Welcome to Maoist Orange Cake. Each week one of our Divas posts a thoughtful (but not necessarily serious) essay on whatever calls forth her Voice or strikes her Fancy. We invite you to join us wherever the discussion leads.
Motto of the MOC: Sincere, yes. Serious? Never!

"I would also like to add that ‘Maoist Orange Cake is possibly the best name for a blog ever. Just my twopence." -- The Sixth Carnival of Radical Feminists, 1 October 2007

The Twelfth Carnival of Radical Feminists is up at The Burning Times blog and mentions one of our posts, Helen 'Wheels' Keller, for recommendation. Orangeists spreading our zest!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


(Graffiti from Melbourne, Australia, photographed by Jill Posener)

I am this month's host of the 14th Carnival of Radical Feminists. Aside from spreading the news about that in general here, I want to draw attention to the fact that one of our divas, Kat, has a submission up at the Carnival: It's the post from BitchCraft entitled Housework, Gender, Being a "Wife". Good work, Kat! -- Maggie Jochild


Friday, May 2, 2008

LOLSHARKS: CATCH THE WAVE! -- by Maggie Jochild

Kat at her blog BitchCraft created a post introducing the concept of "LolSharks". I was inspired, and used the photo below to continue her tradition.

It can be viewed (and, if you are inspired, altered/improved upon at ICHC Vote Page.

Go for it!


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

help me make a brain cake, by little gator

A friend of mine who wishes to not be named has advanced MS and wants to have "a funeral for her brain" while it still works well enough to let her enjoy it. I am trying not to think about the reason for this party, since she wants us to enjoy it. We'll have forever to miss her when the time comes.

I have been given the assignment of making a brain cake. I got some useful info at
Make An Anatomically Correct Brain Cake.

But am already changing it around. Their marshmallow fondant is nasty-tasting and grossly sticky.

I found another fondant recipe from my old Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook.

The fondant I'm using is made of powdered sugar and condensed milk.

Mr Gator was assigned the writing of a short story on the topic of loss of brain function. One thing he may put in his story is a child in virtual reality with a robin's nest growing out of her brain.

(Robin's Nest, painting by Angela Woods)

So I've made a sample batch and made robin eggs and eyes. Light blue eyes, cause that's what my friend's eyes are like. Each eye is a ball of white fondant with a tinted fondant iris and a chocolate chip pupil. Any idea how long this will keep in the freezer?

I'm experimenting with shapes and sizes of pans for the cake itself. The page listed above has the cake as a lateral profile, but I'd prefer something rounder that looks like a view from above. As another friend said, that just looks "brainier." The top bit will be from a round-bottom pan and the whole brain will be cut into "hemispheres.'

I tried my mixing bowl but it was too deep and the inside didn't cook right. Maybe 2 layers, one in a flat round pan and the other in the mixing bowl, but not as deep?

There will be walnut halves in the batter. The cake flavor is unimportant but (sob) I can't eat chocolate so it will be chocolate free cake and icing.

Then I will assemble the cake and ice with pink/red buttercream. On top of that I will arrange coils of grey-tinted fondant looking like brain-wrinkles. Some of the frosting will show through between the coils. The eyes will be attached by red licorice strings, with maybe a bit of coconut shreds.

If I add the birds nest, it will be made of red licorice too.

Since my friend loves lolcats, I will submit the cake's photo with the caption "brain cake saw what you did there."

I welcome all advice.

(Knitted Brain, by Karen Norberg, from The Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art)


Sunday, April 20, 2008

HAPPY PESACH! -- by Maggie Jochild

When I lived in San Francisco during my 20s and 30s, the dyke political community that was my base was over 50% Jewish. Every Passover, we had a community seder, with a cobbled together haggadah, secular and feminist revisionism, and tons of singing. After the first one, I couldn't imagine how I'd gone my whole life without this meaningful watershed event. It became one of my top three holidays (along with Halloween and Rosh Hoshanah).

I love tsimmes, kugel, matzoh brei (the next morning), brisket, and charoses. I hate the taste of parsley (bitter indeed) and am not wild about wine. When we'd recount the Ten Plagues, we'd dip a finger into our wine and flick the drop onto our plates while shouting "Feh!" after each plague. We kept an orange on the seder plate, and we often included the Yemeni Jewish practice of flogging each other with green onions during the escape from slavery section of the story, which often turned into a free-for-all around the entire house. We stressed the role of Miriam, noting how powerful women are maligned and accused of anything under the sun to keep them from sharing leadership, and we set out a cup for her as well as Elijah.

But especially, I loved the songs. Below are my three favorites.

One is a hilarious rap remix of Dayenu done by a couple of yeshiva homeboys.

Eliyahu Hanavi is given a haunting rendition by the Vienna Jewish Choir, conducted by Roman Grinberg.

The last is Go Down Moses, sung by a genuine African-American radical, Paul Robeson -- the most sacred part of every seder for me.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Fighting Geoducks

Making good on my threat in the previous thread, here is a photo of Speedy Geoduck, mascot of Washington’s official hippie college, The Evergreen State College (don’t forget the definite article!).

The Geoduck Fight Song
by Malcolm Stilson, 1971
Go, Geoducks go,
Through the mud and the sand, let’s go.
Siphon high, squirt it out,
Swivel all about,
Let it all hang out.
Go, Geoducks go,
Stretch your necks when the tide is low
Siphon high, squirt it out,
Swivel all about,
Let it all hang out.

Digging for geoducks is not easy. They dig fast, and you have to wield your shovel even faster to catch one, hence the nickname “Speedy.” The word is pronounced “gooey-duck.” Don’t ask way; that’s just the way it is. After you’ve dug like mad and covered yourself with muck, this is what you get:

Don’t freak out too badly, it’s just a clam. Here’s what the TESC website has to say: The geoduck is a mollusk native to the Pacific Northwest. The geoduck is the largest burrowing clam in the world, weighing in at anywhere from one to three pounds at maturity. The appearance of geoduck’s large, protruding siphon has led to the belief that the geoduck has the properties of an aphrodisiac. The geoduck has a life expectancy of up to 150 years with the oldest recorded at 163 years.

When I was with Puddletown Dancers, the gay square dance club in Seattle, we gave a festival every year called the Geoduck Jamboree. Of course no one from the other clubs around the country knew what a geoduck is or how to pronounce the word. That was the whole idea; we were enlightening them. After about ten years, saner and more boring heads prevailed and the festival was re-named “Spin the Needle.” How tedious. Nevertheless, I still have a hot pink t-shirt depicting a geoduck wearing a cowboy hat. It’s an extra-small, and I’m not sure I can still squeeze my matronly body into it, but I wouldn’t think of getting rid of it.

No bad for an ugly bivalve.


Monday, April 7, 2008

Rock, Chalk,Jayhawk!

Jayhawk Baby goes for a 3 pointer as she celebrates
KU's win over the Memphis Tigers, in overtime, 75-68!!!

Okay, I know I'm probably the only one on this blog who even cares about this, but trust me, around here, we're pretty happy. Yes, I live in Missouri, but as Lawrence is only 4o miles away, and both my kids went to school there (one of 'em will even be graduating this December) Kansas is my school, then, now and always!


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Meeting in Ballard

Over at our birth-blog, Dykes to Watch Out For, the subject of a meeting of bloggers in the Seattle area has come up. A number of us live in the neighborhood of Ballard (home of the largest Norwegian Constitution Day parade this side of Bergen), so we have decided to meet in the restaurant at the historic Sunset Bowl at 1420 NW Market Street. The bowling alley, which has been around at least as long as I have, is closing for good in April, leaving Seattle with a total of five bowling alleys within the city limits. It will be demolished and replaced by— Well, if you know anything about the recent history of Ballard, it won’t be hard for you to guess. It’s a five-letter word that begins with a “c” and ends with an “o”. We will thrash out the details here among us Orangeists and Bechdel fans; if you can make it, you’re invited. All we really need to decide is the date and time. Considering the impending doom of the Bowl, it had better be the first week in April. I am not available on Saturday, April 5—Legislative District caucuses!


Sunday, March 23, 2008


At around this time last year, one of our Divas, Pam I., posted the above cartoon to Maoist Orange Cake. I'm bringing it back as an annual tradition. After the fold are several more cartoons and LOLCritters (many by our Diva little gator) which guarantee to puncture the solemnity of this holiday. Some are repeats from other sites, but hey -- a laugh is a laugh.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

HELEN 'WHEELS' KELLER -- by Maggie Jochild

(July 1888 in Brewster, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, showing eight-year-old Helen Keller seated next to her teacher, Anne Sullivan, as they hold hands)

A new photograph of Helen Keller has been discovered showing her (in 1888) at age eight with Annie Sullivan. It's the earliest known photo of the two of them together -- Annie Sullivan came to work with Helen in 1887. Much is also being made of the fact that it shows Helen with her "beloved doll", an item which did play a role in her breaking through the language barrier. I'm glad to see a previously unknown image of her, but I am also struck by the persistently inaccurate portrayal of Helen Keller.

When I was around nine, I saw The Miracle Worker on television, and besides getting a severe crush on Patty Duke, it spurred me to check out Helen Keller's autobiography, The Story of My Life, from our school library. It was a dense read; English, after all, was not her first language. Over the next few years, I read a couple more of her books. I felt a strong empathy with her, because as a child I was an invalid much of the time and language was my only doorway to the rest of the world. I could not imagine existence without the ability to communicate.

(Helen Keller with her pet terrier Phiz, 1902)

I was also intrigued because I had an uncle who had been rendered deaf by a fever at around the same age as Helen Keller, but our family did not have the money to hire help for him. Born in 1913 in rural North Texas, 33 years after Helen Keller, Uncle Joe had suffered tremendously as a child from not being able to connect with his family (my mother's side). At the age of seven, he was shipped off to board at the Texas State School for the Deaf (a campus only a few blocks from where I live now). He came home on holidays if there was money for a train ticket. Otherwise, the state school was his entire existence.

He was forced to learn lip-reading and speech, as was the custom in those days, and he was terrible at both. He picked up rudimentary sign language from the other students, not ASL or anything well-constructed because they were forbidden to sign, so it was an underground language. He was taught a trade -- shoe repair -- and when he graduated at age eighteen, he married another deaf woman ten years his senior and they moved to Brownwood, away from both their families, where Joe set up a shoe repair shop and Era gave birth to their only child, our cousin Florence Lou -- a child who was not deaf.

Uncle Joe felt abandoned by his family, at least the older members of it. He did stay in touch with his siblings, adopted and biological, including my mother. At least once a year, he and Era would arrive in a battered old car and spend a day or two with us. Uncle Joe was loud, monstrously atonal but also furious most of the time. Tall, lanky, dark-eyed and grimly determined to be understood, he would pound on the table and walls, stomp his feet, wave his hands and write pidgin scrawls on endless sheets of note paper to get meaning across. I was mortified by his inability to spell or even form letters correctly, at least at first. But I watched my mother's patience with him, how often both my parents laughed out loud at something he said, sending him into loony exuberant laughter as well when they got his jokes, and I relaxed around him.

I have a small photo of him at around age eight, sent home from the State School to his parents. He looks absolutely terrified.

By the time I was in high school, I was aware that Helen Keller was not any more subdued than Uncle Joe, although her language skills were infinitely better. Most people don't know she was a Socialist, a member of the Wobblies, and that the FBI had a file on her. She spoke out whenever she could about how class and race privilege were the only reason she was assisted from silence and darkness into connection with the rest of the world. She was also a suffragist, a fierce advocate for the rights of women and for birth control. And she had three passionately intimate relationships with women, "companions" who lived with her in what appear to be some version of Boston marriages: Annie Sullivan, Polly Thompson, and Winnie Corbally.

(Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan)

But the public portrayal and image of Helen Keller is her as a child, being rescued by Annie Sullivan with water cascading over her small palm and the word "wah-wah" bursting like a bottle rocket into her feral brain. We may know she went to Radcliffe, and that she wrote books, traveled around and spoke here and there as an adult (although the content of her speeches are seldom relayed to us, especially the political content). We hear she was brave, extraordinary, strong-willed -- but that's not a picture of a human being, that's the crip caricature, how disabled people are always reduced to an inspirational null. The same way Native Americans are viewed as either tribes before white contact or dwindling wretches hidden away on reservations, a dead or dying people. And women are identified by their appearance, their marital status, and whether they are mothers before all else.

(Helen Keller holding the Oscar she won for the documentary "In Her Story), 1954)

So, while I'm glad our knowledge about Helen Keller has been added to by this newly-discovered photograph, I want to balance it out with a picture of her as she lived the vast majority of her life: A woman deeply connected to other women, radical and vocal, using every means at her disposal to correct injustice. Here's an excerpt from a speech she made on television in June 1962, in connection to being awarded a medal of honor by President Kennedy:

"If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who represent him, if in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life that all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?"

"We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home; but are we to say to the world and, much more importantly, to each other that this is a land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettos, no master race except with respect to Negroes?"

There's a part of the Helen Keller story that seems to be all but buried: Annie Sullivan was not her first teacher. Before Annie's arrival when Helen was seven, she had 60 home signs to communicate with her family, apparently invented and taught to Helen by the African-American child of the family cook, a six-year-old girl named Martha Washington. In 1887 in North Alabama, Helen's family home (Ivy Green) was nominally no longer a plantation and its black workers were free, but Reconstruction had been sold down the river and nobody knew it better than the former slaves of that region. Yet it was one of their children who deserves at least part of the credit for keeping a doorway open in Helen Keller's hungry mind.

(Helen Keller reading in her home, 1956)

It is also important to remember that Annie Sullivan grew up an abandoned child, in dire poverty and hardship, and she was not much older than Helen herself. She was ill-equipped to manage life at Ivy Green, even without Helen as a pupil. It seems likely that she and Helen grew up together, in a sense. It also seems likely that she is the source of Helen's class consciousness education.

(Terry Galloway)

One of the chief mentors of my creative life has been Terry Galloway, an internationally-known writer, playwright and performer who was born hearing-impaired and also forced into lip-reading and speech rather than being given sign language. She founded Actual Lives, and like so many politicized disability activists, she has a love-hate relationship with Helen Keller. In 2002, Terry and her partner Donna Marie Nudd created a video comedy short, Annie Dearest, which has been shown around the globe. This is a black-and-white parody of the classic film The Miracle Worker, followed by a mock apologia by Terry. Annie Dearest has won major awards at International Festivals, was very favorably reviewed by BBC online and selected as one of the world’s 25 most “outstanding disability-themed films” produced in “the last five years” by Disability World.

One review of the video stated "Conceived by 'performance artist and playwright' Terry Galloway, it satirised the conventional view of the relationship between Helen Keller and her mentor Annie Sullivan, by portraying the Sullivan character as a brutal and cruel woman fiendishly obsessed with persuading Helen to say the word 'water'. A psychologist would probably conclude that our collective laughter at the young Helen having her head flushed down the loo was an important cathartic experience for us all. Others would say it was a clever dig at conventional notions of healing. Some would just say it was hysterical."

(Scene from "Annie Dearest")

Another review says "the video features gallons and gallons of wah-wah. The two-minute apologia that follows is a satire of another sort. Featuring the lip-reading video creator and her signing stand-in, it offers a critique under the guise of contriteness – addressing the outrage the video frequently inspires."

Outrage and hysteria -- I'd agree with both assessments. Do see Annie Dearest if you ever get the chance. It will act as antidote to the demure photographs and sanitized narrative of Helen Keller that have been pushed on us.

I'll leave you with a joke popular in the crip queer community:
Q: Why does Helen Keller masturbate with only one hand?
A: So she can moan with the other.

(Helen Keller, circa 1955)


Who's Helen Keller?, by Ruth Shagoury Hubbard, article in Teaching Tolerance magazine, Fall 2003

Helen Keller: Rethinking the Problematic Icon

How I Became A Socialist, from the Helen Keller Reference Archive

Works by Helen Keller at the Project Gutenberg, including The Story of My Life and The Song of the Stone Wall


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Don't Worry; Be Happy!

Maybe baby Molly is smiling because she's an Obama supporter, and it looks like he may be the nominee.
Maybe Molly's smiling because the Democrats have two good candidates from which to choose.
Maybe it's just because she's having a bath.
(Or maybe this is just an excuse for her grandmama to post a cute picture.)
But whatever the reason, she wants you to know that every once in awhile, life is good.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Goodbye, Aunt Gertrude

My oldest living relative died yesterday. She was 105, the last relative of my grandparents' generation, and my grandfather's sister. Aunt Gertrude was doing quite well until she was 102 or so, and had been quite confused since then.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hardware woes

A while back, I posted about my neighborhood. I was worried about its future, and upset that my hardware store was possibly closing. The update is that it is, indeed, going to close permanently. There's a sign up saying that they're going to have to sell off the last bits of stock, because Berkeley is unrelenting in its zoning bullshit. The sign also said that "Wells Fargo dealt the final blow." I don't know if this means WF the corporation not approving a loan or something, or if it means that WF the neighbor somehow lobbied the city against the hardware store.
I'm hoping to find out more, including whether any sort of campaign can be launched in support of Elmwood Hardware. I'm really upset, but feel totally impotent and unable to do anything....

I'll keep you all posted if anything happens, but I'm not too optimistic.....


Monday, February 11, 2008

One Hundred and Eleven

That’s how many Democrats showed up for my precinct caucus here in Seattle on February 9 at the Oddfellows Hall in Ballard. Four years ago we had thirty-six, and thought it was a big turnout. And this time, I was attending as Precinct Committee Officer and had to chair the meeting. I came armed with a large rubber mallet from my tool box to use as a gavel. I needed it.

But more important than a big stick was the help of my fellow caucus-goers. One elderly man (older than me, anyway) took the initiative to help pass out sign-up sheets and pens to the crowd, and ended up taking over most of the task. Another collected the sheets and checked that everyone had marked a presidential preference. The precinct captain for Obama at first came across as a bit over-assertive, but soon became an invaluable assistant to me and the tally clerk. Chairs were at a premium; I gave mine up to the secretary.

(The photo above shows a different precinct caucus at the Oddfellows Hall. They had 132.)

Counting took some time. With the tally clerk, secretary, and two assistants working at it, each vote was counted twice by two people. Then came the one-minute speeches (without timer) for each candidate. Captain Anne stood on a chair and gave a prepared speech for Obama. A volunteer spoke impromptu for Hillary. And I gave an impassioned oration in favor of “Uncommitted” as our only hope of leveraging some genuine progressive promises from the two corporate hotshots. Needless to say, I was wearing my John Edwards button, no longer for the man but for his program.

On second ballot, I don’t think anyone on the H & O Railroad changed votes. Obama made a big splash with four delegates to Hillary’s two. This turned out to be fairly typical of the 36th District, where Obama was more heavily favored than even in the rest of Washington State. On a national scale, of course, H & O are still in a dead heat for delegates. It ain’t over yet.

And what did I do? To begin with, I had been assiduous in reminding people as they signed in that “Uncommitted” is a perfectly valid choice. A fair number of people took it, and I am now the official uncommitted delegate from my precinct to the Legislative District caucus in April. I am keeping my fingers crossed for a brokered convention in August.

I have to say my inexperience showed. The Obama captain might well have done a better job of running the meeting, but I managed to get all the important things done. Now that I’ve gotten involved, I really like caucuses better than primaries. I met 110 of my neighbors (including at least four from my condo building whom I already knew), and we spent the afternoon doing real politics together. And caucuses, unlike primaries, let you vote for “none of the above,” as I did. It was a wild afternoon, and I wouldn’t have missed it. I say with good old Tommy J: I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending to too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.


Presidents Day song

I know it's not factually accurate.

to the tune of "Happy Birthday":

Happy Presidents Day!
Honest Abe freed the slaves.
George could not tel a li-ie,
So go buy a car!


Thursday, February 7, 2008

good grief

Here I am, horning in again, but I just finished David Michaelis' weighty tome "Schulz and Peanuts", and I am bursting at the seams to write about it. As a cartoon afficienado, I was eager to read the book, but found myself quite suprised in discovering how complex Michaelis' subject was. I always figured Charlie Brown was Schulz's alter-ego, but who knew that much of Lucy's character was based on his first wife, Joyce? Not to mention the acrimonious relationship of charlie Brown/Lucy Van Pelt was a reflection of the Schulz's long and troubled marraige.
Schulz, or "Sparky " as he was known to his friends, would undoubtably be called "depressed" by you or I, but Sparky eschewed this description in favor of the more romantic adjective of "melancholy". When his wife suggested he see a psychiatrist, he refused. "If I do that, I'll lose my talent," he reasoned.
Sparky instead worked out his issues in his strip. His insecurities were obviously, fodder for his art, but he also used the strip to process religious conflicts, family and business problems, even writing about an extramaital affair through the character of Snoopy, for Chrissakes! And all these years, people thought he was just making wry little comments on society...
Schulz could be warm and generous; he was suprisingly competitive, at times to the point of being bitter and vindictive. He eventually found a loving partner and a happy relationship, but his No. 1 partner, was the strip, to the exclusion of children, wives, friends and others. He did not "die well": although he had a deep religous faith, he stated he was angry at God for "taking this all away from me." "I wasn't ready", he said. "It's not fair"
All said, I found it absolutely fascinating. And the chapter on his death moved me to tears. Recycled strips from earlier decades still run each morning in my daily paper, 8 years after his death. Maybe it wasn't fair, after all. We're still not ready for a world without "Peanuts".