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    Tuesday, February 28, 2006

    Rachel Kramer Bussell on The Check

    In her column Lusty Lady, Kramer Bussell takes on that icky heterosexual dating stuff:

    Guy meets girl. Flirting ensues. Fast forward to their first date. The banter is flowing, along with the wine; they may even be playing footsie and thinking about bedtime. But when the check comes, so does the evening's defining moment. Who pays?

    Friends, readers: if the "defining moment" of a date is who pays ... there shouldn't be a second one. But, if the "defining moment" of a date is who pays, it's not something to trifle with or laugh off or roll eyes about even analyzing and considering with any depth. In other words, paying matters.

    Lauren Henderson, author of Jane Austen's Guide to Dating (Hyperion, 2005), believes paying is a sign of respect. "Symbols are important, and a man who can't buy a woman dinner on their first date is a man who will be emotionally deficient at making a woman feel cared about," she elaborates. "Men need caretaking, but their need doesn't express itself in having dinner bought for them. Men want their ego bolstered by feeling strong, capable, and necessary."

    Low-income men are "emotionally deficient", okay? Which makes sense. I mean, all the rich guys I meet are such open, sensitive souls.

    I am also driven insane when I hear the word "respect" applied to "chivalry". Opposites, people.

    My curiosity was sparked by blogger Derek Rose (derekrose.com), who's looking for more of a "partner than a princess." He's fine with paying for the first date, and even the second, but "if a girl hasn't offered to pay for anything by the third date, she better look like Angelina freakin' Jolie, or else it's 'Sayonara.' I don't have any desire to be a sugar daddy," writes Rose.

    Now, his Angelina Jolie comment aside, I agree with Rose. Once the idea of heterosexual partnerships began shifting from economic necessity to love-match, this whole man-always-pays scenario should have been dissolved. (I know that it's still about economic necessity for some people, but I think and hope the general cultural presumptions have changed, despite sick welfare-reform marriage incentives and other such things to the contrary.)

    It's not that I think that the man should never pay or that the woman should always pay or that they should go dutch always, but that the situation needs to be more organic. Rationally, there will probably be more men than women paying, given wage inequities, but it's the assumption, and particularly the assumption of its meaning, that troubles me.

    The sex part of the mathematical hetero-dating equation requires AP credits.
    Compare 1:

    Frequent dater Jackie Summers picks up checks to make a good first impression and be a gentleman. He explains, "We're guys; we like to be needed. The woman who insists on paying half is essentially saying she doesn't need a man, she needs fresh AA batteries."

    and 2: Where does sex come into play? Guys: If you're looking to get laid, getting the check is the bare minimum. This doesn't guarantee your way into her bed, certainly girls don't want to feel like you're buying their affection. One woman prefers to go dutch so she's free to turn down her date's sexual advances. The way Rose sees it, "After the first date, a girl can get away with either not putting out or not offering to split the bill, but doing neither is a definite strike against her; it makes you wonder just how interested she is." He tells of a friend who took a girl for their third date to a Dave Matthews concert. They made out at the bar afterward, but when she insisted on going home alone, he was annoyed.

    Yes, certainly "girls" don't want to feel like you're buying their affection. On the other hand, buying their affection is the only way to show you're not emotionally deficient.

    So, women assume men are going to pay the check and men assume women are going to put out, basically indicating that the men in the scenario are, in fact, buying at least the physical affection of the women. Women need money; men need sex. Unique, imaginative, and fresh point of view here.

    Then, we bring in this AA batteries comment- I assume he means for her vibrator. So, if women need men for financial reasons and men need women for sex, the way to show men that your needs are manly, as a woman, is to pay, proving you need sex, but then showing that you have your own way of acquiring both things and therefore need noone and, since dating is about money and sex, you don't know how you arrived at this restaurant (or Dave Matthews concert), last thing you knew you were in a bathtub filled with money and your Rabbit.

    Nearly every dating or etiquette guide weighs in on the topic, and almost all stick to the same story. Shelly Branch and Sue Callaway, authors of What Would Jackie Do? (Gotham, 2005), advise that the former first lady would never pick up a tab until she'd established her date as a serious prospect, as she did with JFK.

    Jackie worship- another thing about general cultural opinion that I can't understand. Just because someone wore cool hats does not mean you should look to her as a personal role model. The woman was pretty awful.

    Anyway, back to the point here:

    Women: do you want to be seen by a potential partner as part of a class of women, rather than as a unique human being with your own qualities? Think about it for a second- you can't go the bathroom alone, you screech at the sight of a cockroach but don't believe in killing it, shoes are the key to your happiness, and on every birthday candle you wish for a diamond ring from a life-size Ken doll.

    Men: do you want to be seen by a potential partner as part of the class of men, rather than as a unique human being with your own qualities? Think about it- pizza and breasts are basically interchangeable to you, you smell bad, you couldn't boil water if your life depended on it, and you are a child molester.

    Being your own person sounds kinda nice, right? So, what if your relationships were as special and unique as you are?

    BONUS FOR GLUTTONS FOR PUNISHMENT: Nick Sylvester on The Game, another fucked-up heterosexual dating thing.

    Truck Driver Shortage

    I read with interest this article in today's NYT about the shortage of truck drivers and what recruiters are doing to rectify the problem:

    To meet the growing need, some carriers are turning to new sources of labor like women, retirees and especially Hispanics.

    "The industry realizes that Hispanics are the fastest-growing population in the country, and they're eager to tap into them," said Ms. Cromer, who works for Congreso de Latinos Unidos, a community group in Philadelphia that joined forces in 2004 with the Truckload Carriers Association to begin recruiting more Hispanics into long-haul trucking.

    Companies have begun advertising on Spanish radio and in Spanish newspapers, and trucking schools have added intensive English courses to help prepare their non-English-speaking population to pass the federal exam required for a commercial license. Federal transportation laws require that long-haul truckers be able to speak, read and write English and undergo background checks and drug tests.

    The number of truck drivers who are not white males increased to 30 percent in 2004, up from 26.6 percent in 2001, according to the Department of Labor. Hispanics now account for 15 percent of all truck drivers, up from 12 percent during the same period, federal records show.

    "We decided two years ago to switch trucking companies because we had the leverage," said Claire Rocha, who, with her husband, Daniel, drives for the Celadon Group, a trucking company based in Indianapolis. Ms. Rocha, 51, said that they earned about $100,000 between the them, a 10 percent increase over what they were earning. "There couldn't be a better time to be a team driver," she said.

    Chris Burruss, president of the Truckload Carriers Association, said that many truck driving schools were getting calls from trucking companies looking for husband-wife teams or female drivers.

    "Women spouses are especially attractive once they have finished raising their kids because they start wanting to spend time with their husbands on the road," Mr. Burruss said. "Women are also seen by a lot of carriers as more dependable and less prone to jump from company to company."

    There was a time in my life where I was trying to get women placed in truck driving jobs and I found two major issues in their way.

    1. Trucks were made, just as most cars are, with the average male build in mind. This meant that women of even average height for their sex had difficulty reaching pedals and such.

    2. The expectation that, if you have a family, you are not the primary caretaker of children or elderly. Now, truck driving is, plain and simple, a job that means you're going to be away from home a lot. It isn't practical to perform this job with a bunch of kids (or even one) as those children likely need to be in school, etc. I don't think there's any way to make this a job that's friendly to full-time parents, which doesn't particularly bother me.

    What does bother me is the myth that women can now do everything men can do professionally, without major changes taking place in the structuring of family life. Jobs like truck driving expose this as a myth. As long as most single parents are single mothers and most two parent homes are maintained by a woman (working or not) partnered to a working man, there will be a major gender divide in industries like trucking.

    One thing that seemed strange about this article, though, was that it didn't appear that recruiters are interested in young, single women without kids. Is this, perhaps, a safety issue? A young woman alone on the open road?

    Full disclosure: I went through a phase of wanting to be a truck driver when I was a teenaged Little Feat fan, reading about Lowell George. I may very well be found, as a retiree, zooming along the prairie with the satellite radio blasting.

    Good News from Tom's River, NJ

    Full article here.

    A school board in one of the most conservative counties in New Jersey Monday night refused to bow to pressure from a small group of parents who demanded the removal of a transgendered teacher.

    Lily B. McBeth took a leave of absence from her job as a substitute teacher with the Eagleswood School District last year and at age 69 transitioned. When her physical transformation was complete she petitioned the board to return to work. The board voted 41 to 1 to return her to her old job.

    When a small group of a parents realized that Mr McBeth was now Ms McBeth they demanded the board rescind its decision. One parent, Mark Schnepp, took out a full-page newspaper ad urging parents to attend the Board of Education's Monday meeting.

    About 100 people showed up.

    "The children will learn of this and there will be problems," said Vincent Mustacchio, 48, who has a daughter in the school system.

    Mustacchio told the board he may keep his child out of classes taught by McBeth.

    Schnepp said that having a transgender teaching his two children violated his religious beliefs.

    But most of the speakers praised McBeth calling her well liked by children and an asset to the school system.

    Prior to the meeting the school board met privately with McBeth and her attorney.

    After listening to both sides of the issue during the public meeting the board, without a vote, said it would not amend its early decision.

    "This is a historic night for transgender rights," Steven Goldstein, the chair of Garden State Equality told 365Gay.com.

    Monday, February 27, 2006

    R.I.P. Octavia Butler

    Butler, 58, died after falling and striking her head Friday on a walkway outside her home in Lake Forest Park.

    She remains the only science fiction writer to receive one of the vaunted "genius grants" from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a hard-earned $295,000 windfall in 1995 that followed years of poverty and personal struggles with shyness and self-doubt. ...

    Butler's most popular work is "Kindred," a time-travel novel in which a black woman from 1976 Southern California is transported back to the violent days of slavery before the Civil War. The 1979 novel became a popular staple of school and college courses and now has more than a quarter million copies in print, but its birth was agonizing, like so much in Butler's solitary life.

    "Kindred" was repeatedly rejected by publishers, many of whom could not understand how a science fiction novel could be set on a plantation in the antebellum South. Butler stuck to her social justice vision - "I think people really need to think what it's like to have all of society arrayed against you" - and finally found a publisher who paid her a $5,000 advance for "Kindred." ...

    The MacArthur grant brought increasing visibility to Butler and allowed her to buy her first house, where she tended to her ailing mother until her death. (Butler's survivors are two elderly aunts and many cousins in Southern California.)

    But the MacArthur grant also brought daunting pressure. Three years later, Butler published "Parable of the Talents," winner of one of her two Nebula Awards in science fiction. Then years passed without another new novel, as projects in Seattle "petered out." Characters and ideas went nowhere and her blood pressure medication left her drowsy and depressed.

    The frustrated artist - who first turned to writing at 12 after the sci-fi movie, "Devil Girl from Mars," convinced her that she could write something better - battled worries that "maybe I cannot write anymore."

    But at long last, an unlikely vampire novel rekindled her creative fires and brought a burgeoning joy to her craft.

    "I can't say I've had much fun in the last few years, what with my version of writer's block," a relieved Butler recalled in 2004. "Writing has been as difficult for me as for people who don't like to write and as little fun. But now the well is filling up again with this vampire novel."

    Butler's death means that "Fledgling," published last fall to enthusiastic praise, will likely stand as her final novel, to the great disappointment to Butler's many fans and friends who expected more work.

    Oh My God, I'm In Love

    The Scholar and the Feminist is called "Feminist Television Studies: The Case of HBO". Now, one has to assume "The Case of Showtime" is around the corner with some nice meaty commentary on QAF, Weeds, and, of course, The L Word. Then, some Fox, some WB ... leave no title card unturned.

    Disappointingly, Curb Your Enthusiasm is not in the crowd, but read about The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, and Sex and the City.

    I want to be a professor of (high priestess of? town crier of? drum major of?) Feminist Television Studies. I do believe I've found my calling.

    McCain Vs. Edwards 2008?

    Ezra Klein has a great post on a compelling 2008 match-up: McCain vs. Edwards. Unlikely? Of course. But I didn't say "likely," I said "compelling". My Amusement Park's #1 Most Loathed Politician against My Amusement Park's #1 Most Loved Politician ... the possibilities!

    Senator McCain has a strong lead against all the top Democratic presidential contenders except for John Edwards. When posed in hypothetical match-ups against the leading Democrats, John McCain breaks fifty percent against Al Gore, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton and outpaces each by double-digits. Senator McCain’s lead is fueled by the majority support he receives from independent voters in each of these contests. McCain would face a more competitive race against John Edwards. McCain receives the support of 47% of registered voters compared with 41% for Edwards.

    Previous polls have shown similar results, with Edwards outpacing other Democrats against McCain. Gore and Kerry, by the way, each lose by a whopping 17% to McCain in the latest run. And there's reason to think that Edwards would have a particular advantage against McCain in the general election.

    A lot of McCain's appeal comes from his image as a bipartisan maverick. It's not just that people like bipartisanship, it's that his lack of an obvious partisan bent allows voters to project their fantasies onto him. Before seeing any specific data about his position on abortion, for example, it's easy to imagine that he's one of those moderate pro-choice Republicans (who don't actually help pro-choicers when the chips are down, but let's set that aside for a moment). As it turns out, he's in favor of banning abortion with no exceptions except rape, incest, and the life of the mother. When you look bipartisan, a big group of voters in the middle find it easy to project their preferences onto you, as long as you can keep quiet about your actual views.

    The key to beating McCain is to destroy his bipartisan reputation. This is supported by Ezra's observation that McCain does a lot worse when you call him "John McCain, the Republican" and poll him against someone who you describe as "the Democrat." Polls like this better approximate how McCain will be seen in the heat of an election. It's easy to look like a bipartisan maverick when you're brokering compromises in a congenial Senate, and you have lots of control about which issues you want to address. It's a lot harder when you're actually running for office. It's well-nigh impossible if you've voted against minimum wage increases and other pro-worker measures throughout your career, and you're up against a mill worker's son who can drive the minimum wage issue harder than anyone else. The old stereotype of Republicans as mean old men who don't care about workers will replace McCain's bipartisan reputation.

    And then there's this brilliant little bit on "Red State Regionalism". I'm not totally on board with the idea that someone has to talk about God in every sentence ad infinitum, which is what I think a lot of Dems now think is the way to win. I mainly think it's the sound of his/her? voice and his/her? background that does the trick.

    Back to the McCain vs. Edwards idea: the "meanie" thing would go great. McCain out there ranting and raving and Edwards out there smiling and orating. McCain's only good when he doesn't like what's happening; it's hard to see him having a positive, hopeful vision for the country. Edwards is postivity-hope-faith-blah,blah,blah. Plus, you know McCain would be below the belt every step of the way (for once, I mean this in a bad way)and Edwards wouldn't go there.

    McCain is not an "everyman" type of guy. Just because he, like our current President, got bad grades (at a very prestigious college, for both men, mind you) doesn't mean he's "just like you and me." For one thing, you and I didn't appear in hit Hollywood comedy The Wedding Crashers.

    One more thing: McCain being a POW is good stuff for him, but I'm kind of starting to wonder if having served our country in the Armed Forces is, sadly, rather a political liability these days- someone's bound to find out you weren't as awesome as it seemed you were. I'm not saying it should be that way, I'm saying I'm glad it can be used against someone who deserves it for once.

    Check this out: Stop John McCain 2008! I LOVE this site! Cheers, Nate.

    Friday, February 24, 2006

    The South Dakota Abortion Stuff

    On the disgusting developments in South Dakota:

    State lawmakers voted Friday to ban nearly all abortions in South Dakota and sent the measure to the governor, who said he is inclined to sign it.

    Under the legislation, doctors in South Dakota would face up to five years in prison for performing an abortion unless it was necessary to save the woman's life.

    The bill directly targets Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. State lawmakers believe the nation's highest court is now more likely to reverse itself on the abortion issue because of the recent appointments of Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

    Planned Parenthood, which operates the only clinic performing abortions in South Dakota, has pledged to challenge the measure in court if Gov. Mike Rounds signs it into law.

    "I've indicated I'm pro-life, and I do believe abortion is wrong and that we should do everything we can to save lives," Rounds said before the vote Friday in the House. "If this bill accomplishes that, then I am inclined to sign the bill into law."

    The bill passed both houses of the Legislature earlier in the session, but the House had to agree to a Senate amendment. It passed 50-18.

    The new restriction would become law July 1.

    Opponents of the bill argued that abortion should at least be allowed in cases involving rape, incest and a threat to a women's health.

    If a woman who is raped becomes pregnant, the rapist would have the same rights to the child as the mother, said Krista Heeren-Graber, executive director of the South Dakota Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault.

    "The idea the rapist could be in the child's life ... makes the woman very, very fearful. Sometimes they need to have choice," Heeren-Graber said.

    Kathi Di Nicola, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa in Sioux City, said her clinic already serves some South Dakotans and is ready to assist others if needed. The Planned Parenthood clinic in South Dakota has performed about 800 abortions a year.

    Moseying On Down to Boot Hill

    Gale Harold is playing Wyatt Earp on Deadwood.

    Yes, he's also got the lead in the CSI guy's new show, which is kind of eh, but the cowboy thing is working these days.

    Weekend Homework

    1. Read Opinionated Lesbian: "Allergic to Taking Responsibility."

    As a nice companion pieces, read the gals of The Lesbian Lifestyle on being or not being "Born Gay".

    2. Watch the Fat Boy Slim video of "The Joker" The song is annoying as hell but the woman who put this thing together is awesome. Thanks to Cute Overload.

    3. Stop by your local bookstore (the library might have it) and flip through Daphne Gottlieb's Homewrecker: An Adultery Anthology, which you can find reviewed here.

    In her introduction, Gottlieb claims that it is time to "examine how we really love -- maybe then we'll be able to talk about adultery without snickering, whispering, or screaming." Isn't it always time to examine how we really love? Shouldn't it be a priority for healthy living? But to be able to talk about adultery without pain, anger and judgment -- that's a tall order.

    You may need more time for freaky-smart Marshall Berman's new On the Town : One Hundred Years of Spectacle in Times Square, reviewed here.

    4. If you're not a Deadwood watcher already, or are simply not caught up, now's the time to get there, so you'll be ready when Wyatt Earp ambles in.

    5. Also in television, you can also buy episodes of Desperate Housewives on iTunes now, just to get on the bad side of One Million Moms.

    6. Consider changing your life. My favorite options:
    a. become a nun
    b. run for City Council
    c. get on a reality show
    d. save a kid
    e. disappear completely

    Well, They Do Make a Hell of an Argument

    One Million Moms boycotts advertisers on Desperate Housewives:

    OneMillionMoms.com, which is affiliated with the American Family Association, calls "Desperate Housewives" "one of the most vulgar and tasteless programs on television."

    The group plans to monitor the program from April through June to identify companies that advertise during the show. OneMillionMoms.com will then call for a one-year boycott of one or more of the leading sponsors.

    "We want to identify companies that sponsor 'Desperate Housewives' and ask moms not to buy their products for a period of one year," said Donald E. Wildmon, chairman of OneMillionMoms.com, in a statement. "So instead of boosting sales because of their sponsorship of the program, the company or companies selected will lose sales.

    "ABC says the show is watched by 15 million people each week. That means that 265 million don't watch the show but still end up paying for it by the products they buy," he said.

    Wildmon says he doesn't buy the argument that people who don't like a particular show should simply turn off their TV.

    "Will they also tell us that if we don't like drunk drivers on the highway to stay off the highway? Sure we can turn the TV off. But why should we have to do that? Why do our children need to be exposed to such trash? Why do the networks keep putting out trash and more trash?"

    The show's website describes the program:

    "A primetime soap with a truly contemporary take on 'happily every after,' this hit series takes a darkly comedic look at suburbia, where the secret lives of housewives aren't always what they seem."

    Allow me to repeat: "Will they also tell us that if we don't like drunk drivers on the highway to stay off the highway? Sure we can turn the TV off. But why should we have to do that?

    Hard to argue with that logic, isn't it?

    But Both Are Cute

    Good news for people concerned about the extinction of the white race due to interracial parenting:

    These kids are twins!

    Both Kylie and her partner Remi Horder, 17, are of mixed race. Their mothers are both white and their fathers are black.

    According to the Multiple Births Foundation, baby Kian must have inherited the black genes from both sides of the family, whilst Remee inherited the white ones. ...

    The odds against of a mixed race couple having twins of dramatically different colour are a million to one.

    Skin colour is believed to be determined by up to seven different genes working together.

    If a woman is of mixed race, her eggs will usually contain a mixture of genes coding for both black and white skin.

    Similarly, a man of mixed race will have a variety of different genes in his sperm. When these eggs and sperm come together, they will create a baby of mixed race.

    But, very occasionally, the egg or sperm might contain genes coding for one skin colour. If both the egg and sperm contain all white genes, the baby will be white. And if both contain just the versions necessary for black skin, the baby will be black.

    For a mixed-race couple, the odds of either of these scenarios is around 100 to one. But both scenarios can occur at the same time if the woman conceives non-identical twins, another 100 to one chance.

    This involves two eggs being fertilised by two sperm at the same time, which also has odds of around 100 to one.

    If a sperm containing all-white genes fuses with a similar egg and a sperm coding for purely black skin fuses with a similar egg, two babies of dramatically different colours will be born.

    The odds of this happening are 100 x 100 x 100 - a million to one.

    A million to one is pretty amazing. But here's what's even more amazing: even though these sisters have different skin color, the kids manage to have things in common AND even to love each other!

    "There are some similarities between them," said their mother. "They both love apples and grapes, and their favourite television programme is Teletubbies.

    "If they haven't seen each other for a few hours, they are so pleased to see each other and will hold out their arms, wanting to hug each other. And their smiles just light up their faces.

    Wednesday, February 22, 2006

    Special Election, New Yorkers!

    Here's the sitch:

    One candidate called the race for an open Assembly seat left vacant after Scott Stringer was elected as Manhattan Borough President "bizarre” and “insider.” Another described it as a “travesty.” Stringer himself said it was "ridiculous."

    However, none of that prevented Stringer from using the process to make sure that his favorite candidate, Linda Rosenthal, won the Democratic nomination. And it didn’t stop Rosenthal, who admitted that the “process may stink,” from accepting the nomination.

    On Tuesday, February 28, voters on the West and East Side of Manhattan and in Southeast Brooklyn will elect three new State Assembly members in "Special Elections."

    Most of the people who live in these areas are unaware that the elections are taking place. And even those few who do bother to go to the polls will find that the field of candidates has already been narrowed by an arcane political process and the influence of Democratic Party leaders.

    The whole system of choosing a party nominee and getting on the ballot in a Special Election is so complex and inexplicable that even trying to explain it might kill off some of our readers (which we don't want to do; if you want a detailed explanation, you'll have to click here.)

    Whoever wins will have to run again this fall, but given that incumbents have a nearly 100 percent reelection rate in New York, the victors have a good chance of serving a lifetime in office.

    “The whole system of elections in New York State is rigged,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “Special Elections just exacerbate the existing problems because no one knows it’s happening.”

    Read further for info on the candidates.

    E.J. Dionne on Democrats and Wealth

    Read the whole thing here.

    Some bits and pieces:

    Sims is a bluff, warm man who gets excited about problem-solving. A Democrat, he will talk your ear off about the King County government's effort to work with local employers in creating a new heath care delivery system. The idea is that government can be a catalyst for negotiation, research and reform and save both public and private employers money while producing better health outcomes for consumers.

    It fits with Sims's larger idea that government, far from being a drain on the nation's wealth, ought to "provide the social infrastructure and the physical infrastructure to help wealth be created." He said during lunch here the other day that Democrats should run under the slogan: "Rebuild America."

    Sims notes that after World War II, the federal government helped unleash an era of exceptional growth through investments in schools, interstate highways and higher education. Both India and China are "making intelligent moves for economic growth" and the United States cannot stand by and watch. "You need people and brains to create an economy," he says. "You need transportation to move an economy. And you need an environmental policy to create clean air and clean water."

    Just a reminder that the economy does not run on multi-billion dollar mergers and multi-trillion dollar wars alone.

    Sims's idea reminds Democrats that a commitment to active government is not simply about redistributing wealth. It is also rooted in the historically sound insight that effective government has always been essential to robust economic growth. Government, in the Sims formulation, should be a dynamic player in our nation's economic life.

    Yet Democrats face a paradoxical problem: They find themselves attacked for being too concerned about redistributing money, yet they are far too timid in committing themselves to lifting up the very poorest Americans.

    Why is it so hard to explain that, by lifting the poorest Americans out of poverty, people in every economic bracket will experience a surge? I don't think it takes a high school diploma to understand that- I think it takes a nice, simple explanation. And some Democrat, I don't care which one, but some Democrat needs to teach their constituents.

    That's where the Urban Institute study, "Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men," co-authored by Offner with my Georgetown University colleagues Peter Edelman and Harry J. Holzer, comes in. They write: "Nearly 3 million less-educated young people between the ages of 16 and 24 -- about half of whom are young men -- are disconnected from education and employment in the United States." This disconnected cohort includes significant numbers of Hispanics and whites, but African Americans are disproportionately represented in their ranks. While policymakers have spent much energy on the problems facing single mothers, they have done little about the disadvantages facing young men.

    The decline of manufacturing employment means the economy is producing fewer well-paying jobs for the less-skilled. These disconnected young men tend to go to the poorest schools, grow up amid concentrated poverty and in families that often lack fathers, and face persistent employment discrimination. Face it: The one expensive social program we have for this group is incarceration. Can't we do better?

    The connection between poverty and crime is so briskly made in pop culture, but there seems to be a taboo about it for politicians discussing broader economic policies. I think part of this is the idea that the "choice" to commit a crime is a "moral" one, which justifies the way we prosecute criminals. We have to believe there's something wrong with the person that separates them from the law-abiding. And it can't be "access" because that has an obvious solution. The middle-class public has to believe that, being born into or falling into the same circumstances, they wouldn't be led into a life of crime. It's not about circumstances, it's about something inherent. And that's biologically-coded and race is still biologically-coded, so racism plays a big part in categorizing some folks as "criminal" and others as not. (Gender as well.)

    The authors of the report offer resolutely hardheaded solutions. They would reform education and training programs and work with employers and other intermediaries to connect these young men to the labor market. They would expand programs such as the Job Corps that have "proven track records," and have us do far more to integrate ex-offenders into the world of work. They would create much stronger work incentives through income supplements, higher minimum wages and changes in the child support system.

    The Urban Institute authors can be read as bringing Sims's practical focus on government's role in wealth creation to the task of expanding opportunities for the least fortunate among the young. This is good public policy. My hunch is that it could also be good politics.

    Ninth Carnival of Feminists

    On Mind the Gap.

    I found most intriguiging (as usual, not necessarily because I agree):

    Den of the Biting Beaver: Women and Patriarchy.

    muse and fury: Dating the Patriarchy.

    Woman of Color Blog: Identity Politics.

    Rants for Invisible People's Arwen on being Pro-Sex, Anti-Porn.

    Bitch/Lab: Male Slut 101.

    I'm Not a Feminist, But ...: Slave traders and abused women parties.

    Red State Feminist: To Stay At Home Moms and Housewives.

    Super Baby Mama: Hey, let's perpetuate a stereotype! and please excuse us while we adjust our stereotypical thinking.

    Yeah, but Houdini didn't have these hips: Gender Traitor - The Name Thing.

    Feminist Law Profs: Is This Funny?

    Pretty, Fizzy Paradise: Thinking Pink.

    Now, those might be the ones that got me thinking, but I recommend visiting and reading each and every post. I think this may be my favorite Carnival of Feminists yet!

    Tuesday, February 21, 2006

    A Time To Vandalize

    From my home state, this letter in Ask Amy:

    DEAR AMY: My husband and I have lived in our quiet suburban Denver neighborhood for six years. About two years ago, two young gay men moved in across the street. They've taken the ugliest, most rundown property in the neighborhood and remodeled and transformed it into the pride of the street. When it snows, they shovel out my car and are friendly, yet they mostly keep to themselves. Last month I went out to retrieve my newspaper and watched them kiss each other goodbye and embrace as they each left for work. I was appalled that they would do something like that in plain view of everyone. I was so disturbed that I spoke to my pastor. He encouraged me to draft a letter, telling them how much we appreciate their help but asking them to refrain from that behavior in our neighborhood. I did so and asked a few of our neighbors to sign it. Since I delivered it, I've not been able to get them to even engage me in conversation. I offer greetings but they've chosen to ignore me. They have made it so uncomfortable for the other neighbors and me by not even acknowledging our presence. How would you suggest we open communications with them and explain to them that we value their contributions to the neighborhood but will not tolerate watching unnatural and disturbing behavior.


    DEAR WONDERING: You're lucky that these gentlemen merely choose to ignore you.

    Your neighbors could respond to your hospitality by hosting weekly outdoor "gay pride" barbecues and inviting all of their friends to enjoy life on your quiet suburban street. I can hold out hope that they will choose to do this, but I'm spiteful in that way. Your neighbors sound much more kind.

    In your original petition to these men, you basically stated that while you value them when they are raising the standard on your street and shoveling your driveway, you loathe them for being who they are.

    The only way to open communication with your neighbors would be to start by apologizing to them for engaging your other neighbors in your campaign. Because you don't sound likely to apologize, you are just going to have to tolerate being ignored.

    This letter, and its presumption that Amy Dickerson and her readers would agree with the writer's point-of-view, really upset me. I hope the asshat comes home to find her/his tires slashed, car egged, etc.

    I think this upset me so much because there is so much agreement: the idiot letter-writer, his/her pastor, and some other neighbors who were willing to sign onto such a stupid-ass document. And, the fact that someone would be troubled by an acquaintance's behavior enough to have a sit-down with their Pastor ... ????

    I so often forget the world we are living in.

    "Violent femmes: Author explores why they fight"

    Good news, readers. Girls are getting aggressive:

    Interview w/ James Garbarino, writer of See Jane Hit:

    "Twenty-five years ago, one girl was arrested for every 10 boys charged with the crime of assault. Today, it's one girl for every four boys.

    Here's to equality.

    As far as arrests for assault are concerned, though, let's remember something else. First, read this:

    Q. You say: "We may be witnessing a tipping point in the changing nature of physical aggression in American girls." Please explain.

    A. One place where women have been violent and aggressive is in the family. Women have been killing children and husbands for a long time. The real change is the projection into the social environment outside of the family.

    So, if women have been perpetrating this violence for a long time within the family, isn't it possible that women are being arrested more now that their crimes are taken more seriously. It wasn't that long ago that you could beat your kid bloody and it felt in the realm of "discipline". Also, I doubt that a lot of guys were reporting violence against them perpetrated by women. So, maybe girls and women are more actively violent or maybe they're being more actively caught.

    Q. What is the link between early sexualization and violence?

    A. There are at least a couple of things going on. Sex as power has a long history, of course, but it has typically been men with a blunt exercise of power vs. women who exercise a more indirect use of sex as power. I think we are seeing more girls being drawn to a more masculine approach to sex as power. It isn't indirect or flirting or coquettish. It's overt in a sort of unabashed way. That, too, the media feeds. Aggressive men have been portrayed as very sexy for a long time. This is new and escalating -- the portrayal of very aggressive women as very sexual and provocative as well.

    The idea of aggression as sexy for both sexes seems, without question, a step in the right direction to me. I think that cultural ideas of what is "sexy" need to become more and more similar for men and women in order to facilitate not only gender equality, but also heterosexism.

    Now, obviously, it'd be better if we had fewer people going around beating other people up, gender notwithstanding. But I'd prefer the sexually-aggressive girl to the coquette and the girl with a fist raised to the girl spreading rumours.

    Hat tip: Rox Populi.

    Tuesday Reading List

    Welcome to an MSM-friendly version of the My Amusement Park Reading List. 10 articles to get you thinking. Depth to come later. :)

    1. Claudio Saunt: Jim Crow and the Indians.

    2. Tim Harford: The Economic Case for Polygamy.

    3. Evan Derkacz: Re-examining 'The Left Hand of God'.

    4. Thomas Nagel: The Many in the One.

    5.Greg Sargent: Freddy Hits Back.

    6. Nathan Newman and David Sirota: Forget D.C.: The Battle Is In the States.

    7. Peter Carlson: When Signs Said 'Get Out'.

    8. Jane Mayer: The Torture Papers.

    9. Bruce Nissen and Jen Wolfe Borum: Living-Wage Law Does Combat Poverty.

    10. Patricia J. Williams: Emotional Truth.

    SCOTUS to Hear Gonzales v . Carhart


    Friday, February 17, 2006

    Republican Dream Ticket?

    Via Cindy Adams:

    GOP burbling about 2008's dream ticket: McCain for the top job, Condi Rice for veep. This binds up the old McCain-Bush split and nails the Dems' African-American votes. Said Kissinger when he heard about it: "But John, Condoleeza is only just a staff person."

    McCain at the front of that ticket? What an insult to Dr. Rice! Here's hoping she wouldn't accept such a pittance.

    Weekend Homework

    If you have some free time this weekend and you don't want to spend it poring over the archives of My Amusement Park, I can offer you some reasonable alternatives.

    For New Yorkers:

    1. Oh geek dessert: City College hosts THE INVISIBLE UNIVERSE FOUNDATION SPECULATIVE FICTION CONFERENCE 2006: "Black Vampirism in Literature and Film" tomorrow, February 18.

    2. At the Sculpture Center, Anya Gallaccio pays tribute to Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art".

    3. Sara Juli has "The Money Conversation, in her first full-length program at P.S. 122. It's kinda gimmicky, but I'm not strictly anti-gimmick, myself. Especially when it comes to dance.

    For everyone:

    4. Freedomland is getting AWFUL reviews, so get your film-about-racial-tension-cravings fulfilled elsewhere with Manderlay and/or The Confederate States of America.

    5. Read Rachel on a filmclash of Spike Lee's Jungle Fever and Sanaa Hamri's Something New.

    6. While you're online for Rachel, enjoy some less substantive delicacies: Cute Overload and Overheard in New York.

    Good Queer News and Notes

    *James Dobson doing something that doesn't completely suck?:

    Bloggers and Christian commentators have criticized Dobson for endorsing a Colorado measure that would allow any two people who can't marry -- everyone from gay couples to two elderly sisters -- to sign up and get the right to visit one another in the hospital, transfer property and make medical decisions for one another.

    It'd be nice if we could go beyond the whole "two people" paradigm, but this is a step in the right direction, rights-wise.

    *Jersey well-positioned for same-sex marriage.

    *Heath Ledger to play Rock Hudson?

    Could it be?

    * And One Tenacious Baby Mama "Unpack[s] the Invisible Knapsack of Sexual Conservatism". You have to read this.

    * Finally, don't miss the L Word recap on SistersTalk. I finally watched Episode 6 last night ... more on that later, I'm sure.

    Prom Redux

    Judith Martin aka Miss Manners argues against the Prom.

    In schools that have canceled or discussed canceling that hallowed event, it is not only the shortchanged seniors who produce outraged squeals. Parents who remember their own proms imperfectly, or who remember not having had them, possibly because it was fashionable to boycott them, have also chimed in:

    "They've worked hard all year, they deserve to have some fun."

    "Come on, they've been dreaming about this for years. It's something they'll always remember."

    "You can't take that away -- it's an American tradition."

    These sentiments are up against two arguments -- that proms are expensive and that they are dangerous.

    Now that proms have frozen into a pattern that involves restaurant meals and fancy car rentals, there is pressure on those whose families can ill afford such luxuries. And since liquor manages to ooze into the occasion despite a variety of civic and parental precautions, proms are tragically associated with accidents and fatalities.

    These two opposing sides leave Miss Manners as the only person taking up the question of high school proms in social terms. Her objections to it are that the prom has become crass, and that it serves as a training ground for even crasser weddings.

    What do you say to that, kids?

    What they say is, "So what? It's just supposed to be fun." And then their adult defenders ask what on earth she expects from teenagers -- that they should behave like little social climbers, heaven forbid?

    Heaven forbid. But that is exactly what they are doing.

    High school proms were never exactly decorous. The idea was to assume the privileges of grown-ups, as they had personally observed them. They actually assumed that the lives of their parents were more fun than their own.

    Even under modest economic circumstances, their parents would occasionally get dressed up and go out, possibly dancing. They moved about at will with their own transportation. They also drank and smoked. Best of all, no one outside of the law could tell them what to do.

    For better and for worse, that was what the next generation wanted for themselves. The prom was supposed to be a limited version of this without the smoking and drinking.

    Being grown-up is no longer a state to which anyone seems to aspire. Not even grown-ups. Any glamor that may have been attached to it has disappeared in the increasing freedoms and prevailing styles of youth.

    And so the pattern for that anachronistic institution, the prom, is taken from the lives of pop celebrities -- the suddenly enriched who go wild.

    It would indeed be wonderful if high school seniors had a chance to sample the real pleasures of formality that are missing from compulsively casual modern life. Variety of style, even if it was no more elaborate than "Sunday best" or "company manners," was pleasurable. That there is still a craving for occasional formality is evident on the two such occasions left for it -- the prom and the wedding. It would be nice if the older generation could show them what it really is.

    A hint: It is not riding around town in an impossibly long and expensive car, throwing up.

    My Amusement Park is generally anti-Prom, and is therefore supportive of Ms. Martin's efforts.

    This all reminds me of something that makes me really annoyed: how Prom is handled on television. On The OC and Queer as Folk, one character is talked into going to Prom, "It's an important right of passage," etc. People who missed their Prom talk about how, basically, their lives were never okay because of it. Am I the only person who doesn't feel a phantom limb because I missed my Prom?

    Deborah Tannen in The Times

    The linguist famous for You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation talks about her new book on interactions between mothers and daughters here. Now, read the interview at your peril, as she does make the sweepingest of generalizations (this is a hallmark of her style of analysis). But, I have to admit, it did make me wish she'd done one on fathers and daughters- that's where I could use the help.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2006

    My Only Post on the Anti-Muslim Cartoons

    From the Washington Post:

    If I read Charles Krauthammer's Feb. 10 op-ed correctly, it appears that if I were a newspaper publisher and Jews around the world had rioted and threatened violence against a paper that had published an anti-Semitic diatribe or Christians had done the same when a paper published pictures of the Virgin Mary covered in dung, I should publish the articles or the pictures to show solidarity for freedom of the press.

    Why should I publish something in support of freedom of the press that I would not have published in the first place? What is wrong with acknowledging a paper's right to publish something but criticizing its judgment in having done so? What is wrong with my acknowledging that people may rightfully be offended while condemning their use of violence and threats in voicing their anger?

    Is that too moderate or hypocritical?


    Silver Spring

    Thanks, Mr. Frank.

    But Eurocentrism is for Everybody!

    Evanston-Skokie school districts consider adding "Afrocentric" curriculum:

    Hoping to better capture the attention of African-Americans and close the achievement gap between black and white students, a group of parents and educators is pushing for adoption of an African-centered curriculum in Evanston/Skokie School District 65.

    The curriculum would keep state-required core subjects such as reading, language arts and math but include the history and culture of Africans and African-Americans in daily school lessons. ...

    What troubles school board member Jonathan Baum, who led Monday's committee meeting, is "how do we explain this to our children?"

    Martin Luther King Jr. brought blacks and whites together, and the Afrocentric curriculum could mean that students would be separated based on race, because whites and Latinos may opt out of the classes, Baum said. ...

    When Shepard visited Woodlawn Community School, a Chicago public school, she was impressed that state test scores have climbed since 2001.

    "I always believed the reason white children achieved is because everything was for and about them," she said. "There was nothing that showed a child of color at the center. With an African-centered curriculum, the kids see themselves everywhere."

    But there's no proof that the concept actually works, said Harvard University's Ron Ferguson, who teaches and writes about educational issues.

    "It's not something to be afraid of or terribly enthusiastic about," he said. "They are groping for a way to get black kids engaged academically. If you get some charismatic teachers on board, you may get results. But those same charismatic teachers might try another technique and it would work too." ...

    And though the pilot program would be implemented at Oakton Elementary School, which is 49 percent black, and Kingsley, which is 41 percent black, it could be divisive if only African-Americans volunteer for the program, according to some at Monday's meeting. ...

    What is absolutely unbelievable to me is that there's an opt-out for white and Latino kids. Because white kids would be so damaged by hearing about the accomplishments of black people for more than that 28-day stretch of hardship called "Black History Month".

    I'm all for a "melting pot" curriculum, wherein kids learn about history, literature, art, and culture from around the world and from as many different angles as possible. I am always hearing about how that means we'd have to drop some of the "Great Achievements of Western Civilization," but why is that so terrible, if we're replacing it with other good material? If we were replacing all of Einstein, the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, and Alexander Graham Bell with only George Washington Carver (I love peanut butter but ...), then, yes, that's a problem. But we all know it doesn't have to be that way. It often is that way because of racist bias (the idea we perpetuate with our educational system in America at least that blacks never did much except finally get freed from slavery by white people), but it doesn't have to be. I mean, why is it that children in the school band study Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Handel, Vivaldi, and then, to get modern, Stravinsky and Gershwin? How about Charlie Parker, Charlie Christian, Dizzie Gillespie, etc, etc, etc? I don't think we'd be replacing "Greats" with crap, we'd be replacing some "Greats" with other "Greats". Big loss. (By the way, I'm not saying all blacks have accomplished was music or sports or something. Just wanted to make that clear.)

    I went to an elementary school that did the whole "Afro-centric" curriculum thing and, to tell the truth, I never noticed that everyone I was studying (not just Dr. King and Rosa Parks, but Malcolm X!) was black because I was white. (All my teachers were also black and the majority of the other children were black, though there were some Latinos.) Looking back, I notice. But I don't think I grew up thinking white people sucked because of it. Know why? 'Cause everything else told me white people were good. I'm glad my parents didn't "opt me out" of that learning (though it wasn't an option for me, as far as I know). My point is that I don't think that, for white kids, it's going to cause a bit of harm to their psyches to study the acheivements of people of different races from their own. And the idea that Afro-centric curriculum is only a mechanism for bringing up the grades of black students, rather than an actual path of learning is really infuriating.

    Edited to add: Heterocentrism is for everyone, too.

    I Live in New York

    ... in order to feel superior to all those red-staters. But sometimes I'm thwarted.

    Talking Trash

    In Talking Trash, Aaron Sarver talks to Heather Rogers about her new book Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage.

    It's a fascinating interview on garbage: landfills, recycling, sustainability. When you're done there, check out the Ecofootprint Quiz. Sobering.

    Let's not forget, though, that changing the way we live on an individual level can do very little. And also that the people that will be affected negatively by changes first will be low-income. However, low-income individuals and families are more likely to live near landfills and also to live in neighborhoods with poorer trash collection and recycling services.

    The New Black

    Saying "_________ is the new black" used to be witty. Now it is so tired. People, retire it. Retire it. I seriously can't take it anymore.

    More on the "War on Boys"

    Send Sarah Karnasiewicz of Salon a thank-you note for a writing a sane piece on the so-called "boy crisis" (which, I'm happy to report, brings in some of my points from before).

    "Everyone is asking, 'How do we do this? Do we change the structure of classes? Do we send out glossier materials?' But I think what worries educators the most is that boys don't seem as focused on the process as girls. [Boys] seem to feel they'll be OK, whereas with girls there's still a sense that if they don't do well, don't go to college, there'll be a consequence that will be negative."

    Tweed's point raises a controversial question that most crusaders in the "war on boys" would rather dismiss. Despite their flagging performance in elementary and high school, men have hardly abdicated their power to women. While women may have held the majority in higher education for more than a decade, men still earn more than women, still hold the vast number of tenure-track university positions. Women possess executive positions at less than 2 percent of Fortune 500 companies. Could it be that men aren't going to college because they don't have to?

    According to Laura Perna, assistant professor of educational policy and leadership at the University of Maryland, the gender gap is all about economics. Last fall, Perna published a paper in the Review of Higher Education in which she determined that young women might be more motivated to pursue higher education because, consciously or unconsciously, they sense that there are real economic advantages at stake. Her examination of a Department of Education sample of more than 9,000 high school students, interviewed over a period of eight years, revealed that women with bachelor's degrees earn 24 percent more than women without, while young men with bachelor's degrees experience no significant economic gains. For practical proof of her hypothesis, one need only consider that most well-paid, skilled, blue-collar professions continue to be dominated by men -- while minimum-wage jobs in hospitality and service remain the province of women. ...

    "There has been no decline in bachelor's degrees awarded to men," she writes. "The numbers awarded to women have simply increased." Put simply, in the words of Jacqueline King, director of the Center of Policy Analysis at the American Council of Education, who is quoted in Rosser's piece, "The [real news] story is not one of male failure, or even lack of opportunity -- but rather one of increased academic success among females and minorities."

    Can Women Play Nice At Work and Succeed?

    Peg Tyre of Newsweek investigates by reading three books:

    Tripping the Prom Queen : The Truth About Women and Rivalry by Susan Shapiro Barash; The Girl's Guide to Being a Boss (Without Being a Bitch) : Valuable Lessons, Smart Suggestions, and True Stories for Succeeding as the Chick-in-Charge by Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio; I Can't Believe She Did That! : Why Women Betray Other Women at Work by Nan Mooney.

    Pity women in the workplace. For the last 40 years, we've been told what it takes to get to the top: determination and a fierce competitive spirit. At the same time, we're relentlessly reminded that we have to play nice—and look good doing it. Then there's the hangover from the women's movement when we were admonished not to compete at all but to band together and help each other. Which in turn sets us up for an ugly and lingering shock when, usually in the early years of our careers, we stumble across a woman manager who isn't interested at all in smoothing the way for other women and in fact, undermines them every way she can.

    Oh yes, the women's movement fucked everything up for women in the workplace.

    In "Tripping the Prom Queen," (St. Martin's Press, March 2006), Susan Shapiro Barash, a feminist scholar, argues that it's high time women pulled back the curtain on feminist orthodoxy. Yes, sisterhood is powerful. But it can also be fraught with conflict, envy, betrayal and jealousy.

    Ummm. I don't think Robin Morgan meant "sisterhood" as just happening to be women in the world, but that very "banding together" we find above. The whole phrase "Sisterhood is powerful," is meant to say, "let's put aside this conflict, envy, betrayal, and jealousy as much as we possibly can in order to move women forward." Agree with it or not, that's what was meant. This may seem petty, but it drives me nuts when journalists for glossies will sacrifice the meaning of language for a perky quip.

    Nan Mooney, who wrote "I Can't Believe She Did That!" (St. Martin's Press, 2005), dwells on the debt modern women owe to feminism. Then she sets about showing how difficult it can be to work with women and how tough it can be for women to admit that. The problem, as Mooney sees it, is that women compete: who's the best-looking, who gets the guy, who gets the plum assignments at work.

    Though neither Tyre nor Mooney seems to be saying directly, this paragraph came the closest to making the point I find most relevant about all these generally rather stupid-ass books: women need to stop competing with each other exclusively and be genuinely competitive (or not) by viewing men and women as potential competitors. The real problem with all this is that, when women were told that, to get ahead in business (or whatever) they had to be competitive, a lot of women apparently heard: "To get ahead, you have to be competitive with other women." If you are a competitive person, you should be a competitive person competing with other people, rather than some tiny subset of people.

    The "chick-in-charge" book, despite it's silly title, seems not-so-bad, though:

    The authors of "The Girl's Guide To Being a Boss (Without Being a Bitch)" (Morgan Road, April 2006), Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio, must have grown up in the post-Title IX era because their book doesn't concern itself much with the idea that "nice girls don't compete." Just got the corner office? Relax, the authors advise. Enjoy. You've earned it. Friedman and Yorio, a public relations duo, have had enough experience in the workplace to know that being female doesn't make it any easier to manage or be managed. Want to be an excellent boss and a fine example to the younger women in your company? Make sure to use your power for good—of yourself, your company and your underlings—and not for evil. The authors of "The Girl's Guide" weave in interviews from female small-business owners who describe the bitter and the sweet that comes with being the women in charge. Their revelation? If the woman you work for is a bad manager, it may have less to do with gender politics and more to do with the fact that managers everywhere can be anxious, insecure and poorly trained. The Girl's Guide lays out what women in power need to do in order to be firm, fair and above all—successful.

    Naturally, I must point out that it's just as likely that you didn't "earn" that corner office any more than the receptionist did, but, other than that, I can get behind this. I wish, however, that the time would come for bosses of every gender to not want to be bitches and go seek out a book to help them be nice bosses. It'd be nice if all this didn't just apply to the white-collar world, but here I go again asking too much.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2006

    Happy Valentines Day!

    From Salon:

    Each Valentine's Day, like clockwork, well-meaning lovers hoping to woo their sweeties spend a small fortune on roses and cardboard hearts stuffed with chocolates. Even those who'd usually prefer a slice of pizza to steak tartare and jeans to a suit jacket, somehow find themselves dolled up and sharing a candlelit dinner. For a holiday that supposedly celebrates the excitement and passion of love, hasn't it all become rather stale?

    Valentine's Day isn't just for preppy, thoroughly non-alterna monogamous heterosexuals. If you want to give roses, chocolate, and a red teddy bear, be my guest. If you want to skip the celebrating and make it any day of the year, do it. If you want to protest the capitalist and heterosexist and sexist elements of the way many Americans celebrate, grab your sign and hit the streets outside Hallmark. But My Amusement Park believes in true love (and the power of "reclaiming".) And true love is nothing if not deeply personalized. So we're going to get you in the mood.

    Slate gives you some love poems for the day. May I recommend a few of my favorite love poems by e.e. cummings, Frank O'Hara, and Gertrude Stein.

    If you're staying in, allow me to suggest viewing a sampling of some of the all-time best on screen romantic couples, according to MAP:

    Brian and Justin; Queer as Folk
    Joel and Clementine: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    Randy and Evie; The Incredibly True Adventures of True Girls in Love
    Isaac and Tracy; Manhattan
    Ryan and Marissa, Sandy and Kirsten, Summer and Seth; The OC
    David and Sofia; Vanilla Sky
    Alvy and Annie; Annie Hall
    Nina and Jamie: Truly, Madly, Deeply
    Nate and Brenda, David and Keith; Six Feet Under
    Ennis and Jack; Brokeback Mountain

    My partner, A, already bought me a cappucino this morning on the way to work. But coffee or tea for the connoisseur has that chocolate feel to it, without being as expected. Also, this book offers recipes chock full of dishes which will rack your biochemistry with love.

    Some songs to crank on the iPod:

    Crimson and Clover: Tommy James and the Shondells OR (queer version) Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
    I'm In: Radney Foster w/ Abra Moore
    I Only Have Eyes for You: The Flamingos
    Save the Last Dance for Me: The Drifters
    You Got Me: The Roots featuring Erykah Badu
    When It Don't Come Easy: Patty Griffin
    I'll Take Care of You: Dixie Chicks
    The Folks Who Live on the Hill: Brad Mehldau Trio
    Your Love: The Butchies
    Mint Car: The Cure
    Lazy Days: Leona Naess
    Simple: kd lang
    All I Want Is You: U2
    A Case of You: Joni Mitchell
    Let Me Touch You For Awhile: Alison Krauss and Union Station
    I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You): Aretha Franklin (remember it in Bound!?)
    You Still Believe In Me: The Beach Boys
    Oh Yoko: John Lennon

    ... and many more where those came from!

    HRC has a special Valentine's Day page to check out.

    And think about why you really love your (specific) loved ones. Today, I love A for being a hard-core feminist, an unabashed softie to my often-times-hardass, an argumentative intellectual, a brave advocate, a careful and thoughtful artist, an ideal challenging and supportive friend, and accepting of me in my geeky-as-hell, pop-culture-loving, politically-correct, insecure macho-ness. I love that we don't have to spend too much money, but we can if we have it, we don't have to make the day the apex of the year, but we can if we want it to be. I love that, for me and A, Valentines Day can belong to us, as a couple, not to us, as part of a world of couples.

    Hope you enjoy the day and night, alone, with family or/and friends, or with your partner(s)!

    Entry for the Feminist Valentine Blog Awards

    Blog Against Sexism Day

    Vegan Kid announces Blog Against Sexism Day:

    March 8, 2006

    Inspired by the Blog Against Racism Day in December, it was decided that for at least one day we would try to focus the blogosphere on another evil: Patriarchy. While those that write about sexism on a regular basis are gladly asked to join in, we enourage those that never or rarely talk about this important topic to join in. There are no guidelines. All that is asked is that you write at least a little something against sexism, against Patriarchy, against Male Supremacy. We especially encourage men to challenge themselves and write about the topic.

    If you want to participate, all you have to do is write a post. However, in order to spread the word about all the posts and to later put together a collection of posts, its asked that you do one or more of the following:

    * send an email to veganwonder at gmail.com with the url of your blog.

    To get more exposure you can also use the technorati tag ‘blog against sexism’. We want to help publicize new blogs, so please let us know if you’ll be participating.
    Check back often for updates. And thanks for participating.

    Why March 8?
    Because its International Women’s Day. Because its the Global Women’s Strike. Wimmin in more than 60 countries will be participating in the global strike. Why not add dozens or hundreds or thousands of more voices to this struggle through the growing world of blogging?

    I'm there, readers. Join up!

    Monday, February 13, 2006

    Anything But That!

    Powerful. Intimidating. Trivia Nazi. President Bartlet is all of these and more. A super-nerd who's into chess, National Parks, and rambling off things in Latin, POTUS is the 'real thing.' Not being completely upfront with the American people may cause him re-election headaches, though...

    :: Which West Wing character are you? ::

    Monday Reading List

    Stanley Fish: Our Faith in Letting It All Hang Out

    Malcolm Gladwell: Homeless The Hard Way

    E.J. Graff and Evelyn Murphy: The Skinny Pink Paycheck Syndrome

    Stephen Duncombe and Andrew Mattson: Armed and Adorable

    Log Cabin to launch nationwide educational tour to end 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' policy

    Malinda Lo: The L Word's Brush With "Latino Culture"

    Confidential to Liberals

    Please Don't Make a Big Deal of the whole Cheney hunting episode.

    Friday, February 10, 2006

    Meaningful Love

    by John Ashbery

    What the bad news was

    became apparent too late

    for us to do anything good about it.

    I was offered no urgent dreaming,

    didn't need a name or anything.

    Everything was taken care of.

    In the medium-size city of my awareness

    voles are building colossi.

    The blue room is over there.

    He put out no feelers.

    The day was all as one to him.

    Some days he never leaves his room

    and those are the best days,

    by far.

    There were morose gardens farther down the slope,

    anthills that looked like they belonged there.

    The sausages were undercooked,

    the wine too cold, the bread molten.

    Who said to bring sweaters?

    The climate's not that dependable.

    The Atlantic crawled slowly to the left

    pinning a message on the unbound golden hair of sleeping maidens,

    a ruse for next time,

    where fire and water are rampant in the streets,

    the gate closed—no visitors today

    or any evident heartbeat.

    I got rid of the book of fairy tales,

    pawned my old car, bought a ticket to the funhouse,

    found myself back here at six o'clock,

    pondering "possible side effects."

    There was no harm in loving then,

    no certain good either. But love was loving servants

    or bosses. No straight road issuing from it.

    Leaves around the door are penciled losses.

    Twenty years to fix it.

    Asters bloom one way or another.

    Copyright © 2005 by John Ashbery. From Where Shall I Wander: New Poems. Reprinted with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. From The Academy of American Poets.

    Carnival of Bent Attractions

    On My Amusement Park favorite, Daily Dose of Queer.

    Some highlights:

    Jay Sennett Jaywalks on the Top 10 Dumbest Things Said to Transfolks.

    Desperate Kingdoms on Queer Childhood.

    Busy Nothings on the "teacher crush".

    Air Pollution on the Politics of the "happy ending" vs. "sad ending" in queer narratives, featuring Brokeback Mountain and Maurice.

    But, as always, you should go check the whole carnival out for yourself!

    Wednesday, February 08, 2006

    Angelina and Johnny as Catherine and Heathcliff?

    From PlanetOut, because, everyone wants to go gay for Jolie and Depp:

    Rumors are swirling that Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp are in negotiations to shoot a remake of "Wuthering Heights" with the two superstars set to play the lead roles of Cathy and Heathcliff.

    You've to admit: Johnny Depp as Heathcliff could really work, despite his thinness.

    Tuesday, February 07, 2006

    Sex, Power, Love, and Politics

    Even a hardcore political junkie deserves props for sitting through the horror that is Commander in Chief (yep, I've come to believe this is anti-woman-for-prez propaganda, actually), and The West Wing is set to sail, so I guess we've got Sex, Power, Love, and Politics to anticipate as our new political-serial-television fix.

    From the people who brought you "Will and Grace" and "How I Met Your Mother" (yes, terrifying, I know) and starring Jane Krakowski and Jay Harrington, comes a new show about thirty-something Capitol Hill staffers who live next door to each other and are looking for love.

    Tuesday Reading List

    Wampum is the go-to blog for the The Indian Trust Fund Scandal, which isn't getting near enough media attention. You must check this out.

    Femme Feral of Fluffy Dollars discusses the Super Bowl PETA ads.

    Daniel Gross asks: "What Ownership Society?"

    Today's the day that FEMA hotel subsidies get cut off, so Michelle Goldberg gives us a glimpse of those who are Homeless Again in New Orleans.

    Howard Stern loved Brokeback, but Oprah is lukewarm: read about it on AfterElton.

    Read about the argument between Obama and McCain.

    On Robert F. Williams.

    And dustdaughter on Psychotic Cocktail reviews Something New.

    What's In a Name; And Does "Choice" Feminism Include a "Right" Choice?

    Yesterday, in my post about housework, I discussed my vision of "choice feminism":

    That's feminist ethics to me. When you can choose, choose the liberatory choice for other women (and men). When you can't, we're not gonna get mad at you for it, because we get it.

    What I meant was that some women have more options (legitmately and undangerously) available to them. Those of us with more options must realize that there are values attached to our choices, these choices are not all equal in their "feminism" just because we chose them as individual women. But there shouldn't be any shame in making choices that don't necessarily have liberatory potential. That's sort of the neutral level and, yes, you do get some extra feminist points for pushing a bit beyond the status quo. I believe this strongly and apply it to the issue of names.

    (Names have serious racial, ethnic, and class connotations, as well as gendered ones beyond the realm of what I discuss here. Here, I am only talking about choices made in partnerships over which name and which partner changes it.)

    Jill Feministe takes on names in a few ways, most particularly as naming relates to marriage bonds. She references this article from the NYU newspaper on the "surge" of women taking their husbands' names and this article on making up shared family names in NYT's Sunday Styles (where else?).

    Jill: The point is, names matter, and while I don’t have a problem with the idea of a married couple sharing a last name, the fact that it’s always the woman who is expected to give up her name — and that it’s discussed in terms of “giving up” and “taking” — says something. Which is why I think Judy Rudoren’s idea is pretty novel: She and her husband enjoy the benefit of sharing something as intimate as a last name, but one party isn’t bestowing it on the other — they’re creating it together. While there may be something to be said for “carrying on the family name,” for me, making something just for the two of you and your future family to share is more of a draw.

    I have to say that something about the whole making-up-of-a-name issue, as it is usually explained (we don't want our kids to have a different name), may sound radical, but is indeed not so much. There are few reasons why.

    The alleged need to "share" a name with your partner may have some romance to it (and I'm unfortunately quite the sucker for that) but its roots are obviously in a tradition of legal marriage as the ultimate validation for pair bonds. Two people in a relationship must prove their feelings for each other to everyone else by sacrificing some vestiges of individuality under the law? Maybe that's okay for some people; I do think that sacrificing some vestiges of individuality in fact comes with the territory of committed long-term partnership.

    Why should your child share your name? This is probably most important when the child is of a different race (or appears to be of a different race) from her/his parent. So, the parent in this situation can be forgiven for trying to forge a public connection to her/his child, as their relationship will be consistently misunderstood.

    But it is for this reason, among others, that sharing a family name is problematic. It makes assumptions about the nature of family. For one, that in a "real family," every member is biologically tied and has been together since the birth of the youngest member. It also assumes patriarchy: though Joan Rudoren and her husband changed their names together and their children will be wearing a last name that is basically an amalgamation of their former names, most people who didn't happen to read her article in the New York Times will assume that she took her husband's name and that the children are named patrilineally. Her choice to do this actually makes her part of an overall pressure on women to take their husbands' names.

    Certainly, I prefer that Ms. Rudoren made the choice she made over taking on her husband's name, no question. But, as a heterosexually-partnered (MARRIED) middle-class (at least) woman who is thus far without children, Rudoren was in a position to make just about any choice on this issue and her choice, particularly as a semi-public person, would make a difference. She chose to inscribe her "family" in traditional heterosexual, biologicalized matrimonial ways, despite her radical agenda. I don't think what Ms. Rudoren did was wrong, by any stretch of the imagination. I'm not judging her. I am glad she and her husband made the choice that they felt most comfortable with.

    I also feel strongly that, if two people in a heterosexual pair feel they must share a name, it should be a given in "feminist"-identified partnerships that the male partner changes his name. Why? Because, despite the concerns I have above about people sharing names, it changes a power balance more dramatically than having both partners change. It means that the male partner is the one "giving up". Eventually, I hope neither partner in any partnership feels s/he must "give up" "their name", but, given the current climate, things would be better off going the other way.

    In general though, I'm glad that people are thinking through the naming issue in their own relationships and determining how important it is to them to share names with people they call their "family".

    I found Matthew Morse's suggestion interesting:

    The other option that appeals to me is that both people keep their own names and adopt the other name when it’s contextually appropriate. If Joe Brown marries Jane Smith, when they go to his company holiday event they go by Mr. and Ms. Brown, but at hers, they go by Mr. and Ms. Smith. I suspect this idea would work better in the abstract than in practice, and leaves questions like what to name the children.

    And zuzu had this to add:

    Thing is, there are ALL KINDS of naming traditions. You have your nuclear-family traditions, you have your peerage traditions, you have the Latin-American/Spanish model, you have the Chinese model, where it seems that the women don’t take the men’s names on marriage, but the kids take the father’s name, you have the Scandinavian model, which is actually quite recent. I mean, isn’t Bjork’s last name Gudmandottir, indicating that her brothers would be Gudmansons? And all of your Mc and Mac names are “son of” — so at one point, Kenzie MacDougal’s son would be Ian MacKenzie. The family name, then, was less important than the clan name, which is what eventually took over as family name.

    Indeed, there are plenty of places in the world today where family connections are known yet nobody uses family names. And given that many family names are descriptive, either of trade or place — mine means “sea warrior,” apparently — how important could it have been to have family names from the start?

    This also brings up an issue about ethnic identity. Are we okay with this idea of co-mingling names if it strips both names of their ethnic connotations? Is this assimilation better? And, if one partner takes the name of the other partner, and their ethnic backgrounds differ, is there an argument that perhaps one ethnicity is somehow more valuable for conserving than another? And how does the adoption of an "ethnic" name that does not correspond to "biological realities" of ethnicity intervene (or not) in the biologicalizing of race and ethnicity? Does it, in some way, mean we expect women to be less tied to their born-ethnic community than men? Or does the fact that the origins of women-taking-husbands'-names came from a time of assumed intra-group marriage nullify that argument?

    The Bush Budget 2007

    He's playing with the calculator again.

    From NYT:

    Mr. Bush is asking Congress, first and foremost, to make his tax cuts permanent and to increase spending on national security, while looking for savings in popular domestic programs like Medicare and vocational education.

    Don't you love how Bush talked about the need for better math and science education in our nation's schools in the State of the Union, but doesn't see the need for vocational education? We can't outsource everything: someone's going to need to build and implement the things these engineers design. But every Republican thinks their kid is going to be the engineer.

    And cutting the Enhancing Education through Technology program (the biggest allocation of federal money for technology education) certainly doesn't show a whole lot of interest in keeping Americans competitive. (It's also worth noting that this is the second budget that cut from this program.)

    Republicans countered that failure to renew the tax cuts would mean a dangerous tax increase that would threaten the health of the economy.

    "The most important thing we can do with our federal budget is to keep a good, strong, growing economy generating jobs," said Joshua B. Bolten, the White House budget director. Mr. Bush's marching orders were simple, Mr. Bolten added — to "focus on national priorities and tighten our belts elsewhere."

    But not the belts of the rich people who want to hold onto their tax cuts, apparently. And, under Bush's watch, the number of people eligible for these cuts has fallen dramatically, especially amongst small business owners, people in high tech, and medicine. Corporate execs seem to have maintained, go fig.

    Still, the new budget underscores the consistent and paramount importance of tax cuts in the Bush philosophy. His first term cuts affected more money than any other initiative undertaken in his presidency, including the costs thus far of the war in Iraq.

    So, our fiscal priorities are abroad ... kinda. Abroad in the sense that that's where the income available to the fat cat corporate execs can go: into Swiss bank accounts.

    Gene B. Sperling, a former economic adviser to President Bill Clinton, compared it to a man who leases three fully loaded Hummers, finds it stretches his family's budget to the breaking point, and decides his family has to start buying cheaper peanut butter.

    "They're trying to create a framework where it seems the government can't do anything dramatic on child poverty or helping people between jobs because there's too much discretionary spending," Mr. Sperling said. "And their own numbers show that's flat out wrong." ...

    And even within the ranks of Republicans, there was some immediate opposition. Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine, said she was "disappointed and even surprised" at the proposed restrictions in Medicare and Medicaid, which she said would "dramatically affect people's access to care" in Maine.

    And more Republicans should jump on the bandwagon. For one thing, veterans totally get shafted, something the Republicans at least purport to care about. They should also be fighting on the grounds that the budget does not allocate enough funds for the number of border patrol Congress mandated.

    Now, we know they don't care, but many Dems should be concerned about protecting public broadcasting and arts education and $36 billion in Medicare, $5 billion in farm subsidy programs, $4.9 billion in Medicaid support for poor children’s health care and $16.7 billion in additional payments from companies to shore up the government’s besieged pension benefit agency.

    Call the people you elected to Congress.