a suburban Abercrombie & Fitch.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that on my first try, I didn’t even make it to the learner’s permit. It was Valentine’s Day, freshman year of college, the sort of warm February day that makes you glad to live in Southern California. Cole, the boy I liked, had offered to take me to the DMV. He was from Texas and drove an old Buick, and we had met in the haphazard way you do when you go to a small liberal-arts school and you’re both English majors: over a chance three-hour discussion about books. One night, early on in our friendship, I was walking back to the dorm from the science building at dusk when he drove up. Pavarotti spilled out of his window as he rolled it down. The streetlights glinted off his glasses.

“I like your trench coat,” he said. “Want a ride?”

He’d been drinking Dr. Pepper (there was a half-empty can in the cupholder) and I had to move a dog-eared copy of Kerouac’s On the Road before I could slide into the passenger seat. He grinned when I held onto it for a moment before throwing it in the backseat.

“I haven’t finished it yet,” he said, “but I already know it’s going to be one of my favorites. There’s this part that reminds me of you.”

This was long before I knew I was supposed to hate Kerouac. I was hooked. Over the next week, I waited impatiently for him to finish the book, wondering if he’d reread the lines about me until the page was soft and creased. He found me shelving books during one of my shifts in the campus library, and held Kerouac in front of him at 10 and 2 with a grin.

“I can’t wait,” I whispered.

“No return date on this one,” he said. “Tell me what you think.”

I thought it was pretty lucky of Kerouac that endless roads unspooled before him as he chased meaning or women or whatever it was that he wanted across the amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties. I also thought it was pretty lucky of me to have found a cute Texan who found me enchanting, even though my idea of fun was sitting on his kitchen floor reading French poetry out loud and drinking tea. Those were my college party tricks.

Cole could have had his pick of any girl, that was certain; he was charming, and his eyes had a way of crinkling behind his glasses while he smiled that made you feel like you’d just performed serious magic. I considered myself magical only to the extent that I no longer wore braces, and had lived in France. These were good hooks, but I had no idea what I was going to do with him once I reeled him in. Surely this was something we could figure out as the carpool lane unspooled before us on the 405.

I snuck a few glances at him as we waited in the tiny Santa Clarita Department of Motor Vehicles. He’d brought a book, and was quietly reading while I thought about what I weighed (it had been several months since I’d even seen a scale) and the color of my eyes. I wondered what he thought of me, and for the first time I allowed myself to believe that he liked me back. I was about to start driving, after all, and the only thing more perilous than seatbelting yourself to a bomb is tying yourself to another person. It was a day for embracing danger.

“Have you ever committed a felony in California or any other state?” asked the woman behind the desk. Her glasses hung from a gold chain around her neck. “Step up to the line for your eye exam, please, and read the third line.”

The lights flickered momentarily, and then with an electronic sigh, all the computers in the DMV went blank.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Our computer system is down,” she said. “It’s too bad. You can wait, but it might be better to come back and finish the process another time.”

“What if this is some sort of sign?” I asked Cole as we left the building. Relief washed over me in waves. “Maybe I’m not supposed to drive.”

He laughed and slid his arm through mine. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

That night, he took me on a walk down a deserted road and asked me to be his girlfriend. Maybe I wasn’t ready to drive, but this, whatever this was, I could figure out. Cole took me back to the DMV two weeks later and, when I passed with flying colors, we left the city limits for brushy back hills, where the roads curved around old cattle ranches and classic Western movie sets. On the shoulder, we switched places. The car felt soft under me — all rubber and leather, wide. It was a car for the elderly. I took my foot off the brake. We rolled forward, slowly, then gaining momentum. Cole touched my arm.

“Penny for your thoughts,” he said.

“I’m not thinking about anything important,” I said, hands gripping onto the steering wheel like a lifeline.

It felt unnatural to be driving, after sitting in the backseat for so long. I hadn’t chosen a passive life (it had been given to me) and I was just starting to understand the ways in which I was allowed to take control. But this frightened me, watching the speedometer creep up past 20, then past 30, to hover at a limit that someone had once decided was safe for such a road. Sitting here with Cole felt strange, wanting to be with him felt strange, when I knew better than anyone else that it is never long before life takes you down different roads. I had wanted to be ready for this, and would readily pretend to be ready, if it meant finding some sort of meaning, even a meaning to work off of, like a wrong turn that brings you back within the confines of a map.

“What are you doing?” Cole cried.

I’d turned sharply into the brush on the side of the road, and braked. The front of the Buick crushed desert-dry shrubs and I said, “I think you need to drive now.”

As it turns out, I’d driven over a big rusty nail, and his car went to the shop. After they replaced his tire, they told him that gasoline had been leaking into his engine, effectively transforming his car into a bomb. One wrong turn could have caused it to explode.

After that, we didn’t do much driving. We moved at different rhythms when we weren’t on the road. Even after he’d kindly and firmly broken up with me, I found it hard to move forward at the required speed. By the time I’d gotten over him, Cole had already moved back to Texas and my learner’s permit had expired. I found myself sitting in the backseat of my friend Paula’s little car, singing along to moody playlists at the top of my lungs.

Paula drove with her left foot propped up by the window, a silver ring on each bare toe. She liked to drive, so it never took much convincing for her to take Hailey and I on late-night jaunts to Denny’s (the only thing that stayed open past 9 p.m.) and into the hills behind Santa Clarita. I stretched out in the back, head against one door and feet against the other and looked back at where we had come from, at the distant glow of Los Angeles.

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear. We all have a fantasy self, an image we conjure when we’re feeling insufficient. Mine is a witty girl who brings down the house at any party and never gets a ride from anyone. She’s in charge of her own destination and isn’t willingly relegated to the backseat. Paula and Hailey were the sort of friends who gave me license to believe these things, just as I gave them license to believe in their own fantasies. Within the next couple of years Hailey would be dead, Paula would move back to Arizona and I’d be in Chicago. But during those long drives our futures, and our beliefs about ourselves, were suspended. Nothing mattered but the next line of a song or the neon sign of an approaching fast food restaurant. We had come to college to make something of ourselves, but we did the real work in that car. On the road, we made our peace with what was possible.

Within weeks of moving to Chicago, I applied for a driver’s license. My aunt and uncle let me drive their red PT Cruiser to the grocery store for ice cream after their kids had gone to bed. The hills of Los Angeles couldn’t compare to the six-cornered intersection at Fullerton/Elston/Damen, where I regularly drove over the curb trying to make sharp, timely right turns with a legion of cars honking behind me. Soon I found a full-time job and moved out of my aunt and uncle’s place. My first Chicago winter was beginning. Even though both of my new roommates had cars, I let my permit expire once again.

As far as cities go, Chicago is relatively friendly to both drivers and non-drivers. It became second nature to me to add ridiculous cushions of time to the front and back end of events, calculating how much time and how many trains it would take me to get somewhere. I’ve been commuting long distances my whole life, so nothing made more sense than the steady rhythm of the train rocking down the elevated tracks toward my job downtown. I made friends with fellow non-drivers, and we laughed at the people we knew whose lives revolved around their cars, and where they were going to park them, and how much traffic they’d get caught in at rush hour. I felt like a true Chicagoan blundering around outside in subzero temperatures, instead of complaining about the weather from the heated interior of a car. The city was good to me, giving me trains that came on time and buses that stopped for me and friends who rode their bikes with me to Montrose Beach in the summer. Each time, it felt like a friendly nudge in the shoulder telling me I’d made the right choice.

In Illinois you’re allowed to get seven answers wrong on the written driver’s test. I’ve always had trouble identifying signs — last time I didn’t even recognize the universal sign for railroad crossings — so I spent a lot of time thinking about each one, their color and shape. It’s easy to get comfortable with a thought, until it comes time to put it into practice. I have never been nervous about the written test, just what it means — that the road is open to me, now, and I have to take it. On March 5th, I got five answers wrong, four of them signs. My new party trick is that I can’t identify upcoming railroads.

I’ve been driving outside the city in my boyfriend Jens’s Mazda, making too-wide turns and nearly crashing into other cars in the Home Depot parking lot. I am always terribly nervous when Jens turns to me and asks, “Do you want to drive?”, but he has a wonderful way of making me want to be brave. We stop at a gas station. He goes inside to buy a cup of coffee and I slip behind the wheel.

I move the seat up and adjust my mirrors. I put on my glasses so that I can read the signs. I am good at braking — sometimes I think stopping is the only thing I know how to do well — but I am getting better at moving forward, too. Sometimes I’m sure that I am following closely on the wheels of that fantasy girl who’s been my chauffeur for so long. Maybe this time I’ll overtake her.

“There’s no reason for you to drive so closely behind that car.” I catch Jens smiling as I turn to look at him for a split second before gluing my eyes to the road ahead.

Next time, then.

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about FX's Fargo. She tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of her writing for This Recording here.

"Would You Fight For My Love?" -Jack White (mp3)

"Alone In My Home" - Jack White (mp3)