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    Wednesday, August 31, 2005

    Religion Is The New Sex: Show Me The Science

    My partner, A, does not agree with my post on Teaching Creationism below. The second thing I heard when I got home.
    So, let me clarify. I don't think that creationism and intelligent design are of equal scientific merit with evolution, but I don't really care. I am willing to have high school students hear an assemblage of ideas: some scientifically sound, some not, in order to appease the religious Right, who are trying to eradicate or roadblock freedoms for women, LGBT people, and minorities. This is a sacrifice I don't have a problem with. Here's a bit about why.

    Daniel C. Dennett explains the damage that could result from the teaching of creationism and intelligent design:

    First, imagine how easy it would be for a determined band of naysayers to shake the world's confidence in quantum physics - how weird it is! - or Einsteinian relativity. In spite of a century of instruction and popularization by physicists, few people ever really get their heads around the concepts involved.

    Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins agree.

    But, what would happen if a "band of naysayers" confused those "people [who] [n]ever really get their heads around the concepts" into disagreeing with Einsteinian relativity? They'd go around saying, "I think Einstein was wrong!" Scientists would go about their business, microwaves would still come down the assembly line. Same with teaching creationism. Some small group of confused people will throw out the compendium of scientific evidence their teachers provided on evolution in favor of the flimsy proof supporting creationism (which would take about 20 minutes and a handout.) They will go around, as they do already, saying, "Darwin was wrong! Evolution is bullshit! Things started in Eden!" And scientists would go about their business, relying completely on what they know to be true. Nobody gets hurt.

    And before someone thinks this is because I don't care since science isn't my field, I feel this way about literature as well. Let the kids read some total trash novels, if it means they'll read. Let them write book reports praising the worst writing of all time. Just don't let them be writers or critics. And, most likely, the people who like bad books won't have the desire to be writers or critics anyway. And, as with the intelligent design guys, the bad book lovers will only go so far in the academy even if they go there.

    So, we give in and throw a bone to creationism in high schools. No one gets hurt. We give in and throw a bone to parental consent laws. Girls get thrown out of their homes, live on the street, prostitute themselves, and die. The choice, to me, is simple.

    Religion Is The New Sex: Teaching Creationism

    Laurie Goodstein runs down the new Pew study in the Times, which finds that almost two-thirds of Americans want creationism taught alongside evolution in schools. A lot of Left bloggers have a serious problem with this. But I must confess that I don't really get it.

    Okay, so we teach creationism in school. We don't replace evolution; we supplement it with its opposing theories. If the evidence is so compelling, students will be more likely to believe in evolution. Otherwise, we have the very same students learning one thing at home and one thing at school.

    We Dems keep talking about reaching out and compromising and learning from the strategies of the Right, but it seems the only thing anyone wants to sacrifice or compromise on is women's rights (see today's post on Iraq). I'd rather this than abortion or gay rights. And we are at a point where we're going to have to sacrifice something.

    Concerned Women for America Concerned About Girl Scouts of America!

    Check out these devil spawn above.

    I LOVE these folks! They rip the coffee from one hand and Thin Mints from the other.

    Here is a tasty sampling of the deviant teachings of the Girl Scouts:
    A female deity
    Equating homosexuality with race
    Rejecting ex-“gay” counseling and ministry
    Opposing the Gospel
    [Implying that]deafness might be better than hearing
    School[ing] in lesbian advocacy
    Seeking power, above all
    Anti-male stereotyping

    I really wish there'd been a Lesbian Advocacy badge.

    I was particularly amused by this bit:

    “The sister warrior who helped me to fight my own homophobia and heterosexism in my life … was Audrey Lore. It was at Hunter College where we were both faculty members that she was my teacher. Let me share with you how Sister Audrey would often introduce herself. She would say I’m Audrey Lore, a black woman, lesbian, feminist, poet, professor, mother.” Audrey Lore? These people need to improve their research techniques to truly know their enemy.

    Another highlight: The girls are apparently and approvingly supposed to be self-driven and equality-oriented, with minimal adult supervision. APPROVINGLY SELF-DRIVEN!! No wonder CWA are anxious.

    Quantity or Quality? Gays on TV

    GLAAD's new study shows that there were 16 lesbian, gay, and bisexual characters on network television last season. 13 were men, 3 were women. 13 were white, 3 were people of color (one Black, one Latino, one Asian).

    Pretty dismal, but don't be too quick to envy the white guys:

    There's always cable with a total of 15 gay male, nine lesbian and two bisexual female characters.

    My only post on Katrina

    because I have absolutely no clue what to say.

    Check this out on Eve's Apple.

    Himland- Democracy Without Women

    Nancy Soderberg talks women's rights in Iraq in Salon.

    I've heard a lot about the comment of Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA official, on "Meet the Press" the other day:
    women's social rights are not critical to the evolution of democracy.

    Then, what is "democracy"? According to dictionary.com:

    1.Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.
    2.A political or social unit that has such a government.
    3.The common people, considered as the primary source of political power.
    4.Majority rule.
    5. The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.

    The fact that none of these specifically mention women implies that "the people" include people of all genders, as does the term "the individual". I love the fact that "women" do not appear here- it means we are truly integral to society, not some other group who needs to be accounted for separately.

    Now, Mr. Gerecht certainly was not speaking for the government in any official capacity, but it is clear that he is contributing to a larger media effort to lower expectations in America for what can be achieved in Iraq. Because the rights of women are such a complicated and controversial issue in Iraq, he has to talk about this issue as relatively unimportant, because the American people are already mad enough about the war. The last thing we want is to find out our troops are dying so they can go back to a new and improved version of what they had before where women are concerned.

    All that said, 25% of seats of Parliament will be held for women, which is certainly a step up from the US.

    Apparently, this stood out to other folks too

    See my post on men observing childbirth and check out other discussion on Slate and The Examined Life.

    Meghan O'Rourke writes:
    The bloggers clearly felt that the men's desire (or lack of it) was objectively wrong, like that of a pedophile or a rapist, and ought somehow to be controllable. The animus against these men illuminates how powerful even relatively new cultural norms can be—and how dramatic the conflict is between what we think people should want and what they actually do want.

    First, I don't at all believe that the desires of pedophiles or rapists are "objectively wrong", but I do believe that child molestation and rape are wrong. Desire, in and of itself, is not what is being judged here. Second, like Ms. O'Rourke, I find one of the most fascinating things about sexuality to be the way in which one's desires avoid confirmation of one's most deeply-gripped beliefs.

    But here's the thing about the lack of desire these men feel: when women express a lack of desire for sex after childbirth, it is treated as something they must simply "get over", despite the fact that their bodies have gone through a seriously intense nine months, whereas the mainstreaming of these men's experiences via The New York Times legitimates them and comforts men in wallowing in something they should do everything in their power to get the fuck over.

    I do feel a certain amount of sympathy for men in that desire is trained in them via bizarre impossibilities from childhood and many spend their lives trying to reconcile actual sex with the sex they were schooled to want. But men can rise to the challenge or they can complain about the lives they feel trapped in, just like women can, and are expected to.

    Women learn to "settle" early on. These men feel entitled to rapt sexual frenzy. Women learn to find what's desireable in a man they care about. Men learn that months or years later, when their child pops out. It's those moments of arrested development that make women comment on how stupid men are.

    And finally, I think a lot of what I feel is sadness for the woman who thought she had a partner and found out she had a husband.

    "Painted Out of the Picture"

    Natasha Walter valiantly tries to defend women artists in the Guardian. I'm glad I wasn't the only one who noticed the absence of any work by women on the Britain's favorite paintings list.

    Having a conversation with a male friend about literature the other night, I found myself surprised by his inclusion of three female writers on his list of all-time favorites (Marguerite Duras, Edith Wharton, and, of course, Virginia Woolf, for the curious). It seems rare for a man to cite women as his favorite artists, writers, filmmakers, etc. I wonder if this is becoming more common as certain women are introduced as canonical in their fields. But it still stands out to me.

    Walter points out, quite rightly, that many women do their work in multimedia, video, and other forms which are less culturally-honored than painting, so women get the shaft.

    What's interesting though is how common women are what is painted, written about- often the women in these works seem fascinating, complex, and intelligent. Take this by Ford Madox Brown, The Last of England, which feautres most memorably the woman in the foreground, at once introspective and in contemplation of the sadness in front of her, as opposed to the man on her right whose eyes are rather glazed (I choose this particular piece as it is one of those in Radio 4's Top 10 British Paintings). Or Anna Karenina. Yet, women manipulating the images of and language around women has always seemed somehow aesthetically distasteful to many men, critics, artists, and laypeople. Even during the heyday of women's domestic novels, they were "popular" fiction, rather than literary works; sound familiar?

    Painting at the top: Jopling's Dear Lady Disdain-exhibited in Fine Arts Palace, 1893 Exposition. See, there were British women who could paint.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2005

    HEALTH ALERT (courtesy of My Amusement Park)

    This is one of the several things I am self-righteous about. I have NEVER, EVER taken an antibiotic. So, if the world is blighted by an incurable illness thanks to all of you downing pills for an earache, I will be annoyingly I-told-you-so about it. Of course, I'll be incurably sick too, so smugness will be my only remaining joy.

    In other smirking, my parents knew not to feed me trans fats too. Nah nah nah.

    But seriously folks, don't take 'em unless you need 'em and don't eat hydrogenated oils either. Okay?

    Snyder Shocker

    Excuse my NY Post-like headline here, but The Times has endorsed Leslie Crocker Snyder for Manhattan DA!

    The Politicker has this to say:

    It's one of a number of exciting downballot races -- Borough President and City Council in Manhattan, D.A. in Brooklyn in particular -- that seem likely to raise turnout in ways that could help Gifford Miller and Virginia Fields.

    The more white and African-American Democrats in Manhattan and Brooklyn go to the polls, the less likely it is that a Hispanic surge for Ferrer will push him over 40%.

    I hope that's the case, but I'm excited regardless. For one, the NY Times has branched out a bit, thinking beyond the reverence for Morgenthau that permeates the press (particularly "respectable" outlets like NYT). And two, given that The Times has the power it has in city politics, LCS might actually have a (admittedly long-shot) chance of ousting the geezer- and how cool is it to have woman as DA! (And she's actually- aside from the death penalty thing- pretty awesome. This is no C. Virginia.)

    It's Getting That Bad, People

    Read this slowly and believe every scary word of it:

    Texas doctors who perform abortions without parental approval or after the third trimester could face capital murder charges because of a new law that takes effect this week. Mmmm-hmmm.

    But, don't worry. Elizabeth Graham, director of Texas Right To Life, says the chances are "very slim" that a district attorney would try such prosecution.

    Monday, August 29, 2005

    Passion and the Prisoner

    This article brings me uncomfortably close to Daphne Merkin. We've all had our crushes on famous killers, Daph, but we don't go around writing about it in The Paper of Record. But thanks for the new vocab word: the sexual excitement of being with a violent person (also known as hybristophilia).

    Personally, though the evidence against him is far from conclusive, I'd pick Lee Harvey Oswald.

    My Amusement Park LOVES Advertising!

    After falling over backwards with glee over Ellner's campaign spots, I now have to applaud New York magazine's new scheme to replace their subway ads daily.

    Gawker makes fun: Because that’s the big problem with waiting for the train: Not enough new reading material. But I like having new reading material!

    The Only Candidate With Pink Signs

    Brian Ellner appears with his partner in a new campaign ad . Click here to watch it.

    From his website:
    After Dartmouth, Brian attended Harvard Law School where he graduated cum laude. At Harvard, Brian worked as a research assistant to Professor Laurence Tribe, and worked to overturn Proposition 187 in California (which attempted to deny undocumented persons access to critical public services) and Amendment 2 in Colorado (which sought to overturn gay civil rights ordinances that had been passed in Denver, Boulder and Aspen). Both laws were invalidated. Brian also spent one semester working at the ACLU's Women's Rights Project in New York, where he worked on the Citadel case in an effort to end that school's discriminatory admission's policy. He also worked on a case that challenged a police department's failure to aggressively pursue domestic violence.

    During his summers at Harvard, Brian worked at the United States Department of Justice in the Civil Rights Division. During those summers, Brian traveled to Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, investigating allegations of discrimination and abuse of minority students, and he worked on several desegregation cases.

    Okay, Bri, I may have to give in and vote for you.

    Miller vs. Weiner

    The Times on Miller vs. Weiner:

    The Miller-Weiner rivalry is becoming the contest to watch within the wider Democratic primary. And their battle was perhaps inevitable, given the pivotal nature of ethnic politics in the city: Messrs Miller and Weiner are the two white men in the four-candidate Democratic pack. The others - Mr. Ferrer, who is Hispanic, and Ms. Fields, who is black - are relying heavily on their ethnic bases, yet have failed to show much upward momentum in recent opinion polls.

    Now, I don't want to diss Weiner, as he's my second choice, but I have a hard time with the idea that the 10% income tax cut is really that exciting to people. I'm not saying I won't enjoy paying lower taxes, but 10% of what I pay to the city is really so tiny. And, if it were used well, I don't think I'd prefer to have it in my pocket- pay the teachers and cops, or, hell, pay my grad school tuition at CUNY if you really want me to have this cash.

    Of course, I don't have kids. I may be in thousands of dollars of debt, but I don't have kids. And perhaps the equation makes a difference: tax cut = (pair of shoes + jeans + package of underwear + lunchbox) x 4 kids?

    But again, if I had kids, I think I'd be pretty stoked about 17 seats via Miller.

    Saturday, August 27, 2005

    Can We Admit He's An Asshat Now?

    The most-loved-by-liberals of all Republicans, McCain shows his true colors once again, coming out in support of the Arizona Marriage Amendment.

    I don't want to hear another word about how he should have been Kerry's running mate- this guy is bad news.

    Putting Marriage In Its Place

    Cheers to John Hostettler and Bill Dalrymple and Bryan Pinn.

    Chipping away at legal matrimony, one piece at a time.

    "Why I Must March"

    Fact-esque treats us to a defense of protest politics which, as usual with these defenses, totally misses the point. The fact that protest activism worked over time for women's suffrage, civil rights, and other movements of the PAST, does not mean that protest politics are effective NOW, TODAY.

    There are probably ways that protests/marches can be effective today, but I think that Cindy Sheehan provides a great example: rather than gathering up a motley group of anti-war people and making up some chants, this woman went by herself and worked her access to political power- her status as a mother of a dead soldier. As many journalists have pointed out, Sheehan does not necessarily have any more information about the War in Iraq than other Americans, nor should her opinion really necessarily carry more weight because she has suffered the consequences of war, but, let's face it, it does.

    Will the throngs of hangers-on at the Crawford protest actually improve the protest in any way? Will it be more effective because there are more signs? I think not. What made this huge in the media (besides, as John Tierney noted, the fact that August is a very slow news month) is that it was this one particular woman with a personal story she could play for political capital.

    In Pursuit of the Elusive "Male Role Model"

    Is it hypocritical of me to hate this?

    there are about three or four female teachers for every man at the head of a school classroom. Those figures, drawn from state data and a national teachers union, have led some public officials to voice concern about a dearth of male role models in public schools.

    Yesterday, Prince George's County school officials, Bowie State University and U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) announced a $560,000 initiative to help put more male teachers in the county school system.

    The program offers tuition subsidies and test preparation support to male teachers who need university coursework and a passing grade on a professional exam to become fully credentialed. The participants also get use of laptop computers for the year, monthly lectures from experts and peer support.

    It's not that I don't think more men should be teachers, it's just that I think that they should be able to do it on their own, like women do. Especially since, as soon as they get the jobs, they'll be paid more and promoted faster anyway.

    Couldn't we spend the money to have some campaign of encouragement for men to become teachers, rather than actually paying their way?

    Refusal Clauses and the Right to Birth Control

    On Moving Ideas
    Here's what I think: if you decide to be a pharmacist, you don't get to decide which prescriptions you fill. Because being a pharmacist is a JOB and the job requires that you fill prescriptions. If you are in the Army, you can't not fight because you are a religious pacifist. If you are a religious pacifist, you shouldn't be a soldier! Imagine if Scientologist pharmacists were refusing to fill prescriptions for psychotropic medications.

    Since I don't believe in bigotry, since bigotry is against my religion, I don't work for Concerned Women for America. Because if I did work for CWA, I would have to refuse to do my job. And that's stupid.

    First "Lite" Frappucinos, Now This!

    Yes, I'm offering you another reason to love Starbucks, even though they may have killed your local coffee hangout.

    Its new series of cups includes this quote from writer, Armistead Maupin:

    My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don’t make that mistake yourself. Life’s too damn short.

    But Concerned Women for America aren't gonna let them get away with it! Starbucks is doing it anyway.

    Now you can drink those Grande-decaf-skim-mocha-lattes with PRIDE.

    Miller Offers $7.2 Billion Plan for Affordable Housing

    Read Winnie Hu's report on it in the Times.

    So, let me get this straight:

    Giff is offering a plan which is $1.3 BILLION CHEAPER than Freddy's and will yield 169,000 more units of housing than Freddy's plan.

    And Freddy is still 17 points ahead in polls.

    Democratic Education

    I am intrigued by this article on "Democratic Schools".

    In some ways, I agree that kids should be able to pursue the things that interest them. I know that I never would have spent one day of my life studying math and, with the exceptions of basic arithmetic, would never have found myself lost without it in adult life. I wish I had had more time in my days to study poetry and dance and other things I found worthwhile as a child.

    BUT, without being forced to study it, I probably would have ignored history as well, and I feel that influences me profoundly on a daily basis.

    Academically, Kohn says progressive education should emphasize not only following children's interests, but also challenging them to consider topics and problems that may not have occurred to them.

    "Leaving kids on their own tends to flatten the slope of their improvement," concurs schools reformer Ted Sizer, whose latest book, The Red Pencil, offers a powerful critique of American education.

    There's also the discipline issue. Think about the people you know who were so spoiled as kids, never having to do anything they didn't want to do, that they now feel paralyzed by life. Part (a smaller part than the status quo, but part all the same) of what school teaches is doing things you don't want to do, discipline.

    "My aim is to never end up in a repetitious, boring, and mindless day job, and I seem to be doing pretty well so far," says a recent graduate of a democratic school. Which brings up my other qualm of mine. Some people in our society are going to have to work "repetitious, boring, and mindless" jobs, but this educational mindset sets up a whole class of adults who believe they are entitled to live their according to their whims, not realizing that others haven't such luxury.

    Finally, it is difficult, in my opinion, to determine whether these schools "produce" such successful adults, as these kids were put in these schools by parents, who not only supported certain ideals that led them to the school, but also could afford to send their kids to the school.

    All that said, I think I would be the sort of parent who would consider sending my child to such a school.

    Vote for Wonder Woman

    Just so we don't end up with Mischa Barton or (God help us) Katie Holmes as the female ass-kicking superhero, PlanetOut offers us the unique opportunity to vote for the actor to play Wonder Woman in an upcoming film adaptation.

    As Diddy says, VOTE OR DIE. (Because how do you expect me to react if we end up with Katie-zombie.)

    Friday, August 26, 2005

    DC Sues, Readers Confused

    Bgay lets us know that DC Comics is threatening legal action against the Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts gallery that's showing paintings of Batman and Robin kissing.

    So wait- does that mean Batman and Robin weren't supposed to be gay? I thought Christian Bale's Batman was just using Katie Holmes as a beard- I mean, isn't that what one does with Katie?

    The End of Will and Grace

    is getting more time and nostalgia than the end of Queer as Folk.

    Give me a fucking break.

    Husbands and Dogs

    You know what's sad to me? That the only way that women feel they can gain power sometimes is to make ridiculous statements about men's supposed idiocy.

    Here's a tip: Making generalizations about the group you're not in means your group is left open to generalizations. In other words, it bites you in the ass. Like a poorly-trained dog.

    There's No Sex In Your Violence

    The deputy warden at an Ohio prison accidentally showed inmates porn. He meant to play a boxing match from HBO, but had accidentally recorded the "sexually explicit material".

    Corrections Officer R.A. Adams wrote in an incident report that he was alerted to the movie by an inmate who asked him, "Why are they showing porn movies to all the rapists and child molesters in here?"

    Good question. But my question is "Why are they showing boxing to all the batterers and murderers in there?"

    FDA still procrastinating

    THEY NEED MORE TIME! This is an important decision people, and they aren't going to make some snap decision after thinking about it for only a few years. They have to look out for the children!

    My recommendation: Gals, if you can get a prescription, get a bunch. Make sure all your friends have it. Doctors, pass it out on the streets.

    Coast to Coast Handshake

    Hey! This news just might change your vote in this year's mayoral primary.

    Antonio Villaraigosa, the Los Angeles Mayor, who has never been involved in New York City politics, nor lived in NY, has endorsed Freddy Ferrer.

    It's not irrelevant though, because he's Latino.

    Happy 85th!!!!!!!!

    Piggybacking on Feministing, I'd like to wish you all a Happy Women's Equality Day!

    Allison Stevens of Women's ENews brings us an inspiring article on how far we've come!

    Echidne is slightly less optimistic.

    Democratizing the Primaries

    I really enjoyed this article in The New Republic. Kenneth Baer suggests that we change the primaries so that the candidate our party nominates is not effectively nominated by Democrats in New Hampshire and Iowa. I like the idea of a national primary, though I wonder how it would work on a practical level.

    For one thing, remembering the whirlwind schedule that Kerry kept during the last month before the general election, I wonder how a candidate could keep up the three-states-a-day pace for that long.

    For another thing, since primaries are run differently state-by-state (i.e. some states allow members of any party to vote in the primary of their choice, some states don't use ballots but actually physically line people up according to their candidate of choice, etc,) we would have to streamline the process, which would no doubt upset a lot of folks.

    But my major question is how it would effect turnout. By the time the primaries came to a lot of places, it was pretty much pointless to bother voting. On the other hand, New Hampshire and other such places would probably be a lot less likely to get the hordes of people voting if they weren't given special status.

    Again though, this is probably a good idea that will never come to fruition.

    Rev Al Marches On

    You know, it just doesn't feel like a protest unless Sharpton shows up to enjoy some glory. He's wisely kept mum on the mayoral race, so as not to distract from his newly national stature.

    And Cindy Sheehan is overjoyed, I'm sure. Now she has a REAL chance to talk to Bush. Not to mention a good companion in that Texas heat.

    Related: Wonkette rocks my world with Handy Protesting Tips for Moonbats and Wingnuts Alike, Part 1.

    Thursday, August 25, 2005

    Sex Crimes and Politics

    From an editorial in The Washington Post:

    EAGER TO BE seen as tough on crime, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and one of his leading Democratic rivals, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, are outdoing each other to slam sex offenders, with each man proposing to stiffen the penalties imposed on the convicted. First, Mr. O'Malley urged a six-point plan, whose headline-grabbing centerpiece was a draconian requirement that sexual predators and child molesters who have already served their sentences be subject to electronic monitoring for life, possibly by use of satellite-tracking ankle bracelets equipped with Global Positioning System technology. Then, Mr. Ehrlich urged tougher penalties for sexually violent criminals, whom he called "the worst of the worst." Not to be outdone, a Democratic state senator, Ed DeGrange, is crafting legislation that would enable Maryland to lock up certain categories of sex offenders in mental institutions after their release from prison, a sanction in use by 17 other states.

    This works because people think of "sex crimes" as being perpetrated against "innocent women and children" and we have to save them!

    I believe that once people have done their time, they should be able to live like everyone else unless/until they perpetrate another crime. It seems that the public want people whose crimes are sexual to be cut off from society forever and ever, even if their sentences do not demand it.

    And, of course, there's not much outrage about all this from anyone except sex offenders and the people who love them (they are, believe it or not, human beings who are loved), and, since no one cares how sex offenders feel about anything at all, much less their own punishment/rehabilitation(who are we kidding?, nothing is done.

    The other thing is, if people who have committed sex crimes are so dangerous that they have to be placed on a registry for their neighbors to protect themselves, perhaps we need to consider our comfort with the sentences for these crimes. We clearly don't feel they are adequate.

    Well, that's it then

    Men are smarter than women.

    The debate is won, the scores are settled. Let's get back to our knitting.

    But wait! There may be hope:

    the study showed that, up to the age of 14, there was no difference between the IQs of boys and girls.

    "But beyond that age and into adulthood there is a difference of five points, which is small but it can have important implications," he said.

    Perhaps it's not genetic, after all! Perhaps, if we stop treating girls like bimbos as soon as they hit puberty, they might make the LEAP, the almost insurmountable CLIMB, five points to match the boys.

    "Why This Band Plays On"

    Mikal Gilmore's article about The Beatles in The Times is fascinating. It's another one of those "What-is-it-about-these-guys?" essays that pop up perpetually about The Beatles and, as usual, the music, from a strictly aesthetic perspective, is not the conclusion. Instead, it is how these guys mirrored society.

    THAT August in 1965, we didn't fathom where the power in this sort of communion might lead. We didn't know where we were going with the Beatles, and they didn't know where they were headed. The music that followed their 1966 retirement from live performances turned often hopeful and generous (not to mention unbelievably creative), and more important, compassionate. "Sgt. Pepper" is often viewed as whimsical or naïve, and yet songs like "She's Leaving Home," "Getting Better" and "A Day in the Life" gave voice to the combined senses of hope, strangeness and anxiety that marked the lives of many in that period.

    By the end of the 1960's, though, the Beatles' songs had grown more mournful, frightened and angry. John Lennon grew suspicious of his audience's politics in "Revolution" and of the whole world in "The Ballad of John and Yoko," whereas Paul McCartney's "Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road" played like doleful prayers of solitude. By 1969, the two men - who had once exemplified collaboration - could barely sing to each other across a gulf of mutual recrimination.

    All this, sadly, reflected the tenor of the time. The spirit of Western youth - especially American - descended from bliss to disillusionment, as political assassinations, the madness of Vietnam, the strife over civil rights and political protests, the effects of unmonitored drug use and the violence of the Manson family and Altamont all bore down, taking a steady toll.

    I think part of the phenomenon of obsessive-Beatle-history is the need for baby boomers to own everything. Unfortunately, that generation has claim on The Beatles and can therefore reconstruct history in accord to their own lives. For example, this is the week that the French were liberated by the Allied Forces after being occupied by the Nazis for four years. The problem is that this event happened before the baby boom kids were born. So, it must disappear beneath excitement over something that happened in the sixties. Everything must.

    Get It Together, Freddy

    Between the fight with Mike on using ancient stats on NYC education and Manuel Gonzalez's underhandedness revealed, things are looking bad for Ferrer.

    And that's okay with me.

    Learn and Grow, Readers

    In case you are one of those voters who insist on knowing about "the issues", The Regional Plan Association offers you this lovely guide.

    As Long As It's Internalized . . .

    I guess I'm just annoyingly "politically correct", but I don't think it's cool for Native Americans to be mascots, even if a bunch of them say it's A-OK.

    "It's not about an effort to be politically correct," Myles Brand, the president of the N.C.A.A., said in a statement when the ban was announced. "It is about doing the right thing."

    I tend to agree with Mr. Brand, even if Jeb Bush thinks we need to "get out more".

    Finding Feminism Everywhere

    While I will probably not purchase the book (my excuse- I don't have QVC), Ms. Bice of Quacker Factory, is a publishing success story in a world with few publishing success stories. And, better than that, she's a woman who's trying to help other women:

    But there are so many women my age, and even younger, women who were raised to be go-getters, and none of us were really trained how to do big things in this world. We're all just looking to see, 'How can I make my life better?' I am not telling anybody how to do it; I'm just saying this is what worked for me.

    It's also worth reading, because as Gawker says :
    We love it when The New York Times lowers itself to cover something as gross as home shopping; it can’t help but use phrases like “doodads,” “Everywoman” and “shellacked pieces of driftwood.” Today’s look at how the other 99.9 percent live . . .

    Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    The Trauma of (Observing) Childbirth

    I try to have sympathy, empathy even, for men's complaints, however cliche. I try not to have knee-jerk feminist responses; I try to seriously consider their concerns.

    But this is ridiculous.

    "They ended up having to cut her open to get the baby," one patient told me. "I saw it. I mean, how am I supposed to get that out of my head? Every time I look at the scar, it's like I'm seeing it again."

    In the most striking cases, the symptoms that men experience come close to post-traumatic stress disorder, with its roots in the witnessing of an event that involves a threat to the physical integrity of self or others and responding with intense fear, helplessness or horror.

    One thing I find fascinating is this notion that women are supposed to maintain this "mystery" in order to remain attractive. Men are never expected to be "mysterious" in order to get laid.

    And then there's the underlying assumption in this article that men watching their lives give birth is something "new" that detracts from the relationship. I highly doubt that this "man-paces-the-hallway-while-woman-screams-with-sisters-and-mother-in-adjacent-room" model has its roots in human beings' most ancient birth rituals. I imagine there were a lot of men yanking the babies out of their partners before doctors. Which is another thing- if this is so disturbing, how is it that gynecologists, obstetricians, and others manage to have sex lives? (I know, he answers this- "I do not believe that most men suffer these symptoms. But some do." I guess none of these men went to medical school.)

    I often read about how women lose their sex drives after giving birth. They are always told to take a hot bubble bath, listen to some Barry White, and GET IN THE MOOD.

    More on Evolution vs. Intelligent Design

    VERLYN KLINKENBORG writes a short piece on evolution, stemming from the recent discovery of dinosaur embryos alleged to be 190 million years old.

    Those kinds of numbers are always a little daunting. Ever since I was a boy in a public elementary school in Iowa, I've been learning to face the eons and eons that are embedded in the universe around us.

    But I think his main concern as a boy in public elementary school in Iowa was the fact that his name was Verlyn Klinkenborg. Poor kid.

    Religion is the New Sex: Faith and Science

    This article is actually quite incredible in its bluntness and fairness. Props to Cornelia Dean (whose work at the Times seems to be an equal split religion/faith and aquatic life).

    Finally, a Methodist minister gave him a book, "Mere Christianity," by C. S. Lewis. In the book Lewis, an atheist until he was a grown man, argues that the idea of right and wrong is universal among people, a moral law they "did not make, and cannot quite forget even when they try." This universal feeling, he said, is evidence for the plausibility of God.

    Universal feeling= conscience?

    I don't really think so because I lied like crazy for the first 20 years of my life without an ounce of bad feeling about it. Then I met A, who is rather conventional morally, and I came to feel guilt when I lied. Perhaps the idea is that there is a conscience within each of us, however different, is itself more the point.

    It seems to me that empathy is a more likely manifestation of God. The fact that we can have feelings for what other people feel (well, the 90% of us who aren't sociopaths) seems to be foundational to conscience, though not the extent of it.

    Queer Moment: Long Island Whipper-Snappers

    I am loving this article! It's the usual, "What are the kids up to?" NY Times article, pretending to be about "parking lot culture". But this was an interesting moment:

    About 1:30 a.m., Jeff Roache, 18, who said he was leaving to go to Taco Bell, backed his 1998 Jeep Cherokee into his friend Rob Stanley's 1985 Buick Regal, leaving a big dent.

    Jeff apologized to Rob, 18, and said, "Dude, anything I can do?"

    "Yeah," joked Rob, "but it would involve us being alone together."

    "Well, let's do it quick and get it over with," Jeff said. He headed to his car.

    Friday, August 19, 2005

    Is Fred Phelps a Slytherin . . . or a Griffindor?

    Pinko Feminist Hellcat calls Fred Phelps "Off the Edge of Reality"

    PFH is a smart cookie, but she is among the general liberal populace who sees Fred Phelps as a scary homophobe, not a ridiculously satirical Queer Liberationist.

    (Not that he's going about all this the right way.)

    Women of the World/Sheerly Avni

    "For most of us, the ideal porn movie would be a man saying, "You're right, you're right" while doing the dishes, over and over again."

    Oooh, I'm getting all hot just thinking about it.

    As a huge proponent of women asking for what they want out of sexual entertainment, maybe I'm not such a huge proponent of women asking for what they want out of sexual entertainment?

    Just kidding.

    Blue Dolly

    My journalist-crush, Rebecca Traister from Salon, was at the Dolly Parton concert at Radio City last night . . . and so was my sister. And my sister gave the same account of Dolly working the New York City liberals with her anti-war warbling.

    No disrespect to Dolly- the woman has pipes and I suspect she pulls out the blue-state schtick when she can because she means it. And why would we expect less from the quintessential "9-5" working woman, elevating sex workers, and speaking strong to the ladies: "Oh get with it, Clairee. This is the eighties. If you can achieve puberty, you can achieve a past." ?

    Imagining a Wireless City

    Andrew Rasiej intrigues me. I like the idea of checking my email from my (as yet, unowned) laptop while we pause for "an unavoidable delay". But maybe just because it makes me feel the tiniest bit more justified in buying a laptop on credit.

    On the other hand, that seems to be a fairly oblique platform for a Public Advocate. Not that that will necessarily cost him my vote. After all, it's not going to Betsy Gotbaum. And, despite his being my attorney, Norm Siegel defends Critical Mass, for whose whining I have ZERO tolerance. So, maybe I'll vote for Mr. Wifi.

    On a related note, last year I told people I was Wifi for Halloween.

    Props to "Pushy Guy"

    I like this "Pushy Guy" .

    It's nice to see someone thinking about health in these debacherous, self-destructive times (by which I mean New York summers).

    The anti-trans fat thing rocks, can't argue with condoms (though dental dams could be sprinkled in for good measure) and the smoking thing has been a blessing (though now bars smell like the alcohol they serve), but, while we're keeping people from hurting themselves, how about we remove the signs in the parks that encourage "sunbathing"? We're actually advocating the absorption of UVA and UVB rays, which cause CANCER! I'd go so far as to limit the time people can lay out browning themselves like slabs of meat, but I wouldn't want to infringe upon anyone's civil liberties. :)

    We're halfway there!

    Yes, The Fringe Festival's hand hits the 6 this weekend, which means you're halfway through the plays friends wrote or are performing in or doing makeup for or designed the posters for.

    There are some things in this world you are simply not allowed to "not do". It's okay if you "don't do" roller coasters or Burning Man Festival or even swimming, but you must attend theater. And, even if you hate it every time, you have to keep going. Because you can't not like theater. Especially if your friend's involved.

    MTA --- exposed!

    From The Daily News alert !

    "Nearly 30% of subway stations lack public address systems to give information during emergencies or announce routine service disruptions, transit officials revealed yesterday. . . Riders were stunned - and angry - to learn about the scarcity of public address systems."

    Riders were stunned (!) to learn that the MTA uses "public address systems". We all just thought they were just talking really loudly through backward trumpets.

    Buzz, buzz. Stand clear the closing buzz.

    Thursday, August 18, 2005

    But, this week, The 40-Year-Old Virgin!

    Perhaps overdosing a bit on Madame Dargis, I had to check out this review of the new film, starring Steve Carell (of Daily Show fame, apparently).
    Passing the poster in the 14th St/6th Ave subway, I saw that someone had scrawled, "Sexist!" across it. Then I thought, "Is it?" I said to my partner, A, that such a movie would never be made about a woman. But if it were about a woman, it would be about a woman who was ambiguous in her gender/sexual orientation enough that straight guys thought she was gay and dykes thought she was hetero or people were unsure that she was a woman. A disagreed, saying that a similarly geeky (to Mr. Carell) woman could have a similar film.

    It's very common for a woman's "unsexiness" to be played up, but the notion of a woman getting to forty without sex would yield the assumption that she'd chosen to be a virgin (for religious reasons, for example) rather than that no one had wanted her or that she hadn't had the guts to pursue someone she wanted. I get the feeling that the joke of the film is that this guy is so innocent and geeky that he never "made it happen" and, since it is supposed to be men who take control of these situations, Carell's character is left virginal.

    One nice thing is that Hollywood seems to have gotten the language of my generation- guys are "virgins" too. From what I hear, women/girls were the only ones defined that way until the Reagan era.

    Re-reading The Times' review of Grizzly Man

    "Mr. Herzog is also no ordinary filmmaker. It is the rare documentary like "Grizzly Man," which has beauty and passion often lacking in any type of film, that makes you want to grab its maker and head off to the nearest bar to discuss man's domination of nature and how Disney's cute critters reflect our profound alienation from the natural order." -Manohla Dargis here .

    Grab it's maker and head off to the nearest alley was more my feeling. I recommend seeing this film, but I don't recommend the film itself. Great footage of "Grizzly Man," Timothy Treadwell, but Herzog's commentary is a bit insane- he sounds like a man dropped out of a German existentialist time machine- and more importantly, like a man who didn't watch his own damned movie. I think the bits of Treadwell's tape were well-chosen, but staged moments where Herzog plays therapist to a bereaved ex-partner of Treadwell's were all about Herzog.

    I want to appreciate Herzog's willingness to insert himself, rather than participating in the artifice that documentary is actually some sort of journalism (and that journalism is some sort of truth). But I can't appreciate the awkwardness and self-righteousness with which it is done.

    Maybe the worst thing a documentarian can do is be overly self-righteous. Herzog is self-righteously cynical about a guy who is self-righteously innocent.

    Because it is August

    and you've no doubt exhausted your summer reading list, please make sure to hit this list of books about Paris and London lesbians in the early 20th century, as culled by the lovely and talented Diana Souhami. She covers the major bases: a little Djuna, some Colette, Letters of Violet Trefusis to Vita "Orlando" Sackwell-West, Radclyffe Hall (natch), and . . . the lovely and talented Diana Souhami. Kick-ass, Diana.

    Of course, as Michael Schaub over at Bookslut reminds us Guardian booklists are getting a mite esoteric. But as long it's esoteric-queer, I'll play.

    The Times Undercover

    You can always count on Alan Feuer to plumb New York's various seedy underworlds for a story. (Don't miss his recent work on The Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club or a Sullivan County dance camp .)

    The question in this case is: what is this story ? I don't think it's about the recent batch of bad heroin.

    For one thing, the lead photograph. For another thing, Alan's burning desire to let us know that "Bane" was a name of the gentleman's "own choosing". And, let's not forget, the strange philosophical tone weaving in and out: "The addict, maybe more than anybody else, understands the hard nature of certain truths."

    The Aristo-Democrats!

    I don't really want you to have to see this.
    But I do.

    But after you've done all you can to erase the image of Freddy riding Giff from your mind forever, please do read the article. Because no one so far has gotten Ms. Fields so right.