This week, the blogosphere asks why Christmas starts at Halloween, worries about new research on ‘broken heart syndrome,’ peeks at some early Oscar contenders and wonders whether we should, like Margaret Thatcher, find a coach to create a ‘voice of authority.’

  • Okay, what was the first Christmas carol you heard in public this year? And did you hear it before or after Halloween? We weren’t the only ones noticing; so was Sue Patterson, who writes in  A Life Full of Days:  “Don’t you kind of feel sad for Thanksgiving? It’s a full-fledged holiday, but it’s stuck in there between Halloween and Christmas.  A second thought for most people – unless you’re hosting the family get together! But the stores don’t care about it at all! People don’t spend tons of money on Pilgrim or Native American outfits unlike Halloween. People spend a LOT of money on costumes for their kids – and even their dog! We did! … I keep reading about stores that are going to be open ON Thanksgiving! Those poor workers!” Is someone you know among them?
  • Reasons we sometimes wish we smoked: the resulting low voice, according to recent studies, gets you taken more seriously, writes Ruth Graham at The Grindstone.  “Speakers with low voices are perceived as more attractive, honest, intelligent, dominant, and with higher leadership potential. …Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was advised by consultants to lower her speaking voice.” In one recent study, Graham adds, “Lead researcher Cara Tigue asked her subjects to listen to nine American presidents speaking in the higher and lower registers of their normal speaking voices. (She slightly tweaked the recordings to produce the different versions.) Then she asked her subjects to judge the snippets on the qualities above, like attractiveness and intelligence. In all cases, the subjects preferred the lower tones.” There’s more, including a possible silver lining, especially if you prefer women as colleagues.
  • When we first learned last year about ‘broken heart syndrome’ from WVFC cardiologist Holly Anderson, few were talking about it. But now everyone is, after a recent study described at Shape Magazine’s blog by Jennipher Walters. ” Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or broken heart syndrome, is real. And researchers have found that women are nine times more likely than men to suffer from broken heart syndrome,”  she writes. “Although it’s rare, Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is usually triggered by stress after a big emotional event. The stress causes an increase of adrenaline that stuns the heart and can cause chest pain, making sufferers feel as though they’re having a heart attack. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why women are more affected than men by broken heart symptom, but say it’s important that everyone — men and women — reach out for support when under severe stress or, you guessed it, heartbreak.”
  • Did you catch the documentary Miss Representatioin theaters, or maybe catch it on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network?  Our Alexandra Mac Aaron caught it, after much effort, at a Boston theater — with the tween daughter she describes in her blog Lovin’ the Alien. The two of them watch as director Jennifer Siebel Newsom “exposes how commercial media — and its pervasive and continued objectification of girls and women — lead undeniably to the under-representation of females in positions of influence and power. In the course of the 90-minute movie, we heard powerful first-person accounts from politicians, journalists, activists, entertainers and academics, as well as extremely articulate teenage girls. These young women were angry about their own potential in a world that values women (even Presidential and Supreme Court candidates!) based on how they look rather than their intellect and accomplishments.” Afterward, she writes, came ” the moment of truth. Did my daughter think I was preaching? Did she think I was overreacting? ‘That was so-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o good!’ she told me. Good? Yes, good. Good as in frightening. Good as in important. Good as in powerful. Good as in every mother and every young woman should get out and watch this movie.”
  • On her website, attorney, scholar and activist Urvashi Vaid outlines more of the thoughts she expressed at the recent Jane Jacobs Forum, which our Diane Vacca covered for WVFC. Vaid sees what she calls ‘blind spots’ in the honorees’ work: on industrialization for Rachel Carson, on gender variance for Betty Friedan, and gentrification in Jane Jacobs: “Though these books challenged some dominant frames, they benefitted from others, and left still others intact. But their silences also illustrate a persistent tension in those engaged in critical thinking about public issues – even disturbing ideas are often domesticated in some fatal manner by our own attachment to comfort, security, order, continuity and legibility.” Click over for her complete discussion, which goes deeper than her necessarily brief remarks would allow.
  • Who knew that Oscar shortlists are already being made? That’s true in the Best Documentary category, for which the shortlist includes 15 films out of the 124 originally under consideration.  How many were made by women? Only one-third, reports Melissa at Women & Hollywood,  who then lists the five by female directors. Looking them over, we’re not sure which one we’ll root for come February. We find ourselves interested in quite a few, including Suki Hawley’s Battle of Brooklyn and Rachel Libert’s Semper Fi: Always Faithful.  But right now, our bet — or sentimental favorite, at least —  is Nancy Buirski ‘s The Loving Story.  We dare you to watch the trailer below and disagree.