The Pencil Today:


“Beauty is not caused. It is.” Emily Dickinson


Loyal readers of this space may remember my thoughts about one Hugh M. Hefner. To refresh, I lauded him for being the leader of the 50s and 60s avant garde knocking down the weird, crushing, Victorianesque walls surrounding sex.

On the other hand, I charged Hefner with creating an equally weird, crushing model of female beauty that was responsible as much as anything for maladies like anorexia, bulimia, and boob jobs.

Hef had a female doppelganger.

Helen Gurley Brown

Helen Gurley Brown did as much as Hefner to make sex okay some five decades ago.

Sex wasn’t invented in the 1960s, but it was transformed from a virtual criminal, borderline psychotic act.

Gurley Brown and Hef were the Mom and Dad of the rebirth of humanity’s second-most natural act.

Helen Gurley Brown died yesterday at the age of 90.

She called herself a “mouseburger” and she held high the banner for tens of millions of other mouseburgers, young women who were neither classically ravishing nor exotically gorgeous. They, too, Gurley Brown said, could be attractive, chic, and smart.

Smart, that is, in the fashion sense.

Like Hefner’s, Gurley Brown’s celebration of then-modern young women went only so far. A Playboy playmate, for instance, might have read “Catcher in the Rye” — maybe — but she had no idea what Marie Curie had accomplished.

More likely, Hef’s playmates, if anything at all, read “Valley of the Dolls.” Gurley Brown’s young women might have, too. No mouseburger, though, ever read “Catcher in the Rye.” In fact, a mouseburger’s most challenging choice in literature probably was, well, Gurley Brown’s own “Sex and the Single Girl.”

Valley Girls: Barbara Parkins, Sharon Tate, Patty Duke

Cosmo cover girls were as other-worldly perfect as Hefner’s centerfolds. Both Playboy and Cosmopolitan leaned heavily on the ministrations of air-brushers to make women spectacular.

Neither a Cosmo cover girl nor a Playboy playmate was a beautiful human being — she was a spectacle.

And tens of millions of young American women have stood on their heads for the last fifty or so years to become, themselves, spectacles.


What they never realized was that despite all the meals they’d ever thrown up, all the makeup they bought and tight jeans they squeezed themselves into, despite all the lips they had plumped up with botox and all the liquid-filled plastic bags they had surgically inserted over their own mammary glands, the bodies and the faces they possessed could never be air-brushed in real life.

Gurley Brown and Hef gave men and women permission to love other people’s bodies. But both made women hate their own.


The Loved One turned me on to Sarah Harmer.

Terrific singer-songwriter and, unlike Cosmo girls and playmates, her beauty — as Emily Dickinson put it — just is.

Here’s how I waste my time. How about you? Share your fave sites with us via the comments section. Just type in the name of the site, not the url; we’ll find them. If we like them, we’ll include them — if not, we’ll ignore them.

I Love ChartsLife as seen through charts.

XKCD — “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.”

SkepchickWomen scientists look at the world and the universe.

IndexedAll the answers in graph form, on index cards.

I Fucking Love ScienceA Facebook community of science geeks.

Present & CorrectFun, compelling, gorgeous and/or scary graphic designs and visual creations throughout the years and from all over the world.

Flip Flop Fly BallBaseball as seen through infographics, haikus, song lyrics, and other odd communications devices.

Mental FlossFacts.

The UniverseA Facebook community of astrophysics and astronomy geeks.

SodaplayCreate your own models or play with other people’s models.

Eat Sleep DrawAn endless stream of artwork submitted by an endless stream of people.

Big ThinkTapping the brains of notable intellectuals for their opinions, predictions, and diagnoses.

The Daily PuppySo shoot me.

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, games, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.


◗ IU Art MuseumNew exhibit: “The Twenty-Four Paragons of Filial Piety,” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi; August 14th through December 23rd; 10am-5pm

People’s ParkLunch Concert Series: Don’t Call Me Betty; 11:30am

◗ Corner of Sixth and Madison streets — Tuesday Farmers Market; 4-7pm

The Venue Fine Art & GiftsMohammed Mahdi & Anthony Duncan demonstrate soap making; 5:30-7:30pm

Unitarian Universalist ChurchAudition for the Bloomington Chamber Singers; 5:30pm

◗ IU Bill Armstrong StadiumHoosier men’s soccer; 7pm

Monroe County Public LibraryBloomington Mac Users Group meeting: Apple’s New Operating System; 7-8:30pm

Monroe County Public LibraryIt’s Your Money series: You’re an Adult, Now What?; 7pm

First United Methodist ChurchAudition for The Quarryland Men’s Chorus; 7:30pm

The Root Cellar at Farm Bloomington — Team trivia; 8pm


◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • “40 Years of Artists from Pygmalion’s”; through September 1st

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • “A Tribute to William Zimmerman,” wildlife artist; through September 9th

  • Willi Baumeister, “Baumeister in Print”; through September 9th

  • Annibale and Agostino Carracci, “The Bolognese School”; through September 16th

  • “Contemporary Explorations: Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists”; through October 14th

  • David Hockney, “New Acquisitions”; through October 21st

  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “Paragons of Filial Piety”; through fall semester 2012

  • Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan, “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers”; through December 31st

  • “French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century”; through December 31st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibits:

  • Coming — Media Life; August 24th through September 15th

  • Coming — Axe of Vengeance: Ghanaian Film Posters and Film Viewing Culture; August 24th through September 15th

◗ IU Kinsey Institute Gallery“Ephemeral Ink: Selections of Tattoo Art from the Kinsey Institute Collection”; through September 21st

◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit, “Translating the Canon: Building Special Collections in the 21st Century”; through September 1st

◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesClosed for semester break, reopens Tuesday, August 21st

Monroe County History CenterPhoto exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

Leave a Reply