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    Sunday, April 30, 2006

    Another Ad

    Click here.

    Wow. I can't believe how much I love this ad. Nontrad woman, condoms, supportive pro-feminist dad ... amazing.

    Found it on Pandagon.

    Friday, April 28, 2006

    Campari Red Ad

    I don't think I'd ever drink the stuff, unfortunately, but I thought this ad was cool.

    Read about it here.

    Found it on not THAT different and Like Life.

    Love This Cover

    Weekend Homework

    READ:

    Cole Krawitz on Democracy Behind Bars and Another Con Job of the Century: Stealth of the Super Wealth.

    Jenn: Unpopular Science.

    Ampersand: Nothing Has Changed Since The Rodney King Verdict.

    David Schraub: She Agrees With Me, She Agrees With Me Not...

    Now, I'm going to post to this, because it's a good sum-up of what's going on, but only if you WHITE PEOPLE AND MEN PEOPLE PROMISE NOT TO GO POSTING COMMENTS! Okay? Or I'll have to get you. Brownfemipower: In Solidarity and be sure to read the comments section too. If you are white or male and want to say something, go to Alas or Feministing or Blac(k)ademic. Okay?

    LISTEN:

    If you're in NYC, see if you can stop by this reading at Stain Bar * 766 Grand Street * Brooklyn, with poets Jennifer Firestone, Christine Hamm, and Jen Tynes.

    I told you about it earlier in the week, this This American Life episode about Jerry Springer, but if you didn't immediately go listen to it when I told you to (bad reader!), listen to it now.

    WATCH:

    If you're in NYC, the Tribeca Film Festival is on! You might want to check out:

    Love for Share, Nia Danata's film-

    Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, and polygamy is a deeply rooted and controversial tradition. This film addresses the tradition and its malcontents by interweaving the stories of three very different women, each of whom has developed her own living response to polygamy.

    Backstage, directed by Emanuelle Bercot-

    An adolescent groupie (Isild Le Besco) zeroes in on her Blondie-like idol (Emmanuelle Seigner) after the singer chances to cross her orbit on a publicity tour. Gradually their lives intertwine as, with near-operatic intensity, the film delves into the emotional dependency on both sides of celebrity culture.

    Dorothy Day: Don't Call Me A Saint, directed by Claudia Larsen-

    Leftist writer and activist Dorothy Day had an abortion, got a divorce, and bore a daughter out of wedlock. She also cofounded the Catholic Worker movement, leaving an important social legacy. This film explores the complex life of a woman who has already been placed on the official road to sainthood by the Vatican.

    And many more.

    This Week In The Blogosphere

    On Jealousy

    You may have noticed, if you are a regular reader, that I am jealous of rich people. I am especially jealous of rich, connected people. I know some, some are very nice people, but I am so so so fucking jealous of them. I have heard so many times about how I shouldn't have some of the political stances I have or even just immediate reactions I have because of jealousy. For example, I don't fucking care about the NYU Grad Students effort. I know, ideologically, I should, but mainly I think to myself: "Suck it up, you still make more than the grad students anywhere else in NYC, and, in this academic climate, you should be fucking grateful anyone pays you a cent, you spoiled brats." There is a place where I kind of want to be in solidarity, as I know it's the right thing to do, but I simply can't. I can't get too upset about wealthy female executives not being allowed to go to the August Golf Club. Yes, it's biased and sexist. But, seriously, I can't bring up any sympathy. I remember this one woman telling me about how, at Yale, the people who helped place you in firms after law school, tried a lot harder for the men graduating than for the women. And I thought, "It's not like you're going to be unemployed and poor because of it, so wah wah wah." Now, I can say, with the strength of my intellectual convictions, "Yes, these women should be taken just as seriously as lawyers." But not with my emotional convictions.

    Kevin speaks to the jealousy issue on his blog (discussing that gross NYT article on poor little Cornell University) and on Bitch|Lab:

    I know of few people here at Cornell who have to have part time jobs to survive. Often, as I’m walking to class, I’ll see my 18 year old students drive by in $50,000 cars. And no, this isn’t about jealousy. This is about privileged people, people who are going to get good jobs and go on to grad school at Harvard or Yale regardless of whether or not people realize that Cornell is an Ivy League school.

    And the language betrays that priviledge: marketing, branding. Nothing about education. Not to mention that Cornell is consistently ranked as a top ten institution. So what? Are they pissed because their Yale buddies might get a job making a few thousand more a year? Well, I’m pissed that my Community College of Denver friends, many who are as bright and talented as anyone here (some moreso in my opinion) will never have the opportunities that these whining fuckwits have.


    And here's what I'm thinking to myself: Does envy help me to clarify my political positions or does it blur my vision? Am I right to say, "Let's put the issues of middle and low-income women, as there are more of us, first," or is that, in the end, going to defeat any effort against sexist oppression (a whole DuBoisian "Talented Tenth" - read: "Rich Tenth" - sort of thing)? In other words, is jealousy an effective political emotion, or is it the "chip on the shoulder"?

    In general, I think there is a certain not-particularly-well-thought-out position that says, "White rich straight people don't really know anything except their own experience, but the farther down on the oppression ranks you are, the more you know about the world in general," amongst some Leftists. I think that I am just as blind to some things as people both "above" and "below" me in the hegemonic food chain of human life, and vice versa. I change my mind all the time. I am confused and sometimes emotional, sometimes rational, sometimes certain and righteous, sometimes shaky and mute. I don't want to tell the richest WASPy Northeastern Ivy-educated heterosexual male that I know more than he does about the world because I simply know different things. I am as likely to be biased by having experienced oppression as he is by not having experienced (much) oppression. I truly believe that. I truly believe also that people are often complicit in situating their own oppression and that people internalize the systems of oppression that oppress them, and sometimes internalize them in reverse: "I am so superior to these people because I've really BEEN POOR!" or whatever.

    It reminds me of the 2004 Democratic primary. I loved John Edwards and John Kerry, but, in the end, I got behind Edwards, I think primarily because he "was the son of a mill worker". I don't like to think of myself as a person who would do this, but I did. When Kerry got the nomination, I was all-the-way for him, but I wanted "the son of a mill worker" in the White House, especially someone who didn't go to an Ivy. Anyway, I felt this way, EVEN THOUGH I'm one of those feminists who believes it's total bullshit to support a woman just because she's a woman.

    As I began to think more about Senator Kerry, I began to think that there was something truly special about his life because he was born into such privilege: he served in Vietnam though he could have easily have gotten out of it, he fought for the working poor though he'd never been among them, he worked hard to contribute to a society wherein he was born privileged, and maybe that should have made him my choice to begin with? I'm still not sure. Because then my next thought is, "If only we all had the privilege to prove how great we are despite our privilege."

    So, even though I had those thoughts about Kerry, it was easy enough for me to get behind him once he got the nomination (I loved him for picking Edwards as his running mate), in part because I didn't work on the campaign. In my activist work, dealing with the privileged assumptions of people (even if my assumptions were just as egregious) has made me basically want to quit.

    I heard some radio program about the youth protests in France around the change in the labor law and one of the interesting things about it was that the vast majority of protestors were middle-class Parisian students, but they were joined by suburban young people, mostly immigrants, many of whom had been a part of the summer's riots. The suburban participants were found to be stealing tons of stuff from the middle-class "leaders" of the protests and, generally, causing chaos. In some ways, they were guilty of trying to sabotage the protests. Was jealousy keeping them from thinking clearly? I think so. And I realize that I have done (less criminal) similar things in activist groups of which I've been a part, despite having felt tremendous frustration when I thought it was being done to actions I was leading.

    I don't know where to leave this. I'm not sure. There's this deep-seated envy in me that wants to somehow defend jealous as an important somehow revolutionary feeling- I want to write, Audre Lorde-style, "The Uses of Envy: Envy As Power," but some voice inside me says that envy has never worked for me, has never brought be to real, substantive, and effective political action, or even clear political perspective. ????

    On Tokenism

    SarahS in the comments on this Feministing thread said that she feels the rise of Blac(k)ademic/Nubian/Kortney on the feminist blogosphere is a case of tokenism. She seems to be referring to her being chosen to guest blog on Alas, a Blog where Nubian got raked over the coals by a particularly frightening flag waver of White Supremacist Radical Feminism.

    Now, I don't think AT ALL that Ampersand chose Nubian to guest blog out of tokenism. He is a master at choosing top-notch guest bloggers, including some of my very favorites, like Rachel Sullivan. He is also quite meticulous at maintaining the quality of Alas and I don't think he would choose anyone he felt would jeopardize the consistency of his contribution to the blogosphere.

    All that said, there is most definitely racial/ethnic/class/sexuality tokenism in the feminist blogosphere. Here's what I mean: I see these blogrolls on some of the biggest blogs filled with blogs with the word "Black" in the title, "Latino/a" in the title, "Queer" in the title, and then I watch as the Big Blogs consistently link to each other or to the news, rather strictly. When asked their favorite blogs, these bloggers go "Oh, Black Negro African-American Woman" of course, and "Queer Lesbian Transgendered Person" of course and of course "Welfare Mother in Alabama". But then, their posts are all about what's happening on the other white, hetero, middle-class blogs. And you rarely see these people posting in the comments on the blogs that they supposedly love so much.

    Now, I've said this before and I'll say it again: I'm skeptical of how much blogs can do to change the world. I blog because I want to and I expect other people do to (and I know some people blog because they want writing careers, etc). As such, unless you're a blog associated with a newspaper or particular organization, I don't particularly think you have a responsibility to anyone except yourself and your own interests. (Note: that doesn't mean I won't criticize the hell out of blogs when I don't like what they're doing, even if they don't have a responsibility to me.) I think that white, upper-middle-class, heterosexual women should be able to blog to their hearts' content about how marrying a multimillionaire has brought up the stay-at-home-or-not question (I kid, I kid, I know there are further issues). But, even though I think they perfectly have the right to do that, just as I love nothing more than to blog about miniscule queer happenings in the media, I wish they didn't pretend they were so "multicultural". To me, that's tokenism. Sure, it's nice that they have some people of color, some people of lesser means, some queers, some rural folks, on their blogroll, but, I often see those and think, they're just using them.

    The other thing is that it seems that, when the so-called "privileged" (I have no idea how else to say this) bloggers do actually link to a post on one of their *favorite* blogs, they usually choose some short manifesto-type thing, rather than any complex, you-might-have-to-think-about-it post. Now, we all have a variety of posts on our blogs, and most of us move from style to style and form to form, at least to some extent. It's very clear to me that there is one particular "underprivileged" voice that people can stand hearing.

    It is legion in academia too. A certain black gay scholar I know has been chastised up one side and down the other for his new book because it is "too complex" and therefore "more queer than black" and it talks too much about "literature" and not enough about "hip hop" and stuff, so it's not nearly as good and representative of "the folk" as it could be. This isn't a bunch of black scholars putting down his book, it's a bunch of white scholars too.

    When I read the stuff about tokenism over on Feministing, I felt that this had to be said because I think that SarahS is misplacing her sentiment, but that she's reacting to something very real bubbling beneath the surface of a lot of the popular feminist blogs. (I might add that I think another element of all this is a sort of resurrection, at least in blogland, of old-school radical feminism, which tends toward these things, generally. GENERALLY.) A lot of bloggers, including the tip top, are hip to all this and aren't the perpetrators of it, so please don't take this comment as blanket-across-the-board. Just an observation.

    Clare Called Me a Whore





    take the virgin-whore dichotomy quiz.

    and go to mewing.net. where we're all studs.


    And Clare was right!

    National Poetry Month: Poem for the Day

    Epitaph on a Tyrant

    by W. H. Auden


    Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
    And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
    He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
    And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
    When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
    And when he cried the little children died in the streets.


    From Another Time by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1940 W. H. Auden, renewed by The Estate of W. H. Auden. Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.
    From the Academy of American Poets.

    In Case You Were Actually Considering Watching the Next Season of The L Word


    I personally don't know if I can take another round like Season 3 - ugh, ugh, ugh - but I did find
    something that might suck me back in
    , at least for the first episode of Season 4 of that dreadful show:

    I can now confirm that Marlee Matlin has signed on to appear in 11 episodes of Showtime's The L Word. The deal just closed and, even though this drama is so far off my radar it's virtually undetectable, I wanted to bring you the official word ASAP. The Oscar winner will play a deaf artist who takes a shine to Jennifer Beals' Bette. She'll first show up in the fourth-season premiere in January.

    I know, I'm a sucker, but that's fucking cool. Even if she'll always be Joey Lucas to me.

    And, yes, that is the queerest picture of her I could possibly find, with dykon Mariska Hargitay, no less. :)

    Where I Continue to Defend Walmart


    Niall Stanage defends Walmart:

    Local pols fall over each other to assert that they will keep us free from the contagion of Sam Walton’s chain.

    It emerged in February that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton had returned a $5,000 donation from the nation’s biggest retailer—despite the fact that she had served on the company’s board from 1986 to 1992.

    Earlier this month, Councilman John Liu responded to news that the corporation had considered opening a store in his Queens district with the stark assertion that “Wal-Mart is not welcome in Flushing.”

    Council Speaker Christine Quinn won a round of applause at a business breakfast last week by announcing, “I don’t want Wal-Mart in the City of New York unless they change their corporate behavior.”

    Sympathy for Wal-Mart doesn’t come easy. The company makes about $20,000 every minute. Total compensation for the company’s C.E.O. was more than $17 million last year.

    But those numbers are testament to nothing more sinister than the chain’s size and success. Look beyond them and it becomes obvious that the exclusion of the company from the five boroughs hurts New Yorkers.

    Some liberal voices are finally being raised on Wal-Mart’s behalf. None is more persuasive than that of Jason Furman. Mr. Furman was the director of economic policy on Senator John Kerry’s Presidential campaign.

    Now a visiting scholar at New York University, his recent paper, “Wal-Mart: A Progressive Success Story,” is essential reading.

    Mr. Furman—who has never received a cent from Wal-Mart—systematically dismantles the most common accusations leveled against the company.

    He demonstrates that the gains from Wal-Mart’s low prices far outweigh any damage caused by downward pressure on retail-sector wages.
    (Mr. Furman also notes that evidence of the latter phenomenon is “far from clear.”)

    He cites an independent study led by an M.I.T. economist that found big-box stores like Wal-Mart make consumers better off “by the equivalent of 25 percent of annual food spending.”
    Moreover, because low-income Americans spend proportionally more of their money on food, they benefit most of all.

    “Lower prices are the equivalent of higher wages,” Mr. Furman told The Observer. “So, for the 150 million Americans who shop at Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart’s being there is the equivalent of giving them a pay raise.”

    Mr. Furman’s paper also notes that 48 percent of Wal-Mart’s workers have health insurance, compared with only 46 percent in the retail industry as a whole. And it suggests that Wal-Mart’s wages are virtually indistinguishable from sector norms.

    It isn’t necessary to pick through arcane economic data to see that the case against Wal-Mart may be exaggerated. If the company really is the scourge of workers, it seems germane to ask why its job openings are routinely oversubscribed. In January, an astonishing 25,000 people applied for 325 jobs at a new store in the Chicago suburbs.

    In New York, politicians seem to turn a blind eye to the public will. Queens Councilwoman Melinda Katz last summer lectured Wal-Mart that it needed to amend its behavior. “Then,” she said, “you would be surprised about how welcoming a community can be.” But Ms. Katz’s constituents already do “welcome” Wal-Mart—by leaving her borough to spend their dollars at the chain’s nearest store in Valley Stream, Nassau County. According to a survey commissioned by the company, almost 70 percent of shoppers at the outlet are Queens residents.

    Some voices in the anti-Wal-Mart chorus fret about the homogenization of New York as nationwide chains move in. The critics seem to believe that New York is so special that its people have no use for a Wal-Mart, but also so frail that its distinctiveness would be vaporized the moment the company’s logo hove into view.

    But the city already is home to several big-box brands, including Target, Costco and Kohl’s. There is even a Kmart within spitting distance of the heart of the East Village. The sky has not yet fallen.

    In truth, the anti-Wal-Mart campaign is primarily funded by labor unions that are fearful of losing influence. The unions make a disingenuous case, presenting a struggle to protect a relatively small number of workers as a noble battle for the common good.

    The campaign to keep Wal-Mart out is antithetical to the common good. Many more New Yorkers would gain from Wal-Mart’s presence than would be hurt by it. None would benefit more than those residents of modest means who struggle to raise a family in one of the most expensive cities on earth.

    Maybe the New York politicians who take pride in their implacable opposition to Wal-Mart are unaware of that reality.
    Or maybe they recognize it, but are too in thrall to the unions to act on it.

    Shame on them either way.


    I'll admit that I get overzealous sometimes in my defenses of Walmart, but, as a liberal, nothing drives me crazier than my fellows scapegoating. We scapegoat Christianity, we scapegoat first television then reality television, we scapegoat "red states", and we scapegoat Walmart.

    Now, Walmart is not a utopian vision, I'd be the first to admit. But the problem is not Walmart, but the current dismal state of labor laws and, frankly, the more obsessed we become with the importance of Walmart changing its own company policies, the less likely we are to make real legislative change. Sure, it would be wonderful if Walmart employees, just given the fact that there are so many of them, made more money and had health insurance. But it would be even better if we passed a living wage (or just raised the minimum wage, to start) and worked on a national health care.

    Walmart has been shown to be discriminatory in its hiring practices, as have most companies that you and I, knowingly and unknowingly, support with our money everyday. Again, the way to make real change is not for a few liberals to make films and sneer as they drive by the Walmart parking lot and count the SUVs, but to look at legislation and support for lawsuits levied against offending corporations, whatever they may be.

    And let's remember what corporate retail does for unskilled workers, who are painfully underemployed, especially in New York. The opportunity to advance, to move from stocker to clerk to assistant day manager on up - this doesn't happen in small mom-and-pop operations. Since most of the people railing about Walmart experienced retail only as a summer job, rather than a career path, the opportunities to make a career of retail offered by major corporations like Walmart get short shrift. In NYC, where between 1/4 and 1/2 of young black men are unemployed, the vast majority of whom lack a GED or high school diploma, service jobs like those at Walmart are far easier to come by than, say, construction (even non-union) and far better paid than, say, street cleaning.

    I truly believe that the NYC local politicians that rage against Walmart are kowtowing to a knee-jerk anti-Walmart sentiment, rather than a substantive consideration of how the introduction of Walmart would impact their constituents, particularly the most needy. In New York, there is such a conservative ethic around preserving everything about the City the way it was fifty years ago, and every step away from that is considered a step backward, rather than progress. What is most troubling about this is that the New York of fifty years ago was itself a product of great shifts in migration patterns and the real estate market. The very things that are responsible for today's changes.

    Having a Walmart in Queens will not make NYC Peoria. The fear of Peoria is so tremendous in this City, and indeed in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic overall, that we would prefer vast unemployment to a reconsideration of our cityscape - you see it in the intense opposition to the Brooklyn waterfront development, among other major local conflicts. But who gets listened to in this town? The monied people who would prefer to shop at Macy's or Balducci's because they're oh-so-New-York, despite the fact that 25% of New Yorkers living below the poverty line are unable to shop at Macy's, Balducci's, etc. Indeed, the opposition to Walmart in NYC seems more motivated by middle-class NY superiority than by an actual concern for the workers at such a place.

    I encourage the well-intentioned Walmart-haters to get involved in living wage campaigns in their areas and to work with their electeds to put reform-minded corporate legislation on the table.

    Wednesday, April 26, 2006

    Don't Say I Never Did Anything For You


    After many, many emailed requests, I have finally alphabetized the blogroll. So, y'all can calm down.

    This caused the stress of having to split up blogs that I liked to have situated together: Daily Gotham and Culture Kitchen are separate; Feminist Law Professors and Sivacracy split up; Play Rey Play and Big Queer ripped apart. But I dealt with it. See how much I love you, readers?

    Now, don't ask me to put these in categories because I can't take the pressure. "I'm not so much a feminist blog as I am a queer blog," "How dare you put me in the religious blog category when my most important posts are on Canadian politics!" etc.

    Just enjoy the changes made just for you.

    National Poetry Month: Poem for the Day

    I, Too, Sing America
    by Langston Hughes


    I, too, sing America.

    I am the darker brother.
    They send me to eat in the kitchen
    When company comes,
    But I laugh,
    And eat well,
    And grow strong.

    Tomorrow,
    I'll be at the table
    When company comes.
    Nobody'll dare
    Say to me,
    "Eat in the kitchen,"
    Then.

    Besides,
    They'll see how beautiful I am
    And be ashamed--

    I, too, am America.



    From Academy of American Poets.

    Tuesday, April 25, 2006

    More Lefty Asshat Bravado

    I support your right to be an atheist, atheists. But please stop it with this crap. Have a bumper sticker on your car, The Theory of Evolution on your bookshelf, and feel free to discuss your views, just stop trying to force your ideas on everybody else. Or even just calling everyone else stupid. Because it makes you all look like assholes on the level of Christians who want public schoolchildren to join hands in The Lord's Prayer after the Pledge of Allegiance and want to leave abortion only to those religious virgins who are brutally raped and sodomized.

    Here's Sam Harris, asshat leader of the Proud Atheists:

    Somewhere in the world a man has abducted a little girl. Soon he will rape, torture and kill her. If an atrocity of this kind is not occurring at precisely this moment, it will happen in a few hours, or days at most. Such is the confidence we can draw from the statistical laws that govern the lives of 6 billion human beings. The same statistics also suggest that this girl s parents believe at this very moment that an all-powerful and all-loving God is watching over them and their family. Are they right to believe this? Is it good that they believe this?

    No.

    The entirety of atheism is contained in this response. Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply a refusal to deny the obvious.


    I'm sorry, but it's these fundamental misunderstandings of religious faith that make atheists seem like such jerks.

    1. "Are they right to believe [that an all-powerful and all-loving God is watching over them and their family]?" Sam Harris asks. He then so facilely answers "No".

    Ummm. How the fuck do you know, Sam Atheist I Am? Your statement is based on faith too. Your faith is that, if there was a God, this God would do whatever you thought was best. Therefore, there must not be a God.

    2. Let's say there was a way of knowing that Harris was right, that God was not indeed watching over them. Would that still be such a bad thing to believe? Would not believing have made them take better care of their daughter, and somehow always protect her from harm? Somehow I imagine that, proportionally, as many atheists as religious folks are victims of violent crime.

    3. Atheism=a refusal to deny the obvious. Which is what? Are Christians going around saying that there is no crime? I certainly haven't heard that. And, if there is indeed a Christian voting bloc, they have generally been pretty supportive of being "tough on crime" and junk.

    It is worth noting that no one ever needs to identify himself as a non-astrologer or a non-alchemist. Consequently, we do not have words for people who deny the validity of these pseudo-disciplines. Likewise, atheism is a term that should not even exist. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make when in the presence of religious dogma. The atheist is merely a person who believes that the 260 million Americans (87% of the population) who claim to never doubt the existence of God should be obliged to present evidence for his existence and, indeed, for his benevolence, given the relentless destruction of innocent human beings we witness in the world each day. Only the atheist appreciates just how uncanny our situation is: Most of us believe in a God that is every bit as specious as the gods of Mount Olympus; no person, whatever his or her qualifications, can seek public office in the United States without pretending to be certain that such a God exists; and much of what passes for public policy in our country conforms to religious taboos and superstitions appropriate to a medieval theocracy. Our circumstance is abject, indefensible and terrifying. It would be hilarious if the stakes were not so high.

    1. Is it "worth noting that no one ever needs to identify himself as a non-astrologer or a non-alchemist"? No. It's not really. Because we're talking about majority and minority here. That's all. I have to identify myself in a myriad of different ways based on being part of minority groups. You, Sam Harris, are not specially oppressed.

    2. "The atheist is merely a person who believes that the 260 million Americans (87% of the population) who claim to never doubt the existence of God should be obliged to present evidence for his existence and, indeed, for his benevolence, given the relentless destruction of innocent human beings we witness in the world each day."

    Simply? You think that it's necessary for millions and millions of people to sit down with you and prove it to you? Yes, anything anyone else thinks will "simply" remain invalid until you, Sam Harris, and your proud atheist ilk, declare it "proven". Your "proof" is not the proof of the religious anyway, so it wouldn't work, it wouldn't work in either direction.

    3. I agree that people should be able to pursue public office without pretending to be something they're not. I think everyone wishes that politicians could be more honest about most aspects of their lives, instead of deliberately misleading the public. All that said, some of these Proud Atheists should step up to the plate and try to run for office, if they expect the landscape to change. That's what it has been taking for racial and ethnic minorities, women, Jews, Catholics, Muslims, and queers. I'm sure that the Proud Atheists are probably just too good to go out and try to represent the interests of these pathetic huddled "godbag" masses though. So, let them sit around and write manifesto after manifesto.

    If we live rightly—not necessarily ethically, but within the framework of certain ancient beliefs and stereotyped behaviors—we will get everything we want after we die. When our bodies finally fail us, we just shed our corporeal ballast and travel to a land where we are reunited with everyone we loved while alive. Of course, overly rational people and other rabble will be kept out of this happy place, and those who suspended their disbelief while alive will be free to enjoy themselves for all eternity.

    Sounds right to me. I am a doubter, so I don't think it makes sense for me to reap the benefits for which believers sacrificed during their lifetimes. Sneering at all the dummies who buy into this God crap shouldn't really earn me any afterlife privileges. That's fair and just.

    Consider the destruction that Hurricane Katrina leveled on New Orleans. More than a thousand people died, tens of thousands lost all their earthly possessions, and nearly a million were displaced. It is safe to say that almost every person living in New Orleans at the moment Katrina struck believed in an omnipotent, omniscient and compassionate God. But what was God doing while a hurricane laid waste to their city? Surely he heard the prayers of those elderly men and women who fled the rising waters for the safety of their attics, only to be slowly drowned there. These were people of faith. These were good men and women who had prayed throughout their lives. Only the atheist has the courage to admit the obvious: These poor people died talking to an imaginary friend.

    I'm sorry, but what's so COURAGEOUS about saying something angst-ridden teens and insecure scientists have been boasting for millenia? Yes, it may be courageous to do so if you are a teacher, if you are a public figure, or running for elective office. It may be courageous to do so if you are a member of a rigorously religious family or community. But it's not courageous to act like the victims of Katrina were a bunch of deluded infants on TruthDig.com.

    Only the atheist recognizes the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved. Only the atheist realizes how morally objectionable it is for survivors of a catastrophe to believe themselves spared by a loving God while this same God drowned infants in their cribs. Because he refuses to cloak the reality of the world’s suffering in a cloying fantasy of eternal life, the atheist feels in his bones just how precious life is--and, indeed, how unfortunate it is that millions of human beings suffer the most harrowing abridgements of their happiness for no good reason at all.

    1. Only the non-atheist seems to recognize the boundless narcissism of the atheists who insist on explaining to the rest of the world how stupid they are.

    2. I enjoy how "the atheist" is a "he". Nice job, Sam Harris.

    3. Again, to the religious, "the most harrowing abridgements of happiness" are not "for no good reason at all". The meek shall inherit the earth, blessed are the poor, blah, blah, blah. Isn't it just possible that some of those religious people think that the innocent harmed are actually the blessed?

    Of course, people of faith regularly assure one another that God is not responsible for human suffering. But how else can we understand the claim that God is both omniscient and omnipotent? There is no other way, and it is time for sane human beings to own up to this. This is the age-old problem of theodicy, of course, and we should consider it solved. If God exists, either he can do nothing to stop the most egregious calamities or he does not care to. God, therefore, is either impotent or evil. Pious readers will now execute the following pirouette: God cannot be judged by merely human standards of morality. But, of course, human standards of morality are precisely what the faithful use to establish God’s goodness in the first place. And any God who could concern himself with something as trivial as gay marriage, or the name by which he is addressed in prayer, is not as inscrutable as all that. If he exists, the God of Abraham is not merely unworthy of the immensity of creation; he is unworthy even of man.

    1. Can God be both omnipotent and omniscient? Of course! Why? Because it's not necessarily in the best interests of humans to spare them all pain and suffering! Or
    because being anti-interventionist is not the same as being anti-whatever-country-in-which-folks-are-intervening.

    2. I don't think gay marriage is trivial. Not at all.

    3. And finally, perhaps God is interested in seeing that we fight for what we think is right and righteous.

    Consequently, only the atheist is compassionate enough to take the profundity of the world’s suffering at face value. It is terrible that we all die and lose everything we love; it is doubly terrible that so many human beings suffer needlessly while alive. That so much of this suffering can be directly attributed to religion--to religious hatreds, religious wars, religious delusions and religious diversions of scarce resources--is what makes atheism a moral and intellectual necessity.

    1. One needn't be an atheist to do all one can to help and to ease and to prevent human suffering. In fact, it might be worth considering who's doing most of the charity work to help those suffering.

    2. And you don't have to be religious to do harm. Should we ban ideology of any kind? And you know what would make a lot of people suffer more? Being forced to hear how stupid and selfish and unable to experience compassion and deluded they are. Worse? Not being able to practice religion at all. That's where the ideology of atheism=moral and intellectual necessity leads. And I somehow doubt it would be any less violent or less a cause of suffering than the ideologies of religion before it.

    Political liberals seem to have drawn the wrong lesson from these developments and are now thumbing Scripture, wondering how best to ingratiate themselves to the legions of men and women in our country who vote largely on the basis of religious dogma.

    Full agreement here: liberals should be more concerned about reaching out to those who vote based on a variety of things, rather than performing a fake religiousity that, frankly, insults the truly faithful.

    Although it is easy enough for smart people to criticize religious fundamentalism, something called “religious moderation” still enjoys immense prestige in our society, even in the ivory tower. This is ironic, as fundamentalists tend to make a more principled use of their brains than “moderates” do. While fundamentalists justify their religious beliefs with extraordinarily poor evidence and arguments, at least they make an attempt at rational justification. Moderates, on the other hand, generally do nothing more than cite the good consequences of religious belief. Rather than say that they believe in God because certain biblical prophecies have come true, moderates will say that they believe in God because this belief “gives their lives meaning.” When a tsunami killed a few hundred thousand people on the day after Christmas, fundamentalists readily interpreted this cataclysm as evidence of God’s wrath. As it turns out, God was sending humanity another oblique message about the evils of abortion, idolatry and homosexuality. While morally obscene, this interpretation of events is actually reasonable, given certain (ludicrous) assumptions. Moderates, on the other hand, refuse to draw any conclusions whatsoever about God from his works. God remains a perfect mystery, a mere source of consolation that is compatible with the most desolating evil. In the face of disasters like the Asian tsunami, liberal piety is apt to produce the most unctuous and stupefying nonsense imaginable. And yet, men and women of goodwill naturally prefer such vacuities to the odious moralizing and prophesizing of true believers. Between catastrophes, it is surely a virtue of liberal theology that it emphasizes mercy over wrath. It is worth noting, however, that it is human mercy on display--not God’s--when the bloated bodies of the dead are pulled from the sea. On days when thousands of children are simultaneously torn from their mothers’ arms and casually drowned, liberal theology must stand revealed for what it is--the sheerest of mortal pretenses. Even the theology of wrath has more intellectual merit. If God exists, his will is not inscrutable. The only thing inscrutable in these terrible events is that so many neurologically healthy men and women can believe the unbelievable and think this the height of moral wisdom.

    Yeah, mysteries could not possibly exist because Sam Harris is on the case - nothing slips by him. And the "human mercy" he refers to couldn't possibly be motivated by religious faith. And if it is, that's really just completely and totally irelevant? Huh?

    It is perfectly absurd for religious moderates to suggest that a rational human being can believe in God simply because this belief makes him happy, relieves his fear of death or gives his life meaning. The absurdity becomes obvious the moment we swap the notion of God for some other consoling proposition: Imagine, for instance, that a man wants to believe that there is a diamond buried somewhere in his yard that is the size of a refrigerator. No doubt it would feel uncommonly good to believe this. Just imagine what would happen if he then followed the example of religious moderates and maintained this belief along pragmatic lines: When asked why he thinks that there is a diamond in his yard that is thousands of times larger than any yet discovered, he says things like, “This belief gives my life meaning,” or “My family and I enjoy digging for it on Sundays,” or “I wouldn’t want to live in a universe where there wasn’t a diamond buried in my backyard that is the size of a refrigerator.” Clearly these responses are inadequate. But they are worse than that. They are the responses of a madman or an idiot.

    Harris: stop with the bogus comparisons. Stop it with the God of the Bible=gods of Olympus, God of the Bible=diamond in the backyard, etc. Do you think that's going to convince anyone who's not already on board? "Gee, I realized my faith was basically like a crazy person believing in a diamond in their backyard, so I stopped believing and joined the Proud Atheists." Also, if someone believes in a diamond in their backyard, who does it hurt? Belief doesn't hurt anyone. Certain actions based on beliefs sometimes do, but it's like punishing someone for wishing their boss would die. If s/he didn't kill her/him, no crime was committed.

    There must be some causal connection, or an appearance thereof, between the fact in question and a person’s acceptance of it. In this way, we can see that religious beliefs, to be beliefs about the way the world is, must be as evidentiary in spirit as any other.

    Why? What is so offensive about mystery?

    Needless to say, a rational argument against religious faith is not an argument for the blind embrace of atheism as a dogma. The problem that the atheist exposes is none other than the problem of dogma itself--of which every religion has more than its fair share. There is no society in recorded history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.

    This paragraph, to me, explains why "agnostic" doesn't annoy me but "atheist" does, when said person goes railing against religion. Atheism is a dogma based not on "facts" but on suppositions.

    While most Americans believe that getting rid of religion is an impossible goal, much of the developed world has already accomplished it. Any account of a “god gene” that causes the majority of Americans to helplessly organize their lives around ancient works of religious fiction must explain why so many inhabitants of other First World societies apparently lack such a gene.

    Bring on the genetic argument- a My Amusement Park favorite!

    In a world riven by ignorance, only the atheist refuses to deny the obvious: Religious faith promotes human violence to an astonishing degree.

    I think that most people would admit that religion and violence are often connected. I mean, there's a reason why a lot of Americans are scared of Muslims.
    Here's the thing: the underlying assumption here is that violence is always wrong and that we should avoid anything associated with it. And that's quite an assumption. Especially as Harris invoked the Holocaust earlier- if a person of faith believes that wrong is being done, that person will feel the need to help and protect, even if that includes violence (against violence) as the Allied Forces fought the Germans.

    Here's what makes no sense about Harris's argument. He thinks that simply seeing sadness, loss, destruction, pain around you makes it irresponsible, immoral, or stupid to believe in God. This privileges happiness as he understands it. But then he says it's wrong for people to justify religion because it might make people happy. So, we oppose religion because it is willful ignorance of suffering and a tacit complicity with this suffering, but, if one says it's okay to believe in something to relieve suffering, they are lacking in compassion.

    I want to state again that I don't hate atheists and I do think that their voices are quiet in the mainstream. But like the post yesterday from the vegetarian, this knee-jerk appeal to "intellectualism" (and, not so covertly, upper-middle-class educated elitism) is obviously going to put people off. It is no secret that the poor, non-whites, non-urban-dwellers, and women are all groups more likely to identify as religious. I don't think saying all these people are dupes or sheep is the best way for the progressive movement to work toward the betterment of the lives of many constituencies shut out of mainstream discourse. There's a way not to pander to religiously motivated political interest groups, while simultaneously not assigning the faithful to the dumb pile.

    Awhile back, Bitch posted something on The Ninth Wave about her sister-in-law's reluctance to engage with feminists because she was afraid they would judge her stupid. I have seen this time and again with women of color, women of faith, queer women (especially transfolks), and especially low-income and non-urban women. I don't want this for feminism; I don't want this for the Left, in general. We have so much to offer to so many different kinds of people, so many different kinds of people have so much to offer us, let's not cripple ourselves.

    Next Best Thing to Picard/Riker?


    PlanetOut whets the appetite for queer sci-fi:

    Sir Ian McKellen wanted his "X-Men" character, Magneto, to participate in some man-on-man sex in the upcoming "X-Men: The Last Stand."
    The esteemed openly gay actor wished for Patrick Stewart's telepathic hero as a sex partner.

    "It would be wonderful if the camera hovered over Magneto's bed, to discover him making love to Professor X," he said.

    First Duke Post For Awhile

    It doesn't mean he's guilty, but it certainly makes me a little prejudiced against Mr. Finnerty:

    One of two Duke University lacrosse players charged with raping a stripper could face new legal trouble in an unrelated assault gay bashing case from November.

    Collin Finnerty, 19, of Garden City, N.Y., was due in D.C. Superior Court today for a hearing to determine whether he violated the conditions of a diversion program he entered after being charged in that case.
    Finnerty and two other high school men were accused of punching Jeffrey O. Bloxgom in the face and body after he told them to "stop calling him gay and other derogatory names," last November, according to court documents.

    Under the terms of the diversion program, the charges would be dismissed after Finnerty completed of 25 hours of community service.

    The agreement also called for Finnerty to refrain from committing any criminal offense.

    "We're considering revocation of the diversion," said Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

    Calls to Steven J. McCool, who is representing Finnerty in the Georgetown case, and Bill Cotter, his Durham, N.C. attorney, were not returned Monday.

    Authorities believe Finnerty and Duke teammate Reade Seligmann of Essex Fells, N.J., were two of the three white men who a 27-year-old black woman says raped her in a bathroom of a house March 13 during an off-campus party. They were indicted on rape charges last week.


    From 365Gay.

    National Poetry Month: Poem for the Day

    Elementary Cosmogony
    by Charles Simic

    Elementary Cosmogony
    How to the invisible
    I hired myself to learn
    Whatever trade it might Consent to teach me.

    How the invisible
    Came out for a walk
    On a certain evening
    Casting the shadow of a man.

    How I followed behind
    Dragging my body
    Which is my toolbox,
    Which is my music box,

    For a long apprenticeship
    That has as its last
    And seventh rule:
    The submission to chance.

    Courtesy of the NY Sun.

    This poem used to be my addiction.

    Monday, April 24, 2006

    "Fascinating, Bob! Tell Us More!"





    Don't really know the etiquette on posting other people's comics out of context, so I hope this is cool, but I am in love with this series on The Dark and Moody Chicks by Michelle Yusuf.

    Take a minute and read them all.

    National Poetry Month: Poem for the Day

    Love For This Book
    by Pablo Neruda

    Translated by Clark Zlotchew and Dennis Maloney

    In these lonely regions I have been powerful

    in the same way as a cheerful tool

    or like untrammeled grass which lets loose its seed

    or like a dog rolling around in the dew.

    Matilde, time will pass wearing out and burning

    another skin, other fingernails, other eyes, and then

    the algae that lashed our wild rocks,

    the waves that unceasingly construct their own whiteness,

    all will be firm without us,

    all will be ready for the new days,

    which will not know our destiny.



    What do we leave here but the lost cry

    of the seabird, in the sand of winter, in the gusts of wind

    that cut our faces and kept us

    erect in the light of purity,

    as in the heart of an illustrious star?



    What do we leave, living like a nest

    of surly birds, alive, among the thickets

    or static, perched on the frigid cliffs?

    So then, if living was nothing more than anticipating

    the earth, this soil and its harshness,

    deliver me, my love, from not doing my duty, and help me

    return to my place beneath the hungry earth.



    We asked the ocean for its rose,

    its open star, its bitter contact,

    and to the overburdened, to the fellow human being, to the wounded

    we gave the freedom gathered in the wind.

    It's late now. Perhaps

    it was only a long day the color of honey and blue,

    perhaps only a night, like the eyelid

    of a grave look that encompassed

    the measure of the sea that surrounded us,

    and in this territory we found only a kiss,

    only ungraspable love that will remain here

    wandering among the sea foam and roots.


    From The House in the Sand by Pablo Neruda. Copyright © 1966, 2004 by Fundacion Pablo Neruda. Translation copyright © 1990, 2004 by Dennis Maloney and Clark Zlotchew. Reprinted by permission of White Pine Press. All rights reserved.

    My Fellow Lefties ...

    This is why people think we're elitists:

    I'm going to say something up front- I am not a dietician, nor am I an animal rights activist, but my wife and I have been vegan for nearly a year now, eating mostly raw vegetables, pastas, breads, along with the occasional soy product. We've done this for health reasons, and since we began eating this way, we haven't gotten sick and not once. NOT ONCE have I gotten indigestion (I would have bad acid reflux in the past), and certain "biological functions" have gotten more rich, energetic, and intense.

    I live in the midwest, land of meat, sexual repression, and Jesus. People here are the most "carnivorous" of any other place in the United States, and the portions of meat are almost comical. People here are notoriously unhealthy, out of shape, sexually repressed, consumer-crazy, and many of the children now look like they have fetal-alcohol syndrome. Many people in the city in which I live hobble down the streets with their mouths hanging open (these are white middle-class people) Once can see just how animal products mangle your body, contribute to intellectual decline, laziness, and is the reason for obesity. Since the beginnings of the Atkins craze in the late 1990's, I have watched my fellow man physically deteriorate in front of my eyes. I, on the other hand, now have endless amounts of energy, my skin GLOWS, and I have ZERO body fat. Personally, animal rights are not my thing. I don't believe in unnecessary cruelty nor waste, but I will not give up my nice leather Italian shoes. I live below the poverty line, but always buy organic, and I am not an unbridled American consumer like the rest of my compadres. My exercise consists of simple walking. Just watching people eat in restaurants in the Midwest will make anyone vegan.


    Found it here.

    Oprah Again

    While I appreciate that Oprah had a show on "Class in America" and had Jamie Johnson on, who I think is very cool, along with Robert Reich, who I also think is very cool, it made me so mad how Oprah was like, "I don't believe in luck," with relationship to financial prosperity. Umm, Oprah? I know you're a rags-to-riches success story and all, but fuck you if you think everyone else who's ever been poor was poor because they weren't special or hard working enough!

    I mean, the James Frey thing, the Harvey Mansfield thing, and now this?

    Happy Belated Birthday, Beverly

    This is a little late, but Sarah Spelled The Right Way takes me back:

    Beverly Cleary is 90 years old. Ribsy the skinny dog and Henry Huggins were written by her. I'm sure you read them, didn't you? I read enough books to get free Pizza Hut pizzas and receiving Book It! certificates. I was the only one in my class who succeeded in doing this during sixth grade. Yea I was a big dork.

    I was a big dork too, with my big ole Book It! button covered in stickers, excitedly going to get my personal pan pizza and my Land Before Time handpuppet. And a whole lot of those stickers were courtesy of Ms. Cleary, particularly books about Henry, Beezus, and Ramona.

    Sigh.

    Monday Homework

    Hey, you've been spared the usual Weekend Homework assignments, so Monday is filled with delicious readings for you to lap up (oh, how you've missed EL!):

    Melinda Barton gives us "The Left's Own Religious Whackjobs."

    Femme Feral posts "A Few Observations About the MILF" on Fluffy Dollars. (Which reminds me, Site Reader tells me "MILF" is one of the major search terms drawing folks here, so welcome, I guess.)

    Belledame posts "Girliephobia, or Sissyhood is Powerful" for Blog Against Heteronormativity Day.

    Feministe's Zuzu, in "Talk About Missing the Point comes at one my favorites: gender and advice columns.

    Brownfemipower posts "Supporting Native Women" and, not only should you read it, I demand you take action on it too. (bfp tells you how.)

    And, finally, you may have been poetry-deprived in my absence, so dig around and enjoy.

    That's it for now, but there's always more where that came from.

    Leaving the Fold

    That's the title of the episode of This American Life that I just finished listening to and I can't recommend it highly enough. Says Ira Glass:

    All of us have been in some situation where all we could think about was we couldn't wait for it to end: to get out of school, to move away from our parents, to leave the church or the job or the band or the city that we're in. We can't wait. And then, later, when we look back, there's something about that place that we hated that we just cannot get out of our system.

    What do I miss? Well, sometimes I miss my hometown. Not the town itself, but the way that it made me feel important. Or at least that, if I was insignificant, it was because of my misfortune of having been born, and of being stuck, in an insignificant place. I miss that feeling that I was better than everyone around me - a feeling I am now ashamed of and humbled out of, thankfully, but still a feeling that was somehow comforting in a way that my one-of-six-billion feeling isn't. I was a miserable person there, and wouldn't want to go back, and, frankly, it was probably less about the town than it was being a teenager, but living there gave me so much energy, made me so hardworking, so unstoppable, so unrufflable - because I had, had to get out.

    This particular TAL has three acts. The first is an in-depth look, by one of my favorite TAL personalities, Alex Blumberg, at the political and new career of Jerry Springer before he became associated with America's most-loathed class of people and their travails. I want you to listen to it, not to take my word for it, so I'll be a bit spare in my discussion, despite having loads to say.

    I thought, as probably many do who have an inkling of Springer's history as a politician, that he had been the Cincinatti mayor brought down by a prostitution scandal. It was not that simple, as Blumberg lays out. But the consensus seems to be, even including Springer himself, that there is something tragic about his "fall" from powerful and rising political star to the face of what Blumberg calls "trash television". When you hear his political speeches, he sounds the same notes as a lot of the politicians I like, especially when it comes to helping the poor, working, and middle classes. In that sense, yes, I wish we could have him back in the political game. Blumberg, on several occasions, says that there are "two Jerry Springers," one the politician, and the other the "trash tv talk show host".

    Springer makes the connection that the people that appear on his show are actually of the same constituency as those he helped as a politician and as an attorney. But what he doesn't say is how his show made visible a group of people that had previously been nearly completely hidden from view in our culture. Now, I haven't seen the show enough to know everything about it. I've probably seen it five times or so and found it fascinating, disturbing, scary, and sad. But, yes, it can be exploitative and I think that's sort of what it does. It shows how the least appreciated in our society are so easily recruited into our dirty work, not just illegal immigrants picking grapes for slave wages, but young poor folks performing their class (and gender rather heavy-handedly) for entertainment. I certainly don't mean to say that the only viewers of the show are middle class, probably not even close, but that's not the point either.

    I also don't think that people shouldn't be allowed to do things that are probably not in their interest. For example, most mainstream porn is kinda gross, but I don't think it should be illegal, nor should it be illegal for people to perform in it, if they so choose, even if it is often under some kind of (usually economic) duress. Kids may be flaunting their naked photos on MySpace and it may make it difficult for them in the future, but I don't think it should be illegal. I also don't think there's anything wrong with Springer and his producers having the Jerry Springer show and allowing these people to come on and express themselves - they have some agency. I'm not going to pretend I walk around without judgement: everytime I watch the Real Housewives of Orange County, I go "why did they agree to this?" but I don't think it makes sense to condemn the show.

    In fact, it reminds me of the time around Roseanne, the best television comedy in history to my mind, how (even before the queer stuff) it disturbed people.

    One of the things that most fascinated me about the Springer show was the incredible amount of defiant pride many of these people expressed. And it was completely and utterly unconvincing. This knee-jerk defensiveness, "Yeah, I [bleep] my little sister, [bleep] and I'm proud of it! That's right! [Flashes breasts at camera.] Is that a problem for you [bleep]?! Is it a problem, you [bleep]?! I am a goddess, you [bleep]!! [Moons audience and lunges at fellow guest.]" And it's this insistence, this disordered, compulsory, and suspicious self-assurance contrasted with the absolute lack thereof that would make it important to someone to manuever one's personal life on the show, "I'm here on Jerry to tell you that I don't love you, I've never loved you, and I'm [bleeping]ing your grandma!", that makes the show an amazing artifact of our culture. It is about class, and that, in a society that values money and class superiority so highly, a culture that measures your worth by your job (as Blumberg somewhat surreptitiously does with Springer on this episode) and your consumption, that sees beauty as a function of Botox, Tae Bo, Chanel, and veneers, that sees everything between NYC and LA as fly-over zones, these people with minimum wage jobs, missing teeth, Kmart clothes from Goodwater, AL or Rifle, CO or Ashby, NE, have to glorify the things that "upstanding" middle-class people most abhor. It's an incredible lashing out. It's also an amazing show of cruelty, most episodes, where guests tear each other up emotionally (and often physically) and do so with Gordon Gecko pride and smirk, distorted. They have seen the slick American beauty of (wealthy) cruelty and they wield it in ways those who are cruel to them cannot understand, in ways that twist it into what is perhaps its most vivid form, because its form is alien to our culture. Bill Clinton, even Jerry Springer, said "I'm so sorry," when they were caught cheating; Springers guests say "Gotcha, husband!"

    It's like the old argument about wife-beating and marital rape and street harassment: these working-class guys who get slammed all day and get very little power or respect anywhere else, feel the need to reign as terrors in their homes and neigh borhoods. Now, in my experience, street harassment is as likely to come from richies as working class guys, and, needless to my regular readers to say, I've never been married, but the argument is often made.

    Now let me be absolutely, completely, crystal clear. I have quite poor semi-rural white relatives who would rather die than appear on the Springer show. I don't think that what we see on Jerry Springer is some kind of adequate cross section of the poor in non-urban America. Okay? But I kind of wonder if some of it is not the whole "artist without an art form" thing. And there are so many influences. Religion, community, family, etc.

    Now, I'm not trying to say that Jerry Springer's show is somehow saving the world or making the world a better place. Not at all. I just think the idea that Springer would have to be "two different people" in order to go from being the populist mayor of Cincinnati to being "trash talk king" is bizarre. Especially when you see the way Springer handles his guests. While the audience cheers on the fights that break out, the "outrageous" behavior, the stripping, the swearing, the cruelty to each other, Jerry seems saddened by it and is always asking, "Why?" He is, to my eyes, genuinely concerned for his guests and their welfare, which much be an incredibly taxing place to be in his line of work. It is much like the politician who travels neighborhood to neighborhood, trying to see the worst of what his constituency endures, so that he can help them.

    So, all I'm saying is, I don't think that Jerry Springer is two people at all. And I'd love him to run, just to see. His 2003 campaign site is down now, domain name expired.


    Acts II and III of "Leaving the Fold" are also worth listening to and are about the loss of, the leaving of, religion. Another issue close to my once-and-still-not-over-it Catholic heart. Another fold I could never fully get over leaving.

    New York Magazine runs an article about TAL's move to the screen and the Big Apple- how I'd love to run into Ira on the street!!! Anyway, it's being done by the coolest channel in television, Showtime (No Limits!), which has featured My Amusement Park favorites, Queer as Folk, Sleeper Cell, and Weeds, as well as My Amusement Park love-hate L Word.

    Blog Against Heteronormativity Day


    I came more-than-fashionably-late to Blackademic's party, otherwise known as Blog Against Heteronormativity Day.

    Now, let me register in advance my just-fineness with the word "heteronormativity". While language is often used to pull class rank in this world, it is also used to communicate. And, yes, "heteronormativity" does mean something that no other word means. So, let's use the word when that's what we mean to say.

    What I want to say to straight people is this: think before you ask a question or make a statement about someone's personal life:

    Don't ask, "Are you married?" or "Do you have a [other-sex-label-here]friend?"

    Survey and poll researchers: stop asking people if they are married or single.

    Stop asking questions in ways that accentuate difference, "Have you ever had sex with a [same-sex-here]?"

    Don't assume you know anything about the internal life of someone's relationship based completely on the genders involved, i.e. "You must be the femme," or "Your boyfriend sure must be the sensitive type," or "I'm sure he wants to stay home while you shop," or "Sex must last all night," or "I'll bet she looks just like you- all gay couples I know look alike!"

    Another thing: stop orienting people around one or the other of their gender or sexual orientation. For example, don't assume a lesbian wants to sit with your and your football buddies and check out the cheerleaders anymore than you'd assume that, as a woman, she'd like to paint her fingernails and watch a Meg Ryan movie in the other room. Don't ask your gay friend for help with decorating unless you happen to know he actually cares about decorating, but don't assume that, as a man, he doesn't.

    And queers and unconventional straights: embarass people when they assume. "You thought I was ... straight? Why would you think that?" or "No I'm not going to marry him. What gave you that idea?" or "Yes, this is our kid. Whose kid did you think he was?" Make them feel like they're from another era, like when people said "colored" and "Oriental" in polite company. And, soon enough, we all will be.

    Guess Who's Back? Back Again

    Here I am, loves. Back in blogging action. Hi-yah!

    Also want to thank my readers and blog buddies for all the sweet comments and emails I got after a rough week- y'all are wonderful.

    Can't wait to catch on up.

    Wednesday, April 19, 2006

    See You Soon

    I'm emotionally exhausted, having had two deaths and a heart attack in people in my life to varying degrees over the past two days. So I'm not blogging. But, rest assured, I'll be back.

    Tuesday, April 18, 2006

    Egg Rolling Rolling Rolling

    I'm sure y'all heard about the Big Queer Takeover of the Annual Egg Roll on the White House Lawn and how we got (curses!) foiled at the last minute, but Terrance was actually there and tells us all about it. Besides showing some pic and video of his adorable kiddo.

    National Poetry Month: Poem for the Day

    A Small Number
    by Olena Kalytiak Davis

    So far, have managed, Not
    Much. So far, a few fractures, a few factions, a Few
    Friends. So far, a husband, a husbandry, Nothing
    Too complex, so far, followed the Simple
    Instructions. Read them twice. So far, memorized three Moments,
    Buried a couple deaths, those turning faces. So far, two or Three
    Sonnets. So far, some berrigan and Some
    Keats. So far, a scanty list. So far, a dark wood. So far, Anti-
    Thesis and then, maybe, a little thesis. So far, a small Number
    Of emily’s letters. So far, tim not dead. So far, Matt
    Not dead. So far, jim. So far, Love
    And love, not so far. Not so love. So far, no-Hope.
    So far, all face. So far, scrapped and scraped, but Not
    With grace. So far, not Very.

    From AGNI.

    I'm Starting to Realize How My Parents Felt

    By the time I was born the Cold War was very, very cold. But now, I'm starting to freak out.

    This is one of those times where I have no idea what "the right thing to do" actually is, but I wish I had a President who did. Someone I could just go, "I'm not sure how this should be handled, but I don't need to be. President [Kerry, Gore, ?] and his advisors will handle it with thought, research, and care."

    Monday, April 17, 2006

    Pat Califia Has Suffered a Heart Attack

    From Bitch|Lab:

    The legendary erotica writer Patrick Califia has had a heart attack. Patrick has no insurance, and after the hospital got him stabilized they sent him home.

    Cards can be sent here:

    Patrick Califia
    2215-R Market Street #261
    San Francisco, CA 94114

    His paypal address is:

    patcalifia@aol.com

    He needs support, $$, good thoughts, prayers, light, love - s/m or otherwise.

    If your life has been touched by Patrick in any way, I urge you to repost this.

    National Poetry Month: Poem for the Day

    Matisse in Nice
    by Christopher Mulrooney

    how are you? Nice is fleece
    a golden time I go there
    for the waters mostly it´s a very
    golden time I doubt not that
    lambent gowns
    brown Sanchichas at the well
    and with the best will in the world
    you can forget the shrieking world


    From Can We Have Our Ball Back.

    Thursday, April 13, 2006

    You Knew I Was Going To Post About This

    You smart reader.

    Of course, I couldn't let Michelle Cottle's "The Gray Lady Wears Prada", an article in the New Republic on the Styles sections of the New York Times, pass without comment. Cottle is (almost) adequately hateful, especially against the most criminal of the usual suspects:

    The New York Times' Alex Kuczynski is on the case. The discriminating pen behind the popular "Critical Shopper" column, Kuczynski popped into celebrity furrier Dennis Basso's Manhattan salon not long ago to critique the ambiance, assess the service, and stroke the wares. Professing a squeamishness about fur ("I look at fur and think of Henry, my deliciously hairy miniature dachshund"), Kuczynski went looking to eviscerate: "I had been walking by the store all winter long marveling at the fur leg warmers strapped to the legs of the storefront mannequins; they look like the fur anklets worn by the grunting boy in 'Mad Max.'" But then the charming Mr. Basso, his welcoming boutique ("comfortable in a kind of Madison Avenue meets Las Vegas way"), and his incomparable pelts began to work their magic: "I pulled on a black mink coat ($30,000). ... Henry, forgive me: it was unlike anything I have ever worn: light as souffle, so silky and otherworldly I experienced the bizarre sensation of having never touched such material before." In the end, Kuczynski was so overcome that she picked up a yummy, chocolate-suede shearling coat for her birthday. ("It was $5,000, and all I can say is that I'm glad I spent the last year paying off my credit cards.") Her final assessment, as distilled in the handy box graphic:

    Atmosphere Limousines idle outside; rococo inside.
    Service Excellent.
    Prices $1,000 to $150,000.
    Key Looks Sable, chinchilla, mink, lynx.

    Oh, how the mighty have fallen. In the spring of 2000, Kuczynski, then a media reporter for the Times' business section, took a stylish slap at Condé Nast's new shopping-themed magazine, Lucky, for "break[ing] new ground for an American magazine in so brazenly and nakedly looking and reading like, well, a carefully created catalog." Kuczynski's disdain wasn't just for the vulgar advertorial feel of Lucky's content--"202 pages of stuff," typically accompanied by price and ordering information--but also for its very essence. "[T]he conceit that all women are interested in shopping as an activity--not as a means to an end, but as an end in itself--is not one to which every American consumer subscribes."

    Six years later, Times readers can find Kuczynski penning a weekly column about the art and sport of shopping for "Thursday Styles"--a year-old section of the paper that, if one were feeling ungenerous, could be characterized as a smarter, higher-end variation on Lucky.


    Can't agree with "smarter", but perhaps more interested in pretending to be.

    Recognizing that, in this society, you are what you buy--or rather, you buy what you want to be--Kuczynski dabbles in sociology, deconstructing what certain retailers are really hawking. Ralph Lauren offers "the power of implied ancestry." The Brooklyn boutique Butter, by contrast, sells badges of intellectual and social awareness to people for whom "a pair of pants is an opportunity to express environmental protest, or a silent essay on the meaning of war, or an artistic tribute to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi." Far from ducking the elitist focus of her beat, she makes constant, often snarky reference to it. At Versace, Kuczynski scorns a $4,600 purse, citing a "constitutional aversion to handbags that cost as much as the average Panamanian makes in a year." The lure of a $4,700 Dolce & Gabbana ensemble prompts a disquisition on the wealth gap: "I paused. Swooned. Perspective time. The top fifth of earners in Manhattan now make 52 times what the lowest fifth make: $365,826 compared with $7,047. Or, for every dollar made by wealthy households, poor households make about 2 cents. So if rich New Yorkers are paying $4,700 for a dress and jacket, the poorest would need divine intervention to help pay for the same bargain." True--although a peculiar digression for a woman who just a few months earlier had been extolling the magnificence and relative affordability of a Hermès Plume handbag: "At $4,900 or so, it is less expensive than the self-conscious Birkin ... [and is] the kind of crazily expensive but worthwhile possession that daughters will steal from their mothers' or grandmothers' closets in a few decades."

    Wallow in the hatred, the pure disgust, the utter horror, readers. It feels good, doesn't it, to be the choir preached to? Die, Kuczynski!!!

    But then Cottle lets A.K. show herself. This is not an essay, but reportage of some kind. Sigh.

    One quote from the woman herself regarding her spending: And, frankly, I'm not 25 years old. I mean, at a certain point (I was 37, turning 38, when I wrote that column), you're going to be able to afford to splurge on yourself once in a great while. Because no one's poor forever, right Alex?

    Cottle goes on:

    Kuczynski and her hubby both fancy themselves more grounded than your average Manhattan elites. The couple eschews the New York society circuit as spiritually defunct. "I find that the whole benefit scene is just a reason to party," Kuczynski told W magazine in a September profile. "Isn't it demented? People getting dressed up for this merry-go-round of benefits who've forgotten what they're supposed to be raising money for." Stevenson, meanwhile, expressed his conviction that "people who hold large amounts of money ultimately have corroded souls."

    It's hard not to see these remarks as absurdly out of place in an article detailing the elaborate weekend house party that the couple hosts annually at their mountain retreat in Idaho ("aside from the masseuses, she and Stevenson flew in a yoga instructor, three chefs, and a trove of delicacies for the larder"), the six-carat diamond ring Kuczynski sports (having reportedly refused the nine-carat stunner Stevenson originally pressed upon her), and the pair's Upper East Side digs. ("The exclusive co-op is the subject of a forthcoming book by Michael Gross titled 740 Park: The Story of the World's Richest Apartment Building.")


    So yes, the hatred was fun and I hand it to Cottle that she managed to piece together plenty of A.K.'s most egregious sins. But the actual point of the piece: that this stuff is "luxury porn" and that this particular brand of it (NYT's Styles's) of "luxury porn" is for the "bobos" (perhaps "the master's tools" can be of some use?)

    Now, it's fun to add "porn" to the end of words these days whenever possible, I realize, but calling it "luxury porn" is like calling Democratic Party politics "political porn" or fiction "book porn" - about half of what's out there in the media is "luxury porn". Glossy pictures do not make this a new phenomenon.

    Luxury porn has blossomed over the past decade, driven in part by the proliferation of city-based "controlled-circulation" magazines--ad-driven glossies distributed gratis to households meeting certain economic criteria.

    What we're calling luxury porn here has not blossomed. Luxury porn is capitalism. Yes, there are different varieties marketed to different constituencies: the only person who could tolerate the Styles sections, much less enjoy them, are people making a zillion dollars and spending it. But capitalism never pretended to treat all people the same. That's what makes it capitalism. The bobos get Alex Kuczynski, poor urban kids get "Cribs" and "Pimp My Ride", middle-class-for-now-while-I-work-my-way-up college-educated young women get Lucky and Vogue, book lovers get Jackie Collins or Edith Wharton, etc, etc, etc.

    I end this message with a plea: Please stop with the "_______ porn" before it becomes "______ is the new black"!!!!

    Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Gives Columbine Tapes a Dangerous Five Stars

    Alan Prendergast's article in Westword about the Columbine tapes discusses the quandary the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office is in over to release, or not to release, them to the general public. The tapes, as well as some writings by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and a diary kept by Harris's father of notes about his son's mental health (Eric was diagnosed as bipolar not long before his death).

    Right now, the only people who had seen the videos are the involved cops and attorneys and witnesses, the victims' families, the Harrises, the Klebolds, and some reporters. (This article doesn't mention it, but there was this bizarre event wherein all the victims' families viewed a showing of the videos together.)

    The tapes are not going to be released, Prendergast argues, because they imply a good bit of heretofore unacknowledged negligence on the part of the Sheriff's Office (as well as a good many school officials), and the decision ultimately rests in the hands of Sheriff Tim Mink. The excuse given for not releasing the tapes is that they might inspire copycat crimes (as if wannabe school shooters really need the tapes to be inspired by the bloodiest school massacre of all time). To which Predergast smartly responds:

    It's true that the gunmen wanted their words to find as wide an audience as possible in order to attract followers; but then, they, like the sheriff's office, had an exaggerated notion of their own importance. The county's efforts to suppress the killers' writings and tapes have given them a cachet of consummate evil and menace; being taboo, they've become cool. Yet anyone who's actually seen the tapes or read the journal fragments soon recognizes that these fabled mass murderers are not gods but adolescents. Angry, scared, mocking, disturbed, bitter, pathological, deluded (fucking self-aware, mind you), emotionally stunted and deadly, but adolescents just the same. Behind the blather about being gods and kick-starting a revolution is a bottomless obsession with their own lack of status and sense of injury.

    If any of these kids actually sat down to read the Columbine report (which is 11,000 pages, so I highly doubt they would), I think the mystique of these kids would be gone pretty fast. I wanted them to be brilliant righteous rebel revolutionaries, but they were only 1/4 that (and none of the "brilliant"), 3/4 stupid generally inarticulate teenage boys with cringe-inducing grandiosity. Pretending that these tapes would be inspiring (rather than disheartening) is strangely the equivalent of giving these four hours of bravado a critic's two thumbs up.

    If they really want to scare kids away from being "copycats", they'd have emphasized this bit, which I only recently found in the report.



    Click to enlarge.

    Queers vs. Immigrants

    Here we go again. Because "queers" and "immigrants" represent two mutually exclusive groups, right?

    Things like this make me wonder if there's any hope for any of us. Come on! Remember 1866? Oh, I guess we weren't there.

    Richard Kim, Marta Donayre, Pam Spaulding, Christopher Goeken, Brian Charles Clark, Miccaela, Blac(k)ademic on Alas, a Blog, Angela D. Odom, Celia Foster, Tom McGeveran of The Politicker rounds up, but the comments are the best part.
    Christine Chavez responds in The Advocate, which then published an open letter signed by a who's who of LGBT folk. On her own blog, Cannick responded to the responses.

    I haven't written anything about this because, I hope it's obvious, I think Cannick is dead-wrong and she's an embarassment to queers. (I know I said just the other day that we should never say that about people because they're individuals, but I'm allowing myself an exception.)

    Support Our Troops

    Read about what the US Air Force is doing to one of its decorated own, Major Margaret Witt and what's she doing about it:

    In her career of 18-plus years, the decorated operating room and flight nurse from McChord Air Force Base earned stellar reviews for her work, which included helping to evacuate the nation's wounded troops and humanitarian missions to aid civilians.

    Maj. Margaret Witt told a news conference Wednesday, "My objective is to go back to my unit and serve my country."
    In 2003, President Bush awarded her the Air Medal for her Middle East deployment and, later, the Air Force Commendation Medal, for saving the life of a Defense Department worker.

    Less than a year later, after an Air Force investigation, Witt, a reservist, was drummed out.

    Her offense: a committed relationship, but with another woman, a civilian, from 1997 to 2003.

    On Wednesday, Witt, 42, challenged her forced discharge in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma against Air Force officials and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The lawsuit, filed with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, seeks to prevent Witt's discharge, citing her First and Fifth amendment protections of free speech and due process.

    Kudos to PlanetOut: The State of Gay Unions

    Yes, I was irritated with PlanetOut for cancelling their subscription to Dykes to Watch Out For. Still am. But I've got to give them their due props for their State of Gay Unions series. Not only do they show variety, which, when it comes to portrayal of intimate relationships, is refreshing, but the interviews are pretty good.

    The most recent one is on a triad, and what makes it particularly interesting is its duration: two of the men have been together for 8 years, the three of them have been together for 5 years. Given the difficulties of maintaining a relationship with one person, the struggles of maintaining a "non-traditional" relationship with very little social support, this is pretty cool and really breaks expectations. The three guys, John, John, and David seem really forthcoming. I was especially interested in this part:

    What has being in this relationship taught you about love, or about relationships in general?
    John P.: It's interesting because you can't get away with a lot of shit that you can get away with when it's just two of you. It really was an eye-opener for me -- you know, things that I got away with, with John, because we'd known each other for so long, David comes in and goes, "Uh-uh. That's not going to play with me." That was a really good thing -- and it was a maturity thing, too.


    For those folks who see relationships as a way of challenging and growing the self, it seems that non-couple relationships might offer particular challenges (which is not to say they're somehow "better" just that a lot of people don't think about what they might learn from a different sort of relationship).

    Last installment was about a "queer straight relationship" between a cisgendered queer-identified woman and a transman who transitioned during their relationship. Also fascinating, but not dwelled on, is the age difference of 11 years. A section I liked:

    How did Rocco's transition affect your relationship? Have there been conflicts around it?
    Michelle: Yeah. I definitely had a struggle. On the one hand, I felt like I've always been attracted to men, but it's an attraction that's rife with complications that it has been simpler for me to just focus my attraction on women, on butch dykes.

    The hardest thing for me was that I really felt like my identity as a dyke was a gender identity. I kept thinking, "I feel fine not identifying as a lesbian." I feel comfortable identifying as "queer" as an umbrella term, and I feel comfortable identifying as "bisexual." But "dyke" felt like a gendered term to me. To Rocco, "dyke" was just another word for "lesbian," so that became a site of conflict for us. He felt like, Well, if you're identifying as a dyke, you must not be recognizing me as male, whereas I feel like in my particular queer community I've always understood that people's "dykiness" wasn't as much an allegiance to lesbianism, but really about the ways in which they were female and the way that femininity was kind of like, clunky.

    Rocco: Well the other huge thing is that as I was transitioning, Michelle was getting sober. And I think you need an enormous amount of personal space to do either of those things. Both of us needed things we couldn't give to each other because we had to give them to ourselves.


    Cedric and David have the requisite "open" relationship, but what's particular about Cedric and Davis is that they only have sex with others together. Their segment is called "Playing Together, Staying Together". They started out monogamous though.

    When and how did that change?

    David: It really happened sort of naturally. We were together for a couple of years, and we had talked a couple of times -- sort of half-joking -- about [opening up the relationship] ... Anyway, we were out one night, and this very hot guy literally fell into our lap, and we kind of looked at each other and said, "Do you want this to happen?" And we both did. That opened up the new chapter in our relationship.

    Cedric: There hasn't been a whole lot of soul-searching around it. And it's not like it's our focus. It's just one part of our sex life. We have things we like to do together, and sometimes we do things to make it more interesting, like we watch porn or get a new sex toy, and then every now and again we have sex with other people. That's just reality after several years together.

    Do you think you'll ever expand the boundaries further -- for instance, so that one of you could have sex, alone, outside the relationship?

    David: That'd be something we'd have to talk about first, obviously, but it's not out of the question.

    Cedric: I honestly feel like I have more fun if David is part of any sexual situation. And if it's fun, then we get to play with the memory when it's just us.


    Jeremy and Alvin are monogamous.

    What do you think are the rewards of a monogamous relationship, as opposed to a different kind of relationship?

    Jeremy: You're dealing with one other person, so compromise and negotiation is with one person -- as opposed to having multiple partners, which could open yourself up to potentially more complicated negotiations or compromises. And there's the health stuff too -- not to say that people don't play safe, but there's less likelihood of contracting STDs in a monogamous relationship. I guess for me it simplifies things.

    Alvin: I think it allows you to become more in touch with the other person, too; you get to know that person really, really well -- or you open yourself up to that. People have all different levels of sharing, but I think that we've been very honest with each other. Sometimes we're a little bit too honest with each other -- at times we can be really blunt, but that's because we know each other really well.

    What are some of the disadvantages of a monogamous relationship?

    Alvin: It's kind of the flip side of what we've talked about, in some ways. ... Something we've said to each other in kind of a joking way is, "Sometimes I wish I'd met you when I was older," which means that we'd have more dating or relationship experience or whatever. But when it comes down to it, I don't really see this as a drawback -- we'd have more of a variety of experience, but that variety can be either good or bad. It's a mixed bag.


    Low on the women, I know, but I'm still really interested in what they're covering. It's one series I actually look forward to following.

    National Poetry Month: Poem for the Day

    The Red Poppy
    by Louise Gluck

    The great thing
    is not having
    a mind. Feelings:
    oh, I have those; they
    govern me. I have
    a lord in heaven
    called the sun, and open
    for him, showing him
    the fire of my own heart, fire
    like his presence.
    What could such glory be
    if not a heart? Oh my brothers and sisters,
    were you like me once, long ago,
    before you were human? Did you
    permit yourselves
    to open once, who would never
    open again? Because in truth
    I am speaking now
    the way you do. I speak
    because I am shattered.


    Again from poets.org, where you can also hear Gluck read it herself.