Lady Geeks Rise Up

Geek girl extraordinaire

Geek girls rule these days as never before. To wit:

She-nerds have found a place on the TV hit show, Big Bang. Summer blockbusters like The Avengers allow at least a few women into the elite circle of cinematic super heroes/heroines. There’s even a female-empowering Geek Girls Con in Seattle later this summer – a distaff response to the more male-oriented Comic Con.

But it wasn’t always this way. Women like Erika Peterman, now 42, were geek back in the day, before it was cool. The co-founder of and a writer for a CNN geek blog, Peterman recalls that she started with Betty and Veronica (“my gateway drug,” as she recalls) before moving on to brawnier specimens, including Wonder Woman.

Peterman spoke to I-nerd about her love of comic books and whether comics are still a (super)man’s world.

Q: How did it start for you?

A: I got into comics as a kid in late 70s. My mom knew I liked to read and sometimes we’d pass a convenience store on way home and she’d give me money. Archie was kind of my gateway drug – Betty and Veronica stuff. Somehow I got into Wonder Woman, probably because of the TV show. I started getting Wonder Woman comics on a regular basis. They took me down the rabbit hole. I discovered mainstream characters from DC Comics: Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman…. Those were the three that I gravitated the most toward. Continue reading

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Preach: Female Spiritual Leader in Syria

Before revolution erupted on Syrian streets, a quiet evolution was taking place among a group of devout Muslim women in Damascus. A female Muslim scholar was teaching women and girls lessons from the Koran at a religious school she founded and, while doing so, encouraging them to get a secular education and pursue leadership roles.

 The teacher, Houda al-Habash, is the subject of a new feature documentary, “The Light in Her Eyes,” which focuses on al-Habash’s efforts to let women and girls study the Koran formally and outside their homes, where they might otherwise be confined.

 A former Fulbright scholar who lived in Syria for a year and a half, filmmaker Julia Meltzer found al-Habash an intriguing mix – both progressive and traditional, doctrinaire and warm – but always compelling. Her film will air on PBS’s Point of View on July 19:

Q: Can you describe the work that Houda does? Continue reading

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Q&A: Beauty is Truth, Truth is Beauty

Fashion photographer David Jay first turned his lens to breast cancer almost six years ago, shooting photos of mostly young women who’d been through disfiguring surgeries. Now his exhibition, the much-lauded Scar Project, is traveling around the country. His photos are part of a recent book on the Scar Project, which is also the subject of a new documentary called “Baring it All.”

I-Nerd, who knows a little something about scars, recently interviewed David Jay:

Q: How do you manage to shoot beautiful photos that challenge conventional notions of beauty?

A: I really struggled shooting the Scar Project. As you know I’m a professional fashion photographer. I wanted the photos to be really, really raw and to be honest. But what I’m shooting isn’t really a beautiful thing to look at. I wanted to reveal this honestly. Unfortunately or fortunately, when the women I was shooting would come to my door, I couldn’t bear to take that very raw, not classically pretty picture. I knew why they had come on a certain level. They wanted something beautiful. They knew that I could do it, except that’s not what I wanted to do. It’s not about taking pretty pictures, it’s about taking honest pictures. Continue reading

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Sopranos Oral History Delights

Vanity Fair’s extended interviews with Sopranos cast members make for an all-consuming read, with James Gandalfini and Edie Falco expressing mutual admiration and other cast members’ weighing in on the show’s controversial ending. I-nerd felt a bit sad as Steve Van Zandt recalled filming the scene in which his character kills original Jersey girl Adriana. He hated having to drag her out by the hair, roughing her up take after take. We are reminded that hers was one of the few deaths where the camera (smartly, in my opinion) turned away. And remember Gloria, Tony’s unstable paramour? Now you can see her in a group portrait of the rubbed-out (in the print version of the article), noose around her neck, alongside Ralphie cradling his own head. The Sopranos, what a show! The photos aren’t so bad either…Fun, fun reading: Continue reading

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Q&A: Teacher Faces Down Lawsuit

Jim Corbett, a history teacher in Orange County, Calif., may have won the fight of his life earlier this year when a federal appeals court ruled in his favor on accusations that he violated a student’s constitutional rights.

Corbett had been sued by a student who said the teacher’s anti-Christian, politically provocative classroom comments were a First Amendment violation; the student had secretly taped the comments and later played them on Fox News.

In his first trial, a judge ruled against most of the accused violations but let one stand, possibly setting a precedent that would encourage other politically motivated lawsuits against teachers.

Earlier this year, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s ruling, siding with Corbett and most likely ending a four-year ordeal that brought him stress, hate mail and job uncertainties. Corbett is a former college football player who is known for running a tough AP class; over the years, his views have incensed some students and families while endearing him to others.

 Q: In essence, what did the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rule in your case?

A: Basically, the Court decided that I had qualified immunity so they never dealt with the gravity of the issues at all. They just said no reasonable person could have anticipated that what I said would have been actionable and as a government actor I had complete immunity…the lower court ruling was overturned and does not stand. Continue reading

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Rocking the Protest with State Radio

State Radio combines popular music with political protest, garnering fans that appreciate not only the band’s message but its tightly constructed, melodic mix of rock and folk laced with bits of ska and reggae. Recalculating the rock star’s all-about-me equation, State Radio members take part in service activities at soup kitchens and battered women’s shelters during the stops they make on tour.

Lead singer and songwriter Chad Urmston talked to Inerd recently:

Q: What first got you into music?

A:  I started trombone in 4th grade and so but always liked singing when we were younger. We had the soundtrack to “Hair,” and we played it a lot, also “Free to Be You and Me,” [laughs], then we got into The Who and Zep, Black Sabbath, Traffic, Jethro Tull, the good stuff.

Q: Seriously, Jethro Tull? Continue reading

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The Misbegotten Quest for a Mexican Diabetes Gene




In his book, Making the Mexican Diabetic: Race, Science, and the Genetics of Inequality, Michael Montoya argues that there is nothing Mexican about being diabetic, despite soaring rates of type 2 diabetes among Mexican Americans. In fact, Montoya says, high rates of diabetes can be found among disenfranchised people around the world, whether Aboriginal, Appalachian or Native American.

Evidence suggests the illness is the result of generations of oppression, poor diets resulting from dislocation, poverty and trauma, Montoya says. The solution is better food options, health care, parks, livable wages, and affordable housing. Continue reading

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