Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."



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Comments

Tom Strong

Thanks for linking to that, amba; I've been waiting to read that piece.

There is a pretty fair critique of Flanagan's essay here. I don't think it really demolishes her core point - that a teenage culture of sex without love is soul-killing - but it does provide some useful perspective, especially on hip-hop.

karen

Thanks for the post, amba. I'm not surprised. it almost amuses me to hear some moms and Grams fretting about the activities of their young ladies- if I weren't so sad about it.

It also amuses me when she says that it's the Republican puritans and the protection of blessed hymen that causes girls to act in these manners of self- preservation. It's all Bush's fault LOL.

I'd say *grow up*, but after all these many decades of Feminism- wouldn't one think we'd be there by now?

meade

Those boys are not getting good fathering. And neither are the girls.

uncle david

Female students in a middle school in a prosperous North Shore Chicago suburb recently experienced a significant outbreak of gonorrhea of the throat.

You don't get that by playing Spin the Bottle.

Great post.

Tom Strong

Karen -

It also amuses me when she says that it's the Republican puritans and the protection of blessed hymen that causes girls to act in these manners of self- preservation. It's all Bush's fault LOL.

Please. She also blames porn and hip-hop, not to mention new-wave feminism; all long targets of said Republican puritans.

Is it really impossible for you to imagine that maybe both the puritans and the hedonists are at fault here?

Alan

How do these young men come to think it's ok to treat their female counterparts like glorified sex dolls? And why would the girls let them? I can't help but think that this is a strange brew—the rue of cultural conservatism’s knowledge depriving abstinence movement mixed with the misogynistic rap and hip hop culture.

meade

"female sexuality is as intricately connected to kindness and trust as it is to gratification and pleasure."

that ought to be human sexuality...

amba

maybe both the puritans and the hedonists are at fault here

Hah! A truly centrist point.

And don't those two groups depend on and play off each other, batting the culture back and forth from one extreme to the other?

amba

Meade: keep talking. We need to hear men saying that. It doesn't work if women just keep nagging that men should be saying that. Males need to hear it, and the reasons for it, from other men.

meade

As you know, empathy is a learned art - no one is born with it. In addition, early on, to survive - to hunt and kill - males have had to suppress much of their learned empathy. Females, less so. But to survive in 2006, that has changed. When more women than men are taking college degrees (among many other sex/cultural shifts), learning to order our lives with compassion, kindness, and trust becomes essential for survival in the same way that learning to use the atlatl was to our earliest fathers.

Please bear with us, Amba... we're evolving as fast as we can.

amba

Meade, you'd like this book I blogged about earlier. It's far more empathetic to men than the title makes it seem.

meade

>...confirms my hunch that women can be more glib and facile with all this emotional stuff (because we're the experts, it's "our" stuff and we're socialized to swim in it) while men, who are not the experts, are often more raw and moving.

Posted by: amba | November 03, 2005 at 06:34 PM<

Darn. I could have just plagiarized you and saved myself a lot of typing.

Thanks, A. You're right - I will like that book!

karen

You know, Tom- it may be a mixture of both and all the other reasons mixed in, but who's exactly doing what these days? Meaning, the hedonists are doing and thoses Puritans (can a Catholic be a Puritan?) are mostly made of figures of the past, if you ask me. Old Dino's like Pat Robertson & Dobson that say outrageous things to todays' ears. Mine included.

I thought it was funny to add that part, that's all. Talk about Puleeease.

I also wonder if the need for women to *neuter* men- i.e. MoDowd, et al... and doing so publically to discredit the Patriarchial hierarcy has left the younger generations confused as to roleplay. Maybe the girls subconciously need the dominion of a father- I don't know if that's worded correctly- so they seek it elsewhere? Women and men are meant to be complimentary to eachother. I know times have changed and up here where i live- not so much.

rae

it always bothers me how these sorts of articles end up leaving the blame w/ the girls -- even if they're portrayed as victims of a hedonistic society, they're still the one's we're analyzing. it's almost a given that boys are mindless slaves to their own drives, and will take whatever they can get -- and this is considered NORMAL, whereas the girls' behavior is deviant. so we deplore these "lost" girls, while essentially letting their male counterparts off the hook -- you know, "boys will be boys"

karen

I guess I think girls should know better. I don't think they should be deplored, as you say, Rae- they are mourned... I feel badly that when girls are *taught* to protect themselves from the ruin of boys/males and seem to do otherwise anyway. I don't mean the pull of hormones, either. I mean that parents give info for the emotional and physical protection of their daughters- to save them from being used- and they don't listen.

I never listened, either. Do we subconsciously believe we deserve to be treated so callously?

amba

I don't think it's primarily hormones, at 13 to 15. Not that hormones aren't at work, they are, but peer pressure, popularity and the totalitarianism of the group is the most powerful force I can remember at that age. It's acceptance girls are seeking, IMO, paying for it in this coin which then becomes devalued.

meade

And I would maintain that the devaluing of that coin begins in the father/daughter relationship. Somehow we men have to learn that the responsibilities of fatherhood include valuing and respecting our daughters in ways equal to (though different from) our sons - not over-protecting them and treating them as our little princesses, but caring for them and being in love with them without condition, as we similarly value and respect their mothers.

Alan

I think what's disturbing is that this kind of behavoir just doesn't seem "natural" for 13-15 year olds. I mean, does anyone here remember anything like this going on when they were in junior high? That wasn't my experience (back in the late 80s).

At that age, kids are desperate to be grown-up. Is this what they consider being grown-up? And what does that say about us grown-ups?

Good God, we used to just smoke out by the train tracks when we wanted to be grown-up. Seems so innocent now...

karen

We used to smoke out behind the barn... when we got caught- oOOooooieee.

I never took up that habit, I'm sure in part of it.

As to the post and the value and acceptence of the girls- I would say Meade is square on this one.

We seek to be loved.

Pastor_Jeff

If you want to be truly horrified, read through this transcript of a Frontline episode from 6 years ago. The Public Health department in an affluent Atlanta suburb stumbled onto an epidemic of teenagers with syphilis, herpes and genital warts.

It turns out there was a city-wide teen sex ring. Some kids young as 13 were involved. Some kids had 50-100 sex partners. There were after-school parties where they'd watch the Playboy Channel and act out what they saw. Kids were involved in absolutely every kind of sexual behavior you can imagine.

And it turns out that the one of the biggest problems was parents uninvolved in their kids lives, feeling guilty about their overcommittment, and unwilling to say "No."

The best things parents can do for their kids is pretty much the opposite: stay involved, spend time with them, set reasonable boundaries, and hold them accountable for their choices.

Alison

What do I remember about being a 13-year-old girl? The simple willingness to go along with whatever was expected of me - within reason. But reason can easily be lost when you're among a large group of friends and 'everyone else is doing it.' Or even when you're alone with a popular boy that you really want to impress.

I wonder - are these parents talking to their kids about sex? That's where the Judy Blume characters got it right. The mother & grandmother took the time to talk maturely about the subject and gave real advice with concrete examples.

Are parents asking: What would you do in this situation? Let's talk about an easy way to say no or leave the party if this happens to you, etc.

I think kids get lots of definitions and lofty advice about sex but not as it relates to their world. And that's the hard part as a parent - being aware enough to know what their world looks like (because, really, what parent ever would have thought up this rainbow party nonsense if they hadn't read about it in a magazine?)

*Christopher

amba,

Here I am advocating in the gay male community a move toward "pleasure as an expression of love", what a great phrase, and a more "traditional" line of values and here the younger set is incorporating the worst of male sexual "values" and its taking hold among young women? I'm worried for these young women and young men. This isn't a human way to be. Shoot, even some animals are more attendant.

amba

Man, it's great to hear you are doing that.

Amber Stuart

I'm both perplexed and amused by the tone of both the article and the comments. I can't help but think that there is a severe generational componant at work, here.

You all seem shocked and dismayed at this behavior, seeking blame (the girls, the boys, their fathers, the society, gay men, George Bush) but you seem to be missing some important points.

These girls have a casual attitude towards oral sex. When magazines and websites bemoan the state of "the self-esteem problem with girls" here we have a way in which girls have found a way to improve their self esteem with little risk to themselves -- and you're screaming because they are being used?

I see both teenaged girls and boys in my practice, and I've noticed this trend since I started. It usually takes a while, but once you get them to open up they are quite happy to discuss this issue. BJs are seen by many of these girls as the "great equalizer", a way in which the less-popular girls can improve their social standing in the vicious world of girl politics. Do they form lasting relationships this way? No. But do you really want 15 year old girls forming lasting relationships? They see it as a low-cost, high-return way of gaining power -- power among their circle of girlfriends. Some even see it as a way of acquiring a valuable skill. When a homely 15 year old beams at me for the first time in six months because she finally "did it" with her boyfriend, removing the pressure for a more intense and possibly more damaging physical relationship, I can't help but wonder why you are so disgusted and alarmed at this? This girl was in serious trouble, suicidal thoughts, a scratcher, etc. based largely on her inability to establish any kind of power within her group. With this one simple act she catapulted herself out of the dregs of teenaged anguish and felt empowered in a way she had never before. Do you expect these poor girls to gain self-esteem in our oversexed culture from their embroidery or their homemaking?

And you completely ignore the effect on the boys. You blame them, but you do not appreciate the profound effect that having an acceptable sexual outlet has on a testasterone-poisoned 15 year old. I've seen boys who felt as tortured by low self-esteem as any scratcher turn around entirely when they finally got a girlfriend willing to "do it". Grades improve. Behavior issues diminish in some cases. And far from being more willing to objectify women, the act brings an awareness of the girls around them that isn't usually present until college.

Are their abusers? Sure. Do kids get hurt? Sure. Are there risks? Of course. But by indulging in this fairly harmless bit of sexual expression, both boys and girls are able to find some level of security in the punishing torment of adolescent hormones -- and no one gets pregnant. Tell them it's not a good idea, and you blow all credibility with them -- they have no problem accusing you (justifyably!) of hypocrisy.

The only people who see this as a problem are their parents, myopic feminists, and conservatives whose sexual ethic was formed in the 14th century.

amba

If this is satirical, it's pretty good.

Amber Stuart

It isn't satirical. I see these kids every day, and with all the other stuff they have to deal with, blowjobs are the least of their worries. As a matter of fact, they tend to be highly amused about their parents' generation's obsession with sex. While some apply the label "jaded" to them, I'd be more inclined to say that they have a more sophisticated perspective than their parents did at their age.

I'm amazed at how badly the parents of my kids blow it when it comes to discussing sexual issues. They start to late, cover the wrong stuff, and generally screw the whole thing up. One of my kids recently had "the talk" with her mother, who finally, hesitantly, when she was 16, brought up masturbation. The woman did it in the most obtuse of terms. The girl? She was on her second Jackrabbit, and lost all respect for her mom when she insisted that it was better to be a virgin for marriage. Why was she upset? Because it implied that she had to be married to have sex, which she knew from watching her mom's dating patterns was complete BS.

This is a complicated issue, and the view from the trenches is a lot different from the view from the heights. What do you say to a young girl about sex, when a lack of any sexual contact puts her in the back of the pack for prospective boyfriends, and a lack of sexual experience leaves her so totally outside of her peer group as to be ostracized?

amba

Amber --

Yeah, these kids have it tough -- they're in a war zone. As adults it's our responsibility to change the war zone. Too many parents, and perhaps counselors too, pander to the kids because they too want to be hip. Is the ideal of self-esteem and empowerment really a desensitization worthy of an experienced prostitute?

Kids their age are merciless to their peers at best. The only way to use the body and genitals as weapons in that war is to detach from them. When you've cut yourself off from yourself like that how do you reattach your nerves to your soul or psyche? Let the next generation go back to torturing each other over fads and fashions. Those years are to be gotten through with as little deep damage as possible. Adults long ago abdicated the responsibility to protect kids during them, because they want to be hip, because they're voyeuristic and exploitative, because they want to be liked rather than to be parents.

No wonder kids have lost all respect for adults. At that age it's normal on the surface to think your parents are clueless, but underneath that there's a longing for them to be strong and to have confidence in their own values. That's where my generation, the baby boomers, are pretty severe washouts.

Amber Stuart

Can't argue with your assesment of modern parenting -- especially Boomers. In my experience the later-than-Boomer parents tend to be a little better equipped as parents, meaning that they don't necessarily try to be a hip older buddy first and will have less problem being parental. But Boomers have had a poor, poor track record. My Boomer parents tend to be highly self-absorbed, overly critical, preachy, and profoundly hypocritical. And as far as "changing the War Zone", that will only happen when the "do as I say, not as I do" mentality of the Boomers. Of my client base, fully 60% or more of my kids come from Boomer parents.

But I hesitate to use the terminology implicit in "war zone". These girls -- and boys -- are not using their bodies and genetalia as "weapons" in my experience. They have the hormone-fueled sexual desire without any parental-acceptable method of sexual expression. Is it no wonder that they make it up on their own?

I'd have to disagree with your characterization of their sexual expression, even through something banal like blowjobs, as necessarily desensatizing. Here is where the generational element comes in: perhaps it is due to overexposure to sexuality at a young age, but these young women do not, themselves, view what they do as degrading, dehumanizing, or otherwise derogatory.

One of my kids, call her Daisy, is the sweetest little 16 year old ball of sunshine you ever saw. By the standards of previous generations, she is a "slut", even though she has had intercourse with only one guy. She engages in oral sex with a few boys every week, and . . . enjoys it. She really does. She's looked up techniques and variations on the net, swapped hints with other girls, and otherwise pursued this "hobby" with enthusiasm. Her mom and stepfather are decent parents, but they are aghast at their daughter's proclivities.

She, on the other hand, thinks that her parents are prudish conservatives who "just don't understand". This is a highly intelligent (AP level) High School student, good grades, healthy extracirricular activities -- and she sees it as her personal mission to "make boys feel good." She has an almost religious zeal about it, and uses what she has seen in Cosmo and Sex and the City, as well as frequently quoting prominent 60s and 70s feminists, as justification for what she does. If a boy treats her with anything but the greatest respect, he is cut off. She sees what she is doing as the culmination of feminist theory, a woman in full possession of her sexuality using it as she deems without being controlled by her parents or a man.

You can't argue with her that what she is doing is morally wrong -- she's pretty sophisticated when it comes to moral philosophy, causing me to run to the net after a session to look up something she's quoted. You can't argue that she is degrading herself, cheapening the sexual experience and ruining her future enjoyment of it -- I made that mistake early on, and she pounced, asking me about my own first sexual experiences and asking if they had been ideal, then challenging me to find any one woman out of ten who had a good, positive sexual experience the first time. You cannot challenge her on the legality of it, as she insists she never does a guy older than 16. She has no tolerance for "psychospeak", insisting I say what I mean, and cutting through the BS in a way that would be refreshing if it wasn't so maddening.

Daisy insists that the current feminist condemnation of adolescent sexual expression is a hypocritical reaction to the logical course of events that the Feminist Movement itself set into motion. How can we tell a girl to be in control of her own body, and then condemn her for exercising that control in a way we don't approve of? As astounding as it might seem, Daisy considers herself a true feminist, a fully-possessed young woman who will do what she wants with her body, and fight anyone who tries to interfere.

Sure, Daisy is an articulate and precocious young snot who delights in out-thinking her parents and teachers (and me!). But what she articulates is representitive of the attitude that most of my "BJ girls" (I have about 11) share -- and it extends in some cases to other girls. Is it wrong for them to experiment with oral sex with their female peers as they sort out their sexuality? Yes? No? If no, then why is that any better than doing it with boys? If yes, then when do they sort out their confused sexuality? In college? Most think that is too late by then.

I think we need to look at this "problem" a little more wholistically. We cannot condemn their behavior and have them listen without a good, logical, and compelling reason to do so. "Oh, that's so degrading!" doesn't work -- Daisy's answer: "Well, is it degrading when Mom does it?" "Did she always love the guy when she did it?" "How are we girls supposed to get any good at it if we can't practice?" "Why can't I make my own mistakes like you guys did?"

Uncomfortable questions. And pat answers don't work -- they can smell BS a mile away.

amba

I guess the primary answer I would have to that is that they're too young. Granted that they're older than we were when we were that age -- they've been both pressured and temped to grow up in a hurry, especially sexually. And granted that in premodern times they'd already be working adult jobs and having babies (and preparing to die in their early 30s). But there's SO much going on between 13 and 16, so much change, so much social intensity and agony -- throwing sex into the mix is being on your back or on your knees before you have a chance to get on your feet.

Yes, kids that age need a sexual outlet. What's wrong with masturbation? I'm with Joycelyn Elders on that one. It gives girls a chance to get to know what their bodies like and how they work before focusing on "making boys feel good."

And my second objection (which granted isn't much use "in the trenches") is about what you want sex to be and say and mean. Do you really want it to be the coin, pretty literally the small change, of social status negotiations? Or do you want to save it (I know how Christian that sounds!) for something more concentrated and intense? (I don't mean marriage.) Is it ever going to be as powerful and whole-self an experience if it's been sprinkled around so much?

Unfortunately it seems to be either this or Christian "chastity ring" ceremonies. There probably is a happy medium, it may even be where most kids are, but of course we don't hear about it.

Amber Stuart

You just hit on my essential dilemma. Would it surprise you that two of the girls I see are here because they were caught "excessively masturbating" by their parents? Most of my clients are from middle-class/upper-middle-class backgrounds, without hardcore Christian morals, but even among these "enlightened" folks, catch little 14 year old Sissy with a vibrator and suddenly the world is coming to an end -- one father actually expressed to me his fears that such activity would lead his daughter to lesbianism!

And the kids are hipped to the "too young" argument, with one of my little darlings actually bringing in historical perspectives on childhood and adulthood throughout Western history, and anthropological case studies about tribal peoples who become sexually active adults in their early teens. She maintains that our current sexual schizophrenia is an unhealthy social abberation that is inherently flawed and doomed to the ashbin of history.

But I wasn't joking about the effects on boys, either. Only about a quarter of my case-load is male, but there is a profound difference between the guys who are sexually active (meaning they have been the beneficiary of Daisy and her spiritual sister's oral attentions) and those who are not. The former tend to be less prone to discipline issues and social pressures, less likely to dehumanize women, and more devoted to their studies, than the latter -- saving the ones who are struggling with their sexual orientation, that's a whole seperate issue.

I swear, I wonder sometimes what our world would be like if all teenaged boys had a socially acceptable method of sexual expression (and the power of masturbation to quell their obsession with sex is limited, at best).

As much as we focus on the girls' issues in this matter, almost no one has looked at this from a boy's perspective.

Charlie (Colorado)

Annie, I tried this earlier in a comment that was somehow truncated, and I never got back to it. Remember I said "I was born 35 years too late"? You sort of dismissed it ("you guys") and we never got back to my real and serious point: I, at least, have never felt I got enough physical affection. Not orgasms, orgasms are cheap and easy and I'm quite expert, at 50, in finding them myself. But hugging, kissing, cuddling ... and here you are with this "cuddle puddle". I'd have given my left, erm, arm to have been in that group.

(There are plenty of reasons here, from childhood issues to my parents to being a math/science prodigy, but the point is that it was happening when I was 15 and I remember it even today.)

Beyond that, you know, I'm having a little trouble identifying what the big differences between 1970 and now are supposed to be. Okay, oral sex --- but I'm pretty sure I was "getting to second base" at 15 or 16, and "third base" at 17, and I was a geeky nerd late starter. Is there that great a distinction between a 16 year old blowjob and a 16 year old handjob?

There's a third point here: 16 wouldn't have been considered an unreasonable age for marriage in 1900 --- when the average age of menarche was nearly 16. Now the average age of menarche is between 13 and 14, but we're thinking marriage (and, implicitly, the age of beginning sexual activity) is too early if it's earlier than the 20's.

We've got 4 billion years of evolution saying "Have babies quick while you can", and 50 years of social changes saying "wait 10 years between sexual maturity and sex." Personally, I think evolution is always going to win that fight.

Tom, I've got to argue with you, though. First, this notion that "sex without love is soul-killing" --- do you have any particular evidence for that, other than observing that women who are dismissed as "sluts" in our culture tend to be marginalized?

amba

I'm pretty sure it wasn't Tom who said "sex without love is soul-killing."

Tom Strong

No, it was me - though the full quote was "a teenage culture of sex without love is soul-killing." Not the same thing, exactly - I'm actually fine with casual sex, as long as it's relatively safe.

That said, I don't think I wrote that very well anyway. For one thing, I definitely don't mean "romantic love" when I say "love." If anything, I mean something more like "kindness." And as I've said in other posts, I think there's no point in trying to bottle up adolescent sexuality, for much of the same reasons Charlie describes. Nor do I really believe that times have changed and kids are having much more sex, of whatever variety, than they used to. Everything I've read about the past suggests otherwise.

But I do think adolescence is often a dangerously loveless time for many people. That lovelessness can easily translate into a lot of *bad* sexual encounters, especially when you throw in typical teenage immaturity and inexperience. And while I believe the problem is mostly on the boys' side of the coin, I think girls are as or more likely to suffer for it.

Amber Stuart

The teen years can be a loveless time -- or at least perceived to be loveless by those suffering through it. It's all too easy for us as adults to either dismiss these feelings, because in retrospect we realize how silly we, ourselves, were silly back then, or to overreact to these feelings in our teens and make them a point of focus that can all too easily be converted into long-term issues.

When the teen reaches that point where they realize that they are a sexual being, and they begin examining the scope of those feelings, they are measuring themselves by adult standards. Without decent role models and guidance its easy for their tender egos to get mangled -- and parents, for the most part, completely abrogate their responsibility in this realm.

The issue is not teen girls giving blowjobs to teen boys -- the issue is that our culture still has a view of sexuality that is reactionary, ill-informed, and intellectually dishonest. We see these poor kids searching for love and intimacy and we, as a culture, freak out when we discover that their sexually mature bodies are pushing their biological urge to "find a mate" when we want our society to sweep the ugly little secret of sex under the carpet, turning an intimate creative expression of ourselves into a thing of shame and guilt and remorse.

Why is sex without love so anathema in our society? Because of a thousand years of patriarchal religion? Because of Victorian ideals about the nature of romantic love that were BS even in the Victorian age? Because of that pesky Madonna/Whore complex? Sex is many things to many people, and I see condemnation of someone's sexuality because it doesn't adhere to a narrow and preconceived notion of what sex and love "should" be as an unfair judgement. We equate sex and love because sex inside marriage, wherein the parties are supposedly in love, has been the only socially acceptable manner in which sexuality may exist, at all. That this situation is the exception, generally speaking, rather than the rule, hasn't deterred us from using it as a nearly impossible-to-reach ideal and standard by which we measure all sexual expression.

Only reality doesn't look like that. In reality people have bad sex all the time. Married couples have a lot of bad sex -- just ask my Dad. He loves my mother dearly, but . . . Sex is a highly complex dance of emotion, physiology, psychology, and social issues. "Good" sex doesn't just happen -- and it almost never happens the first few times. It is an art and a skill, and it must be learned -- but in our society we actively discourage teaching people about it until their late teens, early twenties, and by that time so much damage has been done that many people never have "good" sex. In fact, it's illegal to show a minor a picture of a naked man or woman, and a parent who undertakes to do so has a decent chance of being arrested for child molestation or corrupting the morals of a minor. Even very frank discussions of a parent's own sexuality has been used in court against them in child custody cases.

It's frustrating. And we put so much social and cultural baggage on it that it's no wonder these kids are figuring it out on their own. The pressure is unbearable, which only adds to the inherent angst in sex. Yes, teens will have bad sex in their quest for their own authentic sexuality -- but bad sex is how you learn to have good sex. And trying to "protect" them, once they have started investigating, does them no favors.

Andoy

This behavior is being largely fueled by the barrage of sex-laden TV and print media which seems as its ultimate goal the
quick maturation of teenagers.
Values have been left in the dust as the stuggling teen attempts to validate his/her self-worth by engaging in a distasteful act. Truly a pity.

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